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Ben Brode Doesn’t Flip Coins

Well, he probably does. Who doesn’t? But he’s careful and doesn’t leave the construction of Hearthstone to chance and whimsy. In a previous column I discussed the issues with the coin that most players are stirred up about. It’s a hot button issue – the coin has proponents and detractors. Hearthstone’s forums are brimming with threads discussing, at length, the impact of that little card.

But none carry as much weight as the words of Mr. Brode. In a post on the Hearthstone forums Brode details the history behind its inception, the logic for its purpose, and the hard numbers of the coin’s actual significance in games. With Hearthstone’s systems closely monitored by developers the figures aren’t amorphous, specific samples from a handful of games but rather a complete and exhaustive data set. And they provide some incredible insight into the coin’s impact.

Across all leagues, 52.2% of wins are for the player who goes first. In master league, where the giants fight, that imbalance shrinks to 50.4%. The advantage of going first isn’t insurmountable and the coin seems to be fulfilling its role as a field leveler. The passionate responses it stirs may be more related to its potential for momentum shifting: dropping a heavy minion a turn before it’s expected or delivering a powerful combo attack (as has been done to me with frustrating regularity).

Arena statistics aren’t provided, but further in the thread a player asks and Mr. Brode answers. The results are similar to standard mode, a slight advantage to going first but it isn’t significant. The coin is here to stay. I’m happy the developers provided numbers about the coin’s use and impact during a game rather than simply stating a position and expecting the players to live with it. The statistics and comments may not convince everyone but it convinces me. It’s not a game breaker, just a light touch on the scale.

Travis Morrow is a writer, game designer, and world builder who spends his free time playing with dice, reading screenplays, and arguing with his cats. His personal blog and website is www.travisem.com. He’s currently working out of Orange County, CA.

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