Mythological Creatures

I originally wrote this post for a more gaming-oriented blog my friends and I created, Bloglomerate. It is exclusively concerned with the game Dota 2. I’ve reposted it here to ensure it lives on in case Bloglomerate is discontinued.

Bigfoot, Unicorns, and Non-Standard Drafting

Swag Sorceror: Cranberry Thunderfunk, I’d love your opinion on why non-standard (non just standard right click, basically) carries aren’t more common as a pocket strat in professional. Safelane pugna got thrown into the meta decently heavily during i think 6.80? and that was pretty cool, but not super long lived, but why don’t you see more safelane silencer, carry necro / lesh, or any number of other heroes that can probably carry in ways that I haven’t even thought of, either by forcing a game in the first 25 minutes or whatever.

This is the answer I think most pros would give.

The biggest problem is that they’re easy to gank and easy to focus in team fights. Pretty much all carries that ever get picked have one of these things:

  • a reliable escape mechanism
  • a respectable stun
  • high burst damage

Antimage, Weaver, Void, and Spectre have good escapes. Chaos Knight, Sven (though he hasn’t shown up in forever, for no apparent reason), WK, Tiny, and Slardar have good stuns. Luna and Gyro have good burst damage (also, high base movement speed). All of these make tp support and turn-arounds much more viable.

What does Pugna do when ganked? You don’t even need a stun to kill Pugna, just a silence for Life Drain and that’s it. What does Necrolyte do? Pulse once and then throw out a desperation Scythe. Oh wait, maybe he had a Mek and popped that. He still died. BKB is often a lame item for these heroes, too. No mana or mana regeneration, no burst, no disable. The killing power of most intelligence cores doesn’t come from BKB, it comes from Orchid, Refresher, Aghs, Hex, Dagon, Blink, or Force staff. BKB is just a 3975 gold pause between these items and a huge limitation in maximum effectiveness.

More problematic, BKB hard counters many of these heroes. If their primary damage or utility comes from magic, they have no ability to stand toe-to-toe against any right-click carry. The maximum potential DPS of a right-click carry is always going to be higher than any magic-dependent hero. Crit, AC, Deso, Butterfly, MKB, Satanic – all of these are weak options for anyone that isn’t primarily interested in right-click.

Faced with the fact that there’s a limited amount of gold on the map, you have to choose one hero that’s going to have 500+ GPM. Your best bet is the hero that represents the highest possible DPS with the least chance of dying. In most cases, that’s a hero whose damage won’t drop to zero if the enemy buys a BKB.

That’s the standard answer, and it’s got a lot of truth. But I think the answer is at least as much about fads and that most nebulous term, the meta.

Drafting is really hard. There’s 102 heroes in CM and you have to assess all of them from the perspective of both your team as well as your enemy’s team, which side of the map you’re on, which player excels at which type of hero, what the enemy team has drafted in the past and with what success, what your lanes will be, what the enemy lanes will be. All of that ignores trying to imagine the different possible combos as well as the combos present in the draft so far.

Remember how many matches these players go through in a day. Virtus.Pro played 19 games in the EU qualifier. 8 of those games were in one day. There’s not much time for self-assessment or a thorough review of failures and areas for improvement. Some teams become blinded by player mistakes, and assume that they lost because of performance rather than the draft, or vice versa. Then there’s the risk factor. Players want to win, and every time you lose with a non-standard draft, the blame almost always gets put onto the picks, even when poor positioning, stupid lanes, or bad item choices are obviously at play. When your heart’s set on winning are you willing to use an unproven draft?

The human brain is legitimately dumpster-tier at this type of multivariate thinking. The end result is that for most teams, drafting strategy is simplified into getting the most out of the current meta. People definitely aren’t thoroughly or rationally assessing every pick. I assumed for a long time that they had to be – especially the Chinese teams. There’s no way their managers aren’t crunching matchups and combos.

But it’s just obvious that they aren’t – or if they are, they’re doing it wrong. We would see way more surprise drafts or unique combos if they were. Tons are out there, waiting to be discovered. Plenty of the ideas we come up with are at least as credible as Bane + Mirana, and that’s been picked constantly. Even when new drafts appear, they rarely have an impact.

Think about the Dendi solo mid Wisp. Has that been done even a single time since TI3? Why not? It fucking worked. He hit level 6 fast and got a solo kill with Relocate. It fucking worked and not one team has had the balls to say “hey okay maybe we’ll just take a look at it, why the hell not”. Maybe they all did it in scrims and it has some fatal flaw I haven’t considered – but it’s not like pros aren’t drafting daftly weak lanes or expertly dodging counter-picks with their standard drafts, either.

On the more bland side, recent shifts in the meta are hard to explain. Gyro has pretty much disappeared, which makes zero sense given the huge emphasis on Necro books right now. Casters talk about needing a carry that can AoE with a BKB to deal with the pure damage, but it’s only Luna that comes up. I can identify no reason that teams should be picking Luna over Gyro in a lot of these games. Rocket barrage is a nasty combo with SD Soul catcher and Dazzle Weave + Flak cannon is also nuts. I’m willing to bet that it’s not because teams are making a cold calculation. They’re just not thinking about the pick.