• Is there really a First turn advantage?

    For years I have seen posts and blogs and comments all claiming that first turn advantage is a thing and that it is very real. Unfortunately I have not seen any proof of this claim in anything that can be measured. The closest I have seen to actual statistics were mentions made at United States Nationals that a significant portion of the top 8 were there because they all went first more then their opponents.

    So since Nationals I have conducted a private study to determine if first turn advantage was real and how strong was it. I played 1600 Dice Masters games over the course of a month and trust me I am a little burnt out by the experience, but that being said I am happy with the results.

    Since I am trying to be as scientific as possible while not trying to kill myself I conducted this study doing the following.

    1. I used 4 different decks to test first turn advantage
    2. I tested each deck against itself and the 3 other decks 100 times going first
    3. I tested each deck against itself and the 3 other decks 100 times going second
    4. The decks had to be played by equally skilled players. Namely I played myself which is as equal in skill as I could make players.


    The 4 decks I used in this study were some of the top decks from US Nationals.
    1) The Canadian National Champion Deck (Won US National Championship) -This deck is built to take advantage of going first by shutting down opponents ramp using elf thief while building its own win condition using Bard. It also has counters to opponents with dwarf wizard, clay golem, kryptonite/prismatic spray, and Mr. Fantastic. This deck and variations of this deck was everywhere at US Nationals and Worlds. This deck can be shut down if you don't rely on ramp to win, can counter dwarf wizard, elf thief, and stop it's own ramp.

    2) The UK National Champion Deck (2nd at US National Championship) - This deck is built to go first or second. It has a strong counter of using Imprisoned to eliminate threats purchased faster then it is able to, while using cards like breaker to counter Imprisoned used against it. It also has control elements like Constantine, elf thief , and oracle to slow down opponents. Eventually using Bard to finish off the opponent it has hopefully slowed down enough to win against.

    3) The Vicious Struggle Deck (Top 8 at US National Championship) - This deck is built to dominate when going first, it has one of the strongest turn 3 kills ever made since it has very few counters and those counters do not see regular play. Unfortunately its win condition is Vicious struggle which can be purchased by its opponent if this deck does not go first which can seriously hurt it.

    4) Juniors Mask Ring Team (Top 4 at US National Championship) - This deck is a strong control deck running oracle and elf thief to slow down its opponents while using masks from morphing jars to burn its opponent to death with Lantern Ring.

    Round 1a - The Canadian National Championship Deck Going First

    The Canadian National Champion Deck vs. The Canadian National Champion Deck = 87 wins out of 100 games
    The Canadian National Champion Deck vs. The UK National Champion Deck = 52 wins out of 100 games
    The Canadian National Champion Deck vs. The Vicious Struggle Deck = 91 wins out of 100 games
    The Canadian National Champion Deck vs. Juniors Mask Ring Team = 89 wins out of 100 games

    Results - The Canadian National Championship Deck dominates going first with an almost 80% win rate against high level decks. What is odd to note is the only deck that it struggled to dominate against was the UK National Champion Deck as that deck had some strong counters for teams that succeed at going first.

    Round 1b - The Canadian National Championship Deck Going Second

    The Canadian National Champion Deck vs. The Canadian National Champion Deck = 13 wins out of 100 games
    The Canadian National Champion Deck vs. The UK National Champion Deck = 15 wins out of 100 games
    The Canadian National Champion Deck vs. The Vicious Struggle Deck = 17 wins out of 100 games
    The Canadian National Champion Deck vs. Juniors Mask Ring Team = 38 wins out of 100 games

    Results - The Canadian National Championship Deck struggles against all of these decks going second with a 21% win rate.

    Round 2a - The UK National Championship Deck Going First

    The UK National Champion Deck vs. The Canadian National Champion Deck = 85 wins out of 100 games
    The UK National Champion Deck vs. The UK National Champion Deck = 49 wins out of 100 games
    The UK National Champion Deck vs. The Vicious Struggle Deck = 81 wins out of 100 games
    The UK National Champion Deck vs. Juniors Mask Ring Team = 72 wins out of 100 games

    Results - The UK National Championship Deck has a strong showing from going first at about a 72% win rate. The funny thing to note is this deck actually did worse against itself when going first. The fight over Imprisoned was very strong in the mirror match and made it difficult to predict who was going to win in any of the games.

    Round 2a - The UK National Championship Deck Going Second

    The UK National Champion Deck vs. The Canadian National Champion Deck = 48 wins out of 100 games
    The UK National Champion Deck vs. The UK National Champion Deck = 51 wins out of 100 games
    The UK National Champion Deck vs. The Vicious Struggle Deck = 13 wins out of 100 games
    The UK National Champion Deck vs. Juniors Mask Ring Team = 55 wins out of 100 games

    Results - The UK National Championship Deck does the best of all 4 decks with a 42% win rate going second. This deck was built with the idea of winning going second so it is not surprising that it has a high win percentage going second then the other decks. It still cannot touch the Vicious Struggle Deck when going second.

    round 3 - The Vicious Struggle Deck Going First

    The The Vicious Struggle vs. The Canadian National Champion Deck = 83 wins out of 100 games
    The The Vicious Struggle vs. The UK National Champion Deck = 87 wins out of 100 games
    The The Vicious Struggle vs. The Vicious Struggle Deck = 85 wins out of 100 games
    The The Vicious Struggle vs. Juniors Mask Ring Team = 81 wins out of 100 games

    Results - The Vicious Struggle Deck is almost unstoppable when it goes first with a 84% win rate. The consistency it can pull off its turn 3 kill is ridiculous and since none of these decks play with a direct counter to this type of play there was little they could do to stop it from winning. Only when Vicious Struggle rolled poorly did any of the other decks pull out a win.

    round 3 - The Vicious Struggle Deck Going Second

    The The Vicious Struggle vs. The Canadian National Champion Deck = 9 wins out of 100 games
    The The Vicious Struggle vs. The UK National Champion Deck = 19 wins out of 100 games
    The The Vicious Struggle vs. The Vicious Struggle Deck = 15 wins out of 100 games
    The The Vicious Struggle vs. Juniors Mask Ring Team = 19 wins out of 100 games

    Results - The deck that does the best going first does the worst going second with a 16% win rate. The opponent being able to buy the win condition for this deck just destroys it.

    round 4 - Juniors Mask Ring Team Going First

    Juniors Mask Ring Team Team vs. The Canadian National Champion Deck = 62 wins out of 100 games
    Juniors Mask Ring Team vs. The UK National Champion Deck = 45 wins out of 100 games
    Juniors Mask Ring Team vs. The Vicious Struggle Deck = 81 wins out of 100 games
    Juniors Mask Ring Team vs. Juniors Mask Ring Team = 73 wins out of 100 games

    Results - Juniors Mask Ring Team had a 65% win rate going first, again showing that going first is very strong for this type of deck as it quickly controls ramp on the opponent while setting up its win condition.

    round 4 - Juniors Mask Ring Team Going Second

    Juniors Mask Ring Team Team vs. The Canadian National Champion Deck = 11 wins out of 100 games
    Juniors Mask Ring Team vs. The UK National Champion Deck = 28 wins out of 100 games
    Juniors Mask Ring Team vs. The Vicious Struggle Deck = 19 wins out of 100 games
    Juniors Mask Ring Team vs. Juniors Mask Ring Team = 27 wins out of 100 games

    Results - Juniors Mask Ring Team had a 21% win rate going second.

    Final Results

    Overall from all four decks.
    If you go first you would have a 75% chance to win
    If you go second you would have a 25% chance to win

    At the end of the day what do all these numbers mean. It means that if these 4 decks were in the top 4 and playing each other, and each person was equal in skill with each other person, then whoever went first in each match would have a significant advantage to win the match. Does this mean that first turn advantage exists?

    Perhaps.

    These are very high tier decks and are played by someone who knows how to take advantage of their first turn capabilities. If other decks were introduced with higher ability to take advantage of second turn advantage then perhaps these stats would change. You can see some evidence of this by the win percentage of the UK Nationals deck that won significantly more then any of the other decks when going second. But statistically we can say from these decks that the meta at the US Nationals heavily favored decks that went first.
    This article was originally published in blog: Is there really a First turn advantage? started by whisperni
    Comments 13 Comments
    1. Z_Wangchang's Avatar
      Z_Wangchang -
      Great post! I love that the UK team is so competitive going second. Thanks for all your work on this, it's great to have actual stats to show the first turn advantage!
    1. jigsawhc's Avatar
      jigsawhc -
      Wow, that is a lot of games. Thanks for posting the results.
      Could you post links to each of the 4 teams you used for reference? Got a pretty good idea for most of them what all is on the team but not 100% sure.
    1. JustK's Avatar
      JustK -
      If there is a team that could win consistently going second, that would be the team to bring ANYWHERE. Because you can ALWAYS go second. If you WIN the toss you can CHOOSE to go second. But even the deck designed to have a better shot at going second still only has a ~40% chance to win.

      This having been said. Do love the research.
    1. pizzarony's Avatar
      pizzarony -
      I hope everyone is ready to see the UK Nationals team spread like wildfire! It also just won the PDC GenCon Open.
    1. Diceman's Avatar
      Diceman -
      Thanks for taking the time to run these matches and give us the results.


      Asimple google search gave me the results for the UK team:

      Magic Missile
      Imprisoned

      3x Hellblazer
      3x Elf Thief
      3x Dwarf Wizard
      2x Breaker - Mana Break
      3x Half-elf bard
      3x Oracle
      1x Prof X
      2x Hulk - GG

      (Edit to add link: http://www.dicemastersdb.com/teams/team/?id=14109)
    1. SarkhanMad's Avatar
      SarkhanMad -
      1) The Canadian National Champion Deck (Won US National Championship)

      http://dm.retrobox.eu/?view&cards=4x...ame=Bardsaw%20
      (Dice counts are off)
    1. SarkhanMad's Avatar
      SarkhanMad -
      4) Juniors Mask Ring Team

      One if these is us nationals and the other is worlds. Not sure which is which.

      Resurrection
      Distraction
      Morphing Jar
      Elf thief
      Constantine
      Babs
      Lantern Ring
      Parallax
      Venom AF
      Oracle

      http://www.dicemastersdecks.com/Deck...hrake_aka_Juni
    1. Diceman's Avatar
      Diceman -
      Here is a link to the final 4 World Championship 2016 teams:

      http://wizkids.com/dicemasters/2016-...p-top-4-teams/
    1. Dave's Avatar
      Dave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Diceman View Post
      Here is a link to the final 4 World Championship 2016 teams:

      http://wizkids.com/dicemasters/2016-...p-top-4-teams/

      (Isaac's is the US Nats winner.)

      JT was the US Nats winner; Isaac was world's runner up. Just in case people go looking and don't see the list they think they're supposed to see.
    1. Diceman's Avatar
      Diceman -
      Ok. I edited out my mistake. Isaac's deck is copy of Cdn Nats just with Hellblazer subbed in for Prismatic Spray.
    1. Bankholdup's Avatar
      Bankholdup -
      Quote Originally Posted by SarkhanMad View Post
      4) Juniors Mask Ring Team

      One if these is us nationals and the other is worlds. Not sure which is which.

      Resurrection
      Distraction
      Morphing Jar
      Elf thief
      Constantine
      Babs
      Lantern Ring
      Parallax
      Venom AF
      Oracle

      http://www.dicemastersdecks.com/Deck...hrake_aka_Juni
      The National's team is the one with PXG.
    1. SevenBlueSeven's Avatar
      SevenBlueSeven -
      This is a very significant problem with the game design. If the first player has that strong of an advantage in winning just based off by who starts, then why bother playing the game. Just roll for initiative and give the win to the starting player.

      My solution to this problem is a simple one. The first player only draws 2 dice on their starting turn. Everything else after that is normal.

      This will require a different process of thinking when it comes to managing the dice bag for the first player. That is fine. Sure, the first turn player will be hoping to purchase a 2 cost or use a global and have a sidekick. This is also fine.

      The suggestion to have the starting player only draw 2 dice is something that I seriously hope will be considered. If you read this, please test it with your local players and see how it works in balancing the first turn advantage.
    1. CeeQue's Avatar
      CeeQue -
      This is really awesome. I impressed with you dedication.
      I think they should increase your fielding cost on the dicevatar!