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?
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.
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.
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.