The hero pool of pros: Jack of all trades, master of some

posted by EskayDota,
Hero pools can make or break a team, but which is more important: quality or quantity?
Drafting is as key in Dota as is the gameplay itself. Many attribute success to good drafts, and rightfully so. Of course, something that comes hand in hand with good drafting is the hero pool of the players you are drafting for. You can be a master drafter, but if your team can’t push a hero to its full potential, how much of a good draft have you really put together?

Historically, there is only one Dota 2 player who has played all available heroes professionally. It’s likely that one or two of you may have heard of him. An unknown, fresh to the scene player by the name of Kuroky.

Already a legacy

Ok. Jokes aside, the fearsome, TI winning machine that is Kuro S. 'KuroKy' Takhasomi is the only person to play every single Dota 2 hero in professional matches. Having played 1753 professional games under 11 different team names, none other have played as many games as the German mastermind.

Those closest to matching the accolade are Clinton 'Fear' Loomis, Johan 'BigDaddyN0tail' Sundstein and Arif 'MSS' Anwar, being the only other players with over 100 unique heroes played. Fear only has Dark Willow, Monkey King, Pangolier, Techies, Timbersaw, Tinker and Warlock remaining before he too completes the set. Some could even argue that Fear’s feat of 109 unique heroes is more impressive, as he’s done it in over 500 games less than Kuroky.

All in all however, playing unique heroes doesn’t necessarily equate to greatness. Whilst the top 3 players in terms of hero diversity have all won a TI, focussing on a select handful of heroes can be beneficial as well. Tal 'Fly' Aizik has played the most Dota 2 games of any professional player, with 1812 games. However, he has only played 77 unique heroes; 66% of the hero pool available.

Diversity vs Quality

So what is more important? To play many heroes at a great level, or to play a handful at an exceptional one? Many attribute Team Secret’s current success to their diverse hero pool, with both Ludwig 'zai' Wåhlberg and Michał 'Nisha' Jankowski seemingly able to play whatever Clement 'Puppey' Ivanov feels like drafting, in whatever role necessary. Hero pools affect teams in a big way – take Alliance as an example.

Secret's wide hero pool was talked about at length after their victory in Chongqing.

Henrik 'AdmiralBulldog' Ahnberg holds the record for the most games played on any one hero. Having played 234 professional games on Nature’s Prophet, no other player has played a single hero more. However, interestingly, Kuroky holds the second place for the record, with 224 games on Rubick, also the most on the hero (23 more so than Fy’s Rubick.)

Comparatively however, these numbers do not quite equate. Bulldog played 1010 games of professional Dota, meaning over one fifth of all games Bulldog played, he played Prophet. Contrastingly, Kuroky playing 224 games of Rubick is only roughly 12% of games. Realistically and obviously the desirable trait is to be able to play any hero at a standard as if you had played thousands of games of that hero before (read ana, Miracle-, etc.).

Little nuggets

To pepper this discussion with a bit of flair, we can throw in a notable fact or two about heroes and players. Zakari 'ZfreeK' Freedman has the most Techies games of any professional player with 6, and Danil 'Dendi' Ishutin has simply a fleeting 44 professional Pudge games. He is closely contested by Andrew 'Jenkins' Jenkins, who has 41.

The lowest winrate on any hero with over 40 games is Sergey 'God' Bragin on Dragon Knight (37.25%). The only other professional player with more than 45 DK games and a similar winrate is Sccc, who sits around 40. Dendi, who is known for his Lina, only has a 41% winrate on the hero.

The golden ratio

So hero pools are great and all but does being diverse win games? Well, not necessarily. The players with the overall highest winrate are MidOne, Zai and Miracle. Kuroky sits at 7th, with a winrate of 64.69%. Both Amer 'Miracle-' Al-Barkawi and Yeik Nai 'MidOne' Zheng have played around 70 unique heroes, whilst Zai has played 91. However, does any of this actually matter?

Realistically players stick to their roles for the large majority of games. Those with diverse enough hero pools are able to switch positions to confuse enemies and shake up playstyles. If players have wide enough hero pools to be able to do so, collectively the team becomes one big joint hero pool. Take Liquid for example.

Many would attribute the following as a big part behind their consistent success. When Kuroky feels it necessary to draft a certain hero, be it support or core, one of the members of their team can play it. If they want to run a Sven in the game with an IO, both heroes could be position 1 / 2 or 3 /4 respectively. Not only does it cause confusion for the enemy team, but also permits more interesting / fitting heroes to be picked, as they are never particularly locked into one player playing a certain hero.

Original header photo credit: Valve

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