As the meta changes, so do the heroes that make it interesting. For over a year now, the meta has favored more tanky, farming-oriented heroes who specialize in physical damage.
Now, while those heroes are still somewhat viable, the meta focuses more on tempo heroes who can have more impact on early teamfights. Here are some of the top midlaners of the 7.00-7.02 era.
7.00 marked a new era of Dota with the introduction of talents. No matter how one feels about them, there’s no denying that they have drastically changed Dota. One of the early, talent-oriented builds was the magic damage Ember Spirit.
This new build allowed Ember Spirit to dominate the midgame and dictate its overall pace. It didn’t take long for pro teams to adapt this new playstyle, and by the second LAN event, Dota Pit, Ember was the 2nd most contested hero and maintained an 85% win rate across 13 games.
Ember Spirit was definitely more impressive the first time people discovered this build. Since then he’s been nerfed quite a bit, with less spell amplification for his talent and now victim to the improved Root mechanic, as he cannot remnant out of it anymore.
In pub games, Ember Spirit’s performance has dropped significantly. He’s still one of the more impressive heroes in the 5k+ MMR bracket, with a 22% pick rate and a 54% winrate. Across all brackets however, both his pick- and win rate have dropped, especially since the nerfs in 7.02.
Regardless, Ember Spirit has been one of the top midlaners in the 7.xx era so far and remains to be one, at least in the higher skilled brackets.
Towards the end of 6.88, Shadow Fiend enjoyed a bit of a resurgence. He had become a little bit of a niche pick and 4 games in Boston is quite impressive, considering how non-existent he had been all year round.
The current meta favors mid heroes who can either dictate the pace of the game and still transition into the lategame, or heroes who excel at farming, but can still be part of teamfights early on.
Shadow Fiend ticks both boxes. He can dominate the midgame, especially with a Shadow Blade, as well as transitioning perfectly into the lategame as a hardcarry. Like any other ranged carry in the past year or so, Shadow Fiend benefits massively from Dragon Lance and his new talents complement his pace very well.
The addition of Shrines also plays quite a role in Shadow Fiend’s rising popularity and success. It allows the hero to be more farm efficient with his spells. The same applies to the added Bounty Runes, which allow any natural Bottle carrier to be a bit more efficient around the map and almost compensates for the magic resistance of neutral creeps. (SF needs to spend more mana to clear camps, but that is supplemented by the new regeneration possibilities through Shrine and Bounty Runes)
A consistently high pick- (21%) and winrate (51%) across all brackets is quite impressive, even if his winrate in the 5k+ MMR bracket (47%) is anything but. In pro games, SF finds himself to be among the most contested heroes, and at Dota Pit he was even among the most banned heroes.
In a meta that favors fights, not only early, but also throughout the midgame, it seems natural for a hero like Invoker to be popular, especially since a lot of heroes he either synergizes with or counters are popular as well. Heroes like Shadow Demon, Centaur or Nyx Assassin set up for an easy Sunstrike, and the ever so popular Ember Spirit is almost easily killed with a Tornado dispelling the Flameguard.
When the 7.00 patch notes dropped, people had a variety of different opinions on whether or not the hero was buffed, nerfed, or just different. In hindsight, it was probably more buff than nerf. Invoke has become a much better spell with huge quality of life improvements, such as the lack of a mana cost when updating slot positions, the low cooldown, and of course the fact that players don’t need to “waste” skill points on it anymore.
The “new” Invoker can come online much sooner than ever before, even when opting for a Midas still. While certain things surely have been nerfed--the fact that the 2nd Forge Spirit is a talent now and only available at level 15 for example--the hero is not strictly worse than before. His consistently high pick rate (29% across all brackets) suggests that he’s at least more fun to play. His low win rate (46% across all brackets) however shows that he’s not the powerhouse he once was. He still is a top pick, for both pubs and pros, and he feels more flexible than ever before, but he’s no auto-win solution, like he was a year ago.
Meepo does not have a significantly high pick rate in either pub or professional play, at least not in comparison to other mid heroes. Certainly, this list could include a different hero here, such as Juggernaut or even Queen of Pain. Meepo deserves to be mentioned here though, because no other patch in Dota 2 has ever been this good for the hero.
Ever since the introduction of Dragon Lance and its buff to include two Band of Elvenskin, Meepo has been revitalized. The stats the item provides for its cost is so good that it is standard to build at least two of them on Meepo, or sometimes even four.
7.00 introduced huge buffs to the hero, as clones now share full attributes without Aghanim’s Scepter. This allows Meepo to build a bit more efficiently, transitioning smoothly from two Dragon Lances into a Blink Dagger and then go for the Agh’s.
The other, significant buff to Meepo was the buff to the Root mechanic. While his Earthbind may not interrupt channeling spells anymore, thus doesn’t prevent TPs, it has gotten buffed in a lot of other situations, as mobile heroes, such as Storm Spirit or Timbersaw, cannot escape the spell without purchasing some form of dispel. And, in classic Meepo fashion, even if they do manage to get out of one Earthbind, there are 3-4 more to deal with.
As mentioned above, Meepo is by no means a top pick like any other hero. His pub stats remain incredibly lackluster--his highest winrate is at 47% in the 5k+ MMR bracket. Regardless though, for a hero as complex as he is, it’s a success to be considered a pick, potentially even a first pick, in pro games. He has left the niche and novelty area and more and more pro teams are adding him to their repertoire.
The midlane is special. As the most popular lane, it allows for creative picks and strategies. As a result, we often see the most variety in the midlane, with traditional carries and supports suited up as midlane heroes. Lone Druid, Juggernaut and Sniper are perfect examples of heroes in this patch that can be both safe- and midlaners without a significant drop-off in their laning potential.
In a patch as open and flexible as the current one, it’s just a matter of time for a new hero to emerge in the midlane. For now, these are the midlaners who have made their mark in this patch and that will likely continue to do so for the next few weeks.
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