Nuances of Strategy | Secret vs VG Nanyang Championship Grand Finals
The past Sunday we had the pleasure to witness two of the best teams in the world and top contenders for the Fall Major in an epic best of 5 clash. The back and forth plays and swings of momentum were a pleasure to watch, but the real thrill for us were a couple of strategic and tactical surprises we want to share with you.
Draft: In the first game VG opened up the draft with their favorite Alch + Undying combo, which got directly countered by a first phase AA pick by Puppey. Instead of taking their draft in a different direction, VG picked a Juggernaut (whose Healing Ward is also countered by AA), BM and Rubick. It seemed like VG are committing to a 5-man pushing strategy, which is something extremely risky to do versus the anti-push of AA and ES and the team fight combo that Secret have.
Problem: The usual way to play a lineup similar to what VG have is to try to win the laning stage and afterwards to group as five and start taking objectives. The Alchemist is your front line tank with his ultimate and ideally a fast Mek. BM provides the pushing power with his aura and units (ideally with Necronomicon) and vision in key areas to make it harder for the enemy team to initiate surprisingly. Thanks to Undying and Jugg’s early game fighting potential the enemy team should have trouble initiating a successful fight to defend their towers. Moreover, the sustain coming from the Healing Ward makes spamming anti-push abilities much less effective and allows the pushing team to continuously push multiple towers and claim map control.
In this game, however, this was very unlikely to work. VG’s problem is that they heavily rely on healing to sustain their push and to win team fights. When you are pushing, however, you are extremely exposed to Ice Blast (especially after a good Fissure setup), which entirely disables all healing effects on VG’s lineup. Getting hit by the spell could easily win Secret a team fight or at least significantly slow down the push.
The analyst desk at the event leaned towards the conclusion that VG would be unable to push for a long time and Secret would take over the late game thanks to their superior team fight potential: Blink Echo Slam, double Doom, Ice Blast, and Requiem of Souls.
VG’s Solution: VG’s solution to the problem that AA and ES presented was to avoid 5-man pushing as a whole. Instead of risking to walk into an Ice Blast as 5 they decided to focus on the ganking potential of their lineup.
They wanted to create space with four of their heroes by finding pick-offs while the Alch is split-pushing and flash farming with the Radiance + Octarine + Manta build. BM could find targets with the Hawk and latch with Roar, the rest of the team provides the damage to finish the kills. Later on the Alchemist could even use BoTs to teleport on the Hawk to participate in the kills.
This strategy is made even better by the fact that the Doom and SF on team Secret would want to flash farm and are likely to be far away from each other on the map most of the time.
VG knew that they would have to win in the late game and because of this they invested in farming items not only on the Alch, but also on the Jugg who chose a Battle Fury build.
Draft: This time VG tried to counter Secret in the draft by giving them Misery’s Slardar but picking and banning most of w33’s heroes and it seemed like it is working since Secret ended up with an awkward 3-core lineup. On the analyst desk Winter went on to call Secret’s draft “next level greed”.
Problem: First, Secret have three cores that seemingly need lots of space to farm - Slardar needs his Blink before becoming active and AM and Tiny need even more space in order to get their late game items. Second, Secret are facing a pushing strat in the face of SF + Juggernaut and because they lack any kind of good anti-push it looked like they would struggle to slow down the game until AM becomes big enough - they could lose objectives and map control too easily, which would leave them under-farmed and would allow VG to secure the game.
Secret’s Solution: Puppey’s plan for solving the team’s greed problem was that Tiny and Slardar would use all of their time creating space instead of using it. It turns out Slardar doesn’t need Blink Dagger when he has Tiny as a teammate thanks to the Toss + Crush combo, which allows him to get his Dagger through kills rather than through farming creeps. Moreover, instead of playing Tiny as a farming carry (Aghanim’s, AC, etc.) w33 played him as an active ganker by building Dagger, Force Staff and Ethereal Blade (not only to strengthen his Toss-Ava combo but to counter Jugg’s ultimate).
Secret’s solution to countering the pushing problem was not to allow VG to reach their pushing timing at all. Before they commit to a push, Jugg and SF need some items and until that point they would be flash farming around the map, leaving them exposed to ganks for at least 20 minutes. Bounty Hunter, Slardar and Tiny are very powerful gankers and could apply a huge amount of pressure on the enemy team while AM is flash farming. In fact, Tiny, BH and Slardar were so successful in their ganks that the game ended 28 to 7 kills for team Secret at the 35th minute.
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