A Serious, Critical Analysis of the Reverse Draft Meta Game–MSB Draft Breakdown

By popular (or one dude on Twitter) demand, we’re returning to our Draft Breakdown series with a bit of a twist. We’ve explored the meta in great detail and examined some amazing draft preparation by the best teams in the world. Click on these links for analysis of real games by good teams. Today, we’re instead going to look at a complete mass of nonsense–the All Star reverse draft.

While this is mostly a silly show match, what’s interesting to examine is how quickly a meta still develops even in something this ridiculous. With that in mind, Let’s take a look at Game 2 of the reverse draft series, played on Sky Temple.

Ban Phase 1

There isn’t one. Both teams skip their first bans, most likely to ensure all the silly picks are still available to give the audience the best show they can. There’s never a good enough strategic reason to skip a ban, even in a reverse draft. Don’t get cute, if you’re playing to win use all your resources.

Pick Phase 1

Terminology is going to get super weird here, because the teams are picking for each other. At this time, the West team is sitting at the East team’s computers locking in their picks for them, and vice versa. Try to keep up, I’ll go carefully.

East is first pick in this game, which means West has to choose what they want East to have first. They’ve got a gameplan for this draft that starts right now. Their choice for first pick in Murky. This is a solid pick in the reverse draft meta as you can deny any picks to your opponent that synergize well with him.

On the other side, East is locking in for West. As we’ll see over the course of this series, the reverse power picks are Samuro and Gazlowe. The team that had both heroes lost every game. With this lesson available from the first game, East quickly gives their Western opponents the two “power picks”.

Back to West picking for East, they unveil their grand strategy for this draft. West has determined that many of the popular picks in this format are bursty assassins with little synergy. They know Samuro will be on their team, and they can reasonably expect picks like The Butcher and Nova to end up there as well. Because of this, West has decided on a counter to that strategy, and are trying to force East into that strategy. With their next two picks, West gives East The Lost Vikings and Abathur.

Now with Murky, Abathur, and The Lost Vikings, East has all of the squishiest heroes in the game. It is very easy for Samuro, Butcher, or Nova to blow up these heroes quickly. The strategy here is two-fold. First, with all their assassins, West will be able to roam and farm vikings in the lanes for free experience. Then, in the temple/team fight phases, Team East will have virtually no staying power on the temples, and will have to concede them away. East will also have virtually no poke damage, so their ability to dance around temples in a 5v5 situation is nonexistant. This strategy is actually very clever for West to have developed. Unfortunately, they’re about to get too clever for their own good.

Ban Phase 2

West again lets the East’s ban disappear. East, however, has identified their opponent’s strategy. The next logical pick for this no-damage no-health team would be Lt. Morales. They actually want a shot at winning this game, so they use their ban appropriately. This is also what sets up the West to screw themselves over in the next phase.

Pick Phase 2

East is picking for West again. They continue to just throw bad heroes into the West’s composition with The Butcher and Azmodan. Both of these heroes actually play pretty well into what the West would like to run, but East has determined that a team with more bad heroes is more likely to lose.

This is interesting to note briefly. Currently the West has four terrible heroes in their comp, possibly the four worst in the game. East, on the other hand, has three specialists that you’d never want to run together. They have very low teamfight damage and, on paper, look like a disaster of a team. However, all three heroes are reasonable, if not powerful, picks in the current tournament meta. Abathur has one of the best win rates of the tournament. Vikings constantly make waves whenever they appear at the pro level. Even Murky is problematic in the right circumstances. In this way, the East actually has a more “powerful” team composition at the pro level.

Now we have to let the West lose themselves this draft. Morales is gone, but they still have their gameplan for the East. They want to follow up these three squishy specialists with absolutely no damage. They don’t want to give Abathur a remotely viable clone target (even though they’ve already done so with Murky). The idea here is to make sure that the East cannot outright contest the temples in a fight. To do this, they give the East Auriel and Lucio.

On paper, this makes perfect sense. Lucio has no damage to speak of, and Auriel will have a hard time generating hope with such a low damage team. She won’t be able to put out meaningful heals at all. Seems like a great plan, but there are a few issues with it.

First, Auriels damage is not bad. With no healer or tank on the enemy team, and the right talent selection, she becomes a bit of a force. West also has a team with very low mobility which will allow her to pile on the AOE damage in an extended engagement. Second, Lucio directly counters the West’s primary win condition. Their best strategy is to go in hard with Butcher, blow up a viking or a support, and then clean up. Lucio can knock Butcher away, and speed up everyone on his team to keep them out of range of Butcher’s auto attacks.

Ultimately, I think the West was simply not prepared for how squishy their team actually was without a healer. Murky and Abathur with the right builds can really pile on the damage. That damage just can’t close out kills generally, so it’s meaningless in the face of a good healer. With no healer, you just have to hold all those spike shots and slimes.

With the last pick, East leaves West with Raynor, another bad hero. It’s now five bad heroes versus, like, two and a half. Five is a bigger number, so the West inevitably will fall in this match.
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