A DotA team walks into a bar…

A DotA team walks into a bar.

They find their favorite indie band playing cheap pop music.

The economist among them suddenly realizes where the supply of their buy-outs come from.

Some of you may wonder why a random noob is writing about Zenith’s trainings. I’ll clarify that first. They rest of you are wondering where in this post mentions the coverage of any of Zenith’s training sessions. This, you’ll figure out for yourself, if you make it past the initial wall of text.

There are 2 kinds of people who are reading this (generally speaking, any possible group of people larger than 1 can be split into 2, and there’s definitely more than 1 person who has read this – you, and I). There’s the 98% of the population who will not be able to consistently perform at the level of any of Zenith’s players. These are the random noobs like me. And let’s face it – if we were all able to perform consistently at the level of Team Zenith, they wouldn’t exactly be competitive.

The other 2% of you are threats. Potential aggressors. Knowledge is a weapon, and a random noob like me spilling knowledge about Team Zenith is like a tour guide giving out his country’s history. It’s interesting enough, and easy enough to find out, but most foreigners will simply NEVER KNOW until they are told. Whereas any of Zenith’s members spilling out their in-depth game knowledge (that is so in-depth and profound that only they and a select few know) is like a country giving away all its military secrets.

And 98% of the people don’t benefit at all from knowing another country’s military secrets anyway, even if it is of great detriment to the country. Whereas 98% of the people might be interested in another country’s history.

I know. My analogies are soooooooooooooo gooooooood.

Most of us have studied literature. We read books. We’ve written something (because literate people usually have written something, and if you’re not literate, YOU CAN’T READ THIS). That doesn’t make us good writers. Most people can appreciate good writing without being able to write world-changing essays, though appreciation is probably one of the pre-requisites of creation.

Thus, a random noob like me might not be able to play as well as any of the players in Zenith, but like every other random noob, I can appreciate how they play.

So today, Zenith played like 10 games in a row. 4 members were playing from Razer Office, and HYHY was playing from home. Because he was bedridden. Or infected with a contagious zombie virus. Or perhaps being held hostage. Or under house arrest. Doesn’t really matter.

3 of the games are out there, for the BO3 WB Quarter-Finals against TongFu, in the Gigabyte DotA2 Masters. You can find the VODs, and they are worth watching. I won’t give a written report of those, because the VODs are much more entertaining (AND ONCE AGAIN, WORTH WATCHING), and because I don’t want to.

The other games were (if memory serves me well): 2 scrims against LGD, 2 scrims against DK, and up to 2 scrims against EHOME. I won’t give a written report of these either, because I wasn’t paying attention to them.


I can give you inside information, behind-the-scenes coverage, and play-by-plays!

But for today, I’ll just drop two little nuggets of inside information that expose what makes a team successfully make decisions.

I’ll refer to the BO3 tournament game of Zenith vs TongFu (which can be found here). ***Spoiler alert.*** I refer to specific things that happen in these games. So you should watch them.

Take note that the dynamic I will talk about is especially obvious today because HYHY was in a physically separate location from the rest of the team.

Game 1 features a LACK of communication. With HYHY not on site, the picks and bans were done solely by iceiceice. A Shadow Fiend fell into the hands of HYHY without HYHY’s consent.

That much is fine. Much of Zenith’s recent games have featured Loda being dumped with whatever hero the team feels like dumping on him. Ancient Apparition? Solo mid? Never done this before… TIME TO TRY IT FOR THE FIRST TIME. Lich solo top? Never done this before… NO PROBLEM.

Loda’s pretty good at the heroes that he wants to play, but he’s rather much more impressive (all things taken into account) at playing heroes he has no idea how to play. But I digress.

HYHY’s Shadow Fiend went for a quick BoT, followed by a Black King Bar, up against TongFu’s Dragon Knight and Vengeful Spirit. His item choice is not mine to critique (BKB doesn’t stop VS from swapping to cancel Requiem, nor does it do much against a Bounty Hunter or a Frost Dragon. BoT early instead of Power Treads meant that there was much less damage during teamfights, and the slower BKB meant that by the time SF got his BKB, so did everyone on the enemy team that mattered. BUT LIKE I SAID, NOT MY POSITION TO CRITIQUE HIS ITEM CHOICE), but the important thing to note was that AFTER THE GAME HAD ENDED, iceiceice (who had done the bans and picks) said that he had expected HYHY to gun towards a Power Treads + Manta Style build.

Popular opinion is that Shadow Fiend shouldn’t even have been picked. But the point is that there was little use to critiquing an item build after the game had already ended (thus, my critique is mostly useless). HYHY had gone a utility build, whereas iceiceice had envisioned a Shadow Fiend with much more mid-game damage. It’s debatable whether the picks were horrible (they were horrible), but what is apparent is that the team had gone into the game with different players having different ideas of how to play the draft, and no one even being aware that such a difference existed (which is why the difference was never addressed).

Game 2 comes. iceiceice plays a farmed Anti-Mage with a fast Manta Style and a Ring of Health. He faces an Invoker and Queen of Pain, both with Sheepstick. At this point, HYHY insists that iceiceice build a BKB. iceiceice disagrees, and builds himself a Linken’s.

Two players with differing ideas, but what’s the difference between the 1st and the 2nd game?

Simply that HYHY made his view known BEFORE any decision was made. iceiceice acted differently, but he at least was given the other view to consider. Even though HYHY pushed very strongly for the BKB, he respected the fact that ultimately, the decision was iceiceice’s to make. Since iceiceice was playing the Anti-Mage.

Ultimately, with the series of strong initiates by HYHY’s Sandking after iceiceice had his Manta Style, both Linken’s or BKB would probably have achieved the same result. The point is that HYHY was willing to both offer his opinion at the right time, and respect that iceiceice was in the best position to make the choice.

Rarer though, is that even in the face of violent insistence (quote: “NO! LINKEN IS JUST A BAD ITEM. IT’S A BAAAAD ITEM!”) iceiceice had enough faith in himself to stick to the build he felt was right. Following an order after some weak opposition is an easy way out for most people. It’s easy to just follow someone, and push the blame to them when things don’t work out. It takes a lot of confidence to carry on with your own opposing decision, and bear whatever consequences.

Of course, it also helps when XY is there to tip the scales. But that’s a story for another day.

And now the third game. Perhaps the key point when Zenith started coming back is when they held on to their Middle Raxes with Tinker’s infinite March, while iceiceice’s Lycanthrope broke TongFu’s top set of raxes, with Zenith interrupting Tongfu’s about 200 Town Portals (note: numbers could be slightly exaggerated due to my tendency to exploit artistic liberties).

Of course, what no one but the people with Zenith knows (until now, of course), is that that was NOT the call made. With enemies encroaching on the base, HYHY made the call for the entire team to defend mid. iceiceice refused to follow (quote: “I can’t do anything even if I TP back”). HYHY continued making the call. XY went “IT’S OKAY. I CAN DEFEND” (and he did, proving that there is very little a horde of little robots cannot do). HYHY CONTINUED MAKING THE CALL.

In fact, HYHY didn’t stop making the call until TongFu’s heroes started TPing away, at which point it was pretty obvious that there was no longer a need to defend a base that was no longer being assaulted.

There is a lesson to be learnt here, and it’s nothing to do with HYHY’s calls (the fact is that I’m simply not addressing the multitude of great calls he makes which the entire team agrees with).  It’s to do with making decisions in a team. It’s easier said than done, but you, and you alone, are responsible for your own decisions. If indeed iceiceice had gone back to defend, it would be because he found it to be the right decision – not because he had been told to do so.

There is something about personal responsibility and communication that everyone can learn from Zenith. Don’t listen to your teammates if you’re confident enough – they can’t make you do something you don’t want to. But take their opinion into consideration, and don’t ever blame them for making you do something.


– Ant



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