My posse 37 Nyx was always going to be in for a rough season, sporting by far the lowest average MMR in our Winter Minors group. No surprise, we finish the group stage 2-8, but at least we exit the league on a high note, splitting a series against the first place team in our group, NASOLO2. Their average MMR beats ours by over a thousand (~3.0k vs ~4.2k).
So how did we steal a win off them? We certainly played lights out, and they definitely didn’t showcase their best dota that game. Really a lot of factors need to go right to overcome such a skill disparity, and the draft is part of it. Naturally here at Captains Mode we’ll focus on that draft factor. How do you draft against a stronger opponent?
Maybe we should not use game 1 as an example, which we lost in 22 minutes. But I think my goals were pretty similar in both games; try to minimize the impact of the skill differential.
- Obscure lanes and roles. Our lineup in game 1, probably the only sure thing is that Witch Doctor will be supporting. If they can’t get a good read on the lanes, we can dictate those match-ups and hopefully give them a laning phase they aren’t used to. Monkey King in particular just entered Captains Mode, so it’s unlikely they’ve practiced against it as a team. We thought we could give Tidehunter a tough 1v1 vs Necro and hoped Shadow Fiend would underestimate a mid Pudge that levels up much faster than a roamer.
- Don’t feed. Something I stressed at the start of the series was that we only have a shot at winning if we cut down on getting caught out. The easiest way to lose to a better team is to let them pick off and snowball. I’m not sure I fully enabled that goal with the draft, but I did keep it in mind and grab us some defensive skills, vision and initiation. We did end up feeding and giving them a snowball.
- Get finishing power. Strong players have a propensity for surviving fights low on hp, estimating well how much focus they can take before they have to back out a fight or start juking. Against stronger opponents we’ll often get team wiped leaving multiple heroes in critical condition. With Maledict, Reaper’s Scythe, and the chasing tools of Pudge, Abaddon and Monkey King, we make sure to secure casualties in these kinds of fights.
We used similar draft techniques in game 2. which went the distance and clocked in at 72 minutes.
- We obscured the lanes and roles by picking support Zeus, offlane Enigma, and mid Visage. NASOLO02 ended up banning three supports/offlaners in the second and third phases.
- Against Lifestealer-Slardar it’s basically impossible to draft for survival, so we picked up good team fight and tried to out-damage them. Team fight is the way to go against good players, it’s hard to outplay a team that just hits harder than you do.
- We again made sure we had finishing power through Thundergod’s Wrath and Soul Assumption.
Overall, we could make an effort to apply the focal points from this series to future drafts – unpredictable lanes, feed prevention, and finishing power are helpful for every draft. But I do think these adjustments are more important against stronger opponents. Take them out of their comfort zones so that they play worse, not necessarily 1k avg MMR worse, but worse enough that if your team can also play to the top of its range you steal a gg. Try to get everyone to stop dying so much, and make sure you secure kills when you get the opportunities – those are the big keys to equalization.
Against weaker teams I’d look to exploit the laning phase either with excess greed or with domination. Outplay potential becomes a criteria for picks; we’d favor heroes like Storm Spirit over Viper, Sand King over Spirit Breaker, etc. so that we can force them into misplays.
The enemy being too strong for you is the only time that I actually recommend you next level yourself. You could get lucky and next level them instead.
-gg worst captain ever