The Kiev Major has concluded and as the first tournament on the 7.05 patch, it saw a lot of changes and variations from DAC 2017. What are the key takeaways from this event and the patch so far?
At DAC, roamers where the name of the game with Earth Spirit and Monkey King occupying the first two spots of the most picked list. Since then however, 7.05 has nerfed both heroes quite significantly, certainly enough to edge Earth Spirit out of the top 20 list of the most contested heroes and to decrease Monkey King’s win rate from 58% at DAC to now 40% in Kiev.
The focus of first phase picks has shifted towards heroes that provide guaranteed stability and support in the laning stage. Crystal Maiden was already on the rise during DAC, but now she’s climbed to the top of the charts, as the most picked and third most contested hero at the LAN event.
Crystal Maiden’s skillset is incredibly valuable in the meta. Frostbite has always allowed her to farm efficiently early on and to increase her levels quickly for more levels in her aura, and Crystal Nova is a spell that has effectively been buffed continuously ever since it replaced Frost Nova in 6.60. A lot of her weaknesses are overshadowed by the vast amount of strong support items that can make up for them, such as Glimmer Cape, Force Staff or even the cheap Infused Raindrops. Lastly, it is the buff to root mechanics, and subsequently her Frostbite, that makes Crystal Maiden a huge threat in the early and midgame. Heroes that rely on mobility get countered quite easily and with the recent MS buff to Tranquil Boots, Crystal Maiden doesn’t suffer too much from her low base MS anymore and can thus reach targets quicker. In a meta where Hand of Midas was purchased over 250 times, heroes that can sustain themselves while still supporting the other lanes is of huge value and Crystal Maiden is just that, a value pick up.
Rylai is not the only support worth looking at though. Warlock has once again emerged and proven to be a strong support pick and 7.05 also brought Treant Protector back into Captain’s Mode and he immediately took a seat at the top as the most contested hero alongside Monkey King. Both Treant and Warlock provide stability through their defensive skills and have strong AoE teamfight abilities that pose quite the threat in the midgame. Treant also has the added bonus of map control and vision through his invisibility and the ability to negate chip damage dealt to towers.
In our group stage recap, we touched on the return of split push. While Nature’s Prophet or Anti-Mage dropped off in the playoffs, it was Spectre that prevailed and showed how valuable it is to have a hero that can both split push and take on teamfights. Split push has not been the prevalent strategy of the event, but there are reasons for that.
One of these reasons is Legion Commander. As the 5th most contested hero of the event, it is safe to say that Legion was one of the most important heroes in the meta. Her laning stage is very reliable, as she can always fall back into the jungle, but also because she can contest the lane’s farm with her durability and sustain. When paired with a lane support such as Warlock or Treant, Legion is a serious threat. In that sense, Legion replaced the out of favor Centaur Warrunner, who was hit hard by the change to Tranquil Boots, which no longer provide armor, and as a result was only picked 9 times in Kiev (previously 36x at DAC).
Legion has a strong, BKB piercing disable, a hard dispel and provides strong waveclear. In a meta with split push, illusion heroes or strong BKB carries, Legion has a skillset with answers to almost everything, or the very least can enable others to deal with those problems.
Press the Attack is a strong dispel and provides additional HP regen and attack speed and as such is one of the strongest boosting abilities in the game. In a meta where taking highground is sufficiently difficult, it becomes important to have sustain and the ability to save the sieging carry from disables.
Other than such abilities though, there are items that serve the same purpose. That’s where items such as Lotus Orb or Solar Crest come into play. They make it more difficult for the sieging carry to be disabled. Solar Crest especially has risen in popularity, due to its cheap components that are also effective by themselves. Medallion of Courage is a value pick-up for virtually any support, as it helps farming and taking objectives (especially Roshan). In fact, Solar Crest become so popular (over 140 purchases at the Kiev Major), that it is questionable whether Solar Crest could provide too much value for its low cost.
solar crest = 12 armor and 25% miss item, with 7 armor and 20% ingredients (no recipe). too much value perhaps needs a recipe cost.— Damien Chok (@kpiidota) April 30, 2017
The current meta allows heroes to farm items quite reliably, so the increase in utility items for supports is only natural. But even core heroes have resorted to building these items, as they are cost efficient and allow for favorable early engagements.
We’ve talked about the most picked heroes, but what heroes had the highest winrates? Among the heroes with at least 10 games played, Enigma takes the cake with an 80% win rate. It should be noted thought that only a total of 4 teams played the hero, one of which is OG.
Right behind Enigma, Terrorblade and Slark share a second place with a 78% win rate each and then Templar Assassin on fourth place with a 75% win rate. Terrorblade is a strong hero to siege highground with, as his illusions are difficult to take care of and he is a tanky, long-ranged carry, which makes it difficult to get to the main hero. Similarly, both Slark and TA provide some form of siege potential, as both have either a defensive ability or can burst down a hero by themselves, providing an opening for the team to go in. Templar Assassin is valuable when taking down objectives in general and almost always has a stable laning stage, since she can always fall back into the jungle and clear stacks.
Dark Seer barely made the list with 12 games played, but he too fields a 75% win rate. Similarly to Enigma, Dark Seer provides a lot of teamfight and stability through a solid laning stage. As a natural Mekansm carrier and initiator, he can take pressure off of other cores and apply that towards the enemy.
The Kiev Major has been the only tournament on 7.05, but could it also be the last? With the frequency of smaller balance patches since 7.00, it doesn't seem likely that 7.05 will live on for much longer. Small, incremental nerfs and buffs to certain aspects of the game feel necessary. Solar Crest might just be too valuable for its price at this point and Crystal Maiden's high pick rate indicates that she too will soon face the judgement of Icefrog again. Will split push be even more encouraged from here on out, or will it remain in its arguably very niche place? There are also very real questions about whether or not sieging highground should continue to be as difficult as it is right now.
It will be interesting to see whether the next balance patch will in fact be in line with the smaller patches leading up to DAC and Kiev, or if the conclusion of the Kiev Major will spark a new, bigger balance patch. Prior to 7.00, that would've been the likeliest case, but a new wind is blowing and we have yet to see where it's taking us.