Going First v. Going Second

patrickhobanHello everybody! The new draw rule took effect at the same time as the Forbidden and Limited list. Rather than give my first reaction to how this rule change would impact the game, I decided to wait a couple of weeks so that I can fully develop my opinion. Now that we’ve had a couple of major events with this draw rule in effect and several weeks to playtest, I’m ready to share my thoughts on how the draw rule will impact the game.

Initial Thoughts

I played the Circuit Series Championship under the impression that it was better to choose to go second if you won the die roll. At this event, I played with Sylvans. I decided that I only wanted to go first if my opening hand had [ccProd]Sylvan Charity[/ccProd], [ccProd]Kuribandit[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Lonefire Blossom[/ccProd] in it. There are a couple other combinations of cards like [ccProd]Mount Sylvania[/ccProd], [ccProd]Sylvan Hermitree[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Miracle Fertilizer[/ccProd], but to keep it simple we’ll just keep it to the first three cards. If I was playing three Charity, three Kuribandit, and two Lonefire, then I had a 72.76% chance of opening at least one of them leaving 27.24% that I wouldn’t have any of them. It’d be extremely difficult to win any of the roughly ¼ games I didn’t get at least one of these if my opponent had something as simple as a [ccProd]Traptrix Murmillo[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Artifact Sanctum[/ccProd] for a +1 on top of the +1 that they have for going second.

If I instead choose to go second, my chances of opening one of those eight cards increases to 79.57% or roughly 4/5 games. Simultaneously, I’m decreasing their chances of opening a card like Murmillo or Sanctum. It seemed like the benefits of going second greatly outweighed going first.

I decided that this idea that you should always go second would change in games two and three because of floodgates. If I choose to go second, I would be giving my opponent a chance to open a card like [ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd] to prevent me from setting up my graveyard. If I chose to go first instead, then I could fill my graveyard with Sylvans before they could use Fissure or Macro and have a later Fertilizer or [ccProd]Soul Charge[/ccProd] still be alive.

It’s a good thing I decided to wait before writing about this, because my opinion has taken a pretty dramatic turn in the opposite direction. I’ve also had time to think about the change in a more general sense to see if it makes a difference depending on what you’re playing and what the opponent is playing.

The Math

Let’s take a couple minutes to see how the math changes when going first and only starting with five cards instead of six. If you’re good with charts, I highly recommend you skip reading this section just look at the charts below. This section is just the text version of these charts.

Let’s start out by looking at the difference in math if you do not have [ccProd]Upstart Goblin[/ccProd] in your deck. Before the rule change if you only had one copy of a card in your deck, you had a 15% chance of opening that card. Now that you’re only seeing five cards, you only have a 12.5% chance of opening that card.

If you have two copies of a card in your deck, you had a 28.08% chance of opening with at least one of them. You also had a 1.92% of opening with both copies. With the new rule, you now have a 23.72% chance of opening with at least one of them. You also now have a 1.28% chance of opening with both copies.

If you’ve got three copies of a card in your deck, you had a 39.43% of opening with at least one of them. You also had 5.36% of opening two or more of the three copies, 5.16% chance of opening exactly two of the three copies, and a 0.2% chance of opening with all three copies. Under the new rule, you now have a 33.76% chance of opening with at least one of them. You’ve also got a 3.64% chance of opening two or more, a 3.54% chance of opening exactly two of them, and a .10% chance of opening all three.

Now let’s look at how the math changes with the rule change if you include Upstart Goblins in your deck. If you have one copy of a card in your deck, there was a 16.22% chance of opening with it before the rule change. With only five cards, that number is decreased to 13.51%.

If you had two copies of a card in your deck, there was a 30.18% chance of opening with one or more of them. There is now a 25.53% chance of opening with one or more. There’s also a 1.5% chance of opening with both copies.

If you had three copies of a card in your deck, there was a 42.15% chance of opening with at least one copy of it. There is now a 36.16% of opening with at least one of the three. There is now a 4.25% chance of opening with two or more and a 0.13% chance of opening all three copies.

Math Without Upstart      
With 6 Cards
Chance of 1+ Chance of 2+ Chance of 3
1 Copy 15% - -
2 Copies 28.08% 1.92% -
3 Copies 39.43% 5.36% 0.2%
With 5 Cards
1 Copy 12.5% - -
2 Copies 23.72% 1.28% -
3 Copies 33.76% 3.64% 0.10%



Math With Upstart      
With 6 Cards
Chance of 1+ Chance of 2+ Chance of 3
1 Copy 16.22% - -
2 Copies 30.18% 2.25% -
3 Copies 42.15% 6.24% 0.26%
With 5 Cards
1 Copy 13.51% - -
2 Copies 25.53% 1.5% -
3 Copies 36.16% 4.25% 0.13%


The charts show a condensed version of the information presented above. You can easily see how the math changes from six cards to five depending on whether or not you play Upstart Goblin by reading them.


Problems with Going Second


Floodgates: As I mentioned in my initial thoughts on the rule change, one issue with going second is giving your opponent an opportunity to play a floodgate before you can setup.


No Auto Wins: Lonefire + Soul Charge, [ccProd]Mermail Abyssteus[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Aqua Spirit[/ccProd], or any one of several different Infernity combos. These are all combinations of only a couple of cards that make it very likely that you will win if they resolve unopposed. Your best chance of these combos resolving unopposed is by doing them before your opponent is able to set backrows. If you go second, then they have a good chance of stopping you. Going first will win you some number of games through these auto win combos that going second you would have not win.


Opponent has Auto Wins: The other side of the same coin is that when you go second, you give your opponent a chance to resolve an auto win combination of cards before you are allowed to set cards that will stop it and you will win some number of games to your opponent having these auto win combos and them going first where if you were to have gone first, you would have been able to stop them.


Increased Chance of Seeing Multiples: Some cards are better if you only draw one of them such as Destiny Hero Malicious of Reborn Tengu. An extra card means that you have an increased chance of drawing a second copy.


Benefits of Going Second


Increased Chance of Seeing Multiples: Conversely, there are some cards that are better if you see multiple copies of them, such as Reckless Greed.


+1: There is the inherent advantage of having an additional card over your opponent. Having more cards means having more options.


Less Likely Opponent Sees Combo: If your opponent sees a combo ½ of the time with six cards, then they are going to see the combo less than ½ the time with only five cards.


Making a Distinction


Now that we’ve identified the benefits of each side, we can start to draw a conclusion about whether or not it is better to go first or second. To do this, I want to make a distinction between the different types of decks. Let’s keep it simple and general by saying a deck falls under the category of a grind deck, such as HAT, or a combo deck, such as Sylvans or Infernity. Under this categorization, we’ll say that a deck is a grind deck if it has a lot of standalone cards such as a Hand and it is a combo deck if it has a lot of cards that rely on other cards, like [ccProd]Mermail Abysspike[/ccProd]. It is also important to note that grind decks generally do not have auto wins or that any auto wins they do have are not nearly as common as those in combo decks. It is for this reason that I think combo decks are usually better than non combo decks.


It is entirely possible that it is correct to go first if you are playing one type of deck and second if you are playing the other type of deck. It is also possible that it is correct to go first if you are playing against one deck or to go second if you are playing against the other type of deck.


How Matchups are Played


To figure out which is the best, we should look out how each matchup is played.


Grind v. Grind: If you’re playing a grind deck against another grind deck, you’re usually trading cards to gain advantage.


Grind v. Combo: This matchup is determined by the number of turns the grind deck can keep the opponent from comboing and how many turns it takes the grind deck to win against the combo deck. The grind deck will attack with monsters and set backrow. The combo deck will try to push through the backrow each turn. When stopped, the grind deck will summon another monster and attack for more damage. The cycle will continue until the grind deck runs out of traps and is unable to stop the combo deck’s combo, or the combo deck runs out of life points before they are able to push through all of the grind deck’s backrow.


Combo v. Combo: A combo mirror match is all about who can set up an unbreakable field first. The best combo decks have defense built in such as Felgrand or searching Infernity traps. Because of this, this matchup is usually determined by whoever can combo first.


Drawing Conclusions


Now that we know how these matchups are played and we know the pros and cons of going first and second, we can come to conclusions about whether going first or second is optimal depending upon which deck we are playing and which deck they are playing.


Grind v. Grind: Since this matchup is determined by card advantage and going second gives you a +1, I’d opt to go second in this matchup. Usually grind decks are not hurt by many floodgate cards either, so you’re not giving your opponent a chance to play a floodgate before you can setup. Grind decks also generally don’t have auto wins, so going second here does not give up a chance to win before your opponent can play a card.
Grind: Second


Grind v. Combo: The combo deck wants the chance to have the auto win. They want to beat their opponent before they can ever stop them by setting backrow. Similarly, the grind deck wants to set backrow before they have a chance at comboing. Floodgates are just backrow that stop the combo deck for multiple turns and the ability to play one before the opponent can combo is huge. The game is determined by a number of turns, not card advantage so the extra card doesn’t matter nearly as much as establishing a field or establishing a backrow to keep the combo deck at bay. Because of these factors, both the combo deck and the grind deck are going to want to choose to go first in this matchup.

Grind: First
Combo: First
Combo v. Combo: Since this matchup is determined by who can combo first, you want to give yourself the first chance to combo by going first. Card advantage does not matter nearly as much when a combo deck is involved so the inherent +1 of going second is more than made up for by the ability to create a field unopposed if you go first.

Combo: First


Combo v. Unknown: Combo decks are going to want to go first against other combo decks and against grind decks, so if they are playing against an unknown deck, they should always choose to go first.

Combo: First


Grind v. Unknown: This one is not as clear cut since grind decks want to go first against combo decks, but want to go second against other grind decks. The nature of grind decks is to have a fair amount of interaction with each other to build resources. Because of this, I would think that you would have enough opportunities to make up for the +1 your opponent starts with when playing against another grind deck to make it worthwhile to go first even though you’d rather go second if you knew what they were playing so that you have an opportunity set backrow and stop auto wins if you are playing against a combo deck.

Grind: First


This means that regardless of what deck I was playing, I would choose to always go first if I won the dice roll if I didn’t already know what my opponent was playing. I would also always choose to go first if I was playing any short of combo deck to give myself a chance at comboing before my opponent can stop me. If I was playing a grind deck, I’d go second against other grind decks since they are determined by card advantage and the +1 from going second is worthwhile.

That wraps it up for this week’s article. Congratulations to Sehabi for winning Yu-Gi-Oh’s most prestigious title this weekend; the World Championship. I hope to see you all in Atlantic City in just less than two weeks on August, 23-24, for the next Circuit Series! Until next week, play hard or go home!

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Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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