Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Frog in a well

There are few things that I am realizing as of late.  One of which is that I was a frog in a well.  An Asian idiom that a frog does not know what lies beyond the small and trapped world he calls home.  So the frog, not knowing anything larger, stronger and greater than himself, thinks himself the magnificent creature in all of the universe.  

For what it's worth, the "well" does not represent the limited walls of TDA to which was my main playfield.  In fact, I think it was a very healthy environment, priceless in its value.  I have over 2000 games in TDA, and that gave me an opportunity to learn the game.  It really gave me the time and the room to mature as a player because I was able to experiment freely in a stressfree environment.  I wasn't ignorant of the fact that there were really godlike players out there as we would occasionally play with and against p0c, Fang and Merlini to get a measure of what international level meant.  The old TPD crew of Faach, and Wonkalatician, Chu, March and the rest of Kd crew were no slouch either.  When working on a build, it was always the question of "could I do this against these players?", and the build was never finished until the answer reached a reasonable state of "yes".

No.  The "well" has nothing to do with the environment where I matured as a player.  The "well" was the stubborn old self within me that resented new possibilities.  It was as if I had put up a thick brick wall around me.  If my old self had evaluated something to be terrible, I would retain the same conclusion I had made more than 2 years ago.  It wasn't so much the unwillingness to change, it was like unwarily living in the past.

Shortly before I stopped playing DotA 1, IceFrog released a patch where it made mjornirr less effective on agility heroes by taking out the agility bonus and replacing them with raw attack speed.  Though it made the item cheaper, I felt like the item had lost its flavour, its identity.  Up until this point, I had gotten this item solely on ranged agility heroes.  After the change, I felt that it wasn't very cost effective anymore on these heroes anymore, and I had to adjust my build.  This was the judgment I had made; useless, and it ended there.  

2 years later, while playing DotA 2, I found my friend (whom I respect greatly as a player) using a mjornirr build on Naix.  An ultimate min/maxer, I know him to be a smart, thinking player.  The first impression I got in my head was, 'well, that's an interesting item on him'.  This was my way of respectfully saying "wtf?".  I didn't believe the potential because I had judged the item to be terrible (I mean, how could I be wrong?).  He went on to prove me wrong by using this build several times throughout the night and absolutely dominate in every game we played.  I felt a little funny about this whole situation, and I decided to try it myself.  And yep, it completely owned.  I had an understanding then: When IceFrog made the change to mjornirr, it didn't kill the item as I thought.  While it closed some doors, it also opened new ones, especially for strength heroes that function very well with high attack speed, such as Naix.  The nature of the item had changed, and I simply thought the item had lost its flavour.  

What sucks is that I may have never realized this if my friend didn't show me this.  If I were to see this build in some random game, would it really inspire me to try the build myself?  Or would I just unfairly stamp it as a "terrible" and move on because it's not played by someone I know and respect?  This made me rethink about the how I viewed the game entirely, and scrap whatever pre-conceived notion I had of the game.

I remember coming across this one player in matchmaking, who wasn't the strongest player I ever saw, but it didn't mean I couldn't learn from him.  He played Naix and ended up getting blink and sheepstick.  Still haunted by the rigid formula I followed, I never really considered sheepstick to be an item choice for Naix. His rationale was simple enough: Opposing team had an Antimage, Storm Spirit, and Furion, and his blink sheep would crush them all.  It made perfect sense; sheep would own against AM and Storm.  It would be great against Furion as well to stop his teleport since Naix has no way of interrupting otherwise.  The wellrounded stats on sheepstick are for both defense and offense, and the mana regen on sheep would ensure that Naix never had mana issues (which is an issue at times).  The said player delivered what he promised; effectively shutting down both carries of the enemy team and carried the team to victory.

This lead to another thought: Items in DotA aren't just about enhancing what hero is already capable of, but also creating new opportunities that could not exist otherwise.  Basically, get whatever item you need in order to win the game.  If that means sheep on Naix, so be it.  If that means Antimage buying a diffusal to counter Omniknight, then so be it.  It may not be the most efficient item on Antimage, but if no one on the team can afford it, let alone have any real benefits of using it other than the means of purge, then it may as well be on Antimage over other supports who are mainly str/int.  For the record, I would only get it after manta, since the value of diffusal does not outweigh manta, and the extra agility would help the images to be even more effective.  The point is that it's not stupid to get it if it's what you need to win the game.

I suppose all of this is very... obvious.  I mean, of course you are going to get any item necessary for you to win the game, duh.  But I know I have made the mistakes in the past where I didn't get what was necessary because it wasn't part of the conventional build.  Just do whatever it takes to win.

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