This is the year of Undead! Undead players are winning more than ever! Or are they? Sometimes, our feelings are playing tricks on us. Let’s take a look at the actual tournament data of the last 12 months to get a better idea about which races are doing well and which aren’t. The results might surprise you!
In order to compare races, we should take a look at win rates, participation and tournament wins by race. I have used the whole warcraft3.info database which contains the vast majority of tournaments in the last 12 months.
The whole sample is called All Matches (All Skill Levels) and contains data of 7006 matches. Since win rates and participation by race could vary depending on skill level, I have created two subsets of the sample: High Skill Level and Medium Skill Level. High Skill Level matches were played between players who have both participated in major or premier tournaments or won a significant title such as Gera Cup or Ifeng Cup. Medium Skill Level matches were played between players who have never played in major or premier tournament and have never gotten 1st or 2nd place in Gera Cup or in any ESL tournament.
Now let’s jump right into some stats. Firstly, I have calculated the average monthly win rates in tournament matches for the last 12 months.
Wait, what? I didn’t believe my eyes when I saw the numbers for medium-skilled Undeads. While we were all still listening to Cechi’s BabyRage, we didn’t realize that Undeads have actually been CRUSHING IT. They had a huge win percentage lead in mid 2016! What you cannot see in the graph is that even in the first half of 2016, medium-skilled Undeads had almost 70% win percentage in tournament matches. However, in the last months their win rates have decreased and Humans are now leading amongst medium-skilled players. This is another very interesting observation, as Human players have extremely low win percentages of only 37% on a high skill level. Orcs are currently the biggest losers on a medium skill level with only 38% win rate.
On a high skill level, things look quite differently. Indeed, Undead players have had a hard time in the last year with win rates as low as 41%. But they stepped up their game around November 2016. With strong Undead players such as 120, WFZ and Happy, they went up to 58,4%, while other races were all below 50%. Recently, win rates of high skilled Orcs, Undeads and Nightelves are almost even while Human players are still getting owned in the win rate basement. The current demise of Human is likely caused by good Human players being inactive or underperforming.
If we look at the data for all skill levels, the differences are smaller. The current power ranking for tournament match win rate would be Undead > Nightelf > Orc > Human.
Now let's investigate whether there is a bias towards certain races in tournament participation.
On every skill level, Nightelf is the most played race in tournaments. No big surprise! Last summer, 41,2% of all high-skilled players that entered tournaments were Nightelves. Why are so many people playing this race? Is Nightelf the strongest race? No. As we saw in the last section, their win rates are usually average.
During the increasing win rates of high-skilled Undeads, the Undead participation in tournaments also increased. Maybe these observations could be related. But did an increase of better Undead players increase their win rates or did new strategies enable more medium-skilled players to enter the high skilled environment?
Where did the medium-skilled Orc players go? In the last 2 months, only 13,4% of medium-skilled people have played Orc. Maybe they got discouraged by repeatedly losing to Undead. For me, this low percentage was unexpected. With idols like Lyn, Fly and Grubby I thought more Orcs would be inspired to participate in tournaments.
We have looked at the monthly win rates of each race. Now let's dive deeper into the analysis and see against which races they are actually winning/losing. I have split up this analysis into two periods: May 2016 - November 2016 and November 2016 - May 2017. That way we can evaluate whether or not any matchups have changed their win percentages.
Human win rates have declined against every race. Undead players have become their worst enemies, winning 60,4% of the time against Human players. In general, Undeads have improved against every race and are now leading the win rates of the last 6 months with a strong 54,6%. Most Nightelf matchups have stayed mostly the same but they lose way more often to Undead now as well. Orcs haven't changed much.
Poor Orcs! They were only winning 33% of all matches against Undead players and now they are also losing most games to Human. In the last 6 months, Undead players have lost some of their lead but are still favored against most races except of Human. Human players have improved their win rate against Orcs drastically and win 54% of all medium-skilled tournament matches.
On this high skill level, things are looking less fun for Human players. They aren't favored against any race. Undead players win 68,6% of all matches against human. In the last 12 months, Undeads have improved their high-skilled matchups against every race! Orcs used to be the strongest players and still get a decent second place in these power rankings.
Having established that some races have significantly higher tournament win rates than others, one important question comes up: Can they actually convert their win rate to tournament wins?
Looking at high-skilled win rates, we would expect to see Human players win the least amount of titles. But in major & premier tournaments in the last 12 months, the human race doesn’t seem to be a losing race at all! Human players are sharing the first place for most major/premier titles won in the last 12 months together with the Orcs.
There is a disproportionally high amount of Nightelves in the participants of every tournament. Therefore they would be expected to get more titles than other races. Indeed, for Gera Cup this is the case. However, on the highest skill level, the Nightelves are the race with the least amount of first places. Only Foggy, Longwalk, TH000 and Moon managed to win a major title for the Nightelf race in the last 12 months (Yes, you heard that right, TH000 played Nightelf against Yumiko in WCA China Qualifiers #3).
So why don’t win rates reflect actual tournament winners? There is a very small amount of pro players that get most major titles. In the last 12 months, 5 out of 7 Orc titles have been won by Lyn, 3 out of 5 Undead titles by 120. The 7 Human titles are shared between Infi, Yumiko and TH000. Furthermore, it is likely that some races manage to win a lot of matches but fail to win these deciding matches which would grant them a first place in the statistics.
Let's take a look at some smaller events such as Gera Cup.
Especially in the Western scene, Humans are underperforming. The last Human who won a Gera Cup was Hawk (Gera Cup #70, 16.07.2016). Most of the Undead wins have been caused by Happy. Nightelf always used to be the biggest Gera Cup winning race. They are still leading by a large margin but haven't won significantly more than other races in the last 12 months. Since most Gera Cup winners are the same players, I thought it would be more interesting to analyze who is actually winning in quarter finals.
Nightelf is the most played race. Since their win rate is usually somewhere around 50%, it makes sense to see them have the most people win a quarter final. However, the amount of Nightelves winning Gera Cup quarter finals is disproportionate and shows there is a bias. This bias is likely caused by some outstanding players who manage to enter quarter finals almost every time while their Nightelf peers lose in the early rounds. The low number of Human players in quarter finals doesn't come as a surprise due to inactivity of good Humans such as Hawk. Since there are way less orc players participating in tournaments, Orcs aren't expected to be the most common race in quarter finals.
As a final graph, let us take a look at ESL Cup winners.
This distribution looks quite similar to the Gera Cup quarter final distribution. This could indicate that Gera Cup quarter finals are similar to most ESL finals in terms of required skill.
So which race is actually the best? Currently, Undead players seem to be ahead. But this can change quickly!
In conclusion, we cannot generally say that one race is performing better than others. The context is very important. Race performance depends both on skill level, tournament environment and the player himself. Furthermore, we can see that even for such an old game with a consolidated meta game, win rates can still change a lot. Of course, this is also due to our limited player base. With a bigger sample size, I would expect the differences between races to be significant but much smaller. You should also keep in mind that win rates for tournament matches don’t necessarily reflect ladder win rates or win rates for tournament finals.