A week has passed since the introduction of 7.14—probably the last balance patch of this magnitude before the International 2018. By reworking several items and fine-tuning the balance of the game, Valve balance team managed to significantly improve the state of both competitive and pub metas.
Looking at EPICENTER XL stats, there are only two heroes currently in the game that look “problematic” and even they don’t appear in every single game as was the case in the previous couple of patches with Tiny and Gyrocopter. Moreover, only 8 heroes remained ignored and the tournament’s playoffs haven’t even started.
These changes directly translate into pubs as well. With competitive meta opening up, so does the pub one and there is a higher diversity in high MMR games. There are also notable changes in the ways some heroes are played in 7.14.
The Maelstrom Effect
One of the biggest changes of the patch were reworked Maelstrom and MKB, which both lost a decent amount of attack speed, but gained significantly in terms of damage output. This resulted in these items finding new niches in the game.
Maelstrom is currently seeing a lot more play on a wide variety of ranged cores, but most notably Gyrocopter and Windranger. There is a definite shift in the way the former is build in the current meta: instead of the typical Boots, Drums, Yasha, BKB, the new Gyrocopter prefers going for an early Aghanim’s Scepter into Maelstrom.
This new build works wonders for the hero that is often played not as a typical farming hard-carry, but a tempo core, who can pressure the enemy team either creating space for the second carry or gaining a massive map control advantage. The stats Aghanim’s provides are often considered poor for the asking price, but with the increases in price for both Yasha and Sange, coupled with a rather powerful and underrated side gunner it is beginning to become a staple item on Gyrocopter.
We’ve seen the beginning of this trend a couple of patches ago already, but the new Maelstrom sealed the deal: it gives a lot of raw damage for the hero and it works really well with fixed attack time of the side gunner and limited charges of Flak Cannon. It is also a decent farm acceleration tool, that doesn’t require Gyrocopter to use Flak on regular creeps, allowing him to save a long cooldown for actual teamfights.
Increased damage from lightning proc from Maelstrom is also worth mentioning: 170 magical damage is a big deal when dealing with enemy agility carries who have tons of armor, but generally lack the HP pool. Moreover, it is often a necessity against illusion heroes, who are quite popular in the meta.
This and the accuracy bonus that often comes into play against Radiance, Solar Crest and several heroes with built-in evasion or blind make Maelstrom a very good starting item that combines farming and teamfight in a very efficient package.
Windranger is one of the best heroes in the game to utilize effects with a chance to proc: with her massive attack speed from Focus Fire the multiple procs are almost guaranteed, significantly increasing the hero’s DPS or utility.
Maelstrom rework coupled with direct buffs for the hero made Windranger a viable hero once again, and it is clear from her presence in the competitive scene and her win rate in pub games:
Extra damage on an already powerful nuke as well as additional 50 attack speed on Focus Fire were a big deal and Windranger is currently quite successful in high level pubs and can boast a 75% win rate in EPICENTER XL, albeit across a very small sample size of 4 games.
The last hero who was highly impacted by the Maelstrom change was Pangolier. Pangolier works wonders with a simple Javelin and many professional players often get at least one of them early on to maximize the effectiveness of Swashbuckle and have a bigger teamfight presence.
Previously, the natural progression for this item was the Skull Basher. With Swashbuckle hitting a single target, a stun on it was almost guaranteed, giving the hero more utility and crowd control. Since Basher no longer requires a Javelin and Javelin is still one of the most cost efficient DPS items Pangolier, the new go to progression is Maelstrom.
Given enough targets, two procs of lightning from a single Swashbuckle are almost guaranteed: it hits four times with a 0.1 second interval, while Maelstrom cooldown is 0.2 seconds. That means that bursting into several enemies adds 340 magic damage on up to five targets from a single use of Swashbuckle: this kind of damage is really hard to ignore, especially when armor, rather than HP pool, is the main form of protection on the enemy.
Noteworthy win rate changes
Outworld Devourer and Terrorblade were the biggest pub losers of the patch, losing 7.11% and 5.97% win rate respectively. Both heroes received massive all around nerfs in 7.14, but the extent was not clear until after we had the data for the last week of pub matches.
The Arcane Orb now requiring more mana per hit means it deals less damage, since the damage is calculated on hitting the target. It also means the hero lost a decent amount of flexibility when it comes to his skill build: it is hard to afford continuous use of Arcane Orb without maxing out Essence Aura first and that makes the early game of the hero much weaker.
Terrorblade lost half of his starting regeneration, making him a much weaker laner and decreasing his sustain during periods of jungle farming. On top of it, reduced range and effectiveness of Sunder means he can no longer be as much of a threat in the early fights and since the hero was primarily played as a pushing and decently active core, it bit into his power level substantially.
There is a potential solution to it: concentrating on farming early will still allow Terrorblade to achieve his previous power levels later in the game, but in the current fast-paced meta it might be out of the question.
Windranger, Alchemist, Arc Warden and Broodmother all gained more than 3% win rate in the 7.13-7.14 transition. The first three heroes received substantial buffs making them stronger overall, but Broodmother is definitely a special case.
Mane assumed that the spireling and spiderite rework will result in the hero getting weaker, rather than stronger: they have 0 armor, making them a lot more susceptible to AoE physical nukes. They also deal less damage, potentially making them less of a threat.
At the same time the overall amount of spiders Broodmother can have increased: her spider-spawning nuke had its manacost and cooldown reduced, allowing for a bigger army that gains new followers faster. Overall it means that while reacting to Broodmother became easier, not reacting to her is a lot more punishing in terms of map control and Broodmother farm acceleration.
7.14 was a massive step in the right direction. Dota has always been and should be balanced around the highest levels of play and the progress in this regard is clear: EPICENTER XL is the most diverse tournament of the past several months, while win rate spread in high level pubs has tightened.
As passionate Dota players ourselves we are often concerned about the state of the meta, but this patch definitely instills confidence in a diverse and exciting future tournaments and the International 2018.