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[Strategy] Codex Roles P1 vs. P2

I think if this is the point you want to make, then ‘tempo’ is a much better term for you to use. P1 definitely starts the game with a tempo advantage, and P2 can respond by trying to remove this advantage and gain tempo themselves. However, there are other strategies available to P2. They can consolidate their economic advantage and instead try and gain a tech advantage over P1.


Better tech in this context would only be useful to the extent that it could flip tempo.

The only kind of advantage that really matters is one of tempo, in this context.

Higher tech level wouldn’t buy you anything until such time as you used it to prevent the opponent from attacking productively and to begin doing so yourself.

Do you not think it’s possible to have a game state where one player has tempo, but the other is actually ahead (due to having more money, better tech, being within 2 points of destroying their opponents base, etc)?

I have only played a few dozen games, but IIRC in all of them the person who won the game had a dominant board position every single time. The losing player always had their board state utterly collapse before all wins happened. Not that it must be that way, but it probably happens that way almost always.

I can conceive of situations where somebody flipped the tempo when they very nearly lost and the opponent is just hoping to draw a burn spell before they lose the game or something. I just don’t think it happens that way very often.

To be nitpicky, the stats I posted above do account for sample size considerations (the smaller the sample size, the larger the standard deviations as a % of the mean). We can say with reasonable confidence that the first ~427 games of competitive Codex have slightly favored P1.

What the stats do not account for is that 427 games is not that many in the context of such a complex game. The strategies and metagame that develop after 4270 or 42700 games may reveal a very different balance of P1 vs P2.


I think that’s a fair point, and a lot of games of codex do involve a tug of war back and forward for board control. The player that wins board control goes on to win the game.

However, if you look at this game, I (as P2) conceded board control to my opponent very early by playing a very weak opening. He had tempo throughout the whole game, until I unleashed a killer combo which won the game for me in a single turn. Part of that may have been surprise effect, because I’m not sure if he realised what the spec was capable of until the turn I won, but it goes to show that winning a game where you’ve never had a tempo advantage does indeed happen sometimes.


I will give you that. 4x 9/7s out of nowhere is pretty strong. I didn’t go through the game in depth, but the opponent’s lead by then looks to have been pretty small if quince and a mirror token survived passing the turn. I have heard of people doing similar things with Crashbarrows and mirror illusions.

That’s true, I didn’t say my opponent was ahead, just that they had tempo the whole game. I think I made a single attack before my final turn. My opponent (as P1) cleared my board on each of their turns, and then I played more units and heroes on my turn. Because Codex has patrol bonuses, and because I had an economic advantage from being P2 and from my opening (which sacrificed even more board control for even more economic advantage), I could afford to play strong enough units and heroes that even with the advantage of tempo, my opponent couldn’t get ahead.

My point was simply that it’s overly simplistic to conflate tempo with being ahead. In most games of Codex if you don’t have tempo and you really want it, it’s pretty easy to find a line of play which will give you tempo advantage. However, in order to get it, you often have to give up cards (you play more units out than your opponent can deal with), or economy (you skip workers so you have more gold and cards to play more units). @ARMed_PIrate is infamous on these boards for valuing tempo very highly, and if you look at any of his games you will see that he plays very aggressively and often trades economic or card advantages for board position and tempo. And it’s a completely legitimate way to play. But I think even he would admit it’s not the only way (or even necessarily the best way) to play Codex.


The initial post about inevitability does begin to make sense when I mentally replace “inevitability” with “tempo advantage” (which happen to be almost polar opposites). It’s still way oversimplifying though. Yes, tempo advantage is good, but that’s why P2 has the extra worker which is also pretty damn good. If P2 had another extra worker I doubt the game would be balanced at all, yet tempo advantage would still be good and everything said about it here would still be true.

It does seem likely that P1 would be slightly favoured overall, but describing P1’s advantage in detail while glossing over P2’s isn’t a convincing argument. Actually it’s even quite similar to the argument why you should draw first in RDW mirror in MtG (you trade everything 1-for-1 and then you’re the one who’s left with the extra card - or if you somehow managed to do that in Codex, the extra gold). And even if I agreed to ignore individual matchups, there are still formats where it’s thought to be generally correct to draw first, most prominently in sealed.


This match should clearly illustrate that P2 more often has inevitability, while P1 has tempo. Both are extremely exaggerated in this example, 'cause it’s me doing the P1, but that’s the crux, right (as @NikoBolas put it in the original post)? P2 has econ, meaning eventual swing over to bigger and better units or more maxxed heroes and spells making a bigger difference. P1 has first shot at killing heroes/buildings/base, but may struggle to do so, especially as the game progresses.

That said, I do think certain engines/combos (as has been mentioned before) come with some inevitability of their own, and can grant it to Player 1. MoLaC is on everyone’s minds, and Peace Engine, and to a lesser extent Metamorphosis and Earthquake. Playing against those (P1 or P2), the game becomes “Can I shut that down before it shows up and wrecks me sideways?” But then the game gets interesting again when two such strategies are played against each other. When the combos are cheap enough, the econ advantage becomes less relevant (unless someone had to skip tech), the tempo advantage becomes more relevant (unless someone else had to skip tech), and the draws on T3 and T4 become HUGELY relevant.


While we’re on illustrative games, how about this very recent high-profile game. Featuring @FrozenStorm as P1 going “all-in” on a base race, completely sacrificing tempo/board position to do the maximum base damage possible. In the end it cost him the game, but he came mighty close and the outcome could easily have been different.

Board position is great, and definitely what you should fight for, all other things being equal - but it doesn’t always win you the game in itself.


P1 is purposefully given an advantage and one that is purposefully fragile. The intent is that P2 can win some % of the time approaching 50% with correct play.

I just think that being ahead on the board is strongly correlated both with being player 1 and with winning the game. Enough that I view myself being significantly behind on the board to be a virtual game loss.

Other people are either not so convinced or playing devil’s advocates.

P2 does have +1 worker which is helpful. P1’s compensating advantage for that is that most of the trades happen on P1s terms and P1 is able to use buffs and things to setup cost effective trades.

If somebody gives up their winning on the board in order to try to win a base race, that doesn’t prove that winning on the board is not important for winning the game. If anything, it proves that it is important for winning the game.

I think you are placing a ton of emphasis on this, but there are many mitigating factors in a game of codex:

-Patrol Zone Bonuses
-Combat Tricks

Yes, P1 has an advantage and can make the initial good trades, if there are any. The original post was outlining these advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes all your opponent lets you do is damage their base early. Much like Magic, managing your life total as a resource is key. All the base damage doesn’t matter if they can’t finish the job. I still think that a conversation about P1 and P2 roles is more important for Codex than Magic because you start with so much more gold (mana). In a game of Magic, going first lends itself a big advantage especially when 2 decks are racing. Going first means you essentially are 1 turn faster than your opponent, which is a huge deal.

However in Codex, while you do get to set up initial trades and will have that 1 extra virtual turn, the benefit is smaller because P2 can set up a lot of blockers, always, with any starter deck. In Magic you can stumble on lands, which is an advantage to P1 if they are aggressive. You can also just not draw your cheaper cards, which again is an advantage to an aggressive P1. These situations rarely happen in Codex. While you may not draw your best starting unit in your first 5 cards, you will definitely have access to it in your next 5 cards (barring Thieving Imp and variance). This is a huge boon to defensive play! Aggressive magic decks are designed to be consistent and low to the ground, filled with cheap creatures and cheap spells so that stumbling on mana is minimized and not drawing cheap threats is rare. However slower decks can have those bad luck moments of drawing all their expensive finishers first and their roadblock creatures too late. In Codex this scenario simply does not exist.

Consider a mirror match a Mono-Red vs Mono-Red - how much do you base your decisions on whether you are P1 or P2? It’s a big deal for when you summon your hero, how you assign the Patrol Zone, and what you tech. The decks are theoretically the same, but your decisions will change based on whether your are P1 or P2.


Decisions should not change based on whether one is P1 or P2. They should change based on whether one is behind on the board or ahead on the board. That’s completely different.

P2 will always remain P2, but if/when they manage to flip who is ahead on the board they should begin teching and playing differently. That is a solid reason not to assign roles based on who is P1 or P2, but to assign based on who is or isn’t ahead on the board.

Ok, well what about at the beginning of the game? Also, you haven’t addressed the mirror match? Wouldn’t you play differently whether you were P1 or P2 in a mirror-match?

I would say that anyone staring at an empty board (P1T1, for instance) should be first trying to stick a high threat hero if possible and otherwise to stick high threat units. The better one is able to do this, the more limited the opponent’s range of responses will be. P1T1 would be encouraged to, for example, put out Feral Hero and Merfolk Prospector. They will want to do as much as possible to remain ahead on the board. That will generally include playing offensively and trying to setup profitable trades.

For anyone staring at a board where they are behind, which would usually include P2T1, somebody should be doing whatever possible to flip to a board where they are ahead. They might try to prepare for an early game where they use Nullcraft and Chaos Mirror to kill something major and allow themselves to stabilize. Shark Attack might also be a card useful to the person behind on the board because the person ahead on the board is encouraged to do a lot of attacking to maintain their lead rather than blocking, allowing sharks to hit high value targets. Haste in general is really good at helping people to stabilize and flip.

Just putting out high value stuff and blocking can work as the defender, but it’s risky. The attacker is in control of what trades with what and handing off all decision making like that makes it too easy for the attacker. I would not suggest that the defender rely only on putting out efficient blockers and racking up patrol zone bonuses. It can work, but in my experience it’s difficult to come out ahead that way. Creatures with haste are really valuable on the defense for messing up otherwise simple math and forcing people ahead on the board into playing sub-optimal lines.

I wouldn’t play strategically any differently regardless of which decks were in use, for the most part. If I were ahead on the board I would play like I were ahead. If I were behind on the board I would play as if I were behind. Mirror match doesn’t have to do with it.

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Yeah, I mean that’s like a level 0 strategy. What do you do against people who are saving gold to combo out? I think Patrol Zone bonuses are better than you are giving credit also. If both players are playing 2 gold 2/2s, then the defender getting half their gold investment back, or adding an extra armor, or drawing a card all feel like getting another virtual gold’s worth of value. It’s “risky”, but necessary to learn the right patrols in the right situations because eventually you’ll be P2 against hasty creatures.

Ultimately I think formulating a plan to win the game, as early as possible, against what you think your opponent is going to do is the best move in Codex. But it’s incredibly difficult to stay focused on winning, countering, and just building a deck that does enough. I guess that’s why it’s such a fun game :wink:


It’s not really “risky” per-se, just hard. When I’m focused on winning, I will calculate out all possible attacks my opponent could have on their next turn, including any spells or Haste they might have teched in, and determine how I want to patrol based on what covers the most / most likely combinations of things they could have. Usually there is a way to arrange what you play and how you patrol to leave only medium value attacks.


Beat them before they combo off, I guess? If somebody is not playing very much to the board so they can hoard resources, you can probably try to destroy tech buildings or something to hinder them from accomplish whatever their goal is.

I am not saying that it’s ideal for the defender to try to have every card in their deck be a hasty beater (not saying not either). I would strongly suggest defenders make use of patrolling bonuses where it makes sense to. I am just saying don’t skip haste because threats cause opponents to play worse. It makes sense to use every tool at your disposal to flip the board advantage to yourself if you are behind and haste is a good way to do that.

I maintain that it’s risky for anyone to have no other defensive plan than shoving creatures in the patrol zone and hoping for the best. That allows the greatest number of options for somebody already winning to win even more. Adding spells and hasty creatures to the equation is much less risky. It gives them a reason not to do the mathematically optimal offensive plays. It forces them to devote thinking time to defense and increases the likelihood of mistakes on the opponent’s part.

While this is sometimes true, it’s important to remember that there are several inter-related resource pools that each player is maintaining:

  • Hand
  • Gold
  • Workers
  • Board (including the sub-pool of patrolling HP/armor, and the overlapping sub-pool of heroes to unlock spells, which itself has the sub-pool of levels, which can potentially unlock ultimates)
  • Tech buildings (which are technically on the board, but separate enough that I think of them as their own things)

Often shoving creatures in the patrol zone gives the opponent just as much to think about as hitting with a hasted creature or a spell.

Consider: I’m at 3 cards in hand at the end of my turn. If I worker and play one card next turn, I’ll still be at 3 cards in hand. If you’re at 5 cards, I’m at a significant disadvantage, because I’m slower to cycle in my new (better, or more optimally answering, techs). I’m also at a significant disadvantage because I have fewer options each turn to address the threats presented on your turn, and I have a higher chance of drawing a very weak or dead hand.
So I patrol in technician.

You, on your turn, might not want to do the mathematically optimal offensive play if you decide that that keeping my hand resource starving is more important than starving my board resource. You may then decide to build up (level heroes, build tech buildings) instead of keeping the board pressure on. Or you could decide to keep the board pressure on, but you know that it risks me drawing into answers and coming back to equal footing more quickly. You face the same problem anytime I put something in scavenger.

It’s not always an obvious choice. Sometimes killing a technician will cause a deck cycle, giving the opponent a chance to draw a really nasty threat.
It’s almost always correct to break Tech buildings if you have the opportunity, but sometimes it’s more important to take out a hero. Sometimes it’s more important to keep the opponent’s hand or money low so that they are unlikely to be able to do much even with their fancy Tech II, and if they manage to, their hand goes down even further.

It can sometimes be really hard to tell whether an opponent put a unit or hero in technician because it’s valuable and they want some compensation if they can’t have it, or because it’s not valuable to their plan, and it’s bait, and they really need to draw a specific card on their next turn. Figuring out which it is can be crucial.

Oh, one last thing: because of the fog of war, you often don’t have to add spells and haste to your deck as defender; they just have to be in your codex. Since the opponent doesn’t know what you teched, they often have to assume that spells and haste are possibilities, and try to play around them.