The most picked and banned heroes of day 1 of the Manila Major Open Qualifiers
For all Dota players, each new balance patch carries a new challenge. It’s a challenge to find out what heroes work and how big of an impact certain changes have had on them.
Patch 6.87 is more of a “mid-season” patch. It doesn’t change everything we’ve ever known about Dota, but rather introduces new elements to keep the game interesting, with a few new items, game mechanics and of course balance changes to heroes and items. It still changed enough to leave the casual player wondering: how good is the Aghanim’s Scepter on Mirana and is Invoker still haunting my pubs?
Ever since 6.79, when [missing skill: lich-sacrifice-5136] converted denied creeps into xp, Lich has become a true safety net when you wanted to win a certain lane, a concept that allows him to be very friendly for beginners. He’s not flawless, but his ability to control farm in a lane is almost unmatched for a support, and it certainly is in regards to denying xp.
Thus, Lich is often played at the beginning of new patches. Not only because he tends to be buffed a lot, but also because his ability to secure lanes is highly sought after when no meta has been established--and winning your lane is the most basic thing that you can focus on during the draft.
Lich’s direct buffs in this patch are negligible. They are good and nice, but nothing to make the hero stand out. What lets him, in theory, be one of the bigger winners of this patch is the fact that ranged creeps now effectively make up 40% of the entire wave’s xp. In comparison, before 6.87, the range creep made up roughly 18% of the creep wave’s entire xp distribution. Since Lich also adds the xp to his own team, he effectively gains and denies an additional 1800 xp within 10 minutes. To put that into perspective, a hero would reach level 7 out of all creep waves until minute 10 without any denies. If the enemy Lich successfully denied all ranged creeps though, that would put the hero at level 4.
As a result Lich has been banned in 17 of 21 matches in WePlay Season 3’s LAN finals so far and he is the second most banned hero in the currently ongoing Manila Major Open Qualifiers. The theory around Lich and what he can accomplish seems to be too strong to face in practice, especially in such a young patch that is still looking for a meta.
In response to this, Valve has released 6.87b not a week after the release of 6.87. It introduced some very necessary nerfs to Lich now. The cooldown increase makes it more difficult for Lich to consistently deny creeps. The quick response shows that the hero definitely needed to be addressed, but if the nerf was sufficient remains to be seen.
The Aghanim's Scepter upgrade to Mirana seemed like a gimmick--a passive Starstorm that drops every 8 seconds--to many people early on. Who’s really going to pick up an Agh’s on Mirana, a hero that has primarily thrived in the support position in the last years and thus focused on support and utility items, such as Guardian Greaves or a Force Staff.
Evil Geniuses’s EG.Suma1L played Mirana twice in WePlay so far, playing her mid and transitioning from a Hand of Midas to the Aghanim’s Scepter. This itemization allowed him to build up the necessary stats while farming efficiently with the passive from the Scepter. SumaiL showed in both games that the concept of the build is definitely potent, being able to push out lanes rather quickly and farming just as fast. Since the Aghanim’s in itself doesn’t allow Mirana to be the traditional “right-click-carry” that she has been run as when played as a core (by Na’Vi’s Ditya.Ra for example), he opted for a Linken's Sphere and a Shiva's Guard for additional sustainability, to focus the damage output on the active and passive Starstorm.
At ESL One Manila, Wings Gaming pulled out a Bounty Hunter and Alchemist combination--full greed! Maybe teams are looking at their performance and are inspired by it, or maybe it is the significant buff to Armlet of Mordiggian, which now grants 5 armor. Either way, Alchemist is on his way back into the meta. He’s been picked 71 times in the Manila Major Open Qualifiers so far, with a 64% success rate. MVP.Phoenix successfully ran it, also with a Bounty Hunter, with an early Armlet as well.
The item fixes the notorious lack of armor Alchemist has and allows him to build into the greedy Radiance, without remaining too squishy. Even the Armlet “nerf” in 6.87b, which now applies the bonus armor from Armlet’s activation only after full activation, shouldn’t stand in the way of the hero staying in the situational position that he is in right now.
One of the biggest features implemented in 6.87 is the Scan ability. Scan allows a team to check a certain part of the map and see if any enemies are in that area. Much like the Glyph of Fortification, it has a team cooldown of 4.5minutes. While the average pub player is still getting used to it, pros already showed in which capacity the ability should be used, as expected.
If you see an enemy carry pushing the lane by himself, Scan allows you to check the area around or behind him for any smoked up back-up. Scan is not necessarily an ability to decide a game, it is rather used to prevent a game from being decided too early.
Echo Sabre is probably the item that has had the biggest impact in the competitive scene so far--granted the competitive scene hasn’t been that active in 6.87 yet. Traditional right-click carries definitely benefit hugely from Echo Sabre, especially if their abilities and/or itemization include an RNG based mechanic, such as a bash or a crit. Echo Sabre’s second hit every 5 seconds deals the full amount of damage and EG’s Aui_2000 has shown on his Sven how effective it can be, winning two games with the new item.
Most picked and banned heroes of days 1&2 of WePlay's Season 3 LAN finals
As much as 6.87 has changed though, the more you play it, the more it feels like 6.86 is somewhat around still. Some of the stronger heroes are definitely nerfed and feel weaker, as is seen by the considerably low winrates by Invoker, Outworld Devourer and Spectre in pubs, as well as their low pick/banrates in WePlay Season 3’s LAN Final: Invoker was only picked 3 times, banned twice, Spectre was picked once and Outworld Devourer completely ignored.
As much as these numbers indicate that 6.87 as truly changed the meta, a lot of other significant 6.86 meta heroes remain, such as Beastmaster, Doom, Enchantress and the recently more popular Queen of Pain.
Of course these are just initial trends and as the meta keeps developing, you’ll see more and more changes throughout this patch. There is no need to panic however. If you haven’t played Dota in a week, you may feel overwhelmed by all these new changes, but ultimately the ghost of 6.86 is still around.