When new captains join a league and start playing official matches, I like to tell them,
Put shit on paper!
I say that it doesn’t matter how you do it nearly as much as just actually doing it, so that you have some ideas about what you want grab going in, which saves you a lot of time in phase 1 so you have more time to figure out the nut picks in phase 2 and 3.
Doesn’t have to be literal paper, I usually have a google doc open with scouting information and planned openers. Have something written down or typed up.
We’ve utilized a few variations of draft plans / cheat sheets over the last few months. I used to think that I was evolving my planning, iterating into new styles in order to improve effectiveness. The reality is that opponents give you very different information when you scout them. Our cheat sheets keep changing styles, because our opponents change, and the “new” style just makes more sense for the given opponent.
Let’s look at a few cheat sheet types:
If the enemy team has small hero pools I recommend a Counterpick Matrix.
This style of cheat sheet checks hero matchups against what your opponent is likely to pick, so it’s pretty dependent on them sticking to their guns. I think it creates a huge advantage, because you can counterpick the enemy team even before they choose their heroes. There’s a chance that they switch it up, but you already know it’s a low chance, and even if they do they still aren’t playing comfort heroes.
There’s an extra benefit of helping you decide exactly who to ban. If say, an Earthshaker-Pudge opener is really good against their entire hero pool except for Lifestealer, you ban the Naix and voila, the draft is pretty much won.
If an enemy team has high variance in phase 2/3, but favors certain openers, I recommend an Opener Tree.
An Opener Tree plans out your Phase 1 bans and picks according to common setups by the enemy team. Eg. if they like to slam Nightstalker-Mirana, and you aren’t afraid of it, maybe you open with bans on say, CM and Warlock.
If they have first pick and take one half of this pair, you go Veno-Axe or BH-Abaddon. If they open a different hero, hopefully you have another response set up for that.
If you have first pick and think they’ll open with their NS-PotM, you plan three heroes (eg. Veno, Abaddon, BH) to first pick in case they ban two. If they also like a few other pairings, plan a first pick that is good or at least okay against all of them.
You can also guess at their bans and use that as context to plan first pick. If you think the bans will be CM, Warlock by you and Veno, Abaddon by them, you could plan to snatch Nighstalker yourself.
The point is to have likely scenarios covered so that you feel good about the first phase bans and picks.
If the enemy team has huge hero pools and unpredictable pick patterns, I recommend focusing on your own signature heroes and using an Enablement or Set up Your Strat style cheat sheet.
Identify a few heroes you want to set up for later in the draft, maybe it’s Tinker, LD, and/or Invoker. From there, decide on some openers that would lead well into all those heroes, and some that set up each hero individually in case the rest get banned. Eg. diving frontliners like Nightstalker, Spacecow could help make space for your backline dps.
Once you know your opener heroes and your enabled heroes, you can figure out the heroes you want to ban in Phase One and probably some candidates to ban in Phase Two. Maybe Nyx Assassin–Clockwerk bans are correct right away with Lifestealer, Zeus, PA, Spectre bans in Phase Two depending on what they take in Phase One.
If they ban you out completely or accidentally counter the heroes you were going to pick with say, Pugna or Nightstalker, you can still adjust and change up your plan in the draft, or decide that it won’t be a problem and take your signature pool anyway. But having the plan helps get you to a favorable situation where you have either an amazing choice you set up, or a few different good choices.
Try not to next level yourself with unusable ramblings. Figure out something about the enemy team that you can exploit, and use that to determine the style of your cheat sheet.
-gg worst captain ever