For fans of high level strategy, Heroes of the Storm is the best MOBA on the market. The drafting phase requires more planning and adaptation than in any other game. The variety of maps necessitate multiple contingency plans, and the mid-pick ban phase forces teams to be even more flexible.
When I wrote for Riot, I used to do a series breaking down a draft in detail. Today I want to do the same with a match from the Mid-Season Brawl. We’re doing to dive deep into the draft of Game 2 between Tempo Storm and Dignitas. We’ll analyze each ban and pick in turn, theorizing on each team’s thought process, and ultimately determining how much impact the draft had on the result of the match. I had fun doing this earlier in the week with Fnatic and Roll20, check out that article here.
A quick note–I will make a couple of logical leaps or assumptions during this article. Obviously, I’m not on comms with the teams, nor have I had the opportunity to talk with any of the players. If any analysts or coaches can dispute a claim or presumption I make, I would encourage them to do so. The purpose of this article series is to help fans understand all the complexities of a high-level draft phase, but I also want to be as accurate as possible. That said, let’s get to it!
This game was played on Cursed Hollow. The VOD above is timestamped to start at the draft.
Ban Phase 1
At this point in the tournament, the power picks have been clearly identified. The power picks are the candidates for early bans or first pick. They are Uther, Dehaka, Genji, Anub’arak, and Tyrael. In standard draft fashion, they first ban one of the power picks, Dehaka. Likely they chose this because they aren’t worried about Anub’arak, have replacements for Genji, and would like the chance to get Uther first pick.
Dignitas opt for the “second pick advantage” strategy. Rather than ban a power pick, they target Tempo Storm’s Zeratul. This means that they have the option to take multiple power picks with their turn while denying something in Zeratul that could upset their gameplan.
Pick Phase 1
Tempo Storm is a unique team that gains power from their support being on comfort. We’ve seen Jun make play after play on Uther throughout his career. Uther also happens to be the best support in the meta, and plays perfectly into their gameplan for this draft. It’s an easy choice to grab the Uther first pick here.
On Dignitas’ pick phase, there are two power picks left in Anub and Genji. However, while Dig quickly snatch the best tank, they leave Genji open and opt for Greymane. This feels like a mistake because it gives the power pick away to Tempo Storm’s Psalm, who has been prioritizing and enjoying Genji of late. However, we can theorize why this might be the better choice. It’s possible Bakery and crew knew they wanted to run a heavy frontline, teamfight-focused composition. They need some decent ranged poke for the tributes, but more emphasis on that hard engagement. Greymane gives them those tools better than Genji.
At this point, the Genji is an easy choice for Tempo. Now, they are in a familiar place for this tournament. One team has Genji, the other has Greymane. Both are outstanding clone targets for Abathur, and the opponent has an outstanding Abathur player. This is a good map for the slug, and the Greymane pick has signaled Dignitias may be considering it, so Tempo grab Abathur as a denial pick.
Ban Phase 2
Tempo Storm are still without their tank. With their Tyrael ban, Dignitas deny both power pick tanks. Tempo’s next ban is an interesting one. They have the opportunity to deny Malfurion, easily Bakery’s favorite choice with Uther gone. They could also target Arthas, a comfort pick for Zaelia. However, they choose to deny Li-Ming from Mene. We’ve seen Dignitas prioritize Li-Ming early in other drafts, so this is obviously a comfort pick for them, making this a reasonable ban. However, it is by no means the “correct” ban with Malfurion still on the table. That said, with the benefit of hindsight we can theorize why this ban is actually brilliant.
At the end of this draft, Tempo is working towards a Chen pick. They banned Dehaka and picked Uther to deny as many stuns as possible from the enemy team. One of Anub’s stuns wastes his engagement, and he won’t use Cocoon on a Chen. With Malfurion available, that will be Dig’s support pick guaranteed. Greymane will go to Snitch, so there’s nothing in the meta for Mene to play that has an interrupt outside of Li-Ming’s Wave of Force. Ban it away, and Dig will have almost no answers to a Chen in their backline.
Pick Phase 2
Dig’s next two picks go as expected. Zaelia gets cozy with his Arthas, and Bakery has his Malfurion. Comfort all the way around. The high volume of roots will also serve to slow down the two Genjis jumping around everywhere.
Now Tempo can spring their trap. They have enough data on the enemy composition to know Chen is safe. They first lock in Muradin as their tank, who dives in well with Chen and Genji. Then Tempo reveals their surprise pick.
Backing up for a moment, it’s important to note that this composition is actually enabled by Dignitas’ first ban. If you look at it, Tempo has drafted one of the most all-in compositions in history. Every hero (in the teamfight) is melee. They are going to deathball like there’s no tomorrow. A Void Prison could punish this composition hard. However, Dig banned it away, so there’s no chance that they can pick it with their last remaining slot.
Now Dignitas have one final pick to try and counteract Tempo’s unique composition. They see two tanks, so a logical human would immediately think about Tychus. However, Tychus has been struggling in the meta of late. He really hasn’t impressed. Further, Tempo is just too mobile for Tychus to be able to sit still and shred these tanks. There will be three pandas and two Genjis in his face at all times. Kael’thas gives them another potential stun, but again gets ripped apart by the Genji brothers. Instead of trying to deal with the fight, Dignitas pivot to Sylvanas.
This is a decent pick in their current situation. In the teamfights, this is another silence to stack on top of Twilight Dream. Maybe that gives Greymane and Arthas the time they need to do work. More importantly, Sylvanas allows Dig to say “forget the fights, we’re just gonna go where you’re not and push lanes.” Further, if Dig can ever win a fight clean, they will be able to get immense value even if they can’t win tributes. Obviously, this plan will fall apart in the actual game, but it is a sound strategy when faced with Tempo’s cheese.
By reacting to the first ban, and cleverly baiting Dig to avoid picking stuns, Tempo were able to secure one of the most aggressive drafts I’ve ever seen. The gamble paid off and allowed Tempo Storm to steal the upset victory in Game 2.