DotA & initiation


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.

ImageThe 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.

ImageEhome 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?

Image Very typical draft of the recent meta-game, where no team has clear initiation potential.
“Todays metagame”
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!


Filed under General DotA 2 knowledge

21 responses to “DotA & initiation

  1. SeCTeen

    Interesting read, thanks for posting. =)

    By the way, since when did you start playing DotA? You seem to have some old knowledge when posting about games like EHOME vs DTS.

  2. ben

    again, amazing view. thank you very much for sharing this with us. helps me understand better the game and improve my game.

  3. Menades

    Nice article!
    So, getting great initiators hero is the better way to win versus the “win 3 lane – win G&E” Quantic strat ?(treant, OD, lich) :p

  4. renfree

    Please, can you make a blog about snowballing and total lack of comebacks in modern Dota? Thanks in advance

  5. S4

    Isn’t Magnus an inititator with blink+rp?

    • I wouldnt call magnus an initiator. He can initiate, but its a very important decision to use blink + rp to initiate a fight. Also, you need to catch one of their key heroes. Whereas the initiators i highlight can do it almost for free, really low cds. So they can catch ANYONE that is momentarily out of position

      • ABSINTHE^_-

        I would definatly call magnus an inatiator, but as you say its maybe not as reliable as the ones u mentioned, venge etc.

        But the game between DTS and EHOME, who would u say is the initiator in team DTS? Seems like they went for the 3 man carry team.

      • efefef

        I think we’re splitting hairs here by not calling Magnus an initiator.
        He definitely is an initiator under the general rule set of initiation, however some heroes are obviously better than others. I mean really you could regard anyone in the entire game with a stun an initiator with a blink I guess.
        So you have to break down the types of skills you see on an initiator. From AOE stuns to displacement skills and everything in between. The better their properties the more important aka stuns that go through BKB. I think you’re putting more importance on low cd initiators, but that doesn’t make other heroes not initiators.
        Again as you said this topic is very in-depth and probably the most important topic in some regards other than vision. But if you have time I wouldn’t mind seeing you break down the initiators and what is better where.

      • Gaspard Savoureux

        You can still Blink-Skewer if RP is on CD.

  6. Good read, one thing however caught my attention; how can you call Shadow demon and Nature’s prophet heroes with “no initiation power at all”? That is a ridiculous statement at best, especially seeing how many ganks and even teamfights are initiated by isolating someone with a banish or TP, Sprout combo.

    • Its very short range initiation, and it also not efficient at all. Disruption = no damage on the target, and tp is obviously very low range. How is that as good as venge swap or X marks the spot to initiate ?

      • H&D

        Disruption has a long cast range and it holds the target in place for a follow-up spell which almost guarantees the kill. How many times in the current meta have you seen a disruption into -> LSA, split earth, burrowstrike. The initiation power of disruption is undeniable and you know it.

        There are drawbacks to every spell obviously, while disruption gives the enemy team time to react and no damage (?), swap occasionally means you sacrifice your venge, and its not a disable, so the target may be over-perceived as a confirmed kill which could lead to disastrous results.

        Also, using the no damage aspect of disruption is absurd. The damage may not be instant, but at least the illusion does significant damage unlike swap or X. Of course, I’m not saying swap is entirely useless. Every spell has its right moment to be casted, swap may work better as an initiation spell in some cases, and disruption may work in others.

        As to X, it can be countered through many means such as BKB, imprisonment, disruption, force staff immediately after etc. I feel X is almost as unreliable as sprout because its a timing spell, sometimes the level of the spell is too high or too low, which affects the follow-up. Sometimes the kunkka may be insta-disabled and can’t cast the return exactly when he means to. Sometimes, the player himself returns at the wrong timing. There are many reasons why X is unreliable, and it is generally accepted as so.

        As much as I respect you for being a pro-gamer, for you to rule out any possibility is obviously a hindrance rather than a benefit. It’s always nice to see insights of a a high-level player though and I hope you would try to understand the point I’m trying to make instead of blatantly rubbing me off.

      • Hello H&D. I am actually very open to discussion. I did not mean to rule out anything, I am just defending the point of view I detailed. And, as I precised in my articles, this is nothing but my opinion, I don’t claim to know better than anyone. Actually I think that pro players surely have in average a better game understanding only thanks to their gaming experience, they dont ‘simply’ know better. But let’s get back to your points, as I find them very interesting.

        Again, I am not saying that disruption isn’t a spell to iniate. In DotA any spell can initiate, you can even initiate a fight by positioning yourself in a special way, without casting anything. The difference between disruption and swap is the following : the death of the swaped target relies on venge’s allies, that means that when someone gets swaped, he is supposed to die no matter what, his team can’t do anything to prevent it, in 99% of the cases. For the disrupted target, it’s completely different, both teams get the disruption time to get ready, and clash once the hero is released, or maybe even before. As someone wrote, I call a truly initiative spell something that forces a 4vs5 fight. Doom with blink dagger, or lion hex, this type of initiation is very different.

        X can be countered, so can rp, so can every spell in this game, and this is what makes it interesting. But still, X remains a very efficient way to initate a fight. And forcing a bkb charge usage isn’t anectodical. Again, the aim of the article is not to rank the efficiency of initiative spells, but only to highlight the impact they have on competitive games.

      • Menades

        Disruption is not a reliable engage in all cases; you have to catch an enemy « out of position ». If you commit to a disrupted hero when his team is just behind him you have a lot a chance to be counter-engaged (opponent will predict what spell you will use and which position you will take)

  7. editor

    Blog post 1:
    “Especially in today’s metagame, where initiation & counter-initiation is very prised by drafters, where heroes such as Magnus, Batrider or Puck(NAIXBOMB) are top picks. ”

    Blog post 2:
    “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.”

  8. mick

    Really enjoyed your insight, hope to read more.

  9. Nice article 7ckingmad! Good analysis.

  10. Armor

    That was actually a really good read, keep up the good work bro!
    Personally I think that the lack of initiatiors in the current meta game is mainly connected with the buyback ability, if you depend to heavily on initiation you cant do sh*t if you used those spells, enemy will just buyback and has at least a 1min window to push/rosh.

    What I am really curious about is what you actually think about the current meta game, is it a “good” (i.e. interesting) one? Again personally I think that 6.48b was the best meta game there has ever been, dual lanes and action-lineups every game, nowadays it seems split-push in 99% of the matches and the game is mainly reduced to a farm war with a few VERY crucial teamfights inbetween. But I might just be getting nostalgic here, whats your point on this?

  11. [UA]N1cE

    best articles i have ever seen, continue please!

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