This article was originally written by Titandrake, and was later adapted for the blog. Next week we’ll have the second article in this two-part series.
What is overdraw?
Overdraw is the situation where you would draw a card, except your deck and discard are already empty because all of your cards are either in play or in hand. As an extreme example, consider a deck of 5 Laboratories, nothing else. Your starting hand will be 5 Labs, and none of them will draw any cards, because there are no cards left in your draw or discard. A less extreme example is a deck with 5 Labs, 3 Coppers, 1 Silver. This deck is guaranteed to play all 5 Labs. The first 2 Labs will draw cards, and the remaining 3 Labs won’t draw cards. Both of these decks are overdrawing.
You can calculate overdraw carefully if you want to, but usually you can figure it out on the fly. On a given turn, if you’ve drawn your deck and have extra draw cards left over, you’re overdrawing. You can easily see much you’re overdrawing by looking at the remaining draw you have in hand at this point.
The core principle of overdraw is simple: any time you could have drawn a card but didn’t, you’re wasting a draw. If there’s a way to avoid wasting that draw, you can use it to get more out of your turns. Gainers are the simplest way to do this, because it adds a new physical card to your deck, but there are also other ways to convert extra card draws into resources.
With the right setup, you can do some explosive things. Here’s an example from a game I played about two weeks ago. At the start of my turn, I had 2 Stonemasons, a Bandit, and tons of overdraw and actions thanks to several Lost Cities and Encampments.
- Played Bandit, gaining a Gold.
- Drew Gold with overdraw. Stonemason trashed Gold into Bandit and Plunder.
- Drew Bandit and Plunder with overdraw. Played Bandit to gain Gold.
- Drew Gold with overdraw. Stonemason trashed Gold into 2 Plunders.
- Drew Plunders with overdraw.
So, to recap: in a single turn, I gained and played a Bandit and 3 Plunders, which gave me an extra $6 that turn (not to mention 3 VP). From here, I ran away with the game.
Plaza can convert a draw of a Treasure card into a coin token. If you draw your entire deck, you can repeatedly draw and discard a single Copper to multiple Plazas. letting you get several coin tokens.
Tournament is another big example. With overdraw, a single Province can be discarded to multiple Tournaments, to gain multiple prizes in one turn. It helps that the Prizes you gain can themselves help with triggering the reshuffle needed to get the Province back into your draw pile. I once played a game where it was clear Followers was the most important prize. My opponent got to Province first, and gained Trusty Steed first. I thought this was a mistake, right up to the point where he redrew Province and played a 2nd Tournament to gain Followers too. Gaining Steed first simply minimized the chance he would run out of actions to play the rest of his deck.
In these examples, we are not always using our overdraw on newly gained cards to our deck. Instead, we are using our extra draws to draw existing cards multiple times, and using other card effects to make this useful. This principle applies especially to Market square in games with enough draw to reveal and draw the Market Squares multiple times in one turn.
I’ve focused on the flashy examples in this article, but that doesn’t make the less flashy examples useless. Whenever you’re in a position where you’re about to waste card draw, take a moment, and see if you can gain a small edge by making use of your overdraw. Trust me: it adds up.
There are many other considerations related to overdraw, revolving around the consistency of your deck and when you would want to build to overdraw your deck or not. These will be addressed in next week’s article.