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Over two years ago, in patch 6.84, Hex received one of the biggest nerfs in the history of Dota — it stopped applying “break” mechanic to heroes, downgrading the effect from being the best disable in the game. This same patch also introduced Lotus Orb to the game — a source of regular dispel that could be cast on an allied hero, even further limiting the usefulness of Hexes and increasing the potential amount of counterplays. And for more than two years since, Hex was playing a second fiddle to the Stun — assuming equal duration, Stun was simply superior.
7.07 changed it in a major way, once again making Hex the ultimate hard disable. It still doesn’t apply “break” and its duration is still reduced by the newly introduced Status Resistance, but it can no longer be dispelled, meaning there is no hard counter to it. You can Force Staff an ally from the enemy focus, Surge them with Dark Seer, or prevent an ally from dying with Shallow Grave, but there is no way of reducing the duration of Hex. This fundamentally changed the game, with many heroes becoming significantly less useful or easier to deal with. This post will look into how Hex changes have changed the game and which heroes are now significantly worse off and which might actually be better.
Two carries have been hit extremely hard in the 7.06-7.07 transition. While for one of them a self-applied strong dispel on demand was an option, the whole playstyle of the second revolved around being elusive and hard to pin down. Ursa and Slark became much weaker in the new patch, despite the game only having a total of three sources of Hex.
As mentioned previously, Slark has been hit especially hard. Previously dealing with Slark frequently involved AoE disables, kiting and superior vision. Right now a single Hex on your team will allow you to chain-stun Slark into death without him ever being able to pull off a life-saving Shadow Dance. And both Shadow Shaman and Lion are more than capable of prolonging their own disables as well as dealing decent burst damage.
Similarly, many utility cores have been nerfed, with Abaddon and Legion Commander no longer being the ultimate saves for their teams. It is especially noticeable with Abaddon, who can no longer prevent himself from being disabled by popping his ultimate. Omniknight also belongs to this category, but the nature of Repel is more proactive rather than reactive, hence his potential hasn’t been decreased as much.
Finally, there is also Tidehunter, who looks extremely appealing with the introduction of Refresher Shard, but can actually be bursted down within a single Hex, without having an option to use Ravage. Every other debuff is still going to be dispelled and most of the DoT damage will be quickly negated, but over 3.5-4 seconds of Hex it is now possible for the team to have a clean kill on an otherwise extremely tanky target with high counter-initiation potential. It is a high-risk, high-reward play, but it is certainly viable, if you have enough DPS and the enemy team is over-reliant on Tidehunter for teamfights.
Hex’s changes have hit supports pretty hard as well, but the casualties aren’t as numerous. In fact, only Oracle became significantly less potent at dealing with hex, with his two dispels from Fortune’s End and False Promise. There is also an argument towards heroes like Chen and Enchantress, who could take control over Satyr Banisher and use his own purge, but the instances of this happening were pretty much non-existent even in the professional scene, let alone pubs.
Then there is Lotus Orb, which is an item in-between support and utility core domains. When it was first released, people met it with a degree of scepticism, before realising how consistently efficient it is at dealing with hexes. You might not always have time to cast it in time against projectile-based disables, but it was invaluable at dealing with focused damage from the enemy team on targets who rely on mobility or survivability spells. Currently this item is a lot more niche, no longer being a safe pick-up in the late-game, and is at its best against silences and possibly some disables with long cast-points.
The big winners of the change
When it comes to hex’s changes, there are two clear winners. With a small change both Shadow Shaman and Lion suddenly became decent counters to heroes like Slark, who used to be their worst nightmare. On top of it, their whole initiation and catch potential on mobile targets is no longer countered with a 4k gold item, greatly increasing their potential in prolonged games. It is no wonder that both of them are decently safe picks in the current meta.
But apart from these two heroes, there is another, perhaps even scarier hero in the game right now. The hero’s win rate has increased by 5% since the 7.07 balance patch with consistent picks and bans in the professional scene. Tinker might not be the meta staple or the first ban material, but his potential in capable hands is currently on par if not higher than that of many hard carries. Given enough mana, he can change every engagement into 4v5 or even 3v5, all while dealing a considerable amount of damage and limited options for counterplay, if the initiation went on the right targets.
Moreover, he can stall the game for long enough to ensure his own farm and potentially the farm of one of his teammates. The hero was already good 1.5 years ago to deserve his own “dealing with…” post and since then he only got better. Some of the information there might be slightly outdated by now, but for the sake of your own pubs, it is still a recommended read.
7.07 brought so many changes it was easy for a small line of text to stay unnoticed. However this small line of text definitely has a significant impact on the meta, on par with some of the biggest balance changes of the patch.
Hex is the prime disable in the game right now and it has to be understood and respected. It doesn’t mean it should be afraid of, however and by understanding the global changes to the game and preparing yourself for the current pubs, it is possible to ensure the safety of your MMR and a steady climb.