With each patch, Dota 2 can change drastically. Even the hero balance aside, Dota 2 is now a different game, even though it still looks the same, and adjusting to these changes did not come easy to most teams. No longer can a team survive in this environment without constantly developing and adjusting to the global game changes. What have professional players figured out succeed in one of the most memorable tournaments in recent years?
Most contested heroes
Whether Earth Spirit is an overpowered hero is no longer a question. It is and there is no denying it. His extremely high skill ceiling is far outweighed by the amount of utility and damage this hero brings to the table. He has a decent stun, a slow and a silence, and combine this with good early-game magic damage, as well as a massive ultimate, it makes a hero like Venomancer almost completely irrelevant. It is no wonder that the hero has been banned in most games—66 bans throughout the main tournament is the top result.
His mediocre win rate might confuse many players. 55% is decent, but it doesn’t seem too overpowered. To understand why such a seemingly strong hero did not perform better, it is necessary to realize that he needs a dedicated player. In the hands of an average pro, the hero will perform slightly above the average. In the hands of a trained Earth Spirit picker, he can become the most dominant force in the game. Because of that, many teams which do not have a dedicated ES player still pick him in the first phase. At the very least it prevents the enemy from getting him.
To a lesser extent the same logic can be applied to Enchantress. Similar to ES, she is an extremely versatile pick with potential to dominate the game from the very start. Unlike Chen, she offers less utility, but the amount of damage she brings to her team is massive and this damage stays relevant throughout the game. All of that is further reinforced by the fact that the hero is not greedy, but can farm relatively fast and unlike other junglers, she does not make her team’s lanes weaker.
Top situational heroes
We have touched on the subject of Slark several times already. It is one of the situationally strongest heroes. He works rather well in teamfight compositions, is highly elusive, and scales better than most other heroes. His weak laning stage and poor ability to flash-farm is counteracted by high solo kill potential—unlike most other heroes, Slark allows for pick-offs, even when the enemy target is not alone. Recent Hand of Midas builds are also aimed at tackling high economy requirements of the hero. In a patch with a high focus on kill income, this can be invaluable.
Disruptor was surprisingly underpicked during the tournament. In a patch where Io is still a top priority and Ursa is a legitimate core, the hero can truly shine. Disruptor is best paired with an early aggression core—his ability to catch the enemy out of position and essentially negate any mobility spells makes for a very strong support, especially when coupled with a strong early-game damage dealer, such as Lina, Gyrocopter or Ursa. But the presence of the hero is not limited to the early-game. He does not contribute a lot of damage, but the utility the hero offers during mid-game pushes and teamfights is unparalleled. Reducing the enemy player count by one in early game is a huge deal, even if it is just a support who got sent back, while the ability to silence in a massive AoE can be extremely handy against currently popular [missing hero: outworld-devourer].
Finally, Enigma does not need an introduction. The hero outfarms any other jungler and if left unattended can provide massive economic boost to his team. More often than not, it translates into early aggression items, such as Mekansm, which further facilitates the snowball effect.
What was extremely surprising throughout the tournament is the inability of top teams to react to Enigma. More often than not the hero has been left alone in the jungle and this behaviour is almost suicidal—there is no way a team can win an economic battle against him in a conventional manner. Despite that, Bounty Hunter has remained somewhat underpicked, with only 7 picks and 37 bans throughout the tournament. Moreover, while getting a hero dedicated to harassing the jungling Enigma can be tricky, having an aggressive lineup which can punish the greediness of the hero pre-10 minute mark is not. But even teams in top 8 were reluctant to pay enough respect to the hero, leading to their inevitable loss in 70.59% of the games.
Top core pool heroes
Lion is a rather weak hero in lane and yet again is best paired with a very aggressive core. That said, his contribution to the teamfights in the mid-game is on a very high level. The ability to erase a hero from the fight, while providing immense amounts of crowd control coming from an often position 5 hero cannot be underrated. His extremely high win rate is often attributed to pieliedie, but even without him in the equation, the win rate of the hero remains quite high at 55%.
Tidehunter almost always makes a comeback in the big tournaments. When the stakes are at an all-time high, teams often seek reliability and Tidehunter is exactly that. While the hero is less likely to show anything flashy and is generally quite straightforward, his ability to get levels and gold regardless of the situations make him a very safe pick. It is also worth noting, that the hero requires very little preparation to play and in many cases a well-played Tide is going to be better than other offlaners played mediocrely.
Finally, there is [missing hero: outworld-devourer], the bane of pubs. The hero was discussed previously and most things written were proved true—the hero is indeed a staple pick in this patch and there is no signs of him stopping any time soon. Interestingly, the hero did not get counter-picked a lot. Evil Geniuses have tried Pugna once, and there were multiple Nyx Assassin picks, but overall the hero was not respected enough, it seems.
Evolving throughout the tournament is what separates great teams from the best. Adapting to the meta, to your opponents, and finding new strategies was the name of the game this time around. And it certainly shows—teams were a lot more willing to learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of their opponents. While the Frankfurt Major has featured several heroes that were stubboronly picked, heroes that did not seem to work in the group stages of the Shanghai Major were quickly forgotten, and the teams moved on to explore new ways to play. No hero which was picked 20+ times during the tournament has a sub-40% win rate, and it is very telling of the current good state of the game, meta and professional scene.
Most of the heroes in this tier were discussed multiple times previously. Not a lot has changed stats-wise from the group stages, with only Faceless Void dropping a small amount of win rate. For the most part it can be attributed to the fact that better teams are less likely to make mistakes, which would allow Chronosphere to shine. Moreover, whenever a team would let Void go through, it would also frequently ban natural pairings, resulting in somewhat weird combinations.
We have already touched upon [missing hero: outworld-devourer] dominance previously and there is no need to go over the same things again.
Invoker was not only the most contested hero of the tournament, but also the most picked one. Teams were willing to give the hero up to the enemy, and more often than not, it could be considered a mistake.
The big selling point of Invoker is his versatility, but ever since the buffs, this versatility is not counterweighted by lower power level—the spells of the hero at each given level are more than comparable to regular spells of other heroes. Only this hero has 10 of them.
Not only that, but the hero also scales rather well as a right-click damage dealer. His stats growth is already good, but coupled with bonus stats from “orbs” it becomes rather ridiculous. Much like Earth Spirit, the hero simply offers too much for the price—playing an excellent Invoker is hard, but it should not be rewarded with extra strength. it is no wonder the hero leads the KDA charts by a huge margin.
Sven is in a very different boat—it is a natural progression of the previous meta. He is one of the few heroes who can flash-farm extremely well starting in the early levels and many players still value this economic advantage, especially when the team has no dedicated jungler.
The end result is average. While the hero can certainly boast a high KDA and GPM stats, it does not always translate into a victory—the win rate of the hero is at exactly 50% across 24 games. The amount of counters to the hero is among the most influential factors—BKB-penetrating disables make the hero irrelevant for the most part of the fight, and the amount of time the hero gets to shine is rather limited.
Moreover, sometimes the players are rather slow to adjust to the threats they might face, resulting in new dank memes and one less championship.
Shanghai Major was certainly a very memorable event. Despite technical issues, constant delays, and tons of organizational mess-ups, it has not failed to produce great games and exciting highlights. It was also one of the most surprising tournaments in terms of results. The rise of SEA and NA Dota filling the power void created by the poor performance of Chinese and CIS team’s has the potential of going down as the turning point in the history of the game.
This power void has been created by the stubbornness of the players—most of them are in a relatively good shape and capable of playing really good Dota, but they cannot allow themselves to come into big events with an inflexible mindset. Teams are going to get figured out, if they are dominant with a single strategy, and teams are going to be eliminated, if they do not evolve in time. For the sake of diverse and beautiful Dota, let’s hope the players will learn from their mistakes and will come to Manila with an open mind and high motivation.