Cloud9 and Tempo Storm met twice in the recent Americas Championship for The Road to Blizzcon, once during the group stage on Day 1 and second in the Finals on Day 2. Though the finals did go all the way to game 5, the Championship on Day 1 was remarkably one-sided in favor of Tempo Storm. Rarely is the MVP of a game the member of a losing team, but C9Fan’s Abathur play changed that in their Day 1 series. Tasteless turned to Artosis and surprised his fellow commentators when he announced, “I gotta say, though, I think the real MVP of that game back there was Abathur.” And he was right. Though team morale was low, Fan kicked it into overdrive and played perhaps the cleanest Abathur games of all time. Cloud9 may have lost both maps but Fan showed outstanding play on Abathur, keeping the team even on levels even when behind on objectives and finding ways to impede Tempo Storm’s progress time and time over.
Game 1 on Dragon Shire
Game 2 on Sky Temple
Learning from Fan’s Abathur
From watching his play, we can learn three simple concepts that allowed Fan to make optimal use of Abathur’s kit:
- Abathur’s global map presence allows your team to compete in experience even when behind in objectives as well as prevent uncontested enemy movement across the map.
- Abathur can safely soak xp only when you know where the entire enemy team is.
- Abathur has a body which can be used to secure map objectives.
By keeping these ideas in mind, Fan was able to slow down the momentum of Tempo Storm considerably and keep his team in the game for much longer than they otherwise would have survived. In order to follow along with C9’s overarching game plan, Fan utilized a pushing build to impede Tempo Storm’s strong rotations as much as possible.
Fan used the same build in both games, combining the pushing power of locusts with talents that gave him more freedom to place Toxic Nests around the map. The one exception was the substitution of the M.U.L.E. at level 7 on Sky Temple to mitigate some of the damage dealt by the temples.
Global Effect of Locusts
Though a simple mechanic, it’s important to understand that any imbalance in minion waves will cause one side to push if left unattended. With this in mind, whichever lane Abathur is situated closest to will always be imbalanced by locusts and will continually push, requiring attention and reaction from the enemy team in order to maintain balance. In addition to his locust’s pushing power, Abathur can easily jump onto the head of an allied mercenary or minion to help counter-push when the need arises, allowing for some control over minion waves in all lanes.
During the early to mid game, Fan used this idea by always positioning himself in the weakest lane in order to allow his teammates to take advantage of the stronger lanes and at the same time counterbalancing the lanes that have already been shoved. For example, Fan started Game 1 on Dragon Shire in the top lane, expecting most of the team rotations from both teams to revolve around the mid and bottom lane. This positioning had the dual purpose of not only pushing down the lane that might be left empty due to hero rotations (thus making it a “weaker” lane) but also forcing an enemy hero to rebalance the lane from time to time and thus weakening the mid/bot rotations from Tempo Storm.
Gaining Experience Leads and Using Toxic Nests
Soaking additional experience from lanes is a huge part of playing Abathur and taking advantage of his global presence. Abathur can soak xp two ways: physically standing near minions as they die (the way all other heroes gain xp) and using Symbiote on minions to push a lane. The first option is much more dangerous and requires you to know exactly where the rest of the enemy team is, but allows you to gain xp from a lane while helping allies with Symbiote. The latter option is 100% safe, and is used to ensure that your team is getting xp in an empty lane. Fan used both ideas to gain the maximum possible xp for his team and keep them even or ahead in levels throughout each game.
Before level 10, if no objectives are being contested, Fan soaked empty lanes with the Symbiote to allow his team to roam freely and take objectives, gain player advantages in a lane fight, or to give an ally enough time to recall and refill their lifebar before jumping back into the fray. In addition, he was also able to counterbalance lanes so his allies could focus their time and attention elsewhere on the map.
In order to ‘proxy’ soak by physically staying in lane, Abathur players need to know where the entirety of the enemy team is located to prevent getting caught out of position and taken down. This technique is not typically used until the later stages of the game when teams are constantly rotating as a whole to objectives, allowing you to predict their locations more accurately. However, as Fan demonstrated on Sky Temple, even early objectives can also serve as an obvious way to track enemy rotations. For instance, Fan knew that the mid and top temples would be contested by all five members of the enemy team during the first Temple phase, allowing him to move down and soak freely in the bottom lane while helping his allies contest the temples. Likewise, the second temple phase always spawns a single temple in the bottom lane, so Abathur could have soaked xp in the top lane while his team contested the temple. However, Cloud9 instead opted for a late bruiser camp push in the top lane to trade forts in Game 2, sidestepping the objective, and Fan did not get a chance to soak in the top lane as normally expected.
Abathur hides in a bush to soak xp while helping his team on the other side of the map with Symbiote
Toxic Nests also play a huge role in Abathur’s global presence. Toxic Nests allow the team to track rotations between lanes, and taking Vile Nest additionally slows down enemy rotations as well, particularly on smaller maps like Tomb of the Spider Queen and Dragon Shire where there are a lot of tight corridors and brush to obscure vision. Fan used Toxic Nests to their fullest extent by placing them in almost every brush between lanes to prevent his allies from getting surprised by a rotation, saving them several times. In addition, the Toxic Nests delayed the Dragon Knight from being taken on multiple occasions and slowed down the movement of the entire enemy team to an almost comedic speed during their group rotations.
Toxic Nest placement to ensure the maximum amount of frustration from Tempo Storm
Pushing in the Late Game
Teams start to rotate together as a full team in the late game in order to secure objectives and ensure victory if a team fight breaks out, particularly on maps like Dragon Shire and Garden of Terror which encourage big pushes with the entire team. During times in which an obvious objective is being contested (Temples, Immortals, Punishers, or even Boss camps) or group pushes are occurring, Abathur actually has the freedom to move out on the map. In fact, placing himself opposite of the map from the enemy team is actually safer than sitting in base, and he can even push during this time period. The stronger the enemy push is, the stronger Abathur’s split push should be. Fan usesdthis concept in Game 1 on Dragon Shire at 14:00 to push out the top lane and threaten the enemy fort after seeing the entire enemy team pushing with the Dragon Knight in the south side of the map.
As the enemy team is closing in on the base, Abathur moves to the opposite side of the map
Abathur’s level 16 talent Locust Brood is key in giving Abathur the split push potential to quickly snowball a lane in the late game and push down a wall, a fort, or even a keep while the enemy team is busy trying to take objectives or push. On top of this, Fan also took the talent Locust Nest at level 20 to give him up to five locusts pushing a lane at once. This allowed him to apply continual pressure on multiple lanes and threaten keeps when Tempo Storm couldn’t spare anyone for lane maintenance.
Thwarting/Achieving Map Objectives
As Tasteless pointed out in the cast, Abathur typically becomes increasingly tucked away behind structures as the game progresses in order to stay safe. In many cases, this is true and players and viewers alike forget to remember that Abathur does actually have a body that can be used for taking objectives like securing a tribute on Cursed Hollow or capturing a shrine on Dragon Shire. However, along with his constant movement to soak experience and push lanes in the late game, Fan also demonstrated that Abathur could be a potent force in controlling objectives. Game 1 on Dragon Shire had Abathur burrow and steal a shrine four times in total, preventing Tempo Storm from taking the Dragon Knight each time.
Fan uses vision from a nest to tunnel in, take the shrine, and recall immediately before the enemy team can spot him
Fan uses Ultimate Evolution in cases where an extra body is necessary, often cloning big backline threats like Arthas and The Butcher. Often times this is used just before a team fight breaks out, but Fan also cleverly uses it pre-emptively several times to force the other team off of an objective for a short while so that his team can secure it safely. An example of this can be seen in Game 2 on Sky Temple at 16:00 where Fan clones Arthas early to ensure that his team can gain position on the top temple and secure it.
Though C9 ultimately ended up losing both games and the match, Fan showed brilliant play on Abathur by highlighting many of the concepts which make him a strong pick and doing his best to slow down the momentum of Tempo Storm. While this series probably won’t be remembered for its remarkably close games, the audacity and wit showed by Fan’s aggressive pushing and shrine steals will stick in the minds of those watching closely and recognizing truly masterful play. Well played sir, GG.