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7ckngMad's Blog : Itembuilds at a Competitive Level, the Decision Making Process





Hello everyone ! As you surely noticed today's article is a bit special, it is the first one of a, hopefully, long series that I will be publishing on ! The topics will be varied, as usual, and discussed beforehand on my twitter. The aim is still to share general knowledge about DotA 2 strategics and help everyone understand better how the game works. It is nothing but my personal opinion, based on my previous and current experience as a top competitive player. It is important that you always keep that in mind when you read.

We are getting closer and closer to MLG Columbus, the tournament will be amazing, undoubtedly. From my perspective it will be a major turning point for this year's season, not only because of the very high profil of invitees and the size of the tournament, but mainly because the post-patch period has been a 'mess'. Every team is looking for their own playstyle, the hero pool has never been larger. Nothing is better than a tournament of that type to settle everything down. My assumption is that MLG will decide the upcoming meta-game.

But well, let's jump into the topic of today's article, I am digressing. A very key topic for players, newcomers or professional is the itembuilds. It has an immense impact on the game, to the point that some matches are lost or won only due to this decision-making. So the topic for this publication will be :

"Itembuilds at a competitive level : the decision making process"

Needless to mention that itembuilds vary depending on players, teams, games, everything basically. The first major question when it comes to itembuilds is the following : what should influence my decision making? As a professional player, here is my personal input:

The line-up :

First of all, the itembuild depends on your hero, every hero has different needs, but that is a little bit too obvious for me to discuss here. What's more interesting and what you should be looking at is the 5vs5 line-up. This is very important. People usually understand that the item choice differs depending on the heroes the enemy has. For instance : it makes more sense for a Storm Spirit to get a BKB against a full nuking line-up then a Linken Sphere (puck, shaker, maiden, etc). Again, since the aim of those articles is not to highlight stuff you already know (although it is needed for the sake of the argumentation), I really want to emphasize that even more importantly, the item build changes depending on your allies. This is mostly the case in competitive games, of course, where you can count on your teamates to play the way they are supposed to. I'll take a concrete example : you are playing against a Batrider, as a carry. You get lasso'd in every single fight, it is basically losing you the game. A standard reaction will be to aim for a linken sphere as a key item. But it actually depends on your allies : if you have a venge to swap-break the lasso, or a sd to disrupt you, then there is no need for a LS, and you guys can straight for a damage item. This example is quite basic, but it's really the case. Some line-ups are built to snowball/chase enemies, thus items like BKB or pipe are rather useless (although the need for those exists, in theory). You might wonder sometimes why Enigma is getting a BKB against Bat, Beastmaster, venge or even Bane. Well, you might want to look at the 5vs5 line-up more carefully in order to understand. Let's give another case to make it clearer : take a classic wisp-ck-bounty line-up. People usually wonder : 'why would CK ever go BKB as first item when he has wisp in team?' (makes it harder to time tether). Well, the answer in that case can be the following : this kind of line-up is made to snowball really hard, so if CK-WISP are able to initiate on a hero and nuke him down, it will force the opponent's team to retreat. They will inevitably trade track kills on their way back, as it is almost impossible to get away from a CK-WISP-BH chasing squad. The BKB then aims to secure 100% the first kill, Ck is just making sure he won't get disable and will get the full damage off. Obviously, this could be developped more, but once again, it is not really the aim of the article.

The game plan :

Another key factor that should influence the itembuild decision making is the game-plan. Will your team be forcing fights in early on in the game, or just try to split push and trade towers ? Those are really key questions. When AdmiralBulldog gets mekansm as his first core item on Nature's prophet, it clearly says something completely different then when he gets Shadow Blade. He sometimes even gets force staff, but that's more related to what we tackled previously, the enemy heroes ( forcestaff against clockwerk, for instance). 

                                                       FIGHTING BUILD

                                                      SPLIT PUSH BUILD

                                                     HERO RELATED BUILD

Anticipating the path the game is taking is key when it comes to the choice of items, and there is sometimes no way back. Spending 4 or 5k gold in the wrong item might cost you the game. When you think about it, the standard 10k gold lead usually interpreted by commentators as the no-possible-return point in a game is nothing but two additional items… Going Drums or Dominator on Luna means two dfferent things, one aims to fight early on whereas the other is nothing but the preparation of a more late-game oriented phase.

The itembuilds 'mindgames' :

This bring me to another gripping topic : the itembuilds “mindgames”. The previous paragraph is actually the perfect transition for this one. If your item choices has to be in line with the game-plan you will stick to, then it also makes it understandable for your opponent. Therefore, the decisions have even more impact on the game. Once again, a concrete example : when a carry Anti-Mage gets Vlads first, or even Vanguard, it is a huge risk (Link, XBOCT and Black^ use to play this build from time to time). They give away to their opponents two crucial information : ‘Me and my team are going to be looking for agressive rotations and fights’, ‘My farming rate will be significantly lower than what is usually is’. The consequence might be for the opponent to play a split-push oriented style, because the item choice might have made possible the fact that the opponent’s carry can now outfarm the Vlad-Vanguard Anti-Mage. This is why the itembuilds in a competitive game is exactly like a tennis table game : it’s the ‘place’ where both teams discuss and decide their strategy, live. The problem that remains is always the same, though, to be able to adapt correctly under pressure (you don’t have half an hour to discuss your itembuilds) requires cold blood and experience. The best players usually build their heroes differently every game, Loda’s nai’x would be a perfect example for it.

In conclusion, for your choice you need to take into account the nine other heroes you play with or against, the items of everyone of them, this is how hard it is to take the best decision. I know many of you wonder how it is made, is it the player, the captain, the team ? Is there even a discussion or is it automatic ?

How is it decided ?

The truth is it depends and can be different in every team, but usually, it is the player’s decision. Every player is the ‘expert’ for his own role and his hero pool, he consequently has to best position to decide what item to go for. It can also be the captain forcing a specific itembuild because he has a plan in my mind, as explained previously. Whenever there is a doubt, then it is a team-call. The question is just asked on Skype/Teamspeak etc, and the team collecvtively decide which item suits the most.

I’ll seize this opportunity to give my personal two cents on the ‘Hand of Midas’ trend. I always agreed with the players that called that item ‘underated’. It is extremely powerful, especially since the attack speed buff on it. People now get hand of midas on their supports because they get more in early game thanks to the patch. It is a very good investment because it basically secures you a good income & leveling throughout the game. It is very effective against ‘passive’ teams that try to outfarm you (the case for the chinese playstyle in my opinion), but it’s a doble-edged sword. A good team will force fights with a mekansm (almost same cost as a midas) as soon as they see it was purchased on one of your heroes. And because of your decision to get that a ‘greedy’ item, you won’t be able to answer to their agression and will lose map control. So always make sure you are able to defend towers properly and to stand your ground before you take such a risk.

That will be it for today, thanks a lot for reading this article. Do not hesitate to comment/discuss. You can follow me on twitter @7ckngMadDOTA. I will most likely be asking for suggestions for the next topic, so make sure you get the chance to submit your own topic there!

Remember, this is nothing but the opinion of a DotA2 professional player...Cheers!










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