TI9 Meta Recap: Bo1 Elimination Matches

Day 1 of the main event at TI9 has passed and four unfortunate teams are going home after a single game of Dota. While Bo1 eliminations are not ideal to decide the better team, they are some of the highest stakes games for the teams playing them and I believe we might learn a lot from what they believe are currently the best strategies in the game: when you’re playing a Bo1 elimination match, you’re not experimenting or saving strats!

1. RNG vs Alliance

The first game of the day was a perfect example of why Bo1 is not ideal. Alliance made a silly mistake in the draft – Insania miss-clicked and picked Gyro, when in fact he wanted to ban him. This was very unfortunate not only because it’s not a hero they wanted to play but because they already had a pos. 1 & 2 heroes picked – Void and Storm. This forced them to switch up their roles and plans just before the most important game for them in the season.

Obviously, a loss after such a silly but extremely impactful mistake doesn’t really show where the team stands amongst the competition, but sadly we’ll never get the chance to know for sure.

RNG Alliance TI9

Making big conclusions about a team’s draft is impossible when a team actually didn’t want to play the draft, but we can still talk about the combination of Storm + Void in this game because Alliance picked them before the mistake and IMO those two heroes show a trend that is currently solidifying in the meta:

Frontline and backline initiators:

The meta in Dota has developed a lot in the last years and arguably one of the biggest changes is the introduction of more items and heroes with defensive (save) mechanics.

With such mechanics being widely available, it becomes very difficult to initiate directly on an enemy frontline core, simply because the enemy team is likely to save him and counter-initiate if they are in range.

This has made it pretty commonplace to have two kinds of initiators in the game. One traditional team fight initiator/counter initiator, usually on pos. 3 (in this case Void), and one mobile hero who can jump on the backlines.

A hero who focuses the backlines is not a new concept by any means, but drafting both of the roles mentioned above are becoming more and more commonplace.

In the past, Void + Storm would have been considered a bad combo simply because they have difficulty focusing the same target (Storm deals damage in short-range, which makes it difficult for him to contribute during Chrono and difficult for Void to follow-up a Storm initiation).

In the current meta, however, Storm + Void don’t clash as much because they have different jobs in fights and their roles actually complement each other. Void wants to catch the enemy cores, while Storm wants to jump on the backline supports with saving mechanics (in this example Shadow Demon and possibly Abaddon) to prevent them from saving their teammates.

Direct hero counters:

Another thing we can learn from this game (albeit a bit obvious) is that direct hero counters are still an important part of drafts. For example, Alliance has been having a lot of success with Qojqva’s Storm. Anti-Mage is not a top-tier carry hero right now, but he is one of the best Storm counters, so it makes sense that RNG would consider him when they are preparing for Alliance.

Another example for this game is Shadow Demon and Abaddon, who are great counters to Void’s Chrono (and make the first-phase Void pick a bit suspect). Maybe Alliance was counting on Storm to get on top of Shadow Demon fast enough, but Storm cannot incapacitate both SD and Abaddon.

Since Chrono is Alliance’s most important source of disable by far, when it didn’t have an impact in a fight for one reason or another the two mobile cores on RNG were free to go rampant.

Insania TI9

While the blunder was quite unfortunate for Alliance, the way they handled it makes us like them even more – this season’s team was by far the best iteration of Alliance since the original 5 and I’m certain they won over many new fans this TI!

2. Liquid vs Fnatic

Liquid Fnatic TI9
Stable drafts > Gimmicky lineups:

One risk you are running when you are trying to counter the enemy draft too much is that you might create a team that is not that coherent in itself:

Fnatic went into a do-or-die Bo1 against Liquid with a draft without a real carry hero. While such drafts can work for sure, they are quite risky. The weakness of this started being quite obvious in the mid-late game fights. Miracle- had lots of stats (Drums, Agh’s, Satanic) and BKB. With these items and Io, he was basically guaranteed to survive the initial burst damage coming from Fnatic. Once they used their spells and the burst was over, there was no real carry to trade hits with Liquid’s cores and finish them off and Fnatic had great difficulty standing their ground against the sustained AoE damage coming out of Miracle and W33.

3. Keen vs Infamous

Keen vs Infamous, TI9
Comfort picks are great, but…

Both Keen and Infamous went into this series with a lot of their comfort picks – Wraith King on Hector, and PA on Old Chicken in particular (both player-hero combo was played multiple times in the group stage).

The big difference, however, is that Wraith King is a top-tier carry hero right now utilized by most teams, while Phantom Assassin is pretty much valued highly only by Keen.

Playing your comfort heroes is great, but when your comfort heroes don’t belong in the meta, you are creating a problem for yourself. I.e. PA might be a great situational pick, but when you are picking her too often you are very vulnerable to counters.

Wraith King, on the other hand, currently fits very well the way most teams want to play the game and is very hard to counter.

4. Na’Vi vs Mineski

Mineski Na'Vi TI9

Arguably the most exciting game of the day.

Undoubtedly, Na’Vi made a huge mistake by trying to take the throne instead of playing it safe and taking more barracks. (It’s very easy to judge such mistakes post-factum when it’s more than obvious which decision was the right one. In the heat of the moment, however, it’s very likely that Na’Vi were certain they will be able to kill the Ancient in time. Still, with a lot on the line, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.)

With this in mind, most analysts thought Na’Vi has a late-game advantage as well as a better draft as a whole (e.g. Minaski don’t have an obvious solution for Sniper; Na’Vi have plenty of solutions for Enigma). This meant that they should be able to win the game even after the unfortunate team wipe at the enemy Ancient.

Mineski, however, showcased that with clever movement and by taking smart fights, you can overcome a draft disadvantage.

Sometimes Tactics beat Strategy:

It would be difficult to summarize the meaning of “tactics” in this game in a few sentences because we would have to go over each individual fight and movement made by Mineski.

A single good example we can give, however, is the movement of Moonn before and inside fights. Using Lina’s high movement speed, he would often try to flank the enemy team when he sees a fight breaking out (engage them from behind once they've already focused someone else). This would make him harder to find and focus down at the beginning of the fight (he is the highest-value target on Mineski, and if given the opportunity, Na’Vi would jump on him). Equally importantly, this gave him the opportunity to focus down Na’Vi’s backline.


Both VG and TNC looked quite shaky on the main stage (both teams made plenty of unforced mistakes), so betting on them seems too risky at least for their next series. Some of the lower-bracket teams, however, played a decently clinical Dota and it’s quite possible for some of them to pull off an upset in the next round in which they face the losers of the Winner Bracket round 1.

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