The Case For Random Draft

wings.iceice spamming Random Draft before his DPL matches.

There was a time, back in Dota 1, when Random Draft was the premier mode for tryhard players. It was back when -apem—all pick, easy mode—was the rampant game type. It was a mode that encouraged players to instant pick their favorite or meta heroes, and accelerate through the early game because of inflated gold and XP gain from “easy mode.” APEM incentivized picking late-game cores, because they didn’t have to deal with the disadvantages of a poor, early-game. “Easy mode” generated enough gold such that it wasn’t a detriment to have five cores on your team. Everyone would get their items and levels.

It’s a familiar, less extreme story for all-pick in today’s game. Players constantly hover over their carousel of their 2-3 favorite heroes—usually cores, and usually the heroes of the meta. Support players are few and far between, and you’re lucky if you have one of them. One tip to circumvent the all-core syndrome of pubs, recommended by Kawaiisocks, is to declare that you’re playing a jungler, forcing one player to play the 5th support, then turning around and picking a support player yourself so your team would have now have two of them. That’s the kind of trickery that’s often needed to have a Dota game look at all remotely like one that’s played on a serious level.

And yet All-Pick is the mode for tryhard, MMR climbers. Before banning, it wasn’t uncommon to see page after page of the same 2-3 heroes spammed. With the introduction of bans, that selection is a tad wider, but the mindset remains the same. Play the best heroes to win the game.

As players drift towards All Pick for ranked matchmaking, they’re missing out on essential ways they can improve their Dota game through Random Draft. This isn’t the case for regions like EUW and China, where Random Draft queue times aren’t far greater than All Pick.

Improv To Improve

When wings.gaming won TI6, the team was lauded for the breadth of their hero pool, the versatility of their players, and their ability to adapt on the spot. RD is a mode that forces players to think on their feet, to decide with limited options. There were few things you could take away from that wings.gaming team that would have rattled them.

It’s no secret that Random Draft is the premier mode for Chinese players, both pub players and professionals. The entire wings team hammers out pages of RD games between their pro matches. China’s meta used to be the hallmark of stale and trite playstyles, to their own detriment, but for a while now, the region has been the breeding ground for new strategies and picks.

Pub players play All Pick, because by nature of the mode they want the choice of picking their favorite heroes. For ranked matchmaking, that also means the best and strongest heroes. That’s good for practice, but players who aspire to get better at Dota by playing the heroes pros play are often forgetting another side of the game.

Without a draft, All Pick is more or less the same every game, and it’s not just because people pick meta heroes, or what’s left of them after the bans, but it’s about the kind of people who are inclined to do so in the first place. They’re fixed in the heroes they pick, the heroes that others should pick, and overall, how Dota should be played. Conjoin this mindset with the drive to climb MMR and you’re left with a mindset leaves little room for flexibility and an openness to try something new.

Thinking Outside The Box

Wings did not shy away from picking a Techies and Pudge in the upperbracket finals of TI6.

Random Draft limits your toolbox of heroes and forces players to make do with what they have. Instead of starting with picking the best heroes, players have to think holistically and pick in context. A pool may still include some of the best heroes, but it has a limited choice of solid offlaners. Or there could be a few hero synergies that outweigh the benefit of nabbing that meta hero.

Random Draft’s advantage is that it can strike a balance between the amount of choice it gives players. The current pool of 50 may be too large, such that it can cater to even the most limited players. And while All Pick guarantees bans on the most flagrant heroes of the meta, in RD there’s a decent chance you’ll end up with a few of them. There is a delicate balance here, since attempting to reduce the hero pool also risks leaving teams without sufficient counters.

However, compare the mode to either CM (Captain’s Mode) or CD (Captain’s Draft). Random Draft allows heroes that aren't currently in CM, making the mode a quick, experimental playground. But the reality behind both CM and CD is that the average player can't Captain, doesn’t know how to draft, and there isn’t enough time to combine mental resources to prepare. Forcing one player to head the draft ends up being the blind leading the blind.

The commonality between the Captain’s modes and All Pick is that its players aspire to play a game that hews to what a professional game looks like. They’re picking the heroes that they saw their favorite players play, or they’re trying to draft EG’s winning lineups. They’re copying without understanding.

Playing With Humility

One of the largest frustrations with playing Dota, and the root cause of most flame wars, is when play doesn’t meet expectations. It’s always about what should have happened. No one plays perfect Dota, with pub players by far more distant than this ideal, yet a missed spell cast or a lapse in judgment on positioning more often leads to finger pointing than an acceptance that most of us are just average Dota players fumbling in the dark.

It’s that great Dota is so close to us. It’s in replays just one tab away in the client and on Twitch streams everyday. And people play pubs with an expectation that they can approximate that kind of play. At Dotabuff we often see hero popularity spike based off one tournament’s meta.

Random Draft off the bat puts a handicap on all players. They’re required to take a step back, away from the mindset of let’s do exactly what the best players do, and instead try to make the best of what we have in front of us. There’s a shared understanding, and it tends to generate a more cohesive team environment. Losing isn’t the fault of one captain’s draft or one player’s mistakes.

Random Draft’s Current Problems

The issues with Random Draft is that it there aren’t enough people playing it. There aren’t enough players outside of China. The mode might suffer the same fate as Captain’s Draft, when it didn’t have enough players. Games had a large variance in MMR, and the limited player pool opened up doors for others to abuse and exploit MMR.

The bright side is that players don’t have to pick just one mode for ranked matchmaking. They can still select multiple modes and queue for all the lines. If players who aim to climb MMR really want to get better at Dota, each mode has something to offer. Where All Pick is about approximating how good Dota looks, Random Draft is about how good players should think.

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pro feeder

    No first for any of you

    *Improv to Improve

    This comment was edited
    DarKNovA [screws meta]

      The mode could have been improved by making 2 heroes available from each stat, or categorizing by role, not primary stat.

      2k and proud

        It's a lot more fun to play more than just the same 2-3 heroes every game, anyway. Great article.


          Quite common in EU though, probably influenced by Wings.

          Coup de Grace

            I have never actually played RD, but I like playing single draft quite often. I like that for the same reasons; as well as leading to fun combinations and unusual heros in certain roles


              i really like RD but can't play it, queues are 15 min long

              Se vende items.Quinkerros

                But now supports have less gold with 7.03 :(

                "Passive gold income reduced by 10%"

                R.I.P. supports in yo' pubs EleGiggle

                ...hide and seek in water...

                  Wings did not pick Techies+Pudge in the grand finals, they picked it first round upper bracket in game 2 against DC.

                  They also faced DC in the Grand Finals Bo5 but did not pick Techies/Pudge that series.

                  H U R T

                    "The issues with Random Draft is that it there aren’t enough people playing it."

                    yep in my Foulfell you can't find RD, i wanted to play this one tho

                    It's Treason Then.

                      Authors last game was back in 2k15..... Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?


                        ^ that IS strange. Explain yourself eggs.


                          Nice article


                            Best article on Dotabuff so far. A lot of points made here resonate with me. Bravo!


                              @@hide and seek

                              thanks, fixed!


                                "Wings did not shy away from picking a Techies and Pudge in the grand finals of TI6."

                                and then they got stomped :)


                                  Its sad there are 100+ heroes but you can see 20-30 same heroes used over and over.

                                  Fight Machine

                                    What's the point of picking an absolutely out of meta Oracle or Broodmother when there are stronger similar heroes? Even pro players spam certain heroes in pro matches. It's good to have a deep poll like EG, but it's not good to draft weak heroes and lose and draft meta heroes and win and repeat like Wings.


                                      who tf would pick broodmother in 7.03, she's so useless

                                      This comment was edited

                                        I'd prefer play mostly Random Draft now, for the reasons discussed here. All Pick is full of hero spammers, trolls, and smurfs. Random Draft is MUCH less likely to have any of those issues, for reasons I kinda but don't totally understand, and in general I like my teammates better and we try to figure out the winning strat. I love CM too, but only with a capt who at least tries to draft heroes the team can play. Surprisingly often the capt is like all good dota players should be able to play all the heroes ... I mean, I can play visage mid and even have once in a shit game 17 months ago, I'm sure it'll be fine, etc.


                                          @INTERISTIL I had to play the hero 7 times to get a win for the All-Hero Challenge because I'm a tryhard completionist and it takes that many games to get one victory...

                                          M C T

                                            Dotabuff never talks about Battlepass Quests


                                              Tryhard players don't care about improving.They only care about winning, and if spamming always the same hero results in higher chance of winning, they'll do it. Thias is what not only competitive teams do (and always did) on the overall, but also "solo queue players". Are you annoyed about people always picking the same hero pools in every match? Suggest a system that does not allow that, if it bothers you. Unless something changes, things are gonna keep staying like this for now.

                                              This comment was edited

                                                Couldn't agree more, the games where you get, based on their chat self proclaimed pros. They have a meltdown losing to a rare pick and you look on their profile and they only play 2-3 chars and not surprisingly have no idea of other chars.

                                                UAS jan maen blajar

                                                  and that is why u never spam heroes


                                                    Does the tomb for xp on the Zeus mean that at min 11 he purchased the tomb and kept it all game long? Or... does that mean he purchased his first one at the 11th min then had another one at the end of the game he had not consumed?

                                                    Is this some eccentric ploy to boost tomb purchasing and holding like some love the enchanted mango?

                                                    This comment was edited

                                                      I love CM too, but only with a capt who at least tries to draft heroes the team can play

                                                      Some dimwit nagged at me to pick him WR offlane against NS
                                                      I'd rather play random draft that playing that shitfest of pro wannabes on solo queue


                                                        I hate myself being a noob. I think, what's holding me back to improve is doubting my own capability and skills.



                                                          One of the best articles ever! Nice Read.


                                                            Couldn't agree more with Eggs that Random Draft suffers a lack of players, I want to play but queue times exceeds 99 min most of the time.

                                                            Positively Negative Player

                                                              this is stupid
                                                              all china players playing random draft

                                                              This comment was edited

                                                                I used to spam Random draft back when it was a 24 hero pool, but now its 50 it has lost all of its appeal to me, I don't feel like it really limits people as one of their top 3 heroes is almost certainly going to be in the pool

                                                                Se vende items.Quinkerros

                                                                  Can Dotabuff make a post about Crystal Maiden been picked 19 items in the Kiev Major Europe Regional Qualifier with a 63% winrate please? BibleThump


                                                                    AR for win!


                                                                      is roshan supposed to give you 2 cheeses? thought it was only 1


                                                                        Hi. I'm a noob and how do I learn to draft? I know I have to be aware of a lot of things that change when the meta changes, but I'm struggling to find even a general (objective) guide that points me to the right direction.

                                                                        @ProFeeder Thanks, I love you.


                                                                          Well said.
                                                                          I play Random Draft, and I really hope more ppl play it.


                                                                            I never liked to put random draft to my matchmaking much but in some period we put random in party and i gonna say i had very often really nice fun, but never more playing that little bit sad face but you guy propably know the same, it should be comon rule for new accounts playing at least - lets say tens of games RD, its actually give you a lot (gave me).


                                                                              if someone's spamming a specific hero for quite some time doesn't mean he'll play the same hero for the rest of his life. lol. no rule restrains people from spamming so deal with it. it's his loss if he doesn't get to learn much for doing so, anyway. :)

                                                                              This comment was edited
                                                                              Juventus FC|2/3

                                                                                The best mode is single draft in low priority, I always enjoy as hell those games.

                                                                                double apple

                                                                                  i enjoy lp because of this :P


                                                                                    thank you Dotabuff for helping me sharing the beauty of random draft. me and my friend is the only player in SEA looking for Random draft, or move to China server to playing there with 100+ ping but the teamwork in RD imo is a way better than ALLpick

                                                                                    Titanus Infernis

                                                                                      This is amazing


                                                                                        single draft is fun too, and please, our concern is why is OP last game is 2 years ago.

                                                                                        ^ that IS strange. Explain yourself eggs.


                                                                                          We're on to to you Eggs


                                                                                            "Support players are few and far between, and you’re lucky if you have one of them."

                                                                                            Hits waaaaay too close to home, this. We're a dying breed. Haha!

                                                                                            In my opinion, positions 4 and 5 are the most complex roles to fill due the wide range of responsibilities these two positions are expected of: from disrupting enemy cores' farm by harassing and ganking, to maintaining and denying map vision, to timing good initiations and countering them, all with very limited gold and resources. Not much appreciation and support to supports in pubs.


                                                                                              lol,,,just find in rank match and 10 min already ...SEA Server prove that they are all cancer...xD


                                                                                                Before random draft's rework (20 heroes) yeah sure you could improve from that, but in the new one (50 heroes) no you cant improve , not that much at least cause there will be a lot of meta heroes and counter heroes without a doubt. Im quite dissapointed from that change , back in warcraft lll this mode was quite fun and hard at the same time




                                                                                                    Nice read!
                                                                                                    But sometimes I got the feeling that you get no counter in random draft. Thats just bugging me!
                                                                                                    Besides that I gotta agree to Dissimilar Direction. You cannot aprove you play with a specific heroe when you only draft him every once in a while, because of too many heroes in the RD pool!