VCT: First bloods and rounds won: a pre-Masters overview

Joseph Edwards
6 min readApr 1, 2022

This is how reliant every team in EU, NA, and at Master’s is on first bloods to win rounds. The higher the final number, the less reliant they are.

Interested? Read on.

The relationship between first bloods and round differential is something that I’ve been curious about for a few months now, and it actually stems back to a game that a team I coached (Tundra Esports in VRL Polaris) had in VCT qualifiers:

On the first map of a Bo3, we had a 9–13 loss on Haven (so a -4 round differential), but a -14 on first bloods. For reference, only one game in my sample of 213 from EU/NA returned a -14 FBD (BIG vs. FPX, curiously also on Haven, curiously also in the same ballpark at 8–13), so this is pretty rare overall, especially for a game that ended close in terms of score.

When you have a game like that, you tend to dismiss it as bad luck, an outlier, and so on. (It both was and wasn’t, but that’s too long of a discussion for this piece). Over the next couple of months, I noticed from talking to other coaches on top teams that it seemed to have developed as something of a rule-of-thumb — sometimes one team just gets its first bloods, and you’re probably going to get rolled as a result.

So, after the season, I decided to look into it a little more — firstly, to see how things correlated to the ‘natural’ rule-of-thumb presumption that you’d have (odds to win a 5v4 is something like 80% at the top level, so you’d think it’d be close to a 1:1, i.e. 5 more first bloods = 5 more rounds), and secondly, to see if there’s anything we can learn about teams in EU/NA and in Masters as a result.

First, on our rule of thumb.

We’re dealing with small samples statistically-speaking here (even when we have 43 games, a couple of big outliers can throw things off) , so we can’t read too aggressively into individual milestones, but in general: there is clearly a correlation, but 1 FB doesn’t quite equal 1 round usually. As an average across the whole sample, it’s worth about 0.52 rounds, but that’s perhaps downplayed by FB differential levelling off a little as round differential goes up (because a team down 9–2 is going to start bringing out the insane aggro Stinger pushes that still lead to a lost round usually but will at least get them the first kill).

I’m not going to try to drill down here on how any particular *individual* game might have such an outlying result, but if you’re interested, here are all of the games where there was a +12 or higher differential in the sample:

February 12th, FunPlus Phoenix vs. BIG, Maps 2 and 3
February 20th, Leviatán vs 9z Team, Map 2
February 26th, KRU Esports vs Meta Gaming, Map 2
February 27th, Luminosity vs 100 Thieves, Map 2
March 4th, Rise vs. Sentinels, Map 3
March 5th, G2 Esports vs. Acend, Map 1
March 12th, Team Vikings vs. LOUD, Map 1
March 22nd, M3 Champions vs Guild Esports, Map 1
March 26th, XERXIA Esports vs Persija Esports, Map 1
March 26th, KRU Esports vs FUSION, Map 2
March 27th, ZETA Division vs Crazy Raccoon, Map 1
March 27th, OpTic Gaming vs. The Guard, Map 1

Finally, here is a graph that I am going to use on the thumbnail, because it a) shows how round differential vs. first bloods are overall distributed, and b) looks better on a thumbnail than any of the other graphs here.

You can, of course, use this in the aggregate to look at a team’s totals, and it will tell you a few things:

We can see that OpTic, G2, and LOUD get a significant number of first bloods compared to their round count, while teams like FNC, The Guard, and, DRX, and PRX don’t. However, things get messier when weighing teams who played significantly longer or shorter schedules, had more middling records overall and therefore didn’t rack up massive surpluses or deficits in terms of RD, etc.

So, instead, we make full use of our big bank of first blood vs. round differential data (for the purposes of this, I checked it for every individual map in EU/NA, and every map involving a Masters team elsewhere), and we measure the distance from round differential. So, for instance, the ZETA vs. Crazy Raccooon map had a round differential of 2, and a first blood differential of -20; hence, for both teams, it would be a distance of 22.

We can then average that out and compare between teams, and so you don’t have to scroll back to the top, here you go:

This reinforces some of the things that we already could tell, but bings in a few more insights of its own. Liquid, one of our Masters teams, comes up VERY swingy on this basis — they win more often with a FB advantage, and less often with a FB disadvantage, than even G2 does. On the other end of the scale, BIG and LDNU show up very high, as does Knights in NA, and surprisingly, of all teams, Sentinels.

Now we get into the part which is a little more subjective: how do we interpret this data?

You can go a lot of ways with this, but this would be my general read. I don’t think first bloods are all about luck by any means, but it’s always going to be closer to a 50–50 than the process of playing out the round as a whole, and while teams can do a fair bit to up those odds and also to make it less variable (hint: contact-heavy), I tend to think that over time, you should probably expect some degree of mean reversion on them.

I also tend to think that there’s probably something to the idea that the higher the DFB, the stronger some of the fundamentals of the team are. It doesn’t seem coincidental to me that the three teams with the highest DFB in Europe are standouts in terms of IGLs and coaching, while the ones with the lowest DFBs have significantly looser styles and/or made relatively recent internal changes on that front. So that probably speaks well to the systems in BIG and LDN UTD despite relatively muted results, as well as Knights in NA.

It also underscores, in case any more confirmation was needed, just how desperately unlucky EU has been coming into this Masters. FPX won the region with +/-0 on first bloods; they were primed to probably put up a Gambit-like run, but won’t get to compete. G2 and Liquid, statistically, have been a little fortunate this split, and so will be higher variance; for Fnatic, losing potentially two starters makes it impossible to say.

While the tendency has been to say that NA straight out wins if EU doesn’t show as a result of all of its problem, I’m not 100% sure on that. Both The Guard and OpTic do better in the DFB department; but NA as a whole has a less pronounced distinction between most teams, and the raw numbers for OpTic (highest first bloods in their region) would make me nervous, particularly given how the core’s performed internationally before.

It seems like there’s a good chance that this could be the tournament where Vision Strikers/DRX finally breaks through internationally, and Paper Rex with Jinggg are also a stronger dark horse than might be assumed.

You can, of course, take this and interpret it in completely different ways; to put a crude version of it out, more FBs = better players = better on LAN = G2-OpTic finals. We’ll see in time.



Joseph Edwards

i wear a lot of hats. crypto: Head of Research for Enigma Securities (Bloomberg: NH ENI). esports: coach, LoL 2x LCS champ (TSM 17 TL 18), now Valorant w/ HONK