Courier Kills at The International 2017
We’re only 2 days into the main event at TI7 and already we’ve seen players kill 129 couriers — considerably more than during the entire Kiev Major (74).
Why do we see so many early-game courier kill attempts?
Courier kills can have a huge impact on a DotA 2 match. Throughout the game a courier kill not only nets the killer 175 gold, but everyone on their team 175 gold as well.
Early-game 175 gold is huge. That’s more gold than a full creep wave! (Average starting side-lane creep wave is 153 gold, although mid is 189). For cash-strapped supports this is especially significant. It can allow supports to purchase boots up to 1 minute and 55 seconds earlier (the time it takes to earn 175 passive gold). With earlier boots or other useful items, these support players, who dictate the pace of the early game, can be far more impactful.
It’s no surprise that nowadays we see almost every TI7 match with a roaming support attempt to snipe mid-lane courier early in the game.
In the distant past, mid-laners would often neglect the courier until their bottle purchase, usually ~2 minutes into the game. This rough timing would make courier sniping high risk, high reward. If you arrived at the wrong time, you could waste time that could be spent pulling or zoning the offlaner, for nothing.
Nowadays we almost always see each mid purchasing a salve from their bounty rune gold. If one mid buys a salve and the other does not, trading hits results in a situation where the salve-less mid has no choice but to avoid the creep wave or die, while the mid who bought salve is back to full health and can play super aggressively. This necessity of mids buying an early salve has been compounded by the patch making shrines inactive until 5 minutes.
With the courier carrying this salve, it present a precise and predictable timing to be able to snipe it between tier 1 and tier 2 towers. A support can now go for the salve-snipe, knowing if they miss it they have only wasted seconds of their laning stage, rather than minutes.
To counteract these attempts we have seen mids leading the courier on odds paths through the jungle to mid, expecting a snipe attempt. However the sniper still has a roughly 50/50 chance to guess the correct route.
The 4th creep being added to the mid-lane, leading to more potential gold from lane-creeps than the safelane, has led to TI7 meta heavily favoring dual lanes in mid. The position 4 roaming support typically helps their mid secure early last hits, which helps them gain levels, making their roaming far more effective. When you plan to stay mid as support, the trip back to lane after failing an early courier snipe is less than 15 seconds.
For these reasons, early game courier snipes are now a low risk, high reward play, rendering them a highly effective early-game strategy.
Once bitten, twice shy: We should see less early-game courier snipes as the tournament draws on. Mid-players should have learned from their earlier mistakes at TI7. Expect to frequently witness couriers waiting at tier 3 towers until both enemy supports show themselves, from here on out.
Later-game courier snipes
Once the courier is flying, it obviously becomes much harder to kill.
The courier will almost always be between a team and their fountain, so late-game courier sniping forces the player to put themselves in an area of the map where the enemy is very likely to find and kill them.
For this reason, late-game courier snipes tend to be limited to heroes with an invisibility mechanism, allowing them to move into the space between the enemy team and their fountain, hopefully undetected. An exception to this is Nature’s Prophet, who can teleport in front of the courier’s path with the help of well-placed wards.
We discussed how important 175 gold can be early in the game.
Once heroes have become farmed, 175 gold is less likely to be impactful. Courier sniping remains highly effective, however, because the advantage gained from delaying item retrieval increases massively later in the game.
Core heroes are often less dependent upon their fountain for healing later in the game because of high regeneration and/or lifesteal. Furthermore, we have seen many cores who used to run into mana issues, using their backpack to carry clarities, that they can pick up with each item purchase they make. Juggernaut, a hero who has 3 spells with significant mana costs, can benefit significantly from this. This combined with creeps no longer removing clarities, means cores no longer have to return to base for mana as often. With the courier unavailable, this new strategy for staying out on the map to maximise farm efficiency is impossible.
If the courier is caught with a high networth item, the resulting delay can be the difference between a fight being won or lost. When behind, a courier snipe like this can completely swing the momentum of the game.
The threat of late-game courier snipping can be crippling, by forcing cores to decide between leaving their newly purchased 4k networth item in base, slowing their farm-rate and fighting ability, or returning to base to collect it, while missing other opportunities.
During TI7, when you see a roaming support like IG.BoBoKa pick up an invisibility hero — for whom courier sniping late-game is relatively low risk — it can be a great learning experience to watch their player perspective. When not going for kills, he is consistently on the other teams side of the map, tracking the vectors between key core players and the fountain, just waiting for the courier to inevitably attempt to deliver their next item.
Courier Kill Stats at TI7
For early-game courier snipes, all ranged supports and melee supports with boots can accomplish this task, with similar risk. Therefore we see lots of different supports having 1 or 2 courier kills. 52 unique heroes have scored a courier kill so far at TI7. To make it above 4 and onto our graphs, the hero needs the ability to also pick off couriers in the late game. The exceptions to this are Night Stalker, Sand King and Shadow Shaman, due to being 3 of the highest picked support heroes at TI7.
Thanks for reading. I hope we gave you an insight into why courier snipes are so prevalent at TI7, as well as the players and heroes to watch for attempting these strategic shenanigans.