Tuesday, December 3, 2013

7ckingMad: "I really think people underestimate the impact that the Gold & Experience graph had on DotA"

gameishard: Hi 7ckingMad! Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview.

It's now been a week since MLG and, in the aftermath, a lot of fuss has been made about Speed Gaming. However, your team, Sigma.int, also had an excellent tournament and it's probably fair to say that most people didn't expect you to do as well as you did – especially since you were a last minute invite! Going into the tournament, did you guys expect to do this well or did you surprise yourselves as well?

7ckingMad: Hello there! Well, it's a little bit of both, actually. It was a surprise in the sense that we had a really bad performance in ESWC (although we finished third, I expected us to place higher). It was our first LAN as a team. MLG was really harder than ESWC in terms of teams involved and format, and we still managed to be dominating in the groupstage. We know that we can beat any team right now, it all comes down to our execution. If we come with good preparation and play at our level, we can be very scary!

GIH: Yes, indeed! I'm sure every team will be treating you as a serious threat after MLG. So what do you think changed between ESWC and MLG? Or does it just go down to ESWC having been your first LAN as a team, as you said above?

7ckingMad: I don't think it was because of the first LAN factor, or maybe a bit. I can't even remember how many LANs I attendend now, and I did not feel that it was the problem. We just were not prepared as a team, yet. FATA- was away because of his injury, we basically had close to no practice. Nothing changed between ESWC and MLG. People should remember that we are facing teams that are playing together for a very long time now, Na`Vi, Fnatic, Alliance etc...We needed time. You can't compete with the top teams after a week or two. I believe we are ready to always put up a good fight now, but it is still far from enough.

GIH: Okay, fair enough. Often we expect a more dramatic explanation than what's really there. And usually, in the Dota world, we are mistaken when we do so!

Moving along, then. In a recent interview at Dreamhack, Bulba said MLG was all about picks. Earlier this year, in a post on your blog about drafting, you said this:

"The first thing that needs to be said is that the picking phase has always been the most important part of the competitive games. This is no secret."

My question is – Bulba seems to be making a specific case about MLG. Do you think drafting was more key at MLG than you usually think it is?

7ckingMad: Hmm. I don't really agree, although I get what he means. I think that in MLG, a lot of teams were really not confident with their draft, as opposed to what we usually see. People are being too restrictive really, a draft means nothing if you can't execute it properly. You can try to play the Clinkz/Clock Speed Gaming style and lose in twenty minutes. It's also about execution. MLG was dominated by the best teams at that point, both in draft and plays.

We had the same with Quantic basically, you win thanks to the draft, and lose because you're bad. Makes me smile :P

GIH: Hahaha - Yeah, this is a common thing that is said in the Dota world, whether in a pub, a local scrim, or a big match between two professional teams. I definitely agree that execution always plays a role. A team that has a weaker draft but executes it better is likely to win very often. Perhaps in this case, at MLG, the teams with stronger drafts were also the teams executing better? In which case you and Bulba could both be correct.

7ckingMad: Exactly. He is actually quite right because at the end of the day, the teams with the most solid draft (in my opinion) won. But if you look at it differently: maybe the draft looked better because they executed it better. And nobody will ever know the real potential of the loser's draft, because it was poorly played.

GIH: Yes, that's a very good point. Similar to how history is written by the victors, Dota is also!

In my interview with bOne7 last week, we spoke about the increasing popularity of Mirana. bOne7 explained various reasons why the hero is strong but one of his reasons was to do with SingSing being an excellent Mirana player. At MLG your team made it clear that you think Mirana is a top pick, regardless of who plays it, first picking it in every game where it wasn't banned. Even Speed Gaming banned it against you when you had first pick in the semi-finals! Could you give me any insights into why you prioritized the hero so highly? Do you think it's objectively the best first pick at the moment or were there context-dependant reasons for this?

7ckingMad: It's context-dependant. First of all you need to have good Mirana players, of course. Not good micro-wise only, they need to understand how to use the hero, SingSing is one of those for sure. He actually single-handedly won game 2 against us, or at least he was the cause of all the troubles we had to face, and allowed them to come back from a very very difficult situation. This hero can be used for everything, it can be played mid, safelane, or offlane. It gives you great laning potential, it's strong in mid-game, in late-game. One other factor is that people are not yet used to play against POTM. For instance, if you play against Nature's Prophet, you know that he can teleport on you anytime, and you need to figure out a way out before that, etc. The same should be for Arrows & Moonlight Shadow, but it's not yet the case. A turning point of our game versus Liquid was us being able to dual-kill their offlane (dominating our safelane) thanks to Mirana's ultimate. They just were not ready for this play. Keeping your draft open as long as possible is, in my opinion, the key factor to outdraft your opponent.

GIH: So it's a very versatile pick and people aren't yet used to some of the things it can do? Do you expect it to gradually become a weaker pick, then, as people learn to play against it more? Or will its versatility triumph?

7ckingMad: Versatility will triumph. I have been betting on that for months now, it's just a matter of time. People complain about that patch making things random...I find it funny. Draft finally requires very good game understanding, getting Bat+Naix is not enough anymore, and it's the way it should be. If you look back at the drafts at the end of DotA 1, it looked very similar to what's going on right now.

GIH: I agree with you. In fact, in a previous post I made on this subject, I argue that the game has not become more random [certainly not in any harmful way] but rather it has become less passive. It seems to me that teams need to draft better and play better throughout the entire game now as opposed to just gaining small advantages then safely extending them throughout the game. Would you agree with this analysis?

7ckingMad: I completely agree.

GIH: Okay, moving back to Mirana then. The only two games you lost during the groupstage of MLG [versus Alliance and DK] were, strangely enough, both games where you did get Mirana. Do you feel that these teams handled what you wanted to do with Mirana better or is there no relation? If there is no relation, what do you think went wrong in these games?

7ckingMad: No I don't think it has anything to do with Mirana. We don't really have a gameplan around Mirana. The hero is just good at helping us achieve what we want. Those games were really different. The Alliance game came down to the draft in my opinion. I think we had a weaker draft, or at least we could not really pressure them as much as we should have. We still had the control of that game to a certain point. We did very crucial mistakes that allowed them to come back and punish us. The fact that they were Dire also played a big role in that game in my opinion. That's just bo1, it happens. The DK game was just us being very tired and not focused. We already qualified at that point, it was the last game of day 2, I think the fifth game of the day. Honestly we were exhausted, and our coordination just was not there. They were way stronger going into that game, they crushed us.

GIH: Right, well, as I said earlier on, sometimes the interesting explanation I am hoping for is just completely off the mark. The idea of not having a specific gameplan around Mirana leads me to my next question though.

Something else that I noticed about your drafts at MLG is the repeated picking of Clockwerk and/or Puck. You had one of these heroes in most games, and had one of them in every single game where you didn't get your Mirana. Relatedly, a post on your blog about initiation discusses the value of having heroes that are specifically good at initiating – you argue that a good initiation can win a fight, even for a team in a weaker position. I think this is true.

I have two questions. Firstly, were the Puck and Clockwerk picks [at MLG] designed mostly for this purpose – to have a very specific and powerful initiation hero? And secondly, is there any conscious relationship between not getting your Mirana and wanting the Clock/Puck more?

7ckingMad: Even though it has nothing to do with the answer, I'd like to thank you for the quality of your questions, it makes this discussion very interesting :D.

Well, I don't want to disappoint you but there is no link between not getting Mirana and picking Clock/Puck, or at least not a conscious one! Having initiators is key, unless your game plan allows you not to. We favor them also for their laning potential, and their ability to punish split push with ganks. I really think people underestimate the impact that the Gold & Experience graph had on DotA in general. It completely changed the approach competitive players have to the game. They think less about the line-ups, how to take fights, etc. We only hear about 'We had 10k gold advantage, and then we lost'. That sentence means nothing, really. If your 10k gold worth hero gets disabled, or just burst down before the fight starts, then how is that relevant? It's a feeling you have whenever you are just a spectator (example for DreamLeague), you feel like some players are really on the same page, and for others, it's just impossible to understand how they think (assuming there is something to understand ><)

GIH: Hahaha, thanks. Unfortunately, you've now pre-empted the question I wanted to ask you about your thoughts on Gold and Exp graphs! I noticed that you have commented on this many times this year. In one post you mentioned that sometimes the older or more experienced players have not had their psychology as affected by this as others and that this is a big advantage for them. In a live interview at MLG you mentioned that Na'Vi are a very difficult team to beat because they can take control of a game they are losing at any time so it means that even when you are far far ahead against them you still feel a lot of pressure. Do you think the combined experience in the industry within Na'Vi is the reason for their being able to do this? In other words, would you say they are probably better at not worrying about Gold and Exp graphs than other teams?

7ckingMad: Of course they are, I'm not even sure it is part of their vocabulary. Same goes for us, and lots of other teams. This is an advantage some teams have on others, that are new to the scene and DotA in general. Basically if the first contact you had to the game was with the G&E graph, then it is natural to worry a lot about it. It's really hard to explain with words, but some teams/players show by their plays that they understand what's going on, at any moment. And for other pro players, it's very easy to spot that. Whenever a team can end a game, and just rice-farm, then it becomes clear that this team is really weaker than others when it comes to game understanding. They might win regardless, because they played better or maybe sometimes are even more skilled, but in the long-term they will surely lose. It takes time, and losses, it really does :D

GIH: Necessary ingredients in any competitive player's development in any game or sport, I would say.

* * *

[End of Part one. Part two will follow tomorrow evening.]

You can follow 7ckingMad on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/7ckngmaddota or read his blog @ 

Follow Sigma on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/SigmaDota2 or on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/sigma.esport


  1. Very good interview so far, and I have to agree with 7ckingmad, these questions were very well elaborated. The part about XP and Gold graphs really is spot on: back in WC3 DotA, games revolved around initiation and map control a lot more than just farming and trying to passively acquire an advantage over your opponent. It surely takes a lot of time and practice to develop the necessary decision making to have a clear view of the game when you're playing, I wish I could achieve that level of play some day.

  2. Really awesome interview :D

    Keep them coming!

  3. oh my god i love your blog, im so glad i found it by looking up "game is hard" on google because i thought i'd find something funny since it's the most amusing of > chat wheel texts

  4. Excellent appointment up to now, and I have to trust 7ckingmad, these kinds of queries have been very well elaborated. The particular portion about Windows xp as well as Precious metal equity graphs actually is just right: back WC3 DotA.
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