Now that we have arbitrary awards for achievements such as “playing Dota since 2012” and “Alpha Tester,” players can boast about how back in the day Dota was so different, so much harder. Back in the day, everyone had Blink Daggers without three second cooldowns. Back in the day, you had to play in the dark and rely only on your map sense, because nobody bought wards. The cost was too high and observers and sentries took too much space. And don’t forget legacy keys, when now there’s the simplicity of standardizing your keybinds, an improvement that some Dota players curiously choose to opt out of.
Knowledge back then was acquired and hard-earned, like finding out the attack range of towers by feeding repeatedly. Secret ward spots was strictly insider knowledge, before the advent of replays. It was a different game then, and it will change again when patch 6.87 inevitably releases. But it will still be Dota, and looking back, it’s amazing to see how much the game has changed.
Blink Dagger: Everyone Is Puck
Blink Dagger, formerly Kelen’s Dagger Of Escape, did not have the three second cooldown upon taking damage. You could virtually escape and maneuver with impunity. No global ultimate or errant rocket flare could preemptively stop an initiator, like Sand King. Imagine every hero with the same kind of slipperiness as Puck. Patch 6.50 was a much needed change to a meta that was dominated by Blink Daggers. All ten heroes in the game would eventually buy one, and when an item gets to that point of necessity, it’s time for a change.
Despite how overpowered the item was, it still is essential today. Blink Dagger currently has a cooldown of 12 seconds, a far cry from the original 30 seconds when it was first introduced. And in patch 6.80, the mana cost was reduced from 75 to 0, opening up the item’s viability for mana strained, strength heroes, like Dragon Knight, Wraith King, and Sven.
No Cooldown Buyback
Believe it or not, there was a time where you could pay to escape death. There was no cooldown on buyback, leading to valiant, long drawn base defenses, if you had the bankroll to keep throwing bodies at the opponent. Later, a version of this strategy was still persistent in Dota, where teams could buyback, defend with ten heroes instead of five, and all with little penalty. Buyback now has a cooldown of 7 minutes, severe gold costs that scales with hero level, and prohibitive restraints on gold gain (you can only 40% gold). A team may be able to defend with the help of buyback, but that now carries a consequence.
Tower Buffs And Push Nerfs
TI4’s grand finals, between VG and Newbee, has lived in infamy for being representative of the bland push meta that dominated the tournament. 6.82 marked the beginning of a series of changes that buffed towers and moved the focus away from making them the primary goal (later patches nerfed illusion damage to buildings and removed the towers’ experience bounty). Taking towers is a necessary means to an end, but the gold advantage they provided created a snowball effect for a pushing team. It wasn’t enough that the opponent drafted a lineup that could thrive late game, if the early game advantages were insurmountable.
Scroll Of Town Portal Rework
Whenever a hero teleports to an area, it causes any other teleports to that area to be delayed with extra time based on the number of heroes that teleported or are teleporting there. Each teleport leaves has memory lasts about 20 seconds for that location.
Before this change, there was no increased delay for subsequent heroes using TP scroll to a tower. In theory, you could mass-TP your entire team to defend a tower in three seconds. There was no consequence for your team being out of position, when they could all be in position at any point. This rework increased the delay from 3 seconds constant to 3/5/6/7/8 (3/5/5.5/6/6.5 since 6.80).
The numbers have since been tweaked for balance, but patch 6.84 de-emphasized farming, by reducing CS bounty, and increased the bounty on hero kills. More importantly, the patch introduced comeback mechanics that rewarded teams who were losing, by giving them more gold based on how far they were behind. It also decreased bounty gold for teams that were ahead. In an extreme case, when the patch was first introduced, it was almost advantageous to be behind in gold, so you could rebound from the comeback gold. Today, the effect is not so pronounced, but has created a more dynamic game. A team who is winning will still have an advantage, but won’t always be the runaway leader.
The Price Of Supporting
The courier cost from 120-100 isn’t significant, but it’s indicative of where the changes have trended. In patch 6.44, the cost of a courier was 225 gold, and the recipe to upgrade to a flying courier also included a Boots of Speed (total cost = 925). Overall, a series of incremental changes to the cost of wards, couriers, and how they functioned, increased the quality of life for supports. Gone were the days of mid players rage quitting because there were no couriers or no wards.
Aside from the increasing the morale of the team, the changes diffused the burden that support players carried. Supports could split the cost of wards. Offlaners could buy their own ward. The experience and gold bounty gave incentive for players to deward, while placing strategic ones. The changes, though small at first, steered the basic pub game to start thinking about vision and map sense on a level more associated with higher skill brackets and competitive play.
Unlike other sports, whose rules are defined in eras of years and decades–chess hasn’t had a significant patch change in a thousand years–Dota is unrecognizable from the game it was even months ago. Heroes have rotated in and out of the meta, Roshan relocated his home, and the landscape of the map, from jungle camps to juke spots, has shifted drastically. Patch changes put the community in a constant state of learning, the rhythm of which seems to hit its peak at a Major or The International tournament. Dota does seem like it eventually reaches a level of staleness, or perhaps mastery, due to the competition at LANs and the sheer number of games played in pubs. At that point, it makes sense for Dota to evolve, for better or worse.