theWonderCow, January 4, 2017

Our Dota 2 New Year's Resolutions for 2017

New year, new patch and new opportunities await in Dota 2. With such a massive overhaul of the game coming after the Boston Major to cap off 2016, 2017 is looking unpredictable and exciting already. Many will be making their resolutions to improve their health, relationships or bank balance but we're looking to up our clairvoyanceand maybe the Unikoin balance will follow.

Over the last few years of following pro-Dota games, I've picked up some helpful habits to get a deeper understanding of the scene. We don't always follow even our own best advice, but this year I'll be aiming to up my game in a few simple ways. I still try to learn with every opportunity, and if you're reading this, you probably do, too. Whether you want to be the best analyst you can (like me) or you just want bragging rights in your fantasy league, here are a few resolutions I'm recommending for the new year.

Ad Finem brought the passion at the Boston Major
Ad Finem brought the passion at the Boston Major

Watch B-League Teams and Players More

I remember when Wings were considered irrelevant by all but the most dedicated of Chinese specialists (credit to Blaze for originally convincing me of this team's significant potential a little over a year ago). There are dozens of examples, especially in the last two years, of new players or teams catching Dota's elite by surprise.

The fact is, Dota's professional class is desperate for moldable talent for very good reasons: inbreeding creates monolithic perception problems across teams, regions, and professional Dota as a whole. With the game becoming increasingly diverse in potential, new players help teams strike out with unsullied perspectives on everything from hero pools to big-picture strategies. Teams aren't just fighting against each other; they're also fighting against stagnation.

Ad Finem was bubbling beneath the surface for at least a year before breaking out at the Boston Major, and I only watched them play about two dozen games in that time. From early signs of greatness as London Conspiracy eliminating EG at MLG Pro League Season 2, to dominating Europe's ProDota Cups at the start of 2016. I did then, and still do, think Ad Finem are an immensely interesting team to watch, but rarely took the time to monitor their development. If I had, I would have been more confident of their success at the end of 2016.

Wings Gaming lift the Aegis at TI6
Wings Gaming lift the Aegis at TI6

Keep Tabs on China

Although often considered Dota's most successful region, and home to current The International champions, China as a whole has been struggling for nearly a year. There are signs of potential recovery on the horizon, but it's hard to say for sure. Western fans and analysts alike have a tendency to ignore Chinese games because of the time zone differences, meaning the players and team compositions are often considered difficult to track.

Aside from time zone, language and cultural differences meaning fewer interviews, streams, and points of access with Chinese players, China also has more active teams than any other region, making following anything but the pinnacle a nightmare.

If past trends continue, the West will take home this year's International, but depending on how China approaches the ongoing pre-Kiev shuffle, they may yet be ready to pose a serious threat, especially by the summer. Wings caught the West off guard both because they were unknown players due to coming through the Chinese scene. But because Western fans tend to be uninformed about these teams, community odds have a tendency to be less accurate.

It's about time I remember to watch at least a handful of Chinese games a week. Or at least every month.

OG at the Manila Major
OG at the Manila Major

Watch More Games from Every Player Perspective

Using the in-game perspective of players will really help you understand how the team communicates, who calls shots, and which players are most vital to creating opportunities. Last year I did just that, watching many of OG's games from every player's perspective, resulting in a much better sense of which players were most critical at different stages of the game.

That information became useful later on. For example, because I had taken the time to watch player perspectives, I was confident that Miracle would fail to live up to his own potential without Crit at his side. If Fly makes a handful of weak positioning errors in an early game, it often indicated that the team as a whole would struggle in the laning phase for all games throughout the day. His awareness was too important.

This is also vital for measuring a team's potential because broadcasts rarely focus on support players, but a support duo's maximum efficiency is usually a ceiling for a professional team. A stand-out core player may be exciting to watch, but he can only win one lane. Good supports can win all three. But if you don't look at supports on your own time, you'll never see the vast majority of what they do, and therefore won't be prepared for their team's success or lack therein.

I've found watching every player on a team minimally improves my own game, but more importantly helps me understand teams in a much more intimate way. By the time Kiev rolls around, watching at least a handful of games from every player's perspective from every team, and comparing their styles will help you better understand what makes them tick.

theWonderCow

With years in esports publishing, broadcasting, and analysis, Gorgon's specialized focus on locking down trends in Dota has landed him as a featured writer for joinDOTA, the Score, Dotabuff, and more. You can reach him on twitter.com/theWonderCow.