The Defense 101
The Defense is over. Now that the dust has settled, we've gathered stories, analysis, numbers and VODs for those who want to relive the tournament or catch up with what they've missed.
- À sombra das chuteiras imortais, by Nelson Rodrigues
This is the Grand Finals of The Defense, which means no fun allowed, only safe and secure picks. When Quantic allowed Na'Vi to have Antimage, I went to check XBOCT's statistics with this hero: 5-0. Na'Vi never lost with Antimage before and XBOCT is arguably the best carry in the Dota 2 scene right now. Instead of getting Antimage, Quantic chose to stick to their signature heroes with miGGel on Nature's Prophet, AngeL on Mirana and Mania on Earthshaker. Quantic favored Nature's Prophet over Antimage because they already tried Magina against Na'Vi, losing to their relentless pushing game. This decision by Quantic shows their belief that Antimage is not a strong hero against Na'Vi. While Antimage is very strong in general, I don't recall Na'Vi losing against Antimage. According to my statistics, Na'Vi have a 7-0 record against Antimage. Instead , Na'Vi opted for their signature heroes, using Nature's Prophet to control the flow and tempo of the match.
However, what's really decisive about game one isn't hero choices or lanings, but the psychological aspect of the game. Lag issues brought to the first game of the Grand Finals a tragic and dramatic element: the anger and fury people feel when everything conspires against you. To paraphrase Nelson Rodrigues, the lag issues were like that soccer referee who cheats against your squad: the least that occurs to you is to rip the referee apart and drink his blood. And even if such lag issues are very annoying from a player's point of view, they threw a lot of spice to this match from an spectator point of view, turning cold machines into angry humans.
The players kept good manners, but it was evident that the lag issues affected the focus of both teams, and this is the scenario where all kinds of mistakes appears. Quantic emerged more focused from this situation, controlling the map and forcing Na'Vi to play outside their element. Usually, we would be seeing Na'Vi controlling the map and pushing, but now they're relying on Antimage farming, and that's unusual coming from the Ukrainian squad. Quantic, on the other hand, are totally comfortable with their picks, with only Ryze playing a hero that we don't usually see him playing. Stylistically, Quantic has an advantage, because they're playing the game in a way they're very used to, while Na'Vi feels outside their element. Quantic never let go of the map control, even using buybacks to ensure the win in massive teamfights, never allowing Na'Vi a bit of map control. And they successfully managed to control Antimage and win the first episode of our tragedy.
The second game is similar to the first, but faster: once again, Quantic got themselves Nature's Prophet while giving Na'Vi Antimage. While Quantic continues to stick to their signature heroes, Na'Vi goes wild, with Puppey picking Storm Spirit and running him in the jungle. Despite XBOCT once again farming like a beast with Antimage, Storm Spirit dives weren't efficient, and Quantic were able to control the teamfights with Tidehunter's Ravage and Rhasta, winning the second match and leaving the score in 2-1.
By the third game, the style advantage is gone: Na'Vi bans Antimage and chose to stick to what they have been playing for the past months. Now both teams are in their element, and this leads to a very hard game for everyone. Quantic choose to run Vengeful Spirit and Earthshaker as roamers, hoping to win the lanes with Smoke of Deceit-aided ganks. While they managed to get the first blood, they weren't able to deal substantial damage to the lanes, losing a lot of experience and time in the process. Na'Vi went for a more conservative game, setting up a dual mid lane to ensure Night Stalker a good start, and more worried about staying on lane and getting farm. Both teams fought really hard to get control of the map, and the mistakes due to the psychological pressure made everything unpredictable for a while. Unfortunately for Quantic, even with them performing really well on their teamfights, Na'Vi never let the map control go away when they got it, sieging Quantic's base until the barracks destruction, winning the third game.
On the fourth game, Quantic made the same strategic decision as before: pick Nature's Prophet, leave Antimage for Na'Vi. However, this time Na'Vi completely ignored Antimage, still sticking to their philosophy of early aggression that doesn't depend on hard carriers. Quantic not only got Antimage, but also got heroes that can change the flow of teamfights: Enigma and Sand King. The hope was to use both to not allow Na'Vi to siege them like they did in the last match. But the early game goes really bad for Quantic: in less than 10 minutes, all the first and second tier towers are down. With Enigma and Sand King, however, Quantic won decisive fights and bought time for Antimage to get strong. It is a single mistake that cost the game for Quantic: in daytime, Sand King was caught off guard in the jungle, giving Na'Vi the chance to go for the barracks.
In the end, the grand finals shows us two things. On one hand, it show us how a strong team Quantic has become in the past months. They entered The Defense as a good team and they leave it as a great team, able to fight Na'Vi as equals; secondly, it show us that Na'Vi is currently the best team around, but not that much ahead, as even they can succumb to pressure and to themselves. And the funny thing is that everything will change with the addition of the extra ban in the first banning phase.
Some notes: what's really awesome about The Defense is that every match was casted, and in a lot of different languages. The organizers, casters and players definitely deserve a big shoutout.
GDT vs SK-Gaming (Quantic Gaming) #5
What I liked:
- GDT's unconventional drafting and item choice for this game, picking a Necrolyte, Windrunner, Beastmaster, Ancient Apparition and Venomancer.
- The AOE nukes combined with vast amounts of heal, with Mekansm, Pipe, Death Pulse and good team coordination
- Highlight of the game: 19mins in, while GDT try to push their way towards Quantic's top tier 2 tower, SK's Enigma casts a 5 man Blackhole, followed by a 5 man Tidehunter Ravage. GDT while on critical eHP, manage to Pipe up, greatly reducing the incoming Lich's Frost Nova, followed by Mekansm cast by Necrolyte and a Death Pulse. As a result, GDT manage to survive the clash, almost with full HP, while at the same time pick up 3 of their oponent's heroes, and lead the way towards Quantic's base.
EG vs Na'Vi (2nd Groupstage)
What I liked:
- This game was the "most anticipated" clash of the round.
- This was a very tight game. Both teams tried to utilize their skills, smoke ganks and roaming capabilities, something which they are famous for.
-EG from the beginning tried to be the aggressor, managing to pick up kills, trying to establish their lane control. On the other hand, Na'Vi focused their powers towards pushing towers and although EG had the kill advantage, Na'Vi had the map control.
-The class and the state of mind presented by both teams, especially in the tight clashes starting from 37 minutes. More specifically, EG stood their ground during Na'Vi's 37-40min push, and even though they lost their tier 3 tower, managed to maintain their barracks unharmed, and forced Na'Vi back in their efforts.
- The smoke ganks EG used, making sure to smoke under their forest or under their towers to catch their opponents unaware.
Na'Vi vs mousesports (2nd Groupstage)
What I liked:
- Mousesports warding from the start of the game, gaining vision of Na'Vi's forest and top lane, not leaving Chen a safe place in the forest, causing him to be more cautious.
- Drafting from both sides, heavy reliance on their nuke combinations and execution, with the absense of a standard right click damage dealer.
- Na'Vi's coherence in chain stuns/disables, their spacing, positioning and approach during fights.
- Puppey's famous Chen performance, saving his teammates multiple times and his roaming presence in the first stages of the game.
Dignitas vs Absolute Legends (LB semi final game 3)
What I liked:
- The Silencer pick in response to Storm Spirit. Funny fact: Watch the Intelligence points of Storm Spirit towards the end of the game.
- The way Absolute Legends built their game, basing it around their Silencer and Invoker picks, moving their trilane towards top, taking advantage of Silencer's passive Intelligence gain, building him into a powerful hero.
- The coordination and the execution of Silencer and Invoker's utility spells and disables.
Na'Vi vs Quantic Gaming (Grand Final game 1)
VOD part 1
VOD part 2
VOD part 3
What I liked:
- In the drafting stage, Quantic and Na'Vi seemed to be prepared and have banned the other's picks.
- Quantic's smoke ganks throughout the game, gaining numerical advantages in their pushes and their approach towards fights.
- The split push and the global power of Quantic's picks, being able to push and farm the lanes with Prophet and Broodmother, while WR and ES were roaming the map.
- Quantic's ability to be the aggressor towards the most aggressive European team.
For more VODs, click here
The Defense was the longest-running Dota 2 tournament we've ever seen. Featuring 24 teams (and some replacements!), the tournament featured many different strategies and ran long enough for multiple metagame shifts. Over the last two months we've seen teams rise and fall. We're going to look a little at every team who participated in the Defense and how they played.
Thanks to the statistics we've been gathering, we have info on all 107 games played in the tournament, and we'll use that to show you how these teams played. We'll start at the bottom and work our way to the champions.
|Plug Pullers (Left During the First Group Stage)|
MyM Singapore (0-0): We have no games recorded from this team, so there's really nothing we can say about them. Hey, at least they appear on The Defense page!
EHOME (0-2): A disappointing performance from the Chinese, one of their last before disbanding completely. They couldn't adapt to the cross-server environment, sporting two forgettable losses. However, they were the only team EVER to pick both Antimage and Broodmother in the same team in Dota2.
roots (0-2): Little was said about this team, and they went away without too much attention. They, too, lost twice, but at least they have the honor to be one of the very few teams that tried Batrider and Rikimaru all the way back in November.
|Early Leavers (Didn't Advance to the Second Group Stage)|
MiTH (0-5): Slardar banned three times in five games? Earthshaker as their go-to hero in four games? Picking Batrider and Alchemist? I have to say it was really fun to watch MiTH's play. They brought something new to the table every match. I root for the fringe picks, so I loved these guys. Their play wasn't up to par, though, and they dropped out quickly. Hopefully we'll see more of them in the future.
Praeter Cunctas (0-4): Only 34 kills in four games. Three games lost in less than thirty minutes. This team favored Antimage and Shadow Shaman, but lacked exemplary farm or the strength to hold out for the late game. Favoring an old-school style of two hard supports, two farming heroes and a midgame solo, they ran into issues whenever they lost a lane. They need to work hard to continue to show in tournaments.
LowLandLions (0-4): When SexyBamboe left for mousesports, LLL were in trouble. They played four games without much distinction, favoring Nerubian Weaver as a hard carry, picking him twice. Interestingly, Antimage never featured in any of their games - they themselves banned him three times. They never looked like advancing and with retirements and team swaps creating a roster crisis, their future is up in the air.
Team Epidemic (2-3): Unable to upset any of the teams in their group, Team Epidemic couldn't advance to the next round. Their legacy lives on as they attempted to establish Witch Doctor as a core support hero, a trend adopted later by other teams. They also favored Nerubian Weaver, who may or may not continue to be relevant in the changing metagame. They were interesting to watch.
MyM Malaysia (1-3): The second edition of MyM to appear in the tournament opted to use older Chinese styles centered around Nerubian Weaver, Specter and Doom Bringer. They dealt with roster instability and high latency, and were only able to win one game - a match against GDT in which Specter participated in 25 of 33 kills. They ran into problems with both carry strategies - Weaver and Doom combined to go 0-19 against mTw - and midgame strategies. Against Problem, Broodmother and Slardar were no match for a 12/0/8 Pudge. hyhy and co should perform better in future.
GDT (2-3): This team clearly lacked the cohesiveness of others. Without a defined player core, they took almost an hour to defeat roots (without really sporting a heavy late game lineup) and pulled a great upset against SK-Gaming, who became eventual runners-up Quantic, by showing them that a Necrolyte trumps a Spectre. Other than that, pretty standard losses against mTw's Night Stalker, Lacoste's QoP and the aforementioned game against MyM. As with MyM, should they find a solid core, they might have a chance.
Team Infused (2-3): A personal favorite of this writer, Team Infused was one of the first teams to play without a carry (against MiTH) and won a huge game against Panzer due to Fishbone's fantastic Enigma. Their gameplan centered around the midgame and winning through sheer brute force, without a heavy focus on carrying, teamfighting or pushing. Although losses against mousesports and Evil Geniuses were expected, their loss against SGC cost them their pass to the second round.
It's Gosu (1-3): Another team that focused their game around strong, teamfight-oriented midgame lineups, It's Gosu even once managing to pull the dreaded Faceless Void-Furion-Ancient Apparition-Venomancer lineup (with no success) against Team Dignitas. GoSu based their play around some combination of Lich, Tidehunter, Venomancer, Ancient Apparition and Storm Spirit. Without particularly strong pushing capabilities, they evidently fell short of capitalizing on that mid game advantage, dragging most of their games for over 40 minutes. The sole exception was against the hapless PC, who were no match for a 16-0, 750 GPM Antimage. In any case, this US team has lots of potential and has been on the rise since then.
youBoat (2-3): Going through the matches of each team, I started seeing a pattern. youBoat was a very interesting team who barely failed to make it to the second round (in part, due to the Na'Vi and aL group of death), and who, like the other teams in the same situation, went for teamfight (this time mainly with Tide-Veno-Lich, and a splash of Warlock). The problem with this kind of team is that they're extremely ultimate dependent, so they can't engage in two quick fights less than 2 minutes away from each other, making them susceptible to mass buybacks, baits and, most importantly, split pushes, as if you stop the main force, you won't really have too much to deal with the secondary push team.
|Almost There (Couldn't Reach the Playoffs)|
mTw(4-5): mTw's story is a cautionary tale about the power of the metagame. They went 5-0 in the first group, bashing everyone, even semi-finalists Quantic Gaming. In the second round, their results tanked to 0-5. Their dropoff had something to do with lack of form, but also a metagame which shifted away from their strengths. The Dreamhack champions relied heavily on Synderen's innovative Eul's Scepter Nightstalker. In the first round, mTw averaged more than twelve kills and eleven assists to less than four deaths a game with this hero.
Unfortunately, right by the start of Round 2, the metagame shifted, we started seeing different heroes mid, and dual mid lanes started to re-emerge, weakening Night Stalker, a hero which relies exclusively on timing (i.e: hitting the right level and right items by 5:50 minutes) and his tankability to transform ganks into tower pushes. So big was Night Stalker's decline that in December he was either picked or banned in 92% of matches, while in February, he was only banned or picked in 57% of games. In the second round, mTw struggled with their identity and tried to reinvent themselves as a pushing team. Though they had lots of great ideas, their execution was not as sharp as it had been.They tried split pushing with Furion with a teamfight oriented lineup (vs aL), global pushing with Furion and Tinker (vs Western Wolves), Quas-Wex Invoker and Leshrac (vs Quantic), Dark Seer's powerful wall (vs J4T) and even an all-out-push team with Shadow Shaman, Venomancer, Enigma, Ancient Apparition and Dragon Knight (vs Ariana). None worked for them as they wanted, but it goes to show the versatility they aim for. So don't discount this team in the future. They will definitely have brighter tourneys.
Fnatic (4-6): A forgettable tournament for Fnatic. Their insistence on playing hard carries not only never payed off during the tournament, but also led to the two fastest GG's in Dota2's competitive history at 14 and 16 minutes vs. Dignitas and Na'vi respectively. Playing Spectre and Faceless Void twice, AM and Doom Bringer once, they came away with one victory. There's also a clear indication that they didn't catch up with the metagame seeing how they banned Night Stalker (a hero that was quite fearful when the Defense began, but was forgotten soon after) SEVEN times during the tournament. On the plus side, they did very well when playing Furion and Tidehunter, so maybe it's time for them to play more to their strengths and adapt to the new metagame.
Problem??? (3-6): The Danes came and left as underdogs. Their two first-round wins came from teams based around the roaming power of Chen, an early indication of the hero's role in the new metagame. They had trouble facing Shadow Shaman - of the five games against one, they lost four - and their match against Na'Vi was a bit silly, with Antimage and Weaver completely outclassed by the aggressive Ukrainian pushers. Their win against EG showed their potential as they completely dominated the game with Queen of Pain, Invoker and Broodmother. We hope to see this team troll us in the future.
J4T (4-6): Also known as Kev's team or "the other german team", they didn't have the best of tournaments (and, based on its name, it'll be their only one). Despite avoiding hard carries - only using Faceless Void twice and Antimage once - they loved playing in the late game, taking their wins to 50 minutes. Their losses occured around 30 minutes, a sign of mid-game weakness. They'll be remembered for 3 things:
a) Sporting the most amount of stand ins in a tournament ever. Players from nearly every other team stood in at least once for J4T, which resulted in several playstyles, but always with the German touch.
b) Turning Dark Seer from a nobody's 5th pick to first ban/pick material as a late game turnaround hero....
c) By beating Na'vi with it in an unbelievable match. The match was so memorable that Na'vi now permabans Dark Seer with their first ban after watching the hero completely wipe out their pushes and erase a sizeable level and farm difference. Watch this match if you ever want to see the true power of a Dark Seer.
|At Base Camp (Lost During the Playoffs)|
Mouz (5-7): The international team, while not necessarily the scariest team, is definitely one of the most fun to watch. Led by SingSing and SexyBamboe, this team has a lot of trademark heroes and you'll be hooked to the pick screen. SingSing's Shadow Shaman, Trixi's Mirana and DeMeNt's Lich all participated in three victories. In the end, though, the team fell due to inconsistency. While they were fun to watch, their aggressive playstyle led to overextension and mistakes in the midgame. The playoffs are no time to make mistakes. Still, they're a good enough team that their gambling and aggression will pay off eventually.
Ariana (7-7): The recently-vanished Ariana was an interesting team to watch. Though in the end they weren't good enough, they gave us quite a ride. Ariana used Tidehunter, Venomancer, Windrunner and Lich in more than five games each, and also played a lot of Razor. They played well in the late game, winning games in an average of 45 minutes, but losing in only 34. Their early game was decisive; against mTw, for instance, then-Panzer played defensively until their superior farm could come into play, helping them deflect pushes and punish their opponents.
Dignitas (11-5): The Romanians went into decline during the tournament. Like mTw, they dominated int he first round only to fall off. Even so, they've one of my favorite teams to watch. The core of their team is built around Windrunner, Nature's Prophet, Tidehunter and Vengeful Spirit - all played in five or more games - but they also used heroes like Morphling, Doom Bringer, Drow Ranger and Shadow Fiend, who had fallen out of favor. Their games were action-packed and they won or lost quickly, with an average time of both victory and defeat of roughly 35 minutes.
Western Wolves (8-5): The Frenchmen had a lot of success with Tidehunter and Enigma - four wins in five games for both heroes. These heroes help them get favorable teamfights and give them time to get their carries ready. Western Wolves used a lot of carries, playing Antimage three times, and Faceless Void and Spectre twice. They had a roster change midway through the tournament, with Leaf joining and taking carry duties. Former carry and solo player 7ckingMad switched to support, but the team kept playing well despite the change. We can definitely expect good things in the future.
|The Summit (Top 4)|
Absolute Legends (11-7): The Aussies started the Defense as the new sensation, and they lived up to that. The team became fan favorites really fast, enduring high latency servers while playing masterfully executed game plans. Their secret? They didn't really have one, other than not letting Antimage in the game. EVER. They won't let you pick it, they won't pick it themselves. Also, don't let them get Beastmaster; they were 5-0 with him. Absolute Legends is a team that can defeat literally anyone on a good day, and even on a bad one they're formidable opponents. aL were the only team who used Dazzle successfully, going 3-1 with the hero. Interestingly, they win their matches, on average, in the same time they lose them (31:40 vs 31:56), which means that they're not particularly commited to either an early game strat or a late game strat. Instead, they can adjust and have won and lost in both fast and slow situations. The adaptability of this team is something that keeps me hooked to them. With bleek now in their ranks, my advice is to stay tuned.
EG (11-6): Hailed as a dream team, this collection of former MYM players started the tournament trampling teams with their individual skills. They lost only two games in the first two rounds - to Panzer and Problem - but both matches were after qualification was already guaranteed. They made their mark with a huge victory over Na'Vi in the second round. However, in the end, they lost their form, falling to Na'Vi and Quantic Gaming. While no one can argue that either team is better player-by-player than EG, their much-hyped individuals struggled to gel and display consistent teamwork. Several minor errors in decision making cost them a trip to the finals.
Their picks were very conventional, and other than two successful uses of Pugna and two not-so-succesful uses of Batrider, they followed the metagame, using Nature's Prophet, Venomancer and Windrunner in seven games, Shadow Shaman in six and Chen in five. They fell victim to their own tactics, struggling against roaming teams with Vengeful Spirit and Chen - a combined 4 - 9 versus those two heroes. EG are, however, still a top team that will undoubtedly continue to place highly in tournaments to come.
Quantic (16-7): Despite their frequent name changes, Quantic were the most consistent team in the tournament. The Danish mix have a number of trademark heroes with impressive records. Link's Mirana, Antimage and Broodmother were 8-2, 6-2 and 6-0 respectively. miGGel was equally impressive on Furion (7-1) and Shadow Shaman (6-2), while Mania's Sand King, already legendary from Dota 1, was 10-2 across all recent tournaments. The Danes frequently used Chen, going 6-0 with Ryze and Mania handling the hero. While most teams focused on utility and support heroes like Venomancer and Windrunner, Quantic focused on midgame pushing and teamfight heroes like Mirana, Nature's Prophet, Sand King and Shadow Shaman. Their hero combinations allowed them to peak in the midgame, take teamfights and push. Though the metagame is shifting to early-game pushing strategies, Quantic take things a little more slowly, and it works wonders for them. Definitely a team to keep an eye on.
Na'Vi (13-5): Finally, we arrive at the champions. Na'Vi won thirteen games and executed pushing strategies at levels we've never seen before. The only carries the Ukrainians picked more than once were Antimage and Lifestealer, but their most commonly-used heroes were Chen, Nature's Prophet and Venomancer - four times each - Enchantress, Enigma, Sand King and Shadow Shaman - five times each - Vengeful Spirit six times and Windrunner seven times. Their carry-less style let them dominate the early game to such an extent that they very rarely needed one.
They were also responsible for bringing some unconventional heroes to the forefront. An aggressively pushing, triple-heal trilane of Enchantress, Witch Doctor and Juggernaut took two towers within four minutes, while Spirit Breaker and Jakiro led Na'Vi to a 16-minute victory over Fnatic. In the finals, Na'Vi countered Link's fearful Antimage with Rikimaru, showing us how powerful a counterpick the Stealth Assasin is. Na'Vi execute a simple tactic to perfection: put pressure on a tower with a dual lane, use a jungler to claim a kill with a Smoke gank, follow up by taking the tower. Wash, rinse, repeat. They also are aware enough to realize what counters them. After their defeat by J4T, Na'Vi banned Dark Seer in eleven games. Though the changes to the hero from 6.74 are being ported over soon, one would expect Na'Vi to work him into their combinations sooner rather than later, making their already-fearsome attack all the more formidable.
The Defense was an excellent tournament, and along with The Premier League, paved the way for many other competitions, some just around the corner. As the metagame changes, stay tuned to GosuGamers for more strategy analysis and tournament roundups.