The International 2017 saw 107 different heroes picked across the entire event, 109 were picked or banned. These are record breaking numbers, records set by the event just the year before, at TI6.
With a meta so diverse where nearly all 112 available heroes seem situational enough to be picked, one can’t help but wonder what has to be wrong with the heroes that haven’t been considered even once.
Last year, the forgotten heroes of TI6 were the likes of Leshrac, Bloodseeker, Lina and Visage, all of which have been buffed since then and have seen much more play as well. That means, the ignored heroes from TI7 may have a couple of buffs ahead of them.
Most supports look towards Bane with envy, jealous of his quite well rounded stat gain. This International, it was Bane that looked at other supports with Envy, as he was the only support hero not considered for a pick or ban throughout the entire event. Bane has always been a good support, a strong hero to zone out offlaners with and with two disables, Bane can be a literal nightmare, especially for heroes who rely on magic immunity to be effective in fights.
In the current meta however, Bane’s ultimate feels incredibly useless. Every team looks to secure at least one hero with an AoE stun and even as a 4 position support, Bane could only dream of a Black King Bar for himself. While he does serve a purpose beyond his ultimate–he’s a good laning partner and can set up kills/stuns–there is a strong case to be made that his remaining utility is largely overshadowed by that of others. Yes, Nightmare can set up a stun and with Brain Sap potentially a kill, but it is rather underwhelming in comparison to a Fissure or Burrow Strike, both of which tend to allow for a longer range of initiation as well. Most pro teams look for more damage in 4 position supports, the likes of Earthshaker, Sand King or Earth Spirit can reliably threaten the life of a core with minimal help, whereas Bane definitely needs a committed hero or two for a gank. For a hero that thrives on picking off cores, Bane isn’t as mobile as others, since items like Blink Dagger or Force Staff aren’t as consistently good as they are on others.
Banned once, Lion was only slightly more relevant at TI7 than Bane. Similar to Bane though, Lion suffers from being a lesser version of the currently popular heroes. As covered in our blogpost about unfavored heroes in the meta, Lion has a skillset very similar to that of Shadow Shaman’s, only that Shadow Shaman has an ultimate that suits the current meta’s push intensity.
Any lane harassment needed is also overshadowed by Shadow Shaman’s high base attack, making Lion seem all the less useful right now. The much better level 20 talent (+ 4 Wards Summoned vs. either Magic Resistance or Spell Amplification) is the final nail in the coffin that is Lion’s meta viability. It could be argued that Lion can shine when Shaman is banned, but Rhasta was banned only 6 times across the entire event and was only picked 36 times as well. Teams hardly needed to look towards Lion.
Even though split pushing has become more prevalent, most teams still look towards brawlers and fighters as carries, heroes that can engage early and don’t necessarily need much help in the laning stage either. Any space bought in the laning stage should ideally pay off soon, but none of this applies to Spectre. Spectre is a relatively weak laner who still needs help even after a Radiance has been acquired. Her lack of pushing power and early teamfight presence make her an exploitable pick. Split pushers like Morphling or Anti-Mage have a much stronger laning presence and tend to come online faster and more importantly, they also push faster.
In a meta where illusion heroes have been nerfed so significantly that most of the heroes based around them feel underpowered, Spectre seems to be at the bad end of the spectrum. She was never one of the strongest illusion based heroes, yet suffers from their nerfs and as a split pusher and carry, she’s currently overshadowed by virtually everybody else.
Tiny also made our list of unfavored heroes of the meta, but unlike other unpicked heroes, we believed there was potential for the hero to shine. He did not. Tiny is a weak laner that often needs babysitting and he doesn’t have much fighting potential early on, rather pick-off potential. His limited mana pool and the relatively high cooldowns on his spells (17 and 8), coupled with his low attack speed make him a rather weak brawler for the first 20 minutes. Until Tiny picks up his Agh’s, he also doesn’t split push well. With a lot of AoE stuns available in the current meta, Tiny would be forced to purchase an early BKB, though he can realistically only purchase one after an Agh’s and an attack speed increasing item, or else he’d have no impact.
For a carry, there are just too many reasons not to pick Tiny right now, especially since there are much more capable Io combinations as well.
Wraith King has always had issues fitting into any meta. The hero doesn’t exactly excel at any particular meta style. He doesn’t push particularly fast, isn’t the best fighter and certainly doesn’t auto-win his lanes. Fighting with him before his ultimate reaches level 3 seems dangerous and he doesn’t farm particularly fast enough to get to an early level 3 ultimate either. His lack of mobility usually forces him into a Blink Dagger, most of the time on top of a Black King Bar. While the same could be said about Sven, Sven has flashfarming abilities and can instantly take out a target quite reliably. Wraith King can deal a lot of damage in a short amount of time as well, potentially just as much as Sven, but he gets to that point significantly slower and his aura, while great for pushing and fighting, is not as useful as Sven’s. High armor is more expensive and generally more useful than lifesteal.
Wraith King has always been a situational pick, but even for situations where he would fit in, he just doesn’t seem like a strong pick right now.
As mentioned earlier, history shows that unpicked heroes in such a meta are likely to receive a lot of buffs soon. There are reasons for why these heroes aren’t picked, but small tweaks to both the game in general but also the heroes themselves could remedy that. That said, some of these heroes have always been situational, so them not finding any play in this particular tournament, even if it is The International, doesn’t mean that anything drastic needs to change for them. A lower mana cost or cooldown here, a bit of Strength gain there–there’s plenty of small ways to help these heroes become stronger, especially with talents in place.