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Firespyke

A Deeper Analysis of The state of the Game Part 1

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Hello.

You probably don't know me.

In fact I almost guarantee you don't.

But I have been quiet about the state of the game for a long time, and that needs to change.

For a little context I've been involved in high level gaming for nearly 2 decades and Dice Masters since it was just Marvel Dice Masters.

In my normal life I analyze trends and contextual data for major corporations.

So when I say I'm appalled by the level of data that was gathered by Wizkids for there most recent major rules change you know I have some experience on the matter of data points.

Let me first start by saying I personally never felt like first turn advantage was as serious of an issue as it has been painted. More over I don't think that it is an issue with the way the game is structured. In true point of fact I have for a long time favored the knowledge and context granted by going second, which was the initial trade off of the tempo for going first. In recent iterations of the game the first turn of the game has become increasingly relevant, though again I stand by the belief that it is not going first its self but what the tempo plus the types of cards that exist in the game (I'm looking at you PXG and Elf thief).

Our game exists on a level apart from most similar game and as such needs to be approached from new angels. Fair warning I'm going to be drawing a lot of comparisons to MTG for this but most of these principles are true across all card games. Lets start with the base game as it was:

Each player has the same number of resources and acceleration to them at all stages of the game with some often less efficient options.

Each player knows or can with a 100% accuracy calculate how many of what dice are where.

Competitive events are single games in which player 1 is determined randomly

The only truly imbalanced aspect of the game was the tempo advantage of going first.

Now lets look at how most other games handle this tempo change

The player going first skips a step most often drawing that limits their options early on in the game, by a small amount, though is often a tiny percentage, increasing by the number of cards to draw from, IE in a 40 card deck that one card not drawn means more than the the 1 card not drawn in the 60 card deck.

Competitive matches are comprised of best of 3 games with an option between games after the first to change a small number of cards previously set aside to clear up some match ups.

Both of these have interesting dynamics in dice masters, and the obvious answer is not the right one, which I imagine we will come to find out over the next several months.

Drawing "cards"
In Dice Masters one would likely equate drawing cards in other games to drawing dice from your bag. This is not the case. The number of dice rolled is more like the Mana produced by land in MTG, it's a resource used to fuel progressing to the next stage of the game, and if Wizkids would like to see longer games, like they have implied. Stifling one players early acceleration will lead the other player to dominate the game far more quickly than even before the change.

You might then ask well what is the parallel to drawing cards? Is there one?

Yes there is and the answer could surprise you. It's the Prep area.

Yes that magical zone for knocked out characters and PXGed sidekicks. We grow our resource pool by cycling characters and sidekicks around our prep area and our bag. In fact one of the defining skill measures is how well a player manages there bag. It's how we minimize variance, by placing unwanted dice in to the Used pile instead of clogging the bag and how we move to purchase our bigger characters, or our smaller characters and PXG more sidekicks to make sure we get that new die.

The second solution that other games use is multiple games in a match. What this does is mitigate just having a bad game, because lets face it those happen and losing out on prizing because you don't get a second chance sucks. The other side of that is the side board or what I would call in this case "The 11th card" a small pool of cards that can be switched around for various match ups. In a game with as few cards as Dice Masters it couldn't be more than 2 and that is even pushing it.

A number of people have asked me "How would you go about fixing the First turn advantage issue" and my first answer is always : I wouldn't I would remove that cards that make it an issue from the game, banning cards are much easier to do and undo in the future than completely rewriting the rules."

I suppose it all boils down to one thing, Prep area manipulation early in the game is what causes first turns to be so impact-full not going first its self, and if Wizkids had spent the time to analyze why FTA is a thing, they would have learned that. Instead after 100 games of testing the belief that it comes from the number of resources you start with. Its like playing MTG with 3/4 of a land on the first turn, I can't use this and I will never be able to catch up.

My solution Ban PXG and assess other possible bannings. Its easier to unban a card than rewrite a game... again.

Check back soon for the rest of this analysis, including inconstant rulings, Why Bard is not the most powerful card in the game but currently can't be equaled, A new Judge training program, and the reason players are avoiding the game. All this and ways I'm looking to fix them and how you can help.

PS: adding a rule about dice note being placed in the prep area on either player's first turn would also work.

Comments

  1. gkpon66's Avatar
    Interesting start. Looking forward to the rest. Especially your thoughts about players. Gary
  2. Judgemental's Avatar
    Thank you, you've put into words my exact thoughts. The FTA rule was adopted very quickly and as much as I'm happy Wizkids are willing to make a drastic change to try to improve the game, I think it's also wise to question it. This is by far not a complaint, I have been overall quite happy hearing positive things from those who played with the new rule at WKO's recently.

    However, no data points were provided for those 100 games. I would challenge Wizkids to play 1000(10x more than were played) games of Buzzsaw mirrors with both sides intentionally abusing of PXG Elf Thief and Parallax, then bring back something like Hulk Jinzo control with no Thief/Oracle and do it all over again, testing the effect of PXG on the game, and then one last time with a Johnny Swarm team with no PXG/Oracle/Thief. At this stage you would have quite a bit of data to start analyzing . More than I could handle that's for sure!

    As an alternate to bans the idea of a restricted list could be tested as well, as much as PXG/Thief/Parallax combined is annoying, each of those cards are fun individually. This is a probably a poor example, but how different would the first turn advantage be and also how different would the meta be if you could only play one of the following cards in a competitive setting: Oracle - Master Investigator, Elf Thief - Lesser Harper , Bard - Masters Lords Alliance, Parallax (C and SR). That's just my shortlist and by no means complete or tested, it's just a theory .

    Looking forward to your next write up!
  3. Yort's Avatar
    So I am assuming that you do not like the prospect of only having 3 dice on turn one, but I didn't quite get why from the article (and admittedly, I am reading at work in-between other things, so I may have just missed it). Do you feel it is too restricting? Do you disagree with the testing results that show a greater than 50% win rate for those going first, even with the new rule?
  4. whisperni's Avatar
    I feel like I have a little bit of experience when it comes to first turn advantage as I have played and recorded over 3200 games testing this game mechanic. 1600 with the old first turn rules and 1600 with the new first turn rules. Is there really a first turn advantage?
    Is there really a first turn advantage Part 2

    By stating that cards such as PXG are a major source of the problem is correct to an extent, but PXG is just one of a vast list of first turn issues. Resurrection, Rip Hunters, Super Hero Registration Act, Poly Morph, Transfer Power, Villainous Pact, elf thief, oracle, and more and more all give first player a large advantage, and simply the fact that you draw 4 dice that are not sidekicks before your opponent is another part of the problem.

    Lets say we ban every card that does bag manipulation to some extent, and there are a lot of them. We would still have an issue that the player that gets to draw 4 dice that are non-sidekick dice has a distinct advantage over the player that goes second because he can potentially draw a die that happens to disrupt his opponent without his opponent being able to react. This advantage is emphasized by all of the bag manipulation tools that you can use, but even without those tools the first player still has a significant advantage.

    That being said I have seen a distinct change in the advantage of going first after Wizkids implemented this new rule. It used to be about a 75% chance of victory if you went first in the current meta. With the new rule change that number has dropped to a 62% chance of winning. This is based on my 2 studies of over 3200 games.

    I think the new ruling may have been a bit hasty in its release but I think it is a step in the right direction.
  5. Jwannabe's Avatar
    Thanks for writing this article. I enjoy looking at this game from all angles, especially if someone has really taken a deep look and given it some thought.

    I really appreciate when someone offers solutions, instead of " this sucks! I quit!."

    I havent played a lot of turns under the new rule, but I'm not opposed to it. When I play with my friend testing teams, I always let him go first. With the new rule, he let's me go first. Is that psychological, or does he perceive that big of an advantage. Notably, he spends much less so free time thinking about the game than me, but in just a few games he's opted for the 4 dice.

    As far as pxg and bard, I believe 2 different routes are needed. We need a transition Zone on both turns. That deals with prof. And also some infinite loop combos. Bard needs to not buff himself so he can go to used.

    I am definitely looking forward to your next entry
  6. XionXero's Avatar
    Great analysis, I love seeing other views and suggestions to change or balance the game. BUT... i must argue a few points.

    Banning of cards.

    There are 2 cards banned at this point because of the "can't block" global, This came about because of turn 3 kills that was nearly unstoppable, especially if that list went first. Wizkids announcement even said that they wanted in interactive game, not a game of luck of who goes first. They even stated that they are against banning of cards, but this ban seemed necessary.

    Banning of other cards just leads to banning of more. For example if bard gets banned, then the meta is taken over by front line. Everyone is now complaining about front line until its banned, then guy garner comes back ect. There will always be something dominant in the meta, deal with it adapt accordingly, or just join the dark side. I do not want to see this snowballing effect start. I personally like seeing the "broken" combos, and how they work and figuring out ways to stop them.

    Major Rules Changes

    From the start of the game, this i only the second major change, the first being the introduction of the transition zone. This zone was put in place to prevent infant combos. With the inability to interrupt your opponent this seemed necessary and slowed ramp to an extent. Now the first turn rule, that has statistical evidence backing it. it may not be the perfect answer but it does even the odds to an extent. I would prefer a more even game rather than fighting an uphill battle every time i go second. Regardless of cards played the odds are still there and Wizkids is doing something to correct this. And as a competitive player i am thankful.

    My Suggestion

    Rather than banning cards, lets get a rotating meta going. Each new set phases out an old set. If a combo arises that cant be dealt with, just wait till the new set. The new set will have something to deal with it or something better than what is being played. Or the set that just got pushed out took away one of the key pieces of the puzzle. The Meta would constantly be shifting, competitive scene would see a lot more ingenuity in list building, rather than the stagnant same stuff we have now. Base tournament schedules around set releases.
  7. Firespyke's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Yort
    So I am assuming that you do not like the prospect of only having 3 dice on turn one, but I didn't quite get why from the article (and admittedly, I am reading at work in-between other things, so I may have just missed it). Do you feel it is too restricting? Do you disagree with the testing results that show a greater than 50% win rate for those going first, even with the new rule?
    I don't disagree with the change inherently, but rather the way it was handled and that a large rules change is more complicated and harder to reverse , should that be needed than simple banning. If actual scientific style evidence was provided I would have less of an issue, instead we have less games in the research pool than I had prepping for the WKOS alone
  8. Firespyke's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by whisperni
    I feel like I have a little bit of experience when it comes to first turn advantage as I have played and recorded over 3200 games testing this game mechanic. 1600 with the old first turn rules and 1600 with the new first turn rules. Is there really a first turn advantage?
    Is there really a first turn advantage Part 2

    By stating that cards such as PXG are a major source of the problem is correct to an extent, but PXG is just one of a vast list of first turn issues. Resurrection, Rip Hunters, Super Hero Registration Act, Poly Morph, Transfer Power, Villainous Pact, elf thief, oracle, and more and more all give first player a large advantage, and simply the fact that you draw 4 dice that are not sidekicks before your opponent is another part of the problem.

    Lets say we ban every card that does bag manipulation to some extent, and there are a lot of them. We would still have an issue that the player that gets to draw 4 dice that are non-sidekick dice has a distinct advantage over the player that goes second because he can potentially draw a die that happens to disrupt his opponent without his opponent being able to react. This advantage is emphasized by all of the bag manipulation tools that you can use, but even without those tools the first player still has a significant advantage.

    That being said I have seen a distinct change in the advantage of going first after Wizkids implemented this new rule. It used to be about a 75% chance of victory if you went first in the current meta. With the new rule change that number has dropped to a 62% chance of winning. This is based on my 2 studies of over 3200 games.

    I think the new ruling may have been a bit hasty in its release but I think it is a step in the right direction.
    From what you are saying, you have done 32 times as much research in to the subject than wizkids did. and from the brief look I took of your article (I'm sitting down to right my next one so I only skimmed numbers I'll be going back to it later this week) You have done the level of analysis to start the process, in your study did you factor is player skill level at all levels? what about none well known teams? did you test any other solutions to the issue?