Battle of the Mind Games – Team Liquid vs Evil Geniuses; KuroKy- vs Cr1t-
Drafting has always been a vital part in competitive Dota 2 matches. Some might even go as far as to say that the draft plays a more important role than the actual gameplay itself. After the Grand Finals of EPICENTER 2017 between Liquid and EG last night, we are here to breakdown and analyze the drafts that allowed Liquid to defend their title in Moscow.
Both teams have huge respect for each other as can be seen in their bans throughout the series. Kuro 'KuroKy-' Salehi Takhasomi immediately went ahead to take away both the Puck and Sand King in which EG has had so much success with throughout the whole tournament. Andreas 'Cr1t-' Nielsen removed Keeper of the Light as well as Treant Protector, leaving Io in the pool for Liquid to first pick. This seemed intriguing as many teams would rather give the Treant to Liquid over the Io. EG responded with Crystal Maiden and Bristleback. CM has been the go-to first phase support pick for a long time and BB becomes twice as scary with Arcane Aura to help with his mana problems. Thereafter, Liquid followed up with a Sven pick which is 1) a good pairing with the Io and 2) deals extremely well against a BB with his huge damage output as well as high armor.
In the 2nd phase, more respect bans came into play as Lasse 'Matumbaman' Urpalainen's Lone Druid as well as Artour 'Arteezy' Babaev's Venomancer got removed. Cr1t- also banned away Razor in fear of it stealing tons of damage from the front-lining BB. EG then went on to pick Clockwerk and Storm Spirit. The purpose of the Clock is to be as disruptive as possible to the Sven with well-placed Power Cogs as well as well-timed Hookshots. As for SS, not only is it Syed 'SumaiL' Hassan's best hero, it is also extremely good in finding and focusing down the Io in the back of the fights. KuroKy- replied with two of Liquid's comfort picks – Tusk for himself and Dark Seer for Ivan Borislavov 'MinD_ContRoL' Ivanov. Tusk provides excellent ganking potential in the early game as well as defensive capabilities for the team-fights. As for DS, it can set up huge Vacuum-Storm Hammer combos which can be extremely devastating when coupled with Sven's cleave.
Down to the last ban, EG decided to take away Amer 'Miracle-' Barqawi's Anti-Mage which would have been the biggest counter to SumaiL's SS. Liquid banned away Saahil 'Universe' Arora's Batrider and picked up the Necrophos for Matumbaman, leaving Miracle- with the mid Sven. The Necrophos was a genius pick by KuroKy- for several reasons: 1) EG's lineup has 0 burst making it extremely difficult to kill the Necrophos, especially when paired with an Io. 2) Necrophos' ultimate Reaper's Scythe deals exceptionally well against both Storm and BB. 3) It is one of Matumbaman's best hero. Feeling that his lineup is lacking in team-fight, Cr1t- went for a last pick Kunkka for Ludwig 'Zai' Wåhlberg to round up his draft.
Cr1t-'s draft has always been a hit or miss for EG when it comes to the big stage. Since the Manila Masters, it has became less of a problem. However, against one of the greatest captain and drafter KuroKy-, Cr1t- may have just fallen short in the drafting department yet again. Liquid's draft is extremely well-rounded with excellent early game, great sustain and superb team-fight capabilities. On the other hand, it feels that EG's draft severely lacks damage and too much weight is on SumaiL's Storm Spirit to carry the game.
Draft Advantage: Liquid 63% - EG 37%
With first pick this time, Cr1t- was able to pick up the Treant for Zai while banning away 2 of Maroun 'GH' Merhej's best heroes –KotL and Io. KuroKy- made no changes to his bans and picked up the Dark Seer + Slardar duo right away. With 2 of GH's best heroes already banned, KuroKy- felt the need to prioritize his pick. This fearful duo has been known to be extremely deadly both in the laning phase as well as it's team-fight potential. Cr1t- replied with an Oracle pick for himself which is one of the best laning counters to DS. DS relies heavily on his Ion Shells in the early game for any laning presence and Oracle's Fortune's End removes it instantly. Also, the same spell is extremely useful in removing Slardar's Corrosive Haste debuff.
Moving on to the 2nd phase, Liquid decided to remove Bloodseeker and Huskar from the pool, not wanting to get cheesed by EG. As for Cr1t-, he banned away Faceless Void and Crystal Maiden which surprisingly, has been left untouched throughout the first phase. CM would be a good pick for Liquid as it helps both Dark Seer and Slardar deal with the mana problems which they tend to have in the early game. The FV ban is rather peculiar as that hero doesn’t seem to synergize very well with whatever Liquid has so far. A possible explanation would be that EG was planning to pick heroes with low cooldown spells and time dilation would have been a problem for EG's draft. KuroKy- went on to pick Enchantress and Juggernaut in the 2nd phase. The Enchantress pick is meant to speed up the tempo of the early game by putting the pressure on multiple lanes. As for the Jug, it is a carry that can deal decently well against a offlane Batrider should both Liquid supports choose to roam around. EG answered with an Ursa pick which is pretty good here. 1) Ursa with Overpower makes Enchantress's Untouchable a non-factor. 2) Ursa is one of the better carries against Juggernaut as Enrage completely nullifies Omnislash.
Liquid went for a last ban on Razor, being afraid of the pressure a Razor can put on Jug in the laning phase. As for EG, they banned out Outworld Devourer and went for a Queen of Pain for SumaiL. OD was a good ban by Cr1t- for the following reasons: 1) Decent matchup against QoP. 2) Defensive Astral Imprisonments against Batrider's initiation. 3) Good against Ursa in the mid to late game. The last pick QoP for EG rounds up their draft pretty well. Not only does it provide the strong magical burst that EG's draft currently lacks, it is also good at dodging Enchantress early game rotations as well as being able to blink away from Jug's Omnislash. KuroKy- decided to last pick the Lone Druid for Matumbaman which can help to kite the Ursa with Savage Roar and Entangling Claws.
Cr1t- has done extremely well in game 2 to counter-pick Liquid's draft. The only concern I have for EG is the vulnerability of SumaiL's QoP. If he gets found and burst down early in the fights, EG will have damage problems as the Ursa can be kited easily. However, with the two defensive supports watching over SumaiL, there should be no problems for the EG mid superstar to do whatever he needs to in the team-fights. Despite the last pick Lone Druid neutralizing the draft disadvantage that Liquid had, I still favor EG's draft in game 2 ever so slightly.
Draft Advantage: Liquid 47% - EG 53%
In game 3, bans were exactly the same with Puck + Sand King removed by Liquid and Io + KotL removed by EG. Liquid had first pick this time and favors the Crystal Maiden over the Treant. EG replied with Treant + Dark Seer. Not only is Dark Seer one of Universe's best heroes, it also acts as a deny pick against MinD ContRoL. With the CM in hand, KuroKy- decided to grab the Bristleback which was the same duo EG had in game 1.
EG went for targeted bans in the 2nd phase, taking out the Bloodseeker as well as Lone Druid. As for Liquid, they took out SumaiL's QoP and Arteezy's Sven. As mentioned above, Sven is one of the better carry counters to BB with his huge damage output and high armor. Cr1t- elected to amp up the team-fighting potential by picking the Warlock for himself. As for Liquid, KuroKy- can opt for either the Pudge, Slardar or Earthshaker for Gh. Slardar is not as viable without the pairing with the Dark Seer and Pudge is not as strong when there's a scouting hero on the opposing team (Treant in this case). Also, against the heavy team-fighting line up that EG already has, KuroKy- wanted to pick something that is able to do stuff from outside the fight which is why Earthshaker is such a good pick here as Fissure can be extremely disruptive from far away. EG decided to go back for Arteezy's Drow Ranger which they had done in the past but usually with a Puck on their lineup. Drow is one of the better Silver Edge carriers in the game which will be excellent against the Bristleback. Also, if Liquid tries to focus down the Drow, EG has a tremendously scary team-fighting lineup backing her up. KuroKy-, with a stroke of genius, went ahead and pick Lycan for Matumbaman. Not only is Lycan an extremely good hero in barreling down on Drow, it is also one of the best in creating chaos in the backline, running down supports like Warlock. Creating chaos in the backline is one of the best ways to play against huge team-fighting lineups as big team-fight abilities are forced to be used at sub-optimal timings.
Liquid rounded up their draft by banning away Lina and picking up Miracle-'s Invoker. Invoker is yet another hero that is extremely good at creating chaos with Tornado + Emp, disrupting any huge wombo-combo that EG is planning on having. Being left with SumaiL's hero, the obvious choices would be OD or TA. However, EG went for a Mirana last pick, hoping to complete the wombo-combo with Fatal Bonds + double Starstorm. The weakness of Mirana in the mid-lane is her measly right-click damage but Drow's Precision Aura makes up for it.
EG had a very clear game plan going into game 3 with their heavy wombo-combo lineup. However, KuroKy- drafted exceptionally well against it. With a Bristleback in the frontlines and Lycan creating chaos in the back, on top of Miracle's Invoker arsenal of spells, it is hard to see EG getting off their combo in the team-fights. Moreover, EG themselves have to be mindful of grouping up lest a huge Echo Slam from GH's Earthshaker.
Draft Advantage: Liquid 59% - EG 41%
In the draft of the 4th game, there were some mind games going on in the bans of the 1st phase. EG with first ban / pick decided to remove KotL + CM instead. Cr1t- learnt from the previous drafts that Treant was not a priority pick for Liquid. KuroKy- took away the Sand King as usual but had to make a choice between banning Io or Puck. However, he decided to let both through and ban out the Sven instead which implied that Liquid wanted the Bristleback. Knowing that Io was the more contested pick and Liquid would never 1st phase a Puck, Cr1t- went for the first pick Io. KuroKy replied with the expected Bristleback as well as Earthshaker in which GH had so much success with in game 3. EG went on to pick the Puck as they always do in the 1st phase when given the opportunity to.
KuroKy- continued to target his 2nd phase bans on Arteezy, removing both Venomancer and Drow Ranger. With the Puck in EG's hand, it is understandable that Liquid are more fearful of the potential Drow lineup from EG. Similar to game 1 and 3, Cr1t- removed Matumbaman's Lone Druid from the pool. EG also banned away Miracle-'s Ember Spirit as 1) Flame Guard can easily remove Living Armor and 2) Searing Chains is rather annoying for a Puck to deal with. KuroKy- picked up the Dazzle and Dark Seer in the 2nd phase. With a Mekansm on Dark Seer as well as the heals from Dazzle, KuroKy- aims to secure a stable and sustainable lineup for Liquid to counteract any burst damage that EG's lineup will bring on the back of the Puck. EG replied with Zai's Treant which was surprisingly still in the pool, as well as Arteezy's Razor which will be able to steal tons of damage with a front-lining BB on the opposing team.
Both EG and Liquid were afraid of getting cheesed in the last pick and banned away Huskar and Bloodseeker respectively. Cr1t- then drafted Universe's Axe as a counter-pick to the Dazzle from Liquid. Moreover, Axe's Berserker's Call allows EG to attack BB from the front, making BB much easier to kill than otherwise. Liquid threw a curveball and went for a last pick Ursa.
Back at the Manila Masters when EG ran a similar strategy with SumaiL's Puck and Arteezy's Razor against Newbee in the Upper Bracket Finals, there seemed to be a lack of damage across EG's lineup. Liquid with the tanky cores of Bristleback and Ursa, coupled with the heavy sustain from Dazzle and Dark Seer's natural pick up of Mekansm, it feels that Universe's Axe has to step up in a huge way to cover the damage gaps that EG lacks.
Draft Advantage: Liquid 56% - EG 44%
Do you agree that Cr1t- got outdrafted by KuroKy- throughout the series?
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