**BEFORE READING: Check out the UPDATED Reshuffle Strategy Guide HERE!**
by Rick DeMille aka Darklighter
The “reshuffle” in Star Realms produces some unique strategy considerations, particularly in the on-line game where you must play all cards in your hand.
For example, playing a draw card (e.g., Corvette) when your draw pile is empty will cause your deck to reshuffle during your turn. Any cards in your current hand will not be included in that reshuffled deck. Instead, the cards in your current hand will sit in your discard pile until the next time your deck reshuffles. In other words, when you reshuffle during your turn, the cards in your hand are essentially “lost” for one deck; you will have to wait until your deck reshuffles again to have access to those cards.
This can be good when you are “losing” starter cards for one deck; for one deck those starter cards aren’t diluting your deck. But this can be a bad thing when “losing” stronger cards. Let me set the stage with two examples.
Your Hand: 4 Starters, Corvette
Draw Pile: Empty
Discard Pile: Battle Blob, Blob Destroyer, Ram, Freighter, 6 Starters
Your Hand: Battle Blob, Blob Destroyer, Ram, Freighter, Scout
Draw Pile: Empty
Discard Pile: Corvette, 9 Starters
In both examples you will draw a card, triggering a reshuffle during your turn because your draw pile is empty. Assume in both instances you draw a Scout.
So in Example 2, after you draw a Scout, your hand includes the Battle Blob, Blob Destroyer, Ram, Freighter, and two Starters. Because you triggered a reshuffle during your turn, those cards will go to your discard pile at the end of your turn and you won’t have access to them until your deck reshuffles again. You have essentially “lost” Battle Blob, Blob Destroyer, Ram, and Freighter for one deck. Not good; losing that much damage from a deck could be costly.
On the other hand, in Example 1, after you draw a Scout, your hand includes five Starters and the Corvette. As explained, because you triggered a reshuffle during your turn, these cards are essentially lost for one deck and you won’t have access to them until your deck reshuffles again. In this case, though, it’s a good thing because the cards you lost are Starters…that’s 5 starter cards that won’t be diluting your next deck, which will make it more likely to combo your Blob cards. That’s why we scrap starter cards…to make our decks denser with non-starter cards and increase the chances of power combos. By “losing” 5 starter cards for one deck, you have, in a way, temporarily scrapped those starters for one deck.
With those basic principles in mind, your actions leading up to the reshuffle can make a difference in the outcome of the game. This article discusses various strategy considerations a player should take into account when approaching the reshuffle. Some of these considerations will seem obvious. Other considerations discussed in this article involve situations you may rarely encounter, but the goal of this article is awareness…to help make players aware of what they should consider each time their deck is about to reshuffle.
At a high level, the article discusses the following situations:
- The unavoidable reshuffle
- Avoiding the unavoidable reshuffle
- The avoidable reshuffle
- Forcing the reshuffle
The Unavoidable Reshuffle
The two examples I provided above involve an unavoidable reshuffle. A reshuffle is unavoidable when your hand will cause you to draw more cards than exist in your draw pile, e.g., your hand includes a Corvette and your draw pile is empty. As previously noted, the on-line game requires you to play all cards in your hand, so you’re going to have to play your Corvette and cause a reshuffle to draw another card.
In many instances this is probably a good thing, but if you have played long enough, you have encountered instances when you wished you didn’t have to play your Corvette or Survey Ship. Nonetheless, the unavoidable reshuffle is generally just that: unavoidable.
So what should you consider when your hand will cause a reshuffle during your turn?
- Scrap before the reshuffle
The most obvious answer is that if you have “scrap” cards that allow you to scrap cards in your discard pile, play those cards before playing your draw card that will trigger a reshuffle. Naturally, once you play the draw card and cause a reshuffle, you no longer have a discard pile and you will have to scrap cards in your hand. Every starter you scrap before the reshuffle is one less starter diluting your new, reshuffled deck.
- Use economy before the reshuffle…sometimes
Consider using your economy before the reshuffle. Any card you purchase before the reshuffle will obviously be included in your reshuffled deck. If you play your draw card and trigger a reshuffle before using your economy, whatever you buy will go to your discard pile and will not be usable until your next reshuffle.
Now, there may be reasons you should wait until after the reshuffle to make your purchase. For example, if you have $6 and the Dreadnaught is in the trade row, it may be worth it to play your draw card, triggering reshuffle, in the hopes of getting $1 more in order to purchase the Dreadnaught.
But the point is that any time you have a card that is going to cause a reshuffle during your turn, you should always at least consider whether it makes sense to use your economy before reshuffling.
- Timing the reshuffle
There are times you may not be able to avoid the reshuffle during your turn, but watch for situations when you can control the timing of your reshuffle.
Here’s an example:
Your Hand: Mothership (draw one card, ally ability to draw a second card), Blob Fighter (ally ability to draw one card), a Freighter (4 economy), and two Scouts (1 economy each).
Draw Pile: 1 Scout.
Trade Row: The highest cost card in the trade row is a Dreadnaught (cost 7).
Your Play: Because of the ally abilities of Mothership and Blob Fighter, your hand is going to cause you to draw three cards, causing a reshuffle since your draw pile only has one card. However, if you play your Mothership first along with your Freighter and two Scouts, you will draw only one card – a third Scout and last card in your draw pile – which would give you $7, enough to purchase the Dreadnaught. Then you play the Blob Fighter, triggering the ally abilities of both the Mothership and Blob Fighter, to draw two more cards. This will cause a reshuffle since your draw pile is empty. You might even draw the Dreadnaught you just bought.
In this example, if you had played the Blob Fighter before playing the Mothership, you would have drawn three cards all at once (one from the Blob Fighter’s ally ability and two from the Mothership), which would have cause a reshuffle because there was only one card in your draw pile. You still would have been able to purchase the Dreadnaught, but not until after you reshuffled, so you would have to wait until the next reshuffle before being able to play it for the first time. So by timing the reshuffle in this way, you essentially got access to the Dreadnaught one deck earlier than had you purchased the Dreadnaught after the reshuffle.
While you may not always be able to avoid the reshuffle, controlling the timing of the reshuffle, if possible, can give you more options on your turn.
- Draw before recycling
If your hand includes a recycling station and a draw card, either of which can cause a reshuffle, consider using your recycling station after the reshuffle. This really depends on the situation, but it’s something to consider.
When you recycle before the reshuffle, the starter cards you recycle will go to your discard pile, and then be included in the reshuffled deck. You may draw the starter cards you just recycled! On the other hand, if you can play a draw card that causes a reshuffle, then play the recycling station after the reshuffle, the starter cards you recycle will not be included in new reshuffled deck.
Here’s an example:
In Play: You already have a Recycling Station in play
Your Hand: Two Scouts, two Explorers, and a Corvette.
Draw pile: Empty.
Your Play: You can trigger a reshuffle by playing the Corvette or by recycling two Scouts. If you recycle the two Scouts first, the recycled scouts will go to the discard pile and then the discard pile will reshuffle. You may draw the two Scouts you just recycled. Or, even if you don’t draw the two Scouts you just recycled on that turn, you will eventually. On the other hand, if you play the Corvette first, the resulting reshuffled deck will have two less Scouts in it than if you had recycled them first. Then after the reshuffle, you recycle the two Scouts into your discards pile.
You may ask, “What if in the above example, instead of being empty, the draw pile had one card in it?” Good question. But in that situation the reshuffle is optional. The “Optional Reshuffle” is the subject of a later section.
The point here is that when you approach the reshuffle the order you play your cards and/or use their abilities can make a huge difference. Yes, the order you play your cards can matter even when the reshuffle isn’t a factor, but there are additional considerations to take into account when the reshuffle is a factor.
- Don’t “Play All”
As a general rule, it’s probably a best practice to never click the “play all” button. Of course, sometimes clicking the “play all” button is harmless, like on your opening turn. Other times, clicking the “play all” button can cost you, particularly when timing can be important, as it often is right before a reshuffle. For example, in situations when it makes sense to buy something before playing your draw card that will trigger a reshuffle (so the card you buy will be included in the reshuffled deck), you may miss that opportunity if you click the “play all” button.
These are a few things to consider when a reshuffle on your turn is unavoidable. However, on rare occasions it’s possible to avoid the unavoidable reshuffle.
Avoiding the Unavoidable Reshuffle
Can I avoid an unavoidable reshuffle? Actually, yes. The stars may need to align to make it possible, or even advisable, but there are ways to avoid the seemingly unavoidable reshuffle. Highlighted below are three possibilities by discarding, scrapping, or topdecking.
As discussed above, a reshuffle is typically unavoidable in the on-line game when your hand will force you to draw more cards than exist in your draw pile. However, if during your opponent’s turn he/she plays a yellow card that requires you to discard, discarding your draw card could avoid the reshuffle.
Here’s an example:
Your Hand: Command Ship (draw two), Dreadnaught (draw one), Survey Ship (draw one), and two Scouts.
Draw Pile: Three cards.
Your Play: So your hand will draw four cards, which will require a reshuffle since there are less than four cards in your draw pile. That reshuffled deck will not include your Command Ship or Dreadnaught, which means those cards will be “lost” for one deck and you will have to wait until after the next reshuffle to use those cards again. Being without those cards for that long can make a huge difference. If your opponent on his/her turn makes you discard a card, consider discarding your Survey Ship instead of a Scout. If you discard your Survey Ship, then your hand will only draw 3 cards. Since your draw pile has three cards, you will not trigger a reshuffle during your turn (assuming none of the 3 cards you draw will cause you to draw a 4th card). It might be worth losing the Survey Ship for a turn rather than losing the Command Ship and Dreadnaught from your next reshuffled deck.
I have actually done this on occasion with the Survey Ship or Corvette. Obviously, this would not make sense for many of the draw cards (e.g., I am not going to discard the Dreadnaught to avoid a reshuffle), but at least for the Survey Ship and Corvette it’s something to consider.
Another way to avoid an unavoidable reshuffle is to scrap your draw card from your hand before you play it.
Here’s an example:
Your hand: Command Ship (draw two), Dreadnaught (draw one), Survey Ship (draw one), Missile Bot, and one Scout.
Draw Pile: Three cards in your draw pile.
Your Play: Similar to the previous example, your hand will draw four cards, which will require a reshuffle during your turn since there are less than four cards in your draw pile. That reshuffled deck will not include your Command Ship or Dreadnaught. Conventional wisdom would say to use the Missile Bot to scrap a card in your discard pile. But if you use the Missile Bot to scrap the Survey Ship before playing the Survey Ship, then your hand will now only draw three cards, and since you have three cards in your draw pile your hand will no longer require a reshuffle during your turn. Instead the reshuffle will occur after your turn, which means the Command Ship and Dreadnaught will be in the reshuffled deck and you avoid losing those cards for a deck.
This seems drastic, but as with the previous example, there are situations in which it might be worth losing the Survey Ship so that your next reshuffled deck will include your Command Ship and Dreadnaught.
A third way to avoid a reshuffle requires a little bit more forward thinking. It involves topdecking cards on the turn before a reshuffle.
Your Hand: Includes a card, or combination of cards, that allows you to topdeck a ship.
Draw Pile: Four cards: Battle Blob, two Cutters, and a Viper.
Your Play: Since your draw pile only includes hour cards, when you draw your next hand, your deck will reshuffle to fill in the fifth card, which means your deck will reshuffle without the Battle Blob and two Cutters. If you topdeck a card using your current hand, you will now have 5 cards in your draw pile (assuming you don’t topdeck something that draws a card). So when you draw your next hand, there won’t be a reshuffle. Instead the reshuffle will occur after your next hand, so your reshuffled deck will include the Battle Blob and two Cutters.
You might well ask, “Isn’t this a no-brainer. Wouldn’t I want to top deck a card in this situation regardless of the number of cards in my draw pile?” In most situations, yes. However, this is more of a consideration when you would otherwise not have topdecked anything. We have all encountered situations when there are no cards we want to buy or gain. In the above example in which you have four cards in your draw pile and you would prefer that those four cards be included in your next reshuffle, it might be worth it to at least topdeck an Explorer so there are five cards in your draw pile, even if it’s a situation when you otherwise would not have bought or gained anything. You can just scrap the Explorer on your next turn, but you save the Battle Blob and Cutters from being lost from the next reshuffled deck.
The Optional Reshuffle
There are other situations in which you can choose whether or not to trigger a reshuffle. This occurs when you have one or more cards in which drawing a card is optional. These cards include the Recycling Station, or cards like the Imperial Frigate that you can scrap to draw a card.
Whether or not to use these optional draw abilities to trigger a reshuffle during your turn can be an important decision. Discussed below are various considerations when the reshuffle is optional, though it mostly just boils down to what’s in your hand.
- Optional draw ability
The Imperial Frigate, Brain World and Machine Base are examples of cards that offer optional draw ability. If you played an Imperial Frigate and your discard pile is empty, should you scrap the Frigate to draw a card and trigger a reshuffle? If you have the Machine Base in play and your draw pile is empty, are there any instances when you shouldn’t use it?
If your hand includes, for example, a Battle Blob, Blob Destroyer and a Ram, then if you trigger a reshuffle by scrapping the Imperial Frigate, your reshuffled deck won’t include those strong green cards. If you don’t scrap the Imperial Frigate, then your deck will reshuffle after your turn, instead of during your turn, and the reshuffled deck will include those green cards.
I recently encountered a situation involving the Machine Base in which I chose not to use its ability. Long story short, I had the Machine Base in play, had played the Flagship, Missile Mech, two Blob cards, an explorer, and had two Scouts left in my hand. My draw pile was empty and my discard pile was mostly starters. I chose not to use the Machine Bases ability to draw a card and then destroy a card in my hand. Doing so would have triggered a reshuffle during my turn, and my reshuffled deck would have been missing my Flagship, Missile Mech, and two Blob cards. I couldn’t afford to lose all those cards for one deck.
Whether or not it makes sense to trigger a reshuffle during your turn largely depends on what’s in your hand. If you don’t want to lose the cards in your hand for a deck, then don’t trigger the reshuffle during your turn.
Where you are in the game is another factor. If you are close to finishing off an opponent, and you just need a little more damage, it of course might be worth triggering the reshuffle in the hopes of getting another strong card to finish off your opponent, even if that means losing some good cards from your next reshuffled deck.
Similar principles apply to using the Recycling Station to trigger a reshuffle, though the Recycling Stations provides you with a few more options.
- Recycling Station (or, sometimes, “Regurgitation Station”)
One of the least comfortable situations I encounter when playing Star Realms is using Recycling Station when my draw pile is empty. I alluded to this earlier… If you recycle two Scouts when your draw pile is empty, you may get those two Scouts right back after the reshuffle. I call this regurgitation, not recycling. Instead of recycling those two Scouts, you just regurgitated them right back up. That’s why, as discussed previously, it can be so important to use a draw card ability to trigger the reshuffle before using the Recycling Station; you can avoid “regurgitation.”
So how do you handle a Recycling Station when using its recycling ability will cause a reshuffle? Here are a few considerations:
- Just do it: You might “regurgitate” the two Starter cards you just tried to recycle, but you might not. Instead, you might get some good cards. If you recycle, at you have a chance of replacing at least one of the Starter cards you recycled with a better card.
- Use the optional $1 ability: When my draw pile is empty, I am slightly more inclined to use the Recycling Station’s optional +$1 ability, particularly when that +$1 can allow be to buy a good card right before the reshuffle. Another factor to consider here is the strength of your current hand. If your current hand includes strong, valuable cards and you trigger a reshuffle by recycling, the reshuffled deck will not include those strong cards. You should consider the strength of your current hand when deciding whether to trigger a reshuffle using the Recycling Station.
- Recycle one instead of two (draw pile empty): If your draw pile is empty, you could only recycle one card instead of two. You will still trigger a reshuffle, but you have only added one Starter card to the reshuffled deck instead of two. I personally don’t recommend this approach, but I address it briefly because I occasionally see people do this. I suppose the thought process is that if you only recycle one starter to trigger a reshuffle, then the starter you chose not to recycle will stay in your hand, and that’s one less starter in the reshuffled deck. That’s true, but in exchange for adding one more starter to that new reshuffled deck (using the Recycling Station), you get to draw an extra card from that reshuffled deck. Even though it’s possible you could recycle two starters, trigger a reshuffle, and then get those starters right back, you’re still more likely to draw one of the non-starters from your discard pile if you recycle two, than if you only recycle one. So if I am going to trigger a reshuffle using the Recycling Station, my practice is to use the Recycling Station’s full ability and recycle two…crossing my fingers that they don’t end up right back in my hand.
- Recycle one instead of two (draw pile has one card): What if, instead of being empty, your draw pile has one card. Should you recycle one card to avoid the reshuffle during your current turn, or recycle two which would cause you to draw the last card from your draw pile and then trigger a reshuffle so you can draw a second card? Ultimately, it depends on your current hand, the card that is in your draw pile, and other factors. Here are a few examples:
-If your current hand includes several strong cards, you may not want to trigger a reshuffle during your current turn so that the cards in your hand won’t be lost from the next reshuffled deck. On the other hand, if you are close to finishing off an opponent, it might be worth to recycle and trigger a reshuffle even if you have strong cards in your hand.
-If your hand includes all starters, you may want to trigger a reshuffle during your current turn so that those starter cards don’t dilute your next reshuffled deck.
-If the card in your draw pile is a Missile Bot (a scrap card), you may only want to recycle one card so you draw just the Missile Bot without triggering a reshuffle. That way you can use the Missile Bot to scrap a card in your discard pile before it reshuffles.
-If the card in your draw pile is a Corvette (draw one card), recycling even one card will cause a reshuffle since you will then have to play the Corvette (in the on-line game). You might not want to recycle any cards if your hand includes strong cards and you want to avoid the reshuffle during your current turn so those strong cards are not lost from the next reshuffled deck.
This obviously isn’t an exhaustive list of the situations you would encounter. The point is…before deciding whether or not to trigger the reshuffle with your Recycling Station, and pay attention your situation, e.g., where you are in the game, what’s in your hand, and what’s in your draw pile (only in the on-line game…looking at your draw pile in the physical game would be cheating).
Forcing the Reshuffle
There are situations when you might want to force the reshuffle. Let me illustrate with a situation I encountered:
My Hand: Imperial Frigate (among other cards)
My Discard Pile: All of my strong cards were in my discard pile.
My Draw Pile: Five Scouts and a Corvette
My Play: It was my turn, and I could see from my draw pile that my next hand wouldn’t be that great (Five Scouts or Four Scouts and a Corvette). My deck was a yellow deck so it wasn’t a situation where I normally would have scrapped the Imperial Frigate. But I saw an opportunity to force my deck to reshuffle during my next turn. As we discussed before, when your hand includes mostly starters, triggering a reshuffle during your turn can be a good thing because then those starter cards are “lost” for one deck. Losing starter cards makes your deck denser with non-starters, which increases the chances of combo-ing good cards together. I recognized that if I scrapped the Imperial Frigate to draw a card, I would either draw a Scout, leaving my draw pile with five cards including the Corvette, or draw the Corvette which would in turn draw a Scout, leaving my draw pile with four cards. Either way, my next hand would trigger a reshuffle during my turn. But now when my deck reshuffled, it will have four less Scouts diluting my next deck. So I scrapped the Imperial Frigate and drew a Scout. The Scout I drew didn’t help my current turn, but now my next hand, with mostly starter cards, would trigger a reshuffle during my next turn. Had I not forced a reshuffle a turn early by scrapping the Imperial Frigate, my next reshuffled deck would have been diluted by four more Scouts. I couldn’t avoid my next hand being weak, but I increased the chances that my next hand after that would be strong.
This is a fairly specific example, but there are other ways this can play out. The point is that forcing an earlier reshuffle can prevent some weaker cards from being included in the next reshuffle, creating a new draw pile that is less diluted by those weaker cards.
Triggering a reshuffle during your turn can be good if it means losing starter cards from your next reshuffled deck, but by the same token it can be bad if it means losing strong non-starter cards from your next deck. There are seemingly an infinite number of possible situations you can encounter in Star Realms, which is part of what makes it great. So you may have read this article and thought, “Well, in situation X, Y, Z I would do something different.” Of course. This article doesn’t, and can’t, cover every situation. The purpose was merely to make players aware of the variety of strategy considerations when approaching the reshuffle.
Great article Darklighter! These are all great points, and I think this highlights the more universal strategy topic of decision points. It is easy for new players to think the game is all luck, and every outcome is determined by the trade row and the shuffle, and it is true that variance plays a big part in the game. However, skilled players will be able to identify more decisions points over the course of a turn, more tactical options at those decisions points, and segment their play to eek out every possible advantage. The Missile Bot and forced discard examples you gave are good ones; most players would automatically scrap or discard a starter without even considering the possibility of affecting the timing of the next reshuffle. Even if the result of a decision ends in the same move as the rote play, taking the time to consider the decision and that there could be an exception to the standard move in the particular situation is what makes a great player.
Your comment about decision points is one of the main reasons I wrote up this article…to help illustrate how tactical this game can be. I remember reading one of the “reviews” over on BGG that, in my opinion, oversimplified Star Realms and thinking, “There’s so much more too it. Just look at how much there is to consider at the reshuffle!” So I decided to write something up about just the reshuffle.
Excellent article!! This stuff can make a big difference in a lot of games!
This is a great article. I spend a lot of time playing the online game and am always looking for ways to up my game. There were a lot of things you pointed out in this article I had never even thought about! Thanks!!
A few notes.
You can sometimes avoid mandatory draws that are ally abilities (common on green and red cards) by scrapping the other ally. For example, play a green 3-drop, self-scrap it for gold, then play your blob fighter (assuming you have no other green cards).
You can play Embassy Yacht before bases to avoid two draws.
Take into account what your opponent will do. Example: I just played and used Brain World. I have an optional draw and exactly five cards left in my deck. They are mostly bad cards, so I want to take the optional draw to make four of those cards miss the next deck , right? No; as things stand, opponent will kill Brain World on his turn, so it will be included in the next deck. Drawing an extra card now forces a reshuffle before opponent’s turn, which means Brain World misses the next deck.
Take smart risks. Example: I have three cards left in my deck, one of which is Blob Carrier. As things stand, the Carrier will miss the next deck. I have an optional draw from Imperial Frigate. If I use it, there’s a 2/3 chance that I’ve wasted the Frigate for nothing, and a 1/3 chance that I’ve managed to get Blob Carrier into the next deck after all. This is a gamble I will nearly always take…
Good article from a most wise individual.
On top of that, one other item that I try and consider when looking at all of the things mentioned in the article is how this will affect my next shuffle (and how much that really matters). Say you have 4 starters and an Imperial frigate in your hand with nothing in the draw pile. There are 10 cards in your discard and we’ll say that there are 3 starters among those and among the purchased cards there is not chance of triggering a draw. And for simplicity, there is not change of anyone buying anything from the trade row. You scrap the frigate to optimize your next set up cards.. Next turn, you will have 5 new cards in your hand, 4 in your deck, 4 starters in your discard and 1 other that could be a starter or something else. Lets just say you still have 3 starters in your pool of 9 available cards. If all of those 3 starters are in your deck with 4 cards, bully for you. Let’s say you get 2, leaving one in your deck. That means 3 of your purchased cards will be in your deck, which will trigger a reshuffle.
Now you are drawing those cards and you trigger a reshuffle, in that pool of cards, you have 7 starters and 4 purchased. That means that after you triggered a reshuffle to optimize your deck, your deck was diluted by starters. If you were to keep and not scrap the frigate, you would have 8 starters and 8 purchased since you still have the imperial frigate.
Obviously in the above scenario, you bring the trade row back into play and it changes things and you could always buy an explorer to mitigate this specific scenario, but I bring it up because I have been bitten a few times when I triggered a reshuffle to have a really good set of cards in my next deck only to have a really bad deck of cards on the one after that. Fairly situational and this fits into the “doesn’t cover everything” part of your article, but its something I look at when the reshuffle is part of my decision making.
Nice read, one thing of of note is when using the Tppdecking strategy, be very conscious of allied draw abilities. In your example, the purchase and subsequent Topdecking of a blob card will still trigger the reshuffle, so that means maybe you should buy that lowly Trade Bot first, to scrap prior to reshufling, then that shiney Ram, especially if you are just entering the middle phase if the game.
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