Aggression and Item Range: nevo vs. M5

Posted by Bruno "shostakovich" Tomaz at 07 September 2011 06:22
Aggression and Item Range: nevo vs. M5

This is the first of a best of three match between nevo and M5 from the Darer tour. Unfortunately, we don't have the ban and pick order to discuss, but this game features important principles and nonetheless deserves an analysis. In this game, we'll see nevo using aggression as a strategy to protect their carry, and M5 fully exploring the item range of their heroes.

The replay for this match can be found here.

Denmark nevo Russia Moscow5
Priestess of the Moon nevo/syndereN (Top)
Vengeful Spirit nevo/eatenfish (Mid)
Queen of Pain nevo/miGGel (Mid)
Lycanthrope nevo/Ryze (Jungle)
Sand King nevo/AngeL (Bot)
Oblivion LghTfHvN (Top)
Enigma M5.Dread (Jungle)
Earthshaker M5.NS (Mid)
Windrunner M5.Glody (Bot)

The picks
With Priestess of the Moon and Queen of Pain, nevo have a lot of mobility to join or escape fights and tons of burst damage. Sand King will join this club when he gets his Blink Dagger. They have Vengeful Spirit to counter Enigma and further strengthen Lycanthrope; in a late game scenario, Enigma is the only hero M5 has to disable a BKB'ed Lycanthrope. nevo has very balanced picks, able to be strong in all the stages of the game. However, this lineup doesn't have many natural users of team-oriented items like Mekanism or Pipe. While M5 have Pugna and Windrunner to carry Mekanism and Pipe, nevo doesn't have optimal heroes to carry these items, making it more likely that the Danes won't have them in the game.

On M5 side, we see tons of disables and nukes creating a very strong mid-game setup. Their hero choice allows M5 a huge range of useful items to protect themselves against nevo's AoE damage. To counter Vengeful Spirit's threat to Enigma, M5 has Lion to burst her down. With Vengeful Spirit dead, M5 is free to land Black Holes and abuse their huge nuking power. This setup gives M5 a very strong mid-game. However, there are some things to see here: Lion, Earthshaker and Enigma are all very weak early in the laning phase, lacking HP, mana and armor at level 1. Lion and Enigma both require lots of XP to reach their full potential. Also, there's the risk of the game going into a very late scenario with an extremely powerful Lycanthrope. In this case, Enigma is the key to keeping Lycanthrope under control.

The Game
Dual lane on mid
Given Lion's weakness in the early levels, nevo setup their lanes to exploit it and control the early game. They setup a dual lane on mid with Queen of Pain and Vengeful Spirit, pressuring Lion from the start, forcing him to hug the tower. There's nothing Lion can do; for now, he's fragile and his stun deals only a small amount of damage. If Sand King were there instead of Queen of Pain, Lion would be dead for sure, a victim of their disables. Thanks to this dual lane, nevo already controls the early game; Lion quickly runs low on regenerative items and Queen of Pain and Vengeful Spirit control the runes. This is a very good example of using aggression to control the game. Forcing M5 to deal with the risk of losing the mid-lane is favorable to nevo: the Russians move Earthshaker from top to mid, making Mirana's life easier on top as she no longer risks being ganked from the woods. Also, forcing Earthshaker to protect the mid-lane will naturally delay Lion's development as some of the XP will be shared by both heroes.

Early pressure exploiting Lion's early weakness

Of course, this aggressive mindset has it's inherent risks. Because of overagressiveness, Queen of Pain is killed, giving the first-blood to M5. This mistake messes up nevo's great start a bit, but they're still controlling the mid-lane. At the two minute mark, Lion is killed by Vengeful Spirit and Queen of Pain. From this point on, Vengeful Spirit tries to do some roaming on the map to threaten the bottom lane without success. On the bottom lane, Windrunner is slightly ahead as she killed Sand King once, but the farm is even. At the top lane, however, Pugna is demolishing Mirana, outfarming and outleveling her. Enigma and Lycanthrope are having the time of their lives in the jungle.

Because of this aggression at the mid-lane, Lion is never free to go ganking, because it's risky to do. One example of it is an exchange around the 07:50 mark, where Vengeful Spirit and Lion are killed.

Around the nine minute mark, we see some initiative from M5. They attempt to gank Mirana on the top lane, but she leaps away to safety. M5 then gather four of their heroes on the top lane to push the first tier top tower. nevo answers immediately by pushing the first tier bottom tower. This exchange is slightly favorable to nevo because Sentinel's first top tower doesn't represent much to their team, while Scourge first bottom tower helps controlling Roshan. Because Pugna was smashing Mirana at the top lane, it might have been better to push the mid lane, not only helping an struggling Lion, but also taking away a tower that gives nevo much more map control than the first top tower.

Controlling the map with aggression
nevo aggressive lineup continues to shine. After the tower exchange, M5 heroes retreat from the top lane; some heroes moves to defend the bottom lane, while the others retreats to the fountain. This leaves Lion completely defenseless against a tower-diving squad that ganks him to death nearing the eleventh minute mark. Because of the dual lane and the constant aggression, nevo can keep Lion always in check, never allowing him to go roaming around the map, effectively protecting Lycanthrope from possible ganks and forcing M5 to play defensively.

nevo continues with the aggression, moving to Scourge jungle with Sand King, Queen of Pain, Vengeful Spirit and Priestess of the Moon at the twelve minute mark. However, the wards on top river gives M5 the chance to prepare themselves for the imminent clash. The Russians end victorious at the top lane, killing all the four heroes at the cost of two of theirs, but this victory is diminished by Windrunner's death in the hands of Lycanthrope at the bottom lane.

At the fifteen minute mark, we see a gathering at the mid lane. Every hero but Mirana gather in the lane because neither team wants to lose their first tower. However, as M5 advances for the tower, nevo decides to not engage in battle, actually exchanging the tower for some freefarm time at the top lane. Thanks to this, Mirana is able to catch up on farm and recover after her hard duel with Pugna. At the seventeen minute mark, we see a mistake from the Scourge: Enigma and Windrunner go into Sentinel territory for no reason, as they're not pushing or ganking, leaving an opening that nevo exploit thanks to a precise arrow from Mirana on Windrunner, allowing them to kill both heroes. nevo continues to profit from being aggressive, controlling the map due to their high mobility and forcing M5 to being defensive. The sentinel jungle is completely safe. However, once again the aggressive mindset seduces nevo into a mistake; instead of farming in the safety of Sentinel's jungle, Lycanthrope goes to farm the unsafe Scourge ancients, and ends killed by Pugna and Lion.

Black Hole won't save Enigma here

At the nineteen minute mark, another trade happens in the map: M5 goes to Roshan. Instead of contesting it, nevo decides to push both top and mid lanes, getting two towers. Despite giving Roshan to M5, the Danes get themselves a lot of money and map control by destroying two towers. In the end, it was a nice trade. Due to the loss of the map control given by the first mid tower, M5 immediately set wards in the Scourge jungle in order to make it safer. However, this doesn't help much as nevo continues aggressively roaming the map, finding and killing Enigma and Earthshaker in the Scourge jungle at the 21 minute mark, and destroying the second mid tower just after the gank.

The importance of item range

From this point on, we'll see a change in the game's flow. Until now, nevo kept the game under their control by using aggression, shutting down Lion and allowing Lycanthrope freefarm. Now the Danes have a lot of map control and mobility, and M5 must find an answer for this quickly because Lycanthrope is getting stronger and stronger. And they do; at the 23 minute mark, they quickly gather their heroes on the bot lane to destroy the tower and steal map dominance from nevo. Without that tower, the Sentinel's jungle is no longer safe.

Let's pause here and look at both teams inventory. On Sentinel side, Mirana got herself a Diffusal Blade, which gives her good DPS and gives her the always useful Purge, Lycanthrope finished his BKB, Queen of Pain got Aghanim's Scepter to get even more team fight potential with the lower cooldown on the ultimate, and Sand King has his dagger to initiate fights and set up Epicenters. They have no Mekanism or Pipe. On Scourge side, Pugna got Mekanism, Lion got his Dagger, and is now able to initiate fights, and Windrunner has almost finished her Pipe. However, the most interesting items on Scourge side are the Necronomicons possessed by Enigma (lvl3 book) and Pugna (lvl1 book). Normally we would expect a quick Dagger on Enigma, or even a Vanguard for tankiness. So, why has Enigma rushed Necronomicon? It doesn't give him the power to jump and initiate fights and it's way more expensive than Vanguard. We'll find the answer right now.

Back into the game, M5 continues pushing the bot lane at the 23 minute mark. Destroying sentinel's second bot tower will shut down Sentinel's Jungle, stealing even more map control from nevo. For this reason, the danes stand there to defend it. Sand King keeps hidden near the trees, just waiting for a possibility to blink and unleash Epicenter. And now the beauty behind Necronomicon is revealed: the summoned units are used to chase Sand King, who can't hide in his Sandstorm because of Necronomicon Warrior's truesight. Sand King is forced to fall back, completely damaging nevo's defense. With Necronomicon, M5 stole initiative from nevo by forcing Sand King away. Because of this, Sand King is not allowed to initiate perfectly. At the subsequent fight on the 24 minute mark, Sand King never had the chance to use Epicenter, and M5 quickly wins the clash, destroying the tower and claiming map dominance. Windrunner finishes her Pipe, and now M5 has an excellent setup to deal with nevo's big AoE damage: Mekanism, Pipe and two Necronomicons.

Sand King is cornered by the summons and is forced to blink away

The Pipe shows it's power at the 25 minute mark, keeping Windrunner alive against Sand King and Queen of Pain long enough to disable Sand King, forcing Queen of Pain to chase her further, allowing the M5 squad the necessary time to appear and kill both heroes. M5 quickly gathers at the mid lane to get Sentinel's second tower. Lion catches Mirana off guard with his Dagger, and both Mirana and the tower are destroyed. Suddenly, the advantage nevo had has disappeared, and now they're being heavily pressured.

nevo correctly answers the sudden loss of map control with wards, and correctly places one ward at the hill next to Scourge ancients, because M5 still have the second bot tower, the closest TP area to Roshan. Controlling Roshan and the entrance of their jungle is the best they can do to recover the control they lost with the destruction of their towers. But, unfortunately for nevo, Necronomicon again shows its strength by allowing a quick dewarding, denying nevo any kind of vision. At the 29 minute mark, M5 is about to go Roshan with an advantage due to superior warding. nevo answers by pushing the top lane, forcing M5 away from Roshan. It's an excellent decision, because getting into a big team fight would have resulted in a big win for M5, leaving them free to claim the Aegis and go for a final push. M5 decides to not trade the lane for Roshan. Lycanthrope destroys the top third tower, but is killed right after by M5. Lycanthrope immediately buys back, because the Russians are going back to Roshan. NS shows tremendous awareness and destroys another ward from nevo. The Danes try to execute a smoke gank, but an invisible Lion quickly reveals it, giving M5 an enormous advantage in the subsequent team fight, allowing them to kill three heroes and claim the Roshan.

No map control for nevo

At the 32 minute mark, M5 goes for the final push at nevo's base, gathering in front of their base. With brilliant warding, they're able to scout and keep an eye on Sand King. At the subsequent clash, Sand King once again can't use his Epicenter, and the combination of Mekanism and Pipe keeps all heroes from M5 alive. After being wiped by M5, the Danes call GG.

In this game, we see two important principles being applied. In the first half of the game, nevo moved aggressively to secure farm for Lycanthrope, setting up a beautiful 4-1 game, never allowing Lion to gank and keeping M5 always past the river. In the second half, M5 explored their bigger item range and got an advantage in team fights, stealing control away from nevo and never giving it back. The combination of Mekanism and Pipe protected them from nevo's magic damage, and the Necronomicons helped keep Sand King in check. Also, it's interesting to notice both teams reacting to the loss of a tower with warding. Not allowing nevo to retain map control proved decisive; it kept Lycanthrope from farming, as we can see in the following gold over time graph: until the 21 minute mark, Lycanthrope growth was very high, but when M5 took map control away from nevo, Lycanthrope couldn't farm at all for almost eight minutes.



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