The Art of War - Ganking

Posted by David "Saguine" Horscroft 3 years, 43 weeks ago


Military action is important to the nation--it is the ground of death and life, the path of survival and destruction, so it is imperative to examine it.

- Master Sun Tzu

Hey all. It's Saguine here, and this is my first article for GosuGamers DotA Strategy. I decided to start with something I'm familiar with: an adaption and extension of my The Art of War series. . However, I've decided to write this guide as I feel that Sun Tzu's The Art of War is under-appreciated in the gaming world. In this series of guides, I will be taking important quotes of The Art of War--in no apparent order--and applying them to vital aspects of DotA. Thus, without further ado: I hope you enjoy this article!

To unfailingly take what you attack, attack where there is no defense.

It is impossible to win a game of Dota without hitting things. As my unstable alter ego always says: "You can't make an omlette without breaking some skulls." This is my first feature in the series, which will analyze ganking: when to gank, what a good ganking team is comprised of, and finally some examples of teams who favour gank-heavy lineups.

The important thing in a military operation is victory, not persistence.

In the early and mid game stages, ganks generally make up the main body of conflicts.

When do you gank? Ganking is reliant on opportunity. To make use of these opportunities, you need both the element of surprise, and superior firepower. Firepower can be comprised of both damage and disables. The best times to gank are when heroes are distracted and occupied; the more, the better. LGD executed an awesome gank against EHOME during a recent matchup (LGD vs. EHOME). In the 17th minute LGD launches attacks on the top and bottom lane at the same time. This prevented EHOME from teleporting in reinforcements, and resulted in two successful ganks by LGD.

How to gank: Gank-based heroes almost always have two things in common: high burst damage, and decent disables. Possibly one of the best examples of a ganker is Clockwerk Goblin. He has three things that enable him to make the use of any opportunity: incredibly long initiation range to counter scouting and warding, high damage output with his Hook, Rocket and Battery Assault, and a lengthy disable in the form of his Cogs. An example like this lets people understand what makes up a good ganker, or a good ganking team:

  • Invisibility: this enables your team to either force opponents into a defensive stance, or take them by surprise despite their warding. This involves both spells (Gondar's Windwalk, Mirana's Moonlight Shadow) and items (Smoke of Deceit).

  • Long-ranged Spells: this involves spells that can hurt and/or disable enemies from a large distance. This allows for damage to come from unexpected places at unexpected times, which can set up a perfect initiation and a successful kill. These include Clockwerk's Hook, Mirana's Arrow and Invoker's Tornado. Spells like Visage's Soul Assumption are also perfect for catching fleeing enemies. Global spells such as Zeus' Thundergod's Wrath and Ancient Apparition's Ice Blast also fall into this category.
    Attack when they are unprepared; make your move when they do not expect it.

  • Mobility: mobility in a gank generally relies on positioning spells such as Queen of Pain's Blink, Clockwerk's Hook, Mirana's Leap and Puck's Illusory Orb. This lets you suddenly appear from no-where and kill things. Last time I checked, that was a good thing. In fact, it's so good, that some heroes get a solo lane just so that they can farm up a fast Blink dagger. An example of this is Lion.
    Tire them by flight.

    "This means making a lot of surprise attacks... When they go to the aid of their left flank, you head right; when they go to the aid of their right flank, you go left."

  • Burst Damage: sustainable DPS means nothing when there are two enemies teleporting in to break your kneecaps. In ganks, being able to unleash hell over a few seconds is far superior to being able to sustain anything. Heroes like Lion, Lich, Puck and Earthshaker all have the ability to lay down a lot of pain over a very short time frame, and as such they make for very solid ganking heroes.
    I have heard of military operations that were clumsy but swift, but I have never seen one that was skillful and lasted a long time.

  • Disables: the final part of a successful ganking team is disables. It doesn't matter if you have all the surprise in the world, and you can deal huge amount of DPS: without some form of disable, the chances for your enemies to escape skyrockets. As disables go, Polymorph (Hex and Voodoo) and Stuns are at the top. Heroes like Clockwerk, Lion and Rhasta have heavy disables that allow their teammates to absolutely destroy the target hero without fear of escape or retaliation.
    Those who render others' armies helpless...are the best of all.
Ganker Venn Diagram

Note: the heroes in the diagram above only represent a portion of the gank-oriented hero pool. There are many, many more.

With a combination of the above over one or more heroes, or heroes complemented by the items mentioned, you'll have a very solid ganking squad. An important thing to note is that, when paired with Blink Dagger, many of the Staple Gankers can move into the middle section and act as Ideal Gankers. Lion is a good example of this. These are perfect in pushing lineups--ganking one or two heroes opens a window where the whole team can push against a weakened enemy--or aggressive lineups wherein you try keep the opposing carry down by either ganking the carry or feeding off the carry's supports. Note that a gank-heavy lineup is not always ideal: it all depends on how you play as a team, and what your opponents pick.

The prime use for this template, however, is to allow you to both easily construct a ganking lineup as well as spot an opposing gank-heavy strategy early. Even in the first banning phase, analyze the heroes that have been removed from the pool. Do they fill any of the roles above? If Hero Killers are being banned, it could indicate that they will be relying on one or two heroes central heroes in their strategy, such as Morphling, Syllabear and Invoker. If Gank Initiators are being banned, it often shows that they may be pushing lanes early on in the game and want to avoid surprises if possible. Staple Gankers are often banned regardless of the intended lineup, but if the stronger ones are being banned you may want to get ready for a heavy carry lineup.

This is equally appropriate in constructing a lineup. If you're looking to take early towers, you'll need a few Staple Gankers or Hero Killers to eliminate the key opposition so that you can push unopposed. If you're going to get an AoE lineup, or one based on teamfights, it's generally wise to take some Surprise Initiators to make sure that you get to launch the attack on your terms.

Team Analysis

Below are two brief looks at two of the top teams currently: MYM and nevo. Both teams will often favour ganking lineups, and I am going to take a brief look at how they implement these.

Teams like MYM, for example, are known to play offensively by constantly threatening all heroes on the map. They do this by almost perpetually having two roaming heroes out of sight. What this does is put pressure on their opponents, forcing them to play more cautiously across the board. A good example of this is found in a recent game against ehost (MYM vs. ehost). In this replay, their primary roamers are Chen and Crystal Maiden. By keeping perpetually in the forest, MYM avoids being predicted by ehost, and thus threatens all the lanes simultaneously. This firstly enables them to score multiple kills, but also deters ehost from pushing to their full potential, which in turn allows Spectre to farm up her Radiance and win the game.

Be subtle to the point of formlessness. Be mysterious to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of your opponent's fate."
Gank Example: Surprise

Another strong ganking team is nevo. These lineups invoke a complex type of passive-aggressive ganking that involves avoiding early pushes so as to force enemies onto their side of the river. When this becomes the case, they attempt to gain an advantage by punishing enemies who stray too far into their territory with decisive ganks. A perfect example of this is their recent game in the Darer Tour (nevo vs. M5). While they remain passive in the lane--except for some early skirmishes and an aggressive Shadow Demon--they make use of almost every opportunity they get, mercilessly punishing any opponents who are out of position and on their turf. Below is a perfect example of their opportunistic ganking style.

Lure them on with the prospect of gain.

Gank Example: Blitz


So, what can we learn from what's been said? Firstly, what is clear is that ganking forms an integral part of many games. Secondly, we can clearly see that ganking can be used to many extents and purposes, from providing a distraction to allow carries to farm (MYM) to luring enemies into your territory and feeding off them (nevo).

Furthermore, I have encapsulated the basic template so that you will be able to spot a ganking lineup within the first few picks. This is crucial, as not knowing how to counter a ganking lineup will almost certainly cost you the game.

In the end, this series is about knowledge. Knowledge will help you overcome your enemies before the battle even begins. It will help you avoid them where they are strong, and destroy them where they are weak. Hopefully, it will help you become a better player. Knowledge is power!


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