Every game I’m shuffling.
Welcome to today’s article which is all about the importance of shuffling your decks and what techniques to use, it’s an often overlooked topic which I find crucial to Warhammer Underworlds. Ever had terrible hands even after do-overs? It’s probably due to how you shuffled your cards. I’ll go over what common techniques you can use as well as how I shuffle.
Why do we shuffle?
Let’s start with the obvious. We shuffle our decks to randomise card order and to ensure we aren’t cheating (more on this later). It helps keep the game fair and ensure you always get a fair mix of cards every game. Cards are very powerful tools so this makes them less reliable.
As we have to shuffle, a poor technique can lead to bad hands that “brick” your deck. Bricked hands basically clog up your game and leave you only with your fighters and your wits. Without the extra tools at your disposal, your opponent will have the upper hand. After all a hand of only upgrades, gambits or bad objective mix is never desirable in general.
I used to get this a lot. I never really thought much about shuffling until about 3 months into Shadespire. I had learned basic shuffling as a kid through Yugioh. I knew of other techniques but they looked like fancy over-the-top uselessness, right? Wrong! There’s actually a lot of math involved with card order and shuffling, the other techniques are supported by this. After doing some research I switched up how I shuffle cards and since then I’ve always had very consistent draw orders. Nothing is ever fully perfect but using the right shuffling technique can help improve your game.
So with that intro out of the way, let’s talk about different ways you can shuffle your cards. Remember ALWAYS sleeve your cards, it just helps makes shuffling easier and protects your cards. First it helps to watch this video here:
Now I’ll go into 5 different ways you can shuffle your cards.
Good old reliable, it’s reliable but actually useless. All it really does is shift the order of cards around and not actually mix cards. Easy to learn and carry out but not really practical for gaming purposes.
The overhand shuffle works by shuffling a section of the deck over your holding hand and onto the top of the deck. You can mix cards a bit during shuffling but the randomisation is poor. You need to do this shuffling technique over 10,000 times to get a truly random order. Not really good at all.
- Easy to learn and carry out
- Doesn’t damage cards
- Sleeves not needed
- Poor card randomisation leading to bad draws and bricked decks
- Doesn’t really shuffle your cards, just re-orders them
- Mathematically the worst way to shuffle
- Can be used to cheat
Riffle shuffling is a visually daunting technique, it looks hard and damaging and you’re right. It’s not an easy shuffle form to learn and if done incorrectly you run the risk of severely damaging your cards. However it is mathematically one of the best ways to get a truly random shuffle. Plus it looks cool too.
This shuffling technique works by splitting your decks into 2 equal parts. Next you overlap the 2 decks onto a shard corner while curled back behind your thumbs and let them fall into each other. Repeat this process 6 more times for a total of 7 riffle shuffles. It takes a while to learn and took me about 2 months to master. You need sleeved deck for this (unless you’re very brave) but you don’t need to bend your cards as much as you think. Also backed by math.
- Mathematically the best way to shuffle your deck for a true random order
- Looks cool to do
- Fast once you’ve got the hang of it
- Not easy to learn
- Potentially bends/damages cards
- Needs cards to be sleeved, risk of damaging cheap sleeves
- Have to do a minimum of 7 shuffles for true randomisation
Another commonly seen technique. It’s easy but long. This form of shuffling is also prone to cheating because it kinda orders the deck. Very useful for counting your cards though.
Pile shuffling works by dealing out your cards in to multiple equal piles then combing them together to form your deck. This is a slow process but helps you count how many cards you’re playing with. It also takes up space due to the multiple shuffle decks you’re making. Doesn’t really work well on it’s own but suitable when combined with another technique.
- Helps count your cards
- Safe on cards
- Needs space
- Potentially prone to cheating when used by itself
Smooshing, despite sounding hilarious, is another way to shuffle cards. It takes a while but actually produces similar effects to a riffle shuffle. Looks silly and potentially damages cards but it works.
It involves putting all your cards in a pile and mixing them in together. Repeat this process for about a minute for the truly random effect. Big issue is the space requirement and surface used to smoosh on. Ideally would need to be done on a playmat.
- Produces random results consistently
- Easy to do
- Needs a large area and safe surface to smoosh
- Risk of damaging cards and sleeves
- Need to do for a minute
- Cards end up in random mixed facings
Weave shuffling is the 5th technique I’ll cover today. It’s pretty simple, just weave parts of the deck into itself. Not truly random and you need sleeved cards to do it with.
The technique works by splitting the deck in half and weaving the 2 parts into each other. Do this a few more time (usually 7) and you’re done. It’s easy but not truly random as you have more control. You may recognise weaving from magic tricks which unfortunately makes it prone to abuse when used alone.
- Easy to do
- More random than overhand shuffling
- Need sleeved cards
- Still not truly random
- Potentially prone to cheating when used on its own
Now this is a separate topic but one that deserves mention now. Ever seen an opponent order their cards then gently shuffle? It’s called stacking, where you order the cards and make draw order more preferable for yourself. An example is ordering your deck like so: gambit, upgrade, gambit, upgrade, etc. It may seem innocent but it’s cheating.
This is easy to overcome though, tell your opponent to shuffle their deck again, only properly this time. Or do it yourself when cutting decks. Cutting your opponent’s deck solves a lot of issues but if your opponent protests or repeatedly tried stacking again, just get a judge involved.
This applies to marked cards. People mark their cards with stickers or birght markers. This is mainly for restricted cards but it interferes with shuffling as the stickers mean the card is no longer flat and can be identified during shuffling. Same goes for marking cards with a bright marker that can potentially show through non-opaque sleeves. Marking is also against the rules and can result in you being disqualified.
At the end of the day if you feel your opponent is cheating with shuffling, ask them about it. Sometimes it’s not intentional. If it persists then call a judge. Always cut your opponent’s deck too. Don’t feel upset about it, cutting is just a way to ensure fairness for both parties.
What I Use
Personally I use weave shuffling first the do a 7 riffle shuffle. It’s quick and generally gives me a fair but random draw order. I get the odd bad hand now and again but it’s quite a rare occurrence. I feel it has had a positive impact on my game while ensuring I have a evenly shuffled deck for my opponent.
The secret, in my opinion, is to combine 2 shuffling techniques like I and a lot of other players do. I would still recommend riffle shuffling but if you can’t learn it or don’t want to then weave shuffling and then a pile shuffle is a good alternative. Or go for a smoosh.
Either way I hope I’ve opened your eyes to the power of shuffling cards. If you’re already a seasoned shuffle veteran, what technique do you use? It’s an interesting topic that doesn’t even involve crits!
5 thoughts on “Shuffling”
I come from a magic background – not MtG, but magic as in card tricks. As such, I’m both well versed in shuffling techniques AND in the potential to cheat while shuffling.
Working with sleeved cards fortunately eliminates the more sophisticated sleight of hand, as it simply cannot be done with them. It also takes some getting used to – but I much prefer it to unsleeved cards, as I’m used to a nice shuffling feel. Underworlds cards simply don’t have a stock or finish anywhere close to quality playing cards.
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Cheating with sleeves can be done. You only need to adapt your technique slightly, as for the riffle shuffle… it is quite easy to put cards in an order you like, even after the deck has been shuffled repeatedly. The best way to shuffle is the smoosh shuffle. Do that one 3-4 times and you get a true random order.
The commonly cited figure of seven riffle shuffles is the minimum number needed to truly randomize a deck of 52 cards, but you can randomize smaller decks with fewer shuffles. Four or five should be more than sufficient for objective decks and power decks.
Anyway, the important thing is that you don’t shuffle like Joe Huber. (If you don’t get the reference, Google “Las Vegas Joe Huber.”
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It’s just my personal habit. I do overhand, weave, pile, weave, pile, overhand. The two rounds of pile shuffling are always different prime numbers not for any particular reason just feels good.
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