First of all, I want to apologize for the delayed writing, we had lots of troubles recently with Socks getting hurt and the bootcamp preparation. I’ll start publishing on a weekly basis again, maybe even more.
As announced previously, I decided to let the choice of the topic to the twitter followers (@7ckngmadDOTA). The result was unequivocal: and today’s topic will be ‘drafting’. It is a very large subject to discuss, and probably one of the most interesting and complex. I will publish several articles about the drafting phase, as it can’t / shouldn’t be covered in only one. This one does not aim to be comprehensive, but to expose general knowledge about competitive drafts.
The first thing that needs to be said is that the picking phase has always been the most important part of the competitive games. This is no secret. When it comes to the 15-20 strongest DotA teams in the world, execution is often secondary. Of course, some games can be turned around because of unusual mistakes, or unexpected big plays, but in most of the cases the drafting ( and its correct execution ) is the deciding factor. In this article I will only tackle the mindset of drafters when they sit in the blue/pink slot. Forgive me in advance if sometimes I stop myself before jumping into too many details, but big LAN events are coming up, and I might be afraid to reveal too much! No worries though, you should find interesting stuff anyways.
First of all, the majority of the teams draft together. The captain makes the last call obviously, but every player has right ideas based on his experience, or his understanding on the enemy’s draft at a precise moment. Nevertheless, it is also important for him not to mix too many different visions, so he makes sure he preserves his pick’s consistency. Being a good drafter requires various skills & abilities : to keep a cool head, to read into the opponent’s mind, and obviously to have a very high level game understanding & experience in order to predict how the game is supposed to develop. I would personally say that drafting is always about finding the right balance … the right balance between 5versus5 compositions and solid lanes, between what you are ready to give away to the opponent and the heroes you’d like to pick, between counter-picks and picks that stick to the game-plan you build, between top meta-game heroes and heroes that truly fit your line-up etc … The list is endless.
Drafting is about having all those things in mind, permanently.
Again, there are so many aspects that need to be covered when it comes to drafting, I’ll just pick one, and give you my insight on it : the sequence of picks & bans. Before I jump into more details, I need to insist on the fact that every pick & every ban matters, from the first to the last. Some might have different roles or impacts, but at the end of the day, they are all crucial. As the recent 6,78 patch contained a HUGE change for draft, I need to tackle it.
“When firstpick became king”
“Heads or Tails?
It is tails, opponent chooses.
Those pre-game discussions use to be forgotten right after they were said, few months ago, but since the 6,78 patch, they are now part of the post-game analysis made by players. Indeed, we entered the era of the first-pick dictatorship. First-pick has always be important because of several factors : the ability to pick your hero first (obviously), to choose amongst the most successful heroes of the meta-game (wisp, batrider etc), to not be the one to ‘react’ first, as the opponent will be the first to show (when he chooses two heroes in answer to the first pick) what is his mind-set and how he reads your firstpick. But until recently, second pick always had a very solid answer to fp, that was to be the last one to pick a hero and consequently to be able to hide your strategy until the very end of the picking phase. That is now also the privilege of the first-pick, which makes it completely unbalanced.
Basically, first-pick has the disadvantage to commit to a strategy before your opponent, it is now erased, since it now also has the last word. That makes second pick a very tough position to be in. Very simple example with a common first pick hero : the Wisp. This hero is unarguably very strong, and probably has the highest win-rate in competitive DotA nowadays. He gives to his team an ultra scary mid & late game potential. The opponents are somehow forced to react in early game, before Wisp’s domination starts. The best way to do it was to reveal your lanes very lately, and force the wisp-team into weaker lanes; you would then shut-down the wisp very early on, and win the game regardless.
This is now over, as the Wisp-team will also have the last pick. You now have two options: let it go, and play while being at a clear disadvantage, or go for a very unorthodox draft which makes your game-plan or your laning phase completely unpredictable, even when the enemy see your 5-man-lineup. But that is a huge gamble, and it is wrong to be forced, due to the draft sequence, to do so in high level games.
The only advantage the second picker gets, is the fact that he is the only one to draft two heroes consecutively. That is surely interesting, but it doesn’t balance at all the HUGE advantage given to the enemy.
Moreover, in what we can call the core-phase of the draft, the first team drafting also gets the privilege (which is in my opinion as huge as the firstpick) to always be the one reacting. Indeed, once two bans & two picks are done, for the next 2-2 bans/picks, it will be the second picker going first, while the first-picker will only react to what he actually sees.
I don’t need to add anything more to this (although there still is unfortunately). Right now, it is clear that getting the first-pick is the biggest deal for competitive players.
I’ll release three draft analysis from competitive matches very shortly, I didn’t pick the three yet though, and I’ll publish them one by one.
Remember you can follow me on twitter, @7ckngMadDOTA, and my team as well @QuanticDOTA @QuanticGaming. You’ll hear from us very soon, as road to TI3 starts on thursday :).
Thanks a lot once again for the awesome support, and remember, this blog is nothing but the opinion of a pro player. Cheers!