No big release this week most likely. I need a few more days to complete a 40k x3 sample extension for the end of this patch period. This should allow me to do general sample tests with a much higher accuracy for every hero.
In lieu of an actual update, I thought I’d take some time this week to talk about why any of this matters, especially to a person who’s just trying to get better at basic, public matchmaking Dota. To do this I’ve dusted off a particularly neglected account last weekend, played some games, and we can use them as examples for how the things I do here influenced my decision making.
Now they’re not great games. This account was inactive for a long time, and I’d have to say the general level of play was significantly lower than when I last used it. Maybe there’s ratings decay from inactivity. Maybe the MMR system has just filled out since then. Maybe it’s pure placebo. In any case, it’s fine for us because it’s a level of play where bad decision making alone can easily lose you a game. And decision making is exclusively what I want to focus on.
So let’s start with a somewhat frustrating game that began with an interesting decision. It was All Random. Their team was Broodmother, Chaos Knight, Spectre, Ursa, and Warlock on Radiant. Dire was Clinkz, Clockwerk, Enigma, Bane, and me on Earthshaker. An stark contrast of compositions, and we’ll get to that, but for now let’s focus on lanes.
Predicting their lineup is more or less impossible. Pub teams in general can be essentially random when it comes to who’s laning where, and in their case they had so many carries that the only safe prediction was Ursa in the jungle.
As for our team, sometimes you can lobby your team into a certain lineup. Sometimes you can’t. In this case Clockwerk called top safe lane, Clinkz called mid, Enigma was obviously a jungle, and Bane was heading hard/bot. They expected me to go hard lane with Bane, but I went top. This confused them, and it might confuse some of you, but here’s why.
First, what exactly is a Bane/Earthshaker lane going to accomplish? You might be able to set up a kill, but in general Bane’s laning is built either around using Brain Sap for burst damage (or maybe attrition if you can get a quick Soul Ring) or using Nightmare and/or Enfeeble to set up kills for other heroes. Earthshaker on the other hand is entirely build around using Fissure to lock people into bad conditions and set up kills. I’m not going to say that you can’t make the lane work, but there’s no real synergy and a big risk that Earthshaker is just going to be standing around an an ineffective bodyguard.
The most universal advice for getting better at Dota is always be accomplishing something. Time is the most valuable resource, and you can’t afford to spend the first 5 minutes hanging around an area doing nothing. People like to send 2 people to the hard lane as insurance, but when it’s a weak lane that can’t accomplish anything you’re paying way too much for that insurance.
In our case, Bane was relatively safe. The only real CC threat was Chaos Knight, who wouldn’t have a long stun for several levels. Bane could use Nightmare and Brain Sap to keep himself relatively safe. He’s probably not going to compete in CS, but who cares? We have strong reason to believe that Bane’s CS level isn’t really that important to the teams success. He doesn’t win through CS. In the vast majority of cases he can’t win through CS. Every hero has a window they hit, and all Bane needs is a quick 6 so he can get some Fiend’s Grip kills. Having Earthshaker down there doesn’t do much to help him hit 6 and actually saps experience. Yeah, suicide lane Bane is a risk, but big deal. You can’t remove risk from a team composition. You should mitigate it with smart picks, but good lane selection should be driven by maximizing your advantages, not minimizing your risk.
So how does sending Earthshaker to our safe lane maximize our advantages?
1. Clockwerk is an all-in kinda laner. If a fight breaks out, Fissure can do a lot to control where we allow our opponents to move in such a way that allows Clockwork to land a good Battery Assault or Power Cogs.
2. Safe-lane Earthshaker can use pulls. This puts us in a scenario where all 5 people are actively earning experience, which is a lot better than sticking Earthshaker bot as an ineffective bodyguard.
3. We know that the enemy team has 4 carries by virtue of the random gods. Most likely this means one in each lane and one in the jungle. Using a combination of aggression and pulls we can strangle the farm on whichever carry gets sent to the Radiant hardlane. This should allow us to make them underfarmed and underleveled and give us a big advantage in the midgame while they’re struggling to catch up to relevance.
(Not as much of an advantage, but putting Earthshaker in our safe lane also gives a measure of security to our jungler, while also giving our jungler stronger opportunities to gank. It wasn’t especially relevant since Enigma didn’t do anything but free-farm, but it’s worth mentioning. These also cover a lot of the reasons why I dislike 2hard/1easy + Jungle comps as I mentioned in The Dota 2 Metagame)
As it turns out, their suicide solo is Spectre. We zone her out, but Clockwerk pushes the lane anyway. I respond by stacking with a heavy emphasis on denying. Enigma comes over and starts converting my pull creeps. The strategy still does a pretty good job delaying Spectre’s relevance significantly, and given the exact same scenario again I would absolutely endorse sending Earthshaker to the safe lane.
What I might do differently is put Clinkz in the safe lane, Bane in the mid, and Clockwerk in the hard lane. Clinkz is our farm priority, so giving him freefarm with little to no chance of denies is our strongest early option. Bane is our exp priority, so putting him mid allows us to guarantee a quick 6/7 into roaming. Clockwerk is the least exp dependent of the three, and not significantly more farm dependent than Bane. He also has the best tools for surviving a suicide solo while still getting Rocket farm.
Now let’s move onto part two where we look at what happened past laning.
The enemy team unfortunately did the smart thing and pushed our bot lane hard. They took the tower, but Bane did get the levels he needed. Clinkz was mid against Broodmother and it went ok but not great. Overall we came out pretty well, but they ended up getting our two most important towers fairly early. We responded by forcing a series of teamfights at the last tower which we won pretty resoundingly. Both teams did a reasonably good job trying to play up to their strengths, and it’s actually kinda interesting to note just how dissimilar those strengths were.
They had the late game and they had the push. Specifically, we couldn’t afford the resources mid to really shut down Broodmother, so our outer towers were really difficult to protect. On the other hand, because they had so much late game they had trouble finding the farm necessary for all their carries and so their early fight was actually pretty mediocre.
We, on the other hand, had virtually no late game. We had some amazing teamfight ult potential, and we generally did a pretty good job leveraging it. Let me tell you that I’ve never had an easier time landing Chaos Dunks than that game. We massively cleaned up early teamfights, and we took towers after we won them. But the problem was that once we took the early towers we had no impetus to do anything, and we stalled. When you have a team like ours, you cannot afford to stall. Every single characters’ relevance fades off in the late game vs a lineup that only gets stronger the longer the game goes on. Given their comp and our comp, we’re in a situation where if we do not take (multiple) barracks before late game rolls around we are probably going to lose.
This brings us to Clinkz. Due to the random gods our gameplan revolved entirely around Clinkz, and he quite frankly did not deliver. This isn’t to dump on the guy, but Clinkz is possibly the most misunderstood character in the game, and he’s the perfect example of big general principle number 2: if you fail to accomplish something with your character’s strengths, you’re not really doing much better than a feeder.
That may come across as controversial, but it’s 100% true. Every character has a window a relevance, and if you don’t take advantage of yours you are dead weight. Some characters have an easier to understand window than others. A carry like Spectre just gets better and better the longer the game goes and the more farm you feed into her. Batrider is always going to remain relevant because of the huge disable and displacement on Lasso. But some characters have a much narrower window in exchange for an earlier or larger power spike, and Clinkz is the crown prince of those characters.
Think about it. A hero with a strong windwalk, long range, really good early orb, and damage bonuses all over his kit. This guy should be total pubstomp material, and yet he has a 42% win rate. That’s a 42% win rate on a mechanically braindead character who also happens to be competitively viable, if a bit of a niche pick. Unsurprisingly, everything I’ve looked at suggests that Clinkz sees one of the largest win rate increases as player skill level increases, so better CS probably plays a roll, but there’s something else going on.
Clinkz has what I feel is the strictest window of relevance in the game. He has massive early damage increases, but you need the CS to get a quick mana item in order to use them regularly. The value of these damage increases are fairly static, which means their value diminishes as HP pools increase with game duration. Clinkz also will never become tanky. Evasive maybe, but never tanky. As the rest of the heroes in the game gear up and can force teamfights, this pulls Clinkz into a phase of the game that he does not want to be in, which means to play Clinkz well you have to essentially cripple the other team before they can reach that point.
So what did our Clinkz do wrong? He played relatively passively and stuck with the team. Despite our urgings to the contrary he would just farm passively after we won teamfights instead of just windwalking straight to the enemy base and taking a tower or barracks. He never split off to scout and punish solo farmers. Our early play gave him a massive advantage that he could have used to finish the game but instead he squandered it.
This is why I almost universally disagree with the assessment that new players should pick evasive heroes. Take Weaver. He’s not a carry who happens to have an escape. He’s a carry that’s very carefully balanced around the idea of having an escape. If you’re not constantly putting yourself into suicidal positions, getting the kill and Time Lapse/Shukuchi’ing out of those suicidal positions you’re quite frankly not playing the character very well. Yeah, someone like Luna doesn’t have an escape, but the flip side of that is that she doesn’t need balls-to-the-wall aggression to be an asset to her team. Just get decent farm, use your Eclipse at remotely appropriate times, and then glaive away during teamfights. Yes, there’s more to being a great Luna, but being a decent Luna is far more straightforward than being a decent Weaver or Clinkz.
At a more general level, what we’re running into here is that player’s consistently invest way too much in insurance. For example, “I don’t want to die so I’m going to build a Vanguard.” If you’re just buying it for insurance, Vanguard is not a cost-effective item. This is actually a really good thing for the balance of the game; but as a player trying to get better at the game, you have to recognize that the biggest first step to winning is constantly making decisions that allow you to constantly be the aggressor. If buying a Vanguard is part of your plan to live through otherwise suicidal dives and wrack up a big kill advantage for your teams, then yeah, go for it. But in that case you’re buying the Vanguard so you can be aggressive. You’re not sitting on the Vanguard just because it might help you live through a bad time fight, and then limp back to your base while the rest of your team is dead and they’re taking your barracks. You might be buying insurance for your K/D/A, but you’re not doing anything that’s helping your team win the actual game.