So You Want To Captain
A Short Introduction to Captaining RD2L
Updated: July 5th, 2019
In the interest of making captaining a bit easier for all of those who step up to the role (we appreciate you!), I’ll be sharing some tips I and other captains have picked up in past seasons. These are just tips from personal experience — feel free to ignore things you feel aren’t important, or to implement ideas of your own which aren’t here (though if you want to share those, I’d be glad to add them!). The aim here is to be exhaustive and give people a selection of tips to choose from to further develop their own captaining style, not to establish a step-by-step process (because that would be pretty impossible).
The guide is split up into Preseason Preparation, Drafting, Post Draft Preparation and Tips During the Season.
Don’t want to read everything? Here are the most important things, summed up:
- Review the sheet before the draft and get an idea of who you want to pick;
- Add your players on Steam;
- Create a Discord server and invite your players to it;
- Make sure everyone shows up on time.
Everything else is just a more detailed look into these steps, so if you’re interested, read on.
- Make a copy of the draft sheet or cheat sheet (whichever you prefer) as soon as it’s done, so that you can work on your own personal draft sheet. Keep an eye out for any changes to the draft sheet, like players being removed and other players from below the cutoff being added to the pool.
- Format the sheet to your liking, ordering the columns as you wish. Make the role preference columns thinner, move cheat sheet comments to the left, statements and Dotabuff links to the right, etc. In general, set it up so that your priorities are clearly visible and reviewable at any point.
- Study the draft sheet. Read the statements, examine the badges, look over the Dotabuffs, look at low prio history, check if they have an esports profile and how many ticketed comp games they’ve played. Try to make note of how many players there are for every position, especially which positions are scarce. Are there not too many carries? Not too many offlaners? Scarcity determines value.
- Study the cheat sheet — look for things you might not have known about players, paying special attention to things like activity, ease of scheduling, mental attitudes, gameplay consistency, communication, etc. Of course, you should take the cheat sheet with a grain of salt, as it’s usually filled with memes and not completely serious.
- Get a rough idea of who you’d want to play with — be generous and color code every single player you’d be okay with, keeping in mind to get someone from every skill bracket and every position — and make sure you have backups. It’s especially important to give a solid look to the lower MMR players as well — you want to make sure you have an idea of the lower MMRs you want to pick as well, since you’re not getting a team filled with divines and ancients, and getting someone who plays above their badge, is easy to schedule with and friendly can make a massive difference in the team. You can mark the people you like more with another color.
- Look at season reviews for players you’re interested in — use the season reviews channel to search for the names of players (and if that’s not yielding results, search for mentions of their Discord tags, as many captains ping the players they review!) you’re considering picking and look what their past teammates said about them. If it’s a veteran player, search their name on r/redditdota2league, as that’s where player reviews used to be hosted.
- Create a more detailed player overview — assign each player you looked at before a tier based on how highly you value them and pair each tier with a color. For example, your highest priorities might be green, above average might be blue, decent would be yellow, fallbacks orange, dodges red. How many players you do this for is up to you, but if you manage to go through all of them, you’ll make your job during draft when you need an alternative much easier. Backups are incredibly important to have!
- Pay special attention to drafting and shotcalling preference — especially if you’re a captain who doesn’t plan to draft for the team or you aren’t confident in shotcalling, you should look for people who are comfortable drafting and communicating. Generally, I’ve found that players noted previously for their communication skills are always quite valuable.
- Consider the likelihood of getting each player — think about who might be more valued by other captains, taking into account personal relationships, budgets and MMRs. Adjust your expectations accordingly when planning for ideal and realistic scenarios. Additionally, this might let you inflate the value of someone if a captain really wants them, like Omegasaw did in S15 draft or like I had to overpay for Mikel in S2 Mini. Don’t focus too much on hurting someone else’s draft — more often than not, it’ll have adverse effects on your own draft; this point is more about realizing that if someone picked KTZ, the probability of you getting ElNino is lower.
- Create a rough plan of who you can realistically draft — if you know that the order for the first round of picks is determined by captain MMR, you can figure out which pick you’ll be, and roughly figure out which players you can pick. If you’re likely to be 5th pick, you can take out the 4 highest MMR players from the pool, for example. The more knowledge you have about the community and the players, the more accurate this projection can become. Basically, create a quick and rough mock draft to see who you could theoretically pick. Don’t put too much effort into this, though — chances are your mock draft will be very far away from reality, and I think it’s arguably worthless to examine mock drafts that go past the first pick round.
- Create a pick priority list for each draft phase — compile all of the players you’d like for your first phase, and order them by priority — when your turn comes, this makes it very easy for you to just look at the top name on your list that’s still left in the pool. You can then do this for all the other rounds — just take all of the 2nd picks you’d be okay with, and create a priority list, then do so with 3rd picks, etc. This adds some extra work during the draft, because for this to work well, you’ll have to cross out the players that are picked, but it can be very worth it — and the time you spend updating this list is the time you’d spend scrambling for alternative picks once your pick gets taken anyway.
During the Draft
- Don’t tunnel vision — mostly a note on Auction Drafts; if you see someone getting picked for less than they are worth, it’s usually better to bid on them than to try to save up for a player on your shortlist. Credits to Booty Lizard for this very important point — like he said, if 5 people save up for one player, 4 of them will be left unhappy. Focus on value!
- Go with the flow of the draft — adapt to the situation. Think about it like Poker — you have a limited number of outs, and trying to force a draft plan that isn’t likely to materialize is a surefire way to destroy your draft. If your planned pick gets taken, tough luck — look for the next best alternatives. This is where extensive preplanning does wonders.
- Constantly update and refer to your personalized draft sheet during the draft — look for backups if a player you wanted gets taken and cross out people who get picked so you have a clear overview of who’s left.
- Pay attention to rumors — keep an ear to the Discord and try to see if someone’s mentioned wanting a player a lot to get an idea of who’s going to go for what and who might bid a lot for a specific player. After spending all of season 16 singing Ruskomsnusk’s praises, other captains could’ve been pretty confident that he’d be my second pick. Also, try to check if some people might have history, so that you don’t pick Denden with Linail or, uh, Lokie with Zharp. (Whoops.)
- Keep track of the money — again, only useful for auction drafts, have a tab with the current budgets clearly visible. It’s incredibly helpful to know how many players someone has and how much money they have left, because it lets you make quick decisions on who can contest you for a pick.
Post Draft Prep
You’ve picked your team. Great! Let’s continue.
- Create a Discord server and invite all of your players — add your players right away and you can get started with basic introductions.
- Add everyone on Steam — self-explanatory, albeit somewhat optional, as people can just join lobbies. Still, it’s nice to have another way to message players outside of Discord, and most teammates will play a pub or two.
- Set your Discord server up properly — this is down to personal preference. I like to have a general discussion channel first of all. After that, I like to have a theorycrafting channel where everyone can share their hero pools and draft ideas. A scouting channel is also handy, and you can keep your research for future opponents in that channel. I tend to also have a past results channel, where you can dump post game screenshots of all of your scrims and officials to review who you played, how you did, etc — really useful. I switch these up all the time, and some are more useful than others depending on the team itself. Be creative, add whatever you want.
- Personalize the Discord — overall not that important, but maybe give the team a role with a color that you can ping, add a server logo, etc. Dumb as it may sound, a cozy team Discord is nice to have, since you’ll be using it for quite a while hopefully.
- Create additional tools — if you want to, you can create collaborative Google Docs/Sheet where everyone can edit their hero preferences; consider using an application like Doodle for scheduling with the team, etc.
- Discuss your team setup — unless you’ve picked your team with the role setup in mind, at this point you should communicate about what the role setups are going to be and what you should try for the first while. At this point, you should also discuss who is going to be the drafter and, if applicable, the designated shotcaller. If you don’t want to take care of scheduling, you can talk to your players and check if someone else might be willing to take up that role. This is also a decent time to talk about how and when your 6th is going to play. As a sidenote, if your players don’t agree with the role setup you had in mind, don’t be too stubborn — try alternative setups in scrims and see what works best for the team. Sometimes lining up your roles by pairing high MMR to high farm priority isn’t the way to go.
- Come up with a name and team logo — again, not important, but you’re gonna have to do it eventually, so if you get everyone thinking right after draft you’ll have more time to figure it out.
- Talk to everyone individually — pick everyone’s brain one on one in DMs, get an idea of what their availability is, what their vision for the team is in terms of practice and their role within it. Basic debriefing.
Into The Season
At this point, your actions depend on the team. We’ll start with the important, basic things and transition into tips for extra things you can do for and with your team.
- Make sure everyone can play at the standard time — have your team be ready at the specified time for both officials and scrims and try not to be tardy; every captain values opponents and scrim partners being on time. A cool idea I saw from my captain in another league is to have a separate Discord channel where the time, date, type of match and opponent are listed, and players react to a check mark to confirm that they can attend the match — though this is more of a necessity when you have more than 5/6 players on the team.
- Post multiple reminders leading up to the match — sometimes annoying, but often a necessity. Post announcements for the games, with times, dates and time left until the game. Post reminders with time left until the game. Ping the team. Stress that if someone cannot make it they need to tell you ASAP.
- Look for standins ASAP — as soon as you find out you need one, look at who might be available to stand in and ask around.
- Confirm things with opposing captains and admins — confirm game time with the captains, clear the standins in time with captains and admins.
- Constantly check when your players are available for extra games — be it pubs or scrims, it’s very useful to play additional games other than officials with your team. Always ask them if they might be able to play some day and what time, and if you can get 5 together, look around for scrims with other captains. I made a Discord server for scrims which will be revived once the season gets underway, and the invite is shared to all captains. If you’re not the captain of your team, but organize games in your captains stead, you can ask your captain or an admin for an invite as well.
- Try to discuss games with your team — either right after the games or some time later, get some discussion going and talk about what went right and what went wrong and what can and should be worked on with your team. If they’re committed, you can watch replays together.
- Analyze opponents — scout their picks, warding and drafting patterns etc. This can be a team effort, or you can have someone whose role in the team is to do this, or it can just be something that whoever feels like it does. You don’t have to go too into detail with this, but a cursory review of a team’s Dotabuff should do the trick, allowing you to see what the play a lot, what they ban a lot, where their mid puts the starting ward, and all sorts of other useful information that can make or break your early game.
- Keep the atmosphere in check — if someone is being disruptive or hurting the team atmosphere, talk to them in private and try to figure out what’s happening. Generally, everyone plays RD2L for the same goal, and it’s important to remind each other that we’re all trying to achieve the same thing.
- Be approachable — make it clear that anyone can speak their mind, either personally or publicly in the team, and give you or anyone else feedback.
- Be in the voice channel on time and stay after the game — honestly, no one on the team should just be there for the time the games are played, but especially not the captain. Be there a bit earlier, check on everything, share your gameplan and idea, communicate, remind everyone to stay hydrated (!!!!!) and to go pee. After the game, regardless of result, try to stay there and talk a bit about the game.
- Write a season review — while this is a post season thing, it’s not enough to warrant a separate section. In general, it’s really nice for the captain to give his players a review and a look back at the season. Try to both offer advice to your players and state their qualities and weaknesses clearly for future captains to have on hand if they consider picking your players. Even without that, it’s always nice to get someone’s thoughts as a player, and it’s the same reason we do cheat sheets and season reviews in general. You don’t have to, but it’s a nice gesture. You can also encourage your players to write one, and it’s not something limited to captains. It doesn’t have to be long and stupidly detailed, but a couple sentences are appreciated.
Thanks for reading! If you want to get some more insight into this topic, I would recommend reading Melliflox’s Guide, especially if you’re interested into some detailed thoughts on player drafting. Good luck to the future captains and players, and have lots of fun with your teams!