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    Dota 2 – Let’s talk Meta!

    We all have heard the word “metagame”, but only a few of us truly understand what it is. Today I will be discussing what the “metagame” means and its importance to the game of Dota 2.

    All of this will be crucial to the main purpose of the article – how to use the knowledge to your advantage and Win more!

    Are you ready?

    Competitive Meta

    In simple terms, metagame in competitive Dota 2 is a set of developed habits during the picking phase of the game. It usually stems from one or two heroes being considered very strong or even over-powered after the most recent patch.

    For example, Lich gaining XP for his [missing skill: lich-sacrifice-5136] as well as significant buffs to his [missing skill: lich-ice-armor-5135] in 6.79 resulted in him being picked and banned a lot in the competitive scene. At first, he seemed to be overpowered, however the answers to the dual or solo-mid Lich, offlane Lich and Support Lich were soon discovered. That in turn, has provoked a response to a response to Lich. And so on and so forth.

    The cycle of hero rotation in the competitive scene without a single point of convergence is called a “healthy” meta. In fact, when one thinks a bit about it, one can understand how incredibly complex and beautiful the game of Dota 2 is – in all these years it did not converge on a static best first-pick lineup against best-response, second-pick lineup – something I would like to give IceFrog a huge credit for.

    There might have been patches, which could ultimately lead to the aforementioned situation, but a newer patch would be released before Professional Teams and even IceFrog himself could figure these lineups out.

    Competitive Meta, as well as a variety of several other factors contribute to what I shall call the Public Meta.

    Public Meta

    It is clear that being one jump ahead of the enemy is very beneficial. Since the new patch has introduced an anti-counter-picking system of a kind, it is even more so.

    So, how does one predict what they are likely to face in a public match?

    Well, for one you could use DotaBuff – that is what we are here for – giving our users a competitive advantage. Looking at the popularity of heroes can give you a pretty good idea of what you are more likely to face in any game.

    Looking at the professional scene can also give some insights on what is going to be popular in the upcoming week or two – after all, at the higher levels of play people try to copy the professionals a lot and trust their judgement in one way or another. Moreover, their personal skill is usually high enough to pilot some skill-intensive heroes like Visage.

    An additional point to be made is that some of the heroes are not available in CM after patches/reworks. Moreover, new heroes usually do not make an immediate transition to the professional scene. They will be Dark Horses for the players for a day or two and can range from interesting, but not very useful ( Broodmother) to borderline over-powered ( Earth Spirit).

    Better players will figure out how to react to them in one way or another. For some of them the Patch Notes themselves will be enough. Others will need a game or two with or against the hero, to understand the strengths and weaknesses. And since there is a developed community around Dota 2 you could always consult our forums to see what people feel about the particular hero.

    Additionally, I will do my best to provide some coverage – especially on the new heroes and on re-discovered gems like Dazzle. I am not a very good player, but I have quite a bit of theoretical knowledge about the game and do not fear number crunching. And me being relatively bad and having skill limitations could also help me understand the newer players better.

    So, we know that being more informed is always better. We also know how to get the valuable information. But what do we do with it?

    Let’s win some games?

    “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”

    Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    Perhaps it is best explained on an example. The Christmas/New Year’s patch came with a new hero – Legion Commander. She was announced a week or so before her release giving the public some time to prepare.

    There is always a long and safe way of installing Warcraft 3 and playing the hero to get acquainted with his skills and potential, but not everyone is ready to go this path. So, we could read the skill descriptions and see whether we can find something standing out – something that could help us understand and “counter” or “synergise” with the hero even before its release!

    The first thing that stands out is the ultimate – Duel. It says “permanent damage gain” and that is more or less enough to understand that coupled with the fact that the hero is new, Legion Commander will be very popular. Some legacy players would also remember that jungling Legion Commander is a viable option, and it weighs in into the popularity of the hero, since it gives a much needed independence in the solo ranked play.

    So, we have figured out that we will see a lot of her. Possibly for prolonged periods of time. Now we need to create a response to the upcoming meta-shift.

    The Duel lasts 5.5 seconds when maxed. It gives the surviving hero a permanent damage bonus. So, if the Legion Commander is on our team, we don’t want her feeding damage and want her to get some. If she is on an opponents team, we don’t want her to get any damage and possibly provide ourselves or our allies with a boost.

    I am really sorry to bring him up again, but meet Dazzle!. With 5 seconds of invulnerability, we can be sure that all the duels not won by our allied Legion Commander, would not be lost. And if the Legion Commander is on the enemy team, we can make sure she does not get too fat. We can’t be present on every lane all the time (though we really should try our best to do so), but ~30 extra damage is not nearly as scary as ~150+ extra damage.

    So, we have found out that Dazzle will be a bit more popular just because the Legion Commander is in the hero pool. He actually went up in popularity since the release of Legion Commander by 4 positions. Not a lot, but clearly depicts the change at a higher levels of play.

    Now we can think how to counter Dazzle. The Axe comes to mind, since he doesn’t care how many Shallow Graves are cast on the hero – his ultimate is a triggered kill. We could possibly continue deducing this chain of effects, with a diminishing significance and accuracy of the prediction. Or we could think of another heroes that complement/counter Legion Commander, since she is the meta-shifting stem.

    The whole process can be very interesting and will be very useful now, after the release of anti-counter-picking system, so stay prepared!

    Closing Comments

    I will try my best to make a similar analysis for possible meta-shifts in the current patch, however I cannot promise it to be very accurate – I have left Dota 1 before the release of the Phoenix and the rework for Terrorblade. My analytical mind and vast knowledge of Dota mechanics will still remain, so, hopefully it will be worthy of your time.

    While this kind of analysis is mainly aimed at the first 2-3 weeks after the release of a hero or some patch updates, there is also a separate section on DotaBuff that allows you to see who the hero performs best and worst versus. And 2-3 weeks is enough for this information to be statistically significant. In fact, with the amount of games played every day and the constantly rising population of Dota 2, even a week could indicate some week/strong spots. And just to provide some evidence – here is the Matchup page for the Legion Commander. And Dazzle is the second best support to counter hero. The Win Rate for Legion Commander facing Dazzle is an abysmal 43.7%.

    Always try to use information to your advantage. Statistics we provide help a lot, especially the newer players.

    As always:

    Thank you for reading! Do not hesitate to leave comments in the section below!

    P.S. We are working on adding the Facebook/Twitter share buttons. If you really like the Post or find it particularly useful – please share it manually. We promise to get the buttons up as soon as possible!

    P.P.S. If you think I have just jumped on the Dazzle-loving bandwagon, you could check the first entry to the DotaBuff blog. This is the time, when I feel like saying: “I told you so!”.

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    As seen on Dotabuff

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