Anyone who has played Captain’s Mode or watched professional Dota 2 can tell you how important drafting is. The perceived importance of the draft varies from player to player, with some believing proper execution and player skill can salvage any draft, while others declare “WE’VE LOST” as early as the third overall pick. In the past, I’ve tried to contact players and discuss drafting, but nearly all the teams contacted believed that if their drafting opinions were disclosed, they would lose every game in the future. This time, rather than have teams discuss their drafts, I contacted Andrew “December” Kostysko from McMaster University, Kyohei “Poxy” Ikeda from UC Santa Cruz, and the whole team of the University of Illinois at Chicago and had them share their thoughts on the drafts of the series played between Rutgers University and the University of Maryland College Park.
Before we begin, I should say that some of the players had strong opinions about picks or bans that were unanimously followed by “Maybe that’s just what they’re comfortable with” or “Maybe they know something we don’t,” so if either Rutgers or UMD reads this and feels attacked, I sincerely apologize. That’s not at all what I’m trying to convey.
Game 1’s bans had everyone scratching their heads, particularly regarding the Meepo and Pangolier bans. Some investigation on Dotabuff seemed to suggest that Rutgers did in fact have a Meepo spammer, but they were conflicted on whether it was really worth banning it in the first phase over more intimidating heroes. Ikeda and Kostysko praised most of Rutgers’ bans.
Our crew had a lot more to say about picks for each series. Kostysko liked Legion Commander and Skywrath Mage picked together, saying, “It’s an easy combo”. They praised the Zeus last pick, but disliked the fact that UMD picked both supports in the first phase. “I don’t like picking two supports in the first phase, it reveals your lanes too early,” said Ikeda. “I would have preferred Magnus and one of the supports in the first phase”. UIC took turns explaining why picking both supports in the first phase was “game losing,” adding, “When you save a support pick for later, you can use that pick to counter something else.” Each group had a pretty unique perspective on Keeper of the Light: Kostysko believes the hero has a strong ultimate but is useless in lane, Ikeda believes the hero is broken overall, and UIC took turns praising, bashing, and complaining about Kotl in their own games.
Most of the bans of game 2 made sense to each team, especially the Outworld Devourer ban to protect Phantom Lancer, and the respect bans of Magnus and Death Prophet. Ikeda was critical of the ban of Faceless Void, saying, “It doesn’t make sense to ban it here, they could have just picked it, maybe their carry doesn’t like Void or something.” Once again Monkey King was banned, and our crew speculated that Rutgers has a player that is especially good with the hero, or at least that UMD believes so. UIC spent a short amount of time discussing when and why to ban Meepo: “It’s a best of three so you can afford to let it through the first game, maybe you get Meepo’d, but even if you do, you can ban it in the second game.” Once again, they added that UMD’s feelings on the hero are probably different.
Moving on to the picks, each team praised the first pick Abaddon, with Ikeda adding, “Very cool, flexible, broken, I like it a lot”. Ikeda went on to commend Rutgers’ draft flexibility, while again criticizing UMD’s double support opening. “Picking the two supports in the first phase isn’t good, especially when there are many good or broken cores available.” Each team spent a good amount of time complimenting Rutgers’ Rubick pick, explaining all the great spells he could steal. “Corrosive Haze alone makes the Rubick pick worth,” said Kostysko. Everyone was on the fence with which team had the better draft until the last pick was revealed to be Ember Spirit. Everything else our crew said about the picks was drowned out by the resounding condemnation. Kostysko believes that UMD’s Monkey King ban really hurt them, while Ikeda and UIC both expressed how difficult laning would be for Ember Spirit. Ikeda’s closing thoughts on this game summarize things well: “You shouldn’t lose the lane with your last pick.”
Game 3 had similar bans as the previous games. Kostysko couldn’t help but reflect on the bans up to this point: “They [referring to both teams] should have kept Abaddon banned all series long, really annoying hero.” Each team liked banning Kotl, although UIC would have preferred banning more blink initiators first. Kostysko and Ikeda had some strong feelings about the Centaur ban, with Kostysko saying, “Banning Centaur and not Slardar was very weird considering the second pick Lifestealer.” Ikeda added, “Centaur is a strong hero in our skill bracket. That hero does so much.”
Not to beat a dead horse, but once again, everyone expressed their disdain for UMD’s two support opening, with Kostysko adding, “Crystal Maiden Willow is a really squishy support duo. I like having a tanky support hero like Ogre Magi. I don’t think they should have picked these two supports first, but I guess that’s their preference.” Ikeda mirrored Kostysko’s feelings about squishy supports as well. UIC disliked the Lifestealer pick, adding that there were many better heroes in the pool, while Kostysko praised it as a “great hero” and Ikeda went as far as to say, “Undying and Lifestealer is an insanely strong duo. I don’t think you can ever lose your lane. Rutgers basically secured one lane to win.” Reflecting on the series as a whole, Kostysko suggested that UMD likes Phantom Assassin, and that their carry player seems to like glass cannon agility heroes based on the 3 heroes picked this series.
Each team said so much about the last two picks of this series that I could almost do an article on that alone. To be brief, Pugna is one of the best heroes against Outworld Devourer for many reasons, and picking OD when Pugna was still available was reckless at best. What made UMD’s draft in this final game even worse was their last pick: Enigma. Ironically, the last-pick Enigma had the near-unanimous support of viewers and the caster, since how could four strength melee heroes deal with Midnight Pulse or Black Hole? Each team took turns explaining why it was not the pick, with Kostykso and Ikeda saying how weak it was in lane, and Ikeda going further: “Enigma last pick is kind of what the hell to me. This is the biggest outdraft I’ve seen in a while: you cannot win the game as UMD. If they had Magnus PA they had hope, but they don’t. This is not the right way of securing late game.” UIC didn’t like the Enigma last pick either, but at least they believed he could carry if he had a phenomenal game.
I would like to thank Kostysko, Ikeda, and all of UIC for taking the time to talk about drafts, a topic that this writer can’t talk enough about. Discussing drafts is one of the most interesting subjects because you can learn so much about what kinds of things players or teams like or dislike to play and play against as well as why they have the opinions they have. I hope to do more articles like this in the future. Maybe next time I’ll put these teams in the hot seat and have Rutgers and UMD critique their drafts!