In the first iteration of the Vainglory ESL Cup Series there was an underlying theme of comebacks. In each game that Team Unknown played on camera, they would have an early-game deficit, and they would overcome that disadvantage and surmount a turnaround. Can the same principles that Team Unknown used in each of their games be used to help players win in solo queue?
Team Unknown had a few tendencies to their play that had an impact at every stage of the game.
Control the jungle shop
By maintaining vision and zone control at the jungle shop, Team Unknown accomplished two things:
- provided information about which jungle camps were available to steal, and
- allowed them to constantly spend all of their money.
In the first round, the decisive team fight occurred when Victorious Secret’s lane Ringo had more than 1500 gold in his inventory. Team gold was relatively even, so by Team Unknown positioning on the enemy-side bush of the jungle shop denied access to Team Victorious Secret and prevented them from having relevant items.
Zone with Koshka
The key element of NwK-MEDIC’s Koshka game play was the utility of his ultimate. Some Koshka’s are clever and hold their ultimate. Others have enough damage or base defense to brawl with carries and remove them from fights. NwK-MEDIC had another element to his strategy where he would allow the enemy carry to run away from a fight, but never into a fight. He repeatedly used his ultimate when his target would be trapped within range of his sustained damage carry, empowering the strength of the 2.2 second stun.
NwK-MEDIC also farmed extremely efficiently as Koshka. He made a point of being the highest level character in each game. His team would fall behind in gold, fall behind in kills, but he made sure to do anything in his power to get level 12 first. He made sure to get every last hit in the jungle, and stole jungle minions from the other side of the jungle as often as possible. His target prioritization was paramount in ensuring team fights went in his favor.
Capitalize on mistakes
The pivotal moment in the semi-finals was when jetpacks of Team R3D 1 started to solo Kraken after he was the lone survivor of a team fight. Team Unknown was down 9 to 17 in kills, and down almost 4000 gold. If the enemy team has a gold lead, kill lead, and has positioning on the map, then the best way for them to give up their advantage would be to try and capture a contested Kraken. Team Unknown capitalized on this mistake by grouping together and layering their area damage where Kraken was being captured and where the the enemy team was standing. By fighting as a team they stalled the Kraken capture and allowed themselves the best possible opportunity for the fight to go in their favor. On top of the damage that Kraken was doing to the team attempting to kill it, Team Unknown were as patient as time would allow. They layered their damage skillfully, and reaped their reward.
There are only two things that make a player good at Vainglory; how well they can tap on a screen and their decision-making ability. Throughout the ESL I was unimpressed with the attentiveness of NknCream. There were multiple situations where he was definitively out of position or “window shopping” which made him an easy kill. However, in the pivotal moment of the ESL semi-finals he positioned his damage and himself in the best ways possible.
Below we can see NknCream positioning his burning Goop to zone the enemy team. However, due to the positioning in the bottleneck of that bush, ADzero had to stand on that burning Goop pile to channel his ultimate when the fight started, resulting in the loss of more than 75% of his life.
Immediately after this expert positioning of his Goop, NknCream lined up an ultimate that tipped the scales in his team’s favor.
Burninating the countryside! NknCream is in a safe spot, has ADzero burning on his Goop, and has every member of Team R3D 1 inside the cone of his ultimate. While ADzero was also casting his ultimate at the same time, NknCream was not tasked with choosing to prioritize one target over another as his positioning enabled him to scorch the whole enemy squad.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Deficits don’t matter when you can see your enemy and they can’t see you. Spend more time thinking about where a well-placed Scout Trap should be and less time about how badly you’ve fallen behind in a game.
In this example, the gold lead has ballooned to over almost double for Team R3D 2. However, before the team fight, NknCream dropped a Scout Trap in the far edge of the lane border bush, in a less-traveled area. This Scout Trap grants vision for REDemption, who capitalizes on that vision to catch lookatme before they can finish teleporting back to base.
One of the biggest advantages that helps teams get ahead is a level discrepancy. Your hero increases in hundreds of gold worth of base stats with each level they go up. If the enemy team is ahead and they are showing no sign of slowing down, do your best to get your carries to level 12 to level the playing field.
Team Unknown gave themselves the best opportunity at success by staying together in a situation where the enemy team split up. Even though a Skaarf ultimate can potentially decimate a team clumped too closely together, Team Unknown leveraged the enemy Skaarf ultimate in their favor. By waiting for Skaarf to ultimate, Team Unknown was able to collapse onto the remaining two members of Team R3D 2 and start a fight. Team R3D 2’s Skaarf was using his ultimate so he was unable to stack Fan the Flames above the initial burn percentage due to his inability to auto attack.
The gold disparity around the 16 minute mark of the game was immense, but Team Unknown still stood with one another to fight. This positioning baited Raph29 into using his ultimate from the left flank. Rather than flee like mice, Team Unknown fought as a team. REDemption kited back towards Skaarf, avoiding the Dragon’s Breath damage, while still able to DPS. NwK-MEDIC jumped onto Ringo, avoiding the Skaarf damage entirely by leaving the range of it. NknCream remained in Raph29’s view to bait the focus onto the support. When the flames settled, Team Unknown was too far ahead in the team fight to lose. If Raph29 would have been with the rest of his team, then Team Unknown wouldn’t have been able to pick on isolated targets.
Overall, watching the best teams make comebacks and learning from them can be a great method to improving your own ability to adjust in a deficit.