I have been asked about aggressive cycling enough times that I figure an article on this specific subject would be worth my time. I have mentioned the topic in many of my articles but I just haven’t written one focused on the subject. My goal with this article is to create an easy reference to help players learn about this strategy.
How does it work?
There are multiple key steps that you have to take to make aggressive cycling work. Missing any of them will sabotage the strategy.
1.) You need to remove a card from your deck every time you shuffle. This is part of the base game rules and is often overlooked. This is key to competitive High Command.
2.) You can only purchase a single card during turn 1 and turn 2. Not one card per turn. Only a single card total between both turns.
3.) You have to bank a card at the end of turn 2.
If you follow those 3 rules you can now shuffle your deck every turn of the game starting with turn 2. This means that in most games you can remove one of the original 12 cards from your deck every turn. You accomplish this by having 5 or less cards left in your army deck after you draw your hand so that the following turn you need to draw 6 and it requires you to shuffle.
If you keep the process going you can easily be drawing essentially the same hand every turn by the time you reach the middle of the game. This increases your consistency and it makes it very unlikely to have a bad turn late in the game. It also increases the value of every card with above average resource values. If you have a single 4/4 resource in an 18 card deck, you will draw it approximately every 3 turns. If You have a single 4/4 resource in a 9 card deck you can draw it every turn but on average you will draw it 2/3 turns.
How do I keep the process going?
To keep the cycle going you have to embrace that this is really an art. You are interacting with another player and they may or may not destroy the cards you rush to locations. But the key is accepting that need to monitor how many cards are in your deck and keep it low enough that when you draw your hand, you will have 5 or less left in the deck. One of the primary ways you accomplish this is by deploying cards that you rushed, were destroyed and now you have drawn. I generally design my decks with the plan to keep rushing powerful warjack or warbeasts that have average resource values or better and then I deploy cheap warriors when I draw them after they were destroyed. This helps me maintain a good flow of VP’s into my deck while also keeping the cycle going.
This is an example of what my deck often looks like late in the game. Don’t you want to draw 6 of these cards every turn?
Why is it called “Aggressive Cycling”?
This term comes from my trying to explain the strategy. I started aggressively refreshing cards during turn 1 to try and search for strong resource cards. So essentially cycling is another term for refreshing cards (discarding a card from your hand to put a card from your reserves on the bottom of your reinforcement deck, getting you a new card in your reserves.) This is something that most players would do a couple times during turn 1 and 2 but I started doing it with 5-6 cards from my opening hand. This is how we started calling it “Aggressive Cycling.”
Initially the goal was just to search for a strong resource card. I lost a key game where my opponent was able to start with purchasing a 4/4 resource on turn 1 and then again on turn 2. I didn’t have any good resources in my reserves. I asked myself if this meant that I just lose and there isn’t anything I can do about it? I don’t like giving up so I started try to aggressively cycle for my best resources to compete with those good initial draws that you sometimes have to play against. Trying this out eventually made me realize it was possible to shuffle my deck every turn, which is extremely powerful when mastered.
What makes this strategy so good?
I already mentioned consistency but it is key. Do you remember a turn, late in the game where you just drew a shit hand and couldn’t accomplish anything significant? That just doesn’t happen when aggressive cycling. You have good hands or great hands. If you have practiced this strategy you will generally have more resources per hand than your opponent, which means you can rush stronger cards.
I occasionally hear players ask about a “mulligan rule” in case you get a terrible opening hand or reserves. This strategy essentially provides you with a free mulligan. It doesn’t matter which cards you draw in turn 1 because you are just going to use them to refresh cards in your reserves until you find a good resource and have some of the best cards in your deck for rushing on turn 3. This strategy replaces any need for a “mulligan rule.”
How good is this strategy?
With the current available cards, I believe that I will not lose a game to a player not using this strategy if I am playing a good deck. I’m not bragging, I’m saying this to emphasize the point. I didn’t know how good this strategy would be when I stumbled on to it. After about 9 months of practice, I can say that the benefits of Aggressive Cycling feel insurmountable by any deck not being played with the same strategy. If you want to play competitive High Command, you will need to learn this. There may eventually be a deck that can be built to utilize a different plan but I don’t think that it exists right now. This strategy is not easy, or intuitive, so it takes practice. I probably have more practice with it than anyone and I still make mistakes.
Assisting the Cycling
There are a variety of Winds of War and Location cards that help make this strategy flow even better. Sometimes these cards are all you need to make it significantly easier to keep the cycle going so you can end the game with a perfect hand every turn.
Menite Temple: This location allows you to move cards that were destroyed at this location to your occupied forces instead of your discard pile. This is a huge advantage to help maintain aggressive cycling. In most cases I move almost every card to the occupied forces. Additionally the location has an above average resource value so if you capture, it will be a solid improvement for the deck.
Temple of the Creator: This location is like the Menite Temple but it isn’t optional. So in some cases it is better because it is an even more valuable location but it can be worse because you can’t choose to put Thrones of Everblight or Woldwraths into your discard pile.
Calculated Sacrifice: This card is in the Castle of the Key Winds of War deck and it allows you to move 2 cards to the occupied forces instead of 1 when you shuffle your deck that round. This is amazing. It is just extra deck thinning and if this card shows up for an opponent when they aren’t using this strategy, it does little for them. There are two copies in Castle and they are amazing for Aggressive Cycling.
Cautious Advance: This card allows you to bank a card when you purchase a card. It doesn’t directly affect Aggressive Cycling but this is one of the few situation where you can buy a second card on turn 2 if this is the current Winds of War. But it only works if you can bank one from the purchase and still bank normally.
Redirection: This card is normally considered a hindrance because it inhibits rushing. But with aggressive cycling, you are often looking for good opportunities to buy another resource or deploy cards that have been destroyed and forced back into your deck. Redirection gives you a great chance to do these things without letting your opponent get any significant pressure on you from rushing.
Narrow Streets: This location can be helpful for the same reasons as Redirection. Look for the right moment to deploy cards here. It is rarely the first plan, but it can definitely shift a game into your favor with good timing.
I hope this helps you guys understand Aggressive Cycling and why it is so powerful. I get asked to explain this quite often and the goal of this article is to be that answer. This is a key aspect to competitive High Command and I really want to see the game grow.
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