“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Its a little known fact that Sun Tzu other than being a fine general was also an aficionado of MOBAs such as Vainglory and that much of the Art of War was written with MOBAs in mind. In this post I am going to try and distill a bit of his wisdom to try and demystify Drafting as this is new to many Vainglory players.
Clearly Sun Tzu felt that drafting was important which was why he wrote:
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
If you win the draft you have won more than half the battle you have won control of the battle, and if you control the battle you should win it.
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
In Vainglory the picks and bans phase (also known collectively as “the draft”) goes like this: Team A bans a hero Team B bans a hero Team A picks one hero Team B picks two heroes Team A picks two heroes Team B picks one hero
Where the picks are exclusive (once a hero has been picked the other team cannot also pick them)
The aims of your team in the picks and bans phase are basically to secure a superior composition (comp) for your team - it doesn’t have to be the best comp, just a better one than your opponents end up with. Given this there are a number of objectives your ban can be used to achieve. Ideally your ban will achieve more than one of these:
Ban out an OP hero (ie Blackfeather)
Ban out a dominant Comp (Taking out Ardan to prevent the SkyeFeather comps special sauce)
Respect Ban (you know your opponent is CullTheMeek so you ban Glaive)
Ban out a direct counter to your preferred comp
Ban out a type (to try and push the opposition out of comfort zone)
To try and force a particular comp that you can counter with your picks
To try and force the opposition to give you information with their picks (by banning out flexi picks)
“Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
A sensible ban will depend in part on the order of play - if your team is the first banner and picker then you have different priorities to the opposing team. For example - given that Ardan and Cath are generally the dominant supports right now, you may wish to ban away one of them and hope to secure the other with your first pick thus giving your team a decisive advantage. The second banner will in part be reacting, (so for example they may ban away Ardan as well if you ban Cath so that no one has one of the meta supports) but also trying to block what they think the first team might be trying to achieve - such as securing an OP hero or a particular comp.
Once the banning phase is complete it is time for picks. Again your aim here is to secure a dominant comp against the oppositions comp - and you do this primarily by trying to figure out what the opposition is playing, while giving away as little information as possible.
“If I determine the enemy’s disposition of forces while I have no perceptible form, I can concentrate my forces while the enemy is fragmented. The pinnacle of military deployment approaches the formless: if it is formless, then even the deepest spy cannot discern it nor the wise make plans against it.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Hence the first pick by the first team is usually a flexi pick - that is a pick which gives little information to the enemy - this is commonly a support or a hero that can be played in many roles or WP/CP - take Adagio for example - a strong flexi pick that can be played as lane, jungle, roam and CP or WP - picking him literally gives no clue to your opposition what you are up to - perhaps you are running the SAW buff comp? Perhaps he is going to roam - they don’t know which means they are making the first two picks effectively blind. Other strong flexi picks include Vox, Joule and Glaive. Alternatively if there is a very OP hero (1.4 Skaarf for example) then first pick might be used to secure that hero, or the vital hero for the comp you want to run - the risk there though is that you have shown your hand to your emeny and if there is a hard counter then they will pick that up.
“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
One tricky play is to try and go for a finesse - either by letting the opposition have a pick widely considered to be OP but you have a strong counter for (you saw this with Media Pixels leaving Kestrel open for SK Gaming and then running the surprisingly effective combo of Krul and Ardan against her) or by appearing to be running a comp in a particular direction but using your last pick or different positioning to play quite a different comp - ie run Glaive in lane rather than the jungle. This can throw their comp off balance.
“Those skilled at making the enemy move do so by creating a situation to which he must conform; they entice him with something he is certain to take, and with lures of ostensible profit they await him in strength.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The second team is primarily going to be counter picking - they aim with the limited information they have (what was banned and first picked) to secure a solid counter to what has been revealed - while still securing a comp they are happy with. While it would be foolish to ignore the information they have about the enemy plans they also don’t want to be completely controlled by it. In particular if there are priority picks for your comp, especially if they maybe desirable for your opposition, now is the time to secure them.
“Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The final picks for team A will now be finishing their comp and if there is flexibility countering what team B has now revealed. This is the most dangerous point for team A since their entire comp is now known and if it has a hard counter which has been left open team B will probably secure it with their last pick.
There is going to be a lot to keep in mind, and Vainglory players are going to need to get a lot better at figuring out what comps, heroes and builds counter what - its going to be a fun adventure figuring it all out.
Just keep in mind as Sun Tzu says:
"The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War