Link to the vod: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/140906444
My posse Thanks for Breastsfast played against the juggernauts BRB Buying Abyssal in the Echo League Grand Finals. I won’t talk about the results until after the break; the series is a good watch (albeit long), and the production team does a terrific job. So please enjoy it if you’re interested.
BBA rolled through the group stage and playoffs, entering the grand finals with a convincing 15-2 record (to our 12-3). We seemed to be underdogs from discord chat during hype-week, however the generous pregame panel believed their advantage to be small. Twitch chat strawpoll actually had us as slight favorites.
Coming into the series we’d garnered some recognition for unpredictable drafting, and for the farm speed and play-making of our star offlaner, Verve. BBA had a star of its own, their pos-1 captain, Excasand, who they played around and gave space until the late game was his alone to dictate. Opponents could not navigate the clean execution of their high-tempo four-protect-one dota style. For me the task was clear: get these guys to make some goddam mistakes, get them playing Boobs dota.
I set up a matrix with the teams’ respective hero pools to look for statistical advantages. Turned out that Doobs and Excasand not only shared a signature hero in Anti Mage, but that AM countered the rest of ‘sand’s best heroes save for Terrorblade, who we could ban. We identified a few other cores we wanted to build drafts around: OD, Drow, Clinkz, Timbersaw (A Flying Monkey’s best hero), and carry Lion.
From there we highlighted supports that would set up for these cores and would counter BBA’s phase one selections – hopefully counter their phase 2/3 comfort heroes as well. Really liked Pugna, Zeus, Silencer, Nyx, Riki. Discouraging was that Boss’s (and my) favorite hero, Pudge, was looking like a tough play. Banning Empyrean’s Abaddon only increased the chance that we’d see him play Undying, which was worse for the Pudge as well as for our greedy playstyle. And it would let through Crystal Maiden, Jake’s best hero, who is a soft counter to almost all our favorite cores.
We settled on a Plan-A: phase one Centaur, CM bans; phase two TB, Axe bans; Nyx-Pugna-AM / Drow with variations. Let’s break down how that plan evolved over the course of the series. Here is the finals dotabuff link (spoilers).
- In game 1, the first BBA behavior change came with their 4th-overall Lifestealer. Excasand’s carry is usually picked 8th or 9th. It countered the Nyx-Pugna duo, but we didn’t mind, because it showed their pos-1 so early for us to counter back, and both AM and Drow are great against it.
- We responded with classic Verve offlane Razor to glue supports to that lane and give the Naix a hard time.
- The phase one LS actually ends up crushing our draft not because of the hero itself, but because it allows them to pick their offlaner after we take our carry. Drow, AM, whoever we take is going to get countered – in this case it’s Legion Commander into our Anti Mage.
- Probably should have banned Ember Spirit instead of Sniper in retrospect.
- Stairs called for a last pick Lone Druid – he knows better than I do regarding the hero’s match ups so I locked it in. It’s his signature after all, but I was concerned that in a team fight LD provides too similar a role to AM and Razor. Maybe Invoker for more control and to dispel Flame Guard? Would give us a lot of Mana Void synergy as well.
- We play decently for about 25 minutes, then engage in a couple terrible fights, and BBA snowballs to victory.
- Down 0-1, we look to correct three issues but end up making more mistakes:
- Letting Abaddon through. We come to a consensus that Abaddon wasn’t the problem in game 1, probably the Ember Spirit and some dumb positioning and other in-game errors. But we’re wrong. The Empyrean LoA gives us permanent scars in game 2 and earns itself a phase one ban the rest of the series.
- Boss comfort. He’s not really a Nyx player, which was an issue for us in g1. We consider unleashing the Pudge. I ask him if he wants to play it into Aba or if he would prefer Riki, who he ultimately opts for. His Riki was really strong, so, not really a mistake here – it even earned two respect bans. So maybe I’m just using a second bullet point to emphasize that we should have banned Abaddon.
- First pick Magnus. Verve asks me to slam Magnus, which I’ll always do when he’s confident. I think this pick was his way of staking the ground and committing to a tryhard game. To me it doesn’t matter that his Magnet Rhino is exceptional, or that it’s a “standard” offlaner. It’s incorrect to give another team five picks to counter our best player’s hero.
- Doobs laner. Anti Mage’s early game was really hard into the LC-Aba dual lane, so we looked to give him an easier time with Weaver, who can essentially function as a pos-1 offlaner. It’s a signature hero for him and lets us aggro into ‘sand’s Slark. But AM ended up doing fine in g1; I think the tough lane would have still paid off later against their Slark pick. Regardless I also like anti-strength in this position; Necro or Timbersaw would have excelled in lane and been much harder to cull later on.
- We crushed BBA through most of this game, but tossed our victory to the feet of their Abaddon, whose Radiance-Octarine from pos-4 caught us off guard. Our drafts so far were not perfect but I do like them in a vacuum. The Aba player is simply too good to let the hero through again.
- On the brink of elimination we return to our roots and plan to take our Boss-chan Pudge right off the bat. If they pick Dirge so be it.
- Meanwhile, Stairs’ confidence is broken, and he asks for our ringer, Snow, to sub in. I think the rest of the team is not surprised.
- Into Crystal Maiden, alongside Pudge, and knowing their potential picks, I still love Pugna here on the turn. But it isn’t fun to play the same hero all series, and I’m positive that taking it a third time would be bad for morale. So I lock in Zeus, who I like almost as much, and we don’t even mention Pugna again the rest of the series. The pick seems fortuitous – not a single BBA choice this match is good against him – but it is just the draft plan at work.
- BBA makes a huge mistake picking Khaleesi’s Lina phase one, into our Pudge-Zeus duo. Not only is the pick itself risky and fragile, but it lets us select our own mid earlier so that our two strongest players, Doobs and Verve, have maximum context for their heroes. We know Mirana will have a tough lane, but we think Arrow and Moonlight Shadow will provide a big advantage around the map.
- The Lifestealer pick for us here is not a Doobs hero but is pretty normal in this context, and gives us the option to create Rot-Radiance ancients if it feels right. Just kidding. It’s just nice to have a magic immune hero to go around hitting stuff.
- Dire drafts their way into Verve Lion’s corner, and the rest is history. Shout out to Forge for sleuthing the Lion pick.
- We’re still down 2-1, but the onus is now on BBA to adjust. We’ve finally tilted them from the initiations by Pudge and Lion. They end up banning out the Pudge, and down the line take Excasand’s hero last just as we’d done in g3 to help enable Verve.
- Morale is back up and we have momentum. Verve wants to show Snow that Mirana is better in a sidelane, so we lock it in after first-pick Boss-chan Earthshaker. Crystal Maiden is pretty difficult into Raigor, but BBA locks it in regardless; comfort over counters for them.
- We have a lot of disable but not great finishing power into Radiant’s tanky LC and Kunkka picks. Necro gives us the oomph we need, some team fight, some sustain, and even a little bit of front-line. So far we’ve also hidden our roles and lanes very well.
- BBA takes the bait – they’re sure we have our mid by now and counter both our options with Lina. Personally I think they should have taken a page out our book and picked up the Zeus, which would counter our daggers as well as the Moonlight Shadow.
- Finally we pick up the Snow OD for high back-line dps and banish against X, Duel, Lina combo. Doobs Wraith King abuses their dependence on ultimates and sets up the fissure block in our aggressive lane setup.
- We felt that the Kunkka pick signaled that BBA had lost their way and were ready to start playing Boobs dota back at us. But throwing out one niche pirate doesn’t do the job. I’d been advocating for an OD pick for two weeks, and Snow made it look very intelligent indeed. Pretty sure he hit level 20 around ~08:00. Verve was styling, Doobs was farming, Boss-chan was tactically feeding, and I was kill-stealing – Thanks For Breastsfast at its finest.
- Game 5, the final showdown. BBA figures out how to throw caution to the wind. They swap Excasand to mid, abandon their signature Crystal Maiden, and feature three new heroes – all reactive, seemingly non-comfort selections.
- We have our own plan in mind – tilt BBA as hard as possible with Naga gaming. Our goal from the outset has been to throw these guys off their rhythm, force mistakes, stress them out. We aggro-trilaned into ‘sand three games in a row for this purpose. And I’m pretty sure Naga Siren is the avatar of tilt. Take any frustration they had from game 4 and turn it towards anxiety about a mermaid kage bunshin time bomb.
- Having lost two games to PotM, Dire lets us have our Boss-chan Pudge. It’s a mistake. Pudge secures our high ground to stall for Verve Naga, gives us save potential as well as pressure around the map for fear of the fog-of-war.
- Lich is a standard support, and reveals our lanes, but it’s a strong hero, amazing laner, and ice armor does a ton of work both on Pudge and on towers to stall for Naga. Pretty good with our expectant Doobs Timbersaw pickup as well.
- Timbersaw gives us more turtle, wave clear, and demolishes Axe. Our Timber pick ends up jebaiting an Ursa response by BBA, who is relatively useless against the incoming Naga Siren.
- Finally, the Snow Viper pick helps us tilt Excasand’s SF in lane as well as gives us tempo into the mid-game without needing to disrupt Naga’s farming patterns.
- Both teams play their asses off through seventy five minutes of bloody base defenses. BRB Buying Abyssal takes the only set of barracks in the game, along with a 25k gold lead, but Thanks for Breastsfast takes the only throne.
In the end it was a long, thrilling, exhausting series with three very tight games. As a drafter and as a captain, there were a lot of lessons to learn from this finals, from being more generous with respect bans to opening comfort over planning. But the most important thing is, and always will be, keep your players happy. Keep everyone focused.
And try to tilt the fuck out of the other guy.
-gg worst champion ever