The Vainglory competitive scene is getting more intense as we enter the semifinals of the World Invitational. Today, Gankstars and Invincible Armada faced off, representing the best teams in North America and Korea, respectively. As these games are becoming less and less one-sided, the teams that often win are the ones who play just a tiny bit smarter than their opponents.
In today’s matchup, one team rose above the other through effective “counter-building.” Counter-building is a pro strategy that requires you to have constant awareness of the item builds of both teams, then adapting your item build to either optimize your own damage output or to significantly reduce the damage output of your opponents. If you’re not regularly glancing at the scoreboard to see what your opponents are building, you may be missing out on a key opportunity to gain an advantage.
As a support, counter-building is often pretty straightforward: evaluate how your opponents are hurting your team and buy items to counteract it. In many cases, you can even foresee the threats against your team based on what heroes are selected and what they’re building for items.
- Purchase a Crucible to block enemy stuns for your teammates
- Purchase a Fountain of Renewal for keep your team alive during devastating area-of-effect abilities (e.g. Celeste, Skaarf, Joule)
- Purchase an Atlas Pauldron to slow down the attack speed of opponents who are reliant upon basic attacks for damage (e.g. Ringo, Vox, Krul)
Counter-building as a lane or jungle carry can be a bit more tricky though. As a carry, your primary job is damage output, so every bit of gold you spend on defense is less gold you spend on offense. You’ll always be striving to find a balance between survivability and maximizing damage. This can be a difficult task because that “balance” is a moving target and will be different in every game, often making counter-building more of an art than a science. The art of counter-building is usually learned through much trial and error, with emphasis on the “error” part. Here’s just a few simple scenarios:
- If you keep getting killed by the burst damage from an enemy (e.g. Koshka or Taka), you might want to counter that strategy by building some shield items so you can endure the initial burst and stay in the fight.
- If the opponents keep killing you while you’re stunned (e.g. Catherine, Koshka), then you may want to counter that strategy with a Reflex Block.
- If you’re dominating the other team, your best bet might be to avoid building defense completely and continue building offense to maintain your dominance by killing your opponents as quickly as possible.
Once you determine if you need defense, the next part is deciding what you should build. Sometimes buying a Light Armor (against weapon damage) or Light Shield (against crystal damage) may be the extra survivability you need, allowing you to focus most of your wealth on offense. Other times, you may need something more heavy-duty. Between the available tier two and tier three defensive items, you’ve got many different choices to consider, each with their own pros and cons that may or may not fit well in certain scenarios. These sorts of decisions are what often separate the good players from the top players.
To help with your own decision-making, here’s the math for an average level 12 hero with various armor defense items. The math for shield items is very similar.
Counter-building as a carry can get a bit more complicated as it sometimes evolves into counter-counter-building. If your opponents are building armor, you have several choices to attempt to counter-build their counter-building: armor pierce (Piercing Spear and Tension Bow), armor shred (Bonesaw), or you can plan for longer team fights by building a Breaking Point. If your opponents are building shield against your crystal damage, you’ve got a couple of options: shield pierce (Piercing Shard and Broken Myth) or simply brute force (Shatterglass), but often a combination of the two.
Counter-building had a significant effect upon each of the games between Gankstars and Invincible Armada, but we will focus on the first one as example.
Gankstars made themselves vulnerable to counter-building before the game even began by opting for the weapon-heavy damage of both Ringo and Vox. Invincible Armada took advantage of Gankstar’s weapon-heavy itemization by building a lot of armor: an Atlas Pauldron on Adagio, a Metal Jacket on Ringo, and Koshka had both an Atlas Pauldron and a Coat of Plates. With no diversity of damage output from Gankstars – i.e. all weapon damage – Armada’s defensive choices were extremely easy. In particular, I’m betting Armada’s Ringo felt very confident entering team fights with 71% damage reduction against Gankstars offensive lineup.
Invincible Armada, however, was much more difficult to counter-build because their Ringo was focused on weapon damage and their Koshka was focused on crystal damage. If Gankstars was to try counter-building against this, Vox and Ringo would have to make a decision between building armor against Armada’s Ringo or building shield against Koshka. If they tried to build against both damage types, it would consume gold and item slots that could otherwise be spent on offensive power.
Gankstar’s strategy seemed to revolve around simply out-damaging the other team – a strategy that has worked for them in the past – by leveraging “glass cannon” builds with little to no defense. However, as mentioned earlier, it’s important for a team to strike a proper balance between offense and defense. In this case, Ringo went pure offense and Vox went with a lone Reflex Block to protect him, leaving both of them vulnerable to quick deaths. If Armada did not build defense against them, this strategy could possibly work; however, when Armada started building armor and making themselves harder to kill, Gankstars should’ve switched build strategies. They either needed to respond in-kind by building defense of their own or they needed to counter-counter-build by building some armor pierce/shred (e.g. Bonesaw). My inclination is that Gankstars would have had to leverage a combination of both a Bonesaw (to get through defenses) as well as some defense of their own (for survivability) in order to turn that game more in their favor.
Now is the time to put these tactics into action! Get into a game and see what the other team is building, then build to counter them! Remember, DPS only accounts for the seconds you are live! Also, make sure to take note of counter-building as you watch the pros battle it out in the Vainglory World Invitationals. Check out today’s games in the video below:
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