How to practice & improve as a support player ?

            Hello everyone  :) ! Just came back from Dreamleague, and I have to say I really enjoyed casting games over there. The casting crew and the production were really nice and easy to work with. The overall ‘production value’ was quite high, the experience was just chilled and fun! I wrote that article during my spare time there, and on the way back.
This article is going to highlight a role in particular, the support role. I have always played support, and although I often get to try other roles/heroes, it still remains my favorite position. Playing support is about embracing the strategy you or your captain designed. It’s about being smarter than the opponent support, it’s about anticipating how they want to play the game, it’s about reading their minds.

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The topic of today’s article will be rather simple : How to practice and improve, as a support player ?

This is a question I have been asked plenty of times. Answering in a sentence or two is actually impossible. I will try to give a lot of inputs in that article, share what I do to practice supporting, and hopefully you guys find the answer you were looking for.

Team practice :

Obviously, the first type of practice that comes to mind is the team practice. Play with your team, and create the conditions of a real match. Scriming other teams can only be useful. You get to see how people react to your plays, your warding, and you also get to watch the replay of the opposing team’s supports, which can sometimes be very helpful. Practicing in those conditions is going to require that you stay very focused and most importantly stay away from laziness. You have to think about what you do, and how you do it. You have to try everything that comes to your mind, to innovate. It is always a better idea to push your limits during ‘fake games’ than during an official. It might just not be a risk you’re willing to take on behalf of your team the D Day. There is not much to say about team practice, it is rather obvious.
I want to jump to the second part of my article, which is definitely the one that you will find the most interesting.

Individual practice :

There we are, individual practice. This is definitely the most important part of practicing the support role. Let’s start from the most obvious, to the least obvious.

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Solo games :

So first of all, you go for games in which you practice your mechanics with the heroes you play. You get used to the range of your spells, the way they interact with other spells/items, you try itembuilds, you get to know the damage you can deal, the position you need to have in fights, etc… In other words : you try to improve your mechanics and your knowledge of the hero in question.
There is more that you can do when you just play solo games, of course. You can practice your warding/dewarding. Warding depends on two mains things : the playstyle of the opposing players/teams, and the strategies/heroes they are running. Some players, for example, are aggressive by nature, thus their warding will be completely different from a very safe team. The same reasoning applies to strategies : if they run a line-up that relies heavily on getting Roshan, they will obviously ward differently than if they would be running a 4 protect 1 type of line-up. It is important that you keep those two aspects in mind when you try to analyze someone’s way of warding. Last, but not least, the real-time situation. Indeed, do not underrate the importance of that. Often you ward just because a fight was about to happen, and by observing that, you can’t get any intelligence that will be useful outside of that precise game. It is very important for you to learn how to make the difference between ‘reactionary’ warding or rotations overall, and ‘strategical’ ones.

Replays analysis :

This part is probably more important than the solo games. I would say than the solo games are useful to secure the basics, but looking at replays Is truly what will start to make the difference. You can either analyze your own replays, or others. When you look at your own replays, it is mainly to get more detailed information about how the opposing team reacted to your support plays, or to understand better what you did wrong/right. Obviously it is also very important to ask yourself what could you have done better in that game. The classic reaction is usually that if the game was won, there’s very few things to look at, but that is completely false. You can win a game although you played horribly, and vice versa. As a support, it is very important to understand what your role exactly is, what are the limits of your role.

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Let me take an example : if you played really well, pressured the midlane for instance, and allowed your midlane to really dominate his matchup. The safelane was secured as well, and overall early game was a great success. Nevertheless, your team lost the first big fights, and the game got out of control extremely quickly. You might have that tendency to, if you get to play that type of game again, try to get a bit more farm or space. That is just a mistake. It will only reduce the quality of games you play. It is important to know the limits of what you have to do. The rest usually comes down to your core’s decision making, or your team calls. Trying to do too much will actually get you to neglect the basics. You often see supports trying to get 25 kills in 10 minutes in early, forgetting the very basics that are warding, being ready to counter-gank etc…
The most important part of replays analysis is definitely the analysis of other players. Replays are like a gold mine, it is the access to people’s brain and geniality, so why not use it? Look at replays, try to understand what they do, and replicate how they do it. Obviously, once you understood it, you need to try to replicate it, and do it until you’re confident you mastered it. But this is probably the best way of improving as a support. Don’t copy everything, every player has his weaknesses, try simply to spot his strengths and adapt them to your way of supporting.

General practice :

This is the last point I will tackle in this article, and probably the one you’ve never heard of yet. Is it something I use a lot in order to improve as a support player, and it really helped me so far. I called it general practice, so what do I mean by that ? Well it is quite simple : it is to try to increase your general knowledge of the game. Practicing other roles, other heroes, so that you can understand them better, and thus, counter them better. Whenever I feel like I lack knowledge about a certain hero or playstyle, I actually practice it on my own to make sure I understand it to perfection. Let’s take spectre as an example. You’re a support player, and you keep facing spectre. The best way for you to learn how to counter spectre is to study spectre players, or play it yourself. By playing spectre a decent amount (until you’re good at understanding how the hero works and what he needs), you will realize many things about the hero, his strengths and weaknesses. For instance : spectre is a very slow farmer. You played spectre yourself, and you actually wanted to fight all the time, you were pinging your team “Haunt : READY” because you were dreaming of getting that roaming support kill. You realized how crucial your manta was, or you started going for easy targets in fights. You abused the manta ‘one shot’ move, where you just spot a hero that’s a bit far from the others in teamfights, in desolate range, and you always jumped him first with manta activation. Long story short, you know all there is to know about spectre.

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So next time you play support against spectre, you are going to mess with him like never before. You won’t give him the kill he desperately needs, you will place the ward where you know you would farm with spectre, etc. It is also a great way to practice support roles, learning more about other roles. You’ll only be able to help your midlaner effectively if you understand his match-up, the timings, etc. Same goes for the support duel in a game. If you do not want to get completely out maneuvered by the opponent Tuskar, or Bh, you need to understand how that hero is played. Because if you don’t, even if you are the best spirit breaker in the freaking world, you will get outplayed. There are several ways to approach that type of practice, either you play the heroes yourself, or you watch good players playing them, or last, you discuss a lot with your team mates, ask them many questions about what annoys them when they play that hero, what helps them a lot, what are their timings, etc.

If you manage to keep all that in mind when you play support, you will be very effective, and improve very fast. It requires a lot of work, and focus, but it is doable. Also always keep in mind that it is better to practice effectively two hours, while you are still focused and in good shape, than to just play 10 hours in a row, being tired and lazy. Quality > Quantity. When you feel like your plays are becoming a bit sloppy, just chill, or go watch a replay.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your read, and most importantly that the article helped you in your tough support life. If you’re a core player, you now understand the amount of things a support has to take into account before being effective. Remember, this is nothing but my personal opinion/experiences. Cheers!

You can follow me on twitter : https://twitter.com/7ckngMadDOTA 

& on facebook : https://www.facebook.com/7ckngmaddota/

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The importance of preparation in competitive DotA2 “How teams approach decisive matches”

Hello everyone! First of all, I would like to mention that I am really happy I found the time to start writing new articles. I got a lot of suggestions for potential topics, and I will probably tackle most of them. For the one that follows, I will be writing about the importance of preparation for very important matches. Enjoy your read, and feel free to share your feedback after you are done!

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                Over the past few year, the competitive DotA2 scene never stopped growing. The competition is obviously tougher, a lot more players play the game and as a direct consequence the overall ‘level’ is now higher. The number of tournaments also increased by a significant margin, which means that it gives less time for the professional players to prepare. They are on the road way more often than before, so the amount of time that they have to practice is becoming smaller, although the competition is higher than before. A problem then occurs: What is the most efficient way to prepare big tournaments and big games?

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To try to give you as much insight as possible on that matter, I will split my analysis in two stages: the first one will highlight the general preparation, i.e. the mindset of the team coming into that match, what did they focus on mainly. The second part of the analysis will focus more on the drafting part, what is the general thinking process behind it.

Let us start with the general preparation.

General preparation :

A common misconception is to think that the priority for teams is to prepare specifically against their opponent, it is generally not the case. Many reasons can explain it; we will go through all of them later. A very important thing to understand is that the first, and probably the biggest challenge for a drafter/captain is to be able to “use’, to their maximal potential, all his players (himself included). The first and absolute priority for any team before a big event is to prepare themselves as a team, regardless of all the potential opponents. Indeed, there could have been a new patch, a roster change etc.. As a consequence, the team has to find its own playstyle, a playstyle that seem effective, but more importantly a playstyle that allows the players in the team to bring their A-game. When EG switches Fear to position 4, their playstyle and their drafts changed drastically. They started running unconventional junglers such as Doom Bringer, Beastmaster or Nyx Assassin.

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During the practice sessions before the tournament, teams are then going to try what they theorized and adapt it until it works. Again, this process has nothing to do with the opposing team. It is a process that could be done even without opponents. Playing versus another team is just a way to make sure what they came up with is reliable, and can be used against the teams they will face in big tournaments. They can then see how equally skilled players react to their strategies, how do they counter it, etc… This is also the reason why most of the top teams refuse to play against teams of a lesser level. Once the team is satisfied with the playstyle, and the strategies they built, they can start looking at their potential opponents. Please note that a strategy is not necessarily a composition of five specific heroes. It is usually more vague, rather like: running a playmaking hero mid, so that he creates space for the carry, or pressuring the offlane heavily in every game, to drag attention away from the greedy jungler. They have to come up with different possibilities when it comes to drafting, as they cannot realistically expect to get all the heroes they planned to get.

Drafting versus your opponent :

This part is probably the most interesting one. What you should remember from the general preparation is that every team came to the tournament with a precise idea of how they want to play, and what they want to draft. Some teams, that did not practice beforehand, have a different approach. They play the first games relying only on their confidence, they are confident they can win games although they aren’t prepared, and learn ‘live’ from the other teams, build their playstyle game after game. That was typically the approached of Secret 1.0 ( with Zai, Arteezy etc… )

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But let us take a more concrete example of a big game, a LAN tournament final. Most of the time, what you need to acknowledge is that team did not get time to prepare specifically for that match. Indeed, they have been busy with the rest of the matches they had to play before they got to the finals. At best, they got one or two days to prepare before it, at wrost, they played the previous match a few hours before. The good news is that a final is never less than a bo3 or a bo5, so both teams will be given the chance to adapt during the match when it comes to drafts and strategies. Obviously, teams know each other’s players and favorite playstyles, so they do have some sort of information. You play versus Puppey, you know Chen is part of the equation. You play against Bulldog, Nature’s prophet and syllabear are most likely to be picked.

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This is when the mindgame starts, it is the drafter’s job to find the perfect balance between countering your opponent, and making sure you are building a strategy that keeps you and your team in your comfort zone. Every drafter has a different style, every team has a different drafting style. Some teams will favor countering and forcing your enemy out of their comfort zone over assuring themselves a stable draft. Others will completely ignore you, give you all the heroes you want if they can trade it for something they really feel comfortable playing. It is a matter of playstyle. Personally, I think that making sure you stay in your comfort zone is the best way to approach drafting, at least it should be your priority. I changed my mind over the past few months, as the first style used to be my favorite.

Often, both teams actually favor the same heroes, because of the current patch and its metagame. This is when both captain might know in advance which heroes will be the most contested ones. Firstpick usually becomes extremely important. Another situation is when you do not really have the choice but to ban certain heroes against certain teams/players.

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Many semi-professional teams just focusing on counter-picking their opponent, without having the bigger picture in mind. It is the main difference between top drafters and others. The art of drafting really relies on finding that perfect equilibrium, reading what your opponent is trying to do, countering him while securing yourself a stable and balanced draft, that your players are comfortable playing.

This takes me to my last point, the growing importance of coaches and statsmans. Indeed, as I explained, time lacks for team to prepare specifically against their opponents. Usually it is the coach’s or the statmans’s job. He did researches and stats about the opposing team, and briefs the captain before the match. That is what they usually like drafting, those are their most successful heroes, here is what people usually ban against them, etc. Obviously there are cases in which teams are very well prepared, but I would actually say that the outcome is usually worse than adapting live. Indeed, preparing yourself too much for a specific team might push you to tunnel vision, and do what you thought would be good against them regardless of how they draft on the D day. Overthinking it is never a good idea.

I hope you enjoyed your read, feel free to share feedback by droppig comments, or write me on Twitter & Facebook. Remember, this is nothing but my opinion:)

https://twitter.com/7ckngmaddota

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TI4 FINALS : Vici versus NewBee / Pre-analysis as they both defeated Evil Geniuses

Hello everyone ! So it’s bee a while since I last had the time to write blog posts, I really missed that. Nothing has changed, in the way that I don’t necessarily have more time, especially this week-end… =D

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But the International is just too amazing, it inspires everyone, me included. We’re a night away from the huge clash between Vici Gaming and Newbee, our two finalists for this fourth edition. As you may surely know, I am one of the panel analysts of this year’s tournament, and we will obviously be discussing a lot of things about the upcoming game, we’ll try to cover as much as we can. But I still feel like trying a different approach, and I would never get enough time to actually do that thinking process live. This is why I actually decided to give it a try here and write it down. When team A goes against team B, you usually want to compare them, their players, the heroes they use, their playstyle, etc… But there is another way to actually try to predict the outcome or the interesting points of the match up : it is to compare how they acted when they had to same the same opponent. In that specific case, both Vici Gaming and Newbee had to face EG in a best of three format, in respectively the lower and the upper bracket. I want to try to analyze those two clashes in order to point out what might be the deciding factors for this year’s TI4 final. 

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So let’s start off with reminding all the drafts of the overal 5 games :

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For both match ups, EGvNB and EGvVG, I will try to give a rate for every criteria, between Low / Medium and High.

 

How did NewBee play versus Evil Geniuses :

Pushing potential ( Medium )

I will highlight that again later on in my analysis, but the first thing that has to be mentioned, it’s that as well as VG, Newbee always made sure they went into those matches with decent pushing potential. It was not an all push line-up, far from it. But they had both Death Prophet and Nature’s prophet. This allowed them to capitalize on every right move they did, by taking down towers early on, and securing themselves some very needed map control. It looked like they thought that being able to deny EG some farm on the map would be really important. 

Teamfight potential ( High )

So that was defenitely the main factor for NewBee against EG, their teamfight potential always looked kind of scary. It you look at it, they secured themselves the DoomBringer twice, as well as heroes such as DP, Shaker or even Brewmaster. Let’s remind that EG is a very greedy team, but they usually aren’t afraid to take fights early on. Relying on their very high individual skills, they do not give up on towers easily. Additionaly, ppd always makes sure he finds the right balance between their teamfight potential and their late game presence. So it defenitely looked like NewBee did not consider at all the split push option, or the all in-option. They always made sure they would be able to take 5 on 5 fights without necessarily being snowballing on EG. They did not put the pressure on their shoulders, they wanted an even draft at all stages of the game.

Laning presence ( High ) :

It can safely be said that NewBee’s biggest answer to EG was their laning presence, and how they actually decided to set up their lanes. Using lich twice reveals that quite well. They also went for a very active nature’s prophet early on, with a roaming shaker. NewBee is then a team, and we had seen that from them before in the tournament, against NaVi especially, that emphasizes a lot on the laning stage. They want to secure themselves good lanes no matter what. They also looked to try to get good 1 versus 1 mid setups, which also is part of having good lanes.

Late game potential : ( High ) 

They always made sure they have a strong late game presence, choosing the Naix/Doom and then the Specter/Doom was actually a safe option for them, as they would made sure they could actually compete with EG’s late game potential.

Applying pressure ( Medium ) :

This is surely directly linked to the previous criteria, but still, NewBee looked really calm in those games. They did not rush, did not take useless risks, or try high risk / low reward moves. They waited the right items, the good timing to actually capitalize on their lead. They did not bruteforce, they acted very patient and smart. Their game plan was clear from the start of the game till the very end, it was calculated dota. Even with a 1-0 lead, they made sure their specter would risk nothing going into a fight before pushing high ground.

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How did Vici Gaming play versus Evil Geniuses :

Pushing potential ( High ) :

I could only put high, but it was actually INSANELY HIGH. Vici went all-in push, if that exists. They surely had backup plans, but their pushing potential was just huge, in both games. They looked to favor that style heavily versus EG, which is, let’s remind it, a team that looks very scared when they are able to play their game with no pressure from their opponent.

Teamfight potential ( Medium ) :

So i’ve decided to put only medium to that because having a strong teamfight means to have it at all stages of the game, not only early on. Vici did have really strong fighting, but it was not throughout the whole game. They did not looked scared at all by EG’s scary fighters. They drafted some counters, to make sure they were not completely outpicked, but it did not look as a priority for them at all.

Laning presence ( Medium ) :

Here again, thanks to their heroes, Vici had decent laning presence, not to say pretty good one. But once again, it was not their priority. For instance, we saw them pick a DK after a Viper pick, favoring the hero even though they knew he would have a really hard time on his lane. They were obsessed about slowing down EG’s safelane, where the most important heroes are. It was about them shutting down EG with rotations than them securing themselves good farm, like NewBee would have done. 

Late game potential ( Low ) :

In one sentence : Vici did not care much about their late game potential.

Applying pressure ( High ) :

Here again, High is an euphemism. The pressure they applied on EG was just terrifying. They did not let them breath even for a second. They kept the rythm extremely high, to make sure the game never went in EG’s favor. They took down tower after tower, forcing fights even when they had some key spells on cooldowns, or some items just about to be bought. It did not matter, they did not go for the zero risk, but for the big plays, and they tried to force EG to do many mistakes. Because one good thing about pressuring h24,is that you let no time to your opponent to get ready to defend, and it is always hard or impossible even to avoid mistakes when you are rushing everything you try to do.

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So what about VG versus NewBee :

To sum it up, here is what is going to be really key in that final.

VG, as usual, will be looking to play extremely aggressive, and take down towers as fast as possible. They will try all they can to force NewBee to do mistakes, to reposition wrong, or take the fight when they actually can’t. The downside for rOtk’s squad though, is that as we saw earlier, NewBee’s play is very cautious. They can be very agressive as well, especially with players like Mu and Yao, but it always is calculated aggressiveness, 100% calculated aggressiveness. Although this looked to be the main asset of VG going into that lower bracket, it might be their biggest weakness againsts NewBee. 

Another very important point is the laning presence. VG always assesses that they will find openings, no matter what. They run roaming supports, do not get me wrong, they are disgustingly good at rotating early on, but if they actually end up not finding any opening, it can hurt them a lot. NewBee, as we saw, emphasizes a lot on the laning phase, they want to make sure they get their farm and important items as soon as possible, they do not take necessary risks. 

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On the other hand, If NewBee do try to go for the 0 risk game, where they take fights only when they feel like they can, they will have to give away a lot to Vici Gaming, and especially towers. This is a very risky play, considering the fact that VG is, hands down, the best team of that tournament at breaking the enemy’s base.

After analyzing those key aspects of tomorrow’s match, it is almost impossible for me to pick a favorite. I would say that, taking into account what happened so far, NewBee has the best chances, although I personally found VG more impressive. As we saw throughout that analysis, the deciding factor will definitely be the first fights for the T1/T2 towers, and it is most likely going to be Vici Gaming trying to grab those. NewBee will be defending, and it will all come down to these clashes.

Obviously, this is only theory crafting, and a million different reasons could make that series completely different from what I just described. But as far as I am concerned, this is most likely going to look like what you just read.

Anyway,I hope you enjoyed reading this before tomorrow’s match, and that it kept the hype really up, as it is for me right now. Remember, this is nothing but the opinion of a professional player. 

You can follow me on twitter https://twitter.com/7ckngMadDOTA, Cheers!

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New Facebook page, where all the topics will be discussed !

Hello everyone. 

I freshly started my own facebook in order to make the interactions with the readers easier !

https://www.facebook.com/7ckngmaddota

Cheers!

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Welcome to SIGMA e-sport !

Hello everyone! Today’s article is a bit special as it is not in-game oriented. The time has finally come to reveal what have been going on with the name of the team, the sponsor that will support it and what is the aim of the project I am going to describe. Goodbye to Flipmouztic or to Quantsidouz, and welcome to SIGMA E-sport !

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As you probably know already, the majority of the players in the competitive scene have been around for quite some time now, few years at least. Their conditions have evolved, that makes no doubt, DotA 2 and e-sport are taking the right path, but there is still a very long way to go. Before I get into further details, I strongly recommend a book written by  T.L Taylor, Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT : “Raising the Stakes: E-sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming”.

Throughout my career in e-sport (DotA 2), and although it’s far from over, I’ve already had many bad experiences. Do not get me wrong, the DotA 2 community is probably the best one when it comes to sportsmanship, fair-play and solidarity, this is by the way the main motivation behind the Sigma project. But the truth is that players, but not only them, news writers, staff workers, content producers and to a certain extent fans, deserve way better than what is offered to them today.

This observation is obviously general and shared by the large majority of the DotA 2 community. A lot of great people work hard, every day, to make everyone’s life better and to help the DotA 2 community to become even greater than what it is right now. All the initiatives from ValvE, the innovations from tournament organizers, the actions taken by e-sport celebrities (casters, professional players, graphic designers, interviewers etc…) represent a huge step forward, but unfortunately it feels like there is still a lot of work to do.

I’ll share here several facts, very representative of what’s going on backstage, to help everybody understand why we have been working on Sigma with so much dedication and commitment.

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To think that professional players have very consequent incomes is completely wrong. Indeed, even though the cash prizes look huge (great figures are marketed: $25,000, $80,000, etc), in reality, being a professional player is really tough. You basically have two options: win or die. Very successful teams, top 1-2 get decent salaries and good amount of the cash prize, as sponsors always take a very consequent cut.

For the others, it’s a whole different story. The salaries are in average of €350 a month, which force player to work / study aside. If you consider the number of hours of official matches, the practice, the interviews, the events, a pro player get maybe between 1 & 2 euro per hour ‘worked’ (because this is indeed a work), which is absolutely ridiculous.

I don’t want to go into much details, but just a few facts so everybody can have a quick look at the reality of competitive DotA 2 currently : unpaid cash prizes after 6 to 8 months of negotiation, extremely low salary, pressure of result, no control of the personal image and communication, very restrictive contract clauses etc etc… Everything is changing, thanks to all the great people that are aware of what’s truly going on. Sigma want to be, and will be an actor of this change.

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So today we announce finally what is SIGMA E-sport. The aim of this new company is basically to offer the players the opportunity to finance themselves directly. Here are the most important values of our company :

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Because a sponsoring structure is worth nothing without the players and those who support them, SIGMA will work on developing and multiplying the interactions between fans and players. The web offers many different opportunities in that regard; innovative ideas are currently being developed. For once, the sponsor’s growth will directly impact the player’s future and conditions. Moreover, it is needless to say that since the success of Sigma will depend of the community’s support, thus, the team’s development will only be decided by its own supporters. I really want to emphasize the fact that this project is different from others in the sense that this is not only business, this is also sport.

 

There will be two divisions, the International one, and the French one. The international team will of course represent Sigma in all the major events, online or lan, while the French team should be seen as the ‘academy’ team.

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Sharing knowledge, experience and motivation will allow both teams to boost each other’s and meet their expectations. We want to be involved in the change, want to help the community to grow and to preserve its values and what makes it so special. 

Like every company (organization) Sigma has to run its business in a profitable way to secure the sustainability of the sponsor’s activity. One can achieve that without selling his soul to the devil, and with the total preservation and respect of its own values. I really want to emphasize that point as a shareholder of the company I will be involved in Sigma’s management and will actively participate in every decision that will be made. In that sense, Sigma is new because it is run by the players themselves. 

“This new company is founded by a private investor, which is also a Dota fan and an occasional player. He is fully supporting the E-sport value I described above “

The expectations are very high and consequently there is a lot of work to do. Thanks again for the support; it has always meant a lot to us. 

 

Because we love E-sport, because we love DotA 2, please join me in welcoming SIGMA Σ-sport and its teams. 

 

Twitter: http://twitter.com/sigmadota2

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sigma.esport

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Itembuilds at a Competitive Level, the Decision Making Process

Hello guys!

You can find my latest blog post on this link :

http://2p.com/2904114_1/7ckngMads-blog–Itembuilds-at-a-competitive-level-the-decision-making-process-by-i7ckngMad

Topic is  : Itembuilds at a Competitive Level, the Decision Making Process

 

Enjoy your read, cheers!

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How to snowball in a DotA2 competitive game?

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Hello everyone ! So it has been a while since the last article, but from now on I will be publishing on a more regular basis. Indeed, and as you probably noticed, I had a lot of stuff to work on with the introduction of Sigma. It is actually still under development, and the announcement will soon be made. There also was ESWC, and the MLG Columbus invitation. Long story short : there is a lot to come for Sigma and everyone that supports the team in the upcoming weeks.

 

Nevertheless, today’s article will be in-game oriented, as I know this is the kind of content most of the readers are looking for. I decided to highlight a very interesting topic when it comes to DotA 2 strategies, I have actually been asked via tweets (@7ckngMadDOTA) many times to discuss that subject :

“How to ‘snowball’ in a competitive game?”

Before I get into the details of that question, I’ll just briefly give some context. The term snowballing is used in DotA when it comes to try to increase consistently and significantly your advantage, as a team, on the opponent. The snowballing obviously ends when you are able to end the game, either by destroying the enemy’s throne or by forcing their ‘FF’ call. The mechanism is quite simple, it is about outfarming and more generally outmoving the enemy thanks to the advantage you acquired during previous phases of the game.

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Although this might seem quite easy and natural for newcomers, DotA players perfectly know that in actual fact, it really is not. The reason behind is the following : the more advantage you earn, the more map control you get, the more opportunities you get, and thus the more chances to do mistakes you have. Here is by the way a very good way to differenciate top teams from ‘unexperienced’ teams, as it is a double-edged sword kind of situation : top teams will be able to apply pressure everywhere on the map and to asphyxiate their opponents, whereas unexperienced players will just find in this situation a way to multiply mistakes and give away their advantage. I will seize this opportunity to finally say what I think about the famous ‘throw‘ trend… I know it’s been very funny and it helped to prettify many casts/games, but there is no such thing as ‘throwing’ a game. First of all is it a real lack of respect toward the opponent to say that a team threw away a game, indeed, playing from behind is probably one of the hardest thing to do. And secondly, this article will explain how difficult it actually is to snowball and to never, at any point, relieve the pressure you apply on your opponent.

“They had that game, but they just threw it”

To start off with this explanation, you should know that there are, amongst all the top teams, snowball specialists! Agressive teams by nature fit perfectly to that description. Watch Na`Vi play and you will quickly understand what ‘applying pressure’ means in DotA : ganks everywhere, towers falling one after the other, a completely black map for their enemy, etc. One thing that has to be mentioned, though, is that snowball always starts from an advantage you have on your opponent, whether it’s in terms of G&E (gold and experience), or just because you have a superior draft.

 

Map control :

So the first aspect and probably the most important one to ‘snowball’ properly is the map control. By map control I mean remove the enemy’s wards by getting a gem or by purchasing sentries. The idea is simple : your advantage allows you to buy more counter-wards then what the opponent can afford, therefore you should have a stronger map control. If you are leading in-game, that means that the enemy can not afford to take a 5vs5 upfront teamfight, so playing with a black map makes it extremely difficult for them, because whenever they get caught out of position, the others can’t really back-up as it would mean the risk to take a fight (indeed, they do not see your position on the map and do not know if it constitutes a bait or not). Gem should be the first reflex, and unlike what people usually think, the sooner the better.

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Outpush lanes :

The second major aspect, in my opinion – and I want to take time to highlight it because it goes again what I usually see from teams – is to outpush lanes permanently. Indeed, there is absolutely no need to control lanes, even if you think it denies farm from your opponent (and it does!). The reasoning once again is simple : you have the advantage and consequently you probably pushed more towers than your opponent did. When you outpush your lanes fast, your creeps will walk toward their base until they find themselves in front of a tower. They will grant you vision, map control ( ability to tp with bot, etc), but more importantly they will force your enemy to defend their towers and outpush (their turn now) the lanes. This will, naturally force them back on the map and extend your positions. Additionally, during the time they waste farming under their towers, you have all the space in the world to think of what you want to do. It can be many things :

– Prepare a gank or a dive under a tower ( they are split since you outpushed all the lanes )

– Outfarm them by farming your jungle & their’s

– Do roshan

– Smoke yourselves and force a fight.

Permanently outpushing lanes is, I hope you understood it, the key to pressure your opponent and apply map control. It is also the best way to deal against split push, not even the best actually, but just the only one.

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Force teamfights :

It brings me now to the third aspect that I mentioned, ‘forcing fights’. If you are able to pressure them on the map, it means that the enemy is dodging the 5vs5 clashes, because it is very unlikely they can win one. So of course, you will be looking to force fights. This is one of thoughest thing to do in DotA, and to be completely honest I am still trying to figure it out. It is hard because forcing a fight requires to be minimum 3-4, maybe even 5, in case they do decide to take it. The problem with it is that they can then split push you as much as they want since you are more or less visible and showing what you do. There is of course the smoke of deceit, it’s the best way to force fights, but it’s limited, so my reasoning exludes smokes. From my perspective, there are several ways to force fights. The best one is probably your pushing ability. The faster you push, the harder it is for them to avoid fights, as they will just lose their barracks if they do so. Another very clever way to force fights is to control the opponent’s jungle. The first step in order to secure the enemy’s jungle control is to take their t1 tower safelane. This is why you often see teams gathering for this tower, and most of the early game / mid game action is determined on that zone of the map, it’s usually the game-breaking clash. (To be completely honest it is also because it’s one of the hardest tower to defend). There are other ways to push in that direction, of course, but since it is not the main focus of the article, I’ll leave it here.

 

 

Respect between teams :

I want to add another aspect, as important in my mind. This one is less concrete though, and maybe harder to explain. I’ll try my best. First of all you have to understand that in a DotA game, the respect or by opposition the lack of respect between the two teams is crucial and will largely impact the game played. For instance, a random team against Alliance will probably think twice before they try anything, and have way more pressure on them than what their opponent actually apply. It is natural, but it will inevitably distort the match. The same is happening between top teams, for the one that are known for their agression, and the more passive ones. It’s also a very key factor of success in LAN events, the ability to force your opponent to respect you, to over-respect you if I can say so. How do you achieve that ? Well, you basically have to go for gamble moves. When HVOST wanders alone in the enemy jungle, and forces back his opponents because he made them think that there was more than only him, he is achieving an insane amount of map control. This is something you usually don’t see as viewers or spectators, but trust me, the opposing team feels it. So of course, he will get picked-off once in a while, and it might cost his team a lot ( a roshan, a tower etc), so at the end of the day the aim is to do it as smartly as possible, and to minimize the risks. But the reward is way higher than the loss of a hero, no matter how important he is to the game. Another type of gamble is the fake-dives, this is really important. Forcing tps will bring your opponents to lose map control, by definition. You know you can’t kill, but you act like so. It can even be a shadow demon support rushing on the opponent’s carry under his tower and instantly going back when he was able to force a tp. He can be on his own, as long as they do not see what’s behind him (in that case, nothing).

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Outfarm the opponent :

As a conclusion I would like to remind you the most important thing : the aim of all this map control is to OUTFARM your opponent. Agressive teams are actually very greedy, they pressure their opponent in order to extent their positions and to outfarm them, until they are strong enough to break the base. This is why over-agression is always bad, and not even worth it. Snowballing requires a lot of control and thinking, even if it doesnt look like it. A logical article to follow that one would be ‘ How to break the base, to go high-ground ? ‘ Because that is also insanely tricky …But well, all this is what makes DotA so interesting, and us so passionate about it, right ? 

 

 

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the reading. Thanks for all the support you show for the team and myself, it means a lot. Once again, more details will come on SIGMA and hopefully it will create a movement, that’s the aim. I’ll keep it unclear on purpose for now. Remember, these articles are nothing but the opinion of a professional player. You can follow me on twitter @7ckngMadDOTA. Cheers!

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