Mind wars: Evil Geniuses vs Invictus Gaming Singapore Major grand finals draft analysis
An attempt at analyzing the drafts from five games of the ONE Esports Singapore Major grand final between Evil Geniuses and Invictus Gaming.
Image: DotA Digest YouTube
The ONE Esports Singapore Major turned out to be an amazing event to celebrate the return of LANs to Dota 2. With fairy tale runs, upsets and gripping games, the Major had it all and reminded the Dota 2 community why we love this game. Invictus Gaming took home the gold after an enthralling grand final against Evil Geniuses, in which they came back from trailing 0-2 to win 3-2 and deny the North American powerhouse their first Dota 2 Major victory.
While the games were thrilling and keep audiences at the edge of their seats, a good chunk of the excitement is also embedded in what happens before the game begins – the drafts! A lot of brain power goes into drafting as the draft can make or break a game and teams put a lot of thought into every single pick and ban. While we can’t understand in detail the thought processes that occurs in the brilliant minds of the teams and coaches, we can perform some basic educated analysis for the drafts, as to why certain heroes were picked and banned. Let’s try to decipher the mind wars that took place in the drafts of the five games of the grand final of the ONE Esports Singapore Major between Evil Geniuses and Invictus Gaming.
Stats before the grand final of the ONE Esports Singapore Major
Total games played: 130
Total heroes picked in the tournament: 107
Most played heroes
Puck (58 games, 36 wins, 47.06% win rate)
Death Prophet (54 games, 28 wins, 51.85% win rate)
Tusk (52 games, 29 wins, 55.77% win rate)
Void Spirit (52 games, 22 wins, 42.31% win rate)
Phoenix (44 games, 29 wins, 65.91% win rate)
Most banned heroes
Io (102 games)
Timbersaw (84 games)
Death Prophet (68 games)
Alchemist (68 games)
Puck (67 games)
Total games played before grand final: 7
Games won: 6
Win rate: 85.71%
Heroes played: 22
Most played heroes: Puck, Tusk, Beastmaster (3)
Total games played at before the final day: 13
Games won: 8
Win rate: 61.64%
Heroes played: 34
Most played heroes: Lion (8), Phoenix, Oracle, Void Spirit, Mars
Before we begin, here’s a current look at the ban and pick order for Captain’s Mode. Bans are 2-3-2 and picks are 2-2-1.
Invictus Gaming first pick
Tusk, Alchemist, Io and Puck got banned out in the first phase, which were pretty standard bans towards the end of the tournament. Three of these four heroes were in the five most banned heroes in the entire tournament going into the final, which is an indication of how good they are in the current meta. The thing about first phase bans, is that the team with first pick can be a bit creative with their bans. But the team with the second pick pretty much has to ban Io and Puck, the heroes two strongest cores of the tournament, in the first phase so that their opponents don’t get their hands on them. There is also the other option of letting them both be in the pool, but do you want to present the opposition a choice about which strong hero they prefer? The two heroes got first phase banned by the team with second pick throughout the series.
Invictus Gaming opened up with the Phoenix, the hero with one of the highest win rates in the tournament and paired it with Mars. The Phoenix-Mars combo has been one of the most successful combos of this patch and tournament, with their ultimates able to combine in a pretty destructive way.
Evil Geniuses went for the Mirana and Beastmaster. Mirana is a great hero to hit the Phoenix Supernova, thanks to her Leap attack speed and Andreas "Crit" Nielsen is extremely good on the hero, as he showed in the first series against Fnatic. The Beastmaster is a comfort hero for Datly Koh "iceiceicie" Pei Xiang, and along with Mirana, constitutes a strong offlane.
Invictus Gaming targeted Tal "Fly" Aizak’s heroes, banning Oracle and Tidehunter along with Juggernaut, who had been a reliable carry pick in the tournament. EG had run the position 5 Tidehinter before and with iceiceicie also very good on the hero, it had some flex potential. EG banned the Troll Warlord, Phantom Lancer and Timbersaw, which were the exact heroes played by Jin "flyfly" Zhiyi and Thiay Jun "JT" Wen in their last game against PSG.LGD in the lower bracket final. IG used the PL to eliminate both Team Secret and PSG.LGD and that is a hero that can get out of control if there is no specific counter to it. Timbersaw, other than being one of the most contested heroes of the tournament, is also one of JT’s signature heroes and like the PL, needs to have a targeted counter to control.
Evil Geniuses got their hands on Abaddon, a saving support for Fly. In hindsight, the ban on the Oracle was perfect, as EG would have loved to have him with their last pick Leshrac. EG secured Abed "Abed" Yusop’s pick with the Storm Spirit, the hero with which they earned the win in the last game of the upper bracket final. The beauty of Evil Geniuses’ team composition is that both Artour "Arteezy" Babaev and Abed have the ability to play the win condition hero. Picking the Storm gave EG the ability to make him either the position 1 or position 2 based on how the rest of the draft went. Storm is also a great pick against Mars and Phoenix, having the ability to zip away from the egg and from the Arena of Blood.
For the third pick, Invictus Gaming went for a hero not seen a lot in this tournament – Disruptor! The hero was the position 5 hero for Chan Chon "Oli" Kien. The reasoning behind the Disruptor isn’t too evident, but it was possible to play aggressive in the lane with Mars. IG picked the Naga Siren for flyfly, signalling the fact that they were in it for the long game. Naga has good synergy with both Mars and Disruptor; Song of the Siren gives the team the perfect setup for Arena of Blood and Static Storm. The surprising thing was, Monkey King was available for picking but went unnoticed by both teams.
In the last phase, IG banned Wraith King and Anti-Mage. Wraith King is a natural Radiance carrier and with a good amount of farm, can deal with the Naga illusions. The Anti-Mage ban was a bit unexpected, as the hero isn’t the best place right now. EG banned Queen of Pain and Death Prophet, two heroes who can make life difficult for Storm in the mid lane, as IG were looking for Zhou ‘Emo’ Yi’s mid hero. Death Prophet was one of the most contested heroes in the tournament, surprisingly made it to the last phase of the draft.
Invictus Gaming rounded up their draft with a Morphling, which came as a bit of a surprise. A Morphling, even when mid, is a team’s win condition. Even though Emo’s Morphling is one of the best mid Morphs in the business, a Morphling along with a Naga Siren is one of the greediest drafts in Dota 2.
The ball was in EG’s court for the last pick – IG had two strong late game heroes and EG would set the tempo of the game with this last pick. They found a pick which would kill two birds with one stone – the safe lane Leshrac! The Leshrac would not only allow EG to play a fast paced game as compared to their opponents, but it was also a great solution to the Naga Siren illusions.
Evil Geniuses first pick
IG went for the typical Puck and Io bans and EG responded with banning the Troll and Timbersaw, heroes they had banned in phase 2 of game 1 when they had first pick. The first phase bans of the team with first pick changed throughout the series depending on what they were planning for the game.
EG opened with the Earth Spirit. Tusk was available in the pool as well, which is a hero given more preference by other teams. But when you have one of the best Earth Spirit players in your team in the form of Crit, Earth Spirit can be the way to go. Their second pick was Storm Spirit, knowing full well it would get banned in the second phase. Abed had worked wonders with it in the first game, with this early pick, EG were asking their opponents the question on what they were planning to do about it.
IG got a Lion and Alchemist in the first phase. Lion is Hu "Kaka" Liangzhi’s best hero and also the hero IG played the most throughout the tournament. It was a comfort pick that gave them a good amount of lockdown and burst damage. The second pick was an Alchemist, with no indication of what role they had picked it for, giving them some flex potential in the draft. Also with Timbersaw banned out, the game felt better for Alchemist.
Evil Geniuses banned out Queen of Pain (a good lane counter to storm), Gyrocopter and Monkey King. Gyrocopter and Monkey King are position 1 heroes with strong Aghanim’s Scepter upgrades that go well with the offlane Alchemist, which was the common way Chinese teams played the Alch. Invictus Gaming banned out Mars, Terrorblade and Death Prophet. The Terrorblade possibly indicated here that IG were thinking of a core Alchemist. Why? Because Terrorblade is a natural Eye of Skadi builder, which absolutely wrecks Alchemist due to the 40% reduction in HP regen (which, by the way, goes through magic immunity). The DP ban was more standard, a strong hero meta hero which can be devastating in the hands of either Fly or iceiceice.
Invictus Gaming picked the Abandon, a good saving support with a silence. EG showed the effectiveness of the hero in game 2 and IG decided to take their chances with it. Their second pick was Void Spirit, who isn’t the best against Storm until he has an Aghanim’s Scepter, which he can get without breaking a sweat from the offlane Alchemist!
Evil Geniuses picked the Beastmaster, which can be a great hero against the Alchemist if the Alch is the position 1 hero. In case of a position 1 Alch, the entire game revolves around him and Beastmaster has one of the best single target lockdown abilities in the game. EG’s second pick was Ancient Apparition, which gave the indication that they were thinking this was a position 1 Alchemist. But even if he wasn’t, AA synergizes well with Storm with the global pickoff potential of Ice Blast and Ball Lightening as well as Beastmaster’s Roar followed by the Ice Blast. But in case IG were thinking of a safe lane Alchemist, this AA would force them to send it to the offlane.
Evil Geniuses banned the Tidehunter, a good team fight hero which does not have too much trouble clearing out the Beastmaster summons. They also banned out the Lycan, indicating they STILL thought the Alchemist was the position 1 hero. No way Lycan is picked as the carry with an offlane Alchemist. His Scepter upgrade just isn’t good enough to give a team that early power spike. Invictus Gaming banned the Juggernaut and Phantom Assassin, narrowing down Arteezy’s options.
Evil Geniuses went for Bloodseeker, showing their storm was the position 1 hero and they wanted to fight early. Invictus Gaming did something no one expected and picked Faceless Void. Yes, in 7.28. That was maybe the only carry in the pool with a decent Scepter, but in hindsight, it was surprising that they banned out the Juggernaut and PA, which could have been a better pick for them. IG also had a melee just one ranged hero in Lion, so there was absolutely no damage inside the Chronosphere except for the Faceless Void himself.
Invictus Gaming first pick.
With Evil Geniuses picking second, it was their time to ban out the Puck and the Io. Invictus Gaming banned out the Beastmaster, who had tormented them in the first two games, and the Tusk, who they thought was a bigger threat than Earthspirit.
Invictus opened with the Phoenix and followed it up with a Nyx Assassin. Nyx Assassin is a huge thorn in Storm Spirit’s side because of Mana Burn. Storm has an intelligence gain of 3.9, which is the 8th highest in the game and level 4 Mana Burn can do some serious damage to the hero while taking away a good chunk of his mana. He can also lockdown the Storm by using Spiked Carapace on Static Remnants.
Evil Geniuses first picked storm. This hero went from a second phase pick, to a second pick to a first pick! There is also the mental effect of it on your opponents when you demolish them two games in a row with a hero and then first pick it. But IG were surely ready for it and showed through their bans that they thought Beastmaster was a bigger weapon in EG’s arsenal. The second pick for EG was Earth Spirit, Crit’s comfort hero.
Invictus Gaming banned Juggernaut, Timbersaw and TIdehunter. Juggernaut is a good Phoenix egg hitter with Bladefury, and Timbersaw and Tidehunter were targeted bans towards iceiceice, who plays both those heroes very well. IG could have kept the Timbersaw for themselves to put JT on, but knowing EG got the first pick in the second phase, they took the safer route to ban it. EG banned Troll, Monkey King and Phantom Lancer, targeting flyfly with all the bans. In game 2, EG forced him to play the Faceless Void and they planned on doing to him what IG were doing to iceiceice.
Evil Geniuses picked Crystal Maiden for Fly, just a strong laner and pick that doesn’t reveal too much about the way the draft is going. The second pick for them this phase, was Lycan, which at this point, could have gone on either Arteezy (who is one of the carries with the most Lycan games) or iceiceice.
Invictus Gaming picked Void Spirit for Emo and Underlord for JT. Underlord is a great de-pusher, which is required against Lycan. He can hold Lycan and all of his summons in place with Pit of Malice and after a Rod of Atos, can hold the Storm Spirit or the Lycan in place for a long, long time. A successful combination of Pit and Malice and Rod of Atos is a 3.8 second root with Firestorm reigning on the hero caught in it. The Underlord pick would prevent IG from getting run over by a snowballing Lycan.
Invictus Gaming banned out Bloodseeker and Venomancer, two fast paced which can win lanes and add to the snowball potential of Lycan. Evil Geniuses don’t shy away from picking a non-traditional carry for Arteezy when Abed is on a hero who can be the position 1. Evil Geniuses continued their targeting of flyfly (not that there was anyone left at this point) with bans on Naga Siren and Terrorblade.
IG went for the Sven, an indication that they are still living in the 7.27 meta (Faceless Void in Game 2, Sven in game 3). Admir "lizZard" Salkanovich, mentioned on the panel that they did use the same strategy in the Chinese DPC League, picking Sven into the Lycan. Sven can clear all of Lycan’s summons with a blink, Storm Hammer and a few swipes of his cleaving sword. Swift Blink has replaced the Aghanim’s Scepter and Echo Saber on Sven, possibly giving him a new lease of life. EG rounded up their draft with Razor, who would make life for IG’s Sven hell (who was their win condition). Again going for a relatively fast paced lineup, Evil Geniuses aim was to put on early pressure and take control of the game before the Sven was online.
Invictus Gaming first pick
Evil Geniuses went with the standard Io Puck ban. Invictus Gaming stuck to the Beastmaster ban and included an Earth Spirit with it, letting the Timbersaw though.
IG opened with a Phoenix (nothing new there, three out of four games) for Oli and followed it up with a Lion for Kaka.
Evil Geniuses picked up the Pangolier, a hero which was completely ignored in the first three games of the series, and surprisingly so. Their second pick? Surprise, surprise – Storm Spirit. It is easier to question this now that we know EG lost the game and the series, but the question does come to mind, that why stick to the same hero when you have one of the best mid players in the world on your team?
IG banned Juggernaut (really did not want to play against Arteezy’s Juggernaut, did they?! Especially not when they had a Phoenix..), Tidehunter and Alchemist, potentially taking out two heroes from both, Arteezy and iceiceice. Arteezy has been one of this more successful position 1 Alchemist’s in the DPC Leagues and it was something IG did not want to risk. EG banned Void Spirit and Queen of Pain, targeting Emo in the mid lane. Void Spirit was possibly banned more for the player and the meta while QoP was banned for protecting the Storm Spirit. The last ban coming out from the NA team was Weaver, the reason for which wasn’t too clear, especially considering the fact it wasn’t a go to hero for IG.
EG picked the Death Prophet; a first DP pick in game 4 of the series. At this point, the DP could play in two positions (3 or 5) and so could the Pango (3 or 4), which gave EG a lot of flexibility going in for their final two picks. They then pulled out the position 5 Enchantress, a Fly specialy which a few teams had banned out against EG early on in the tournament. Enchantress is an amazing hero for securing the lane, thanks to Impetus at level 1.
IG went for the Ember Spirit, who isn’t the best against Storm Spirit in the lane, but it isn’t too bad either because of Flame Guard. The Ember gave them some catch for the Storm in team fights, preventing him from zipping in and out of fights at will without any repercussions. They also got their hands on the Troll Warlord, a hero with amazing stats throughout the tournament who found himself banned in the first three games. Looking back, EG might be wondering if they should have banned the raging Troll instead of Weaver in the second phase.
IG banned the Razor and Monkey King. Razor is a much bigger problem for the Troll than Sven, and if Static Linked during Berserker’s Rage, will keep following the enemy while having his damage drained. EG banned Mars, who has great synergy with Phoenix, and Timbersaw, on which JT is a specialist.
IG picked Bloodseeker as their last pick. Ember, Troll, Bloodseeker – seems a bit greedy again, right? But BS, not too long ago, was played as an offlaner in most of his game, going for a utility build with items like Rod of Atos, Pipe of Insight, Guardian Greaves and even an Aghanim’s Scepter for two Ruptures. Rupture works great against Pangolier and an Atos into Bloodrite can be the end of Storm Spirit’s fight. It was also a great block pick against EG, who played the Bloodseeker and were looking for a carry for their last pick. EG felt cornered with a lot of carries banned out and picked PA, one of the few viable carries left. The other option could have been Wraith King, but EG felt the PA was better for the game, perhaps for following up with Blink Strikes after Storm zipping in. This was the first game in the four that EG went for a traditional, farming carry. Along with Storm Spirit, it made their draft the slightly greedier one of the two this time.
Invictus Gaming first pick
For the third game in a row, Invictus Gaming had first pick and first set of bans in the last game of the grand final were the same as the ones in game 4.
Invictus Gaming stuck to their tried and tested opening of Phoenix and Lion. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right?
Evil Geniuses replied with a Tusk, who is a strong laner and fewer ways to get countered as compared to the Pangolier, which Crit played in game 4. Their second pick was a Death Prophet, who got butchered in the offlane in game 4, but knowing the versatility of the hero with being able to go in three lanes, EG made the decision to go for her in the first phase. This DP pick could have meant Abed going mid on it and for the first time in the series, playing something other than the Storm Spirit.
IG stuck to the same phase 2 bans for game 4 – Juggernaut, Alchemist and Tidehunter. Learning from the mistakes from game 4, EG banned the Troll and followed that up with bans on Phantom Lancer and Monkey King. As the series progressed, both teams started focusing a lot of their bans on carries, leading to off meta carry picks in a lot of the games in the series. Game 5 was another one of them.
Evil Geniuses picked the Storm Spirit, AGAIN! Fifth game in a row for Abed. Their second pick was a hero who somehow, lost prominence as the tournament progressed – the Enigma. There was also a potential for Death Prophet and Enigma to swap roles between support and offlane, depending on what EG were thinking and how the draft would end.
Invictus Gaming picked Mars, a great hero to pair with Phoenix. Although not the best against Storm, it did give them another way to cancel the Blackhole before Enigma got a BKB (the others being Earth Spike and Hex from Lion and Aether Remnant from Void Spirit)
Last phase of the last game of the last series of the ONE Esports Singapore Major. It all came down to carry bans and picks, as if they hadn’t been targeted enough in the previous stage of the draft. IG banned out Bloodseeker and Naga Siren, EG banned out Gyrocopter and Wraith King. It was surprising the Wraith King made it that far into the game and could have been a decent pick for IG.
IG picked the Spectre – another off meta hero forced because of the astounding number of bans on the carries. EG here had the chance to pick Terrorblade, a carry that had done well in the tournament for the few games that he was picked. But they went for the old-school-cool combo of Storm Spirit and Lifestealer, who can zip to the backlines with the Lifestealer infested in the Storm Spirit and take out the supports right at the beginning of fights. But Lifestealer is not even half decent now, and looking at how he fares up against Spectre as the game progresses, questions can be asked about why exactly EG thought this would be the pick that would help them land their first Major trophy.