Today we’re continuing our series of draft analysis for the Mid Season Brawl. We saw a ton of interesting drafts this weekend, but few were as clearly prepared and well-executed as Fnatic’s first match against eStar. This is a perfect example of a team coming in having researched their opponent, planned for the battleground, and developing a clear draft strategy.
Sidenote: I’ve gotten a request to do an analysis of the reverse draft All Star matches. I had intended for that to go up today, but the vods are not yet up on the HeroesEsports YouTube channel. I’ll do an analysis of the finals tomorrow, so look out for that on Wednesday. Anyway, on with the breakdown!
This game was played on Cursed Hollow with Fnatic having first pick. Here is the full draft as it appears on Masterleague.net.
We’ve discussed the power picks several times (links for past entries in this series) and emphasized the importance of denying them. Normally, this first ban would be Uther or Dehaka. However, Fnatic have come into this draft with a gameplan, and they start to reveal that fact with a ban on Illidan. As we’ll see soon, this is an important ban for their composition, but it also throws everything out of balance for eStar. Normally they could use a target ban here, and ensure that they get two of the three remaining relevant power picks. Instead, every power pick is still available.
This should instantly reveal to eStar that there are shenanigans afoot. Who enables shenanigans better than any other hero? Abathur. The Chinese squad look to attack whatever strange idea Fnatic has in store by denying the Abathur. That said, with the benefit of hindsight, we can recognize that Fnatic’s draft is actually unlikely to rely on Abathur. Fnatic has the first pick, and there’s too much on the table to safely first-pick Abathur. They would have to risk passing him over to eStar’s first pick phase, and hope he makes it through. With the hero seeing so much success this tournament, it is unlikely that he makes it through, especially if Fnatic first-pick’s Genji. Estar probably should have taken away Uther, the most logical first pick, still leaving them to get two of Genji, Dehaka, and Anub’arak. However, in the situation, the Abathur ban makes perfect sense, and away goes the slug.
Dehaka and Uther are the two strongest power picks on the table at this point. However, Fnatic goes to third on the list and opts for Genji. There are a few clever things happening here. All of what I’m about to say is complete guesswork based on hindsight, but if I’m even half-right Fnatic are geniuses. All tournament, the most terrifying composition from eStar has been their Valla/Auriel setup. Normally they would grab a piece of it in this first pick phase, likely the Valla. We could even see them lock in both Valla and Auriel in this first set to avoid a ban because the comp has been so powerful.
That said, there are still two massive power picks on the table, four if you include the tanks Anub’arak and Tyrael. All tournament the eastern teams have had a lower priority on Anub’arak, and the western teams have likewise put less emphasis on Tyrael. That still leaves Uther and Dehaka as terrifying threats to pass over to Fnatic, especially when they already have Genji. There’s too much power left on the board, so eStar are almost forced to lock in Dehaka and Uther in this phase.
Back on Fnatic’s side, they are happy to snatch up the strongest tank in the meta, so Anub’arak gets locked in. With their next pick, there’s still the opportunity to deny eStar their second best assassin, Greymane. However, Fnatic are ready to reveal that they’ve got something special planned. They use this rotation to lock in Falstad.
It is my belief that Fnatic at this point were set on Brightwing and Stitches in their comp. They want to run double global with tons of disengage and pick potential. This composition is going to make it difficult for eStar to get fights on their terms, and is a powerful counter to the Auriel/Valla strategy. However, revealing Stiches at this point gives too much away and gives eStar too much time to build a counter. They also don’t want to pick Brightwing here, as it is virtually guaranteed they’ll get it later. There’s also the chance that eStar wastes a ban on Malfurion, a very logical pick which Fnatic has no intention of playing.
Falstad is very strong and a favorite of Fnatic, so it actually doesn’t give too much away. It lets eStar know there’s something going on, but isn’t so obvious that it reveals the strategy.
With their next ban, Fnatic make it very clear that they’ve got something in store. However, eStar get the first ban in this phase. They’re not going to play Li-Ming into Fnatic’s Anub’arak, but the wizard has potential to be problematic for whatever eStar decides to play. Because Fnatic didn’t lock in Malfurion, they’ve also correctly identified that he’s not critical to Fnatic’s desired composition. Western teams give away Tyrael regularly, so eStar are safe to make a targeted ban instead of focusing the meta picks.
Next, Fnatic bans Medivh. This is a surprising ban before you see their last picks, but perfect once you understand. Everything in this composition turns on Stitches. More than any other hero, Medivh completely wrecks this strategy. The combination of portals and protection would make it so difficult for Stitches to land a meaningful hook. He’s also untargetable in Raven form, giving you one less valid hook target. As a result, he must go.
The next two picks should be fairly obvious, and easy to predict for Fnatic.Estar still have the chance to take their Valla/Auriel comp, but the combo has also made it all the way to this point in the draft uncontested. The Medivh ban should signal to eStar that Fnatic are trying to bait them into their favorite strategy. They think they’ve discovered a counter to it. Therefore, the correct move for eStar is to pivot into another longstanding strategy.
For over a year, the devastating combo of Tyrael and Greymane have obliterated western teams. Whatever Fnatic have cooked up, it’s going to be difficult to execute that strategy against Sanctification and a Divine Shield Greymane murdering their Falstad. The picks are locked in, and eStar should feel relatively safe at this point.
Now it’s time for Fnatic to unveil their master plan. They slam the picks–Brightwing and Stitches. The picks are locked in almost instantly. The draft has gone exactly as Fnatic wanted. There’s not even a moment of hesitation–this is exactly how they’ve wanted the draft to go.
Cursed Hollow is a very weird map in Heroes of the Storm. It’s the only map where the objective cannot actually win you the game. You could make a case for Tomb and Warhead fitting that category, but both of those objectives interact with the opponent’s core. The curse on this map does nothing except enable pushing. Further, it takes three cycles of the objective for it to be relevant at all.
This is the first half of what makes Fnatic’s comp so great. They have two powerful tanks with good poking tools who can delay the tribute. They also have two (TWO) global heroes. Estar has a solid pick composition, but no matter where they go, Fnatic can get more value in multiple lanes. Once the tribute spawns, Fnatic can delay forever. If eStar tries to commit to a fight, two more heroes can show up immediately. The longer the tributes last, the farther ahead Fnatic gets in experience and structure damage. Then, when it’s finally time to fight, Fnatic have a devastating pick combo. They can hook someone, and then have two forms of disengage with Mighty Gust and Emerald Wind. Even though they don’t have tons of burst damage, they have enough stuns and a polymorph to ensure they get enough time to kill their target. Sanctification doesn’t matter if Tyrael’s been pushed a full screen away. As mentioned during the match, Fnatic also have incredible boss control–the map objective that actually wins you the game.
With their last pick, eStar have little chance to respond to this strategy. Solo tank Tyrael does not give them enough presence around the tribute, nor does it give them enough lockdown to try and counteract Fnatic’s comp. They have Dehaka for some added beef, but he can never hang out around the tribute because he has to try and mitigate Fnatic’s gloabl pressure. At this point, eStar feel forced into another tank, and they choose Varian. They’re left with hardly any damage in their comp, and multiple valid hook targets with bad escape options. Everything has gone exactly as Fnatic wanted it. They execute their strategy, and secure the first victory in the series.
If you have a match you’d like analyze, be sure to shoot me a message on Twitter, or in the Reddit thread for this post. Thanks again for reading, I’ll see you tomorrow!