The International 2016 highlighted the importance of the drafting stage more than any other tournament in the recent history of Dota. With 105 heroes picked and banned during the Seattle Lan stage, it is clear that adhering to a single strategy might not be the best course of action. Granted, there were some picks which were popular throughout the whole tournament, but there was no natural, predefined progression to the follow-ups in the draft.
With that in mind, discussing the pick and ban phase of the Captain’s Mode might be both interesting and useful—especially given the popularity of Battle Cups and the high chances they will return for the next season. Instead of looking and studying the current meta, which is close to impossible to define, it is perhaps better to look at one particular aspect of the drafting stage—cornering your opponent with highly versatile hero picks, who excel in different stages of the game, depending on their role.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when drafting is that they overvalue heroes based on their performance in the big tournaments as opposed to evaluating what their team can realistically pull off and what the players on the team are capable of playing.
Communication is key, especially when playing with random players, since you can never know whether your carry is good on the hero you are giving him. Yes, given the situation Morphling can be the absolute best pick, but he also requires a dedicated player to be effective—even some professional teams struggle with a brilliantly drafted, but poorly executed Morphling.
For the same reasons, checking the profiles of your enemies during the load is absolutely crucial. It is especially important on the higher edge of 4k bracket—many players tend to spam one or two cores and excel at them, instead of having a wide, versatile hero pool.
Drafting massive combinations, which require a set of conditions to be fulfilled, is rarely worth it. Simple 2-hero synergies have proven to be more effective and reliable, compared to massive combos—the latter are usually too reliant on cooldowns and mistakes made by the opponent. They do create amazing highlights, but frequently fall into the “win more” category.
Opening with versatile heroes is generally a very good idea. Versatility in the first phase opens up a wider set of options for your team in the consequent picks and makes it less likely for the enemy team to shut your lineup down. This directly ties in with the main focus of today’s discussion—the ”trick” heroes.
A “trick” hero refers to a hero who, depending on the role, will excel at completely different timings and fits completely different lineups. For example, Mirana, despite her versatility, is not a “trick” hero, since regardless of the role she will generally peak in the mid-game, unless played by Suma1L-, who can take her very late and still win.
Being first and foremost a strategy game, Dota is comparable to the well-established CCGs and even board games, like Chess. The general rule in those games is that you want to be either much faster than your opponent or slightly slower.
For Dota it means that, on average, push/deathball lineups will deal best with late-game oriented ones, but will have trouble against mid-game drafts. Similarly, mid-game drafts will usually have troubles against late-game oriented opponents, since they will not have enough time to exploit their timings for long enough, before the enemy comes online. With a wide variety of viable heroes the formula gets incredibly more complicated, but the general idea holds true.
With that in mind, it is possible to identify several heroes who have the biggest delta in timings, depending on their role. For this article we shall focus on Naga Siren, Vengeful Spirit and Kunkka as our test subjects.
The first game of DC vs. EHOME in the International was probably what highlighted the concept the most. An early Naga Siren by DC was met with a very fast and aggressive early draft by EHOME. Moreover, EHOME committed to an Anti-Mage as their 4th pick, to deal with potential split-push and boxed themselves in with a Razor pick.
The general gameplan for EHOME was to get ahead in the early game, on the back of their aggressive trio of Sand King, Shadow Demon and Kunkka and out-pressure the enemy before the Naga comes online. The core Naga herself was somewhat countered by Anti-Mage, since the hero can peak a lot earlier and is also great at dealing with split-push. Up until the fifth DC pick it was a very sound plan.
A last pick core Vengeful Spirit completely changed the whole DC draft. Now, instead of having a hero to babysit, they had a very aggressive and independent core who is not only good in early-game skirmishes, but also excels at pushing towers. Moreover, the laning stage went horribly wrong for EHOME—Anti-Mage wasn’t able to find any farm in the lane, against a very aggressive trilane, while the Timbersaw vs. Sand King matchup was tied.
In the end, it was DC playing a 4 and 1 strategy, with either Vengeful Spirit, Invoker or Timbersaw farming, while the rest of the team applied pressure. They also peaked much earlier, opening up the map. 30 minutes into the game they managed to seal the deal—DC out-tempoed EHOME by a huge margin.
This game is a definite highlight of how tricking an opponent can be beneficial to your team. EHOME were more than prepared to deal with early, mid and late-game scenarios against a core Naga, even against the same exact lineup, but with Venge as a support. They were not, however, prepared to match the early aggression of the NA squad.
Looking at the hero in more detail, it is clear why she is the poster girl for the draft tricking concept. The hero has a lot to offer in a variety of scenarios—depending on the skill build she can be a rather strong follow-up disabler, with decent damage and Armor reduction, or a farming machine.
The core Naga doesn’t need introduction—she generally follows the progression of BoT’s, Radiance and starts split-pushing the map, while taking jungle creeps. This makes her incredibly fast at getting her items, making for a very strong power level spike in the mid-, late-mid game. The addition of Octarine Core to the game has further solidified her position, increasing the speed, uptime and reliability of the split-push, while providing a huge “no-fun for the enemy” ultimate on a 45s cooldown.
As a support, on the other hand, Naga starts being a nuisance early on. She does not feature a huge HP pool, but she more than makes up for it with a good starting armor of 6 and 320 movespeed. Moreover, she excels and making the mobility heroes cry— Ensnare is a bkb-piercing “root”-type effect, which prevents blinking and even "hidden" effects, such as Phase Shift.
As a core, she excels in prolonged games and becomes almost unstoppable by the 40-minute mark, given a decent start and mid-game. On the other hand, she is rather easy to shut down and out-pressure, making her a rather risky pick.
As a support, the hero is amazing at countering melee cores, since she has one of the strongest ways of kiting them and not allowing them to actually deal damage. Moreover, she can reset the fights, making her a great pick against strong combo-initiations.
The core Venge was not possible or viable until 6.85, where she got a massive boost to her Agility gain as well as a small MS upgrade. The hero cannot boast a ton of survivability early on, with a rather limited HP pool and mediocre starting armor, but she racks up the stats very fast, making her a very tanky hard-hitter come mid-game.
The latter does not come up too often—when played as a support she is generally used as a reliable stun with team-wide damage amplification through both her Aura and Wave of Terror, which reduces Armor. She is also a great save against single-target focus, usually sacrificing herself in the process, but allowing her teammates to clean-up after the enemy has used most of their abilities.
As a core, on the other hand, she comes online faster and stronger than most—with decent levels her stun becomes a very strong reliable nuke/disable on a short cooldown, while her right-click damage starts getting intimidating. Moreover, Dragon Lance does not only complement the hero stats-wise, but also ensures some extra safety—percentagewise, the extra Attack range on Vengeful Spirit is among the best.
The difference in timings between her Support and Core roles might not be that significant, especially given how she stays quite relevant throughout the whole game as a support. Yet, when played as a Core, she is a definite statement of early-game aggression and an attempt to seal the deal before mid/late-game heroes come online.
The hero offers the least “trick” value among the ones presented today—his peak timings do differ, with the core one being almost infinite, but the general gameplan revolves around his ability to teamfight in the mid-game, with several strong, albeit unreliable disables, huge damage output and a team-wide buff.
What makes a lot of difference is the Kunkka laning stage—as a support, he is best utilised in the 4th position, with some farm, and constant pressure around the map. When played mid, however, he excels in one particular scenario—against low HP/high armor targets.
The hero recently got a very strong buff, allowing for a better control over the lane and slightly higher damage output in the earlier stages. The mobility the hero provides also makes him a great tool against split-push as well as allows for some risk-free siege in all stages of the game.
With this in mind, it is understandable why the hero became popular during the International—a well rounded kit makes him invaluable in several situations, but what about his “trick”?
His ability to trick the opponent’s Captain comes from the reaction you get from them—being a very strong roamer, Kunkka can force the enemy to overcommit to the laning stage, picking less greedy, potentially shutting down a late-game scenario you do not want to deal with. This makes for a strong mid Kunkka, since the hero can quickly spin out of control and hold the game for longer—he is a force to be reckoned with in the mid-game.
Alternatively, if the enemy does go with a greedy farming lineup, support Kunkka can punish them during the laning stage with constant rotations, effectively tying up the supports to protect their carry, allowing your cores to feel more freedom and your other support to have more impact on the game.
Drafting is a very exciting part of the game. When done properly, it can create subtle highlights, rivaling the best actual plays. With a wide hero pool it also got increasingly more complex, requiring a greater deal of reactionary choices.
The tricks used to outwit the opponent are a great way to force the wrong reactionary plays. This can open up possibilities to exploit the weaknesses of the enemy and ensure the victory of your team, before the game has even began. It is worth noting, however, that it is possible to out-smart yourself—make sure the hero you want to mislead the opponent with actually fits your lineup in either role, since otherwise it will only create an opening for the enemy to exploit.
What are your favorite drafting strategies and what heroes brought you the most victories in the Battle Cup games and Captains Mode?
Video Courtesy of Valve
Where do they get the art for these articles?
The information on Naga's Ensare is outdated. It no longer is removed by ethereal form (Ghost scepter/Decrepify) and now is removed by dispels, which means that magic immunity does remove it. However, it does apply through magic immunity.
One of the best article
Lol, what's up with the mod-removed comments?
This comment was removed by a moderator 3 hours ago
A comment section holocaust! HORROR! D:
First time commenting in this site btw.
Best comments I've seen here in a long time.
THIS WAS REALLY GOOD ARTICLE
Nice effort and nice english in writing this guide. But your knowledge with dota is not at the high level to contribute and produce a quality product, which means you shouldnt write the game mechanics or meta wise analysis or somethings like this article. Instead with your persuating and juicy english writing skill you better start writing about stuffs like interviews, personal life of pro players, ceremonies and dota2 related news etc. And I would like to read game play articles written by high mmr players like 6k, 7k, 8k. Good luck bro.
...so what happened with the comment section?
Delete my comment too plz😅
they probably said "first"
Can you make an analysis about 6.88c tomorrow please? :3
i cant see that annoying comments of "first, second, third" so i guess that finally dotabuff do something for it... and great article, would be great if the make an article explaining more of these "tricky" heroes..
Good read! Thanks!
It was about enchanted mango win rate