Captain's Mode 101

Not so long ago we discussed how playing Random Draft might be a better Dota experience, but there is one more mode to play in ranked matchmaking. One that gives the most control over how the game will develop and what strategy each team will adhere. Excitement in Captains Mode starts from the very beginning, and here are some general tips on improving your drafts and creating playable team compositions.

Draft Disables

There is a reason this rule is at the top of the list. It is possible to make a functional draft without a single stun, but it will still put your team at a major disadvantage. Draft your disables and draft them early, otherwise you will be cornered in a situation, where you will need very specific hero for a specific role and having limited options is never good.

Catch vs Initiation Heroes

Centaur Warrunner is an initiator. So is Magnus, but these heroes are very different. When drafting your disables, keep in mind cooldowns and how abilities play out. Lately, in the pro-scene, teams started drafting one low-cooldown, low-value “catch”-initiator and one big teamfight turning hero like Warlock. This allows teams to successfully gank, without the repercussions of long cooldowns. But when there is a massive teamfight, they are prepared.

“Cheese” heroes

Counter-picking is bread and butter of Captains Mode, but there are several heroes in the game, which require an answer before they are even drafted or thought of. Keeping these heroes in mind is always a good idea—their pick can completely change the landscape of the game and the draft.

Luckily, these heroes are generally hard to play and not every team will have a good dedicated player for Meepo, Broodmother, Visage etc. Regardless, keeping these “cheese” heroes in mind is always a good idea and having at least some form of outpush, some form of AoE control and some answers to split-push is a necessity.

Ask teammates to check enemy profiles

There is nothing wrong with getting to know your enemy before the game begins. A lot of players are exceptionally good on some heroes and play them a lot. Allowing them to pick such hero is a huge mistake. You might be playing in a 3k average game, but it doesn’t mean that one of the enemies can’t play Visage like a 5k. Checking the “cheese” heroes is a priority, but even more regular confident picks for the enemy can be devastating for your team.

Opening Picks

Keep your opening picks flexible. They do not necessarily need to be trick heroes, but they shouldn’t force you into a particular strategy archetype either. The current meta revolves around early position 3 or 4 picks, generally with a good “catch” hero or a strong counter-initiator. These heroes fit virtually any lineup and every team needs disables.

Do not over-respond to the enemy’s draft

This mistake is a lot harder to unlearn since most players are programmed to respond to specific enemy picks with specific picks of their own. Yes, counter-picking is great, but dedicating more than two heroes specifically for shutting down one of the enemy heroes will leave you with a mess of a team. Countering the enemy strategy is good. Having your own strategy and game plan is better.

Know your teammates

This is applicable at all levels of play. A player having very high MMR doesn’t mean he can play every single hero in the game. Morphling can be the absolute best pick for the situation, but if you don’t have a player to execute the hero properly, going for a more comfortable option is almost always better. Push your team to their limits, but not over it.

Keep early game in mind

The pace of the game is very different from the one we had in the 6.8x era, where the comeback gold mechanic made comebacks so much easier. The current metagame doesn’t allow for complete throws of the early game. You don’t need to dominate all three lanes to win the game and it is possible to get back into the action after a series of successful high ground defences, but why put yourself in such position in the first place? Laning is important, heroes don’t automatically start the game with level 6 and having ways to deal with early skirmishes is advised.

Know your timings and play according to them

This is less of a draft problem and more of an execution one, but it still worth mentioning. Different team compositions will peak at different timings. Some teams will only get stronger as the game progresses, while others will be an absolute powerhouse in the 20-30 minute window, but will quickly fizzle away afterwards. Play what you drafted. Gank if you need to gank, push if you need to push or turtle up if you need to. Don’t get sucked into the automatic pattern of Dota, but rather think of what your specific lineup needs to do at this specific moment.

More from The Dotabuff Blog
Ghastly Wail

    First Time First!

    I only had like 16 Captains Mode Games. But these were srsly the best Games i ever had in DotA 2.

    This was by far my most enjoyable Game ever!

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      1st Caller (almost) denied!!! Cant overstate how often people try to so hard to counter pick and we end up with a team that cant do anything together..

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      AGAN.Kenny Gsus
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          Let me tell you what happens in ranked captains mode

          1)Pick the most op heroes
          2)ban random heroes / most picked heroes / tilting heroes to play against
          3)MAYBE some counter pick
          4)MAYBE some sinergy pick

          Your article is IDEALLY correct, but the facts remain the same: people pick always the same heroes (also caled "meta heroes") for obvious reasons, and maybe few times they MIGHT considering doing some counter pick (sinergy pick is even less known).


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            I played with a 4 stack once and our random teammate got the captaincy... didn't click fast enough


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              7th, or if you don't count the CENSORSHIP then I'm 5th.

              Praise dotabuff in all its glory, may icefrog never balance the game.

              Plz no delete.

              Jack Attack

                I sincerely wish people actually queued captains mode for ranked above 2k. I think it's exciting to take me out of my comfort zone with what hero suits the situation best.

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                  8th - Captains mode suck on solo mmr

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                    Can I make it 10th?

                    Cursed Golf Ball

                      theres a very good app for captains mode (and ranked in general), called smart picks


                        10th. Thank u mom and dad also my bro my sis my cuz my grandma my grandpa my friends


                          sometimes your best hero really is the best pick for the game. don't pick like you were a pro team- let's face it, you're probably not a pro player

                          a funk

                            Not sure if I'm missing something about the "ask your teammates to check your opponents profiles" part. Didn't they remove the ability to see recent games from people's profiles that you aren't friends with?

                            M C T


                              M C T

                                a funk - u can confuse other players by putting ur 3 least played heroes as ur profile badges

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                                1-IceTea 🌟

                                  Valve 101 is better then Captain mode 101


                                    Ah yes who would not like to play a random hero with a strategy only the random captain knows. That is the first guy to click on captain button.

                                    Jihadi Joe

                                      me and my friend played together in a party and we won all of the matches. because we can play anything and we really try to ban and counterpick good. what i just dont get are those random teammates they say convulsively ''i only play (insert lane) i cant play another lane'' or ''i only can play this hero if u dont pick it cap ill report you''

                                      i mean lol why u playing this mode if u only want/can play one lane/hero


                                        Let me tell you a little story where I had the balls to enter Battle Cup with a random stack (much like a pub game) and what turned out to be a classic blame-game shitfest (much like a pub game).

                                        I pick captain since I'm clearly the most experienced in my team (judging by their profiles). Pick centaur and dazzle in the first phase while banning drow and venge since they went first pick slardar. I instantly get flamed by this one genius who just doesnt stop talking about how bad the draft is and how he can do a better job. I instantly switch the captain role over to him, shut the fuck up and enjoy the show. We win the first game in a stomp with our teamfight capabilities.

                                        Second game he takes captain's role since the very beginning, first picks cores, gets 3 farm reliant cores and 2 aggressive supports, no defence, no ganking heroes, no high ground defence. We lose to a stomp. Lesson learned: In this game, people cannot be begged, bargained or reasoned with. They are like the Joker from The Dark Knight. They do what they want to do. Period.

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                                          "You might be playing in a 3k average game, but it doesn’t mean that one of the enemies can’t play Visage like a 5k."
                                          Hey, that's me. :)

                                          Я очень счастлив

                                            Это важно.

                                            alitalia in da houze

                                              First!!!!!!!!! xDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD


                                                ^^^ me too.. *VisageSpammerCult


                                                  I play a 7k mmr sniper⬆️⬆️⬆️

                                                  hungry guillotine

                                                    Unreal to find cm , 1 hour searchings and still not found


                                                      Yeah I stopped playing CM when the captain picked Magnus for me, despite me repeatedly telling him that I had NEVER played that hero. I don't know how on earth he expected anything but a negative 25 mmr from that game.

                                                      Jihadi Joe

                                                        for CM you really need to know how to play all heroes well on every lane and to be flexible. i play mostly mid and offlane but when we needed kotl then i played kotl pos 4 because i play kotl like a god.


                                                          ^ Pros can't even play all heroes well...


                                                            I don't like CM. Last time I played CM was in Battle Cup and before that was previously when I first calibrated (1.4k then, 3.2k now). I don't find it as interesting and watching pro game drafting phases is much more fun. Drafting here is so bad and you can't even guarantee a good drafter, or players who want to follow your draft, not because they can't, but because they don't want to play like that.

                                                            CM drafting is also REALLY weird here. It always all about the pub cancers. Supports aren't really good at supporting. You need to draft a pub game rather than a pro game. It doesn't give me the type of drafting experience I was looking for.

                                                            Also most people do say you get a 3, and 4 usually for your first 2 picks. That's good but sometimes you also just want to pick a versatile position hero + 1. Ogre is staple as a support and Jug is pretty standard. The first couple of picks its also more about heroes who can get dumpstered less from an early pick in most cases. Unless you are wanting to run a cheesey strat like a chinese push strat. But in most common pubs, the former is still the way to go.

                                                            Jug is a good example because he can either lane mid or safelane, depending on which has a better match up. Though something like an early Weaver might be more probable in being a support Weaver rather than offlane or core if the enemy drafts plenty of disables.


                                                              My experience with CM...

                                                              Had a random captain in Battle Cup.

                                                              Went first phase Shadow Demon. Didn't pick Luna. Instead goes Shaker.

                                                              Pick Sven over TB or Drow. Drow would have been so better there.

                                                              Then a mid Silencer, and offlane Bristle.

                                                              That first phase picks and Sven pick was the most retarded drafting I have seen.

                                                              The R.Rogue

                                                                Once had a cm,it goes very nice.Although I had 1k ,due to whatever reason I get to be captain :).And we all also do a very good draft like a invo Pudge combo,bs venge,and lot of other.Cm is fun actually if you know a good draft and combo and also a teammate who will to cooperate at least

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                                                                  Dude seriously anyone who picks captains mode and doesnt understand what they are getting into is the worst kind of dota player I understand how the draft works and the best way to do it doesnt mean you are always going to get the best draft raging at your captains and trying to make a team that benefits everyone on your random 5 stack is impossible and sometimes you are going to have to go out of your comfort zone in captains mode games that is part of the fun IMO in playing those i'll be happy to play on a shitty captains team and just have a fuck around game yeah if its a bad draft you are going to get stomped most liikely but then you just blame the enemy captain for being try hard nerd.


                                                                    Not well grammared comment but honestly the idea is its another game of dota and you are essentially committing to the game no matter the turn out when you queue for it so just sit back play the game and try to figure out what your team can do and when the team can fight and can't fight and what they need to do to fight or win fights rather than rage about how bad the draft is at least the time in the game wont be such a waste of your time and you may learn something.

                                                                    Granpire Viking Man

                                                                      Visage is cheese?! How DARE you? :(


                                                                        I used to go by the name cheezfox... I was a Meepo spammer for awhile :-3


                                                                          и где перевод?


                                                                            Post about captains mode and there are 3 mid heros in picture!

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