I don’t intend on straying into the pro game too often. Plenty of other people do that better than I do, and my stat work is focused on public matchmaking and maybe occasionally extrapolating that to amateur organized matches. But today’s game was an interesting (and rare) case of Na’Vi definitively getting outpicked. It also shares some themes with an upcoming post about the double-edged sword of carry potential and carry risk.
The match is https://dotabuff.com/matches/67112954 and is viewable in-client either temporarily or indefinitely, I don’t know which. There’s likely also a VOD somewhere, but I’m sick so do your own googling.
Ban Phase 1:
Na’Vi — Magnataur
EG — Bounty Hunter
Na’Vi — Dark Seer
EG — Batrider
Pretty standard bans. Looking at the most banned/picked characters for the last month on Dota-Academy you can see that Bounty Hunter, Dark Seer, and Batrider are the 5th, 2nd, and 1st most banned/picked characters. Magnataur is a much more recent trend. Looking at Dreamhack specifically you have this list which is kinda crazy in its uniformity. 8 heroes have been picked or banned at least 30 times (possibly out of 32 games) this tournament, and we’ll see all 8 of them get picked or banned before the second ban phase.
EG knows that Na’Vi gets first pick, and I feel they target their bans accordingly. Of the top 8, Bounty Hunter and Batrider are arguably the best combination of flexible and impactful. Magnataur has been comparable, but he was Na’Vi’s initial ban so it’s not like EG ever had a chance to ban him.
Dark Seer is, to my understanding, a ban targetted at EG’s playstyle. His performance this tournament hasn’t been great, but the ban makes sense as a targetted one. Interestingly, the Dark Seer ban was the ban in this phase that took the longest for either team to decide on. Part of this is probably because Na’Vi is also deciding which heroes to leave in the pool for their upcoming first pick.
Pick Phase 1:
Na’Vi — Templar Assassin
EG — Jakiro
EG — Sven
Na’Vi — Faceless Void
Na’Vi — Vengeful Spirit
EG — Undying
Here is where I would argue things went wrong for Na’Vi. The Templar Assassin pick makes sense for both teams. She’s arguably the most desirable hero remaining in the pool, but from EG’s perspective I would rather risk giving her to Na’Vi than Magnataur, Bounty Hunter, or Batrider. Bounty Hunter and Magnataur have been very successful this tournament, and they’re both very flexible and more than capable of being a suicide solo. With TA you’re immediately declaring your mid, which cuts down your options in later picks. This is because there are far more viable mid heroes and setups than there are for the suicide lane. Batrider is also a character that could potentially handle a suicide lane or mid (or even jungle). The other important factor is that TA is the most farm dependent of these 4 heroes.
EG responds with the Jakiro/Sven pick. This appears to be the declaration of their carry and safe lane support. Both are trendy picks right now, and Jakiro also helps make the EG draft more flexible since he can be built either to push early with points in his tower slowing passive or exclusively for AoE control through his nukes.
Na’Vi responds with Faceless Void and Vengeful Spirit. It is my argument that these picks lost them the draft.
With Faceless Void and Templar Assassin you have two heroes that both need farm and both share a similar set of lane vulnerabilities. TA is definitely the more self-sufficient of the two thanks to refraction, but if there’s a lane that TA cannot handle, then Faceless Void likely cannot handle it either short of a defensive tri-lane.
Vengeful Spirit doesn’t help matters. She’s an aggressive but risky support capping off what is an extremely aggressive but risky first 3 picks. There’s nothing wrong with having a strategy that goes all in, but you should go all in with your 4th and 5th picks so that your opponent doesn’t get the chance to counterpick. It’s not as though VS was a terribly likely ban at any phase in the game. Na’Vi could have grabbed Windrunner here and not tipped their hand at all, though it’s admittedly likely that a Windrunner pick wouldn’t have deterred EG’s next pick. I think grabbing Chen here instead of VS would have been Na’Vi’s best move if we’re only making slight adjustments to their overarching pick strategy.
EG fires back with a relatively quick Undying pick, which basically screams offensive trilane. Name a value of x where x + Vengeful Spirit + Faceless Void beats Sven + Jakiro + Undying. I can’t come up with a good one, and two of the least bad options I can think of get banned by EG in the next phase.
Ban Phase 2:
Na’Vi — Wisp
EG — Enigma
Na’Vi — Brewmaster
EG — Broodmother
Na’Vi — Rubick
EG — Chen
EG has a really good ban phase, whereas Na’Vi bats, in my opinion, 1 for 3. But it’s easier to have a good ban phase if your opponents are more committed to their lanes, so this really shouldn’t be surprising.
From EG’s perspective, Enigma and Chen are basically the strongest junglers in the pool that could help shore up the Faceless Void safe lane without committing to a full on tri-lane vs tri-lane battle. EG also knows that Na’Vi absolutely needs a suicide solo. I honestly think Broodmother is a really weak hero competitively right now, but I think EG is thinking ahead. They know precisely who they want to send to their safe lane, and Broodmother is the only effective counter that will fit Na’Vi’s lineup.
Na’Vi on the other hand bans Wisp and Rubick. Why? EG’s support picks have been telegraphed already. I don’t think Rubick is a great solo mid option anymore, and of all the big teamfight ults, Chronosphere is the least valuable to Rubick now that it doesn’t freeze Faceless Void himself.
Brewmaster is an ok ban. He’s pretty similar in role to what EG ends up running in mid. It’s not a gamebreaker for EG, but it at least qualifies as a relatively likely pick.
Pick Phase 2:
Na’Vi — Windrunner
EG — Beastmaster
Na’Vi — Lycan
EG — Clinkz
Ok, Windrunner, whatever. Kinda an inconsequential formality. I don’t think she helps Na’Vi’s lineup, but they were in pretty dire straits regardless.
Beastmaster is an interesting pick, because by sending him mid EG basically declares “We don’t care what happens mid.” Yeah, PA is going to outfarm him, but he’ll get his quick six and enough axe farm for a relatively quick bottle and soul ring. He can use his boar to stack a camp and his axes to catch up on farm.
True, PA will get farm, but who were they going to pick to stop that? Instead, they put a relatively weak laner with a strong early ult in a position where TA can’t force them out of exp range, kinda akin to how suicide lane Tidehunter usually works.
There’s also the added benefit that losing out creeps to mid-pulling isn’t going to hurt a Beastmaster nearly as much as it would a traditionally exp hungry solo mid.
Moving on, we get to Lycan. It’s out of nowhere and I chalk it up to a desperation pick.
And finally we get to Clinkz. EG knows for sure that nothing Na’Vi has can stand up to their tri-lane of Sven, Jakiro, and Undying. The eventual response will be to send Faceless Void and Vengeful Spirit to the suicide lane. Given this, Clinkz accomplishes two things:
1. Faceless Void now has no safe lane to farm. His best option is to go mid with Vengeful Spirit, but this would force TA to a sideline which won’t be much better for her than it was for FV+VS.
2. EG now has two big carry threats on opposite sides of the map. Maybe Na’Vi will find a way to slow one of them down (spoiler alert: they don’t) but it’s impossible for their lineup to hinder both. Whichever one that gets off to a good start will have a strong enough midgame (combined with the potent early teamfight of Jakiro, Undying, and Beastmaster’s massive stun) will easily be able to buy the other one some room to catch up.
Now we can look back at the Broodmother ban and see how smart it was. If there’s any hero that could give Clinkz some issues in a 1v1, it’s Broodmother. She can win the lane by attrition, and Clinkz has poor tools for dealing with her spiderlings. Either she’ll push down towers in a big way or she’ll devour the entire Dire jungle. Possibly both. EG knows in advance what they want to do, and they smartly target the one counter to their strategy.
Should Na’Vi have banned Clinkz? Well it’s easy to look back with hindsight and say “Yes!” but I think it’s something to consider for the future. If the other team is obviously running an offensive trilane, Clinkz in safe lane is a very dangerous complement to that. I’m also not really big on the Enchantress pick, in most line-ups I feel Chen outclasses her, but if Na’Vi had taken Clinkz out of the pool Enchantress might have been a good option to buy Faceless Void some space. Either she can help keep the offensive trilane in check, or she can switch over with Faceless and Vengeful and offensive jungle. It certainly would have given their lineup a hell of a lot more flexibility than Lycan brought.
Na’Vi is kinda known for being a bit greedy in their drafts, and this time it really came back to haunt them. It’s an important lesson for pubbing too. If you’re picking Templar Assassin, Lycan, and Faceless Void, you run the risk of having one or more of them become underfarmed and essentially useless. It can be nice to have some farm…agnostic characters in a lineup. What I mean is heroes like Beastmaster who can function splendidly with little more than a decently quick level 6, but who can also help out your late-game with a maxed attack speed aura and a Necrobook 3. This gives you more room to adapt to how well the enemy team does or does not shut down your early CS.
I’d argue that this is also why you rarely see true carries much higher than 53% at best on the hero win percentage charts. 6.74 Lycan and Ursa were possible counter-examples, but they behaved quite differently from actual carries like Na’ix and Lone Druid. Also there’s +6.75 Drow, but she’s stupid overpowered in the bottom half of matchmaking, which I suspect accounts for a lot of her ~59% win rate.