What we can learn from Fnatic vs Mineski:
When Tactics beat Strategy

Match ID: 4385859934, Dreamleague Season 11 Major, SEA Qualifiers, Game 1

Game 1 in this series caught my eye because something unusual happened – Mineski were ahead in terms of resources and map control and they had a great long-term draft and strategy. Yet, they managed to lose without making obvious big blunders (like diving the enemy base or something of that sort). Because of this I thought it’s worthwhile to dig a bit deeper:

fnatic mineski dlm

After the laning phase, Mineski was slowly and steadily building a lead in the game. On the 25th minute, they were leading by 7.6k gold and 5.5k XP, despite playing on a kill deficit (10 – 7).

This was a very comfortable position for them to be in:

  • First, they have a pos. 1 Morph, who is the hardest carry on the map and with the resource lead he has, he should be able to secure the late game.
  • Second, Mineski has Enigma, while the enemy team has no control that works through magic immunity. This means that once Enigma gets his BKB, Mineski should have the upper hand in team-fight control.
  • Third, Fnatic’s main carry is Jugg. In this game, he is playing against Sven’s Warcry (which reduces the damage of his ultimate significantly), Enigma’s control through magic immunity (counter to Blade Fury), and Morph and Puck’s ability to kite him. This is in no way an easy Jugg game, which makes this result very surprising:

Jugg vs Morph

With all of this in mind, it would be very interesting to try to figure out how Fnatic was able to secure a comeback the victory.

Tactics - Avoiding and Forcing Fights

Out-pushing the waves, avoiding fights

The main reason Mineski was winning in terms of resources was their playstyle in the early-mid game. They were pushing-out the waves very efficiently with Puck and Enigma (and even Grimstroke with Stroke of Fate). By doing this, they were getting farm on multiple heroes while securing a lot of map control and safe space for Morphling to farm.

Puck is very hard to catch and can afford to push-out the wave deep into enemy territory. Enigma, although much more vulnerable to ganks, also went for a quick Blink build, which helps him be more elusive. Kpii has the option to stay outside vision with his hero while his summons are pushing out the lane if he needs to.

This puts Fnatic in a position where they either have to make something happen quickly, or they will slowly but surely lose in terms of map control and farm. Ganking is risky because all of their gank targets are very hard to catch. Moreover, even if they are able to gank e.g. Enigma, the rest of Mineski would still be free-farming and pushing out the other waves, which wouldn’t change the situation drastically. 

Because of this, Fnatic decided to go for a bolder move: they try to get Roshan even though the enemy team is alive and has Black Hole.

Fight Timings

This was a risky but necessary move from Fnatic. Fighting against Enigma near the Rosh pit is always scary, but Fnatic have a key piece of information they can use: Enigma still doesn’t have BKB. This means that if ES, DK, or even DS stay outside of the BH range, they could interrupt it right away. This gives them a valuable window of opportunity – if they don’t use it, the game would become much harder.

The 25th-minute team fight commences and indeed, Fnatic is able to win the engagement by instantly interrupting the Black Hole.

This is a huge win for them - the death of the enemy cores, on one hand, means Fnatic will be able to push back the lanes and reclaim map control. After taking Rosh, they push out mid and top lane and take control of the secret shop area.

The Aegis, on the other hand, will allow them to continue playing aggressively. They attempt a high ground push bot on the 30th minute. It resulted in a dieback from the enemy Morph, which cripples his resource growth:

Fnatic Mineski dlm graphs

Itemization & Timings

Enigma: Blink Dagger vs BKB
VS black
Black King Bar

An interesting itemization decision is KPII’s item build: he went for Midas and Blink before BKB. Going for this build worked out for him until the 25th minute because it allowed him to farm faster and even to out-push waves more safely.

Without BKB he simply cannot fight versus Fnatic’s lineup, which was the main reason Mineski lost the key 25th-minute fight. With this in mind, going for the more conventional faster BKB was probably the right choice in this game. Mineski already have an initiator in the face of Puck with Blink. This would usually allow an Enigma with BKB and without Blink to walk into the engagement and use his ultimate.

It could be argued, however, that the big mistake wasn’t the decision to go for Midas + Blink, but rather to take the fight at Rosh before Enigma had BKB. Lizzard made a brilliant point – even if Mineski allows Fnatic to take a free Rosh, this wouldn’t change much. All the lanes are pushed out, so it would take Fnatic a long time before they can push them back in and muster a base push. And when they reach the enemy HG, Enigma will likely have his BKB and will be ready to fight. 

Fighting around the Rosh pit vs Black Hole is hard, but pushing high-ground against BKB+Blink Enigma in addition to all the anti-push of Mineski (Stroke of Feith, Illusory Orb, Midnight Pulse) is almost impossible. Simply letting Fnatic take Rosh without committing to a fight might have meant that Fnatic would have missed the important timing window we spoke about above.

Morph: Linken's Sphere vs Eye of Skadi
Linken's Sphere
VS black

Another important detail of the 25 min fight is that after the two teams broke apart, Morphling was confident enough to stay and farm. DK and ES, however, were able to punish him for his overextension with Blink, Stun, and Silence.

This was a positioning mistake from Ahjit for sure, but such mistakes happen in the heat of the moment and it’s impossible to plan for them. A more worthwhile discussion (something you can plan for) is itemization: if Ahjit went for Linken’s instead of Skadi after Manta, he would be safe in such a situation. He fears two things on the enemy lineup – DK’s instant Blink-Stun and ES’s silence. Linken’s takes care of the first (and later – of Jugg’s Abyssal), Manta – of the second. 

Skadi definitely has its merits - it gives him some raw tankiness and the ability to kite Jugg in fights. Bearing in mind how many times Morph paid with his life in this game when the enemy team focused him with their disables, however, it definitely makes us think that a more defensive item choice would have helped him a lot in the mid-game fights. Ahjit finished the game with 6 deaths, having participated in 8 kills in total, despite being the top net worth hero for 30 minutes. Such a low impact in the game speaks either about many mechanical mistakes, or about wrong tactical decisions, and I don't think the former is the case.

In your Pubs

Fight when you are strong, avoid fights when you are not. A simple, timeless rule in Dota, but something much easier said than done.

Fight timings are one of the biggest reasons you need to check the items of your opponents often. Blink and BKB are usually the two items which you need to keep track of religiously because they often indicate when your opponents would want to gank or fight. Noticing that Mineski don’t have their team-fight items yet (most importantly BKB on Enigma) while Fnatic do (Blink + BKB on DK, Greaves on Dark Seer), allowed Fnatic to make a game-winning decision that led to the fight on the 25th -minute.


This one was very hard to predict because Mineski had a lot going their way – solid draft, good resource lead, and the support of the analysts who thought they have the game in the bag. With a deep understanding of the game, however, one might have predicted their downfall. Their risky itemization and their decision to challenge Fnatic when they couldn’t afford to do so might have served as a severe warning that things might not go their way. This doesn’t necessarily mean betting on Fnatic – simply not betting on Mineski (or hedging your bet) could be an intelligent move in this situation.