Patch 6.88f marks only the 2nd time that Dota has been iterated up to this mark, the 5th minor patch of the series. The precedent before this was patch 6.86, with 6.86e and 6.86f consisting of minor changes to one or two heroes (Gamepedia’s summary of 6.86f: “Nerfed Invoker.”) Patch 6.88f tweaked 18 more heroes, all nerfs, including a “fix” on Centaur Warrunner’s Return skill, so that it no longer works on illusions.
Valve continues to adjust turn the hero balance knobs on a select number of their heroes. Over the course of 6.88, those heroes received multiple nerfs over multiple minor patches. Phantom Assassin saw her Stifling Dagger range whittle down close to that of Shadow Fiend’s auto attack range. Omniknight, perched on competitive viability, received consecutive nerfs over the last two minor patches.
It’s easy to lose track of how much these heroes have changed, when the changes are incremental over a long period of time. Here are some of the largest trends over the course of 6.88.
Batrider’s changes are small, but significant. He is one of the most tweaked heroes in Dota, receiving changes to every skill in his history. Yet he has persisted, and players have adapted their playstyles to fit Batrider in most metas. When Lasso was nerfed, players pivoted towards leveraging Batrider’s other skills. They used Batrider actively in the early game, building Drums instead of Blink Dagger, and exploited the damage and utility of Firefly and Sticky Napalm. The recent nerf to Flamebreak nerfs his fighting potential and his utility. Yes, the spell does do more damage, but without being able to interrupt TPs, it’s a significant nerf overall.
It does seem like it was time to nerf Drow Ranger, again. The capper was the decrease in her strength gain, aiming to offset her newfound elusiveness and tankiness from Hurricane Pike. Dragon Lance, a component from Hurricane Pike, is enough to make Drow Ranger teeter on the edge of unbalanced. It lets her outrange towers, while also giving cheap stats.
It seems like a deliberate move by Valve to avoid nerfing Precision Aura, which is one of her greatest strengths. We’ve seen this kind of balance change before, where the reasons for a hero’s imbalance is left untouched, and the hero is tweaked in other areas instead.
These were the post-TI6 nerfs, after Mirana became a leaping nuclear bomb during the event. Since then, she has dropped out of being a Tier 1, automatic first pick/ban hero (though she did have a 71% win rate over 35 games during The Summit 6 qualifiers). The two changes together hamstring her farming and her ability to nuke down solo heroes. The nerfs may have gone a little too far, but a quality of life update, long demanded by fans, to add a timer to her Starstorm might vault her back into the top tier of heroes.
Omniknight holds the crown for the hero with the highest win rate of all time, ever since we started recording stats for it. But that’s only in pubs. In competitive play, he is a situational pick. Both of these cases speak to the potency of his spells, but also how practical their applications are in a competitive environment.
Pub games are more lenient on Omniknight’s weaknesses, whereas in competitive play, drafting and lane matchups can exploit those weaknesses (one note: Omniknight still holds a 60+% win rate across 4-5k and 5k+ bracket. It’s only in professional play that he has struggled, most recently with a 40% win rate a The Summit 6 qualifiers). The reduction in cast point to Purification and Repel makes Omniknight a more practical choice, but the changes were also counter-balanced to other aspects of those skills.
[missing hero: outworld-devourer]
OD was nerfed a grand total of 4 times, starting off the bat with 6.88. There is a case that these nerfs were well-deserved, especially when looking at how popular he was during The Summit 6 qualifiers. He was another one of the beneficiaries of Dragon Lance, while a Blink Dagger granted him the elusiveness of a poor man’s Puck.
Yes, Stifling Dagger is about the same cast range as Shadow Fiend’s auto attacks. It still has the same range at lvl 4, but the nerf to its early levels makes support PA less viable and hurts the early laning stage of a mid PA.
Illusions by far received the biggest nerfs in this patch. The subset of illusion heroes were nerfed, but there was a larger set of heroes who used Manta Style who was also nerfed. Then there was Shadow Demon, whose illusion factory would slow push teams to victory in the late game.
The issue with illusions was that it was a little to no risk way to push towers. It doesn’t cost time or gold to make illusions, and so if they do any damage at all, they’ve far exceeded their value. It doesn’t seem fair when a pair of free illusions can push a t3 tower, when summons like Necronomicon and Lone Druid’s Bear have had their experience and gold bounties tweaked to dissuade this kind of strategy.