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The Gift is here to explore the issue of luck. Is luck an indomitable force that can't be conquered, or is it something small that can be ignored?


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Is Luck Real, or is it just an Illusion?

Have you ever cursed the Warcraft gods for seemingly forgetting that you exist throughout the course of a game? Don’t worry, it’s not just you. Some days we find the leprechaun smiling at us at the end of the rainbow and others we get a flat tire after getting pulled over for speeding. Luck affects us every day in almost all aspects of life. Your test grade may depend on how the teacher was feeling that day. You may have missed every single traffic light on your way home from work. Your friends may have surprised you by walking in your room while you were covertly watching “The Hills”. When luck does go our way, we feel like everything is going right and the world is at our fingertips that day. But how big a factor is luck is this game we love?

Let’s take an example of a game that undoubtedly takes some amount of luck to be successful in the short term: poker. Many of you probably play poker and I’m sure the rest of you have at least heard of it or played it at some occasion. In the short term, the results in poker can be partially attributed to luck and the rest to your skill level. Even in a dream scenario where you are a twenty to one favorite, there is still a small chance that you can lose the hand. You could even lose in this situation two or three times in a row. As you play the game more and more and these situations continue to come up, the more and more you will continue to gain in this situation. After a long period of time, it is hugely unlikely that you have lost money from this situation, which any even half decent poker player understands. The people that get angry when they get unlucky and say things like, “I will never play again, people always get lucky against me”, do not really understand the game fundamentally. Most good pokers players simply laugh and ignore people who say such things. The luck factor in poker is not all that dissimilar to the luck involved in Warcraft. The obvious flaw with my argument is that any card game is exactly fair to all parties involved. The deck of cards is impartial, and poker is inherently balanced. Warcraft is at least partially imbalanced in a few small ways, and not everyone plays the same race. Since most of the time everyone playing in a game does not begin with the exact same units, the argument I’m trying to make is not perfect. Regardless of this, the same general rules can be applied and still hold true. Over a long period of time, luck will even out between two players and the better player will win more often.

What causes luck is debatable in most circumstances. There is a simple way to determine if luck was a factor in the outcome of your game. If the situation arose because of a player’s actions, it is not luck. If it’s something out of a player’s control, it may be considered luck. Creep Jacks and hidden Expansions shouldn’t be considered luck. Think about it; if an opponent gets a “lucky” Expansion up because you didn’t Scout, it’s because you allowed it to happen. Your lack of preparation allowed them to gain an advantage over you. Creep Jacking is another reason why you may often feel costed you the game. Anyone who has watched any amount of replays realizes how far good players go to avoid being Creep Jacked. Most of the players who complain of losing because of them did not even take a small amount of the precautions needed to avoid the nasty situation.

Most people consider Item Drops, Spawn Locations, and moves like Critical Strike and Evasion to be pure luck. These only make the game different. Critical Strike simply adds 15% more Damage to the Blademaster per level. It may be unfortunate as far as when the Crtical Strikes take place, but both players know it’s possible to Crit five times in a row to kill a Hero. You may lose a single game for this reason, but you will not lose a majority of your games for this reason. Often allowing the Hero to level faster than you was your problem in the first place anyway. Spawn Locations and the chance of a Health Fountain over a Mana Fountain only change what type of game the players are playing. Maybe you’re an 80% player on cross map Lost Temple, but only a 30% player on close spawn Lost Temple. This indicates that your Spawn Location was only unlucky in the sense that you have not worked on your close spawn Lost Temple game enough. I’ve even seen Yane try to gain an advantage in a close spawn Turtle Rock game by Scouting with an Acolyte and a Ghoul to try and cancel an early Moon Well of his Night Elf opponent. As it turned out, the Night Elf opponent wasn’t next to him, so would you consider this bad luck for Yane? As far as item drops go, people completely disregard the advantages of some of the other item drops. It wasn’t until somewhat recently when the professional players started using the Wand of Mana Stealing, and then all of a sudden players stopped auto-selling the item and started using it. It doesn’t need to be said that some items are better for some heroes than others, but it’s not like the Creep dropped nothing. The item can still be sold, or perhaps the player will even figure out a way to use it to their advantage. Some items are obviously better than others, but again skill can easily make up for getting slightly unlucky. There’s a chance some maps are not really favored towards one race, but perhaps nobody has come up with a strategy with their race to take advantage of the map. If you are not prepared to play on every available map, then luck had nothing to with the outcome of your game.

A lot of your opponent's luck is created through insufficient scouting. The better player should know what their opponent is doing throughout the entire game. Assumptions can lead to disaster. Scouting is an investment that is often overlooked. Obviously sending two Scouts out in each direction gives you information sooner, but do you really want to sacrifice the early resources for information on your opponent? It’s your choice, and there are probably advantages to both.

Players complain about their Scroll of Town Portal not going off when they double click it at the last second. Unless you’re getting variable latency issues (random delay between commands), then the player should know how much time they have in order to Teleport. Complaining that it didn’t go off didn’t change the fact that you could have tped when your hero was at half health. This is the biggest reason why people hate playing against Undead so much; the burst damage of hero nuke. Now if we were to set the game speed to ultra slow, you could actually emulate what Moon does in a LAN tournament and dodge spells every time. It’s the player’s job to gain every advantage possible. Stopping an opponent from Teleporting when they are winning the fight simply creates a battle of reaction time. Can you TP before the Death Coil hits?

Sure, a single incident can change the outcome of a game, but a single game doesn't matter in the long run. There are cases such as in a major tournament or a league match where luck was a factor in a very important game, but there is nothing you can do about that. In that sense luck could be a big factor in that it was very important to you, but such is life. In most cases that incident was preventable, however unforeseeable it is now. As you progress as a player, preventing bad luck should become standard in all your games. All that matters is that you’re consistently a winning player. If you keep losing to the same thing and keep blaming it on bad luck, then something is wrong. As the age old saying goes, “you create your own luck”.

If you didn’t like this article, then I guess you may actually be unlucky. Or perhaps The Gift is.






  1. Blademaster crit comes to mind; I just played a game where the guy critted three times in a row on my archmage...

  2. he specifically addressed this. try reading?

  3. Maybe I didn't phrase it right. Maybe you misunderstood. I read it and am agreeing that luck has a big effect on a fraction of games you play and I played one of these games today.

  4. "Lucker", funniest flame I ever got on bnet. GJ Gift!

  5. I'm with Gift. A lot of games I play have chance involved somehow, but the chance of certain things happening is factored into the overall balance of the character or group of units or whatever. It's not lucky that the particular ability triggered, it's "lucky" that it happened to occur at the right or wrong time.

  6. Luck is the reason a lot of people don't play poker, because they don't like the idea of something they work hard to be good at still be decided by something out of your control. U said u need to be prepared for 5 crits in a row, but if u used an invul pot too early to counter this possibility u just wasted it if there were no crits. Also games where a level 4 dk dies in the time it takes to tp come to mind. Sure u need to be prepared for luck but at the same time someone like moon could lose 5 grand because a blademaster critted and killed his level 4 DH with 130 hp. Or the fact that a blademaster can creep an exp tome camp on TM, if he doesn't get the exp tome, w/e u went to the shop and bought items anyway it only takes 15 seconds and a single salve. However if the blademaster gets on exp tome in mirror for example the entire game is changed because he will then get level 3 and constantly harras his oppenents level 2 bm. There is nothing his oppenent could do to stop the xp tome drop.

  7. or what about close spawn on TR , human vs nightelf, i have seen moon lose to low level humans soloely on the fact it was close spawn. Its like saying i have a boxing match vs mike tyson and the day b4 the fight, he loses both arms in a freak accident that was totally out of his control. Now the next day i fight him , even though he is 50000 times better than me, he will lose this match. You can say he should just use skill to beat me, but he won't be able to. The same applies to wc3, and even more so in competitive gaming. Games can be won or lost soloely based on the damage roll of a blademaster doing either 35 or 36 damage. 35 ur hero lives 36 ur hero dies. In games like sc there is no option for luck, which is why it is called the most balanced rts game of all time. Because there are no factors other than spawn that are controlled by a program generating random item or damage or skill procs

  8. It baffles me that you actually read the article and wasted your time to write that. Hopefully you have educated yourself in reading comprehension before your next post.

  9. interesting article

  10. yes interesting.
    GJ The Gift.

  11. y not? i was waiting to watch an obs game and during the time it took for the game to start i wrote it

  12. Have any of you guys used the voicebox? What do you think to this feature? Good idea or waste of time?

  13. Because everything in your post worth noting was addressed in the article. You argued against the original post and ignored every point he had. I wouldn't be surprised if you were someone with a 50% record blaming all of your losses on a new instance of luck.
    DAMNIT! I got this map, randomed a bad race, got a close spawn, and then my opponent creep jacked me! what are the odds!

  14. "U said u need to be prepared for 5 crits in a row, but if u used an invul pot..." I know what you're saying, but there is no way to predict how many crits he's going to get. You just estimate a 15% damage increase on the blademaster, and the 7 seconds of invulnerability still blocks the damage even if the blademaster doesn't crit, so it's not a waste.

    BM killing your heroes too fast? Don't Let Him. Kill him first. I don't know what race you play, but Dust/shade & nuke, Ensnare/Hex, Burn + Focus fire, Bolt + Invis. There are plenty of counters and units that give true sight that you could be using.

    Close spawn games are not hopeless, just different. There is always a way to beat it.

    The only thing I'd agree with you upon is exp tomes.
    I do think exp tome should be cut in half. A level adds +4-5 stat points AND a skill point, where the similar power-ups of that level is only +2.

    The voiceboxes are a good improvement. Although some voices are better than others :)

  15. [All] MaYDaY.: gotta win 20 min in now vs a noob
    [All] MaYDaY.: cuz lag and creep luck

    ^^duck losing to me and crying
    "creep luck" ok so the trapper ensnared his units instead of mine rofl


    but ive never taken luck as a factor. i always blame something else like "i didnt bring my unit back enough and lost a unit to towers," or "i didnt ever check that gold mine" or "i shouldve built my zig one place to the left next time in this matchup" ...not "he critted me no fair!"

  16. I think this voicebox was pretty bad.
    It sounded boring. Monotone..

  17. Even though I hate the fact that phenom used to spam every replay with whines about imbalance this time he is actually making sense to a certain degree. I think you oversimplify the issue but you correct none theless. I think it is a fault in game design to have abilities that are based on a %. Although they dont make this game unplayable which is why i still love playing.

    The biggest thing I hate are the exp tomes, they just can change the game too much.

    phenom starcraft has bo looses which could be considered luck in a way. I suppose you could argue it was some uber mindgame but still.

  18. I like the voicebox. I download a replay. Watch it and listen to the voicebox at the sametime. Kind of an audio. Makes you do two things in the time it only takes to do one.

  19. i know u can consider sc bo to be luck, but regardless u have total control over every part of your game and nothing is left to chance, its like saying its lucky that a soccer player shot the top left corner instead of the bottom right. In SC build orders u take into consideration many things before hand, who your oppenent is, if u have just beat him, if he is good at long or short game.

  20. winners make their own luck

  21. Chance kinda makes it fun and fresh for me.

  22. I don't think your justification of a single incident changing a game being okay because over a larger sample size it evens out. This is because it doesn't consider some games being more important than others, and this won't necessarily coincide with the %s of tomes/items. If professional A happens to get all of his tomes of experience/good items/spawn/every other piece of 'good luck' possible on ladder, whereas professional B gets them in competitive league games, can it be said that professional A didn't 'create' his own luck?

    A lot of the examples you give are indeed not luck, but skill [not scouting an expansion being the most blatantly obvious one] and this is the illusion worse players see, but the truth is at the top level after making all the preventions you note and more, at least an advantage can be gained in a game if not completely deciding it [see orc mirror] by chance, when it could easily be reduced/almost negated by abilities etc. becoming more standardised.

    It was an interesting read, thanks. To answer the title, I'd say both exist.

  23. "to a good general luck doesn't matter, but to a great general it does" (take into account all possible outcomes and be able to minimize the damage of bad luck and capitalize on good luck more than your opponent)

  24. The only thing about luck in this game is attack damage difference and bash and critical strike. Anything else means you are noob, even close spawn on TR, because one who is in tune with the warcraft-averse sees no luck at all.

  25. Your comment looks funny if you re-order it:

    'Anything else means you are noob... because one who is in tune with the warcraft-averse sees no luck at all.'
    -> 'The only thing about luck in this game is...'

    But anyway, to say those three things are luck based but not evasion, drunken haze, defend, other abilities involving %s, item drops [assuming some are better than others] and tomes etc. is nonsensical.

    I think that for the vast majority of games these factors aren't game deciding and it comes down to who has played better, but even that extremely small percentage should not exist in my opinion.

  26. people say that luck doesn't matter yet so many % based things change the entire game. For example someone goes mk first and gets level 2 with level 1 bash, a dh comes to harras him and gets bolt surrounded, the nightelf has gotten a staff of tele because he is good and realizes 9/10 he will get bolt surrounded by a half decent player, but he also HAS to harras the mk. Now the dh gets surrounded and then the dh staffs, the mk bashes on his 1st of 2 possible hits, then the dh dies, now because of this 15% chance of stun the expo goes up unhinered and the human will 9/10 out win this game soloely on the fact that he got the bash off. Now u can say " o the nightelf should play better" but what if both people are the same level or similar which is often the case. So now the entire game has changed and the human has got a huge advantage based on a % based stun.

  27. You can't base it on a single game. Human Units are slow, if you have boots, like you should on your DH then you can get to the max range on bolt and won't be surrounded, and at that point you can follow up with a safe burn. Running up to burn a level 2 mk is an absolute 15% risk of losing your hero Every Time. You shouldn't be getting your hero that close to the level 2 mk. Try invis pot or divine pot to dodge bolt if you really want to, but the common technique of DH is to harass immediately, thus draining all their mana.

  28. Phenom you cant prove your right with 1 example. Thats just 1 case.

    Anyway, i think luck is a factor, but not too important. Lets take your example: poker players. On big, opened poker championships almost all the time big, famous pros sit to the last table. Why? Because thats a skill game, like WC3, but in WC3 the luck factor plays lesser-lesser-lesser row than in poker.

  29. In my opinion, luck is simply a rare probability (momentarily providing an advantage) disguised as something supernatural.

  30. luck is good because you can have somethign to blame and you can beat opponents with higher skill or after doing mistakes
    but it sux losing to lucker noobs
    LOL

  31. You told us what isn't luck, but what areas of the game are still luck?

  32. @LaG Master:
    Wow, he specifically noted things like BM's crit chance and DH's Evasion (which by close relation includes the Panda's crit, bash, etc...) drops, and spawn locations. They are, without a doubt, factors of the game that are random and can create an advantage for one player. His point is that in every scenario, there is SOMETHING you can do to eliminate the advantage or at least lessen the impact of it.

  33. Ty all for reading. I personally think without at least a small amount of luck many things would be boring as some of you have eluded to. Technically even the range of damage that units do could cause you to lose a fight if two players are exactly equal in skill. Without luck we would have nothing to talk about and nothing to complain about. Even if not everyone can admit it, being able to complain about things helps keep everyone entertained. If some amount luck isn't involved there can be no hype, drama, upset, or come from behind victory.

  34. Your first and last paragraphs demonstrate your perspicacious analysis of luck, and are humorous at the same time. Nice.

  35. Everything related to luck in the game ultimately comes down to averages. Many people think that, somehow, professional poker players do not depend on luck. Of course this is impossible; poker is a game intrinsically based on luck, and the outcomes of hands will always be determined by luck. The theory and beauty come into the game when you factor in statistics: poker players need to get lucky, but they try to put their money in the pot when the odds are in their favour. With $300 in the pot, and $30 to call, if you have a 35% chance to win the pot, then you should call, even though you need to get "lucky" to win. 35% of the time you are going to win $300, and 65% of the time you will lose $30. In 20 hands you will win $300 7 times, for a gain of $2 100, and lose $30 13 times for a loss of $390, this equates to a net gain of $1 710.

  36. Warcraft is a game that also features luck, but in a much more limited capacity. Is the fact that BM got 2 Blades of Attack really all that "lucky" if he's creeped all the Shops in Gnoll Woods? The orc player knew that these were camps that had a chance of dropping items he wanted, and he figured that if he creeped all four camps, chances were good that one of those items could have dropped. In the same way, the orc player doesn't rely on a lucky crit (or lucky crits), but when they happen, he has to be quick to capitalize. If you send a BM to attack an AM in a team fight, and crit it twice, taking it down to 40% HP, your strategy changes: it's now viable for you to focus down the AM.

  37. Of course, these are just a couple of examples, but you see what I'm driving at. It's all about understanding the odds and understanding how to manipulate them in your favour.

  38. evasion, crits, bash, item drops(MOAR CLAWS FOR BLADE PLS), misses, even how much the unit hits(with a unit with 15-19 dama it makes a real difference if it hits max dama always), tome drops(tome of gg). Im not saying games are decided by luck only.
    But say ur playing ud vs orc @TM, blade creeps 2 orange camps, gets 2 claws + 2 toe from the shop, u goes fiends, blade lvl 3 with great items(2claws+2circ+boots) vs lvl 1-2dk + 2-3 fiends, raped. At this point there really isnt much that the ud can do cuz the bm can just perma harras him.

    also, ive experienced a bm with ww+3 crits in a row, and if thats not luck then what t_T

  39. UD vs Orc is a leveling race. Now that is a worst case scenario, and it was your choice to go fiends. All you can do now is just constantly put damage on the BM while you creep & tech.
    Maybe thumbs down TW, but would it be worth it as far as your other matchups go? Maybe you lose to orc on TW, but always beat NE, HU and UD, you'd be going 75% that's great!
    Hell, maybe it's lucky on your part when 2 rings of protection drop followed by 2 tomes of intelligence for the bm.

  40. I agree with Tranquil here. I've tried Sc many times and played it with friends but I never get that tingeling feeling as when I play Wc3. The chance factor maybe isnt the whole story about why I like wc3 so much more but it's definately a part of it. With no chance factor at all a game feels so machine-like and for me you lose that extra feeling.