DotA & initiation
Hello everyone ! Before I jump into today’s topic, I want to thank you all for your enthousiasm after the publication of the first article. I am also thinking about letting you guys choose the subject via twitter polls in the future.
So, as you might have understood it, today I would like to write about a very complex topic in DotA : initiation. In my first article about vision in teamfights, I also highlighted the fact that initiation was, if not more important, as important as vision. Both aspects are obviously linked in many ways. Allow me to define what competitive players&casters exactly mean when they use the word ‘initiation’ or ‘initiate’. Is is actually very simple, to initiate a teamfight is nothing else but preventing a hero from running away from a very obvious threat. There need to be a threat such as 2 vs 1 situation, so the enemy has to run away if he wants to survive, and he needs to be locked down so his allies are forced to take the fight unless they decide to abandon him.
Very concrete example of initiation: Clockwerk hookshots an enemy hero, and blocks him in cogs. The fight will most likely happen around that cog point, since one player is stuck there. Today we will, first of all, explain why is initiation so crucial, we will also do some DotA history, and finally, we will try to understand what is the role & the future of initiation in the meta-game.
“The importance of initiation in teamfights” :
The outcome of a teamfight relies on every hero being able to release properly his spells with good timing and aiming. Many clashes are won simply because a player was taken down before he could actually play his part in the fight. The best way to achieve such a thing is initiation. Isolating a hero and being able to kill/disable him before the fight develops is very key. As far as I am concerned, initiating a fight gives more than 50% chances to win it, regardless of the game, the line-ups and the battle-spot. The other main reason that makes initiation so crucial is the surprise effect. Indeed, the opposing team has to react to it, and the 0,5 to 1 second reaction will often seal the deal. Starting a fight also ensures a team to battle only when it is favorable for them in terms of timing/place & positioning, which is very important.
The opposing team has to rescue the one isolated unless they decided to abandon that fight
“Some DotA meta-game history…”:
Now that we all agree on the importance of initiation, let’s have a look at how high it was rated by the players in the history of DotA…because one thing you need to understand is that we are currently in a very weird teamfight phase, where initiation is completely forgotten, and is slowly coming back nowadays. If you want my personal opinion, initiation is one of the easiest ways to dominate todays meta-game for top teams. But I’ll get back to this later.
Few years ago, initiation use to be very highly rated by all professional players, especially the Chinese in DotA 1. There was not a single draft made without having multiple ways to initiate, a CW hookshot, a BM roar, a lion/doom/batrider with a blink dagger to initiate properly on the enemy. The fights had always the same structure, one team would disable one of the enemy’s heroes first, and make the fight a 5 versus 4 in their favor. That means that a team could always instantly punish their opponents for showing up in an open battle-sport while being at a clear disadvantage in the game. It also means that regardless of who was leading the game, any team could have the upper-hand in a fight.
Ehome 2010 in ESWC’s grand finals against DTS. Probably two of the strongest teams in DotA’s history. You can enjoy the initiation power of the chinese powerhouse, Kunkka’s X, venge’s swap, and lion solo mid with a very fast blink dagger. Three long range and very easy to land initiative spells
I would like to seize this opportunity to highlight how HUGE was the impact of the GOLD & XP GRAPHS in dota-people’s minds. Because it really was a complete game changer that almost no one highlighted. Once upon a time (nostalgyyyy!), teams use to take strategical decisions only based on how they analyzed the game at a precise moment, based on opportunities, on skill. Now, no player what so ever can say that he doesn’t have permanently in mind the gold & xp evolution. Which means that only very old & experienced teams ( very few top teams actually ) still take fights they ‘shouldn’t be able to take’, and win games like this. It requires huge experience to be able to go further this very mathematic approach of DotA, which is the gold & experience one.
I personally think that what I will call from now on ( that I just described ) the G&E vision, is the reason why the meta-game changed about a year ago, and the role of initiation decreased, until it almost disappeared. For example, any team could draft such a line-up : Shadow Demon, Chen, Nai’x, Syllabear and Qop. This has been a very standard draft over the past few months. You can add gyrocopter, nature’s prophet and many other heroes that have no initiation power at all. The initiation role decreased because of the G&E vision, in the sense that one team would always want to take fights ( the G&E leading one ), whereas the other would try to avoid them by letting them more map control. Who needs initiation power in such cases?
http://www.gosugamers.net/dota2/tournaments/696-esl-major-series-one-season-1/187-cups/700-cup-4/matches/11850-notidehunter-vs-virtus-pro. Very typical draft of the recent meta-game, where no team has clear initiation potential.
But, and because any DotA drafter will tell you that strategies makes circles in this game, people started to place interest again in initiation, whether it consciously or not. Kunkka wins games, sure, mainly because of the X marks the spot if you ask me, but do teams draft this hero because of the spell or only because it has been successful for other teams ? Anyway, it doesn’t really matter why, the fact is still that initiation has made a huge comeback recently. There are absolutely no games without a Puck/Bat dagger, a clockwerk, a kunkka, a vengefulspirit or any other long range initiation spell. Sure one could argue that puck dagger was always a top pick, but having only one way to initiate is not ‘favoring initiation’, now teams have many ways to do so, because they rate it high again, and are right. I really think this initiation factor is changing heavily the meta-game, and will continue to do so. Obviously, the more importance initiation takes, the more importance counter-initiation has. That is also why Naga siren is slowly coming back, it is not only for the cd decrease on RipTide as you may think =P.
Again, I am not claiming that teams draft with all this in mind, they mainly draft heroes that are being successful, and that’s all. But I am trying to give some personal insights on why those heroes win games. It doesn’t matter if they are picked for other or wrong reasons, as long as they are!
This article had to be very long, because of how complex and important at the same time initiation is in DotA. I hope you now understand better all those aspects, as you will see them having huge impacts in upcoming games and tournaments. DotA is such a strategical game, and that is why we love it.
Again, many thanks for your support, do not hesitate to send me a message or throw a comment with your feedbacks, as I really take them into consideration.
You can follow me on twitter @7ckngMadDOTA for all the updates about myself and team Quantic. Cheers!