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Is there any rule or reason why you can't shuffle your discard pile during moments of downtime, in order to get a better shuffle once your deck is fully depleted? My understanding is that the discard pile is a space to which order and sequence don't apply.

To clarify: I do not mean shuffle discard pile back into draw pile, I simply mean shuffling the idle discard pile with itself, and still following the rules for when to reshuffle for a new draw pile.

  • Some interpretations of the rules always puts hand cards on the discard pile last (but it seems this is not the right interpretation). If you choose this interpretation, and you shuffle half way, the top card of the discard pile should be left at the top. – freekvd Nov 9 '15 at 19:58
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edit: The OP was not clear whether it meant "shuffle the discard pile and put it back in the draw pile" or just "shuffle the discard pile". Now that's clear, I'm adding the following:

True, as the rules stand right now, the order in the discard pile does not usually matter (sometimes it does, see below). Theoretically, you could shuffle the discard pile at any time and just keep it away from the draw pile. The rules do not let you still do it for the following reasons:

  1. The status of your discard pile might still change before the "proper" reshuffle, thus you might still have to reshuffle. Consider the following example:

    • Draw pile: 0 cards
    • Cards in hand: Market, 4 others

    You are going to play the Market, which lets you draw a card, so why not shuffle the discard pile while waiting for your next turn? Well, you might receive a Curse until then, so you'll still have to reshuffle with the Curse in it.

  2. Reserved for future "discard pile" rules. Currently, there are no cards that do something, say, with the top card of the discard pile, so the order in it does not matter. Despite that, the rules still don't explicitly let you shuffle arbitrarily, because DXV likes to have as much room as possible for future cards. For example, one day he could design a card that does something with the top card of the discard pile.

  3. For the sake of completeness, there are actually cards that care about the order of the discard pile: Watchtower. When you gain a card, you may reveal the Watchtower to trash that card or top-deck it. If you do, then the Watchtower expects to find the card on top of the discard pile. Consider the following:

    • You have a Watchtower in hand.
    • You gain an Inn.
    • Now, there are two things that happen at the same time: you either trigger the Inn or the Watchtower first.
      • Suppose you resolve the Inn first.
      • You choose as many action cards as you want from your discard pile and you shuffle them in your deck, but not the Inn.
      • If you leave the Inn somewhere inside your discard pile, but not on top, then you may not reveal the Watchtower to topdeck/trash it, as the Watchtower has lost track of the Inn.
      • Nevertheless, if you leave the Inn on top, then you may reveal the Watchtower (source).

According to the base-game rules, you only shuffle the discard pile when you need to do something with the draw pile (e.g., draw cards, reveal cards, etc) and there are not enough cards to do so. You cannot arbitrarily shuffle the discard pile whenever you want to, for a couple of reasons, including:

  • An opponent likely holds a Witch (or any curser) in hand. Your draw pile has been depleted and you hold your last 5 cards in hand. You would like to reshuffle immediately, so that the Curse will "miss" the reshuffle and will not see it soon.
  • You are ready to buy your first Province and you're close to reshuffle. You'd like to reshuffle immediately, so that you won't see "soon" the Province.
  • You have just reshuffled and played a key card (e.g., Witch). You discard the Witch, but you have over 30 cards in your deck. You'd like to immediately reshuffle your discard pile so that you'd see the Witch again.
  • Any cards that you gain go immediately to your discard pile (unless stated otherwise). Thus, if you shuffle the discard pile, these cards will enter the draw pile, whether you'd like it or not.
  • There are cards that do something with the discard pile, like Counting House, Hermit, Inn, Herald, etc. Arbitrarily shuffling the discard pile (or not) directly affects these cards.

Thus, there is a general, fair rule, that makes sense as well: you shuffle only when there are not enough cards to do something.

  • Given that the rules don't specify in which order cards are to be placed in the discard pile during the clean-up phase, it seems unlikely that future cards would depend on the order of the discard pile. – kasperd Nov 10 '15 at 19:04
  • @kasperd When you clean up, indeed you may discard in any order you like. Cards gained that turn should be already in the discard pile, but regarding cards in play and in hand, you may put them in any order to your discard pile. However, there are already cards that look the discard pile. For example, the Watchtower: when you gain a card, it expects it to be found on the top of your discard pile. If the card moves (e.g., you gain an Inn and shuffle it in your deck), the Watchtower won't find it on top of your discard pile, so it will lose track of the Inn. – Adama Nov 11 '15 at 0:03
  • Your answer reads as though 'reshuffle' also means 'add to your draw pile' and 'do not reshuffle again, if additional cards are added to the discard pile'. As long as these two things are untrue, it would seem that the concerns you raise are for naught. – atk Jan 2 '16 at 7:18
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You are correct that there are no published cards that care about the order of your discard pile. What I often do is shuffle it, leave it where it is face down. If I have to discard further, I slide those in and reshuffle, otherwise, I announce that this is my preshuffled discard deck, now needed as my draw deck.

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    I wouldn't recommend doing this. It's very nonstandard, confusing and prone to slip ups, and looks like sleight of hand even when done correctly. – djechlin Jan 28 '15 at 2:15
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From my personal experience - I am also sometimes inclined to shuffle my discard pile during other player's turns, but I refrain from doing so mainly because of two following reasons:

  • its potential to disrupt player's orientation (myself including) and flow of the game
  • possible issues it might create with cards that deal curses or give you cards in other people's turns (e.g. Ambassador)

The temptation is strongest when I know that I will take the cards remaining in my deck through action cards that I have in my hand.

I rather pay attention to the flow of the game i.e. what others are doing in their turns (it pays out), and also develop quick and efficient technique of shuffling cards during my turn.

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