Team Secret might not have won StarLadder Season 3, but the team—ok, mostly just Artour “Arteezy” Babaev—gave us one of the coolest plays in recent memory: an all-magic damage demolition of Dmity “Ditya Ra” Minenkov’s normally-quite-evasive Ember Spirit. It’s a masterful moment of observation, calculation, and prediction on the part of Mr. Babaev, displaying a nearly-supernatural awareness of the interplay between his hero’s offensive tools in relation to the defensive capabilities of his target.
Let’s break it apart. First, check it out in all its glory here.
For context: we’re about 25 minutes into game three of the grand finals between Team Secret and Na`Vi. At this particular moment, Team Secret is far ahead in both gold and experience (the net worth of Arteezy’s Mirana, about 14,000, is nearly double that of Dendi’s Magnus). Secret also has superior information and map control: Na`Vi has lost all their outer towers, and Team Secret’s aggressive wards—one between where Na`Vi’s mid and top tier two towers used to be, and the other at the right-most entrance to Na`Vi’s jungle—give them more-or-less complete knowledge of Na`Vi’s positioning, either through direct observation or process of elimination.
Na`Vi’s shitty situation forces them to be aggressive, but against Team Secret’s comprehensive map vision, their only real option is team-gank-via-Smoke of Deceit. Unfortunately for them, it’s an obvious move and Team Secret anticipate it perfectly. Arteezy casts Moonlight Shadow, veiling himself and his allies, thereby forcing Na`Vi to either disengage or take a fight at a serious (and probably fatal) information deficit. As a consequence of Na`Vi’s failed gambit, Arteezy knows that Ditya Ra’s Ember Spirit—presently farming a wave of creeps near the river in the mid lane—is alone. With 10 seconds of invisibility from Moonlight Shadow left, he sets his trap.
Arteezy has vision of Ember Spirit from his creeps, and can see that the hero’s Flame Guard, which blocks magic damage, has just expired. Because Arteezy knows the timings of Flame Guard—20 second duration on a 35 second cooldown—he knows that there’s a 15 second window where the Ember won’t have one of his primary defensive tools. Arteezy can also see that Ember starts walking back to the Radiant-side (probably to farm the ancients), rather than jumping to his Fire Remnant—a greedy, fatal error on the part of Ditya Ra. In short, Arteezy knows exactly where the Ember Spirit will be in a few seconds time.
Now, this is where the real genius of the play happens. Moonlight Shadow allows Arteezy to slip himself behind the line of trees to the left of the Ember Spirit. Arteezy’s perfect positioning serves three purposes.
1. Casting Sacred Arrow—a skill shot that will stun the Ember Spirit and set Arteezy up for the kill—will break Arteezy’s invisibility, potentially giving the Ember Spirit a half-second or so in which he can instantly activate his Fire Remnant and escape. By hiding behind the trees, Arteezy ensures that he won’t be seen when he initiates his combo, minimizing the chance that Ember Spirit can flee.
2. The stun duration of Sacred Arrow scales linearly based on the distance it travels, so Arteezy can’t simply walk up to the Ember Spirit and thwock him with Sacred Arrow, as that would result in a very short stun. Why does that matter? Arteezy knows that most of the magic damage needed to kill the Ember Spirit will come from Starfall, which has two instances of damage spread one second apart, with an additional .57 seconds of projectile travel time. So, to ensure that he gets two instances of Starfall to hit, he needs a stun of at least 1.57 seconds, which necessitates casting Sacred Arrow from at least 600 units away from Ember Spirit. In addition to concealing his hero from view, hiding behind the trees gives Arteezy the distance he needs to set up the kill.
3. It’s true that Arteezy could have also started the gank from the grove of trees to the lower-right of Ember Spirit (not shown in the above image), but by positioning himself to the left of Ditya Ra, he’s pulling a dirty psychological trick. Ditya Ra, if he’s expecting a gank (and he probably should be, given that no one from Team Secret is visible to Na`Vi, is expecting it to come from the Radiant Jungle (to his lower right), as that’s where Na`Vi has the least amount of map control. But Arteezy wraps around and initiates his combo from the opposite (left) side of the lane, which Ditya Ra has every reason to think is his safer side. It’s a subtle tactic by Arteezy, but given that it takes only a single keystroke and an instant spell for Ditya Ra to escape, Arteezy will take every possible advantage he can get.
Ditya Ra is more-or-less dead as soon as he decides to walk back to his side of the river instead of jumping to the Fire Remnant near the remains of his tier two mid tower. Even though Arteezy’s positioning blocks his view of the Ember Spirit, he can extrapolate exactly where he is in the fog of war. Just how confident is Arteezy that he’s going to hit the Sacred Arrow? He uses Leap (thereby expending his primary escape mechanism) even before the Sacred Arrow hits.
Once the Ember Spirit is stunned, the rest of the gank is straightforward. Sacred Arrow deals a modest amount of damage to the Ember Spirit, but Arteezy follows it up with an Ether Blast from his recently acquired Ethereal Blade, which does 355 magic damage (Damage=2X + 75, where X equals Mirana’s agility attribute, 140 in this case) and reduces Ember Spirit’s magic resistance by 40 percent. Arteezy then casts Starfall, and because there are no hostile creeps around the Ember Spirit, he can be sure that both instances of Starfall will strike Ditya Ra, dealing a large amount of magic damage (345 and 259 for the first and second instance, respectively). The second instance of Starfall kills the Ember Spirit, but even if it hadn’t, another pair of Starfall strikes from Arteezy’s Aghanim’s Scepter would have finished the job.
All things considered, it’s an incredible play from Arteezy that shows just how fucking good this dude is. Team Secret went on to lose the game (no, seriously, they did), but as far as I’m concerned, Arteezy’s kill on Ditya Ra is probably the most memorable play of the entire StarLadder LAN.
Header image courtesy Evil Geniuses.