We are continuing our series on Analyzing Game State, arriving at the midgame, probably the most important period of the game. This is when your team composition usually has the means to start executing the plan for the game and this is when the vast majority of games are decided. So what do you keep an eye on and what sort of thing should you think about during the midgame?
Many years ago we made a post about Power Levels and while the details in this post might be outdated, the general principles behind it certainly are not. During the midgame, you should always have a general idea of the threat certain enemy heroes represent and act accordingly.
The first thing to always think of is “can our team realistically break even in a fight?”. Dota is a strategy game first and foremost, and no matter how ahead the enemy is in general or at a specific timing, there are options.
The enemy team is five-man pushing your Tier Two? If you understand you can’t fight them — Do Not. You can split-push to get extra resources: a solo split-pusher will usually start closing the XP and gold gap against a winning team because they are grouped up and share the resources from a lane. You can try to cut waves or farm up in the jungle if you are afraid of enemy retaliation. There are almost always better options than going for a suicidal teamfight.
This is a very dynamic system, with a lot of adjustments. Big enemy cooldowns are another important aspect. Fighting into a Tidehunter with and without Ravage are two completely different things. Even if you are losing economically, there are usually going to be openings where an enemy with a higher theoretical power level is weaker than you.
In short: keep an eye on enemy levels and items to understand whether it is a good idea to fight at the time, and keep an eye on enemy cooldowns to understand when the enemy is not at full capacity and can be engaged into.
As someone who cast both Tier 1 and very, very Tier 2 Dota, I was surprised to find the job being easier in the former case. Better teams plan their engagements better and because of this, their fights are usually cleaner, more concentrated in a single location, and as such, much easier to understand.
The biggest reason for this is that their attacks and defenses are typically pre-planned. No one is winging it: they know exactly what kind of threat each enemy hero represents and have a list of priorities for every fight, instead of just attacking and bursting the closest target.
You need to learn to do the same, at least to a certain extent, since no one expects players to be infallible in pubs. Thinking of different kills you can make, and what that leads to in a teamfight is the easiest approach.
The enemy is relying on a Terrorblade for the majority of their damage? Plan on how you are dealing with the hero beforehand. They also have an Oracle? Incorporate the hero in your thought process, knowing that you will have to either zone them out or kill them, before actually committing to Terrorblade. Enemy offlaner also has a Force Staff? Make a mental check of it, so it doesn’t come as a surprise.
Pulling on every thread of this incredibly messy yarn will create questions you will need to find an answer to and think about before the actual engagement starts. Do share that with your teammates as well: while making a full pre-battle speech is probably going to be counter-productive, a gentle push for your mobile hero to concentrate on enemy save-heroes at the back, while your frontliner is keeping the enemy front line engaged and you supports are keeping their distance can make a huge difference.
Midgame is the most important timing in the game, at least in the current patch. It is when teams already have their full arsenal of abilities and their smart utilization can make or break the game. It is also the time where most cores realistically have means of getting their next item and this arms race is what constantly flips the balance of power on the battlefield.
Understand what each enemy hero represents for your lineup. Figure out what you need to purchase to gain an advantage and what the enemy team might want to buy and act accordingly. As long as neither side is outright dominating after too successful of a laning stage, the team that can dictate the flow of the game is going to switch back and forth.
Know when to strike and when to bide your time, and you will see your win rate and, more importantly, your enjoyment of the game increase.