Although there are millions of possible desk layouts, as a new player I advise you to play a couple of times a recommended starting setup consisting of:
Presuming you have a 3-4 split.
Reasonable opening buys of $4 action cards are: Militia (to disrupt your oppponents), Remodel (to clean your deck) or Smithy.
For your $3 buy, you best choose to buy silver. Another good option is to buy Workshop (which helps to stock up on Silver/Villages).
Never buy too much terminal actions. Village, Market and Cellar are the only 3 non-terminal actions here.
The other 7 actions maybe much more attractive, but without villages, you will get stuck with unplayable actions in your hand.
To buy villages is a possible way to fix this. Another option is buy Remodel. When this card is in your hand with a dead action that are not working for you, you can remodel one of those actions into Gold or a Market.
Form a Strategy
Never buy cards ad random. Always buy your cards to follow a kind of strategy. We overview a few of them:
- Big Money
Besides a single Smithy, just keep buying all the silver you can get and then go for gold. When you have enough gold, you buy Victory points.
This is a very boring strategy, but still effective.
- Chained Smithys
A lot of Smithys and a lot of Villages. You still need to buy some Silver, but you will have a lot of cards in your hand.
The multiple Villages result that it easy to throw a few other actions.
- Deck Improvement
Mines and Remodels will let you get rid of the Copper and Estates your deck starts with, changing them into Silver and more Remodels.
A few villages is not a bad idea which means that a two-Mine draw don't hurt you. Later in the game, you will Mine Silvers and Remodels them into gold.
Individual Card Warnings
Village looks like a perfect card but often you would be happier to have a Silver instead.
Cellar is good early in the game to get to your powerful cards, but becomes weak when an opponent has played Militia on you. If your opponent starts with Militia in the first two buys, then even consider not to get a Cellar.
Moat is a great defense against Militia but without villages it's not a good card.
Never buy Woodcutter in the beginning.