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Subject: Deck Cycling: Definition and Reflections rss

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Cyrus the Great
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Deck cycling is probably the most misunderstood concept in Dominion strategy. People talk about deck cycling all the time-the Chancellor and Adventurer are great for deck cycling, Ghost Ship slows down your opponent's deck cycling, etc. But what exactly is deck cycling? How do you use it? And when should I use and avoid it?

I'll try to answer those questions here.

(Note: When I refer to "deck" here, I mean those cards you haven't drawn since your last shuffle. Everything else will be in the discard pile, in your hand, or in front of you. I will refer to the collection of all of the above as your "Dominion.")

Definition

Deck cycling is going through your deck more quickly. If one 20-card Dominion is shuffled after three turns, while another is shuffled in just two, the second Dominion has better cycling or cycles faster. The deck that is shuffled (or "reaches the shuffle") more quickly cycles faster. Deck cycling can be a good or a bad thing.

How can I deck cycle?

Every turn, you know you will either reduce the number of cards left in your deck (by which I mean those cards not in the discard pile, not everything you own) by at least five. (I'm counting an Outpost turn as being the same turn as the regular turn you took before it.) You can increase this number, however, by taking cards from your deck and either discarding or drawing them.

Cards with +cards, like Smithy or Council Room, will help you deck cycle. Even though Cellar and Warehouse force you to discard cards, they still help you to cycle because you are drawing cards from your deck as well. Courtyard isn't as efficient as those cards in terms of deck cycling, because it involves putting a card back on your deck, so it only has net -2 effect on the size of your deck.

Even cards without +cards can help you cycle. Adventurer is a powerful cycling card if you don't have very many Treasure cards, because you will discard all cards in your deck above the second Treasure card. Similarly, an Action-heavy deck can cycle very quickly if used with Library.

The most powerful cycling card of all is the Chancellor. Basically, any time you play it, you have the option to immediately shuffle your deck! This is instant deck cycling-extremely powerful if you're trying to cycle.

So, now that I know how to cycle, when do I want to do it?

Think about your Dominion differently for a moment. Instead of thinking of it as a set of different cards, think of it as a set of identical cards representing the "average quality" of all the cards in the Dominion. Whenever you buy a card better than that "average," the quality of that one kind of card increases slightly. Whenever you buy an inferior card (such as a Victory card), the quality decreases.

But if your Dominion is all Silver and you buy a Gold, those cards still in your deck don't immediately become better. They're still Silver. The quality of the one kind of card that makes up your deck changes only when you shuffle. So if you just bought a good card, cycle that deck so you can use the new and improved card! On the other hand, if you are buying Provinces every other turn, slow your deck down so your hands don't become clogged with green.

Obviously, a real Dominion is more complicated than this model. The principles of it are still important, though. In the beginning of the game, deck cycling cards like the Chancellor are at their best. Every time you shuffle your Dominion, you improve its quality. Instead of boring Copper and Estates, your next two or three turns will have more Silver and Actions. At the end of the game, however, it's probably not a great idea to use the Chancellor. You'll mostly be buying victory cards, so make as sure as you can that you will see them as little as possible, and avoid deck cycling.

I hope this has been helpful. Thanks for reading!
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Drew Spencer
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I've found the best time to be focusing on cycling is with early attack cards, and most especially cards that give out Curses. With these cards you want to hit your opponents as often as you possibly can, so you want to play the attack card and then cycle through quickly for a reshuffle. Cellar is the most effective card for this purpose, because you can play it right after a reshuffle to get to your attack earlier as well as playing it after the attack to get to the reshuffle.
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Ramon Mercado
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Good explanation. I've not read much in the way of strategy for this game, so I did not know of the term 'deck-cycling'. However, when playing I quickly realized the importance of getting the money from my deck to my hand and hence started to buy the kind of cards that let me do this better... or cards that let me cycle my deck better.

I think you should include cards that let you trash (other cards or themselves) into this explanation. For example the Mining Village (+ card, +2 action) is great for cycling early when the deck is small, and later is also good for cycling as you can trash it (for 2 copper) making your deck smaller and easier to cycle with other cards.

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Steven Metzger
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Choose your sides, people...
The opening salvo in the pro-Chancellor debate has been launched.


The Anti-Chancellor side:


The Chancellor in question:


In league with this gentleman:


That said, early deck cycling is very important when you get the opportunity. The marginal chance that you get the $5 cards you bought in the last two turns instead of the $3 cards you bought four turns ago makes the difference in the game.
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Michael Link
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UlyZed wrote:
I would have found the piece more interesting if it told me when cycling was better than other options. When to cycle and when not are decisions you already made by buying the cards. When is buying a cycling card such as Chancellor better than simply Silver? When is it better than Village? When it better than anything for 3 or less?

The first response had an insight. Cellar+Witch is revealing of the effects of cycling. It demands focus, all-in if you will, but the results tend to be measurable.


"When to cycle" is really a non-issue except in the expected final pass through your deck when you are loading up with VP. LexH argues very convincingly that if you can cycle your whole deck (Chancellor) you should usually do so even after buying a province--this on the grounds that you reshuffle 8 coins for 1 VP card, so you probably just used up the bulk of your deck's buying power and still should get a reasonable coin draw despite the one-card dilution. Check out his article "Defending the Chancellor" for a great explanation of deck cycling.

Cellar+Witch is a nice example of why you want to cycle. The goal of this 2-card combo is to maximize the number of times Witch is played. This is good for three reasons. First, the +2 cards effect maximizes the probability of 5-cost or gold purchases for early buying power acceleration. Second, you want most of the curses to end up in your opponent's deck. If you play your witch more than your opponent(s), you can achieve this by brute force. This negatively impacts deck cycling for your opponents and positively impacts it for you: directly via the +2 cards, and indirectly via fewer curses in your deck. Third, the only other ways to play witch more often are to combine it with throne room or buy multiple copies. These methods lead to a clogged deck more often than not, and more subtly forces you to use a turn to buy the TR or 2nd witch. That second 5-buy would be better spent on just about anything else.
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Dave Goldthorpe
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The mine is another good example of why you need deck cycling. The first time through your deck the mine adds 1 to your buying power, it's worse than silver. The second time through your deck it has added 2 to your buying power, one for when you use it and one for the treasure you improved the time before. Third time through your deck it has added 3 to your buying power, one for when you use it plus two improved treasures from previous occasions. By this time your mine has given you +1, +2, and +3 to spend, almost as useful as buying silver for +2, +2, +2.

Using this comparison, by the fourth time through your deck the mine is in credit compared to buying a silver. The logic is therefore that you need to cycle your deck a lot to get value from your mine. If you don't work at cycling your deck you probably won't play that mine more than 4 times before your opponent wins, even if you buy your mine first turn.

You can value the mine in many other ways but the principle remains the same; the mine provides more value the more frequently it's played. This is true however when talking about most strong cards. In a simplistic way your deck improves like climbing a flight of stairs, after a shuffle your deck ascends a step and gets better (hopefully). Cycling your deck faster makes each step come sooner and with any luck will get you to the top faster too.
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David Gibbs
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Renaissance Man wrote:

Every turn, you know you will either reduce the number of cards left in your deck (by which I mean those cards not in the discard pile, not everything you own) by at least five.


This is not quite true. There is at least one attack card that causes other players to place victory cards back on the top of their own draw pile. If this is done to you, you could actually reduce the number of cards left in your deck by less than 5 in a particular hand.
 
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Brandon Richards
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DaveGold wrote:
The mine is another good example of why you need deck cycling. The first time through your deck the mine adds 1 to your buying power, it's worse than silver. The second time through your deck it has added 2 to your buying power, one for when you use it and one for the treasure you improved the time before. Third time through your deck it has added 3 to your buying power, one for when you use it plus two improved treasures from previous occasions. By this time your mine has given you +1, +2, and +3 to spend, almost as useful as buying silver for +2, +2, +2.


I would argue that +1, +2, +3 is better than buying three Silvers. For one, the Mine offers an increase in buying power without in increase in deck size. Since this whole thread is about deck cycling, doesn't it make sense that the less cards in your deck means faster cycling ability. Secondly, the Mine allows you to purchase other cards, rather than just Silver. Those three Silvers that you needed to buy came at the expense of choosing them over a card that could have been superior. Thirdly, when using Mine, you don't have to focus on treasure cards as extensively thoughout the game.

The argument against Mine is that it is slow. You only use it once each time you cycle your deck. Because it is slow, it is difficult to see that there definately is a marked improvement for your deck every time it is used.
 
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Dave Goldthorpe
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Quote:
I would argue that +1, +2, +3 is better than buying three Silvers.


I was talking about one silver card (as an alternative to the mine card) and using it three times .
 
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