Is going first vs second still balanced?

  • JohnnyStorm's Avatar
    Magma Rager 450 91 Posts Joined 05/29/2019
    Posted 1 year, 1 month ago

    I wonder which player has advantage in the modern age of HS: the one going first or the one getting a coin and an additional card. Long ago Ben Brode said that first player has slight advantage on average, and I'm curious if it is still true today.

    Personally I feel that it is easier for me to play with one more card, but I'm a bad example, 'cause my skill is pretty poor. Common sense tells me that for combo decks and probably for control decks having additional cards should be very helpful, so only aggro has clear advantage in going first.

    I don't think that the system should be changed, I feel that it is more or less balanced, but I have a feeling that now second player has slight advantage contrary to what was the case in early years.

    What do you think? Maybe you've seen some recent statistics from devs?

  • dapperdog's Avatar
    Dragon Scholar 1890 5013 Posts Joined 07/29/2019
    Posted 1 year, 1 month ago

    I think team5 have stated before the going first has an advantage over second, and that the advantage is about 1%.

    In general, most decks would do better going first. This has severe implications on how the game flows, because going first means youve got initiative over your opponent, and while your opponent can leverage a temporary ramp advantage with coin, you're always going to be playing your power turns first over your opponent who then has to play reactively to whatever you've done. Unsurprisingly, this is more important to aggro decks, and in aggro mirrors can easily decide games.

    The only reason why anyone would prefer going second is actually coin, not card advantage. Rogue and druids would almost always prefer going second for that reason (rogue because of combo, druid because they can ramp earlier). Even face hunter before Kolkar Pack Runner got nerfed, can do very cancerous stuff simply because of the additional coin. Naga decks in particular also prefer getting coin, for synergistic reasons.


    Metas can also determine the advantage gap, not merely decks and classes. As we have seen in stormwind, starting first has a fairly huge advantage in terms of win rate, so much that it can be felt in game. This is also true during the early phases of alterac before Irondeep Trogg got nerfed. You can literally lock your opponent out of using coin, or play anything for that matter, entirely.


    To me at least, I think this first-second issue is fairly done and dusted. This part of the system functions well enough, and Ive yet to see any good suggestions from anyone on what should replace it, if at all.

  • Thraxus's Avatar
    1060 339 Posts Joined 05/08/2020
    Posted 1 year, 1 month ago

    Going first is generally an advantage but seldom game deciding. In Hearthstone the current system is pretty good imo. The coin is a decent compensation and afterall someone has to go first. In fact I would say it is as good as it can reasonably get. In other card games this is a much more significant issue. Just look over to MTGA, there going first in a highly optimized meta envionment is a significant, often game deciding, advantage.

    English is not my native language, so please excuse occasional mistakes

  • TriMay's Avatar
    430 130 Posts Joined 01/15/2020
    Posted 1 year, 1 month ago

    Theoretically in mirror matches with the exact same draws, the player going first should win.

    They simply get first say in the board state, and for a vast majority of turns have their next mana crystal first.


    You could also kinda imagine first player skipping turn 1, and essentially turning the game into the following scenario:

    - Player 2 gets the first turn 1, with the coin and 4 card mulligan + draw,

    - Player 1's "first turn" "going second" starts with 3 card mulligan + 2 draws, and they have one more mana than the other player for the whole game (until 10 mana)


    In practice, the game is simply too random (on draw alone even) decks generally just beat other decks in rock-paper-scissors, and the coin being a 0 mana spell is good to some decks, so the advantage isn't at all noticeable in a lot of games... Unless it's aggro and first player gets good draws.

  • HuntardHuntard's Avatar
    Mailbox Dancer 875 744 Posts Joined 12/03/2019
    Posted 1 year, 1 month ago

    I remember when Rise of Shadows was in standard 3(?) years ago and Tempo Rogue was dominating with things like Togwaggle Pick and Edwin. In the mirror match up the player going second typically won because being able to activate combo cards and buff Edwin was that important. Hell, Wisp even saw some play then lol

    Your face is already dead

  • sense124's Avatar
    Mavka 460 437 Posts Joined 07/22/2019
    Posted 1 year, 1 month ago

    Kind of dependent to the deck that you're playing too. Certain decks would benefit more from going second like even warlock.

    I eat your fast food spare changes when you sleep.

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