Zenith has a very unique team dynamic. There is a huge difference between them playing online and them playing together. Sitting with them, watching them play live in the last few weeks, they display a very effective, cohesive, communication dynamic.
My plan was to use each tournament game as an opportunity to talk about an aspect of Zenith’s team dynamic. For a multitude of reasons, I will rarely reference any of Zenith’s scrims.
So Zenith started their ProDotA2 game against aL. They were talking a lot from the start of the game, a sign of how seriously they were taking it.
Here’s an aside. In most teams, their general noise level is an indication of how much they are winning by. Silence is usually accompanied by their game spiralling downwards towards defeat, either as a cause, or an effect. With Zenith though, their level of communication is only dependent on one thing – how seriously they take the game.
So yes, they were communicating a lot, and I was excited to see how what I could glean from Zenith’s “serious-mode” communications.
Someone somewhere streamed the game, and as soon it’s uploaded, you can click here to find it. (Game starts from 1:12:00. Youtube link here.). You should watch the game. Really. I recommend it (like that means much…). Not because it’s a great game, but because you can probably finish it while waiting for the matchmaking system to find a game. It’s only 15 minutes long, and therein lies the problem.
WHAT CAN I WRITE ABOUT A 15 MINUTE GAME?!?!
Don’t answer. Rhethorical question. Obviously, the existence of this post indicates that SOMETHING could be written from it.
So let’s talk about the picks. 4 of Zenith’s picks were expected. Dark Seer was picked up early. Morphling, which has seen a lot of screentime recently, is a rarely questioned choice. Lich and Beastmaster were picked up, because, to quote hyhy after the game, “if I was the Enigma fighting against this draft… I also won’t know what to do.”
But somewhere in the middle of it all, iceiceice decided to pick Axe.
I bet someone somewhere is confused as to what this “Axe” is. Why is it a proper noun? Why is it “pick”ed and not “pick up”ed? Am I referring to Beastmaster’s axes? Or have I played too much League of Legends and thought he was playing Olaf? Or… NO WAIT!! AXE IS THE NAME OF A HERO. IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW!
I repeat, “Axe” is the name of a hero in DotA. I KNOW THIS COMES AS A SURPRISE TO SOME OF YOU. He exists.
Why did iceiceice pick Axe?
A possible theory might be that aL favors mid and early game pressure, and Axe excels against mid and early game pressure. Another theory is that against the generally low HP lineup of Enigma, OD, VS, QOP, and ES, Axe would be very effective. Yet another theory is that Axe just synergized well with the DS which Zenith had picked up.
All the theories might have a point, but the main reason for iceiceice playing Axe is this – he wanted to play it.
He entered the game going “eh, I want to play Axe”.
He had played nothing but Axe for like, an entire page of matches.
Would he have played something else if aL drafted a bunch of Axe-killers (amazingly I can’t name any)? Possibly. But that didn’t happen. As it is, after playing that much Axe, I’m entitled to believe that iceiceice doesn’t acknowledge the presence of any hero countering his Axe.
The entire first 4 picks were catered in anticipation of picking Axe, and amazingly enough, it wasn’t a mindgame. It wasn’t a strategic pickup. iceiceice wanted Axe. So they prepared for that situation, and he got Axe.
Most of the game had iceiceice going “GOGO! I CAN KILL THEM!” 8-1 in 15 minutes showed that aL had no idea he could kill them. In fact, most of the time, all the initiative had to come from iceiceice, because none of his teammates knew he could go for the kill.
In my possession now, I have a replay of a 15 minute game with an Axe going 8-1. Whatever shall I do with it?