Mid or feed
Image credit: Perfect World.
Few parts of the map are as impactful in Dota 2 as the midlane. It’s often the first laning position called, and the majority of players rely on the person in the center to keep their team afloat. This extends to professional play as well, where games can be won or lost by the pressure exerted by a midlane player.
It’s not an easy lane to do well in, either: all the focus of the map naturally pushes towards it. In addition to trading blows with a highly skilled opponent, there’s the matter of controlling runes, avoiding ganks, and somehow still having an impact during the crucial mid-game stage. It’s unsurprising that many of Dota 2’s biggest plays come from midlaners, because if they’re not playing out of their minds then they’re probably losing. Here are eight of the best.
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Danil "Dendi" Ishutin
Photo credit: ESL/Kelly Kline.
- Team: Na’Vi
- Country: Ukraine
- Twitter: @DendiBoss
Praising Dendi is almost tradition at this point, as The International 2011 winner has left a long-lasting positive mark on the scene. His optimism was even a major feature at The International 2015, where one of the highlights was a sweaty Dendi surprising the audience in a Pudge costume. There’s a certain charm to this classic player that keeps fans smiling, but his history and skill make him a key figure in the Dota 2 scene.
Not only is his Pudge play world-class, but Na’vi’s usage of it was directly responsible for a nerf to Pudge’s Meat Hook. During their series versus TongFu at The International 2013, Na’Vi was able to successfully utilize the Pudge Chen hook combo, which would teleport Pudge to base, alongside any unfortunate hook targets. Pudge was considered to be so irrelevant professional play that this well-known interaction wasn’t even considered an exploit—it’d been in the game for years, but it was removed soon after the tournament. It’s not often you can say that one team, and one player, directly influenced a balance patch. OPA DENDI!
Gustav “s4” Magnusson
Photo credit: ESL/Adela Sznajder. This photo is from s4’s stint with Secret, obviously. He’s b[A]ck now.
- Team: Alliance
- Country: Sweden
- Twitter: @s4dota
Where Dendi represents the the early Dota 2 scene, s4 is representative of the growth of professional Dota 2 and the introduction of new great players. Before 2013 he wasn’t widely known, and the teams he played on weren’t making huge strides. Team Empire, The Tough Bananas, and Copenhagen Wolves all had some limited success during his tenure, but failed to garner any major victories. Then he joined No Tidehunter, an unknown pickup group that won Dreamhack 2012 through some incredibly creative strategies.
No Tidehunter continued to be successful and eventually became Alliance. They won the International 2013 having only dropped four games across the entire tournament, including group stages. It was in the nail-biting finals, under extreme pressure, that s4 came into his own. Na’vi had managed to bring the best-of-five grand final to match point, and were beginning to threaten Alliance’s midlane barracks. Alliance were employing their well known “rat Dota” strategy, a tactic that focuses on destroying buildings while avoiding fights. As Na’Vi attempted to rush home to defend, s4 shocked the world with what is now called the “Million Dollar Dream Coil”—a Puck ultimate that cancelled multiple teleport scrolls at once.
Artour “Arteezy” Babaev
Photo credit: ESL/Robert Paul.
- Team: Evil Geniuses
- Country: Canada
- Twitter: @arteezy
Arteezy has played a massive role in the professional Dota 2 scene having been a member of multiple top teams but never quite reaching that first place finish at The International. While he mostly plays as a safe lane core, he occasionally brings a very unique presence to the midlane with a more farm-oriented style of play. This is especially noticeable on heroes like Templar Assassin or Shadow Fiend.
It’s the efficiency he brings from the safelane that really sets him apart from other midlaners. If game isn’t swinging heavily towards his opponents, it’s rare to see him anywhere but first or second in net worth. He almost never misses a chance for gold, and can often win lanes through the sheer last-hitting prowess. It’s not just that he farms however: it’s that he’s constantly balancing aggression and farm while fending off the many ganks that attempt to shut down his GPM. It’s a very different style to most midlaners, and that uniqueness is what makes him great.
The high amount of farm Arteezy acquires lets him play heroes like Alchemist, Shadow Fiend, and Templar Assassin as a bigger mid-game threat than most opponents expect. Beyond the laning phase, he’s still had some pretty great late game moments too.
Aliwi “w33” Omar
Photo credit: ESL/Steffie Wunderl.
- Team: Team Secret
- Country: Romania
- Twitter: @w33haa
w33 came into the Dota scene amidst a fair share of controversy. In a small, low prize league, he actively cheated during one of his matches. This wasn’t subtle sleight of hand, either, but a rather obvious use of the built-in cheat commands in Dota 2. He’d passed it off as a joke, thinking the match was irrelevant, and that he was trying to have some fun. In the end he was barred from the league—but it seems like he really was just goofing around, and hasn’t had any major disciplinary issues since then.
Which is important, because even if w33 is terrible at cheating, he’s still a damn good player. w33’s rise to prominence came from his matchmaking rating, as he was the first player in the world to hit 8000 MMR. When he started to play competitively, he showed himself as a strong midlaner that could easily lane with the standard array of top-tier heroes while keeping a few unique tricks up his sleeve. Well really, it was five tricks: Meepo. A pocket Meepo pick took down Evil Geniuses in their first game at the MLG World Finals 2015. w33’s micro-heavy Meepo play is a sight to behold and unusual among the most prominent midlaners.
Syed “Suma1L” Hassan
Photo credit: ESL/Patrick Strack.
- Team: Evil Geniuses
- Country: Pakistan/USA
- Twitter: @SumaaaaiL
Suma1L is an incredible player with an equally incredible history to match his skill. He was only 15 years old when he joined Evil Geniuses, and only 16 when he won The International 2015. It’s not just his youth that differentiates him from most pro, however, as he was raised in Pakistan: a country that doesn’t share the same eSports infrastructure as better-represented countries. Despite that, he’s been playing Dota since age eight and has now spent half his life playing MOBAs.
Like his teammate Arteezy, he’s ridiculously efficient in his actions. What sets him apart from other midlaners, though, is his game sense and decision making. This was abundantly clear during The International 2015, when Suma1L was able to walk the line between death and success time and time again. Take this play versus Complexity, in which he plays Ember Spirit with a focus on early game team fighting and aggression. Even with Ember Spirit’s awful stats, he was able to stay in charge and dominate.
Lu “Maybe” Yao
Photo credit: BeyondTheSummit.
- Team: LGD
- Country: China
Most of the names on this list come from western Dota teams, but it’s important not to ignore the strong players from non-English speaking regions. LGD is a strong enough team to break any language barrier, and Maybe has done his part to make himself known as a top midlaner.
He’s not lacking style, as this buyback rampage versus Evil Geniuses shows. A quintessential example of Maybe’s intelligent gameplay can be found in their first game versus Cloud9 during The International 2015’s group stages. After an incredibly weak early game and losing a set of barracks, LGD was able to hold off Cloud9 in a 70 minute slog of defensive positioning and superb Ember Spirit play. An early Blink Dagger purchase let him play aggressively, so his team didn’t have to overcommit to initiation, and kept himself highly mobile in fights. While Blink Dagger isn’t unheard of on Ember Spirit, this situational purchase put LGD in a position to claw back a game most other teams would lose.
Maybe isn’t limited to playing well from behind: he’s also fully capable of carrying a game.
Wang “old chicken” Zhiyong
Photo credit: ESL/Steffie Wunderl.
- Team: EHOME
- Country: China
Last year old chicken wasn’t a well-known player, and even today he still doesn’t have large recognition in English speaking countries. That’s because he hadn’t been on a major team before he joined EHOME in September 2015. In his short time on the team he’s helped bring in serious results. EHOME took fourth at the Frankfurt Major, making EHOME the highest ranking Chinese team at the event. They also placed first in two recent Chinese tournaments, and successfully took down Evil Geniuses with three wins and zero losses at the MarsTV Dota 2 League Winter 2015.
When it comes to midlane old chicken excels in team play, especially with the odd drafts that EHOME captain LaNm comes up with. He’s been able to swing teamfights by using Invoker’s EMP as a zoning tool, or helping secure kills by baiting enemies into his team. He’s also willing to give up support in his lane so his team can keep aggression going across the map. It’s not the most domineering use of the midlane seen in 2015, but it sure seems to be working.
Amer "Miracle-" al-Barqawi
Photo credit: ESL/Steffie Wunderl.
- Team: OG
- Country: Jordan/Poland
- Twitter: @Miracle_Dota2
OG—formerly (monkey) Business—were the standout success story of late last year, claiming first place in the first-ever Dota 2 Major after an incredible tear through the lower bracket. At the centre of that performance was a new, highly talented midlaner called Miracle-.
Miracle- began his professional career in January 2015 with the Balkan Bears, but it didn't go anywhere. He returned to pub play, took w33's spot as the world's top-ranked player by MMR, and then joined (monkey) Business in August—and within three months he was a Major champion.
His pubstar origins are apparent in an aggressive playstyle that focusing on scoring solo kills and teamfight victories across the map. There's no better example of this than Miracle-'s commanding performance on Invoker in the first game of the Frankfurt Major grand final against Secret. Think the movie Predator, but with an invisible wizard instead of an alien hunter.