Friday, May 9, 2014

DotA rap song (Eminem cover): Without Me !


Looking for someone to work with that can master it!

LYRICS:

"Toby Wan/Real Name No Gimmicks"

Two crystal maidens go ward the outside,
ward the outside, ward the outside (x2)

Guess whos back, back again
Slash's back, tell a friend
Guess who's back, guess who's back,
guess who's back
Guess who's back...

They've created a monster, cuz nobody wants to
be impartial no more they're tryhards, wannabe winners
well if you wanna win this is what I'll give ya
a little bit of glee mixed with a mind slicker
some combo that'll jump gank and spank quicker like a
phoenix when they get phoenix as soon as
the clock ticks zero not a second waiting,
when they're mocking the joke that is their rating
you waited this long now stop berating cuz we're stacked,
We got swag no need to be hating,
I know that you wanna play a normal game,
but we're too bad to play a match in team matchmaking!
****
So this damn SD wont let me be or let me be me so let me see
he tried to shut me down cuz I'm on a spree, 'n' it would've worked if it weren't me
****
So try get a sip, from your own drip, fuck that,
blood on your lips and some on my whip
and get ready cuz this shit's about to get heavy
I just warded all your neutrals
FUCK YOU LD!

[Chorus]
Now this looks like a job for me,
so everybody, just allow me
Coz I need middle, I'm the mvp,
Every team feels empty, without me (x2)

Little Traxex, girl's lacking awareness
embarrassed, she can't seem to get any lasthits
she starts feeding like meepo does, helpless,
'til someone comes along on a mission and yells "NYX"
A mercenary, mercy is nary, had in an execution,
just looting the corpses a devil
so just let me revel and bask,
in the fact that I got my carries farming so fast
and it's a disaster such a catastrophe
for you to see so much of my harass
you ask for me?    
Well I'm back [batman sound]
fix your spent internet tune it in and then I'm gonna
impale in and up under your skin like a splinter
The first-ban every game unnerfed since the winter
I am suggesting, to pick N'aix digesting
Infesting in my allies and nesting
Intestines "Retention Please"
feel the tension soon as someone mentions me
here's my 10 cents my 2 cents is free
A nuisance, who sent, you sent for me?

[Chorus]

A tisk-it a casket, I'll go tit for tat with
anybody who's picking this shit, that shit.
Nyx as first pick you can get your ass kicked
worse than the little schmarrn wisp bastard, and Jin'zakk
you can get stomped by clockwerk,
your unobstructed move from firefly won't work
You can't dodge cogs, you can't blink either its over,
nobody caught by the lasso
Now let's go, just give me some vision
I'll hook there with a whole fist full of new gizmos
I've been dope, prestigeful with my siege tools ever since
I learned myself to make hooks spindle
But sometimes the shit just seems, everybody only wants to exude me
So this must mean I'm exulting, but its just me I'm just a machine
Though I'm not the first guy to sing adversely
I am the worst thing since Pyrion Flaxey,
to do known music so selfishly
and use it to get myself merry (Hey)
there's a concept that works
20 million dota players emerge
but no matter how many fish in the sea
it'd be so empty without me

[Chorus]

Na na na nana... na na na nana... na na na nana... na na na na... (x2) "Eclipse!"

Monday, April 21, 2014

Climbing the Ladder - Chapter 1: Farming

Introduction

This post is the first of a relatively long series that will hopefully cover as many of DotA's large strategical elements as possible. Before starting with anything, I just want to remind you that DotA is a game of reaction, and no advice should ever be followed blindly. What I describe may work in most situations, but could be a bad option in some particular games. Therefore, look to learn as much as possible from this but remember to not treat it as a step by step plan.

These are the elements of farming I will be discussing.
  • When to farm where
  • Jungling (creep priority)
  • Midas - when to buy and how to use
  • Maelstrom - when to buy and how to use
  • Battlefury - when to buy and how to use
  • Radiance - when to buy and how to use
  • Stacking the jungle
  • Pushing the lane
  • Maintaining creep equilibrium
  • Teleportation Scrolls

When to farm where

(the first section is a lot longer than the rest, so don't be discouraged!) 
There are three lanes, two jungles and two ancient camps. How do you know when you should be farming which? As a general rule, farming the lane is more efficient (gold/time) than farming the jungle. However, lasthits on the lane are not guaranteed - an enemy may be disrupting your farm by denying, off-hitting, drawing creep aggro, pulling, pushing the wave into your tower, etc. On the plus side, however, you do not take as much damage from the creeps as you would in the jungle. Few heroes can sustain themselves farming the jungle with no items, and fewer still can farm it quickly starting from level one (enigma, bat, axe, chen, ench) - notice how none of those are carries.

So generally, for your first few levels you want to stay on the lane and get as much as you can there. If your support pulls, don't go killing neutrals because the enemy lane creeps will die to your tower. Take your lane creeps and let your support get something out of the jungle. You want to keep the lane static close to your tower (how to do this described under 'maintaining creep equilibrium'). There comes a certain point, however, when you have a certain farming item, some more levels, some crucial skills or simply more damage - this is the moment when you can, and should start utilising the jungle. 

Do not forget the ancients as a source of income. Generally even fewer heroes can farm them efficiently and early enough, so if you are a hero that can you should do so as much as possible instead of regular jungling, because it frees up the jungle for the rest of your team. Of course, if you are the 1 position and have some form of aoe right click damage, it is most efficient to stack the ancients while farming the lanes and jungle, and go to kill 4-5 ancient stacks all at once.

Let's go to a situation later in the game, let's say mid-game around 25 minutes. The more the game is in your favour, the more aggressively you should be farming, meaning closer to the enemy base and including their jungle and ancients. This prevents them from farming it, while your jungle is even less accessible.
The further behind you are, the safer you want to farm. This however does not mean you cannot leave your base. Yes, if the heroes on the enemy team that are missing right now can kill you, you should generally be farming safely close to your towers and allies. 

Which heroes should you be afraid of when they are missing? This is knowledge you can only learn through experience. Let's say the only hero on the enemy team missing is an Axe, and you are a Luna with a max HP of 800 wanting to farm the Radiant safelane with your tier 1 tower down. Does he have a blink dagger? If yes, it's likely that he can blink in, call and solo kill you. If no, does that mean you can farm anywhere? Still not the case, if you stand close to the trees he can simply walk up to you and call you before you see him. So, you position yourself on the side of the lane opposite to where you expect him to come from. Your movement speed is very high so even if he runs up to you and hungers you, you will be able to run away. But what if he comes out of the trees between your tier 2 and you? There is no tier 1 to run to or that allies can TP to, so your only option is to run into the trees and TP out - you will need to be able to judge if he is far away enough so that he cannot reach you in time, taking any possible items into account (checking his inventory). Any other options (running, juking) involve giving time to both your team and his team to arrive, and once again you will need to judge how the potential fight will go down, something that becomes more and more difficult the more heroes enter the equation. 
And this is the case with an blink-daggerless Axe on the enemy team. Imagine a Batrider with blink+force+BoT. His initiation range is massive, you cannot juke him, you cannot tp away due to ~1.5k range flamebreak, his firefly allows him to come from anywhere and drag you anywhere, and he can drag you out of position into an enemy that just tp'd in. You should be able to understand more clearly now why he is and has been a top pick and ban for a very long time.

However, this does not mean that every time you are behind you should be hugging your towers. You see a fight or gank breaking out, or the enemy team pushing the tower, etc., any situation in which 5 enemy heroes are visible on the minimap and far away from a certain lane, you can farm and push that lane. By pushing it you force a reaction, you force them to move there to defend it and that in turn creates space for you to farm the jungle for example, or another lane.
It doesn't matter if you are in their base or in their jungle, as long as you see where every enemy is and are quick enough on your TP, you will be able to escape. That's why there are no global stuns in dota. Also remember, TP'ing to escape doesn't always mean you should TP to base. If you have the health and mana, you can just TP to another lane and farm there.


Jungling - Creep Priority
Your goal is always to farm as quickly as possible, which means killing creeps as quickly as possible. This means being conscious about what order you focus creeps in, in the jungle. In the early game, with junglers especially, you want to kill creeps in such an order that you take as little damage as possible. However, later on when you are flashfarming with lifesteal or high regen, your priorities change. 
In the bird camp, you wanna kill the one giving the armor aura first, making the others weaker. 
For satyrs, you kill the one giving regen first (it's only 3 hp per second, but if it makes the difference between a total of 16 hits instead of 17, it's worth it). 
Troll priest, kill healer first. 
Ghost camp, kill ghost reducing your attack speed first. 
Big troll camp, kill the small one first, then hit the big one to make him summon skeletons - they have a very nice hp/gold ratio. 

Midas
There's no clear cut answer to when you should and shouldn't buy this - generally, if you are planning to take the game past ~30-35 minutes, you should get it, because it obviously becomes more and more efficient the more you use it. The attackspeed is nice on some heroes and not that great on others, but over-all shouldn't come into the equation when you're deciding if you want to get it. As nice as it sounds as it is, 2000 gold for 30 AS is absolutely terrible and if you're constantly fighting after you buy it you will really wish you bought something else. Also, try not to get more than 1-2 on your team in pubs, because you usually won't have the coordination to play passively and not fight, which means you're likely to feed and lose because you essentially dug yourselves in a 4k, 6k or 8k gold disadvantage (2, 3 or 4 midases).

In pretty much all cases, unless you really need gold more than exp (~lvl 16+, never for invoker), you want to use Midas on the big creep, because it amplifies the experience gain by 2.5, and over-all leaves the camp dead quicker. Naturally it should be on cooldown as often as possible, so you wanna head into the jungle as it's about to come off cooldown. Sometimes there is a lot of farm on the lane or someone else has cleared the jungle, and in those cases it's better to just use it on a lanecreep instead of wasting time. Remember however to use it on the melee creep, since it is level 3 and gives more experience than the level 2 ranged creep!


Maelstrom (& Mjollnir) & Radiance
You wanna leave creeps once they drop below a certain amount of HP, and move on to the next one so that the lightning / radiance kills them off and you don't waste unnecessary hits on them.

These are more dependent on the heroes unlike midas. Radiance is good on heroes with illusions because they carry the aura and that allows you to splitpush - it's pretty bad on most other heroes. As a general rule, Radiance gives the enemies reason to focus you, so you better make sure you can deal with that focus even after spending 5k gold on an item that gives you 0 survivability. Bristle and Wraith/Skeleton King are the somewhat only non-illusion heroes that fit this category.

Battlefury
You should always be looking at how much damage your cleave deals, and thereby switching targets so that ideally one hit finishes all the creeps. Of course, this is not the case in the aforementioned situations under 'creep priority'.

The only heroes this item can be considered core on are Anti-Mage and Ember, and that's because AM's blink allowing him to flashfarm if he has a Battlefury, and Ember's sleight of fist takes great advantage of the cleave. The few other heroes it can situationally work on are Phantom Assassin, Void and Jugger, but in most cases there are better choices.


Stacking the Jungle
You hit the creeps to draw their aggro at around the 53rd to 55th second of every minute and run away, pulling them out of the camp-block area and allowing a new camp to spawn. Ideally you would have supports do this for you, but this does not mean you cannot do it yourself as a carry when you can or have to leave the lane, when you are walking back to base, if you have a summon / illusions / long range nuke to aggro them with, etc.

Since the ancients are slightly further away, many carries pick up an early HotD to stack them with a dominated creep. You can even share unit control to let your allies use your creep to stack for you.

Note that stacking does not always mean getting 3-4 stacks and then killing them - even if you are simply farming a camp and you notice that you won't be able to kill it before the xx:00 minute mark, it is worth it to stack it and finish off the camp-and-a-half or leave it for later.

Heroes that can farm stacks are those with any single or combination of the following: a multi-unit hitting attack (cleave (battlefury/magnus/sven), splash (DK), splitshot (medusa, gyro), bounces (luna), and spill (lanaya)), any AoE nuke (not for ancients), any lifesteal or high regeneration. If your carry has none of these (CK, Slardar, Night Stalker, Spirit Breaker) then you better fight early before you get outfarmed.

Lastly, keep in mind that when jungling you can sacrifice some speed for sustainability by drawing the creeps away from the camp, running, and then hitting them on their way back.

Pushing the lane
You want to kill the enemy creeps as fast as possible while making your own creeps not take too much damage you can tank the wave if you have enough sustain, and you want to focus the ranged creeps first because they die the quickest but deal the most damage. Keep in mind that unlike the jungle you can lose lasthits on lane, so make sure you focus down creeps one by one.

If you have strong aoe damage and a gigantic enemy creepwave is coming but it's very drawn out, run against it before your creeps arrive, and pull all the enemy creeps together so you can kill them all together. Note that this means you lose some HP and may be dangerous if you get ganked and disabled while tanking 4 creepwaves.

Maintaining Creep Equilibrium
To achieve this you need to essentially make sure both sides of creeps take equal damage - first off this means they need to be equal in number, and this can be achieved either by tanking enemy creeps and killing them quickly or only hitting enemy creeps once when they're very low but starting to deny yours as soon as they're below 50%.
Once you've got them equal in numbers, you need to make you're not tanking anything and making sure that for every last-hit you hit your own creeps once (does not always have to be a deny)

Teleportation Scrolls
Don't TP to a lane unless there is a big wave incoming that you're gonna miss out on. Try to see where big waves are going to gather and get there in time, saving your TP. When you do TP to a lane to farm make sure there is no fight going to break out soon that you can't get to because you just used your TP. Also make sure you don't find yourself in a situation where you need to TP out but can't because it's on cooldown.


END OF CHAPTER 1: FARMING


These are some of the topics I will be discussing in the following chapter. If you want me to write about a certain one next, or have an idea for a topic that is not listed, feel free to message me.

  • Positioning
  • Teamfighting
  • Ganking
  • Skillbuilds
  • Itembuilds
  • Drafting
  • Fight participation
  • (Support) rotations
  • Timing
  • Laning
  • Enemy manipulation

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Everything about MMR - support vs core, skill representation, match quality / balance, abuse, win / loss streaks and attitude

Introduction

It's been 4 months since the introduction of ranked matchmaking, and many opinions have been voiced on it. Has Valve done a good job or did they put out a trash system to just satisfy the masses? In this post I will discuss the different opinions on the various intricacies of the matchmaking system, that have become apparent over these months.

First of all, a little personal background about me - this can give you an idea of the perspective I'm writing this with. If you are not interested, feel free to skip this part. My nick is SlashStrike, I'm sitting between 5500 and 6000 Solo MMR with 50-100 solo games played, and I'm on the EU leaderboard. I also play DotA competitively with my team, and my goal is to get into the professional competitive scene. The role I play on my team is mid, and while it is probably what I play most often in my solo ranked matches, I have played plenty of games in every role. 

When playing solo ranked I focus on improving myself rather than gaining as many points as possible (the difference between these is mostly evident in picks). Additionally, I'm also trying to get known as a streamer, so if you wish to support me or enjoy a high quality but fairly unknown stream (~900 followers), head on over to www.twitch.tv/slashstrike

There are several topics I would like to discuss, as you could infer from the title: 


  • Support vs core
  • Skill representation
  • Match quality / balance
  • Abuse
  • Win / loss streaks
  • Attitude

Support versus Core

People often complain about supporting their allies well in solo ranked matches, only to end up losing because their cores were not competent enough to do their job despite being well supported. There are generally two stances on this: 

1. If you want to climb you have to play a core, and in the higher end of the bracket where skill disparity is large, you should support if your MMR is lower than your teams average, and still play a core if it is higher.
2. It doesn't matter what you're playing - you will climb if you're a good player and if you don't it's because you're not good enough, regardless of your role.

Of course, there is some truth to both statements, but I feel like most of the misunderstanding stems from the fact that there are many different playstyles that could all fall under 'supporting'. Those that complain about not having any impact on the game as a support may simply be playing the wrong type of support. This would include heroes that require a lot of coordination to reach their fullest potential, something that you cannot count on pubs to have. I am talking about heroes such as Shadow Demon, Abaddon, Lina, Ezalor, etc. They do not have reliable hard disables starting at level 1, and are not the best candidates for ganking.

On the other hand, heroes like Skywrath, Disruptor, Rhasta, Bane, etc. can make many things happen even on their own, thus having great chances of getting a kill when ganking and being 2v1.

When playing support you don't need to sit behind your carry all game when you should be constantly missing and roaming the map, ganking whenever you see an opportunity and making the enemies play reserved in the meantime because they are afraid of overextending. Solo kill someone with Skywrath, get easy pickoffs or wreck teamfights with Disruptor, push a tower with Rhasta, more pickoffs with Bane, etc.

Compare this to an Ezalor who can only react to enemy movement and not force it.
To summarize, supporting does not entail only one playstyle, and it is definitely possible to impact the game as a support, arguably even more so than a core in the early game.


Skill Representation

Today I read this on /r/DotA2 - How come Dendi has 5900 solo rating whereas Wagamama has 6700? Does this mean Waga is much better than Dendi? I'm sure many of you are rolling their eyes and wondering why this needs explanation at all, but I'm also sure that many people legitimately believe that higher rating = higher skill.

The thing is, that is true in a general sense. Most 3k players are better than most 2k players. Most 4k > 3k players, 5k > 4k. However, here's where it gets tricky. After a certain threshold, around 5400-5600, MMR hardly matters. There are still skill disparities, that's for sure, but you can no longer tell a certain player is going to be better judging by their MMR. Many pro players are a perfect example of this, and so are those that pick Terrorblade every game, which were the same people that picked Earth Spirit every game pre-nerf. Are the dudes in the top 10 of the leaderboard better than everyone else? No, they are simply good at winning solo ranked pubs, either through picks or play-style.

However, this is a vastly different set of skills and gamesense than those required in competitive - I can guarantee that if you put the top 5 in EU on a team, they would be a low tier 2 / high tier 3 team at best, even if you gave them time to practice together. This is because in a team setting there are many more qualities required (you can check out my previous blog post "To my Fellow Aspiring Stars" where I discuss these in detail), and the chances of these guys' ego's getting in the way (especially when they are top 5 on the leaderboards) are huge. And of course the fact that some specialize in heroes that aren't even in Captain's Mode. 

So, does a higher MMR mean you're a better player? Yes, up to a certain point. After that it is less about being good and more about playing much and picking the right heroes.
After all, the game is balanced around competitive team versus team -CM, not all pick with 5 randoms. Therefore skill should be measured according to the former and not the latter.


Match Quality / Balance

This is a much discussed topic, as I am sure everyone has at least once blamed their loss on the fact that the match was not balanced. However, when you think about all the factors that contribute to the balance of a match, it is fairly obvious that the chance of 10 people having a truly close and fun game is extremely small. Just think about yourself, you:
  • get frustrated after more than 2 losses in a row, often rage re-queuing because you don't want to end the night with a loss
  • You generally assume your team is incompetent in order to not be disappointed
  • You have good days and you have bad days
  • You have good heroes and bad heroes
  • Sometimes you try hard, sometimes you want to try something new
These apply to pretty much everyone. There are right about a million things that can affect how well you play, each to different degrees, be it the lighting in your room, the neighbours dog barking, how much you slept last night or simply whether you're feeling happy or not. Now, apply all this to 10 individuals, and the roll of dice becomes more apparent. Still not convinced?

Think about professional games, where stomps are fairly common. This is due to the massive importance of the draft and simply the nature of the game. So, if someone that works on this game as a full time job can still get outdrafted to the extent of getting stomped, then imagine what can happen in an -AP pub. 

In essence, any given solo ranked game is the roll of a million dice that decide the outcome. The only thing you can do is make sure as many of yours as possible roll like you want them to, and then try to affect some of your team's too (e.g. their attitude).

Abuse

This involves the use of bots, stacking in solo queue through preference settings, sandboxing and playing against yourself, etc. As a general rule for a game played by this many - anything that can be abused, will be abused. I see people being surprised by the demand for high-rated accounts and the amount of people willing to supply them as close-mindedness, because with 7.5 million active players there are bound to be all kinds of people and communities, and that should come as a surprise to no one.

Of course I also think this is horrible for the game, and Valve should enforce harder punishments to those that take part in this abuse of the system, especially if it involves third-party programs such as sandboxie.

Win / Loss Streaks

I encourage you to look up an article on probability and statistics, because there is an extremely wide-spread misconception that a win-streak increases your likelihood of losing, and a loss-streak increases your likelihood of winning, but that is just false. Everyone has experienced 1 win 1 loss 1 win 1 loss sequences, and everyone has gone through 4-5 or more wins or losses in a row. The only thing streaks affect is your attitude about the game, which, coincidentally, is extremely important. If you go into a game disappointed with a loss streak and expecting a win handed to you because 'it's logical', you will probably not play your best and likely lose again. This is closely related to the following and final section.

Attitude

I'm sure this is something everyone has dealt with - I also struggle with it often. For example, I went on holiday and played on a shitty laptop with the lowest possible settings and went from 5675 to 5875 in about 4-5 days. Then I came back home and played on my usual set-up, and lost 2 party games followed by 5 solo games in a row. This affects my mood more than I would like it to. It's easy to think about all the things that could be the reason for your win or loss, be it in-game (team, picks, luck) or even more stupid, outside of the game (humidity of the room, what you ate, the volume of your speakers). At the end of the day none of these things matter - the only thing that matters is how focused you are and how you approach the game, mentality-wise.

Something I notice in myself is that often after getting really mad over a loss that was supposedly my team's fault, as I calm down later I realize I didn't play nearly as well as I could have, and that is what causes my anger, while blaming my team is just an attempt to draw my attention away from that fact. Winning games such as those is often not even that satisfying. Carrying over this mentality into the next game can easily lead to a loss streak.

Likewise, I've had games where I know I played very well and made little to no mistakes, but still lost due to a plethora of different reasons. Those games don't make me mad in the slightest, because I'm satisfied with how I played. And winning a game like that, well, that's an even greater sense of accomplishment. Carrying over this mentality into the next game can easily lead to a win streak.

Lastly, it is this attachment of a sense of accomplishment to your number that is the reason to feeling sad after a loss and happy after a victory. Losing a game means losing points, i.e. not only have you not gained anything out of the time you spent playing, you even 'lost' the time it took you to gain those points in your previous win. Winning, on the other hand lets you feel like you have accomplished something with your time, i.e. gaining points.

I hope you can realize how stupid this sounds, because it is. At the end of the day, you play for 2 reasons - either to have fun, or to improve and aim for going pro. If you're not having fun, you need to change your approach or switch things up with either a different mode, different people or even a different game.

If your main aim is to improve, then all you need to do is forget about your points and winning or losing and simply focus on how you are playing and anything and everything you can do to play better. If you truly do that and manage to learn and improve after every match, you will forget about wins and losses fairly quickly, and ironically start winning more often as you are actually getting better as a player.















Monday, February 10, 2014

Progress

So, it has been a really long while since the last time I wrote a blog post. For a long time I delayed writing because I was waiting for my new mechanical keyboard to arrive. However, that got delayed by over a month and after that I kind of forgot about it. Anyway, here we are now.

Major things that have happened since the last post:

Team FN disbanded. It's a slightly sad story, however it has been a while now and I want to keep looking forward so I will summarize briefly what happened.
I felt that Chil's schedule did not allow us to train enough, and that combined with his attitude that can be quite negative during games we are not doing well in, was enough for me to decide to replace him. At first I wanted to simply try playing with a stand-in while Chil is not there to see whether we really could get more games in than usual, but Chil made it apparent he did not want a testing period and would rather have me just straight-up decide. So I decided to replace him. I cannot say whether it was a mistake or not, because, well, yeah we did disband shortly after that, but on the other hand I cannot say we were progressing all too much with him either. So in the end we played with the new roster for a while but it became apparent that the replacements despite having a better attitude were simply not on par in terms of skill. Love and I had a small argument that lead to him leaving the team, and, well, with only 2 original members remaining Andy and I decided it would be for the best to not play together for a while.

I tried many teams after that, some of them with great attitude, some of them with decent skill, potential in some areas, but none of them with every single required quality on every single member. It was no surprise, really. So, after a while, Andy, Love and I decided to give it another shot. This time we would have Martin who used to be our dedicated 6th and stand-in as part of the stable roster, on the support role alongside Andy. Our fifth player, the iconic carry that we had trouble finding before, turned out to be Ivan, or MinD_ControL. I played briefly with him in a previous Bulgarian team where he was playing support and I noticed his potential quite quickly. As it turned out he had been playing the 1 position for a couple of months so he fit perfectly. I must say we got a bit lucky because so far this roster has worked close to seamlessly and I can definitely see potential.

As for actual achievements in terms of tournament victories, unfortunately we do not yet have any. However, we have started playing versus solid teams and getting decently far in tournaments. Our first game versus a major team was our first game of the grid-phase of the Eizo cup, and it was versus Speed Gaming or as they are now known; Cloud9.

We lost, and it wasn't a close game, but the experience definitely payed off. I still think about that game occasionally, what we could've done differently, especially what I could've done differently to not get destroyed on mid in a match-up that should have given me the advantage... But at the end of the day nerves played a major role and I doubt many people could have performed much better if it were their first game versus an actual professional team in a tournament.

A few days later we played another game in the Netolic tournament versus Power Rangers, and lost that too. That game would have been a lot closer and even winnable had it not been for Love who had some mentality issues and got quite upset in the middle of the game as he had a bad start which he couldn't possibly recover from due to the attitude that followed.

Nevertheless, we are starting to get further and further in tournaments, playing versus good teams and getting our names out there. Soon are the Dreamhack qualifiers, and they are our shot at big exposure. If we win those and participate at Dreamhack, chances are we're looking at a TI qualifier invitation. If we win Dreamhack itself, which is quite unlikely but not impossible, then we may even be looking at a direct TI invite, just like what happened to then-NTH currently known as Alliance.

So, that's a summary of what has been going on with my roadtoTI4/5 recently, and I am happy that despite lack of solid results progress is definitely being made!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

TI3, eSports, Generations

Wow, what an amazing event that was. Valve once again managed to outdo themselves from last year, and by a huge margin. Seeing the prize-pool being increased by a massive 1.2 million dollars just from compendiums bought by the community was indescribable. The games were great, I could do lots of analysis but that's not what I want to talk about right now - although I have to say I can't believe I used to overlook Orange before.

Over-all, seeing the event invoked polar feelings in me. I really enjoyed it and was happy about what was going on, but somehow the many amazing parts made it all the harder to swallow the fact that I wasn't there. I had had my eyes set on TI4 even before watching TI3, but seeing the fantastic event just made the fire burn that much brighter.

Something specific - Dendi's Pudge made a great appearance and got the appraisal of nearly everyone. However it pained me especially because Pudge is my best hero and I consider myself one of the best Pudge players. This may sound weird - why would someone else being good with Pudge make me uncomfortable? Well, I guess it's the feeling of wanting to prove myself but not being able to, yet. Dendi is obviously an amazing player, no doubt about it, but I can't help but feel that his Pudge is good simply because he is a good Pudge player. He does know the hero well, he hooks well, but he is not the best Pudge in the world. People have not yet seen a pro that is specialized in Pudge - they will, soon enough. It's really something else.

I made a bet the other day with a friend. The bet was on whether I would make it into TI4 or not, and we bet 20 keys on it. I bet him I'd make it, he bet I wouldn't. His choice was obviously the more logical one - 5 unknowns on a team making a name for themselves and getting invited to the most prestigious tournament in but a year? Does not seem very likely. Yet in my mind it's almost... inevitable. I simply know we can do it. I've managed to gather up players that consistently impress me in all aspects of their gameplay, players that can match pro players easily. Once the new dota season starts and we start entering some tournaments... Well, I simply can't wait.

Then there are always still the struggles with family. How can parents possibly understand that this game could potentially earn me hundreds of thousands in the near future, before I've even finished my education, and is not simply something I do to pass the time? The generational differences are simply getting out of hand... As technology's advance rate increases exponentially, the gap between each generation widens. Right now it's already massive, with all electronics and digital devices. Can't imagine what it will be like between my children and me.

But, I suppose that's the downside of starting to seriously try and get involved with the competitive scene at the young age of 16. A great advantage, though, is that I still have a very long time to go. Assuming the average DotA career ends at around the age of 23-24, I've at least 6 years to go. TI9 seems like a pretty realistic goal. And can anyone even imagine how amazing TI8 or TI9 will be, judging by the amount of improvements every consecutive International has had so far? Games generally don't last very long, usually it would be too optimistic to assume it's going to still be around for a TI9. But this game has already been out for 3 years and it still feels brand new, it still feels like we've only seen the tip of the iceberg and there are huge amounts of untapped potential.

This is not simply about DotA as a game, it's about eSports and their place in society. How come if you're an football player looking to go pro everyone is very impressed? How come basketball practice with your semi-pro team is a perfectly legitimate reason to miss a wedding, whereas saying you have to practice with your semi-pro team for an eSport, or 'just a computer game', would be considered a ridiculous excuse?

This will change eventually, society's perception will adapt and people will start recognizing eSports. And all this will happen right as I hit the competitive scene full-stride! At least, that's the plan. But I'm confident it will work out. And hey, if it doesn't, I can always fall back on traditional methods like education. There's no reason why both couldn't be done.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

To My Fellow Aspiring Stars

This post will be about giving advice to others in a position similar to mine, explaining why I’m doing this whole blog thing, and talking about some key characteristics a potentially pro player needs.


The reason I am doing this is fairly simple. I thought of it this way – who wouldn’t want to read about what was going on in Puppey’s mind before he made it big and started bringing home the millions? Yeah, I must have a huge ego for thinking I’ll become as successful as someone like Puppey. Maybe. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I will. What’s important is what I believe and want, and that is not to become as famous as Puppey. What I want is to become even more known.

I believe that what you can achieve is directly proportional to how much you want it. All you are given is a body, a life and a mind. What you do with them is up to you – the only one that can tell you what you can and cannot is you, and the only one that can achieve something for yourself is you. 

There are no fortunate or unfortunate circumstances – there are the circumstances, and what you make of them. A situation is as good as you make it to be. This is why all successful people (and this does not necessarily mean rich or famous, just people that are happy and satisfied with what they have achieved) have one thing in common – strong will. The ability to recognize what it is that they truly want, to be able to surround themselves with positive energy, and to then direct that energy towards their goal.

Yeah, I sound like some sort of spiritual guide using terms such as spiritual energy and whatnot, but what I’m saying is that there is no point to have negative people around you. Now I don’t mean that anyone who isn’t fully behind your every single decision is bad – there’s a difference between negative discouragement and experienced advice.

Anyway, back to DotA. I’m doing this because I know it will be very valuable one day. When I do become known and successful in the DotA scene, I hope that the availability of this blog will help other aspiring stars. Even if it only gives a slight confidence boost to one guy or girl, it will be worth it.

I have doubts now, of course. Uncertainties trouble me every day – what if I really should focus more on school and studying, what if this dota career never works out and I end up just having invested tons of time into nothing but a hobby? I can spot many mistakes pros make when watching games, but they are playing under massive pressure, I’m just pubbing. Will I be able to keep my cool when I know half a million people are watching?

The answers to all those are relatively simple. Everything comes with practice and experience. While it is sure nice to think of the future, of getting interviewed and signing for fans, it’s important to not lose track of where you are now and what path you are going to take. Know your final goal, but visualize all the small steps you have to take and set mini-goals in between.

For me, right now, since I’m not yet in Bulgaria and cannot play past 11, my goal is to create as many contacts and know as many people as possible – potential candidates for my future team. I’m in two teams, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take every opportunity to stand in for friends. Building connections – they are important. Keep helping people out, and let the positive feeling you get after doing someone a big favor be the only thing you expect in return.

What to look for in potential team members is a lot, naturally. Do not expect to find suitable individuals easily, however, do not exclude the possibility of having them on your team during any given public match. Pubs are great for this – apart from focusing on improving your own play, take a look around you. Judging how good someone is at dota after occasionally glancing at what they’re doing a few times throughout one game is probably harder than beating navi without killing XBOCT. Might as well not even try then, right? Nope. A misled, prejudiced idea of someone’s skill is better than no idea. Get into a pub. See someone make a play that impresses you? Offer some sharp insight about the game you didn’t think of? Generally show signs of being a good, consistent player that rarely fucks up? Time to add that person. 

Talk to them a bit. A few lines back and forth should be enough to tell you whether they have any communicational skills. Add them on Skype, play some more games later, speak a bit on voice chat. You should easily have an idea of whether this person is someone you could see yourself on the same team with by now. If you can’t stand them, just don’t play with them anymore. You can either string them along constantly saying you’re busy or outright tell them you don’t want to be friends - that depends on you as a person.

With some luck, the person is not obnoxious and you’ve made a new dota buddy. Next step, get to know their circle of friends. See if you can get in and make more friends – chances are, if you like this guy, you will like his friends. So now you’re 5 man stacking every pub, that’s it, you can’t meet anyone anymore in pubs, right? Wrong, yet again! The enemy team also exists. Just because someone’s playing against you doesn’t mean you cannot notice whether they are good or not – in fact, it may even be easier sometimes. Next time you get outplayed, don’t resent that person – salute them, admit your mistake, and add them. Try to get as many people that are better than you around you (within a certain range, of course, not talking about adding s4 when you just learned how to play SF)

Keep expanding. The more people you know, the more of their friends you might play with, etc. – it’s an exponential increase of contacts. This should be relatively easy if you’re not yet on a very high level. If you’re at the level on which the only thing differentiating you and a pro is the fact that they’re on a team, then it may be a bit more difficult. But still, not impossible. However, at this point, when you are all at a relatively similar skill level, it’s time to start looking at other qualities. In order for these to become apparent, you will need to form a team and start playing scrims, team matchmaking or small cups.

Let’s start with the most important one – motivation. It’s simple. You can’t win scrims because your teammates don’t improve, can’t admit their mistakes, don’t take advice, and can’t keep a calm attitude about the game? Drop them. That’s really all there is to it. If they don’t have the necessary motivation, they do not want to get where you want to get. If they don’t want to, they won’t, and if you’re on their team, well, that means you won’t. Talk individually with them – where do they see themselves in the future? Do they share the same goals? Do they see themselves standing on the stage at The International X? If the answer is yes, congratulations, chances are very high that you’ve found yourself a potential (the same goes for them concerning you, so it’s a win-win). If no, you can still be friends of course, but you now know they are not a potential.

Now there is a huge list of other qualities, but everything can be worked on and improved given that the person has the motivation for it. Still, there are some things that simply cannot be changed, such as character. Some people are simply too arrogant or have too much of an ego to work well in a team. Some people have conflicting personalities. Some people simply have radically different views of the game, and this can be problematic, but is again not something that cannot be resolved, given the motivation. If this is the case that’s very sad but look at the situation analytically, and ask yourself whether you can afford to have these individuals on your team.

Once again there are many qualities, and I will list them below, but this is the last one I will expand on as I deem it to be one of the most important ones – positivity. During a game, being positive is easy if you’re winning. It’s not if you’re losing. Being positive is extremely important, because if you are not, you deprive yourself of many victories and comebacks. There are people that being complaining as soon as the enemy is leading – this leads to worse team morale, worse play and therefore an increased lead for the enemy, etc. The downward spiral basically secures the win for the enemy. Yes, there are games that are blatantly lost, and it does happen that pro teams call gg before even losing a set of barracks. This does not mean that as a practicing team you should give up as soon as things don’t seem to be going your way.

What exactly is a situation that one cannot come back from is borderline impossible to determine, because of the fact that the game is not solely in your hands. The enemies are not robots. Slip-ups are possible even in pro games, but especially in lower level games. For a long time I considered the enemy getting mega creeps being the only time I can legitimately give up, but then I came back from mega creeps while the enemies had all tier 2’s up as well as a 60,000 gold advantage, so that just further proved my point. To be fair, it was a pub, and yes of course the enemies threw it due to stupid item choices on some heroes, but the point still stands.

In pro games especially, if you do not practice playing from a losing situation, you are digging yourself a grave in the long run. The only thing teams will have to do to beat you is gain a significant advantage. Why can a team like EG be known for throwing? Because good teams understand how the game works and how the enemy’s mentality works, and how to work their way back into a leading position. You do not farm wherever you want to, you do not dive for kills, you do not take 5 on 5 engagements, etc. Playing from behind is not some impossible highskill+++ feat, it’s simply another mode of dota, one that you can shift in and out of multiple times during one game. Not learning how to play it is like refusing to play with or against 50% of the hero pool.

Now, let’s get back to the step-by-step guide to becoming a pro dota player. You’ve made many contacts, and you’ve formed a decent-sized list of around 10-15 potentials. They all have the following qualities, sorted by importance:

1.     Motivation

2.     Time (if they can’t invest several hours a day it’s not going to work, this usually depends on motivation)

3.     Skill (is ok if lacking at first, can be quickly made up for granted there is enough motivation)

4.     Communication skills (if they cannot communicate any thoughts, ideas, or problems they have, you’re going to end up with bottled up feelings brewing like a ticking disband-bomb)

5.     Game sense (they need to have a decent understanding of the game, of what makes heroes strong picks and why pro teams do the things they do)

Now that you have your potentials, pick 4 of the most promising and form a team. Feel free to swap people around as you see fit, within certain limits of course, you are friends after all.

After playing together for a while, keep trying stronger and stronger teams, and don’t be afraid to join as many cups and tournaments as you can. The key is to get your name known. Once you place well in some decent cups or tournaments, your hard work will finally start paying off.

From there on, to become the absolute best, well, there’s no secret formula. To achieve what no one has achieved before, you have to do what no one has done before. Think outside the box.