Counterpicking in Dota 2 is the process of selecting a hero that typically performs well against, or counters the abilities of, an enemy hero. We regularly see the professionals counterpick in their tournament games, but is it something we should all be doing?
So, ready your best heroes and read on as we answer the burning questions; is counterpicking a waste of time?
The Basics of Counterpicking
The basic reason teams or individuals counterpick is to obtain a significant advantage over an enemy player’s hero. This can be to mitigate the impact of a troublesome ability or, in the case of a “hard” counterpick, to counter a hero altogether.
As we’re sure you’re aware, Dota 2 has an excellent matchmaking and ranking system called MMR. The system groups players based on their skill level compared to other players. Typically, the higher up the MMR ladder you climb, the more meta and tactical the game becomes.
If you arrived in the MOBA scene as a complete novice, having not previously played other games like League of Legends, then chances are you were calibrated towards the bottom of the ladder. Here, we often see games where everyone picks a P1 or P2 carry hero and the game comes down to who can farm the fastest.
It’s kinda like those kids’ soccer games. The ones where every player just runs straight towards the ball and kicks at anything and everything nearby. What we’re saying is that there isn’t much strategy or consideration for the metagame. By this, we mean the heroes that are strongest right now and the heroes that are stronger against others.
Counterpicking, then, isn’t really a factor. But what about as you climb the MMR ladder?
The Science of Counterpicking
To understand the thought process behind counterpicking, we’re going to look at a couple of common examples. This will give you an idea of why counterpicking can be relevant. In the next section, we’ll go into how viable those are in your MMR bracket, but for now, let’s just focus on the matchups themselves.
Counterpicking against Enigma
Black Hole is a channeled ability that requires Enigma to remain uninterrupted throughout the duration. Typically, Enigma will build Black King Bar (BKB) to prevent interruptions, but he is incredibly vulnerable to stuns and silences until he has it.
With this in mind, a solid counterpick that is not reliant on positioning would be a Silencer. His ultimate ability, Global Silence, does exactly what it says on the tin – it silences every enemy hero on the map. A vigilant Silencer player can watch for the Black Hole and simply pop Global Silence every time Enigma uses it.
At the maximum level, Black Hole has a cooldown of 160 seconds. Global Silence has a cooldown of 130 seconds. Even with Aghanim’s Scepter the cooldown of Blackhole is 136 seconds. Silencer is a perfect counterpick to Enigma if the enemy’s roster relies heavily on team fight spells. Correct utilization of Global Silence (combined with an aggressive playstyle) can see an Enigma become so ineffective in team fights that farming his BKB proves impossible.
Skillful teams might try to bait out the Global Silence to make it safe to cast Black Hole. On the (Black) whole, however, any hero with a strong silence ability will reduce Enigma’s impact in a team fight.
Counterpicking against Riki
Riki doesn’t see much game time in the competitive Dota scene. The warding and vision game is so strong at the professional level, and Riki is so reliant on invisibility, that picking him for most teams feels like a waste of time.
With that said, Riki is a pub favorite because of this same invisibility. Under-prepared teams will find him an absolute menace if he is left unchecked to roam and gank at will. The same applies to any heroes that rely heavily on invisibility to function well. Heroes like Clinkz, Slark and Nyx Assassin are great examples.
A team looking to counterpick a Riki might opt for a Slardar or Bounty Hunter due to their ultimate abilities, Corrosive Haze and Track respectively. These abilities provide true sight on the selected enemy hero, revealing them whether invisible or not. This will dramatically reduce the effectiveness of heroes reliant on surprise attacks.
This is all well and good, but should you be counterpicking regardless of your skill or ability with the hero in question?
Is Counterpicking a Waste of Time in Your Bracket?
We’ve given you a couple of examples of what counterpicking looks like, but is counterpicking a waste of time in your MMR bracket? As we’ve discussed, unless it compromises their overall game plan, the pros will often employ counterpicking as a strategy.
With that said, you will very rarely see the pros hard-counter a hero pick. You won’t see a pro team rush to pick a Bounty Hunter just because the enemy team has a Slark, for example. At the top level, there are other ways of dealing with troublesome heroes than hard-countering.
Lockdown or silence provided by heroes such as Grimstroke or Lion are often a better method of controlling heroes like Slark or Ember Spirit, and the aforementioned heroes bring much more to the table with their ultimate abilities too.
The other major consideration is your skill level with the hero required to counter. Teams in public games will often (strongly) encourage you to counterpick based on an enemy hero selection – for example, picking Axe when the enemy team picks Dazzle. But if you’re terrible with Axe, will this cause more harm than good?
In short, yes.
As you climb up the MMR ladder your proficiency with certain heroes will improve. You will begin to understand common counters and your knowledge of the metagame will be such that you will be up-to-date with the most commonly picked heroes and their counters.
With that in mind, you may even have taken the time to practice with all the relevant heroes to ensure you are ready to counterpick when the moment arrives.
Or you might not.
You might be happy playing with a core group of a dozen or so heroes you feel totally comfortable with. That’s fine too. Rushing to counterpick an enemy hero regardless of your proficiency will, more often than not, result in you having a bad game against that hero, causing the problem ability or strategy you trying to counter in the first place become even more problematic for your team.
Counterpicking is great when it works. If you are comfortable with the hero in question then you can make life really tough for your opponent. The reverse is true if you are unfamiliar with a hero and its mechanics. You might find yourself giving away kills and lane advantage left, right and center.
The new Assistant Features with the 2019 Battle Pass makes picking viable heroes a lot easier, but you still shouldn’t let it entirely dictate your hero selection.
Our advice would be to play what you enjoy and develop strategies to deal with troublesome heroes without dedicating an entire hero pick specifically to that hero. Cooperate with your team and play to your strengths (and the enemy weaknesses). But then again, what do we know? Most of the time we’re practically giving away MMR.
So, is counterpicking a waste of time? That is entirely up to you.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattyMead2006.
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