In the second part of our TI9 meta recap series I discussed the two games Na’Vi managed to win against their CIS rivals - VP. I talked about how Na’Vi weren’t sticking to the meta, but rather were playing their own favorite heroes and strategy with great success. The conclusion from this observation was that the meta is actually quite open – the state of balance of the game is good and if teams want to, they certainly don’t have to stick to the popular picks and strategies. Playing what you’re good at is definitely viable.
In today’s main event Liquid vs TNC series, this openness of the meta was showcased in another very interesting way:
Team Liquid didn’t play the main strategy that they’ve been using for years, but rather they countered a classic Dota strategy (currently relatively off-meta) in the most textbook (but very off-meta) way possible with great success.
Before I explain what I’m talking about, here’s a simple concept about the basics of Dota 2 Tactics:
The basic idea is that there is a limited amount of moves you can do on the map, and your actions interact with the movements of the enemy team a certain way:
You can utilize all three main tactics in any game, but some strategies are built to be particularly good at one of the tactics, while naturally lacking in one or even both of the others.
TNC’s draft is a textbook 5-man Dota strategy. They have:
The game plan is to:
Liquid has a classic Rat Dota team with:
Liquid has the opposite game plan: they don’t want to force fights like TNC – they want to avoid fights, keep the waves pushed-out, threaten objectives when TNC wants to commit to a push by split-pushing, and reach the late game where your harder-scaling pos. 1 will win the game.
As you can notice, Liquid’s game plan is to a degree tailored to beat TNC’s. They have the tools to outmaneuver them, delay the game for a long time, and win late. TNC simply lack the tools to catch Liquid’s split-pushers and punish them for “overextending”. I.e. TNC’s draft is great at team-fights and pushing, but is quite bad at ganking.
Why this game, in particular, is very significant for the TI9 meta is because both drafts are quite off-meta. The meta picks are SD + Lesh on one side and Mirana + Tide on the other. All other heroes are played much more rarely, and the popular strategies are usually not that specialized into 5-man Dota or Rat Dota.
This means that TNC thought it’s viable to utilize a more specialized 5-man Dota draft. This makes sense, as ganking is a big part of the meta that dominated the group stage.
And instead of sticking to the meta picks and strats, Liquid simply drafted the textbook response to deal with the 5-man draft and won a convincing victory with a lineup which is even more off-meta than TNC’s.
The point is that the current meta seems to be very, very open. This is great because it means teams will have the freedom to show the best they are capable of not only in terms of play but in terms of creativity and strategic understanding of the game, unrestrained by the current popularity of heroes and strats.
This realization, if true, might mean that more experienced teams have a big edge in
this tournament over newer stacks who have simply “figured out the meta” and
have a shallower pool of strategies they can play on a high level. In other
words, Secret and/or Liquid seem fairly likely to make a deep lower bracket run
until they face teams of the same caliber in terms of experience.
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