WE vs. iG

Posted by David "Saguine" Horscroft at 24 August 2011 10:50
CPL: WE vs. iG

WE faces off against a historically superior iG in this matchup. While WE is by no means a poor team, especially by international standards, iG has come from winning streak after winning streak. Time to analyze how and why WE laid these titans low through a combination of insane aggression, surprise picks and clever countering.

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The Pick/Ban analysis
First Ban PhaseFirst Pick Phase
Invoker Lich Lone Druid
Clockwerk Nerubian Weaver Shadow Demon

WE has the first-ban. They decide to go with a reliable Invoker ban. Against Ferrari, this ban is very wise. iG respond by removing the Clockwerk Goblin from the pool. WE then takes out Lich. Weaver and Syllabear are then removed, which takes out two very powerful mid-game heroes. Against Zhou, banning Syllabear is very wise so as to prevent early chaos. iG removes the powerful Shadow Demon from the pool.

Batrider Earthshaker Venomancer
Windrunner Vengeful Spirit Broodmother

As their first pick, WE snaps up Batrider. This is an arguable choice, but still a strong and aggressive one. iG answers this with Windrunner and Vengeful Spirit. These picks are both strong and versatile. WE completes their picks with two support heroes: Venomancer and Earthshaker. Venomancer--through his wards--brings a strong pushing component to any team. The Earthshaker pick also saves WE a ban, as SanSheng is well known for a very strong Earthshaker. In light of this pick, iG's next choice seems strange: Broodmother, who will need to watch out for WE's Earthshaker. This Brood pick also implies that Zhou and DDC will try exert some early pressure on their lanes to force WE onto the back foot.
Second Ban PhaseSecond Pick Phase
Ancient Apparition Necro'lic
Spectre Lycanthrope

The second ban phase sees WE ban AA and Visage, and iG removes Lycanthrope and Spectre from the pool. With the current AoE heroes in the pool (Earthshaker, Windrunner and Batrider) Visage would have a permanently maxed out Soul Assumption. The AA ban could be to deny iG another strong solo laner, which would allow WE to jungle two other heroes in today's common strategy. Removing Spectre reveals that iG wants to have the strongest carry on their team, while Lycanthrope is a very common Chinese ban due to his latent DPS, versatility and jungling power.
Storm Spirit Night Stalker
Enigma Beastmaster

With the first pick of the second phase, WE takes the Storm Spirit. While Storm has fallen out of favour in China, WE's FnTY is known to play an very good SS. This is a very solid confirmation that WE will be aiming for early-to-mid domination. iG responds by picking Enigma, gaining a strong ultimate and a good jungler who can bush with Venge. WE then surprise picks Balanar, the Night Stalker. iG now needs to select a hero who can keep NS down, and they pick Rexxar. Their laning becomes very clear in this, which reveals an intended 3-solo-2-bush strategy. However, one would question whether Beastmaster is the best counter to a solo mid Balanar.

Even with the obscure Balanar pick, I feel that WE has outpicked iG. Not only has iG revealed their laning strategy, but WE have kept theirs hidden. Furthermore, Balanar's lengthy silence cancels Broodmother's Web Invisibility, and his high damage output is enough to take out support heroes by himself. iG could probably have chosen a stronger solo mid, such as Doom (who would be able to harass Balanar in lane, as well as destroy Storm in teamfights) or Necrolyte (whose tankiness and team heal would help offset the AoE damage provided by Earthshaker, Batrider and Venomancer). At the moment, Rexxar is ill-suited to combat Batrider, and is not likely to be able to prevent a solo Balanar from farming. However, it is important to note that his stun is widely considered to be a solid counter to Storm Spirit. iG, however, have far more potential late-game, which puts pressure on WE to perform early.

An important aspect to iG's lineup is the Enigma pick, when paired with the Beastmaster. Enigma works best as a follow-up initiator; after Rexxar's Primal Roar has initiated a teamfight, Rexxar himself will draw fire which should allow Enigma to get a solid Black Hole off. However, since four of WE's heroes have some form of interrupt, Enigma will need to get an early BKB up to ensure a full ultimate.

In conclusion, both lineups are fairly aggressive, and as such we can expect a very action-packed game from these two Chinese teams.

China WE China iG
Invoker Lich Lone Druid

Clockwerk Nerubian Weaver Shadow Demon

Ancient Apparition Necro'lic

Spectre Lycanthrope


Windrunner Vengeful Spirit

Earthshaker Venomancer


Storm Spirit Night Stalker

Enigma Beastmaster

Storm Spirit CPL_WE_FnTY (Bot)
Batrider CPL_WE_Li (Top)
Earthshaker CPL_WE_V (Top)
Night Stalker CPL_WE_SYCar (Mid)
Venomancer CPL_WE_MoFi (Bot)
Broodmother CPL_IG_ZHOU (Top)
Vengeful Spirit CPL_IG_xiao8 (Roaming)
Enigma CPL_IG_34 (Roaming)
Windrunner CPL_IG_DDC (Bot)
Beastmaster CPL_IG_430 (Mid)

The Game
Laning Analysis
As expected, iG lanes Rexxar solo mid, Broodmother in the top lane, Windrunner in the bottom lane and Enigma in the jungle. Vengeful Spirit roams, and gets her experience by jungling part-time with Engima. Since the first four could easily be predicted, WE decided to counter this by sending Batrider top, Balanar mid and Storm Spirit bottom.

The goal of the Enigma-Venge dual roaming is to both open up three solo lanes, and offer gank support to the lanes. This threatens both top and mid for WE. Vengeful Spirit will, however, has to be careful not to steal gold and levels from Enigma, and she will have to roam by herself for some time to ensure that Enigma gets both the experience and farm he desperately needs.

WE's setup has revealed the central part of their strategy: allow Balanar to get early levels and farm before the first night, while Storm Spirit and Batrider keep things together on the side lanes. Batrider is an apt counter for Broodmother, with heavy AoE he can use to tear her Spiderlings apart. Since Windrunner is a far stronger and more versatile laner than Storm Spirit pre-level 6, FnTY will have to be very wary for incoming ganks, especially with the dual stun that the roaming Vengeful Spirit supplies. Whether iG is set to strike at the heart of this strategy and exploit it's weaknesses is still to be seen.

Important Events
Because of the critically important Balanar pick, I will be dividing this analysis into into its Day-Night segments. This does not include times during the day that Balanar casts Night.
First Day: [0:00] to [6.25]
From the start, Balanar places some heavy harassment on Beastmaster. However, he strays too close to the tower, which damages him heavily and evens it out. Strategically, however, he has made his point, and shown Beastmaster that he is facing a very aggressive lane.

02:16: WE scores a first blood on Rexxar mid, via a gank from a Smoked Venomancer and Earthshaker. While the first blood is generally of importance, this one is even more vital as it totally opens up the middle lane, allowing Balanar to farm freely and gain levels. This instantly throws Beastmaster onto the back foot for the rest of the laning stage unless iG conducts an equalizing gank.

02:59: Vengeful Spirit and Windrunner die bot in a failed gank, while their target (Storm Spirit) survives through a very well timed salve, making it 3:0 to WE in the first few minutes of play. Like the Rexxar first blood mid, this allows FnTY's Storm to farm and level safely for a brief period of time, giving him a level advantage of Windrunner. This is important, since Windrunner is generally a stronger laner than Storm Spirit, so FnTY needs all the advantages he can get.

03:37: Batrider dies top. This kill would generally open up the lane for Broodmother to surge forward and try take the tower or at least heavily damage it. However, due to Batrider's aggression early, Broodmother is on very low health and cannot pressure this lane without greatly risking herself.

Other than these three events of interest, it is important to note that the aggressive Batrider lane is keeping Zhou's Broodmother in check. Even with the looming threat of Vengeful Spirit or Enigma coming from the bushes, Batrider manages to control a potentially dangerous lane with only one death. The roaming Earthshaker and Venomancer pose a perpetual threat to all lanes, and because of Dust, Broodmother is no exception. Balanar has continued to farm mid with minor harassment from Beastmaster, harassing him out of the lane at one point, totaling 26 creeps before the first nightfall. Beastmaster does his part to keep the incoming ganks from WE to a minimum, even occasionally sending summoned creeps to destroy runes when he finds them. While it might seem strange to destroy runes, strategically it is wise, since the negatives of letting powerful gankers like Batrider, Storm Spirit and Balanar get runes far outweighs the possible benefits of letting allies get them.


The crucial gank on Beastmaster, giving Night Stalker free farm.

First Night: [6:26] to [13:15]
As the first night closes in, Broodmother tries to exert more pressure on the top lane, even driving Batrider off. However, the roaming Earthshaker's AoE power has proven a solid deterrent to the hordes of Spiderlings that Zhou is throwing at him. Ultimately, this pressure is not only inefficient to destroy the tower, but it also feeds V's ES with gold and experience from the Spiderlings at the safety of his tower.

06:32: Beastmaster uses his ultimate to prevent Balanar from teleporting. This was a very prudent choice from Ferrari: if NS had managed to teleport top it is possible that he would have gotten a kill or two on the Vengeful Spirit and Broodmother. Although he doesn't kill Balanar, this is a stun well used, as it severely limits Balanar's map control until he gets another TP scroll.

07:05: Rexxar and Venomancer both die in a teamfight above Sentinel mid tower. While this came as the product of a fairly simply gank, it's later effects are important to note. Without Rexxar constantly checking for runes, Balanar manages to get an Invisibility rune, which he uses to great effect later. WE would know this, and make use of the temporary loss of map control to try to gank Broodmother top.

08:45: Balanar displays a very useful trick right now. With an Invisibility rune in his Bottle, he uses it and quickly teleports to the bottom lane. The Invisibility Rune has a few seconds of fade time where you can cast spells and use items without losing invisibility. This results in a kill on Windrunner bottom, as WR presumably drops her guard when it seems like Night Stalker's teleport has failed. This "fade window" is really useful in using one bottle charge for a quick regeneration, but here it shows that it has far more uses than just a convenient heal. Windrunner was an ideal target here as, despite her Windrunner ability, she is slow in comparison to the Storm Spirit and Night Stalker. Keeping her down to prevent an early Mekansm is a top priority.

10:39: SYCar's Balanar scores two kills, on Windrunner and Vengeful Spirit. The Windrunner is killed during a tower dive, and the Vengeful Spirit is killed by NS and ES as they begin to move bot. Even though Balanar is on 500 HP when he attacks the Venge, he kills her without a problem due to his support and massive DPS.

The gank on Windrunner is important, and was a viable target since her support was out of immediate reach. While Batrider was keeping Brood down, it is also important to stop Windrunner from getting an early Mekansm, which will help offset the AoE damage from WE greatly.

11:56: Balanar scores another two kills in the bottom lane, on Beastmaster and Windrunner. He arrives just in time to secure the last-hit on Rexxar, and then speeds off to kill the Windrunner. Even with the speed boost provided by her spell, Windrunner is caught and destroyed. An interesting thing to note is that Balanar did not teleport to the outermost tower. Instead, he teleported to an inner tower and ran the rest of the way. Not only did this give iG a false sense of security, but it also allowed Earthshaker to teleport in as fast as possible, foiling the gank on Storm Spirit. This lane was calling for a gank, as Storm Spirit has been farming through the early stages, which put out the perfect bait for iG's Beastmaster and Windrunner.

12:05: Zhou's pressure finally bears fruit as he takes the top Sentinel tower. Unfortunately, this pressure does not have the desired effect. The main point of a Broodmother is to apply pressure to either draw heroes away from other lanes, or to slam a lane, tower after tower, if she is given an empty lane. Broodmother did not succeed in either of these: Batrider was generally all it took to keep Broodmother safely at bay. WE successfully wasted Broodmother's potential, which reduced the effectiveness of picking her greatly.

At the end of the first night, Balanar has gone from 0/0/2 to 5/0/2 in the first night. This is huge, and iG will no doubt pay for letting this monster run rampant over the map. Comparatively, Broodmother only has 1 tower, and no kills to her name. Rexxar has also slowed down his general map awareness, possibly in an attempt to keep his crow nearby to see incoming ganks. This, unfortunately, has given Balanar a few more free runes.


Balanar makes use of the Invisibility Rune fade time to teleport bottom lane and stage a surprise gank.

Second Day: [13:15] to [20:54]
The first night ends, sapping Balanar of his strength. However, his productive first night has set him up to still be useful during the day. While he lacks killing power, he still retains his natural tankiness, as well as a very powerful single-target nuke.

14:30: Here stands a very important moment of mind-gaming on WE's part. Knowing that iG is very keen to put Balanar's spree to an end, they tempt the team into diving into the Sentinel second-tier tower to kill him. While Balanar dies, he sets iG up for a perfect initiation by Earthshaker. Brood, Engima and Vengeful Spirit are caught off-guard with a lot of Spiderlings, giving V's Earthshaker an easy double kill with a well placed Echo Slam. Broodmother manages to escape on low health. Balanar buys back in an attempt to catch her, but fails and wastes his gold. Since Balanar is less effective during the day, this is not such a huge loss for WE, but the loss of Enigma and Vengeful Spirit put the rest of the iG in risk of being ganked without support.

19:36: WE initiates a teamfight on Enigma mid. iG comes off badly, trading three heroes for only one. While Brood and Windrunner survive, this is a heavy blow to iG, as it allows WE to continue to apply pressure across the map and--more importantly--continue to farm in order to defend themselves against a late-game Broodmother.

As the second night begins, the Sentinel mid tower falls, along with the Scourge bottom tower. A big issue iG are currently running into is a lack of farm. Enigma and Broodmother both desperately need BKB's, and Enigma also needs a Blink to be truly effective. However, due to the way Balanar is running amok, the lanes are a very dangerous place to farm, which forces Brood to send her Spiderlings into the forest. This is a tactical error on iG's behalf: splitting the jungle farm between Enigma and Broodmother means that neither will reach a BKB quickly, allowing the mass stun and disable from WE to destroy them in fights.


Earthshaker lets off a devastating Echo Slam upon the unprepared iG.

Second Night: [20:55] to [29:56]
24:22: The first teamfight of the night, and iG gets slammed 0:4 by their second tower. Only Vengeful Spirit survive, and Broodmother buys back to try defend the middle lane. Balanar's silence was core here so as to stave off Beastmaster's Roar.

26:15: The second teamfight is initiated by the Vengeful Spirit's Nether Swap. However, iG get slammed, and loses three heroes for nothing. SYCar's BKB is up, making his Night Stalker all the more terrifying, since the only thing that can stop him now is Rexxar's Primal Roar. This is a strategically sound item since, with his Silence on Rexxar, he can run wild without being disabled in teamfights. It also allows him to move across the map without fear of getting ganked and disabled, which gives him a lot of map control: this is totally vital for a high-mobility hero like Balanar.

In total, iG gets no kills over the second night, while WE manages to score 7. Balanar's powerful DPS, complemented by great support and positioning from his team, is really laying pain into iG. Things are looking very bad for invictus Gaming right now, as their carry is falling behind in farm and they lack another significant source of DPS to rival Balanar.
Third Day: [29:55] to [38:14]
31:11: The second useful trick of the night is WE's use of Smoke to get past Broodmother's scouting Spiderlings. Since Smoke only disperses on Heroes and towers, it can be used to stealthily get past scouting summons. This results in a successful kill on Rexxar, depriving iG of their best disable. WE starts to try take Roshan during this advantage, but gets back to avoid getting caught off-guard by Enigma's ultimate.

34:30: WE manage to kill Broodmother. Unlike after killing Rexxar, they make full use of their advantage and decide to take Rosh uncontested. FnTY's Storm Spirit picks up the Aegis afterwards, further concreting WE's advantage.

Right now, WE dominates when it comes to map control. iG have, for a reason I cannot fathom, avoided placing defensive wards, and instead spend their money on more offensive wards such as a deep top lane Observer. However, due to WE's aggression and pressure, they are never in any position to use the information they get from these runes. This is another grave error on their part: defensive runes might have helped protect them during this section of the game.
Third Night: [38:15] to [END]
The major event of the third night, and the final event of importance, is a large teamfight in the Scourge base. From the start, Broodmother gets disabled and caught out of position. Zhou dies almost instantly. Enigma comes up and tries to land a Black Hole, but he also slips up and only manages to catch Batrider. The misuse of this powerful ultimate is devastating. Zhou buys back to defend, and WE dives for the tower as iG falls back.

This moment clearly highlights the need for Enigma to have a primary initiator. While Black Hole is arguably the most powerful ultimate in the game, landing it correctly is very difficult, especially against a team with 4 interrupting heroes. However, a primary initiator will often cause enemies to focus their fire and clump, while lets Enigma get multiple opponents in one ultimate. This may be why the Night Stalker is so quick to silence Rexxar: if they stop his Primal Roar, they damage Enigma's ability to follow up with his ultimate.

With Brood respawned, iG attempts to force WE back from their tower. The bonus speed from his Web works against him though, and Zhou ends up diving into the battle before the rest of his team. He gets caught out of position again, and ends up as dead as before. From there, Windrunner falls (after taking Storm's Aegis) and is shortly followed by Rexxar. iG realises that the battle is lost and calls GG.

The end game score is 36/7: a brutal beating from an underdog to one of China's leading teams.

Brood out of position

Broodmother races into the fight and gets caught out of position, far away from allies.

From the get-go, it seems that WE had the upper hand. In my opinion they did well to counter iG with their picks, and having kept their laning strategy in the dark they came into the game with the element of surprise. A huge aspect of this game is that every move iG made, WE seemed to be one step ahead and ready to counter them. iG sent Rexxar mid: WE countered with an early gank to free up Balanar's lane. iG tried to pressure the top lane with Broodmother: WE counter this with an aggressive Batrider and a roaming Earthshaker. iG perpetually lagged behind WE, and by the first night they had put no pressure whatsoever on the Balanar. This bit back with a vengeance when SYCar's Night Stalker slashed through their ranks time and time again, throwing them onto the back foot.

What I find surprising is that, in my eyes, iG did not do much so as to counter this. A possible route would be, during the first night, to turtle in larger groups. This would allow the Broodmother to farm, as well as limit the kills Night Stalker got. With his brutal speed, ganking NS at night is difficult, and as such iG needed to go onto the defensive: something they failed to do effectively.

Games like these, with more unusual picks such as Night Stalker, are like arms races: when one side is on top, the other side has to battle to not only equal it, but better it. WE very quickly got to the top over iG through picks, and in their desperation to return to power iG slipped up on their positioning, their counter attacking and their reaction to and application of pressure.

Congratulations to WE: they fought hard, played expertly, and I believe that they definitely deserved to win this one.



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