In our blog posts we often emphasize the importance of a coherent draft. Good lineup is a crucial factor in winning the game, yet unfortunately we rarely get a say in what other players in our team are picking, unless Captain’s mode is being played. In AP it usually leads to both teams having weird compositions which have very unclear win conditions.
Sometimes, either by accident or due to better coordination in the drafting stage, one team will have a lineup which will actually resemble something coherent. It might not necessarily be a hard counter to the draft of an opposing team, but rather have a feasible strategic idea. This idea can be centered around different timings and different play styles, be it strong split-push or heavy deathball, but the end result is simple—the team with an idea will have a strong advantage.
Being a part of such team feels extremely good. Unless the lineup is horribly misplayed it will get to its timings and strong power level spike and will eventually stomp the opposition. Everything will seem ridiculously easy and enemies will be killed, towers destroyed and barracks taken. The only problem—you are a part of the other team.
What is a Push strategy?
Heavy push lineups are usually centered around strong pushing heroes and/or summons and their aim is to get objectives quickly and transition into mid-game with a strong Net Worth advantage. Then, it either slows down, takes complete control of the map and gets 70%+ of the map’s resources, or attempts to get an early highground breach and a set of barracks.
Strong pushing strategies have not been a part of the professional meta-game for a while now—ever since the introduction of the “comeback gold” mechanics it has fallen out of favor, because it can be easily punished and can be too risky. Moreover, extra Glyphs granted when T1 towers are taken makes these lineups lose a considerable amount of tempo. In a public matchmaking setup it can still work, however.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Push Lineups
Early push lineups usually come online extremely fast, but fall off equally as fast in terms of levels, since players are usually grouped up as 5 or 4, sharing the experience points. Not feeding the enemy team extra experience is of an utmost importance.
Stalling their push with waveclear abilities, if your team has any, is a good idea, but take note on whether the enemy team has an initiation hero with a Blink Dagger, since they will gladly take a freebie of a solo defender. It is especially ill-advised when the enemy team has Urn of Shadows, since all the damage dealt by the defender(s) will be quickly healed up with the charges gifted to the Urn.
When dealing with a heavy push strategy it is necessary to understand the power level of the enemy team. It will usually have an early Mekansm and some other forms of sustain, and this should be taken into account, since a 250 burst AoE heal is impressively strong in the earlier stages and can easily turn around a fight.
In most cases, after the initial couple of towers taken from your team, it is going to be borderline suicidal to try and teamfight the enemy—their heroes will have a higher Net Worth, hence more tools at their disposal.
The best course of action is usually splitting the team effectively where the enemy is unlikely to be to get an XP advantage. Only get back to defend more strategically important objectives and highground. It is also an extremely good idea to get some trades in the process. Taking T1 and losing T2 might not be a good trade on paper, but more often than not it will be the best one your team can get.
The Importance of Towers
Towers, while granting the same bounty in each Tier, are not made equal. The Top lane towers have a comparatively lower value for both Radiant and Dire, since they are not Teleport points for Roshan contesting. For Radiant, they also don’t defend/grant map control over meaningful resources—ancients on Radiant can be accessed from the Mid towers, while Secret Shop can be accessed with a smart use of a courier.
Mid and Bot towers for Radiant have a significantly higher value. They give access to the jungle and a TP point for Roshan. They also give a little bit of necessary vision and protection in the area and it might be a good idea to try and defend T2’s on these lanes.
Dire is in a somewhat similar position, but the strategic value of their tower in Mid and Bot lanes are slightly lower, since Roshan is on their side and the Bot lane towers, once again, do not have a whole lot of resources around them. Bot T2 is sometimes not worth desperation defence if the Mid one is still standing.
Come mid-game, if played correctly, your team will probably have a 1-2 major item deficit, but should be ahead in XP. It is usually now when your team should strike back. Ideally, you should be fighting at the point where your core heroes have their level 2 ultimates, while the enemy team doesn’t.
With the extra damage/utility of level 2 ultimates and some smart positioning in choke-points around towers, it is possible to focus down a target and potentially snowball in a fight. Mekansm carriers are usually the prime targets for initiation, however, if the enemy Mek carrier is a tanky semi-core (e.g. Viper) it is best to try and avoid him.
At this point outright winning a fight is not the highest priority. Equal trades are good enough, since they will ensure your team will be economically victorious. Do not engage in risky chases and if you do, be mindful of potential turn-around. Instead, repel the attack and regroup/heal and wait for your opponent’s next move.
If they decide to keep on putting pressure, once again, try and repel their attack, but have your and their big cooldowns in mind. If your big ultimates are on a cooldown and theirs are not, split and farm, even if it means sacrificing a tower (T3s and Barracks are generally an exception to this rule). Do not try risky maneuvers—at this point mistakes are going to be extremely costly.
After one or several unsuccessful push attempts most push lineups will try to split and farm, getting slightly more resources with the map control advantage they have probably accumulated. Alternatively, they will try and get Roshan for their next push. In either case, if you do not see the enemy applying pressure, it is best to smoke and try to find a pick-off. Not only will it stall the push, but will also net a very sizeable bounty.
Your smoke-gank path should have Roshan in it and, once again, with big ultimate cooldowns in mind, it might or might not be a good idea to take a fight. Some annoying poking at the Roshan can also help with stalling the enemy team and will potentially discourage them from taking it or buy your team enough time for ultimates to get back online. Do not attempt risky maneuvers and/or chase the enemy.
At some point, after several successful push repels and good trades, your team should finally equalise on Net Worth, while potentially retaining the XP advantage. Your cores should finally be able to go toe-to-toe with the enemy cores and your supports might have one or two extra utility tricks up their sleeve.
Methodically push out the lanes to prevent potential game-winning split-push, slowly and carefully take out the towers and take favorable teamfights. Once you are more or less equal in terms of map control/towers taken, it will be possible to push for victory.