What we can learn from the StarLadder ImbaTV Minor:

The 2nd place curse, all things considered, is a curse you would be happy your team to have.

Unless you’re playing in the minor, in which case 2nd place doesn’t land you a spot at the major.

And sadly for CIS fans, it seems Gambit are destined to place second behind a dominant T1 wannabe Chinese team lead by the CN old guard. Last minor it was Xiao8’s Ehome, who lost only one game in the entire tournament /Bucharest Minor GF Analysis/. This time it was ROTK’s VG Gaming, who lost only one game in the entire tournament.

Despite Gambit’s misfortune, the Starladder minor was a key tournament to see how the 7.21 meta will develop for the upcoming Dreamleague major and inevitably – our own pubs.

Pace of the Game

The pace of the game has been quite volatile since last TI. Yet, it is arguably the most important thing to develop an understanding about if you want to be up to date on what currently works and what doesn’t.

The Vlad’s + Pipe + Crimson Meta:

Strong lanes, strong 5-man drafts with mid-game fighting and pushing potential, and 5-man items like Vlads, Pipe, and Crimson were the standard. This lead to very aggressive, short matches that commonly ended before the 30th-minute mark.

Vladmir's Offering
Crimson Guard
The Midas Meta:

Afterward, slight balance nudges like increasing the armor of the towers in addition to rebalancing some 5-man heroes and items lead to an increase in the game length. Breaking the enemy towers and base was harder, so teams ditched early-mid game aggression and started preparing for the late game. This lead to the Midas meta in which 50 min games were common.

Hand of Midas
The Current Meta:

Of course, a 20-minute-game meta is not fun because comebacks are impossible, while constant 60-minute games are also not ideal because they promote a passive, farming-heavy playstyle. The goal of IceFrog is obvious here – to make both early and late game strats viable, which would make the games more varied in length, harder to predict and as a result – more fun.

The continuous Midas nerfs are certainly trying to move the game in this direction, and it seems to be working.

In the Starladder minor, from a total of 34 games:

  • 12 were 20-30 min in length
  • 11 were 30-40 min in length
  • 11 were 40+ min in length          

This is quite a good distribution.

Nonetheless, we shouldn’t take this at face value. The sample size is small, and the minor, by definition, doesn’t include the best, trend-setting teams on the scene. Before concluding that the pace of the game is ideal, there are a couple worrying factors that we need to consider.

Team Secret & Viper vs Lifestealer

The patch is relatively new, which means the meta hasn’t crystallized yet.

Lifestealer Portrait
Hand of Midas

The “old” way to play the game is represented very well in the Midas into Radiance late-game-carry Lifestealer, who is still one of the most popular heroes – he was banned a total of 21 times in the minor.

Rod of Atos
Guardian Greaves

At the same time, Viper’s new “imba” Atos into Guardian Greaves build which focuses much more on early-mid game aggression and even on timing pushes is becoming more and more relevant.

Viper was Team Secret’s most picked hero at ESL Katowice and they used him with great success. They won 4 games with him, all of which rather short. The pick works great to punish the greedy Midas meta. The worrying thing is, however, that they used this strategy before the recent Midas nerfs of 7.21c. This means that strategies with a playstyle similar to the Atos-Greaves Viper should, in theory, be even more potent right now against late-game Midas teams. 

It is fairly likely that the passive (Midas/Radiance) playstyle will gradually be replaced by the more aggressive (Atos/Greaves) playstyle.


And indeed, Chen, who is without a doubt an early-mid game pick and not a hero you would draft in a Midas strat, was the most contested pick at the minor – 28 combined picks and bans. Moreover, he is the new best friend of PA.

Phantom Assassin

Who in turn was also a contested pick (24 combined picks and bans) and the hero with the most impressive win rate at the minor – almost 90% from 8 games. Although PA could be a strong late game carry, she is definitely a fast-paced hero and thrives in aggressive matches.

Ursa Portrait

Last but not least, Ursa, one of the most aggressive cores in Dota, was banned 20 times, many of which in the first banning phase. With denies becoming a bit less important, kill lanes are becoming stronger, which increases the stock value of Ursa a great deal. 

In Pubs

All of this speaks towards a fast-paced meta. Lanes are less static, kill lanes (offensive lanes, roaming) are becoming more common.


The three highest win-rate heroes in Divine and Immortal games are Lycan (59.3%), Viper (57.6%), and Bloodseeker (56.6%). None of these heroes thrive in slow games. All three like applying heavy pressure either by pushing or ganking. 

Ursa Portrait
Bounty Hunter

Ursa and Bounty Hunter also have great win rates – e.g. in the Ancient bracket, they are the heroes with the 3rd and 4th highest win rate. Both of them love to snowball in the mid game to secure the victory – Ursa through kills and map control, Bounty through a resource lead accumulated from fighting.

It definitely seems like the age of Midas is over and fast-paced games are back on the menu. Strong lanes and mid-game aggression should be the right way to play the game right now if you want to win as much as possible.


Predicting the meta correctly could give you a big advantage in terms of betting. The reason is that you can bet against teams who still stick to the old meta too much – they should have a lower win rate than the odds suggest at least initially. 

With the upcoming major, this gives you a great opportunity to develop a strategy like that. Maybe there will be a few underdog teams who play very aggressively who will go deeper in the tournament than they are expected to.