Thursday, April 18, 2013

Winning the First Dice Roll

Last night we barely scraped together 8 people for a live draft after my local game store crapped out by not having inventory (but that's a whole other post).

After first-picking a Sunhome Guildmage I was passed an Elusive Krasis. I really like Simic in this format (and I'm a bit fatigued on Boros) so I moved in on Simic. This was likely a mistake. There were 4 Simic drafters at the table (one was RUG, but still), one of which was two players to my right. Pack 2 was great for me, scoring a Simic Manipulator, but Pack 3 was miserable and the Boros signals in Pack 1 were quite strong.

Ah well. I went 1-2 in three rounds of Swiss, losing two very close mirror matches. I believe I had the better deck in both matches, and I think my play was very solid. Looking back, though, I realized that I'd lost the initial dice roll all three matches. How big a difference does that make?

I would love to see some hard data on this. Alternatively, I'm too lazy to try to gather it. Matthew Watkins has done some interesting draft format analyses. Maybe I'll shoot him and email and see if he's willing to look at this issue and comment.

I've been Googling for the past twenty minutes trying to find win percentages based on playing first vs. drawing first, in any MtG format. I can't find anything other than forum posts where people are just speculating. I know I saw an article in the past six months that discussed this in-depth, giving hard numbers. Now I can't even find information on when they changed the rule from "play-first-and-draw" to just "play-first", but I thought I remembered the match win percentage advantage to drawing and playing first being something like 58% vs. 42%. That is, under the old rules, when you both played first and drew first, you got an inherent advantage of 8% (this may not be exact, but I remember reading that the advantage was quite large). Under the current scheme, I thought the advantage shrunk to 52% to 48%. Again, if anyone has links to actual statistics on this, please let me know.

Now then, the lower the curve, the more aggressive the deck, and the faster the format...all these factors will skew that advantage even more. If Watkins is correct that GTC is even faster that RTR, than the advantage gained from playing first with a fast, aggressive Simic, Gruul, or Boros guild should be substantially higher. My first-round opponent had two Experiment Ones in his deck. There aren't a lot of one-drops in the format, but Experiment Ones, Cloudfin Raptors, Boros Elite, and even Foundry Street Denizen can get in a few points of crucial damage that will win a close mirror.

Boros seems especially primed for huge tempo advantage due to playing first. Last week at my LGS, I lost last round to a player who sequenced like this:

Game 1 (on the play):
Turn 1: Boros Elite
Turn 2: Wojek Halberdiers
Turn 3: Frontline Medic

Game 3 (on the play):
Turn 1: Boros Elite
Turn 2: Daring Skyjek
Turn 3: Frontline Medic

These lines are nearly impossible to beat. You must have a cheap form of removal in the first three turns or you are simply dead. His deck also had two Firemane Avengers, but those weren't even a factor (as bonkers as that was). I didn't feel bad losing that match. I just shook my head at the brutal curve-out.

Anyway, I wouldn't be surprised to find that the play-first advantage in this format for Boros is around 60%. If there is any truth to the general analysis here, then that first dice roll becomes substantially more important, further increasing the variance in the game, which I think is a bit unfortunately. But it's also another variable to look at when analyzing post-play. There's nothing you can do about it, short of cheating on the dice roll, but it might help give some perspective on results if you played against super aggressive decks each round, losing the dice rolls.

No comments:

Post a Comment