Seven Hundred and Twenty. That is how many different sequences of combat in PVP exist.
To arrive at this number, we run a piece of math called a factorial. There are six characters, all six are included and none can repeat. So, straight factorial. Written like this: 6!. Calculated like this: 6*5*4*3*2. Explained in english like this: There are 6 participants. Any one of them can go first. So, 6 options. Given any particular participant going first, there are 5 possibilities for who goes second. Given a choice for first and second, there are 4 possibilties, and so on. 6*5*4*3*2. Six Factorial.
Why do we care? Lots of reasons. First, there are 360 of those combinations where your agent goes ahead of the enemy agent. There are 120 of those combinations where your agent goes first and 120 where your agent goes last. There are 36 combinations where your whole team goes before the enemy. If PVP is about going first, then, you are in a 50-50 proposition, assuming that the random number generator behind the scenes at M:AA is truly random. On the upside, everyone else has the same 50/50 proposition, so we're all in it together.
But, maybe there is more reason to care. A recent trend that I've seen in PVP is a team that I will call the Me First. There are two characters who go first in almost all situations. Captain America and Quicksilver. By cutting the set of possible orders down from 720 to 120 (by using one of them) and even further (by using both, and assuming the other guy isn't using them), players of Me First are eliminating sequences where they don't get a single turn (there are 36 orders that put your entire team ahead of the enemies team, which may be sufficient, though there may be additional complications, such as , , and other extra turn and early kill techniques).
But, is this effective? I am not convinced. What could it be that is nagging at me from the back of my mind? It's something that [Professor Gordinier] would want me to look into, assuming it's 9 years ago and I was still in his class. Let's check the math here and do a bit of a thought experiment.
The goal is to get our agent to go ahead of the enemy's. If we reduce the 720 to 240 (sets where Cap or Quicksilver goes first), and further still (If Cap goes first, Quicksilver goes second and vice versa), we have reduced 720 possible outcomes all the way to 48 outcomes. Woot!
But how many of those 48 are good for me (my Agent ahead of your Agent)? Let's take a look.
Here are the ones where Captain America (A) goes first, Quicksilver (B) goes second, Our Agent is C. The enemy's heros are X and Y, and his agent is Z. The set where Quicksilver goes ahead of Cap is identical, except that A and B are flipped.
|Agent C ahead of Agent Z||Agent Z ahead of Agent C|
So, when you run Me First, you are reducing the outcome sets where your agent goes ahead of the enemy to 24 possibilities, while also limiting the sets where your opponent gets off first to 24. 24:24 = 360:360.
Now, before you say that Me First is a futile exercise, it does eliminate those 36 where the opponent gets fully off before you can go, while only reducing the 36 where you get entirely off before he gets a turn to 12. Those 36 are the most frustrating matches in the game, and those 12 are the best. You've also increased your odds of getting those 12. We were looking at 36 of 720 (also known as 5%) and now, the Me First player is looking at 12 out of 48 (also known as 25%). So, maybe there's something here.
If only we could crank Quicksilver into a primary damage dealer or somehow alter the enemy's sequencing further.... I dunno, maybe with Stun. Yep, this could have some legs.