So you have to deploy first...
It is generally agreed that in Godtear, it’s disadvantageous to be player 1 on Round 1. The second player to deploy can determine the initial matchup in each lane. Additionally, so long as they don’t KO anything or make any claim actions, Player 2 can gaurantee conceding turn 1 if that’s their preferred strategy. The first player to deploy can change lanes, of course, but this does put them at a positioning disadvantage early on.
In the most recent tournament, I won all three of my games and, as it happened, was forced to go first on round 1 each time. I think I’ve figured out some good tactics for coping with this situation! I hope this article helps you improve your play in these situations.
It starts with the list.
My list for this tournament was very fast. This helped me to overcome some of the problems associated with going first. As a general rule, I’d say that on scenarios other than Life and Knowledge, you always want to have at least two champions who can change lanes comfortably. This gives you enough mobility to have a say I what matchups unfold in the early turns even when deploying first.
The fundamental reason for the second player deployment advantage is that it grants them the ability to dictate matchups in each lane.
Here’s an example. We’re on Change, and here are the two Warbands:
Let’s say second player wants to put Halftusk into Rangosh, Skullbreaker into Jeen, and Grimgut into Lorsann. If you as player 1 deploy a champion in each lane, like you’d intuitively do, player 2 can get everything they want.
Let's say you kind of put Rangosh in the middle. Sensible, right? Ok, fine, player 2 puts Halftusk in the middle. You now have to either abandon one of the wings (conceding free points) or else put Jeen or Lorsann on a wing. It’s essentially a neutral choice since you have zero information about how the opponent will deploy their remaining two champions. You arbitrarily put Lorsann on the right wing, only to see Grimgut line up opposite her. Not wanting to concede the left wing, you put Jeen over there only to see your 5 health goblin facing off against a very hitty mob of orcs.
Here's how that looks:
Player 2 gets all the matchups they want. It doesn’t have to be this way.
If you as player 1 refuse to commit to any lane, then the second player’s advantage is somewhat blunted.
In this diagram, you have clustered your deployment, forcing player 2 to do the same.
Of course, not all of your champions fit in the exact center, so player 2 can shade towards their preferred matchups a bit. Fortunately, your list has two champions who can change lanes quickly in Lorsann and Jeen. If you are willing to sacrifice a bit of positioning, you can force better matchups than in the previous deployment scenario.
Here’s what it might look like for you at the end of turn 1 (I played it out)
This looks better for you, right? Lorsann and her Rangers can stay out of Skullbreaker’s immediate vicinity and counter his high dodge/low armor profile with Snipe. Jeen’s low health pool isn’t as important against Grimgut, who literally cannot attack her. The Retchlings are easy targets, even for Jeen’s low attack dice. We’ve still got the Halftusk/Rangosh matchup in the middle, but that’s honestly just a fun time for everyone.
Admittedly, player 2 is looking very good for turn 2. They still had the advantage in deployment, and you can see that their end of turn 1 positioning gives them better access to the objectives. Moreover, player 2 has conceded turn 1 while damaging your champions in order to compound this advantage. Your opponent will control the scenario at the top of turn 2 and have easier paths to champion KOs. Which brings us to…
Going All In on Turn 3
At this last tournament, I had to go first each time. In two of the three rounds, I won turns 1, 3, and 4 to take the game 6-2. I think this is generally the way to go when you’re in a disadvantaged position heading into turn 2.
The rubber banding mechanic in Godtear is pretty significant. The player who loses a turn has a lot of control over the next turn, both because they control the scenario and the decision of whether to go first or second in the ensuing turn. A lot of players really want to lose turn 1 in order to use the rubber band to set up favorably for turn 2 . This approach is probably looking to win the game quickly by taking turns 2 and 3, sufficient for a 5-1 victory.
Confronted with this, you, the disadvantaged player, should probably not also seek a quick 5-1 victory. Instead, you should try to stretch the game out a bit. The rubber band advantage to losing turn 2 can be as important as the rubber band advantage to losing turn 1. Your best move will often be to punt on turn 2 in order to get the advantage for turn 3. This is dangerous because you lose the game if the gambit fails. Still, going all in on turn 3 by can pay off. It takes nerve to voluntarily put yourself on the brink of defeat, but I have found that Godtear is a game which rewards some appetite for risk.
The risk is there, but so is the reward. If you win turns 1 and 3, you need to win just one more turn in order take the game, while your opponent will need to win both turn 4 and turn 5.
One of the first pieces I wrote for this web site advocated winning turn 1. I've taken a more nuanced view since then, but if you have no choice but to win turn 1, I think you should lean into the win condition laid out in that article.
If you’ve turned the tables and taken turn 3, the way the next two turns go depends on the Ultimate economy. Heading into turn 4, assess which player still has the most juice left in their ultimates. This is not just a matter of how many ultimates have been used, but of which ultimates remain. For example, if one player has both The Great Tusk and Call to Arms while the other has only Tsunami, I’d still say that the player with just Tsunami has the advantage.
If you assess that you’ve got the ultimate advantage in turn 4 and you don’t hate your position too much, go all in and try to seal the win. If not, bide your time, force your opponent to use resources (particularly ultimates), and set yourself up for turn 5. This requires you to have trust in your assessment of the board state and in your own skills, but would you want it any other way? It’s nice to have this late game option of going all in or biding your time. The player who went for a quick, three round victory will not have that choice if you can stay alive in turn 3.
In the end, the player with more options at the end is the player who should be favored to win. You can be that player even if you have to deploy unfavorably. You just have to play the long game.