Original Article by Polk5440
Cultist junks decks faster than any card in the game, and dealing with the onslaught of Ruins is extremely difficult, making Cultist a very strong card.
Cultist’s abilities strongly incentivize building a “Cultist stack”, a deck that buys primarily Cultists and no other Actions. First, playing a Cultist does not let you play other Actions after, except for other copies of Cultist. This pushes you to have lots of copies of Cultists to chain the draw and attack and not have a lot of copies of other Action cards, which you would not be able to play if you drew them. Second, while playing a village would enable playing Actions other than Cultist, it’s usually hard to reliably start your turn with a village in hand in a strong junking game. This further disincentives including Actions other than Cultist. Third, the game could end quickly on piles (Cultists, Ruins, and something else, like Duchies). This reduces the amount of time you have to build a more comprehensive deck.
Night cards, Treasures, and Events cannot be drawn dead, and some of these cards can push against adhering to a pure Cultist stack strategy. For example, Ghost Town or Save can help you consistently start your turn with a village; a reserved Coin of the Realm can allow you to play Actions drawn dead; Lost Arts can give Cultist an Action token. Even so, Cultist’s potent ability to chain the drawing of cards and dealing out junk remains powerful.
Sometimes Ruins can be cleaned out or ignored. Strong trashing can allow a recovery from the Ruins deluge and enable you either to transition from a Cultist stack to a controlled engine with Cultist as a source of draw or to build a different engine entirely. Additionally, unlike Curses, Ruins are worth 0 VP and are themselves Actions. That means building decks that rely on Vineyards or Gardens to score is more viable in the presence of Ruins than other type of junk. However, transitioning from Cultist into a Village-based engine can be difficult to pull off, and viable alternative VP is not always available, making it necessary to play a Cultist stack instead.
Finally, while the on-trash benefit is rarely a good reason to buy Cultist if you are not going to buy it for its primary abilities, it can be an added benefit in kingdoms where trashing plays a role.