The Death of Split-Push
More than half-a-year ago we published a series of posts dedicated to dealing with certain types of strategies in Dota. Several patches and several meta-changes later, one of them has become a lot less relevant—split-pushing as a macro strategy is dead and it doesn’t seem as if it is coming back.
Strategy vs. Tactics
When talking about Dota, it is necessary to clearly understand the difference between macro-strategy and tactical moves. A typical professional draft tries to incorporate several different types of potential tactical moves and in this sense split-pushing is not dead. You can still clear lanes, creep-skip and be a nuisance. And heroes who excel at these things are not completely unviable. It’s just less and less like to win a game by doing only that.
The current meta revolves around gaining early game momentum and running with it, until you get as much map control, as you safely can. It might bear resemblance to the TI4 “deathball” meta, but in reality it is a lot calmer. Teams rarely try to out-pressure the enemy in the early game; they simply push their advantage harder, because the patch allows for it. And they know when to stop, reflect for a while and generally it results in them slowly choking the opposition, rather than going all-in, risking their advantage.
Understandably, a team of 5 heroes, all supporting each other with different auras and abilities, will frequently push much harder, than a single hero on a different lane, even if he is completely uncontested. At least until the very late stages of the game.
Evolution of heroes
Having a very farm-dependant hero, who will come online later and will be able to become a threat only by the 20-minute mark is frequently a death-sentence—tempo is king. Because of that, heroes who were typically associated with split-pushing and split-farming, such as Anti-Mage, even itemize very differently, currently opting for early-game stats-items.
If you can’t fight the full enemy team early on, be sure—they will come knocking at your door. Exploiting these weaknesses is slowly but surely becoming a trend in the pubs as well, at least starting at roughly 4.5k average MMR. Players want those sweet points and they are definitely evolving.
Meta is also not an object, which takes force from one side and starts rolling with it; at least in Dota, it is a complex system, with multiple forces working on it at the same time, and with it often reacting unpredictably. And sometimes it can get hard to figure out what was the cause and what was the effect of certain changes.
Lately, several ganking, tempo-controlling mid heroes have returned to the world of viable heroes. Ember Spirit got a new build, Queen of Pain had her 15 minutes of glory etc. These heroes are exceptional at catching unsuspecting solo-targets. And split-pushers are exactly that—solo heroes, who are frequently on the other side of the map from their team and who, to be effective, have to come close to the enemy structures, making ganking them a lot easier and less time-consuming.
Heroes like Slardar, Centaur Warrunner and Nyx Assassin are also all in the meta, further exacerbating the lives of split-pushers.
Evolution of the Map
Apart from strictly hero-related issues, split-pushers are also facing another, entirely different beast—the map. The map received a major overhaul across several patches and the introduction of Shrines was the last nail in the coffin of split-pushing strategies.
Shrines ensure some form of map control, despite early game advantages. Overall, it is definitely a great mechanic, allowing for some sort of comeback potential for teams who are stuck in their base defending. It is especially crucial in a game as tempo-driven as Dota is right now.
But it also means that the typical split-pushers are open for attacks from several additional angles. When attacking T2 towers, you can no longer feel somewhat safe, with a T2 ward. You need vision on the shrine as well and wards are scarce. Dedicating so many resources to ensuring a somewhat safe split-push is simply suboptimal at best.
Couple this with the fact that many heroes in the meta are excellent at dealing with solo-targets, and the problems of the strategy become apparent.
Evolution of the Jungle
Last and probably least impact on the viability of the strategy comes from the jungle changes. For heroes like Nature’s Prophet, Anti-Mage, Lone Druid etc., the jungle was a safe haven, where they could farm up and get their items safely in-between objective attempts. They are off the map, frequently unseen by the enemy, leaving them guessing.
If previously this “off the map” downtime was associated with effective farming, currently it is no longer possible. With effectively half the creeps spawning in the game, jungling is no longer as lucrative as it used to be. The “farming loop” of many heroes has been affected, and they no longer can get a massive advantage by the mid game. At least not safely and consistently.
The Lone Wolf concept is becoming more and more a thing of the past in the current game. Dota is moving towards more team-oriented engagements, higher team mobility importance and leaves less space for solo heroes.
Whether it is a good or a bad thing is up for debate. On one hand, we have more opportunities for beautiful highlights and massive teamfights. On the other, subtle, yet absolutely brilliant, unexpected and game-winning moves are probably gone. At least for now.