PSG.LGD performed consistently throughout this past Dota 2 Pro Circuit season. They scored a few second places in the first half of the year, but they only recently came into their own. Consistency turned into dominance as they won two majors (Epicenter XL and MDL Changsha) within a few weeks of each other and then placed 3rd at the Supermajor. These performances were enough to net them third place in the DPC rankings behind VP and Liquid. After such a long season, what strategies led to LGD’s victories in these past few months?
LGD’s drafting is one of their strongest points, as they draft very suitably to their playstyle. They place emphasis on strong AOE teamfight, counter picking, and most importantly: flexible heroes that can easily swap lanes. In this article, we will examine a series vs Newbee from MDL Changsha.
In their first game, LGD have Disruptor, Clockwerk, Gyrocopter, Razor, and Dragon Knight. In the first phase they lock down the Disruptor and Clockwerk. These two heroes give them their much craved AOE teamfight control. Disruptor's Kinetic Field and Static Storm combined with Clockwerk's Cogs and Hookshot abilities give LGD potent control in both skirmishes and teamfights. They exit the first stage of the draft with both strong teamfight potential and a flexible laning pick (Clockwerk).
LGD have the first pick in the second stage of drafting. Here, Gyrocopter accomplishes two key objectives. The hero is flexible (he could be in any lane here) which reveals as little as possible about the draft. Additionally, Gyro's ultimate contributes even more to their AOE teamfight. Newbee responds with Lifestealer - a strong counter to Gyro’s magic damage. Here, LGD shifts to counter picking rather than focusing entirely on flexibility. They grab a Razor who will prioritize going into the Lifestealer's lane and ruining his day. Newbee's core Venomancer is a response that attempts to deal with the Gyrocopter and Razor of LGD. Veno can survive against LGD’s lanes while giving Newbee strong teamfight and damage over time.
Now for the final picks from each team. Newbee finishes their draft with Phantom Lancer, leaving LGD to counter with a Dragon Knight. DK is particularly strong here. He helps lock down the typically elusive Phantom Lancer. By the end of LGD’s draft, they have secured plenty of stuns and control along with generally strong teamfight. Their cores deal well with the cores on Newbee, and their lanes are flexible. DK, Razor, and Gyro can be run in any lane. All Newbee can reliably predict is that Razor will be kept in the Lifestealer lane as much as possible. DK is likely mid, which leaves Gyro safelane and Razor in the offlane. Razor can lane with either Disruptor or Clockwerk - it doesn’t matter. Gyrocopter is the same. This is the kind of power behind LGD’s drafts -they have so many possibilities that ensure they can have favorable matchups against Newbee.
Now let's take a look at the draft from Game 2 (shown above). One of LGD’s key heroes as of late is Jakiro, a versatile pick who does many of the things they’re looking for. He can support in either the offlane or safelane and his spells are low mana cost and incredibly spammable. He can be run with almost any core hero and allow the lane to succeed by out spaming his enemy. Of course, he also offers a certain amount of AOE teamfight control. Once again in the first phase, they signal their desire for strong teamfight by getting both the Jakiro and a Naga Siren. Their Kunkka pick in the second phase continues to stack up their teamfight.
At the end of the second stage, Newbee has revealed Luna and Brewmaster as two their cores. LGD once again demonstrates a priority towards counter picking as they pull out Terrorblade. TB is a strong counter to Luna. He can keep up with her in farm, out ranges her in teamfights, and most importantly - burst her quickly with metamorphosis. LGD's teamfight at this stage comes down to Naga, Jakiro, and Kunkka - hardly the heavy teamfight lineup they feel most comfortable playing. They address this with a last pick Legion Commander. She no only has a guaranteed disable, she's also a strong laner to boot. Once again, LGD end their draft with with highly flexible lanes. Naga or Jakiro can go into the TB lane or the Legion Commander lane - and it’s not obvious who will go with who. In this case, Terrorblade solo lanes vs Brewmaster. His illusions allow him to harass the Brewmaster and hit creeps in the lane, freeing up the supports to punish the Newbee safelane.
These two drafts are great examples of how LGD sets themselves up to play their game. But how do they utilize their heroes?
LGD is a team that is incredibly difficult to play against due to their defensive nature. They usually travel in packs of two or three heroes. If a hero is ever alone. they're usually very close to a TP location for a quick assist from the team. They also stick to their side of the map, rarely being aggressive while waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.
These are some examples from the first draft shown above: Razor, DK, Gyro, Clock, Disruptor.
This is early on in the game, around 12 minutes. As you can see, LGD has four heroes middle to take Newbee’s towers. Their Razor is defending top, sitting under tower in case he gets attacked by Newbee’s heroes. Their positioning mid is very smart as well: DK is sitting in the front, while Disruptor and Clockwerk the counter-initiators are on the back line. Gyrocopter is sitting out of sight on the Dire high ground. He is surrounded by friendly wards and is well positioned to spot any rotations coming in from the Dire jungle shrine. It gives LGD an easy objective that’s hard for Newbee to contest.
Here’s an example of Gyrocopter farming the offlane jungle camps. This is a few minutes later than the screenshot above, around 15 minutes. Once again, you can see how safe LGD is. Even though LGS have four heroes pressuring the bottom tower, Gyro isn’t in harms way. LGD can bail him out quickly with multiple teleport locations and he has the backup of a shrine. Gyro can farm safely while the rest of LGD is pushing, even if Newbee were on their way to gank. While Gyro farms, the defense is coming in from Newbee.
The fight becomes hard, and the positioning of LGD once comes into play - their jungle shrine is close enough that Gyro can teleport in and quickly join.
As you can see here, Gyrocopter does come in and instantly gets a 3 man call down, securing the fight easily for LGD.
Now let's take a look at the second game where LGD’s draft is Jakiro, TB, Kunkka, Legion, and Naga Siren.
This is a pretty standard distribution of LGD heroes around the map. Kunkka and LC are pushing out bottom, sticking together. They’re a gankable duo by Newbee, but it would likely take a few heroes out of Newbee to do so- so they’re relatively safe. Naga and Jakiro are top, defending. Terrorblade is farming away safely, tucked into his little corner of the map. As you can see, nobody from LGD is venturing too far beyond their side of the map.
And again here, you can see just how safe LGD is. Terrorblade continues to farm, sending his illusions to clear waves out and earn some extra gold. They don’t see anyone on the map, so they’re just sticking together around TP points for safety.
LGD during MDL Changsha was the first team to pioneer their flexible lanes: that is, the 4 or 5 position hero could go with the 1 or the 3 hero interchangeably without much issue. This made their drafts and lanes incredibly flexible. However, they do not have the most utterly dominant lanes, relying mostly on the enemy’s uncertainty in lanes to win. While a hero like Jakiro offers LGD the teamfight and flexibility they like in a draft, it does not dominate a lane compared to a hero like Skywrath Mage. By the time the Supermajor rolled around, VP and Liquid had caught wise to LGD’s strategy, and began to pick incredibly dominant lanes that focus on incredibly heavy harass. Liquid utilized Chen lanes, Leshrac lanes, and WR+Doom dual offlanes. All of Liquid’s lanes were incredibly heavy on spell spamming hero damage, and so LGD crumbled beneath the weight as Liquid trounced them in the early game. VP also caught wind of this, pulling out heroes like Skywrath Mage, Warlock, and Bane to secure their lanes.
This is one of LGD’s biggest weaknesses right now, and they need to adjust their drafting to compensate. If they keep this weakness, they likely won’t beat the top tier teams in Vancouver. However, the Supermajor was nearly 2 months ago. LGD in the meantime has undoubtedly come up with new strategies and solutions to their previous problems, and I fully expect them to perform at TI.