"GG! I'm 2nd. Go next." or "The history of FTA"

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Hi everyone. Welcome to my article about FTA through the ages of Shadowera.
I decided to publish it both in the Strategy section of the Forum and in my personal Blog.

Have fun reading.

"GG! I'm 2nd. Go next." or "The history of FTA"

You want to know the story of FTA (First turn advantage)?
I tell you kids.
It was a long time ago, back, when allies had no abilities and Majiya and Zaladar dominated the tournament scene….

FTA back in the past

It all starts in CotC where the FTA was even more superior than nowadays.
FTA made you the aggressor by default.
Because the differential of damage and health for most allies was mainly between one and two in the early parts of the game, you could boardwipe your opponent while still casting allies in very early stages of the game.
If you combine that with allies, that add one damage by casting them, you were able to kill your opponent’s allies immediately, creating a board situation, that’s very hard to come back from. You had something like Puwen + Aldon, Jasmin + Aldon or Bad Wolf + DMT on your side of the board and your opponent had an empty board.
The result is, that your opponent is pushed in the defense very early in the game and has to fight back board control where you have the easier job in holding it.
The advantages for going 2nd were minimal. Having the hero ability one turn earlier does not help your opponent too much, because he most likely used it, trying to get Boardcontrol back, where you then can cast your ability one turn later to negate the effect of his ability, making the situation as before.
Ability cards could be seen as a defensive tool only, because using them in the early stage of the game means, you are missing resources, to cast an ally in the same turn and thus maybe denying damage, but not fighting for board presence.
This means, every game went kind of similar most of the time:
The one with FTA was the aggressor and the one going second tried to defend till high ress where he could use abilities together with allies to regain board control. Abilities (and weapons) that have an effect for multiple turns were superior to achieve that goal.

The aggressor had the advantage having allies on the board and thus he could use his abilities early in the game, even if not having enough resource to cast another ally.
For example, if you have already two allies on the board, it’s no problem using all available resources to cast Lightning Strike or Shadowfond on turn four to clear the opponent board. Going second, this will just lead to an empty board on your opponent's turn, where he can just cast a new ally, bringing you in the same spot as before.

The 2nd disadvantage going first, having one less card, can be negated by smart deck design. Most draw tools back than cost 4cc, often providing you even the 1 missing card (ToK, Wizert Staff, IGG, WotF). When you can provide full board dominance on turn 2-4, you most likely can afford to use your turn 4 or 5 to negate this missing card easiely.
It also does give you a small advantage over your opponent, because all good draw tools last multiple turns and so you not only negate the 1 missing card from the FTA, you also have your draw tool already on the board, while your opponent does not.

The Design team strikes back

The DT of Wulven saw the problem of FTA and tried to work against it in the first expansion DP.
New allies like "Champion of WhateverItsCalled", “Layarian Seductress”, “Wild Berserker”, “Furion Terror” and “Ironhide Karash” are specially designed to have an impact on the game going second and only being slightly weaker going first.
You now have tools, were you can cast an ally for the long term board presence and still control the board in the short term like you would cast an ability.
Also new and cheap abilities like “Fear” and “Snare Trap” give some classes the cheap control cards they need to regain the board at an earlier stage.
In addition to that a lot of new allies have a difference of 3 between attack damage and health. 3cc allies get 5 health and are less easier to kill immediately.
2cc allies get a defense machinery to survive more turns early on and thus having more impact going second.

FTA now
Now the FTA is a lot weaker than in the set before. Some of the DT’s work to came to fruition and thus we now have an easier time building decks, that can work going both first and second.
Also it’s a lot easier to build decks working better going second than first.
One reason why BB is such a beast in the current Meta is because his ability combined with the new Ironhide Karash works so amazingly good with FTA and without. Having the ability 2 turns earlier than your opponent and still having enough damage for a turn 3 board wipe going second, makes this hero very dangerous. In addition the Karash has a great defensive ability, making him hard to kill for your opponent.
While all this definitive leads to a more balanced and less luck based game, there are still lots of problems to face.
The FTA is still there and still makes the one going first to the aggressor. The defender got some new tools to defend and work against the aggressor’s board dominance, but still the aggressor is in a key position.
The defender often needs the exact allies to defend, where the aggressor can decide between multiple allies to establish his dominance position.
The aggressor can still not only cast allies first, he is also at higher resources first and thus can cast more powerful cards earlier than the one going 2nd.

The reduction of FTA in other TCGs.
I do not play too many other TCGs, so this chapter will be a bit imprecise and incompletely.
There are a lot of different approaches, dealing with the FTA.
In MTG, the fighting mechanics is the main part that’s working against FTA. Since the defender can decide, what he uses to block the attack with, the FTA is a lot weaker than in SE.
This mechanics not only defending the creatures in the early parts of the game from getting killed immediately, it also defends you from getting death raced by allies in the later parts of the game.
Only really aggressive decks benefit from the FTA in MTG, while more midgame orientated decks, often providing lots of healing the mid- to late game, and thus not really caring about taking a bit of damage early on.
M&M DoC goes a bit of a different path. In this game, the one going first has tech and first-play advantage, while the one going second has a resource advantage.
In this game, the power of a card relies on both tech and resources and thus this rule balance the FTA a bit. Also there is attack limitation for most monster, where you can only attack the opponent monster in the same raw and the hero only if there is no monster in the way, creating also some kind of monster protection early and hero protection late.

All this anti-death race mechanics and ally protection, SE does not provide and thus this game has a way bigger problem with the FTA than other TCGs.
The DT tries to work against that by creating cards to deal with the problem and they are kind of on the right way.
But the problem will always be there and can only be solved by a change in the game mechanics.
This can for example be accomplished, by combining it with the problem of having no mulligan in SE and thus having a harder time with bad starting games than in other similar games.
Thanks everyone for reading.
Commends and criticism are desirable.

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