Category Archives: General DotA 2 knowledge

The non-DotA part of DotA – Insights on TI6 

Hello everyone ! I finally got some time to sit down and write an article I have been dying to write. A lot of things happened since I published the last one and thus I have plenty to write about. I want to do something slightly more special this time around. Indeed, I will obviously write about DotA; but I really want to emphasize the non-DotA part of DotA, if that makes any sense.

 Before I jump into the specifics, I want to share a bit about what happened in the last few weeks. As many of you, I have been coaching OG for quite some time, and I will continue doing so. This year’s TI outcome was obviously a huge blow for all of us. The team was performing very well pre-TI, wining the Manila Major, ESL Frankfurt, finishing second at the Summit 5, etc… The thing is, TI is a very special tournament, and I will try to help you understand in which ways this tournament is very unique. We learned it the hard way, but well, as long as we learn, I’m personally happy. I like to approach competition in a certain way : you got to convince yourself that, eventually, you will succeed. You just have to learn and improve enough to get there. So when you look at things this way, you understand it is just a matter of time before you achieve what you dream of achieving. Losing is learning – if you learn how to approach losses – and learning means getting closer to your objective.

At the end of the day, we all are very well aware of this fact : competition has the highest highs and the lowest lows. As I hinted earlier, facing defeat again and again is a winer’s quality. It is the only road to victory.


Let’s get started. We all felt it at some point in our “Dota adventure”, wether it was in a pub game, during a casual talk about the game with friends, or when the biggest match of your career just ended : DotA is not only about DotA. When you start realizing it, a whole new world suddenly appears in front of you. It is very obvious that skill, communication, synergy and teamplay are crucial. Nevertheless, there are other things that come into play – that actually make the real difference. You often hear teams say that what will matter is ‘if they can bring their A game’ or that they can ‘only lose to themselves‘, the reason for that is because they understand that a lot of different things can actually prevent them from performing. I like to think that the best game you ever played determines how good you are at DotA – wether it is as a team or individually. But there are a lot of factors that usually interfere with your pure gaming abilities. That ‘best game’ occured because you dominated – wether it was on purpose or not does not matter – these ‘outside’ factors.

I could list all these factors, as I’ve learned one after the other, year after year : The ability to focus on the game, your mindset when you start competing, the team atmosphere, the pressure, etc… Every TI is a lesson about DotA. TI5 was about teamspirit, trust and respect. Coming into TI6, all the teams, especially the favorites, had that lesson in mind. But this time around, something else happened. A newer lesson was learnt, and the price for it was paid by the top contenders.


Four teams were arguably the favorites to win TI6 before it started : Liquid, Wings, OG and Newbee. Obviously other teams were good enough to win it all, but it is a fair statement to say that on paper, their past results made them look weaker than the four I mentioned above. I do not believe in coincidences, and the fact that three out of four of these top teams completely crashed during the tournament is not a coincidence. Liquid, Newbee and OG crashed during TI, exactly like Secret did before TI5. I’ll come back on Wings slightly later. Let me tell you what happened at TI6 in one word : “Pressure” happened. The pressure that tournament puts on players’ shoulders is immense, it’s the good old win or die situation. These three teams, from both an outside and inside perspective were playing games not to win them, but to avoid losing them. The difference might seem minor, but it is actually decisive. Wining groupstage games, or first rounds of playoffs does nothing for these teams, because they had convinced themselves beforehand that they were deserving to achieve top 3 at TI6. So wining was just something normal, indeed, they were the better teams after all. Nothing to win, everything to lose, game after game.

picture from thescoreesports.com

The pressure is huge, everyone stares at you, waits for you to show weaknesses. How can they be blamed for that ? They are just hoping for a better show. On the other side of the river, the teams these ‘topdogs’ are facing are fearless. They are just happy to be here, they are grateful, they came to play DotA and to enjoy themselves while doing so. Obviously they are also here to win, but they approach one game after the other. They take enough time to enjoy every single inch they fight for. They have nothing to lose, and they will give it all in order to win. They do not think about the grand finals, or the title, never. They have that ‘fire’ going for them. The same fire that once made the top teams become top teams – unfortunately for them, it is long gone.

Rewatch the series between OG and TNC, and take enough time to study both teams movement and decision making. You might end up feeling the difference between a team that wants to win, and a team that does not want to lose. It is massive, and as unfair as it might sound, it is game-losing. DotA is not only about DotA, and acheving dominance is about mastering the ‘non-DotA’ factors, like in every traditional sports. Now you might argue that Wings were one of the best teams pre-TI, yet they won it all. Well, take a closer look at their run. Manila went horribly wrong for them, they collapsed like OG Liquid or Nb did at TI. So they probably humbled themselves before TI6. Losing groupstages would mean that their performance would be even worse than Manila, so they played with immense pressure. They struggled, they lost many games, and played very poorly. But sometimes pure individual skill and a bit of luck kick in, and even though you do not perform well, you still end up in the winer bracket. At this point, they already did better than what they achieved in the previous Major. It is crucial, because it relieves the pressure. They suddenly grow wings, they are happy with themselves, and they approach one game after the other, they know there is nothing to be lost from losing. They became another team, and that is what controling pressure does for you.


There are defenitely many ways to deal with pressure. I guess the easiest approach is to humble yourself, truly. I do believe that certain players need that arrogancy to express themselves. Confidence is very important, and the border between confidence and arrogancy is very thin. So there must be other ways to deal with pressure. There is a lot to learn from traditional sports, because there are ‘team sports’ in which favorites always come back to win tournaments. The biggest difference is the mental preparation these guys go through almost on a daily basis. I believe this type of coaching is a very logical step for professional DotA…

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your read. Remember, this is nothing but my opinion. Feel free to leave comments on the website or just message me on social medias, I’ll be happy to discuss these matters with you.

Twitter : @7ckngmaddota

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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!

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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.

fear bm1

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… )

Team_Secret

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.

bulldog np

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.

balance

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 🙂

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The support role II

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Kieeeeeeeeeeeeeev ! So we made it to the Starladder VII Lan finals yesterday with different standins. It feels good after the disappointment of Minsk (although the event & the people there were wonderful). FATA- will hopefully be ready to play again soon, and then we can finally continue building this team. Playing with standins, even with top-class players, is always different. The motivation just isn’t the same, and the coordination is in almost all the cases very poor.

The Support Role:

So the article today, as mentioned in the previous one, will highlight once again the Support Role in competitive DotA2 games. I will try to go deeper in the analysis this time around, but it should be obvious to everyone that it is impossible to cover everything, it has to be step by step, article after article as the subject is immensely large. The first thing to emphasize is that there are different ways to play support. It’s not about finding a hierarchy between them; they all have their advantages and all highly depend on the playstyle of the team the support player plays in. A very quick example of that would be supports like EGM or Akke that prioritize their team mates situation and shutting down the opponent. Whereas other support players, undoubtedly as skilled and talented, like ARS-ART or Goblak will rather focus on getting early levels and farm, in order to have more impact in the mid-late game.

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So as you probably understood, in this article I will share my vision of supporting, which I of course believe to be the right one, else I wouldn’t play the way I play…

The importance of early game:

First of all, the most important, the absolutely crucial phase of the game for support players is the early game. It has to be clear in everybody’s mind, really. Early game defines the pace of the game, at least that is true in the current meta-game. I can’t think of a team that emphasizes more on mid-game line-ups than on laning stage & early movement, 95% of the game are decided in the beginning of the match. My explanation is that the Gold & Experience vision helped DotA to change. This is a topic that has been discussed in previous articles by the way.

Playing support is about being able to adapt your positioning and decision-making fast and live. Therefore, everyone will easily understand that the best asset of a support player is his experience playing support, but not only. A support player has also to understand, at least equally, the other roles. A very basic example is the following: a rotation to gank the opponent’s mid-laner will never be successful if you have no idea of the runes / lane push timings.

The search for gold & experience :

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Well, this has to be an important point of focus. If we follow the logic, in order to have the strongest early-game impact, the faster you get levels & start gold on supports: the better. But this is true to a certain extent. Indeed, the main enemy for support players is the clock. Every second is important. Try to stay passive 1-2 minute as a support and you’ll quickly understand that unless you pull out big plays, you are out of the game. The art of supporting is being able to, with minimal means, have a huge impact. But let’s go back to what I started to explain about using your time correctly. Concretely: getting level 3-4 with jungle pools is kind of fast, it will take more or less 2 minute of your time, maximum. Getting level 6 is actually way harder, simply because of the way experience scales in DotA. My personal advice would be to never keep on pulling and stacking after level 4, it’s really a waste of time, and it is only justified in few cases.

Decision making:

As a support player, you will be, or should be, setting the rhythm of the game. The main aim is to force your opponent to play your game. Then you will probably ask, how do I know what is the right move, the right strategy? Well, it’s obviously a hard question. You have to keep on analyzing what path the game is taking at a specific moment. You should also have beforehand analyzed both draft, and draw conclusions on those.
Let’s suppose that the opponent is running a 4 protect 1 strategy. You then understand, as well as your enemy, that if you manage to pressure their 1, you will push them out of their comfort zone, and force them to react to your in-game decisions. You will then have to make the plays, as a support, and it requires no farm/experience what so ever. I will prove it, because this is something support players need to integrate, the desperate search for xp & gold is a waste of time in 95% of the cases, and as I pointed out earlier, time is your main opponent. So I am a support, very low level, and I want to pressure the opponent’s carry who already got solid farm, and is additionally protected by his two support players. What can I do? One reaction could be to keep on stacking, try to get level 6, or blink dagger/w-e. Well, one way, but that is just one amongst others, would be to single pull, stack two waves and then pressure the opponent’s offlane towers. This will force their supports to rotate, defend, and will weaken their safelane. This required nothing but an analysis and a decision following it, it is doable with boots, without boots, with ultimate or without.

The point I am trying to make is actually simple, supporting is about macro-vision, not micro. Once you understood that, be aware that you are on the right way, and your support play will improve. There is nothing wrong with making bad decisions, you learn from your failures. What is, though, really problematic for a support player, is the incapacity to take decisions.

In-game sense and anticipation:

Another aspect of support play I want to highlight in this article is the following : the capacity to anticipate your opponent’s movement is probably the strongest asset for a support player. Indeed, attacking succesfully your opponent is always good : take a tower, gank and kill a solo-laner, force a teamfight and win it, etc… But what’s even more impactful on a game is to react properly and punish agressive movements. You basically achieve two things at the same time, not only you proceed to win a fight, or kill heroes, but you also force them to waste all the efforts they put into what they attempted. I could also add to that the fact that proving to your enemy that you can easily read his decisions is also huge. It will most likely dissuade him from trying risky moves, which is always good. The respect that exists between the two teams is a huge factor in DotA, whether you fear, underate or just dont know much about your opponent changes your gameplay completely, and some players (the most experienced ones usually) know really well how to use that to their advantage. But that will have to be the topic of an upcoming article!

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Reaction vs action:
    Back to the support role, reacting is even better than acting. It is also way harder to put in place, because it is always a gamble. It is important to analyze the risk and the reward. High risk and low reward actions should be banned from your play, especially when there is a lot at stake. The mindset of your opponent is very important because it directly influences their decision making. When I mentioned the respect between the two teams, it’s the exact same situation.
For the next article I will analyze one of my games, and explain the decision-making for the first 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how interesting it can be for you readers. Later on we’ll get to the mid-late game phase.  Remember, this is nothing but the opinion of a professional DotA2 player. I hope you had a nice read, see you for the next article!
Cheers!
PS : you can follow me on twitter, @7ckngMadDOTA. Do not hesitate to share feedbacks and comments.

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October 2, 2013 · 8:18 pm

The support role

Hello Everyone !
 
     Many things happened since the last article, fortunately. The team’s results are very satisfying, as you may have noticed. The practice is going really well, the atmosphere is great, and we are all looking forward to what we can demonstrate in the upcoming weeks. The highlight of this week was of course the very controversial ending of our match versus Alliance in the StarSeries season VII. A few words on that topic…Do not blame the admins’ decision, as they made sure beforehand that both team were completely fine with it. One thing you have to know is that the SLTV staff is, if not the fairest, one of the fairest staff in the whole scene as they always make sure their decisions make sense when it comes to the in-game part. Their deep game understanding is a real guarantee in that matter.
 
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    The crash was of course very unfortunate. To be brutally honest I think we deserved to win that game, as everyone could see we controlled the game completely from the very beginning, putting huge amount of pressure on Alliance. But well, when you face the strongest team in the world, one slight mistake and suddenly what was a stomp in your favor turns into a very close game with them having the better late-game. This is what makes them so strong; even one mistake is too much. Moreover, the last fight was clearly in our favor, as they had no buybacks and our position and spell casting was about to give us a clear win. In the end it doesn’t really matter that the game is going to be replayed. Indeed, Alliance is clearly a way stronger team than what we are the moment, the comparison isn’t even relevant. But we were able to pressure them, and to maybe take a game from them, which isn’t a surprise at all for us. We know that the potential is here for us to compete with the very top on a regular basis. So we are already looking forward to the next game, and will try to repeat the performance, and not only once.
 
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     Now that this is sorted out, I can finally jump into today’s topic, which will be ‘The Support role’. As you probably guessed, this topic is immensely large, in particular for me. Nevertheless, I will try to structure it through different articles, but in that one I would just like to highlight or deny general facts about the support role in competitive DotA. I will not fall into the very standard trap that compares the different roles and rank them. Every role is brutally crucial in DotA, the support is as important as the carry, the individuals shouldn’t prevail on the team, etc etc.
 
     The difference between tier-1 teams comes mainly from their support players:
 
On that part, you can really trust my experience, and share your questions to any tier-1 player. We basically all played in different rosters, tried different players, build different teams, some were successful, some weren’t. And the conclusion is almost always the same: ‘the support duo’ didn’t work out, or the support players weren’t skilled enough, or even the team chemistry just wasn’t there. Do not get me wrong, I am not comparing support players with core players, all roles require the same amount of skill, game understanding and experience. This conclusion is actually very frustrating when you try to build a team, but it explains itself. I’ll give the main reasons :
 
          Let us assume that I want to break into competitive DotA. I’m skilled and have good in-game sense. In order for me to succeed, I need to find a way to shine and attract other players’ attention. I can choose between two type of roles, the ‘Cores’, they are given the farm and the experience, and they end up having more impact than the other heroes on the game. The second role is the support role, where the major part of the action is actually in the in-game calls, or little details like warding, positioning or spell execution, best case scenario being a low amount of death and decent assisting. (Please note that a good support is not necessarily a support that never dies, that is completely false. A good support is a support that dies only for good reasons). I will obviously choose the ‘Core’ option, and that is completely natural.              
We all experienced the painful match-making games where the team coordination just isn’t there, and playing support suddenly feels like a waste of time. Well, players naturally tend to play core. The consequence of that is that finding an excellent solo mid, carry or offlane is actually very easy at a pro level, because they simply outnumber the support players. But finding an excellent support player, whose game understanding & skill can compete with the top support players, is insanely hard.
 
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          The second main reason why supports are crucial factor in pro games is that they are responsible for the early game action in most cases. When two very strong teams face each others, the early game rotation is decisive. Indeed, the strongest teams are also the one to do the least amount of mistakes. So when they secure an advantage early on thanks to their support’s rotation, they usually rarely drop it. This can end up with a very one-sided game. A quick and quite standard example would be : Offlaners are woods, Mid-laners are both playing well on their lane, and carries are barely missing a creepkill. Team A’s supports decide to rotate mid and get the firstblood on the opponent’s laner, whereas Team B’s supports failed their rotation few mins ago. This can be decisive, and all came down to the supports and their decision-making.
 
     Those are two reasons I could easily think of, there are many others obviously. The cores basically reward the support players for their early game plays by carrying them through the mid-late game. The supports somehow ‘create’ the conditions of the core’s success and well-being during the game.
 
     The role is also very ungrateful; this doesn’t need to be explained. If a teamfight happens, and a team crushes the other one thanks to good warding/vision or to a clutch swap/nightmare (or anything else), what will be seen and remembered at the end of the day is the naix crushing the enemies and getting a rampage. The hero pool is wider for support players, and every game is completely different. One game requite passivity and intense stacking, the other requires early game rotation and aggressiveness. Sometimes the support has a 3k gold net worth in 5 mins, and sometimes he can afford boots at the 12’. Playing support is about being able to read, LIVE, what particular turn the game is taking, and being able to ADAPT to it. This is precisely why support players are, in 99% of the cases, also the in-game leaders.
 
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    If I happen, for instance, to watch an Alliance replay, I will 90% of the time follow Akke & EGM. And it should be useless to mention that I watch it as a team captain, and not as a support player. I’m not interested into the mechanics, but into Alliance’s decision making. And it doesn’t matter if it is actually made by the supports, what matters is that it is readable in their movement, and only there. They set the pace for the game. This is valid in early game, of course, but not only. But that would be too long to describe.
 
     In the next article I will describe in further details the support role, the positioning, the attitude required and some specifics to know in order to play an ‘efficient’ support. What should you aim for? How to achieve it? If, as a support player, ending up with a positive score do not necessarily mean that I did well (and vice versa of course), then how can I know whether I played a good game or not?
 
    I’ll try to answer those questions in the next writing, this one aimed to give you guys an idea of my opinion on the very large ‘support topic’. I hope you enjoyed your read.
Please always remember that this is nothing but the opinion of a professional DotA2 player! Feel free to drop your comments.
     You can follow me on twitter and show your support for those articles @7ckngMadDOTA. Cheers!

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The laning phase

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Hello everyone ! The International is already over, I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did. Once again ValvE proved the community that their awesomeness has no limit. I don’t want to write about the event today, obviously I will be publishing articles on that topic later on this month… All I can say is how much I was sorry about our performance for the wildcard match. It was a huge disappointment for us, but in a good way. As would Dendi say, it is about learning to stand up again after falling.
As this blog’s aim isn’t (yet?) to share my opinion about the team, the scene or the results, I’ll go back to more in-game related topics ! And the one I want to discuss today is the laning phase.
What is the decision-making process behind the laning phase of the top teams  ? What is the best lane set-up and why ? What is the real impact of the lanes setup in a competitive match ?
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Before I jump  into further details, I’ll just give a quick description of what we, competitive players, call the ‘laning’. Once the draft is over, the 5 versus 5 match-up is final, it is then up to both teams to decide where they want to place their 5 heroes. The importance of those decisions is crucial, as it can heavily one team or the other for the next phases of the game. Here is a quick example : The draft made it obvious for team A & B that they will be facing each other’s trilanes, and have on the midlane and one of the sidelanes a 1 versus 1 matchup. Team A has two solo laners, OD & QoP, Team B has Prophet & Razor. The standard match up would be for OD and Razor to be mid, and Prophet & Qop on the sidelane. That would obviously favor team B, as Razor does great against OD, and same goes for NP vs Qop. But if the laning mindgame allows Team A to have the OD to face Prophet, and the Qop against Razor, then the outcome is completely reversed..
For this article, I tried to classify the different laning styles amongst the top teams. I’ll just start by the first one :
The ALL-IN-LANES style : ( example old : Empire line-up : Goblak, Scandal, Blowyourbrain, Silent, Funn1k, or Liquid nowadays )
This style consists in wining in a very convincing fashion the laning stage. The drafter has almost nothing else in mind when he does the picking. The outcome of it doesn’t really matter, as long as they end up with favorable match-ups in all of the lanes. This kind of team often end up forcing a 3vs3 situation, as the most easy lane wins to predict are the 1vs1 situation. Their 5-man line-up usually do not make lots of sense, as they plan to capitalize on their early game gold & xp lead to extend it. They do not necessarily need to win the three lanes, two are way enough. They even accept to give away small disadvantage on one of those ( trading even on the trilane, or even giving away few kills to the enemy ), as long as their solo laners are doing great. Indeed, they understand that the heroes with the biggest experience on the map are having a perfect game, and their impact later on will most likely secure them the victory.
Strength : It doesn’t allow the opponent to stick to what they had in mind during the draft
Weakness : It relies a lot on early game execution, and requires a total control and prediction of the enemy’s moves in early game
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 Here is an example of this type of drafts : Razor safelane will dominate the offlane Furion, CW mid is great against a Magnus, and the offensive trilane is very solid. The synergy of the draft as a whole is yet to be determined, but Liquid will capitalize on their strong lane performance to win that best of one.
The RIGHT-BALANCE style : ( example : Alliance )
This style is the most common one, as it also is the safest. It consists in keeping the right balance between solid lanes that can’t get completely crushed and a 5-man line-up that actually allows the team to stick to a pre-defined gameplan. The drafts are then very standard, kind of predictable as well. Depending on how much ‘greedy’ the pick is, the pressure can be reported on the enemy. A kotl + pl pick might force them to try something new, for instance.
Strength : The risk of failing is very reduced, as nothing ‘crazy’ is tried. The pressure is usually on the opponent’s side.
Weakness : Easily readable, wether it is in early, or in mid game.
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 Very standard Alliance draft, their safelane is very scary : visage / kotl / lancer, not so easy to contest. Clockwerk mid is solid and pretty defensive, and furion is one of the best offlaner in the game. It is quite hard to find a weakness in their laning, and prevent them from farming early on. Nevertheless, the np + kotl + pl combo will allow them to apply constant map pressure and to split farm.
The LANES-DO-NOT-MATTER style : ( Example LGD.cn )
This style almost disappeared nowadays, it is very old school. The main explication for that is that the execution and innovation has highly increased over the past few years. Weak laning is now heavily punished, and the gold & xp disadvantage caused requires an insane level of teamfight execution in order to come back even into the game. The drafter in this case almost exclusively thinks of the 5-man line-up, wether it is to have insane teamfight abilities, or to be able to apply global pressure on the map, etc… The laning is then decided very standardly, farm will be given on the item-dependent hero, xp to the xp-dependent heroes, etc. Usually it ends up with the 1-1-3 laning.
Strength : Stronger mid-game in almost every case
Weakness : The outcome of the early game exclusively depends on the enemy’s moves.
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Again, very standard LGD.cn draft. They basically send two melee solos, without even considering the match up they will get. Which almost ensures them to lose two lanes already. Nevertheless, their teamfight and late game potential with the magnus / tidehunter / alchi combination is extremely scary, and will allow them to dominate all the teamfights, even though they play from behind. They will eventually end up wining the game.
It is now up to you to examinate which laning style is the most interesting, some counters each others, etc…
One thing though is common to all, they are predictable. I do miss the NaVi 2012, where no one could ever predict the lanes they would go for. That made them very very strong, and made it so hard for any team to draft against them. This time looks to be over, but maybe it is on its way back, who knows guys =D
I hope you had a nice read, cheers, and see you for the next one!

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August 21, 2013 · 9:06 pm

When firstpick became king…

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Hello,
 
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.
ImageThe 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.
 
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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?
Heads!
It is tails, opponent chooses.
Firstpick!”
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!

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