With only two weeks left until the release of the new patch, it might be a good time to start a discussion on the potential changes to the game. It is almost certain right now that apart from the release of the new hero, the changes to the existing ones will be extensive. Some of these changes might include the introduction of Arc Warden and Underlord to the competitive scene.
Both of these heroes have been in the game for a decent amount of time. Underlord has been released slightly over three months ago, while Arc Warden has been in the game for almost a year. During this period, both heroes have received a multitude of changes, and they’re reasonably powerful in pub games.
This, however, does not indicate their fitness for the competitive scene — many heroes, such as Io are lackluster in pubs, but are a major force to be reckoned with in the hands of experienced professional players. Hence, it might be the case that the full potential of these heroes has not been fully realised yet.
Looking at their performance statistics and recent balance changes might be a good first step towards understanding the current power level of the heroes, while a discussion on their potential impact on the meta might provide further insight on how fit these heroes truly are for a competitive scene.
Arc Warden’s win rate in pub games has been relatively low ever since his introduction. The hero is undeniably complex, with a lot of active abilities and micro-control requirements. Despite being relatively tanky in the beginning of the game, he quickly falls off in terms of HP and, perhaps more importantly, in terms of armor.
His agility growth (1.8) is among the lowest, especially for an agility hero, primarily to compensate for the very strong illusion he can spawn. His kit also doesn’t fit particularly well with the typical right-clicking carry role, instead concentrating on a very strong laning presence and situationally powerful survivability buffs.
What the hero does offer, however, is very high flash-farming capabilities, coming not only from the regular Hand of Midas build, but also from the strength and low cooldown of the Tempest Double.
The recent changes to the hero have made the cheesy Divine Rapier rush strategy impossible, since the illusion no longer benefits from the item, but they have also substantially buffed the availability of Arc Warden’s ultimate, as well as different aspects of his other abilities.
Overall, the hero can afford to use his abilities a lot more, with both the decrease in mana cost of the abilities and an increase in intelligence growth of the hero. Some of them have also become slightly more powerful, with a slow added to the Spark Wraith.
These changes have been heavily abused by the more experienced players ever since, with mid Arc Warden still being one of the strongest laners in the game:
Interestingly, it is not the 5k bracket where the hero is at his best. His highest win rate is in the 4-5k bracket. This trend is usually associated with heroes, who are very powerful in the right hands, but can be played around effectively, if the opposing team is capable of identifying the threat.
Moreover, the hero is not particularly exceptional in terms of global strategies. His days of being a split-pushing nuisance are gone, and while he retains some of his global presence capabilities, they are currently not overpowered. Given equal ground or even with Arc Warden being slightly ahead in farm, most other carries will be able to easily overpower his Tempest Double.
Overall, this makes for a fairly balanced hero, however it is unclear whether some alternative build or even an alternative role for the hero might be in development by professional theorycrafters. Multiple active utility items might be a way to go for the hero, opening up a lot of possibilities. A greedy support Arc Warden might also become a thing. But in his current shape and with our current knowledge of the hero, there should be no issues with his introduction to the competitive scene.
Underlord has been in development for a very long time. The assets for the hero have been in the game since at least as early as 2012 and it is still unclear what took the hero so long to appear in our pubs. Regardless, Underlord is now a part of the active Dota roster, awaiting his transition to the competitive scene.
Second highest win rate in the 5k bracket is impressive, but it is the consistency of the hero across all brackets that stands out the most. It shows that the hero is not only good in well-coordinated teams, as we originally expected, but is also powerful on his own. His launch was among the most successful ones and three months after the hero still looks incredibly strong:
We have already covered the hero in one of our blog posts from the pub play persepctive. The general consensus was that the hero is best fit for the offlane, with a utility core build in mind.
Since then, the hero has received several small buffs and a substantial nerf to the early levels of the Atrophy Aura, making him a slightly easier target in the early game.
The hero’s basic active abilities are not particularly unique or interesting, however they synergise very well with each other. Firestorm can deal a surprising amount of damage, while Pit of Malice is a solid immobilizing spell.
Unlike regular disables, it does not prevent the hero from using spells or attacking, but against many melee core heroes, rooting them is all it takes to save your teammates. Moreover, the ability pierces spell immunity, further facilitating its teammate-saving properties. It also prevents caught heroes from blinking or phasing out, as well as providing true sight on them.
Finally, there is a massive, potentially game-changing ultimate. Even in uncoordinated pubs, without heroes who can complement it, it is already a rather powerful ability, which can save teammates and allow the team to respond to threats across the map.
Adding player-controlled units to the equation makes it even scarier. The combination of Tinker+Beastmaster is already quite popular and so is Io+any carry. These combinations make any area on the map a potential point of attack or initiation.
Previously, however, it was much harder to follow up on a successful gank — Tinker is not particularly strong at taking the objectives in a timely manner, while Io is relocated back to the original point, making it harder to continue the onslaught or at least leaving the core significantly more vulnerable.
Underlord solves both of these problems, since he usually relocates with several members of his team. This pushes the split-pushing strategy into a whole new area, where every positive lane momentum can be seen as an opportunity to take objectives. Moreover, it similarly allows the team to control the Roshan pit.
And as if this was not enough, the hero has an extra meta-defining ability— Atrophy Aura. This passive, when maxed out, provides a massive damage reduction, especially against some of the more popular stats-based cores.
Frequently it forces the enemy heroes to either suffer from inability to deal damage effectively for the entirety of the mid-game, or go for less efficient bonus damage builds. For strength heroes, it is less of an issue, but for any agility cores it can be a significant problem, since they typically rely on agility-based items for their DPS and even survivability through armor.
Given high winrate in pubs, where the potential of the hero is probably not fully utilized, it will probably be awhile until the hero is introduced into CM and even then some changes should be definitely expected. The hero does so much for the team’s global strategy, and, unlike Io, he is also rather powerful independently.