The Visage-Tinker Opener (Battle Cup)


Notched my first Battle Cup trophy of the winter season on Saturday (Tier 5). Our cup strategy was to abuse Visage-Tinker cheese, expanding on its global burst by drafting heroes with initiation, lockdown, defensive utility; whatever was most needed. We’ll first talk overall about draft planning, bans, why that opener. Then follow it up with game by game draft notes.

  • Draft order. With our first phase planned, we decided on a relatively strict draft order of 4-2-5-3-1. Offlane and carry could go earlier by a pick if they wanted (didn’t happen). The advantage of a strict draft order is that you can quickly start a 1-on-1 conversation with the player to choose his hero, no figuring out what role to pick, saving time. The downside is that you can’t control certain lane match-ups (e.g. picking your mid after theirs, offlaner after their supports etc.), and familiar opponents will see through your misdirections (ahem kstigs).
  • Why Tinker-Visage? The pair are signature heroes for us. That’s all. We lucked into these two heroes having incredible synergy. For those who haven’t seen the duo before, Tinker is able to BoT onto a Visage familiar. Then his nuke combo instantly gives Visage a full Soul Assumption for the quick pickoff. Finally, Tinker is great at clearing waves; Visage is great at hitting buildings.
  • I would not recommend this opener in general, but I do recommend the approach. If you have hero spammers on your team, get their heroes right away and be confident that they can succeed against counters. Protect with bans as best you can, but trust that they know how to adjust to unfavorable match-ups; they’ve done it before.
  • Speaking of bans, we elected to remove Centaur, Ember first phase each match. They are not the hardest counters but among the power heroes they are pretty good. Statistically the hardest counter is Alchemist, but he is a well below average hero overall and not a first phase pick. We make sure to ban Spectre in phase 2 to spare the Tinker that grief.


  • In the quarterfinal, our boys were worried about Lone Druid. I wasn’t, but sometimes the right ban is for the sake of morale.
  • I was delighted to snag Riki in phase 2, whose scouting paid dividends against the strong initiation of Axe and Puck. Smoke Cloud is a huge issue for all their heroes. Finally he is a fantastic BoT2 target for Tinker.
  • Bit lukewarm about Legion Commander against their lineup (Astral, Call, Voodoo) but it gives nice initiation and overall synergy with our team. Player was excited for the pick, I believe in trusting what my guys see as positive context; they’ll notice what I don’t, and in my experience it pays to listen.
  • Carry Silencer has great match-ups against their cores and especially slobs all over Axe in lane. We have really good R-to-win cues in Duel and Grave Chill + bat BoT.
  • Overall our draft lanes well, can dictate fights, deletes people, exposes a vulnerability to silence, and snowballs.


  • In the semifinal, third pick Pudge serves as hard initiation, save potential against Chronosphere, and a tough kill into their magic damage lineup.
  • We wanted something that can survive a fissure block, and Mirana fit the bill. Added laning bonus that she can jungle with Sacred Arrow. For this match she provides a long stun to help kill Void before he can Time Walk, also set up for hook, and finally gives the immeasurable utility of Moonlight Shadow.
  • Chain Frost, Echo Slam, Chronosphere, Eclipse – against such a dependence on ultimates it felt like the perfect game to dust off Wraith King.
  • The game 2 draft is more defensive than the previous but still prioritizes initiation. This time it uses tanks to absorb big ultimates; aims to get pickoffs then fight right through the counter initiation.


  • In the grand final we had the misfortune of getting both 2nd pick and dire, gives them an extra pick to deal with our opener.
  • Our third pick Shadow Demon’s Disruption seemed like a natural counter to the single target stuns of Venge, Ogre. We weren’t sure if VS was carry, but either way she is a pretty good Disruption target herself for Vengeance Aura. SD’s other spells should have high value – Soul Catcher helps us take down those beefy supports, and Demonic Purge gets rid of that pesky Bloodlust.
  • Against Clock, Ogre, Venge we felt like we needed to stack survivability and control, so we quite liked Faceless Void for offlane. Chrono synergy isn’t top tier but still solid with no anti-synergy. Time Dilation, with all its nerfs, actually seems rather useful here. And again, natural diffusal carrier is great for removing Bloodlust.
  • Finally the Outworld Devourer last pick to wreck the Morphling. A standard hard counter, although I was a little worried about Waning Rift and radiant’s control in general. Also don’t think it has much synergy with us other than being excellent for deleting people in Chronosphere. Again, I trust my players to know their own match-ups better than I do; to see what I miss. I pick my carry his jam.
  • Between Disruption and Astral this was the most defensive draft of the three, appropriately because Radiant had the best initiation. The priority is still pickoffs, ganking, map control – but against the enemy lineup we need to be able to save lives as well.

Overall this Battle Cup exemplifies how drafts should shift their utility while preserving and progressing the primary goal of the opener. We want to kill people, take the map, and maintain global presence – no matter what heroes the enemies pick we don’t discard that theme, we adjust in ways that support the theme. Maybe we delete people and silence their friends; or we delete people and play around big ults; or we delete people and banish shit; the soul stays intact.

I believe for every strong opener there are enough heroes to simultaneously strengthen and adapt a strategy. It’s why I think an “open” or “uncommitted” first phase is really just a weak first phase. We have something going for us or we don’t. We build on a strong foundation. Versatility is great when you’re starting a company or decorating your kitchen, but in Dota we draft five heroes for the purpose of demolishing one building. Pick a fucking path to the building.

Just don’t next level yourself by say, sticking to that second pick Tinker against a super unlucky weirdo opener like Spectre, Storm Spirit.

-gg worst captain ever


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