Analysis by Nikolay “CTOMAHEH1” Kalchev, support player of Unchained Esports, 7k+ MMR, top 80 on the EU Leader-boards and Kyril “MrNiceGuy” Kotashev, founder of DotaHaven.com.THE POS. 1 META
Thanks to the dual lane meta, the position of the safe lane carry in Dota 2 has changed a lot. There are generally two types of carries that currently work well:
Fighting carries: Tiny, Ursa, Weaver, Wraith King, Bloodseeker, Bone Clinkz
The first and most popular type are heroes who are exceptionally strong dual laners that can continue applying pressure in the mid game through ganking or by simply pushing their lanes. These heroes have the carry potential especially when a few of them are in a draft, but they are mostly picked for their ability to dominate their lane and snowball out of it. This allows them to create a lot of space and secure map control. None of these heroes are passive farmers.
Hard carries: Spectre, Phantom Lancer, Terrorblade
The second type are the traditional hard carries with a very strong late-game presence. However, in order to be successful, such heroes need to have two important qualities:
They need to be able to do well (or at least survive) against a strong dual lane.
They need to be able to contribute to mid game team fights.
Most hard carries don’t have such qualities, and that’s why Spectre, Phantom Lancer, and Terror Blade have been the only real hard carries that have had a very strong presence in the meta.
ALLIANCE VS TEAM SPIRIT, MICKE’S AM
At first glance, AM doesn’t fit this description. He is not a great laner, he is one of the most passive heroes in the early-mid game and he is one of the heroes that requires the most amount of space to be able to carry the game. It’s not a huge surprise that he was nowhere to be seen until now. Yet, almost the same could have been said for Spectre before pro teams found a way to make her work, so maybe there is some untapped potential in AM?
In the last three weeks, AM has been picked 15 times in competitive Dota 2. This is not a lot, but he has had the impressive win rate of 66%. Team Empire have picked him a couple of times, and Alliance’s Micke had an impressive performance with him against Team Spirit that we’re going to break down to see if AM has the potential to join Spectre, Phantom Lancer and Terrorblade in the clique of the Tier 1 hard carries.
MATCH ID: 4143846561DRAFT:
As far as hero match-ups go, AM seems decent versus the 4 heroes Team Spirit has. They rely a lot on magical damage and there are two good Mana Void targets (Zeus and Winter Wyvern) in addition to two heroes with a low mana pool that could be abused early on (Earthshaker and Phantom Lancer).
Zeus is a weak support versus an AM, and if he moves to the support position ES would have to play core. This wouldn’t be ideal because ES is a weak off-lane core versus AM mainly because of his very low mana pool. This means that Zeus is pretty much guaranteed to be played mid and it’s not really an option for Spirit to invest into a mid laner that counters AM.
This means they have to use their last pick for a side-lane core who can do the job. Seeker is the most obvious choice out of the meta heroes and he gets picked instantly. It’s very unlikely that Alliance didn’t see this coming, but it seems they are confident that they can win against it.
It is worth noting that the new level 15 Blink range talent means that AM could use a max range Blink without triggering the Rupture damage. This makes the timing in which BS has to pressure AM shorter. More importantly, however, Alliance probably feel that with their last Warlock pick they can win the dual lane match-up convincingly and provide AM with a good start.
EARLY GAME:miCKe and iNSaNia are playing AM + Warlock against HeStEJoE and Biver’s BS + ES, respectively.
Spirit have a significant problem in this lane: Shaker is a weak lane support, and with AM’s Mana Break he becomes nearly useless. BS is a strong laner, but to win 2v2 he needs help.Notice how Alliance exploit this fully to ensure they get on top:
AM buys a lot of regeneration items (6 Tangoes + 1 Salve + Stout) and he gets Magic Stick immediately when he gets the gold (which is triggered by BS’s Bloodrage spam). Even more importantly, he can always rely on Warlock’s heal. This means he is ready to trade a lot of harass.
When the first creep waves meet, AM starts exchanging hits with both the BS and the ES very aggressively. Of course, he loses the trade in terms of HP, but with the help of his consumables and Warlock’s heal, he is able to sustain. At the same time, ES loses all of his mana almost instantly and cannot recover it fast enough, which renders him useless in the lane.
Knowing this, ES leaves the lane, which leaves the BS vulnerable and Alliance capitalize by killing him.
Thanks simply to the initial harass exchange, AM + Warlock secure their lane and ensure AM will get all the farm he needs. Spirit know that this is very dangerous and that they need to pressure him. By the end of the laning stage, they decide to invade Radiant’s jungle and gank the AM. AM, however, is very hard to kill especially when the BS is under-leveled and doesn’t have Rupture. On minute 10:45, Spirit attempt to make a move, but get counter ganked and lose the BS, that further aggravates the situation in Alliance's favour.
Despite winning the exchange, miCKe decides to leave the bot lane (where the action is happening) and to go top to farm freely. On minute 11:00, he even draws on the map the area he intends to farm in the near future:
MID GAME:The tactical decision by miCKe to stay top is game-winning!
His team has already pushed the top tower and has warded deep into the enemy jungle, which makes it safe to farm. (The importance of this area for Alliance is even more evident when on min 14 Warlock solo-smokes and wards the Dire jungle once again).
Spirit want to pressure miCKe to stop his progress. The usual way to do this is to invade his jungle (which they do, they invade it and place offensive wards). AM simply doesn’t use the Radiant jungle, thus, if Spirit want to catch him, they need to smoke and gank their own jungle.
However, this is a very sub-optimal tactical move. The reason is that even if they get lucky, find him and kill him before he Blinks away (which isn’t easy), it will be hard to transition this into map control and objectives. Meanwhile, the other 4 Alliance heroes (with Pugna) will pressure bot and get towers and a lot of map control in return.
The other option is to fight Alliance bot, which is probably the better choice, but this leaves the huge problem of the free-farming AM unattended.
The win condition of AM is the same as it always has been; free farm in the early-mid game means he will accumulate a huge item advantage. He will use it to join fights and break the enemy base in the mid-late game before the enemy carries have caught-up.
Alliance take a couple of questionable fights, which lets Spirit stay in the game for a long time. Nonetheless, the Swedes manage to eventually take the win on the back of AM’s great start and item lead.
Anti Mage, A T1 HARD CARRY?
The key thing that Alliance display in this game is that that it is possible for AM to win convincingly in a 2 versus 2 situation. This inclines us to believe that AM is actually a underrated laner.
Strong vs mana-dependent laners:
AM could trade harass aggressively in the first few levels to make his lane opponents weaker in the same way that miCKe nullified Earthshaker in the lane. This is possible even against some of the common lane dominating supports nowadays like e.g. Undying and Ogre. Without any mana, they will have a hard time to win the lane because they rely heavily on their spell harass (Decay and Ignite), which is mana intensive.
Great with HP sustain:
AM will lose the harass trade in terms of HP, which means supports that can heal him are amazing lane partners. Warlock and Io, for example, can sustain him while he completely drains the mana of his opponents.
Hard to gank:
Thanks to his great mobility, once he gets a good start in the laning stage AM is very hard to stop. He can farm the enemy jungle and dodge gank attempts more reliable than most carries. If needed, he can switch lanes, split-push, etc.
Faster farmer than the meta carries:
AM is a faster farmer than PL and a much faster farmer than Spectre, which means he will hit his item timings earlier. This will allow him to secure the victory before the enemy hard carry comes online.If the enemy team has invested only in fighting carries, he can simply out-carry them.
Despite everything said, we don’t believe AM will become as popular as Phantom Lancer, Spectre or Terrorblade for one significant reason: he still needs a good Battle Fury timing and enough space to get his other items in order to be successful.
It’s been a very popular strategy in this meta to invest the resources of the team into the space-creating cores. For example, if you have an Axe and a Spectre, the winning strategy has been to secure a great start for the Axe. This will allow him to get his Vanguard + Blink and to dictate the early-mid ganks and fights. Even with a bad start, Spectre will catch-up thanks to the space that Axe is creating, will join fights and will win the late game.
Doing the same thing with AM is possible but very risky. A slow BF timing means he will not be able to join fights for a very long time, leaving his team 4v5. If his team cannot create space as 4 and if they start losing map control, the situation could quickly turn dire. This makes it extremely risky to open the draft with AM.
This, however, is not true for Spectre, Phantom Lancer,and Terror Blade - they have been so popular exactly because they are extremely hard to stop. Teams can open the draft with them and still find victory even if the carry has a rough game.
The recent success of AM picks has proven that AM is one of the best carries to get at the end of the draft when you know that the enemy team has few counters. If this becomes a common practice, pro teams will simply ban AM (that’s probably the main reason Alliance decided to pick him before the Warlock). In AP pubs, however, AM is extremely unlikely to get banned often and could become one of the best position 1 heroes to gain rank.
If you want to stay ahead of the meta curve, check out DotaHaven’s guides library! Besides some amazing community content, there you can find our premium Anti-Mage guide by Steve “Xcalibur” Ye – a top. 1 player on the EU Leader-boards and the new carry for Winter’s team Dominator.
Feature image credits: Monster EnergyIf you would like to know more about my work, you can follow me at KarY.