TI 9: Day 2 Meta Recap & Analysis

Welcome to part 2 of our TI9 Meta Recap analytical series where we’ll focus on the developments of Day 2, which brought a lot of awesome and surprising games. (If you missed out part 1, you can check it out here: TI9 Meta Day 1.)

To sum-up, day two was the day of:

  • Comfort picks > meta picks: This showcases that the game is in a great state of balance and the meta doesn’t force teams to play heroes and strategies just because they are imba.
  • Creativity: gimmicky, cheesy but unexpected combos seem to be viable on the highest level of competitive Dota.

Heroes of the Day:

Hero of the Day Naix
Lifestealer Portrait

Pos. 1: Lifestealer was one of the most picked and most successful heroes in pos. 1. His win rate of the day was 67%, which is very surprising because on day one he performed very badly (29% win rate). Gyrocopter also saw a lot of play, but unlike day one where he performed extremely well (78%WR), on day two he had the mediocre 42% WR. Alch is still the most contested hero and his win rate on day two improved. It’s interesting to mention here that Lifestealer could be valued highly as a counter to Alch because he is an active carry and has the required DPS to bring down Alch from early on. It’s also worth mentioning, however, that Lifestealer was successful in some not-favorable matchups. E.g. Mineski were able to win a game with a pos. 1 Naix vs a last-pick pos. 1 Terrorblade played by Liquid.Miracle-.

Leshrac

Pos. 2: The most interesting development on day 2 in the mid lane is that Ember, who was the top mid lane hero on day one, did extremely badly on the second day. He was played in 10 games and won only 2. Kunkka is more consistent but still doesn’t have amazing results as his win rate on day two fell to 44% (compared to 78% on day 1). The most contested and consistent mid laner on day 2 was Lesh with 11 picks, 15 bans, and not-amazing-but-respectable 55% win rate.

Enchantress

Pos. 3: Enchantress is the 2nd most contested hero in the tournament. Unlike on day one, where she had the very bad 29% win rate, on day two she redeemed herself by winning 5 out of 6 games she was drafted. It’s worth mentioning that she was played on the offlane two times against pos. 1 Sven and two times against pos. 1 Gyro – two matchups she can do really well in. Sven and Gyro are popular pos. 1 heroes right now, so it’s fairly likely that in the future teams will make sure to ban Ench when they intend to draft one of the two carries. It’s also very interesting that Centaur, Magnus, and Tide, the three team-fight offlaners we mentioned did very well on day 1, underperformed seriously on day 2. It's also worth mentioning that all three have a bad matchup against Lifestealer, unlike Ench, which leads us to the conclusion that playing good hero matchups is more important than playing the popular heroes in the meta.

Chen

Pos. 4: Chen is the playmaking support that has the most success. This is not a big surprise and most teams are banning him, but he managed to win the three games he was played on day one and 4 out of the 5 games he was played on day 2, showcasing that most teams on TI fear him for a good reason. Continuing the tradition of heroes that did well on day one underperforming on day two, Elder Titan was still one of the most popular supports, but his win rate fell from 62.5% to 33.3%. ET is also a hero that has a bad matchup against Lifestealer.

Treant Protector

Pos. 5: Shadow Demon is still the most popular support, followed by AA, which isn’t surprising when heroes like Alch and Slark are popular. Warlock did much better on day two compared to day one (57% WR vs 29% WR), but the most successful pos. 5 hero was Treant who won 4 out of his 5 games and might attract much more attention on himself in the following days.

Finally, we cannot end this section without mentioning the sensation story of day 2:

hero of the day Io

Lifestealer might have been the most consistent performer, but pos. 1 IO was by far the most interesting and creative thing that happened! (More on that below).


Creative Strategies:

Day 2 Standings TI9

Above: the standings after TI9 Group Stage: Day 2

In day one I mentioned that overly-creative strats aren’t doing particularly well in comparison to stable drafts. On day 2, however, creativity is back with a vengeance and a lot of teams showcased that you can definitely win by doing something unexpected.

The key, however, is how you implement it. The creativity that teams managed to use successfully on day 2 consisted of unexpected use of heroes and hero interactions. The drafts themselves, however, were very well-rounded and had all major components of a stable strategy, making the game-plan much simpler and the execution – easier, despite the curveball.

To illustrate:

OG vs NiP, Game 1 & 2:

The sensation of the day was OG’s successful use of pos. 1 Io (played by Ana) in two consecutive games in their series vs NiP.

Game 1:

OG NiP Game 1 Day 2

Game 2:

OG NiP Game 2 Day 2

The strategy with Pos. 1 IO is as follows:

  1. You play him in a strong dual-lane the same way as you would if he was a support. E.g. in both games OG combined him with Treant or Elder Titan. Both heroes benefit from the Tether MS and regen to trade favorably with their lane opponents. Another good option would be Ogre, etc.
  2. You get Aghs and Maelstrom and focus on farming. You can always join fights with your ultimate: you play a bit like a Spectre would in the early-mid game.
  3. Your first fight timing is Aghanim's + the lvl15 talent, and if the enemy team is weak you can break the base as 5.
  4. You get Heart, which is a big power spike. You are able to provide a lot of sustain and tankiness not only for yourself but for your other core. If Io was a support, the enemy team would usually try to nuke him down quickly and deal with his carry later. With Io as a carry with Heart, however, bursting him down is not an option, which makes the combo of him + his partner much stronger. They are both extremely fast and extremely tanky, and they deal good damage. They lack only control, which is something your other heroes need to provide.
  5. You use this timing to win the game. If you don’t manage to, however, you have another power-spike on lvl25 – the additional attacks when you are Tethered increase your teams single-target DPS a great deal and help with pushing objectives (even split-pushing) a great deal. Notice that in both drafts the partner core played by Topson is a hero that can attack objectives very fast – WR or Troll.

Notice, however, that OG doesn’t simply rely on this surprising hero usage to win them the game. Their drafts are very well-rounded. The other core is a hero with carry potential, and the pos. 3 hero provides good team-fight initiation and control. The supports are strong laners with good team-fight potential coming from one (ET, Treant) and save mechanics from the other (SD).

EG vs VG, Game 1:

Another very creative and interesting interaction was used by EG to pull off a surprise victory against VG. They used Morph with Aghanim’s + Dark Willow. When Morph uses his ultimate on the Willow, he receives the Aghanim’s effect of Shadow Realm – he is able to right-clock without leaving Shadow Realm, dealing a lot of bonus magic damage and gaining huge range. This is absolutely amazing with Morph’s very fast attacks speed and high damage and is useful not only to nuke down heroes in fights but also to siege the enemy base from a safe distance.

EG vs VG Day 2

Notice that like OG, despite having a very creative hero interaction, EG have a solid and pretty standard draft. They have a traditional farming hard carry, an active frontline semi-carry on pos. 2, a fight initiator with AoE control in the offlane, and two strong lane-supports with additional team-fight damage and control.


Comfort Picks:

Na’Vi pulled-off another big upset in the tournament by beating VP 2-0. The way they did it is also very interesting. They didn’t utilize some kind of crazy strategy to catch VP by surprise. Instead, they drafted some of their signature heroes (in fact, they drafted pretty much the same team two times in a row) and simply outplayed VP to claim the victory.

Game 1:

Na'vi VP Game 1 Day 2

Game 2:

Na'Vi VP Game 2 Day 2

They played so well individually and as a team, that it is very likely teams will respect-ban e.g. Zayac’s Earth Spirit in the future.

The fact that Na’Vi managed to pull-off those two victories speaks very well for the state of the game balance and the meta. Na’Vi were able to win convincingly using their “favorite” heroes without having to stick to the popular meta picks religiously, which implies that the top meta picks aren’t imba and certainly aren’t the only viable way to play the game.

(i.e. we > LoL :|)

Betting:

Day two turns most of our day one conclusion on their head – surprisingly a lot of the best-performing heroes on day one performed terribly on day two. This in itself means that not only are team matchups hard to predict, but drafts are also not too helpful if we only observe hero performance. The better way to predict drafts right now seems to be to stick to the basics rather than to try to figure out the “imba picks”. Bet on well-performing teams when:

  • They draft a solid team composition (good damage AND control for fights, strong lanes)
  • The individual hero matchups are favorable.


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