Two drafting geniuses got to duel it out at the main stage, EG Fly, master of majors and Secret Puppey, Dota 2 legend that captained teams on every TI! The first day of the main event made it evident that meta was formed out of the group stage. So the first phase bans were not surprising, Io, Enchantress, Crystal Maiden, Silencer, Wraith King are all top picked/banned heroes this event. It seems that all teams have universal ban list for the first phase and adjust it slightly based on the team they are playing against.
After the bans, EG opened with Venge pick which again is a default meta pick, a lot of the games were opened with Venge as it is a solid pick with great leaning presence and good scaling late game (Percentage based Vengeance Aura and BKB piercing Nether Swap). Secret responded with Mirana, again a “default” pick at this point. It is obvious that the first few phases of drafting are stale as these picks were pretty much predictable. As if the teams are looking at most picked heroes list and picking out of top 10. The difference that separated average teams from great ones at TI was innovation and uniqueness in style. In this game we had a total opposite of uniqueness, EG and Secret just battled who will get more meta picks, at least in the first half of the draft. Mirana was followed by Winter Wyvern for Secret to defend against physical damage expected to come from Venge pick. EG just ignored WW and picked Weaver, once again, a top meta pick (2nd pick/ban rate), to maximize on minus armor.
2nd series of bans didn’t bring much of a change for Secret, as they continued with meta bans in Tiny and Dark Willow, while EG made preparations for Alchemist pick by banning Nyx Assassin and Clinkz. Seeing Secret pick Earth Spirit and with no fear of banned Nyx Assassin being picked, EG countered with Phoenix, a comfort pick for their captain Fly. Earth Spirit would prove to be breaking point in Secret’s draft.
For last 2 picks both teams were left to fulfill their core roles and both teams had flexibility as their one core hero (Weaver and Mirana) could play position 1 or 3. A bigger difference were support picks, Venge and Phoneix gave EG a lot more flexibility than Team Secret’s defensive Winter Wyvern and melee Earth Spirit. From this point on, it seemed EG was two steps ahead, picking Alchemist in just ONE second after Secret’s Phantom Lancer pick, as if they knew or didn’t care what would Secret pick. Decision to pick Phantom Lancer was probably based on the lack of AOE damage on EG’s side, but PL as the 4th pick with two counter picks left on EG’s side and into Weaver’s Swarm (that can’t be disjointed with Doppelganger) looked again as more of a meta pick than anything else.
Over confident Secret, as Puppy often made them look, banned Necrophos in preparation for Morphiling pick. EGs last ban and pick were a piece of art in my opinion, banning Meepo (Ace’s comfort pick) which is a good cheese counter to Alch and deny picking Ursa, another natural Alchemist counter. Plus, Arteezy’s track record on Ursa in this tournament was 4/4, and S4 also wasn’t a stranger to playing Ursa on the offlane. Secret had enough time to think their last pick trough and decided for the Morph. It was a sight for sore eyes, a great non-meta pick that, in the end, kept them from losing the game even faster.
More or less, this game was done as soon as it started; drafting phase heavily favored Evil Geniuses. Earth Spirit couldn’t find his place on the map and felt so out of place for whatever Secret was trying to achieve. Secret’s safelane was anything but safe, Ursa – Venge dual lane naturally dominated Mirana – ES matchup. Maybe Mirana’s lane was unsalvageable but PL wasn’t doing much better in the offlane either. Him and WW also lost bottom lane vs. Weaver and Phoneix. Morphiling was the only one doing well in middle lane for Secret, even getting a solo kill on Alch. But bounty runes from sidelines amounted to Alch getting his radiance on pace. All in all, this game was an uphill battle for Team Secret that was eventually lost. At times though, hope for Secret was fueled by Arteezy misplays and Midone’s courage, but in the end it just wasn’t enough.
Beginning of Game 2 draft mirrored the bans from Game 1 except for Secret changing their third ban from CM to Tiny. EG again had the first pick and we again saw mirrored first picks, as they picked Venge and Secret responded with Mirana. Finally, Puppey decided to break the circle with Ogre Mage pick. Ogre has great base armor and opens up the game pretty well with strong offensive laning presence. Again, this didn’t detour EG one bit from picking proven Weaver and doubling down on physical damage.
In following series of bans EG again, as in game 1, banned Nyx maybe to throw Secret off or maybe they had some insider scrim knowledge. Dark Willow ban was a default one because it’s one of the supports with the best winrate. Secret banned Ursa (EG comfort pick) and Elder Titan, out of fear of even more physical damage, and/or to scare EG into thinking they will pick Meepo (ET counters Meepo pretty effective late in the game).
After a venture into banning egzotic ET Secret fell back to not too strat revealing, well rounded, „default“ (3rd pick/ban rate) Necrophos. To strenghten the lanes, EG took Undying, another one of Fly’s comfort picks famous for lane domination and presure. Even tho Secret had the fast attacking Mirana and Bloodlust attack speed from Ogre for the Tomb. At this point it seemed like Secret hit a gold mine, and their next move, the Rubick pick, was obvious for a couple of reasons: You have one of the best Rubick players in the world and the hero is a natural counter to Undying (easily stealing Tombstone) and Weaver (stealing Shukuchi almost allways and easly breaking Linkens with Fade Bolt into Telekinesis lift for control combo). EG doubled down on physical damage with Drow Ranger and added the threat of early push to the table.
Last two bans were, respect ban of Sumail‘s Storm Spirit that would be boosted by Drow’s Precision Aura and respect ban of Secret‘s Broodmother. EG last picked Gyrocopter for many reasons; it boosted their early game magic damage output and was a counter to many options Secret had for their last pick, especially illusion based heroes (such as PL) and cheese picks – Meepo or Arc Warden (Flak Cannon for multi-targeting and Call Down big AOE nuke). Secret needed a middle lane hero and agreed on Tinker (thus even more of a motive for Storm ban). Tinker is famed against physical damage carries (Laser miss chance with Aghs upgrade can disable multiple heroes at once) in early and mid game, but late game with BKBs on enemy cores the game becomes a lot harder. Maybe mid Kunkka could have been a more well rounded solution as Secret had run it before to counter Gyro.
This time we had more balanced draft which resulted in much closer game. EG had the advantage mid to late game but it wan’t insurmountable. Few things determined the winner; Ace didn’t really find his way playing Necro and throughout the whole game it didn’t feel right. This game was so balanced that whoever got jumped on first really determined the fight. EG’s initiations with Nether Swap led into pretty much burst kills (Ace died numerous times, maybe Lotus Orb should have been the item build) and Secret’s initiations were 50/50 because of Fly’s great positioning.
In my opinion the key team fight where EG came on top was the one when Secret naively jumped onto Drow Ranger and didn’t manage to burst her, followed by Tinker tp-ing into Gyrocopter that blink-BKBed into the middle of the fight.
Other fight to point out was when Secret was too greedy and stayed in EGs base for too long trying to get two sets of rax. This led to two Secret cores dying in exchange for one tower.
Honorable mention for Yapzor on Rubick for another great performance.