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Trading Places: Adjusting to Liquid with 33

Trading Places: Adjusting to Liquid with 33

[Editor's Note: Data for this article was collected on March 13th and doesn't include the 1win series or the DreamLeague Season 23: Western Europe Close Qualifier.]

Adapting to a new team can be one of the most difficult challenges in any sport, even more so when you’re the only new element in an established team. How much do you change your style to fit the new team? How do you mesh your strategies with theirs? How do you play into their strengths? These questions and a million more went through Neta “33” Shapira’s head when he joined Team Liquid as their new captain in November 2023. Even for a seasoned veteran, these questions can be tough to answer concretely. Thankfully, we’ve got a better method than relying on opinion. SAP dug into the numbers for us, and took a look at how 33 transitioned from an offlaner in Tundra Esports, to a captain in Team Liquid.

Let’s start with the true test of any new captain: the draft. 33 was not the captain of his previous teams so the captain role was a major shift for him. The captaincy demands putting the team’s priorities over your own. We’ve seen drafts spiral as a core player puts their needs above the team, but we’ve also seen teams fail because their captains became selfless to a fault. Thankfully 33 has avoided these pitfalls.

Despite having high draft priority while at Tundra, 33 made a major shift to placing his hero wherever necessary during a draft. Typically, first and last pick are the most important as they allow you to get the most powerful heroes in the meta or find the perfect counter to the enemy team. Despite having a draft advantage in his time at Tundra, 33 has eschewed that in favor of giving his teammates strong draft position when possible. 33’s giving up his pick priority also means that he has had to prioritize heroes like Tidehunter, that are harder to counter, rather than his specialty picks like Visage or Beastmaster that require more draft resources. 33 may have lost his last pick priority, but he still hasn’t lost his love for some of his micro heroes such as the aforementioned Visage and Beastmaster. He is well known in the competitive scene for his strong mechanical skills and expertise on heroes that require heavy micromanagement. A skill that was key in The International 2022 where 33 and Tundra Esports became the best dota team in the world and where 33 dominated the finals with his Visage and Beastmaster.

33’s Most Played Heroes while at Tundra Esports and Team Liquid, Visage and Dark Seer did not stay in the top 5 after 33 moved to Liquid (denoted in red), replaced with Brewmaster and Batrider (denoted in green).

Doom, Beastmaster, and Tidehunter were constants throughout 33’s transition. We continue to see a trend of heroes that are either difficult to shut out of lane or have significant comeback potential. This comeback potential does come at a cost, though, as Team Liquid will have to invest in their farm after the laning stage is over. A poverty-stricken Beastmaster, for example, may as well be another support.

Doom is both difficult to push out and can easily keep up on networth thanks to Devour, Beastmaster has fantastic comeback potential because of his ancient stacking ability, and Tidehunter - one of the most notoriously unkillable offlaners. 

In contrast, Visage and Dark Seer are both heroes that require more maneuvering in the early game.Dark Seer can be hard countered by a purging hero such as Oracle or Enchantress and Visage requires more resources to come online. Brewmaster and Batrider have come into play due to them being strong laners with stack-taking potential.

The changes in 33’s hero pool are indicative of a few different aspects of his transition to Team Liquid. Given the exploitable nature of heroes like Visage and Dark Seer, along with his reduced draft priority, he’s had to shift to less-punishable heroes such as Brewmaster and Batrider. We can view a few more stats through this lens, such as Disable Duration, Neutrals Per Minute, and Lane Performance.

Disable Duration

33’s hero pool changes perfectly highlight his increased emphasis on controlling enemies and decreased emphasis pushing and hero damage. The three heroes that stayed in his top 5 all work to disable the enemy and enable his teammates. Whether it be Tidehunter’s massive area-wide stun from Ravage, Doom’s 16 second silence, or Beastmaster’s 3.75 second Primal Roar (one of the longest stuns in the game).

The addition of Brewmaster and Batrider take this team oriented playstyle even further as they have incredible disables on their ultimates that enable Team Liquid’s high-tempo playstyle. In order to show 33’s shift into a more selfless playstyle, here’s how 33 stacks up against Zai, Liquid’s previous offlaner and his old self at Tundra.

33 is landing an extra 6.5 seconds of stuns every game compared to when he was on Tundra. Sitting through one Primal Roar feels like an eternity, and 33 is landing the equivalent of two Roars in every game! Pro games come down to the thinnest of margins, so an increase in just one second is important. 

The stun duration also matters as a practical example of how 33 is changing his style to suit Team Liquid’s. 33’s increased emphasis on stuns shows that he’s willing to play more of a backseat role at Liquid, happy to set up his carries, Nisha and Micke. 33’s ability to take a backseat in draft shows him growing into a team-first mentality befitting of a captain. 

Clearly 33 has been happy to give up resources in order to accommodate his teammates, but how have his teammates benefited from his sacrifice?

Farm Priority

SAP gave us two data sets to represent farm priority: Share of Net Worth and Neutrals killed per minute. The table below shows how the players compare to each other that gives us the deepest insight into how farm priority changed with 33’s arrival.

Networth Share shows each player’s Networth as a percentage of the team’s total, rather than the traditional gold value.
Average Neutrals Killed Per Minute

33’s Networth Share only decreased slightly when moving to Team Liquid, though it was still notably higher than Zai’s. Our neutrals per minute stat shows that he has brought his farm-heavy offlane style over from Tundra, despite having lower draft priority. Despite the low priority, he still outshines his competition in his ability to farm. 

The largest takeaway from the Networth Share table is that Micke, as position 1, has ceded some of his farm to allow 33 to come online with his itemization. Micke understands that 33’s best heroes need farm to succeed. While he can sacrifice his pick priority, 33 will eventually need someone else to make space for him, or need to change his hero pool more drastically. Thankfully Micke has stepped up, allowing 33 to stay in the game without needing the same draft priority.

Interestingly, we see that Insania’s farm as the position 5 has decreased too, despite him killing more neutrals. This is likely due to a change in kill participation as Team Liquid has had an increase in total Neutrals per Minute with the addition of 33. 

This more farm-heavy playstyle has had it’s ups and downs as Team Liquid secured 2nd place at Betboom Dacha Dubai, but struggled at DreamLeague right after. Our analysis of their playstyle feels incomplete, only looking at draft and farm. The missing piece lies in 33’s Lane Performance. 

Lane Performance

Lastly, SAP helped us calculate lane performance. We averaged the combined gold and experience values of the two heroes in the offlane against the two enemy safelane heroes and we focused on only 33.The results were pretty interesting:

Despite 33 maintaining a similar percentage of his team’s net worth and a similar rate of neutral creeps killed, his lanes have gone worse than they did while he was at Tundra. This looks bad until we remember his reduced draft priority and change in hero pool. 33’s reduced draft priority gives enemy teams chances to counter him resulting in a weaker lane performance. Liquid’s increased focus on neutral camps is a way to offset that difficult laning stage. 33 taking the brunt of the lane pressure also allows their 4 position, Boxi, to leave the lane and relieve pressure in lanes that require help -  enabling Micke and Nisha to farm and to succeed. Then, with his own farm secured, Micke is able to make space for 33 to play comeback Dota in the mid game.

Based on the data, 33’s plan seems to be: “enable my teammates while still playing to my strengths” It’s a best of both worlds approach that will likely serve Liquid better than trying to mold 33 into a completely different playstyle. Still, striking this balance can be exceptionally difficult in any team game, let alone one as complex as Dota. 

Lately we’ve seen volatile results since 33’s addition to the team, with high highs and low lows. Liquid reached a high by placing 3rd and 2nd respectively at ESL Kuala Lumpur and Betboom Dacha Dubai earlier this year. However, they were unceremoniously eliminated from DreamLeague Season 22 just two months later. Continuing the bouncing pattern, they recently rebounded and crushed the notoriously difficult Western European qualifiers for DreamLeague Season 23.

High highs and low lows won’t cut it for this Liquid squad, though. We can expect them to look for something more consistent as The International 2024 creeps ever closer. Maybe that will mean tinkering more with this balance, adjusting priority and hero pool based on matchups and scrims. Maybe that will mean a shift away from this balance entirely. Only time — and tournaments — will tell.

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