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Some call me the greatest drafter of all-time, others the China-slayer; I thought I’d bless everyone with a bit of wisdom as they go about their journey of bringing NA Dota back to the glory it once had before EG went international.
My career as a drafter started around late 2013 when I was still playing Heroes of Newerth. If I recall correctly, I started drafting simply because no one else wanted to. Taking on the draft is a lot of responsibility, which is often why captains and drafters are usually one of the same.
Before I get ahead of myself, I want to be clear that I’ve never heard of a successful team where the drafter is the only one responsible for a great draft. Drafting is a team effort, and as time has passed, players have become better at communicating and articulating their thoughts. Teams that are capable of combining their knowledge to draft will always have an advantage over those that don’t.
I received a lot of praise in my career for outstanding drafting, but good teams (including my own) win with sub-optimal drafts all the time. Sometimes the weaker team wins with last pick Meepo and Broodmothers as well. Example: OpTic/NiP with Ace/33.
This isn’t everything you need to know about drafting but, hopefully, this helps you think about it from a new perspective.
Step one: Pay attention to your communication
- If you take the time to review your communication during drafts, you can clean up any unnecessary discussion that might be working against you.
- Sometimes a player can distract the team if they aren’t experienced in leading the discussion, so establishing talking priority is something that needs to be discussed if it becomes an issue.
- If you’ve ever been a part of a team, you’ve probably encountered someone who is hard to work with. Sometimes this person can be unreasonable. If you have the recording, you can revisit what was said and explain in detail why you’re upset. Because you make the issue known and explain yourself with proper evidence, I find it very uncommon for there to be further issues. Someone’s behavior may be second nature to them, so it’s important to communicate if you’re uncomfortable with it.
Step two: Every second matters
- Whether you’re taking your time or rushing your opponents, pay attention to the clock. Each round has built-in optional time but, remember, every second you take, you’re also giving your opponents more time to strategize themselves. Take your time but don’t be afraid to draft quickly with confidence.
- Less than ideal decisions are made when there's little time left on the clock. Let’s never forget Insania’s famous last pick Gyrocopter at TI9.
Step three: Pick what you practice
- Should you try out that hero you talked about maybe picking in scrims the other day? Probably not. Pick something you have experience with. Confidence is a huge advantage in Dota, and you’re more likely to make a good decision if you’ve encountered a similar obstacle before.
- Vikin.gg is one of the newest teams to make a splash in EU’s fiercely competitive region, and I attribute it to their preparation. I’ve seen this team utilize similar strategies with nearly perfect execution and beat top teams within 30 minutes. Even though they may not have a Zai or Yapzor, who seem to play every hero in any position they focus on, they practice and achieve quality results.
Step four: Trust your gut
- You’re drafting for a reason! You’ve taken the extra effort upon yourself to practice a part of the game that many people never attempt. Listen to your teammates and consult with them but in the end, make sure it’s your decision. As the team captain, your teammates should trust your decision-making and, if that trust is missing, you need to have a discussion to fix things after the game.
- One of the more annoying things I encountered as a drafter were teammates who were quiet during practice and vocal during officials. I see it as selfish and foolish. It’s hard to ever match the intensity of an official, especially on LAN, but it’s important to be consistent about the way you practice and compete.
- I remember Puppey once saying something about his teammates helping him become a better drafter rather than hijacking the draft for themselves.
Step five: Find a wingman
- Find someone on your team that you really trust. They might not be the experienced leader/drafter that you are, but, hopefully, you respect the way they think about the game. Whenever I faced a tough decision that I didn’t want to make entirely on my own, I’d ask this person if they liked what we were thinking.
- Fear, Zai, Pajkatt, and Saksa were some of the players with genius minds I knew I could count on. Being the captain means having an answer when no one else does but leaning on your teammates is a gesture of trust I find often motivates and helps focus the team.