In lieu of Virtus Pro playing I have been watching my old favourite Na’Vi compete in the WePlay Tournament and Dota Pit 4, along with StarLadder a few days ago. We all know that Na’Vi has been struggling to find their form over the last year or so, let alone a stable roster, and so it’s very gratifying to see genuine improvement rather than the sporadic, unpredictable performances that plagued them in 2015, and I attribute a lot of this to ArtStyle.
Around TI5 I think it was the “cool” thing to rag on ArtStyle, and I believe I personally took part in it. A lot of people were quietly hopeful for Na’Vi after they won the Open Qualifiers in style against Vega, but it was clear they would never do as well as previous iterations of their roster. Many people put a lot of emphasis on the draft, as is natural, and ArtStyle really didn’t excel at drafting at the time. They were fine in theory but he had difficulty concealing his hand. After the first phase of picks and bans it seemed that his opponents had his strategy figured out.
His play, as well, was not up to the standard of a professional, though of course it was still very impressive when compared to anything most Dota players can do. I have an idea though that ArtStyle, with the pressure of competing at a professional level, let alone at TI5 with one of the most popular and decorated teams in the world, couldn’t play how and who he wanted. He was forced into picking heroes “in the meta” instead of heroes that he wanted to play. At the time I actually think this was the right choice. This International was in a pretty rough patch and there were only really 15-20 viable heroes. By the end of the series, I think everyone was pretty sick of seeing them as well.
Instead, let’s look at who he has played in their last 5 matches: Chen, Enchantress and Witch Doctor. Of these 3, Witch Doctor is the only odd one out, but he still plays all 3 in a relatively similar way. I think he has actually learned a lot from Sonneiko as it seems that the way they move around the map is very similar, and their willingness to play aggressively, and play confidently, is also very in tune. His Chen and Enchantress play are most impressive to me as he doesn’t sit back and farm in the jungle with the hopes of getting ahead and staying ahead like most players do; he goes aggressive from the first minute. As soon as he gets a good creep he invades the enemy jungle and dives as far as he dares. The enemy carry doesn’t stand a chance when him, Sonneiko and Dendi rotate to crush them. It’s also worth mentioning that his micro-skills are en pointe.
However, I think, above anything, ArtStyle understands this patch better than most captains. I certainly have had a lot of trouble figuring it out but I think Artstyle knows how your play needs to change throughout the game. Early game aggression is key, even if you take trades rather than just successful ganks. Then, once your playing from ahead, you can try and avoid the teamfights that might give your opponents a way back into the game until your confident and comfortable. Meanwhile, you split push and just try and keep your carries safe until they have an item or two and, as such, Chen and Enchantress are perfect picks. They can push without endangering themselves, they have a versatile skill set as what they do and how they play depends upon the creeps they possess, and they can put an awful lot of pressure on the outer towers really early on.
Witch Doctor he tends to pick when he has someone to combo his ultimate with like an Enigma or a Faceless Void, and when his trilane wants to be aggressive. Chen and Enchantress I think are actually becoming the face of this patch, along with Death Prophet and Invoker. I also think that he understands how late-game carries aren’t very relevant in 6.86. Early game aggression asside, for your positions 1 and 2 you need heroes that can push early, have big team fight, are survivable… basically, you need SuperMan on your team. As long as the two combined cover most of these categories I’d say you have quite strong carries. Hence, he has been picking Death Prophet, Sven, Queen of Pain, Nature’s Prophet, Ember Spirit, Ursa and Spectre. Of these, only Spectre is what most would consider a “true late-game carry,” in the same vein as Anti-Mage, Gyrocopter, Morphling and Medusa, among others.
His few months off, away from the limelight, he has drastically improved. He’s not perfect, and, frankly, neither is Na’Vi. To comment on their overall play, I think Dendi hasn’t been up to his usual standard though that’s probably because he’s learning how to play Death Prophet and Invoker again after a whole year of them being useless in professional games. General, also, I think is feeling the pressure. I know he can play well and I have seen him play well, he just needs to take his foot off of the accelerator a bit. Sonneiko and Ditya Ra both seem to play best when they have flashy, aggressive heroes like Earth Spirit or Bane for Sonneiko, or Nature’s Prophet or Sven for Ditya Ra. I think, with all their differences, ArtStyle, as a captain, brings all the players together in one big, aggressive death-ball, and it’s nice to see Na’Vi doing well again.
Let’s hope I haven’t jinxed it.