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On March 30th, Valve released a patch for Dota 2 with a significant change as part of an experiment – the omission of its All Pick mode for ranked matchmaking. In its place, only Captains Mode and Random Draft will be playable while this experiment is underway.

Quite frankly, I have to commend Valve for being daring with removing its All Pick mode from the game, even if it may end up being temporary. At the very least, I think it’s good for games to try different concepts rather than remain complacent with what has been the norm.

All Pick has been in Dota 2 since the very beginning, back when the original Dota was just a map mod for the Warcraft III real-time strategy title. To this day, All Pick remains the most popular mode for players to select. Its namesake is pretty straightforward – it’s a mode where you are allowed to pick any hero, except ones who have been disabled due to bugs or balance problems. All players get to select their characters simultaneously in normal mode. For ranked matchmaking, All Pick is basically the same mode, but the variation is both sides take turns picking one hero at a time (after a brief delay) to determine strategies.


When characters get popular, they tend to show up in just about every game.

Valve deciding it was logical to disable this mode from ranked matches for this time period is very bold. Many Dota 2 players have relied on All Pick to climb up the ranked ladder, mainly because the most common/exploitable strategy is to pick the patch’s overwhelmingly strong hero(es) to dominate games.

From personal experience, it can get old real fast when you see the same overpowered hero show up again and again. Granted, Dota 2 is a game of extremes, and there sure is plenty of room to pick heroes who counter the meta heroes as well. All Pick certainly creates, more often than not, a free-for-all attitude as far as hero picks go. A lot of the games devolve into players just picking whomever they want without any consideration or thought about team synergy or possible tactics.

Regardless, I believe the two available modes while All Pick remains absent are both interesting in their own ways.

1) Captains Mode
Captains Mode is my favorite mode in Dota 2. It is the staple for the game’s competitive scene. It’s a mode that offers the most strategy by far. A captain for each team decides which heroes to ban and pick while using a sophisticated turn order.

Ideally, a competent captain for a team will listen to their teammates, banning and picking accordingly while considering team compositions for both sides. Because the ban and pick phases are divided up, it’s truly a battle of wits trying to see how the captains respond to hero selections.

Valve also decided to alter Captains Mode in another recent patch. The captain would no longer be decided by who clicked on the captain selection button first. I know this well because I memorized the spot where the button was when I played Captains Mode extensively. Now it is simply based on who has the highest rating on your team.

In regards to ranked matches, I believe Captains Mode reflects a double-edged sword concept. On one hand, if the would-be captain is intelligent and considerate enough to listen to (hopefully cooperative) teammates who voice their input about the heroes they would like banned/picked, genuine team camaraderie can occur. Some of my most pleasant games in Dota 2 have stemmed from getting matched up with players who wanted to win as a team, and they were willing to do what was necessary.


So much strategy takes place right at this screen.

Conversely, Captains Mode also has an ugly side. Let’s assume a “bad” captain has control of the reins. Because you have so much power in the captain slot, every ban and pick affects the game ahead drastically. Banning and picking incorrectly, especially to the dismay of your teammates, can be absolutely devastating. I have had plenty of games when I had a lackluster captain draft a horribly balanced team, disregarding what teammates had to say on the matter.

Again, it’s a double-edged sword. Good captains can set up their team for success. Awful captains can pigeonhole their teammates into playing with an in-cohesive mess as far as team compositions go. In addition, I do not like the idea of the captain being selected by who has the highest rating. Some people may have good ratings based on being able to play “selfishly,” but this can have nothing to do with their ability to command from the captain position accordingly.

2) Random Draft
As for Random Draft in Dota 2, it’s basically like All Pick in a lot of ways, but the exception is the hero roster is randomly cut down to 50 characters. The pick order is slightly different as well.


If a hero is a hot commodity, feel obliged to pick them up.

From a strategic standpoint, Random Draft would theoretically test out a player’s versatility. Perhaps you happen to get heroes you know how to play well in the character pool, and maybe you also happen to know which of the given heroes are strong against other available characters. Not only that, every match could be potentially diversified if only 50 characters, albeit chosen randomly by the game, are the only options available.

However, I have never been a big fan of Random Draft. For one thing, I think 50 is too large. Yes, more than half of the roster is cut out, but there is still a large pool to choose from while there’s no guarantee a patch’s problematic heroes will not be automatically removed. If you see a patch’s dominant hero on the board, logic dictates that you must consider grabbing that hero so the other side doesn’t. Otherwise, it ends up being the same thing as someone racing to poach it for themselves in All Pick.

If I had to choose a superior alternative, I would prefer if Captains Draft was used as opposed to Random Draft. In Captains Draft, you pick from a pool of 27 heroes with a dash of Captains Mode thrown in because there is a banning phase as well.

This mode really tests versatility, and the banning phase helps weed out some in-game threats. Valve once used this mode in ranked matchmaking a long time ago, but then removed it. I wish Valve would bring it back in its former glory.

3) Mode Matters
No matter what ends up happening with the All Pick mode for ranked play in Dota 2, I hope Valve figures out a way to alleviate the woes tied to selecting a mode. Everyone wants to move up in rating, but I don’t think a player’s rating should be linked so significantly with a given mode. A person’s rating is not completely accurate as it is, and having people bounce around modes with an attempt to cheese games instead of winning with proper skill just further feeds the inaccuracies.

Not to mention, a major reason why people opted for All Pick versus choosing something else like Captains Mode stemmed from not enough players queuing up for the other modes, causing wait times to be as high as an hour or greater. I really want Valve’s experiment to change the player base’s mind on the matter.

Mode matters, but it shouldn’t be everything.

All Dota 2 images belong to Valve.

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