Team Madsen’s Content Slaves — Season Review

RD2L EU Mini Season 8

Roster: Acid (1), SMMN (2), Frasse (3), Muffinsan (4), Madsen © (5)

If this team logo created by Muffin gets my Medium flagged he’s paying for all my coffee

Mini is apparently my domain. One win, two 2nd place finishes and a top 4 in the past 4 seasons culminate here in another win in season 8. While I’d like to think that I’m a good player and get these consistently high finishes in the most competitive event RD2L has to offer for a reason, I’m well aware that I’m very much on the lower end of positive impact players and have been largely lucky to get on a number of very strong teams.

Lest someone assumes I’ve grown as a person and have gained a modicum of modesty in RD2L, don’t worry — I’m writing this review with the assumption of having already won the event a week ahead of the finals. I mean, can you blame me? I’m waiting on Dan and Steg to duke it out and figure out who’s slightly less garbage before we stomp either of them for the second time this season. (Editor’s note: it was Dan!)

It’s funny, I’d already started work on a season review for this team after the first play day — I had this cutesy idea of archiving everything that happens throughout the season over time and having the review be this kind of stream of consciousness thing written over the course of a month, week by week. Turns out my writing burnout extended far past just RD2L content, so that fell through. Past me is disappointed.

It’d be hard to start with anything other than the draft and the prep leading up to it. I didn’t come into it too confident, since the pool of top tier mid players was sparse and the coin distribution was up in the air for a long time. My ideal outcome for the draft was to get Kk, Frasse, Muffin and Harry; this was, in hindsight, more ambitious than I’d realized at the time, since this roster would’ve cost me some 200 coins. I would’ve likely despaired more over all of this had Acid not been re-added to the draft pool, since the only options for mid I was really keen on were Kk and Acid — you can imagine then how happy I was to get Acid for only 40 coins after Kk went for 75ish. There was a brief moment where I considered dropping upwards of 55 coins on Dekait to then have a core duo of Acid-Dekait, a scenario which would’ve likely seen me play offlane. I’m still a bit curious as to what that would’ve looked like, but can’t get myself to say I regret not going for it since, I mean, pink name and whatnot.

When Frasse came up I initially planned to go up to maybe 45 coins max, but I had a good feeling about him and got the pick I previously thought I would’ve had to splash 80% of my budget on already, so also knowing I’d get Muffin for free gave me the confidence to push up to a now well justified 62 for Frasse. The only issue there was that I’d by default be giving up on Harry, but I wasn’t sure whether he’d be attainable since I knew he was going to be contested.

From there it was a matter of just getting the best value pick with 11 of the 12 coins I had left. I’d bid 10 on any half decent player — best case I get them, worst case I start the bidding for everyone else at 10 rather than at 1, inflate the costs and get a better shot at someone else later on. It was the latter that I expected to happen when I bid 10 on SMMN; in fact, I just put down the bid and went back to looking at my options. Safe to say I was pretty stoked when I realized I actually got him for chump change — for context, the other players I’d done this 10 coin bid for were Zasa, Schuffi and Takeshi. Instead I got a 6k player who could play the 5 role I was missing for 10 coins — pretty fucking epic.

There’s a fair bit to talk about in terms of finalizing our eventual role setup; I came out of this draft with the idea of playing carry, with Acid mid, Frasse offlane, Muffin 4 and SMMN 5, but to cut a long-ish story short, Acid expressed a preference for playing carry rather than mid, and the fact that Acid-SMMN would undoubtedly be a better core duo than Madsen-Acid kept gnawing at me, so after our second scrim — the one in which we tried a role setup that saw me playing 5, we stuck with it. I talked in the runup to mini about the idea of playing 5 in some eventual mini, which helped me convince myself that this would be worth doing, even if I didn’t expect it this soon, and the reasons for why I wanted to do that didn’t align exactly with why I’d do it sooner than expected.

This interlude is already fairly lengthy, so I’ll get to the player reviews in a bit. I don’t have that much to say about the team as a whole; I think it was largely just a matter of being (for the most part) individually better than our competition, and I think we generally tended to deal with issues fairly well and adjusted to style quirks. The atmosphere was one I’d describe as pretty tryhard, with all the good and bad that comes with this. We’d had our fun, we’d had our demotivating silences, we’d had the occasional conflict, but I think there was a good enough balance of personalities that allowed us to always pivot back to being calm and focused, something that I’d particularly credit Frasse for.

Anyway, onto player reviews. I’ll try to talk about gameplay and personality and everything that comes with each somewhat separately, and will also preface this whole section by saying that all of my teammates are really good Dota players, so I don’t have to repeat that every time.

1 | Acid

It’s worth mentioning at the start here that there’s a bit of an asterisk next to Acid and SMMN’s roles, since they’d swap fairly often based on hero preference or based on what it was we wanted to execute in a given game.

Acid’s well and truly a great core and I think that’s really hard to dispute. He’s got a sizeable hero pool for both mid and carry — he does have a preference for being the farm intensive win condition core, which played into him asking to play carry, and while he does fulfill this role well, I think his main season experience played into that preference: despite his preference for playing one way, I think he’s very capable of contributing to the tempo of a game from a slightly lower farm priority — which definitely showed in a fair few of our matches, and I think he’d benefit from having a bit more of an open mind in that regard at least in the mini format where the level of competition is higher.

Mechanically I’d say most of the room for improvement for Acid lies in the laning phase where I think he sometimes struggles with the back and forth of the lanes, which could result in bad trades and being left in a situation where the enemy lane gets more out of their regen than his lane does. Obviously he had the massive disadvantage of not having an actual 5 player to lane with, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that a lot of these maybe unforced errors come from that. Past that, I think my main criticism (since I’m trying specifically to be constructive and useful here, rather than just jerking people off ad infinitum) about Acid’s play is a lack of important communication. Acid’s a man of few words for the most part, and when he does speak he’s generally conveying something that needs to be said, but I think he sometimes has issues communicating where he’s at in the game in terms of farm and what he wants to do specifically in relation to his own hero. To his credit, when he was told this specifically it became less and less of an issue every subsequent game, but it’s something that I think requires more than a couple games a week to really work on. He presses his buttons well, has the capacity to pull out really big individual plays (especially when he does end up being the tempo setter) and generally understands the game very well (which is a large part of the reason why I was so set on picking him), and unless he’s truly gone off the deep end tilt-wise doesn’t tend to make game losing plays, which is something that you’ll always appreciate from your cores.

Personality wise, I think Acid’s reputation is justified in some ways and is completely untrue in others. He doesn’t shy away from conflict and will never be the one to back down from it. That said, I never got the impression that he’s trying to tug at someone’s nerves when criticizing them, mostly because his suggestions are (for the most part) clear and concise and never confrontational (unless the suggestion is a result of, or plays into, tilt), but he does have a bit of a short fuse. Pair that with a tendency to focus, in communication, more on mistakes and how to fix them than on partaking in the hype or praising anyone and I think it’s easier to see where that reputation comes from. All in all, for a team trying to win and improve, Acid makes for a great cog in the machine, given that there are other voices in the team who are more oriented to keeping spirits high.

[Editing to add, post win: Acid sold his BKB.]

2 | SMMN

I’m still flabbergasted at getting this dude for 10 coins. He can do it all: he can (and will be happy to) play any role — and will do so to at least a decent level, though I’d say his home’s mid for a reason, he can draft, and despite being pretty quiet, he can function as a team’s primary shotcaller. SMMN at his best is completely drowning the enemy team or racking up 25+ kills; SMMN at his worst is still much better than many of his peers in terms of MMR and, uh, coin count. He did a lot in this team, more than I could likely fit into this review without it getting absurdly long, so I’ll stick to the main points.

SMMN is a surprisingly good laner; I’ve been caught off guard by him getting some random solo kill mid in a match up he’s not supposed to, laning with him is pretty easy and intuitive and if and when you do make mistakes he’ll help you out. None of this is really super surprising since he’s just a very strong player mechanically (I mean, Starcraft pro and whatnot, right?), but I think I sort of needed him to be average and always appreciated him being, well, above average. The one part of his game that that doesn’t really apply to is his notoriously small hero pool; when he’s mid, we’re usually hoping we can grab one of DP or Lina, because — while he does play like 6–7 more heroes pretty well — those are heroes he really steps up on. I think that was mainly noticeable because being so extremely comfortable on heroes like that allowed him to be really active on the map and set the rapid tempo we played around so much in the latter half of the season. He didn’t at all mind picking his heroes early, which worked out well in terms of securing those 2 very often, which helped mask that issue, but as the season developed we started putting SMMN safelane more often to avoid getting cornered in the drafts. Speaking of the drafts, SMMN handled those for the team; I’m still not sure I’m sold on the quiet approach to drafting he preferred (moreso at the start of the season), but past a couple rough drafts, I think he did a really good job, especially in terms of taking in our suggestions and thoughts on our draft style in general, but also in just crafting well put together drafts as he began to understood what our team did well. He’s owed a lot more credit in that respect than I think we really gave him, since he made it look really effortless and enabled us to play the way we wanted to. His role as the primary shotcaller was executed in a fairly similar way; few words, but firm and concise — really just a reflection of what he’s like in general — centered around uptempo play and sustaining pressure.

Much like Acid, SMMN is very quiet, and were it not for his dedicated role as both drafter and shotcaller, he’d have been a man of even fewer words than he was throughout the season. SMMN also isn’t one to really step down when challenged or confronted, though he isn’t one to instigate either, and when he does engage people, he’s always fairly laid back in his arguments. I think you can gather by now that basically all the ‘conflict’ that sparked up in our team was between Acid and SMMN, but this laid back nature generally meant that things didn’t escalate, and looking back, I think in moments where Frasse, Muffin and myself might’ve been a bit worried, the situation was never that serious, and was moreso just us (or, well, me at least) reading a bit too much into their demeanor.

Funnily enough, this was something that worried me quite a bit early on, and when we lost our first G1, I was stressed about how we’d deal with the rest of the series, but both of them would cool down and reset very easily (at least from what the rest could see) and just get back to business. We’d end up in that situation of losing the first game then handily sweeping the next 2 a couple times, but I was never really worried after that first time.

Overall, personality wise, SMMN is very relaxed, to the point where I thought occasionally he wasn’t very invested or was upset, but I think that’s just who he is. We got a couple laughs out of him, so, uh, good enough. Highly valuable asset to any team, but I guess as with Acid, you can’t go wrong with having a couple loud cheerleaders with him as well.

3 | Frasse

Going into the draft, I had a couple people I really wanted to play with, but none quite as much as Frasse — which is pretty funny, considering he’s also the only one I’d never really played with or against. I’d attribute this to a combination of his amazing profile pic and being a Mofarah associate, and my god I don’t recall the last time I had a read quite as accurate. Suffice it to say, Frasse’s now definitely part of the group of people I’d always always be willing to play on a team with.

It’s hard to start anywhere other than his hero pool; with a couple of miniscule exceptions, Frasse can play just about any traditional offlaner — and will (sometimes begrudgingly) play whatever you give him and proceed to do well, but he always presents the threat of whipping out the terrifying Timbersaw or Void Spirit. When I think about this team and our season, there are two plays burned into my mind, both from the same game (G3 against Haraway in UB R1) — one is Acid’s Void Spirit getting an insane Remnant catch on Schuffi’s AM, and the second is Frasse on Slardar turning a 1v2 against an AM and Storm with a 20 charge wand and killing both alone. This I think highlights that Frasse, just like pretty much everyone on this team (with the exception of yours truly) has the potential to make wild plays, which is something he fulfilled many times. Excluding a couple of games we don’t talk about, Frasse was the absolute bane of RD2L safelaners. We did admittedly set him up for success quite often, but I think that was well warranted, considering what he was able to do, and we did so for a reason.

My one criticism of Frasse would be that he can definitely get a wee bit overzealous, which sometimes lead to questionable deaths or dives, but I’d say this is the flip side of the same coin that lets him make absurd plays when it works out — and it works out more often than not.

I think you can guess by now that Frasse is a super friendly and cheerful person, which by default makes him great to have around, but what sets him apart in that regard from the average PMA player is that he has a massive impact on the atmosphere and team morale when the going gets rough. While I was usually the cheerleader slamming desks and yelling down the mic when shit’s going well, Frasse was the one to pick up the slack when it’s not — he’s the one to remind us to stay level headed, to reset and communicate and play the game, and I think that was extremely valuable and is something I attribute some of our success to. Absolutely lovely person.

4 | Muffinsan

I knew for a long time I wanted Muffin on this team. He plays far, far above the flat 5k or whatever he’s listed at, and I think just about everyone who had the displeasure of playing against him this mini can attest to this. Turns out, when all of the Dota you play is in unranked stacks with and against immortals — and you win a bunch — you might be a pretty decent player.

I can’t exactly remember who said it, but one of our opponents this mini expressed more than just a bit of frustration at playing against Muffin. Always in the right place, always ready. Making plays against our team was pretty fucking hard, and a lot of that is because of Muffin and his immaculate rotations and positioning. He’s one of the few 4s who make me think ‘Alright, early rotations might actually be pretty decent!’; he’ll own lane with Frasse, slay the enemy mid laner and turn a gank on our safelane all in the span of 5 minutes. Muffin’s just got a really good intuitive understanding of the map, something that I could notice from my role as well, past just the things happening across the map. I don’t understand how, but just about every time I’m looking to make a smoke play, Muffin’s right next to me, ready to go. As with the rest, he’s a big playmaker, and some of our games were definitely won off the back of Muffin doing insane shit on Clock or Earth Spirit. He’s also got an obnoxious hero pool, which netted us many bans, which in turn made drafting a lot easier.

That said, I think Muffin might be a bit too keen on making plays; on most heroes he’s not very likely to take an open lane and farm it, which wasn’t too big a deal since we had pretty farmy core players, but it’s something I could see stiffling him in other teams.

He’s also a meme lord, which meant free team name and logo, and in general was a great personality to have on the team; I think the PMA player comes in many shapes and sizes, and between Frasse, Muffin and myself we covered a good few. The team as a whole I think had a pretty good spread of personalities that allowed it to work out, and this team might’ve been very very different if any single piece was different.

5 | Madsen

Uh oh 5sen alert. I’ll be honest, I did very little this season; my warding was, uh, what you’d expect from a non support player, my lane dynamics were poor (consistent with my carry gameplay) and I fed a fuckload. The most positive thing I can say about my performance is that about 75% of the time I wasn’t having an actively negative impact on our games, though that figure is debatable. I fulfilled the classic dogshit 5 player role, being allowed to play only WD and Ogre (with the exception of that one Venge game where I did very little, and potentially one of the finals games — remember, I’m writing this before they’re played — but I don’t have high hopes). I’ll be honest in saying that I didn’t really enjoy playing 5; I enjoyed this team, but I didn’t really enjoy my role, and I think it impacted my willingness to play Dota in general, so I didn’t really practice as much as I would’ve otherwise, which I’m slightly disappointed in myself about. I didn’t really try to improve much, and any progress made was, uh, purely coincidental, though I did watch more replays than I usually do, mostly in a futile effort to learn another hero.

In a desperate attempt to have any sort of impact as a member on this team, most of my contributions came in the form of doing slightly higher effort scouting than usual (which I’m not sure had a massive impact) and being a loud obnoxious cheerleader (also probably not very impactful — at best I’d get a couple laughs). Within the actual game I tried to adopt a highly sacrificial playstyle, which I do think fit decently well into this specific team all things considered, even if I didn’t necessarily play that style well.

Lest this all be self-deprecating, I think I did a very slightly better job than I would’ve expected to, and I think my overall impact as the 5 was probably (at best) at about the same level as the worst natural 5 players in the div, so I wasn’t a massive grief. I wouldn’t be opposed to playing 5 again in RD2L, given I have a reason to as I did with this team, but it’s not really something I can say I enjoyed, gameplay wise, though I’m happy to have had the experience.

Thanks for the great season everyone — it was lovely to get to play with a lot of new people in a super interesting division.

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