Drafting an Upset: Power Rangers vs Alliance

[Obviously spoilers.  If you like, you can watch the VOD before reading further]

I’ve talked a lot about Alliance here, first about their G1 performance and then recently about their usage of Naga Siren at TI3, so when I found out about this game I knew I had to talk about it.  Power Rangers did their homework for the draft phase, and it earned them a victory over the current International champs.

Stats provided by datdota.com

Stats provided by datdota.com

Since TI3, there’s been a lot of talk about how to ban against Alliance, particularly the sentiment that Na`Vi had the right idea in ignoring AdmiralBulldog’s heroes to focus on the star supports in Naga Siren and Chen.  Of course the “right” bans depend a lot on the context of the game and what your team is best prepared to deal with, but I actually think Power Rangers have a far better plan here.  My top three draft threats on Alliance are Wisp/Io, Naga Siren, and Nature’s Prophet in that order.  Power Rangers opens with bans against Naga and Prophet and leaves Wisp in the pool as they have first pick.

The lesson of TI3 wasn’t that you don’t target AdmiralBulldog with first round bans; it was that you don’t target Lone Druid.  While Lone Druid is Bulldog’s signature hero, Prophet is a far stronger complement to Alliance’s typical gameplan.  I also feel that Alliance is far more willing to grab Prophet with a first round pick than they are Lone Druid.  Power Rangers capitalized on this tendency by using their second pick to take Bounty Hunter and then immediately followed that with a Lone Druid ban.  This allowed them to take out Bulldog’s trinity while only giving up a Chen in exchange.

As for Chen, yes, he’s a strong hero, and Alliance uses him well.  But he’s also predictable.  If you give up Naga Siren, you don’t know what to expect.  She can fit into a defensive trilane, offensive trilane, and 2v3 lane.  Chen on the other hand will be in the jungle, and likely his jungle (Alliance seems to prefer Enchantress for aggressive jungling).  Combined with the early CC-less Abaddon pick, Alliance’s selections revealed that their laning phase would likely be relatively passive and protective.  Chen will occasionally gank the safe lane and mid, but their overall safe lane pressure on the suicide lane Bounty Hunter would be weak and they will not be able to offer Bulldog any support in the Radiant bot lane.

Taking advantage of Alliance’s early commitment to Chen, Power Rangers goes greedy with their final three selections: Weaver, Treant Protector, and Chaos Knight.  Treant Protector in particular is a hero I’ve been down on since his recent nerfs, but Power Rangers know that Alliance’s lineup will not be able to contest his pull camp farm effectively.  They pair his selection with Weaver, a hero that he synergizes well with and that doesn’t require a babysitter against Batrider, freeing Treant to find all the farm he needs for quick ranks in Living Armor.  Meanwhile, Wisp can find those relocate levels from mid lane pulls and through babysitting Chaos Knight.  It’s pretty much the greediest support draft imaginable, but Alliance doesn’t have the tools to contest it.

The other aspect here is that not only does Living Armor tilt the Weaver vs Batrider matchup in Weaver’s favor, it also turns suicide lane Bounty Hunter into a credible threat against Alliance’s relatively weak safe lane.  If my memory serves me, Living Armor allows Bounty Hunter to evade an early Chen gank, and then immediately destroy both of Alliance’s sentry wards with one of his own.  One of the keys to a good Treant draft is using him to get more out of the laning phase than your opponents, and Power Rangers successfully uses Living Armor to successfully lane three heroes with some degree of right-click carry potential.

The final thing Power Rangers’ draft has going for it is that it’s very unified in its timing goals.  As I’ve pointed out previously, Treant Protector as a hero peaks very early and falls off as the game goes on.  Wisp also has its greatest influence around the same point of the game immediately after it picks up Relocate.  Given the early-game skew of their supports, Weaver and Chaos Knight make perfect sense as carry pickups.  The big liability to Chaos Knight as a hero is that he does not scale in in the late game nearly as well as most other carries, but this isn’t a liability if your entire lineup is oriented to dominate the game between levels six and eleven.  Bounty Hunter also fits in perfectly to scout out these early ganks and turn them into a massive gold advantage through track kills.

In short it was a smart draft.  They eliminated Alliance’s most problematic heroes, forced Bulldog out of his comfort zone, took advantage of the expected Chen pick, and put together a draft with a unified timing window.  It’s not a strategy that can work all the time because it’s very dependent on having first pick for Wisp, but it’s still one of the best examples of reading and countering a team’s tendencies I’ve seen this year.

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9 Responses to Drafting an Upset: Power Rangers vs Alliance

  1. nashon says:

    how many times have wisp and treant been drafted and what is their success rate?

    just curious.

  2. Indubitably says:

    What do you mean by CK not scaling late game? He just stacks strength and absolutely demolishes anything in his path O_O

    • ieXies says:

      He doesn’t scale as good as other heroes.
      Alchemist and antimage peak in 30 minutes while CK w/o a wisp to help him get kills peaks in 40-45 minutes because he has no way to farm effectively , he can only autoattack while alchemist has goblins greed, antimage has one of the fastest jungle clears due to his blink, gyro and luna can easly kill 4/5 x stacks of ancients due to flak/ glaive.

    • phantasmal says:

      My farm dependency tests reliably have CK towards the bottom of the carries (roughly 30th overall), and he’s in the top 15 heroes that perform better in shorter public games. My suspicion is that CK’s ultimate is a really high immediate damage spike, but because it’s illusions without an orb effect, it doesn’t actually scale that well with gear increases compared to something like Chemical Rage. On top of this, it has a relatively high cooldown which is somewhat of a liability in the lategame compared to carries like Naix, Gyrocopter, and Antimage that are all still major right click damage threats even when their ultimates are down.

  3. red says:

    seems like [A] was testing some strat in this and not entirely on winning.
    notice the abaddon pick there, which if it was the usual strategy they’d pick LD/BH obviously for AB. power rangers are really wrecking quite a bit of the teams here, just want to point out that [A] wasnt really focused on their picks in this situation.

    we’ll see if this will work again.

    • phantasmal says:

      At some level of course Alliance is testing strats. It’s the group stages of the tournament immediately following TI3 and the introduction of four new heroes to CM, so it’s the perfect time to go experimental. But they’re also relatively serious about this Abaddon pick. Of the 6 recorded games since TI3 (so not counting the Quantic game that never ended), they’ve picked Abaddon in half of them.

      On top of that, as far as I can tell, Alliance never picks Bounty Hunter with their opening picks, at least recently. Lone Druid they do sometimes, because if he’s still in the pool past the opening picks teams will ban him, but they’ve also only played Lone Druid 9 times since July compared to 7 for Clockwerk, 10 for Bounty Hunter, and 25 for Nature’s Prophet. It’s my belief that this isn’t just a result of bans and that Alliance is more hesitant to rely on LD since 6.78 came out.

      It’s definitely not the beginning of the end for Alliance or anything like that, but it also wasn’t an especially unconventional draft given their recent trends.

    • it’s really strange for me to see alliance outpicked. i agree wit you tho, they seem to be testing a strat not just with abbadon but also with bulldog. [A] cant really maintain their first place for another year with bulldog playong a very limited hero pool. bulldog maybe practicing for another hero (bat for example, which is one of s4 signature hero).

  4. CartesianDoubter says:

    I personally feel that Alliance are becoming too predictable with their picks and plays. They rely heavily on their ability to out-play (because there is no denying their skill and ability) their opponents that removing key heroes like Prophet and Naga are becoming enough to force them into a single strat that can be counter picked.

    We’ll see though, as it could be just test picks as mentioned. It just looks to me as if they aren’t reacting to the recent changes in the metagame.

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