By (moderately) popular request, we’re continuing our series breaking down the drafts of the group stage at the Mid Season Brawl. In our last two entries (found here and here) I covered drafts that both features NA and EU teams exclusively. Today I’m branching a bit outside my comfort zone to examine a draft between L5 and eStar. I have not watched any regular season play of these two teams, so take my analysis with a few grains of salt. However, we’ll be focusing our analysis on the meta of this tournament.
This is Game 2 of their group stage match, played on Infernal Shrines. eStar barely lost the last game on a bad core call but played strong throughout the match with their terrifying Auriel/Valla comp. Though they earned the victory, the burden is on L5 to adjust their draft strategy going into game 2.
We’ve identified the power picks of this tournament in previous posts. eStar open by taking away the correct power pick in Dehaka. This is important to note briefly. As first pick, you always want to put the burden of banning the best power pick onto your opponent. Uther is far and away the best power pick at this point in the tournament.
Taking away Dehaka denies an incredibly scary option from L5, but still leaves Uther potentially available for eStar. This is made even harder for L5 because eStar actually have a 6th power pick, Valla. Based on the previous game, and everything we’ve seen from eStar up to this point, L5 decide that the Valla is a bigger problem than the Uther and take it away.
As already discussed, Uther is the obvious first pick. It enables everything eStar wants to do with their aggressive comps, and denies the best support from L5.
On the other side, L5 have decided that they are going to try and focus their draft on denying XingC. They take away his Greymane, and follow it up with a Malfurion. The Malf pick is somewhat interesting here. eStar have their support already. They are unlikely to pick Malf with their next two picks, because they still need so many other things, and so many strong picks are still on the table. What this pick says is that L5 are scared of a Malfurion ban in the second ban phase. They feel their comp will be so much weaker with the third best support, that they are willing to give up any hope of securing the remaining power picks.
With the door opened up, eStar quick snatch their Genji (one of the remaining power picks) and Illidan. Both high value warriors are still available at this point, but eStar are confident that their composition can function with any warrior, or no warrior at all. Essentially, eStar are calling out L5 with this Illidan pick. They are confident that L5 have no way to punish their double assassin strategy, so they can reveal it this early in the draft. They’ve given the opponents a ban phase and three picks to build a composition that deals with Genji/Illidan, it is up to L5 to respond correctly.
There are two remaining components that would perfectly complete eStar’s draft. Abathur gives both assassins additional shields, and the two incredible clone targets. Tyrael provides a beefy dive buddy, shields, and extra protection in Sanctification. L5 can ban either, and both choices would be correct. They decide to prioritize the Abathur, not wanting to deal with the split push on a bigger three lane map. I actually think this is the better choice, because now there is a possibility that eStar bans Tyrael to deny the Koreans their favorite warrior.
Instead, eStar take a gamble. They still want the option to get Tyrael into their composition. Something in their research, their read of the opponent, or simply their hope says that L5 are not going to play Tyrael this game. Alternatively, they just feel like Anub’arak and Cocoon provides a harsher counter to their strategy. Either way, down comes the Anub ban.
Now L5 have one more chance to deny anything from eStar’s composition. The most obvious choice here is to take Tyrael, and follow it up with a strong ranged option that potentially denies eStar’s final pick. Instead, L5 says “nah, screw it, Rag and Diablo.”
Let’s back up for a second. Ragnaros is largely out of the meta at this tournament. Diablo has seen some strong play, but both Tyrael and Muradin present options equal to or better than the Lord of Terror. One could argue that this is just L5 throwing the draft, or being too far behind the meta to properly identify the best picks. However, the goal of these articles is to try and look at why each team felt that these picks were their best option in the current draft.
L5 expect to be on the back foot. The opponent already has so much dive potential and such high mobility, there’s no hope for the Koreans to get a clean engagement on their opponent. They can’t hope to engage in a poke war because Genji and Illidan are going to set up a summer home in their back line. They’ll visit for a few weekends, and then retire there permanently. L5 has decided that if eStar wants to move into their backline, they should just welcome them to the neighborhood. Are you as tired of this analogy as I am? Good, let’s move on.
The hardest part of facing an Illidan comp is dealing with how hard he can chase your team when you lose the fight. Ragnaros gives L5 the option to let themselves be chased back to a fort, and then turn the fight with Molten Core. The Diablo pick also helps L5 just stay in the fight. He provides almost as much disruption as Anub’arak, and Apocalypse follows up quite nicely to Sulfuras Smash. What L5 wants to do is allow eStar to dive them, and then just fight them right there.
Back on the eStar side of things, decisions have become very simple. Tyrael is available, Sanctification is very good, so eStar picks Tyrael. With their last pick, they decide to provide their composition with an alternate win condition. Were I eStar in this position, I would be marginally concerned about a last pick Zeratul from L5. My composition is heavily melee and trying to all dive into the same area. The threat of VP into Apocalypse into Twilight Dream could always give L5 the chance to make a comeback with one good engagement. Instead of leaning harder into their dive composition, they support it with a Tychus. In an extended fight with no Zeratul, Tychus rips through the L5 frontline. Further, this gives them more presence and zone control around a shrine with the odin.
With their final pick, L5 commit further to their “fight where you dive” composition. Alarak is a clear comfort pick for the team. It gives them more displacement, some reasonable poke damage, and good follow up to a Twilight Dream. On paper, L5 had already lost this draft hard the moment they locked in Ragnaros. That said, they’ve identified a strategy, and are trying to piece together a composition that fits that strategy. If they can bait eStar into chasing them too hard, they have a powerful opportunity to turn the fight around on their terms. Obviously that’s not how this game will play out, but it does provide a more reasonable context to this odd draft.
In essence, L5 tried to build a comp that reacted to eStar’s composition rather than trying to weaken the enemy comp during the draft. They did not actively deny any piece of eStar’s ideal composition except for the Abathur. Instead, they put together a team that hoped to punish eStar’s hyper aggression by turning at the right moment and fighting the one member that chased them too far. The problem with this idea is that it relies on the opponent making a mistake. While the Chinese team loves to be aggressive, there is a high level of discipline in their aggression. This composition would likely punish a weaker team in the same situation. It would capitalize perfectly on a shotcaller like Glaurung overreaching, or staying too long to try and get one more kill. eStar is not that sort of team. They remain disciplined while never letting their foot off the gas, and secure the game two victory.
Thanks again for reading! Be sure to check out the other two entries in this series, Fnatic vs Roll20 and Tempo Storm vs Dignitas. If you see a draft this weekend that you’d like me to examine, shoot me a message on Twitter.