Equipping your deck with an adequate number of draw engines is one of the hardest things to master for new players, perhaps the hardest thing to master in First Edition period.
Drawing enough cards is one of the core aspects of the game, fundamental to how the game works and your mastery of it. I consider it an accurate measure of your skill level as a player how well you are able to construct and utilize draw engines in your decks.
Advanced players understand that while playing cards in First Edition tends to be fairly easy, replenishing your hand quickly enough is where most decks tend to bottleneck. As such, it is often useful to include several draw engines in your deck to balance and ensure your draw capability.
When first starting out, I encourage newer players to stick with the (arguably) simplest and most powerful draw engine in the game, Ancestral Vision. It seeds, is easy to use, requires no orders to be taken each turn, and can draw an additional two cards each turn. It doesn't get any better than that.
Now let's take a detailed look at some of the draw engines in the game, ranging from the easy to the obscure and difficult.
Arguably the most powerful and easiest to use draw engine in the game.
Pros: Simplicity. Can draw an additional two cards a turn. Does not use up your normal card play.
Cons: Delta Quadrant Only. Requires you to land a ship or prevent your opponent from killing your personnel on a vision quest.
If I had to pick a card to rival Ancestral Vision for most powerful draw engine in the game, Sherlock would be my front runner. If you have fewer cards in your hand than your opponent, you can draw cards at the start of your turn. No card play or orders are required and the effect is ongoing and permanent. The key with Sherlock is to be clever about emptying your hand and/or getting your opponent to put cards in his hand. With a 221B Baker Street or a Temporal Micro Wormhole, Sherlock can be used in any quadrant by any affiliation. Just park him on your outpost and watch the draws roll in.
Pros: Automatic. Permanent. Draws multiple cards at no cost.
Cons: Can be killed. Requires a little bit of effort to use outside of the Alpha Quadrant.
This is the "no-brainer" of draw engines. Play it, and draw three cards for a net gain of two cards. However, a savvy opponent will almost certainly download Mirror Image (via Q the Referee) and make use of your Kivas as well.
Pros: Easy to use; brain dead simple, actually.
Cons: Will often help your opponent as much as it helps you. Uses your normal card play.
Another simple and easy draw engine. He may have horrible fashion sense, but he sure makes it easy to pick up cards with an addition draw at the end of each of your turns.
Pros: Easy to use.
Cons: Draws only one additional card. Can be shared by your opponent via Mirror Image. Does not work if you need to Ready Room Door download or Tent for something.
War Council doubles as one of the best play engines in the game. So much so that people often overlook its card drawing ability. It requires a bit of set up as you need four Treachery, but the reward is a Kivas Fajo that your opponent can't mirror. There are many personnel with Treachery x2 in the game, some of which can be downloaded with Defend Homeworld.
Pros: Fairly easy to use. Draw two additional cards. Can't be mirrored or nullified by your opponent.
Cons: Hard to use for some affiliations. Rare intensive. Requires some set up and uses your normal card play.
Another Kivas Fajo-type variant. To get Shifting to work, you will need to play with a lot of Alternate Universe-icon cards, but that isn't too hard to do. The other upside is that you can use Shifting against your opponent if they don't have Alternate Universe cards. You can also easily retrieve Shifting via Revisionist History (which can be seeded).
Pros: Provides net gain of two cards. Can be used as an offensive weapon. Can't be mirrored by opponent.
Cons: Very rare intensive. Hard to use in Delta Quadrant decks. Requires your normal card play.
With the power to draw four cards without using up your card play, the Guardian is an attractive draw engine. However, it takes a bit effort to get it working and requires that you construct your deck in a specific way.
Pros: Draws four cards. Does not use up your card play.
Cons: Requires a time location and specific missions. Ties up some of your personnel. Rare intensive.
This is one of the most powerful play and draw engines in the game. It provides both a strong draw engine and an exceptional play engine for the price of a single seed card. Its main drawback is that it is only useable by Bajorans. It also affects your mission choice a bit, but not by much. You should easily be able to draw six to eight cards from Resistance Cell.
Pros: Easy to use. Also a play engine. Does not require your card play.
Cons: Usable only by Bajorans. May alter mission choice.
Another Bajoran-only draw engine (the Federation can use it as well if you are very clever). It requires your card play, but can draw a massive number of cards. Renewal Scroll is very useful if you have some redundancy in your deck, or want to play with specific counters that may not work against everyone, or need to find a specific card quickly. It works well if you are also conducting services at a Bajoran Shrine so that you can cycle back cards you might need.
Pros: Can draw large numbers of cards, more than other draw engines.
Cons: Requires Bajorans. Uses up your normal card play. Base net gain of only one card.
This one is a bit harder to utilize. Like the Guardian of Forever, you pretty much have to build your deck with this card in mind. The good news is that you can use it repeatedly and it can draw you a great deal of cards (add Kassidy Yates to draw even more). A cargo run deck works very well with backwards-compatible (BC) missions as most BC missions have a very low span.
Pros: Can draw lots of cards. Can be used repeatedly. Does not require your normal card play.
Cons: Not usable outside of the Alpha Quadrant. Card intensive. Ties up personnel and ships.
There are two ways to use Handshake to draw cards. Many players never consider the alternate function. On the surface, Handshake can draw you three cards for free if you have less cards in hand than your opponent. However, that is not very reliable and a smart opponent will manipulate his or her hand (and yours) so that you almost never get to draw cards. Take a look at the last function of the card. If you are willing to pitch your hand, you can draw up to seven cards, up to a net gain of three cards. That is pretty good. You will need a deck with some redundancy that can throw things away and/or Process Ore, Regenerate or otherwise cycle cards back into your deck.
Pros: Can draw cards two different ways. May not require your normal card play. Can draw for a net gain of three cards. Usable by any affiliation in any quadrant.
Cons: First function is unreliable. Last function can be awkward to use (and uses your normal card play).
The truth is that in 1E discarding cards isn't much of a cost because the discard pile is easily accessible. In fact, discarding cards can actually be an advantage as suddenly you have a huge face up pile of cards that you can access with a single Palor Toff. Just ask Franklin. All Threes is an interrupt that basically lets you draw three cards for next to no cost. It is part of the "hexany" strategic group of interrupts and is one of the most powerful cards in the game. However, it takes a bit of skill to be comfortable with working with deck that discards so many cards.Pros: Doesn't cost a card play or tie up resources. Draws for a net gain of two.
Smooth is a bit harder to use than All Threes because you need to weight your deck so that it is not heavy on personnel. Or you can rig what is on the bottom of your deck with Masaka Transformations, Q the Referee and others. If you construct your deck with Smooth in mind, you should be able to draw two to three cards with smooth every turn (that includes your opponent's turns).
Pros: Can be played on your opponent's turn. Does not require a card play or resources.
Cons: You need to construct your deck with Smooth in mind. Some luck involved.
Yet another play and draw engine in a single card. Simply play We Are the Borg and benefit from an additional draw each turn.
Pros: Permanent and ongoing effect from a single card play.
Cons: Borg use only. Rare intensive. Not a great probe.
Most people look at this card and zero in on the download ability. Loading up your deck with equipment can take a bit of effort. Loading up your deck with Federation personnel to take advantage of the draw ability is much easier to do. Who's to say you can't do both?
Pros: Ability to draw one (or even two) additional cards each turn. Doubles as a play engine.
Cons: Must be Federation and use Earth. Weakened by It's Only a Game. Ties up some personnel.
This card is great if you expect to be in a different quadrant than your opponent (making it hard for him or her to battle you). It does require an Acquisition personnel, but there are plenty of Non-Aligned Acquisition personnel that play for free or even download via Defend Homeworld. It works well for the Dominion as Hanok can download it and it is unlikely that your beefy Dominion forces will be attacked (especially if they are hanging out in the Gamma Quadrant).
Pros: Low, one-time cost provides an additional draw each turn.
Cons: Requires an Acquisition personnel. Can be countered by your opponent with 34th Rule or by starting a battle.
This one is just a wee bit harder to use than the 35th Rule, but in exchange you get to draw two cards instead of one. It is easier to play as you can use an arms dealer or an Acquisition personnel. How can you assure that you are able to battle each turn? You can attack your opponent's outpost each turn (you don't have to damage it to draw cards) or even attack your own uncontrolled Empok Nor.
Pros: Draws two cards and can do so each turn.
Cons: Requires some set-up. Ties-up some resources. Can be countered.
This one can be a bit confusing at first. However, notice that it does draw four cards. If you have no other cards in hand, that is a net gain of three cards. Of course, you need a fat discard pile to truly take advantage of this card. That is where All Threes, Smooth as an Android's Bottom, The Power, Mutation and Beyond the Subatomic come in. Use the interrupts to draw cards and generate a large discard pile. Then use Isomagnetic to swap piles and draw some more. Repeat.
Pros: Can draw for a net gain of three cards. Works well with hexany interrupts.
Cons: Requires normal card play. Can be a bit awkward to use.
In the future, we will look at a bunch of the lesser draw engines in First Edition that are quite useful, especially when combined.
For a gallery of various draw engines in First Edition, check this out: