6.78 Patch Restrospective [Link]

August 31, 2013

The hero usage rate article I mentioned yesterday is now available on teamliquid.  I’ll archive it here later, but tonight I’m too exhausted tonight to do anything other than maybe resetting my LoL password to unlock Hecarim and charge my way up to Diamond.  Or buy a Diamond account and tank it into Bronze #egel

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New Article Coming Tomorrow

August 29, 2013

Sorry for the slow week.  Some of the things coming up are a bit larger than usual on my end, but a few have been completed and one will be published on teamliquid.net tomorrow.  I’ll be at PAX over the weekend, but I’ll try to archive them here as soon as I can for those of you using readers.

I don’t entirely know what publishing order we’re going with, but some of the things coming up are:

  • Public hero usage trends from 6.77 -> 6.78  (Can you guess which hero saw an 164% increase in usage in Very High games?)
  • A TI3 hero profile on Wisp
  • Lots and lots about Naga Siren

6.78 Farm Dependency, including Bristleback, Skywrath, Elder Titan, and Abaddon

August 22, 2013

More TI3 stuff is coming soon, but there will be a slight delay before we hit the actual new stuff.  In the meanwhile, with TI3 done I’ve put together a sufficient 6.78 sample (~36k games from Very High), so let’s lead off with the farm dependency readings of the 4 new heroes that weren’t present in 6.77.

[6.78]FarmDepNewHeroes

Back when I wrote Abaddon Is Not a Carry, I received a couple complaints.  Some were reasonable, others less so.  One of the more reasonable ones is that I didn’t have any data supporting my claim.  Well now we do, and it turns out that carry Abaddon doesn’t seem to be working too well.

The scoring system I’m using doesn’t mean a lot, so let me break it down how it works with Abaddon.  I have about 3200 Abaddon games, and I divide them by the ending CS/min of Abaddon.  I divide them into 5 evenly sized groups with the best CS performances in the top group and the worst in the bottom.  Carry heroes tend to score really high.  Anti-Mage for instance has been top 5 in every iteration of the test and came in #1 in the current test.  What determines this is that Anti-Mage’s top 20% CS performances had win rates of near 80%; his bottom 20% CS performances had win rates under 10%.  This proves that in top end matchmaking the success of teams with Anti-Mage is highly correlated with how well that team manages to find Anti-Mage farm.

Abaddon’s results are almost the complete opposite, which is why he comes in at 92 out of 102.  The average boost a hero receives from being in the top 20% is about +19% to overall win rate.  Abaddon’s top 20% is only 14%.  On the other end of the spectrum the picture is even more stark.  On average, performances in the bottom 20% have a -22% win rate; Abbadon’s is a meager -10%, which is the 5th best performance in this category (or 5th worst if you’re hoping for proof that carry Abaddon is the one true path).  What this tells us is that support Abbadon is extremely viable.  Semi-carry Abbaddon also appears relatively viable, since his top 20% score is relatively high for someone with such a low score overall.  That being said, there is absolutely no evidence that he’s working as a carry.  And that’s fine.  Puck and Zeus have really low farm dependency scores, and you don’t see people demanding that they only play support.  What you should recognize though is that if you’re straight up trading passive farm on an Abaddon, Puck or Zeus for a Anti-Mage, Faceless Void, or Lone Druid, you’re losing that trade hard.

As for the other 3 new heroes, Skywrath Mage‘s profile actually looks pretty similar to Abaddon and Nyx Assassin.  I see these as heroes that can either play a supporting role or a low-farm dependency semi-carry role, which leads to their bottom 20% score being relatively high, but their top 20% score also being high relative to the heroes that are near to them in overall score.  Elder Titan has really low dependency scores overall, so I’d consider him a straight up farm independent presence regardless of where you run him.  Bristleback is much closer to the middle of the pack than the other new heroes.  I’d consider his profile similar to Centaur Warrunner in that he won’t win you any games through carry potential, but he makes a good platform for defensive utility items to both support his team while also giving him the survivability he needs to maximize his annoyance.

As for shifts among the rest of the cast between 6.77 and 6.78, it can be difficult to say what’s a genuine shift and what’s just sample noise.  But there are 4 relatively big movers.

In confirming some of my previous findings, Huskar‘s farm dependency has gone down significantly with 6.78’s rework.  You get a lot more out of him now by focusing on early domination with inexpensive items like Ghost Scepter.

Naga Siren‘s farm dependency also dropped significantly.  This suggests to me that support Naga has definitely caught on in pubs and has likely been reasonably successful.  It should be mentioned that most of these matches occurred before TI3, so it’s not merely a reflection of imitation.  This also points out that these measurements are still a reflection of public trends and not entirely objective statements on something like support viability.

On the more dependent side of things, the biggest positive mover is Omniknight.  In terms of ranking it’s only going from 96th to 77th, but I wonder if the new Aghanim’s upgrade has given him a better cash dump than what he previously had available.

The other relatively big mover was Templar Assassin, though it’s at least a percentage point smaller than the other three.  I’m curious to see if this was driven by an itemization shift, say more people rushing Yasha instead of a Blink Dagger, and might look into it more later if I have the time.

Anyway, here is the total score list, but as always don’t get too wrapped up in the precise placement.  As always it is an estimate, and some heroes just don’t get played all that often in Very High.

[6.78]FarmDepAll


Radiant vs Dire: Picking Sides At TI3

August 19, 2013

Originally published as part of  Team Liquid’s TI3 Retrospective Part 1 (Writers: phantasmal, TanGeng // Gfx: riptide, Heyoka // Editors: Firebolt145, ScintilliaSD, TheEmulator // Photography and art via Valve and R1CH)

With all the questions during The International asking why Alliance was always on Dire and Na`Vi was always on Radiant, I thought I’d take some time to clear up how team selection worked. From there we can look at the patterns in team selection to see what they reveal about each team’s preferences and also how those preferences might have influenced the Radiant/Dire and 1st/2nd pick win rates over the entire event.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. According to 2p.com, each prelim series begins with a coin flip. The winning team then gets to choose either a side or a draft order, and the losing team gets to choose the remaining option. In game two this order is flipped, with the loser of the initial coin flip getting the first selection.

For the playoffs the process is similar, but instead of a coin flip, the initial selection goes to the team with priority in the matchup. In the first round of the playoffs, priority is determined on seeding. For all other rounds, priority goes to Upper Bracket teams over Lower Bracket teams. If both teams are from the same bracket, priority goes to the team with the higher win rate.

With that out of the way, let’s look at how the prelims went down. We can’t determine who won the coin flips, but we know that every team in a group has an identical schedule to every other team in the group (minus themselves of course), and that every team got first selection in precisely half of their games. This makes it an environment that is ideal for a quick aggregate analysis.

TI3BansPicks

To start things off, it is my belief that teams almost always preferred 1st pick to 2nd pick. The simplest evidence for this is Group B. There are only two teams in this group that had second pick more than 8 times: Rattlesnake and Alliance. These are also the two teams that showed the greatest overall preference for Dire in the entire tournament. Group B is also peculiar in that only 4 out of the 56 games featured a team that had both Radiant and 2nd Pick. The simplest explanation for these trends is that Group B was largely full of teams that preferred both 1st pick and Dire. In this environment, if you select Dire, I would select 1st pick. If you select 1st pick, I would select Dire. As a result over 90% of the games in this group featured 1st pick Radiant and 2nd pick Dire.

Group A is a more difficult case because the teams in this division seem to be split over their side preference. In this group 33 out of 56 games featured a team with both Radiant and 2nd pick. If we continue to assume that no one actively tries to get 2nd pick, we can conclude that Group A had a slight preference towards Radiant overall.

Another thing we can do with Group A is try to determine which teams preferred which side. If we assume that no teams actively sought 2nd pick, whichever side the teams play more often when they have 2nd pick reveals their side preference. Using this test, Na`Vi was unsurprisingly the most pro-Radiant, followed by mouz, Zenith, and Fnatic. On the other end of the spectrum, DK and LGD.cn were the most pro-Dire, with MUFC showing a slight Dire preference. Dignitas showed no consistent preference in either direction.

Another interesting fact when we look at the patterns in 2nd pick across both groups is that only 3 out of 16 teams played more than one game on both Radiant and Dire when they had 2nd pick: Fnatic, Dignitas, and TongFu. It is my suspicion that these three teams had the most malleable side preferences depending on who they were facing in their current match and what they wanted to run.

So with side preferences established, which teams prioritized 1st pick over side? This is actually difficult to answer from the aggregate data. Ideally we would look at specific game patterns, but trying to cover all of that here would be impossible. Based on what I’ve looked at, my belief is that Orange is the team that most favored 1st pick in the entire tournament. Close behind were iG, Liquid, DK, MUFC, and possibly LGD.cn. The teams that most favored side over 1st pick were Rattlesnake, Alliance, Na`Vi, Fnatic, and mouz.

So to summarize everything, in Group A Na`Vi, mouz, and Fnatic all exhibited a strong preference for Radiant over everything, but mouz and Fnatic showed more inconsistencies than Na`Vi. DK, LGD.cn, and MUFC all showed a 1st pick then Dire preference. Zenith was probably 1st pick then Radiant. Dignitas was all over the place and may have been responding to specific match conditions.

In Group B, Alliance and Rattlesnake showed only side preferences, with both preferring Dire to everything else. TongFu behaved similarly to Dignitas and exhibited no clear overall preference. Every other team appeared to prefer 1st pick then Dire, with VP being the most inconsistent in this preference.

With all that out of the way, I want to turn my attention to the win rates for sides and pick orders. To be frank, my earnest advice is that when it comes to TI3 do not trust the pick/side win rates. It’s not merely that it’s a small sample; pro games as a whole are always going to be a small sample so you just try to make do. The bigger problem is that the sample is in no way random. To illustrate this, let’s look at the overall win rates:

TI3RadiantDirePicks

What’s going on is most clearly displayed by 2nd pick Radiant. That pick/side combo has 54% win rate over 57 games, which looks pretty substantial. Unfortunately, 22 out of the 57 2nd pick Radiant games in the entire tournament were played by Na`Vi, who had a 72% win rate when on that side/pick combination. Given the degree team preferences warped the distribution these win rates cannot be considered reliable.

More importantly, consider that the top 3 teams all had different philosophies when it came to pick/side combo, and they all had pretty clear motives behind these preferences. For Orange, they were heavily dependent on grabbing Visage, who was the most drafted hero of the tournament. Securing first pick gave them the best shot at grabbing this highly coveted hero before their opponents. For Na`Vi, being on the Radiant side opened up their options in the hard lane by allowing them to farm ancients with either Mirana or Windrunner. For Alliance, being on the Dire side fit into their overall strategy to force early Roshan fights that they could win by utilizing buybacks.

The lesson to take from this is that you’re likely better off adopting a side/pick preference that fits what your team wants to accomplish. Sure, the statisticians might be able to tell you which side is marginally better on average, but surely you’re not striving to be just an average team. If you want to be a real contender, you need to go the extra step, look at the benefits of each choice in full detail, and then find a way to utilize those benefits in your overall team strategy.


TI3 Hero Profiles: Outworld Devourer

August 17, 2013

I received some e-mail asking about Outworld Devourer’s performance during the International.  It kinda fit an idea I had for examining the interaction between particular heroes and the overall metagame, so let’s have at it.

As was brought up in the e-mail, OD is a curious case.  He was highly relevant in drafting, but he was also unsuccessful when it came down to wins and losses.  He was the most banned hero of the event, with a 73% ban rate that edges out Batrider at 70% and Wisp at 67%.  At the same time, he was 12-21 over 33 games for a .364 win rate.  The only heroes less successful with at least 15 games played were Sand King (3-12, .200) and Enchantress (8-15, .348).  So how do we explain what’s going on here?

Let’s start by talking about his strengths and weaknesses.  What people like from him is that he is a significant carry threat when a tendency to dominate mid lane 1v1 matchups.  Astral Imprisonment gives him a great degree of lane control and last hitting potential while simultaneously starving his opponent out of mana.  The effect is amplified against popular Intelligence mids like Puck, Storm Spirit, and Queen of Pain because not only is he removing their ability to wave clear by starving them of mana, he’s also draining them of their intelligence-derived base damage.

The big strategic downside to all of this is that his carry potential is very snowball dependent.  Unlike most carries, a huge portion of his damage comes from an orb affect, and is therefore completely shut down by BKB use.  This also makes him one of the worst carries in the game when it comes to tower pushing.  What OD really wants is to win early teamfights and skirmishes hard.  This creates a level gap where it becomes impossible to stand up against him, thanks in part to the unique damage scaling on his ultimate.  One hero you could compare him to is Clinkz in the way that both heroes are dependent on a strong early game that transitions to a completely dominant mid game presence.  Another comparison is Ursa in that both heroes can put out absurd amounts of damage but are vulnerable to having that damage countered by eventual item purchases from the enemy team (BKB for OD, Force Staff and Ghost Scepter for Ursa).

With that out of the way, let’s move on to his International performance.  One of the first things to look at when trying to figure out whether a tournament win rate is legitimate or not is the distribution of the teams using the hero.  A hero’s win rate can be greatly influenced by a small handful of teams that simply run the hero more often than everyone else, but for OD I don’t suspect this is the case.

[TI3]ODUsage

The three teams with the most OD games were iG, Fnatic, and Liquid, all of which had better than .500 records.  Sure you have struggling teams like mouz and MUFC going 0-2 with the hero, but you also have DK and Orange going 0-2 with the hero.  The only outstanding outlier here is iG’s 4-1 record, and it’s admittedly a relatively significant outlier that includes wins against DK and Orange.

The real culprit when it comes to Outworld Devourer’s win rate is counterpicking, and in particular Razor.  OD’s win rate against Razor was 1-7 (.125).  If you remove Razor games from OD’s overall W-L, you’re left with an 11-14 (.440) record, which isn’t amazing but also isn’t terribly significant given the sample size.

You can actually see the counter-picking dance around OD if you look at a lot of the drafts that he was selected in, particularly involving Na`Vi.  For instance in Na`Vi vs Dignitas during the group stages, Dignitas picks OD with the 3rd overall selection, and Na`Vi responds with Razor in the fourth.  Similar responses occur in Na`Vi vs MUFC and Na`Vi vs DKNa`Vi vs Zenith has Zenith selecting Razor with their first pick in order to protect their second pick OD.  Another example of this is Orange vs Liquid, in which Liquid covers an OD selection with Razor in an attempt to deny Orange OD (Orange received the most first round OD bans of any team during the prelims).  In doing so, they gave up both Nature’s Prophet and Dark Seer to Orange and also ate a Clockwerk ban which forced their off-lane to run Tinker.

As you can see, OD can become a pretty expensive pick, and nowhere is this more apparent than Orange vs Alliance during the group stages.  As I mentioned, Orange received the most first round OD bans during the prelims, but this is the only game during the prelims that Orange actually gets to use the hero.  With the final pick of the first round, Orange takes OD.  They spend their next two bans on Razor and Viper in an attempt to eliminate counterpicks.  They then target their final ban at Beastmaster (3-0 against OD during the tournament), only to have Alliance take Kunkka.  Certainly Kunkka isn’t Alliance’s mid of choice, but he does well enough, and in the process of trying to get OD a good matchup Orange let Alliance grab one of their preferred Wisp combos (Wisp+Gyro), Akke’s Chen, and Bulldog’s Prophet.

Basically, OD right now is a relatively hard counterpick against certain mids but is at the same time just as vulnerable to counterpicking.  He struggles against strong laners with negligible mana cost (Razor, Viper, Kunkka, Lone Druid) and he often loses in the long run to utility mids that don’t need to contest the lane and can give him problems outside of laning (Beastmaster, Nyx somtimes).  If you pick him early, a TI3-calibur team can draft around him.  If you pick him late, a team can just spend one of their less valuable 2nd or 3rd round bans to protect their mid-laner.  Given this dynamic he’s absolutely relevant to the metagame, but in your average game he’s almost more useful as a threat than he is an actual selection.


SEA Rising: An Analysis of Orange

August 11, 2013

Originally published on Team Liquid (Gfx: riptide, Heyoka // Editors: Firebolt145 // Photography and art via Valve and R1CH)

After Saturday’s performances, I felt I had to write a little tribute to Orange. (For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, I’ve already written about Alliance and Na`Vi drafts.) Not because they knocked out the last two remaining Chinese teams and guaranteed themselves a top 3 finish, though they do deserve credit for that and their impressive streak in surviving four elimination series to make it here. But no, I’m writing this because they ran Slardar in the International playoffs and actually won. Will wonders never cease?

ti3_09_11_searising_orange

Orange are in the Top 3!

When they’re in their comfort zone, Orange is outright amazing, but the challenge they face today is that Na`Vi will be the next opponent they face in a rematch of the only playoff series that Orange has lost this year. Their chances will rest heavily on getting one of their signature lineups through the draft intact, and Puppey will not make that easy for them. For an idea of what they’re facing, let’s look at the heroes Orange has used so far.

ti3_a_tribute_to_orange

A lot has already been said about the diversity of Mushi. He has run 19 different heroes so far, and while I can’t say with certainty if that’s a record for this tournament, the entire squad for iG used 28 in the prelims. Three other squads used 30 or less.

The problem for Orange is that for all the diversity Mushi brings, their other players are a bit more predictable. XtiNcT is an astonishing 11-2 on Visage, but Chen is the only other hero he’s played more than once. On top of that, Orange is only 4-8 in games where he’s not playing Visage.

St0vY5e

XtiNcT’s reaction upon being picked Visage yet again. (Via m00nieian)

Ohaiyo is the other character specialist. 20 of the 25 games Orange has played have featured him on Nature’s Prophet, Dark Seer, or Batrider. When he’s playing Prophet or Dark Seer, Orange is 12-4; when he’s playing anyone else, Orange is 3-6. What makes matters worse is that Na`Vi are also Dark Seer specialists, and in all three of their previous matches Orange was forced to spend an opening ban on one of their own signature heroes.

Since that unfortunate Na`Vi series, Orange has gone 6-2. The good news is that their wins have been impressive, with disciplined drafts, amazing coordination, and a perfect sense of urgency when facing lineups that would beat them in a longer game. The bad news is that their winning drafts are unsurprisingly quite predictable, and therefore at risk of being banned out.

Three of their playoff wins have come off drafts where they’ve managed to grab both Nature’s Prophet and Visage, including their sole victory over Na`Vi. If Orange can grab both of those heroes then they’re in dreamland. Mushi and kYxY can play an almost endless list of complements, so their draft past that point is relatively unconstrained.

Their other four wins have all come off the back of excellently coordinated AoE teamfight combos. The first of these was against Fnatic, where Orange used Magnus and an Empowered Battlefury Anti-Mage to take the game late. DK featured Orange’s stunning Slardar-Dark Seer-Shadowfiend lineup. Vacuum into Slithereen Crush provided ample initiation for Mushi’s Shadowfiend to clean up. Following that, they closed the series with an Ursa-Magnus combo and some game-changing Reverse Polarities. Finally, we have the opening game of the TongFu series where Orange won with the only Sven pick of the tournament proper whose cleaves were set up yet again by Dark Seer Vacuums.

So if you’re Orange, you’ve got a bit of a predicament. You have this set of strategies that your team is really good at executing, but your strategies are dependent on a small set of heroes (Visage, Dark Seer, and Magnus) and thus are vulnerable to early bans. If you’re Orange how do you get what you want past Puppey’s first set of bans?

The first thing you might need to do is stop banning Dark Seer. Yes, you don’t want Funn1k to have his Dark Seer, but your team is straight up less versatile then theirs. Is Na`Vi having Dark Seer really worse than Na`Vi having the Puck-Lifestealer combo that they beat you twice with? Or the Chen-Pudge combo that can create a highlight reel of your worst nightmares? If Na`Vi get Dark Seer, the rest of their draft is predictable, at least as predictable as Na`Vi drafts get. At the same time, Na`Vi has shown a strong preference for Radiant throughout the entire tournament. This includes allowing Orange to have first pick in every game of the previous series. This means that if Na`Vi continue to ban Batrider and Visage, Dark Seer can be grabbed with the first pick, and that drastically opens up your draft possibilities.

Orange may stand a shot with one of their Magnus lineups, but it’s risky and might not work as well against the style Na`Vi plays in general. An Anti-Mage-centered lineup is also a possibility, as he has been on a 6-1 tear in playoff matches between Upper Bracket teams. Aside from that, if Na`Vi continues to ban Visage, Orange should really target Bane, Nyx Assassin, and Naga Siren for their supports. They all are a certain degree of situational, but they’re also the supports Orange has looked most comfortable on. Finally, expect Chen to once again play a big role. Besides Visage, Chen is the only hero that XtiNcT has played more than once this tournament, so robbing him away from Na`Vi might prove invaluable if Na`Vi continues to ban out Visage.

Of the remaining three teams, I still consider Orange as the underdogs, but they’ve put in an amazing performance just getting to this stage. Best of luck to both teams, and I look forward to an exciting series.


Sometimes the Drafts Just Aren’t That Important: Alliance vs LGD

August 9, 2013

I’m a big advocate of the importance of drafting.  Too often people will jump on some single decision as deciding the entire outcome of a game-winning teamfight without considering the item or level advantages that put the erring player into a no win scenario.  Those item and level advantages can often stem from how the laning phase plays out, and how the laning phase plays out is in turn influenced dramatically by the draft.  At the same time I’m not a draft determinist, so I thought I’d take a look at a series where the drafts did not matter in comparison to the strategical adjustments made during the games and the astounding level of individual play that was on display.

In terms of the draft, both teams got more or less what they wanted.  On the side of Alliance, Bulldog got his Nature’s Prophet in both games. S4 got Puck, his second most played hero this year, and Clockwerk, who is only 3 games out of his top five.  They ran Phantom Lancer/Keeper of the Light in their first game, a combo they’ve used previously in high profile games.  EGM got to play Naga Siren in the second game, a hero Alliance ran constantly at the start of the prelims until opponents started banning her over Wisp. Gyrocopter in game two has been Alliance’s most used carry this entire tournament as well.  Their only reach was Visage, a hero that EGM has only played 3 times this year in recorded matches.  That being said Visage is both the top support right now and extremely versatile, so it’s absolutely deserving of a denial pick.  EGM also played the hero quite well, so I suspect Alliance had at least been acclimating themselves with the pick during their practice sessions.

On the LGD side of things, their drafts both games were boilerplate LGD for this tournament.  They only used 6 heroes combined in both games (Magnus x2, Bane x2, Nyx Assassin x2, Alchemist x2, Beastmaster and Visage), and those heroes were 5 of LGD’s 7 most common picks in the prelims.  The only one not in their top 7 was Alchemist, who was a first round ban in 12 out of 15 of LGD’s preliminary matches.  LGD played him in every match where he wasn’t banned.

LGDvsA

So with both teams’ strategies coming out of the draft phase intact, we absolutely must look at the games themselves to figure out what went on.  What we’ll find is that the first game was decided on the tiny strategic shifts Alliance made during the laning phase that let them dominate midgame teamfights and put LGD in a hole that they couldn’t manage to climb out of.  In game two it was Alliance making the strategic misplay in the laning phase, but managed to come back through a combination of lane adjustments and just mindblowing play from the part of S4 on Puck.

Game one featured dueling defensive trilanes, but what really stood out during the laning phase was Alliance’s support rotation.  Except I don’t mean gank rotations; I mean farm rotations.

First, Keeper of the Light assisted greatly with getting Nature’s Prophet back in the game after Prophet struggled to find farm in the hard lane.  KotL’s creep stacking and Illuminates were a great use of time while Visage focused on harassing LGD’s offlaner.

Second, Alliance recognized that Clockwerk is not a hugely farm dependent mid-laner.  Instead of farming passively, Clockwerk roamed very early, and Visage rotated mid to soak up some farm.  This rotation might seem relatively minor, but it was instrumental in getting Visage an early Mekansm, which was absolutely crucial to Alliance’s midgame plans.

Third, once LGD began to threaten the hard lane tower, Keeper of the Light rotated over to protect the tower and get some farm himself. Alliance converted this farm into one of their two early Force Staffs, and Force Staff was quite possibly the most important item in the game.  Why?  LGD’s lineup was devoted entirely on locking their opponents down for Alchemist who was their only serious carry threat.  Both Beastmaster and Bane are long, single target CC specialists.  But none of this CC is useful if your targets are sliding away from your sole melee carry.  Alliance’s Force Staff use was absolutely masterful in this game, and combined with their early Mek and some Roshan shenanigans, LGD could not keep up in the midgame teamfights, and this advantage eventually won Alliance the game.

To LGD’s credit, game two was, in my opinion, the closest Alliance has been to defeat this entire tournament.  In this game, Alliance goes for a offensive trilane with Gyrocopter, Naga Siren, and Crystal Maiden.  It’s not a bad strategy, and typically Alliance executes it well.  Alliance has been using the Gyrocopter and support Naga Siren combo as early as January.  The problem was that they were going up against a defensive trilane of Visage, Bane, and Alchemist. Visage’s trilane damage is insane, and Bane can use Nightmare to set up long Alchemist stuns.  As a whole it’s an extremely difficult trilane to break, and things predictably do not go well for Alliance.

How Alliance responds to this is crucial.  They rotate Nature’s Prophet into the jungle and have him rush a Mek.  Ideally they would rather have Prophet building other options, but they made the correct call that they needed one to have a chance in the game and neither of their supports was going to get one in time.  They send Naga to take Prophet’s place in lane.  Naga is a perfectly capable support, but she’s also an acceptable semi-carry, and Alliance knew they needed her to take a more level dependent role to make up for how much their trilane set Gyrocopter behind.  They also recognized that Gyrocopter is not actually the most farm dependent of carries.  What happened certainly was not ideal, but Gyrocopter can contribute to mid-game fights solely through Rocket Barrage and his ultimate, and with the farm gap they were facing they needed to depend on teamfight to get back in the team.  Getting Naga levels allows them to get Song of the Siren online and use it to set up Puck and Gyro ults, which will hopefully allow them to take some teamfights and recover from their laning setbacks.

What happened from there I cannot do justice with words, and you’re far better off watching it than reading anything about it.  What I will say is that this game makes Alliance look extremely dangerous. It’s one thing to stomp a bunch of games to an undefeated record; it’s quite another to show the level of poise necessary to recover from what was quite frankly a disastrous laning phase.

I should also add that Alliance yet again took Dire in both games, for a total of 14 out of 17 games played on the Dire side.  To that end, I have one recommendation for teams facing Alliance in future games: consider banning Bulldog’s Nature’s Prophet instead of his Lone Druid (or at least find some way to deny Alliance Prophet without giving them Wisp).

No, I’m not crazy.  What Alliance is doing is provoking early Roshan fights from the Dire side and using Prophet’s buyback to make the fight effectively 6 vs 5.  Yes, Bulldog has an amazing Lone Druid, but right now Nature’s Prophet is giving Alliance a tremendous amount of strategic flexibility.  It could be a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” proposition, but I feel a lot of people are underestimating the importance of Prophet to Alliance’s overall gameplan.