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Nine heroes went unpicked and unbanned at the Kiev Major, a low rate that’s continued the trend, since DAC 2017, of the wide breadth of strategies teams have employed. Some of the heroes of this ignored group were regular tenants, while the presence of other heroes signaled the downfall of their once popularity.
It’s usually the case that the meta established by premier tournaments sets the rationale for how Valve makes their patch decisions. For professionals, popular heroes are strong heroes, compared to pub games, where sometimes popular heroes can just be ones that are fun to play.
On the other end, heroes who are largely ignored or underpicked tend to be the focus of potential buffs. Lone Druid went from completely ignored at the Boston Major in patch 6.88f to a de facto first round pick with the buffs in 7.00+, before his inevitable nerf. As another patch version looms ahead before TI7, look to the ignored heroes of the Kiev Major as potential targets for buffs and reworks.
Mirana never recovered from the nerf hammer to her Aghanim’s Scepter in 6.88, and then she continued to receive precipitous nerfs in 6.88e (passive Starstorm trigger interval from 8 to 9) and in 6.88f (interval from 9 to 10). Top that all off with nerfing Leap in 7.00 by no longer allowing it to disjoint projectiles. Amid the popularity of heroes like Legion Commander and Abaddon, who can simply dispel the stun from a long distance arrow, it seems like none of Mirana’s skills have any impact on a game.
Ancient Apparition has been non existent for months, despite meager attempts to increase his relevancy with minor buffs to Cold Feet and Chiling Touch from 7.03 to 7.05. The aim was to increase his strength in the lane and as a roamer, but he’s still underpowered in this area, which relegates him to a one shot wonder with Ice Blast. What says a lot about his current place in the meta is that he still went unplayed at DAC 2017, which saw Alchemist as its 3rd most picked hero.
Shadow Demon didn’t deserve this. He’s received nerfs almost every patch from 6.86 to 7.02. That’s 8 times his skills have been tweaked: an increase in cooldown duration here, an increase in mana cost there, and a total nerf to illusion damage. He’s historically underpicked in pubs, particularly because of the various interactions between his skills, and the very high probability that a poor Disruption can hurt his own team.
Illusions in general have been too strong for virtually no risk for the players using them. Shadow Demon has been a victim of the nerfs in that area, but there has to be another solution to the illusion problem for him to come back into the meta.
Whereas Shadow Demon got nerfed over 8 versions, Lone Druid was nerfed only over 5 versions. He’s had the largest fall out of all the heroes in this group, from first pick to completely untouched. He was a thorny hero to deal with, and at times melted towers a little too easily. The Rabid cooldown may have been one nerf too far, since Lone Druid, whether the ranged or the bear build, depends on the hero to be effective at all.
At this rate, Snith is going to be responsible for 84% of all Chen games played this year. Chen did receive a buff last patch, but he’s suffered from the changes to the jungle mechanics in 7.00 and the popularity of Hand of Midas in nearly every game. Patch 7.00 is a tough era for jungle heroes.
Put Necrophos in the camp of heroes who are top tier in pubs but bottom of the barrel in professional games (Zeus, Spirit Breaker). Despite the reworks and buffs, he’s still highly vulnerable and counterable to the same tactics. He did have some niche comeback potential with his Aghanim’s upgrade disabling buyback, but that’s now gone. And the introduction of Glimmer Cape didn’t do him any favors either.
Does Atrophy Aura even do anything at level 1? It went from 10% to 4% damage reduction at level 1, and so requiring offlaners to commit at least 2 skill points in it removes the possibility of an early value point in Firestorm or Pit of Malice. Like most of Valve’s new heroes, it seems like it’ll take some time to rejigger their place in the meta.
Gyrocopter might be a hero that has a high chance of being passed on for getting a buff in the next patch, considering his popularity at past Valve events. After being a top tier pick in TI5, Gyrocopter has been receiving nerfs ever since. That’s two years of changes since 6.84. His changelog is a series of lines that all begin with the word “Reduced […]” and ends with a nerf to his intelligence gain, Call Down damage, base attack damage, or Rocket Barrage. A new Aghanim Scepter upgrade and the talent trees puts him once again in between two builds of either a spell casting support or a physical damage carry. Gyrocopter most likely needs a rework, rather than a tweak, for him to be part of the meta again.
Viper is an interesting case because he’s still under-picked despite receiving significant buffs since patch 7.00. He’s a strong hero, but with some glaring weaknesses that don’t seem to fit the current meta. The potential is there, and so he seems to be one or two buffs away from leapfrogging into a top tier pick. In the past, heroes like Windranger and Juggernaut also underwent similar trends, from getting under-the-radar buff after buff, until one more just tipped them completely over the edge.