Not Everyone With A Midas Becomes King (Guest Article)

posted by Sandata,
TNC's new style sees them moving away from the traditional SEA-style. How will they fare against a surging Liquid side?
Sandata believes TNC's choice to go Midas saved their souls


This is a guest article by Paolo “Sandata” Bago, follow him on @TheSandata.

TNC are breaking the mold
The Southeast Asian brand of Dota 2 can be very addictive. It's a play style that's historically characterized as aggressive, with emphasis placed in winning laning phases to gear up for fights in the midgame to overpower opponents. In a sense, it's the aggro deck of Dota; a style of play where the decisions are front-loaded in the early game and a misstep means a deficit that's difficult to come back from.

It's high-tempo. It's fast-paced. It's exciting. It's volatile. It's easy to dismantle.
But at TNC Pro Team's surprise victories against Invictus Gaming Vitality and Team Secret, that age old characterization of SEA Dota gave way to something new. A break in the old way of playing SEA Dota that's born out of the conflux of the experience of three different teams, and a more mature decision-making process.

Secret were clearly in the lead in Game 3 versus TNC at StarSeries


A Tale of Two Midases
To capture the change, let's take a look at a specific slice in TNC's series against Secret. It's game 3, with Team Secret taking a commanding early game lead that's looking to snowball out of control.

TNC has taken the early advantage in kills, but Raven's Slark is trailing in gold thanks to the shutdown by KhezZu and his Legion Commander. The panel prior to this game predicted that the combination of Legion Commander and Keeper of the Light would make life difficult for the Slark as the lanes would be constantly pushed out and any pick off play can easily be countered by a blinking Duel.

On paper, TNC's line-up looked one-dimensional: Raven on Slark, Ryo on Vengeful Spirit and TIMS on Ogre Magi. Pretty straight-forward: Win the lanes with the trademark TIMS map movement, snowball the Slark and win in 25 minutes.

But because Puppey and Team Secret countered with immense side-wave pressure and counter-initiation, Team Secret stabilized the early rotations and began pulling away in both gold and experience. That is, of course, before KUKU on Outworld Devourer picked up his Midas.

At 9:16 minutes into the game, KUKU -- correctly identifying that the game cannot be won by repeated aggression -- chose instead to take a big picture approach and out-economy Secret's cores.



Lest one think that this is a simple item choice made on the fly, it became clear that this was a calculated plan by TNC Pro Team when SamH, on a Nyx Assassin of all heroes, went for a Midas at 14:02 minutes instead of completing a Blink Dagger first.

Any other Filipino or SEA team would have doubled down in this situation, instead going more aggressive on Smoke rotations to find the pick-offs, only to be frustrated by Team Secret's excellent Teleport response times care of PieLieDie.

But TNC knew they couldn't win the fight the traditional SEA way. Game 1 and 2 taught them that Secret kept tabs on their rotation and smoke timings. Their strengths and reputation up to this point hinged after all on TIMS and his ability to snowball lanes with ultra-aggression.

MP and Khezu also went Midas
The response from Team Secret validated the approach. Seeing the Midas pick ups, MentalProtector completed his Midas on Lifestealer at 11:39 minutes while KhezZu finished his at 19:18.

They knew that the correction from TNC can undo their game plan; a game plan that was initially hinged on just shutting down TNC's seemingly one-dimensional, snowball-focused draft. But between KhezZu's low Duel victories and the fact that TNC had now the means to pull ahead in economy, Secret decided to hedge: they'll meet the Pinoys in the late game.

A decision they will regret, as it turns out. While both teams went for the double Midas plays, Secret ended up diluting their advantage. By going Midas first on MP, Secret robbed themselves of the offensive power in Infest-Bombs they could have used on a trailing TNC. While his Armlet was completed in an acceptable time, the 3-minute loss in offensive firepower could have made KhezZu's duel more effective, or made Puppey's Tusk ganks succeed rather than narrowly miss out on kills.

The Achilles Heel
The Achilles' Heel of any strategy begins and ends in a misalignment of roles. Take the long-game approach when you should be on the offensive, and you lose to a superior end-game. Go aggressive with Anti-Mage and forsake farm, and you'll be lucky to have the right items at 30 minutes.

For TNC, their Achilles' Heel is shared with a lot of teams in the region. Off the top of mind, one need only look back to Mineski Dota's campaign at ESL ONE Manila last year. Against Complexity Gaming (a team not known for late-game prowess), they lost early advantages and were blown out of the event after they could not close both elimination games in 25 minutes.

TNC's corrections of those weaknesses is encapsulated in the Midas pick-up. The foresight to think big picture, correctly assess that the Slark, given time, can overpower the Lifestealer while the double lockdown supports can deal with the Tinker, and the wherewithal to adjust on-the-fly represents a changing approach. One that goes back weeks into preparation.

For the event, TNC Pro Team switched drafting and captain duties from KUKU to Ryo. Day 1 proved ineffectual, with analysts and fans commenting that TNC were outdrafted against OG.

But against IG.V and Secret, Ryo's drafting started to show more depth. No longer were TNC shackled to the Earth Spirit and early-game prowess of TIMS. They now had more opportunities to take advantage of SamH's stable play style and Raven's late-game -- a late game taught and developed by both DeMoN and his time with Fnatic.

The decision to switch captaincy roles from the more aggressive KUKU to the more reactive Ryo is in itself noteworthy: this is a team that, recognizing their weaknesses are shared and easily scouted, decided to switch up play styles and commit to course-correcting instead of doubling down on past mistakes.

Their reward is a playoff spot, top four, where others have written them off as worse than IG.Vitality and likely to end up in last place.

This is a guest article by Paolo “Sandata” Bago, follow him on @TheSandata.

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