What we can learn from Secret vs VP:
the 5-Melee Draft

MATCH ID 4349717315, Upper Bracket Round 1

In game one of Secret vs VP in the winner bracket finals Puppey, for the sake of tradition, went for a very controversial draft. 5 melee heroes, two squishy but elusive single-target AGI carries, Slark mid. There were only two possible outcomes – he’d either look like a fool or like a (evil?) genius.

Secret vs VP UB Draft

The 5-Melee Draft:

The whole analyst panel felt (rightfully) very skeptical about Secret’s draft. 5-melee lineups have been a no-go since Dota 1 and for a good reason. There are two big problems with them:

First, the laning stage:

Melee only lanes are at a big disadvantage against ranged opponents because of harass. It’s very hard to stay in the lane and contest last hits when your ranged opponent is constantly harassing you and you can’t fight back because even your supports are melee heroes.

This means that Lich could be a big trump card in this laning stage – his harass with Blast and even his shield could make the lanes impossible for one of the two AGI carries Secret have.

Second, team fights:

In order to have an impact, melee heroes have to get close to their target. When your whole team consists of melee heroes, this means that you will inevitably clump up in team fights. This makes you extremely vulnerable to AoE abilities.

This was a HUGE concern for Secret in this game:


Lich has Chain Frost, which is one of the best abilities in the game versus clumped-up teams. Moreover, his Frost Shield is also great at protecting the hero who is getting targeted by the two enemy carries.

Slardar Portrait

Slardar is a great counter-initiator versus clumped up teams. Such games make it much easier for him to get multi-hero Crushes once he has Blink.


Medusa is a very hard hero for melee enemies to focus because Stone Gaze makes it very hard for enemy melee heroes to stay on top of her. Moreover, Mystic Snake is also great versus clumped-up teams – it gives back more mana if it hits multiple heroes.

Secret's Solutions:

scret VP camera shot

VP concentrated their firepower on the top lane, which might have been a mistake. PA is one of the carries that can deal well with pressure. If the lane is hard, she could get farm from a safe distance with Dagger. Moreover, even though ET and Tiny can’t harass and push-back the enemy trilane, they can threaten kills once they get to lvl2-3, which would make it much harder for the enemy team to pressure effectively and wastes to a degree the potential of Lich.

Moreover, in the mid lane, Slark has a surprisingly good matchup vs Medusa, which surprised the analysts and most likely VP.

Team Fights:

Secret solved the problem of clumping up very simply – by not clumping up. Both Nisha and MidOne are mobile carries and they exploited this to its full potential: they engaged and disengaged multiple times in a fight to make themselves very hard to focus and to force VP to use their AoE abilities sub-optimally. You could rarely see them commit stubbornly especially on the same target, which makes fight execution much harder for VP.

Slark even went for a Diffusal into Blink Dagger build to be even more elusive and engage/disengage easier.

scret vp ubf scoreboard

The rest of the team also played carefully and committed on a target only once the big AoE abilities were used. ET, for example, is quite capable of having an impact in a fight from a distance. He died only once the entire (action-packed) game, and he dealt more hero damage than his pos. 1 super-farmed PA. Clumping up was, in fact, a bigger problem for VP than for Secret because of the AoE potential of DS, ET, and Tiny.

In your pubs:

Don’t do it. Not clumping-up with 5-man drafts is definitely possible but extremely hard to execute and requires great coordination. The fact that one of the best teams in the world could do it doesn’t make it a good idea in pubs. Ease of execution of the lineup is very important in unorganized public games where communication is minimal.

Slark Mid:

The outcome of the mid lane 1v1 matchup between Slark and Medusa was quite surprising to most people. By maxing Essence Shift first, MidOne made sure he was able to harass No[o]ne and increase his right-click damage while reducing the HP, damage, and mana of Medusa. This allowed him to win the last hit war early on and he even had 22 denies by the end of the laning stage.

This was great for Slark, but it is important to bear in mind that Medusa isn’t picked mid to win her lane handily. She is picked there to find some levels and farm before she starts flash-farming the lane and the nearby jungle camps with her Split Shot and Snake.

Despite “losing” the lane, on the 10th-minute mark, No[o]ne actually had a higher net-worth than Slark because he farmed the jungle more efficiently. A contributing factor could be that MidOne invested a lot of point in Essence Shift, which slowed down his farming speed.

vp secret networth graphs

Even though Secret won, this was still a risky draft. An argument could be made that with a different lane setup from VP the game could have gone the other way. For example, putting Lich mid with Medusa to destroy the early-game of Slark could have paid big dividends - MidOne wouldn’t have been able to harass with Essence Shift even in the very early game. As we mentioned, PA deals with hard lanes much better than Slark and an under-farmed and under-leveled Slark is a usually a big liability to have on your team.

In your pubs:

If you are a good Slark player, picking him mid vs Medusa could actually be a good idea. Imitating what MidOne did (arguably with fewer levels invested in Essence Shift to conserve some versatility in case things don’t go as planned and you need to farm jungle) might win you the lane. With a level in Pounce and Pact, you should be able to survive ganks by roaming supports, and because of the 2-1-2 meta the enemy Medusa is unlikely to get a babysitter in the lane.

That being said, Slark is still a situational pick nowadays because an aggressive 5-man draft that groups up from early on with Vlads and Crimson makes it hard for him to find ganking opportunities in the early-mid game.


Games with controversial drafts present big (but risky) opportunity for live bets. The odds will inevitably change significantly in favor of the team with the traditional lineup after the picking phase, especially with the strong opinions of the analyst panels shaping the belief of most people betting.

The fact that a draft is surprising/unconventional doesn’t automatically make it bad. If the analysts (and most people) don’t understand the game plan of the team with the unconventional draft, the odds could be wrong.

This presents a great opportunity if you think you understand what the team with the unconventional lineup is trying to do and believe they have the potential to pull it off. The risk, of course, is that you are wrong in your analysis. Personally, I had little belief in Secret this game. Unconventional drafts make it hard to predict the outcome of a game accurately because, in reality, very few people have experience with such matchups.