7.06 was a great patch that saw many epic encounters, but any patch will feel stale after some time and once the curtains closed on The International 2017, fans couldn't wait for the new balance patch. Two new heroes have been added to the game now, five items and several heroes have been reworked.
As there is a lot to analyze, we've decided to discuss the new heroes and most talent changes in separate posts.
7.00 introduced vast changes to the laning stage, emphasizing denies by granting both users xp when a creep is denied. Denies will become even more important going forward, as the enemy will only be granted 25% of the creep’s xp. If a player managed to deny all of his creeps, they could delay the enemy’s level 2 up to 4 waves.
Changing the amount of xp provided by both melee and ranged creeps (more xp from melee, less from ranged) changes the dynamic quite a bit. Up until now, it was absolutely crucial to kill or deny the ranged creep, it often led to small advantages that could potentially snowball further. It also made certain heroes stronger that could always ensure the kill on the ranged creep, i.e. Mirana players would often use their arrow specifically to kill the ranged creep.
As it stands now, denying a single creep from the first creep wave will prevent the opponent from reaching level 2, which was true before as well. That said, a hero on any other lane than the mid lane was unable to reach level 2 with just the first creep wave, which has now been reverted. The changes to denies and the balancing of xp provided across ranged and melee creeps rewards consistent last hitting behaviour and skill. Players that are consistently good at securing the lane equilibrium won’t be punished by an opponent that can always just snipe the ranged creep. From the offlane perspective, that means that securing farm and xp on lane has become a bit more difficult again. To balance that out, the range of receiving xp has been increased slightly and neutral creeps killing lane creeps now provides full xp, meaning that contesting a pull could be very well worth it.
One of the last remnants of the WC3 engine limitations is gone. Unique Attack Modifiers were a limitation, then a design choice and now they are no more. Several other UAMs have been turned to passives before and now Anti-Mage and Outworld Devourer can enjoy the freedom of building any item they want to--it’s a different questions whether or not they really should though.
While these upfront costs have been increased significantly, it pays off later on. The Animal Courier upgrades automatically, meaning that supports don’t have to save for the money throughout the laning stage and make the tough decision between boots and an upgrade. Though one could also see it from a different perspective: Supports can no longer forget to upgrade the courier.
Observer Ward now provide 100 xp, a resource that, as illustrated above, doesn’t necessarily come easy anymore. Every hero will now also be equipped with a TP from the beginning, which is 50 gold more saved for supports. In lower skilled games, the value of an early TP is definitely underrated. While this is great for early rotations, the fixed cooldown also means that supports can no longer TP out to place early wards, something that pro players would often do.
This is a huge buff to supports and spell casters with Hex abilities, as not even Slark can dispel it anymore.
Up until now, heroes only gained more damage from their respective attributes. With Perks, heroes will further set themselves apart, as there is an added benefit of building into one’s own attribute. A full slotted Queen of Pain at level 25 could go from a 33% magic resistance pre-patch to now almost 50%. Perks aren’t necessarily things that will change item builds drastically, but similarly to Spell Amplification’s implementation into the game, they’re nice to have and very welcome.
Agility heroes may have had their base movement speed reduced by 5, but even Weaver, the Agility hero with the lowest base Agility, only loses 3 movement speed at level 1. Players don’t have to fear that any Agility carry will be a second Bloodseeker. As great as the Agility Perk may look on paper, it still doesn’t necessarily turn any carry into a Mercedes. A level 25 Morphling--the hero with the highest, natural Agility growth and of course his own Attribute Shift ability--with Boots of Travel, Sange & Yasha and 4 Ethereal Blades will just hit the max movement speed of 550, roughly 100 more than Morphling could get previously. These 100 bonus MS are very much the exception though, so while the potential for crazy, speedy carries is there, the reality is that it will mostly just increase the quality of life for carries, making it easier to farm across the map.
Status Resistance is a much more interesting Perk, mostly because it is a new mechanic introduced into the game. Strength heroes are usually front-line tanks that can get kited around quite easily. Sven is a prime example of a carry that can be entirely useless in a fight if he doesn’t get to hit people. There are all kinds of slows and stuns in the game that can make it difficult for him, the most popular example would be Venomancer’s Gale. Now however, Sven doesn’t suffer a smuch from such abilities anymore. A max level Sven with a standard item build could potentially have close to 30% Status Resistance, bringing down the time of slows and stuns to ⅔ of their original duration, making it more and more difficult to deal with a heavy hitter like Sven in the lategame. A more extreme example includes Centaur, the hero with the highest Strength growth, who could have over 50% Status Resistance with an inventory full of Heart of Tarrasques.
Status Resistance is incredibly important as Hex is no longer dispellable, meaning that reducing its duration is the only viable option to deal with it, aside from blocking it entirely.
Mana and Health regeneration formulas have been simplified. Generally speaking though, regeneration doesn’t scale as well with stat gain anymore, instead flat regeneration has become much more valuable and important, which is why these items have largely been nerfed/adjusted, similarly to skills and talents.
While the patch has largely focused on improving/changing hero talents, there’ve been a few significant buffs, nerfs and even hero reworks as well.
Chilling Touch has always been an ability that had its place largely in the laning stage. Most AA players would focus on Cold Feet and Ice Vortex later on, as these abilities provided more value going forward, meaning it is quite warranted for Chilling Touch to receive buffs. On top of providing bonus damage, it now also applies a slow, without slowing down allies’ attack speed anymore. While it may sound good on paper, it begs the question whether it could really replace either Ice Vortex or Cold Feet as a must have ability, or if it makes for a realistic alternative. Ice Vortex will always be better, as long as it provides vision. Cold Feet is a great spell in the laning stage that combos well with other disables. Chilling Touch may have a lower mana cost, but it is also less reliable and it’s not worth skilling all three abilities early on as AA won’t have the mana to sustain them. It’s a good buff, but may need a few tweaks to become a viable alternative.
Bane went from unpicked at TI7 to the most picked hero at the ESL One Hamburg Major, proving that a hero doesn’t need buffs to go from zero to hero. Valve decided to buff him regardless, quite significantly as well. The cast point reduction will make a difference in many cases and being able to attack a nightmared target could also secure a kill or two.
Wild Axes have become a more spammable spell, with a lower cooldown, lower damage, lower mana cost and a debuff to keep track of stacks, which amplifies further axe hits. The ability has always been in the shadows of Beastmaster’s other spells. It’s unlikely to become a priority ability anytime soon, despite Call of the Wild’s massive rework. Call of the Wild is now one ability again and without any cooldown reduction, Beastmaster will only be able to summon one of each of his beasts at a time. Gone are the days of double Boar harassment, though to make up for that, a single Boar now deals twice the damage at level 1. Hawks are no longer invisible, but have significantly more HP and higher movement speed, making it more difficult for enemies to kill it. The provided vision has also been buffed and does not reduce during nighttime anymore (will still be reduced by Night Stalker’s Darkness).
Complexity Gaming’s Moo has popularized a Beastmaster build with a Helm of the Dominator. The hero pushes very quickly with his units and the aura and now has the potential to have 2 Neutral creeps at his disposal. Beastmaster players will look to have Inner Beast and Call of the Wild maxed as soon as possible to apply as much pressure as possible and while Beastmaster’s laning stage may not be as potent anymore, but his mid game has become a lot deadlier.
Broodmother has always been one of the more annoying heroes to deal with. Taking away her invisibility is a huge step in making it less annoying and stressful to deal with her. Yes, she now doesn’t lose her free pathing or her movement speed when hit, but at least supports don’t have to worry with detection items, at least until she builds a Shadow Blade.
Spiderlings now only have 77% of their EHP, Spiderlite still have 80%. This means, spiders are even more vulnerable to physical attacks, especially those with cleave, as cleave ignores armor values on secondary targets, more on cleave here and EHP here. To counterbalance that physical damage weakness, spiders now have 50% magic resistance. While this may not change much for level 4 nukes, most of which will be able to clear spiders with the same amount of casts as before, it helps make spiders tank up for the early laning stage. Queen of Pain could clear spiders with two level 3 Screams of Pain, but that wouldn’t be sufficient now anymore. The real spider terror begins with the level 25 talent though, which gives spiders additional 350 HP. That increases the spiders’ EHP to 840/630, in comparison to the previous 675/400, though whether players would opt for that talent instead of the additional lifesteal remains to be seen. This is definitely a nerf to mid Broodmother, where several pro players have laned her. Being visible makes it easier for opponents to gank her, which isn’t necessary an issue on sidelanes, where she has trees to mask her position. Generally though, spiders have become much stronger and are much more sustainable in lane, though the question is if the laning stage is really where Broodmother struggled.
Chen is the third least picked hero of all time and the two hero below him have only been in the game for 1-2 years, meaning they'll likely overtake him soon. The reason for his lack of popularity is that Chen is all about creeps and micro. Enchantress is quite similar to Chen, in that she can control neutral creeps, but she also has a way of playing that doesn't rely on controlling creeps. She can deal damage, she can heal and slow. Chen can deal damage as well, but his nuke isn't exactly game changing.
Test of Faith's healing component isn't the best heal in the game either, especially since it has a random value, but with up to 200 HP healing, Chen has a bit more value outside of his creep army. The max value to oneself, meaning 200 heal at level 4, is a true blessing for Chen players, who otherwise have to use Hand of God for themselves, instead of being able to focus on helping their team with it.
It's unlikely that this change will catapult Chen to the most played support list, but next time a player randoms him, maybe it isn't the end of the world.
Poison Touch is now a more potent ability. Zoning out offlaners is even stronger than before, as any attack refreshes the debuff duration, forcing the opponent to run out of attack range and/or making every trade favorable for Dazzle. The spread is a nice bonus that will make Dazzle a more potent teamfighter, but in most cases Dazzle players will max Shadow Wave and Shallow Grave first, since they generally scale better. That said, the amount of affected targets make this spell a potentially strong farming ability that could bring back a carry Dazzle build, or at the very least he can help his carry farm stacks more conveniently.
Earthshaker now deals less damage on single heroes, but does almost double the damage to 5 heroes.
Homing Missile has always been an odd ability, the kind of ability that used to be even overshadowed by stats, back when heroes could still skill stats. Removing its cast point is a significant buff to the spell, as is the fact that it won’t disappear when the target dies, instead it will find a new target, much like Spirit Breaker’s Charge of Darkness. This makes Homing Missile a much more potent ability, something that is worth a value point early on, especially with an increased missile speed. The reduced damage is not really that impactful, as the ability would already serve its purpose if it connected the stun on time, which it now can. This is an overall strong buff for a hero that’s been long forgotten.
This vastly changes how Morphling will be played going forward. While the carry potential is still there, this could potentially open up a less farming oriented playstyle similar to that of the previous offlane Morphlings, which largely focused on stunning and utility. Splitting Adaptive Strike into two abilities suggests that Icefrog perhaps has a playstyle in mind in which there is a more natural transition between Strength and Agility and as Attribute Shift has no mana cost, we could perhaps see more Morphlings be more flexible with their attribtues.
Dota is all about vision and denying such is a huge deal. Riki’s Smoke Screen may only have a 325 radius, but that is sufficient (and with a 6 second duration long enough as well) to trap at least one hero and player in. This can make a huge difference in teamfights, as it will create chaos for the enemy team, making it harder to make calls for one another.
This is the kind of buff that could potentially invoke some other nerfs, such as the duration of the Smoke Screen, its radius or other aspects of the hero.
Tiny was one of the few heroes unpicked at The International 2017 and even since then he’s only barely seen any play, most of the time with Io as a trusting partner to help him farm and fight. While it’s unclear whether he may still need Io, the new skills certainly have made him a more potent hero overall. Instead of needing a slot for an Aghanim’s Scepter--and having to buy it--Tiny can now grab a tree and use it to add more damage and cleave to his attacks. While it may be limited to only a few attacks, and the ability itself has a significant cooldown, this allows Tiny to focus on items for his attack speed, as he now starts with 0 Agility and won’t gain any Agility from levelling up either.
Tiny’s pushing potential has been rather diminished, as his bonus damage to buildings is bound to only a few attacks and has also been halved. That said, the added status resistance from Grow makes him much more potent in fights.
The numbers may look strong on paper, but Tombstone, aside from being annoying, hasn’t become significantly stronger. Yes, its duration and AoE have received strong buffs for the early game, but at the same time the rate at which zombies spawn has been nerfed. Early game fights are unlikely to last for 30 seconds and one could even argue that that is a nerf to the hero, as zombies would push in waves even after the teamfight has been won. Tombstone has become a better value skill point though, as it doesn’t scale that well, allowing players to focus more on Decay and Soul Rip.
Viper has always been in an odd spot. A niche pick that can absolutely destroy his lane opponent, but can fall off horribly in the midgame. The new abilities look to change the hero quite a bit, though the question is whether it’s for the worse or for the better. The way Viper approaches his laning stage has vastly changed. Nethertoxin is a good harassment spell that could help zone out enemies, similar to Alchemist’s Acid Spray, though with a much smaller AoE. Poison Attack is better the less HP the enemy has, so likely an ability to use after Nethertoxin has worked its magic. While there’s still potential for Viper to harass enemies out of the lane, enemies can now also harass him back more easily, as Corrosive Skin doesn’t slow them anymore.
Generally speaking though, the HP and percentage based damage of Poison Attack allow Viper to scale much better into the lategame, while Nethertoxin’s Break make Viper one of only 3 heroes to have this mechanic and thus a much more capable pick in more situations than before.
Much like Tiny, Wraith King was unpicked at TI7 and has been since, putting him in much need of an overhaul. The new Mortal Strike adds more push power to Wraith King’s skill set, though the lack of control may not make this ability appealing enough to change Wraith King’s position among players.
Five new items have been added, while Poor Man's Shield and Iron Talon have been removed. Both of these items have been proven to be very popular and successful. PMS has almost become so powerful that it was a go to purchase on virtually any sidelaner. It also provided a lot of melee carries with the opportunity to stand in lane with ranged carries that couldn’t sufficiently harass with abilities and only with attacks.
The very concept of the item is very utility oriented. Any hero that isn’t in the top 2 farming positions will likely be interested in purchasing this item. The build up is fairly easy and natural, while the stats it provides are solid for any support.
Aeon Disk is now the first item to provide a strong dispel. The reduced incoming and outgoing damage makes this a good item for frontline tanks and initiators who mostly look to set up the fight, sometimes with an AoE spell, without necessarily relying on damage output of their own.
Every team should have an Urn of Shadows in their line-up and this upgrade only emphasizes that point. Spirit Vessel is a great upgrade for its cost and any support would be happy to build it going forward. It allows an early support item, which can be built within the first 10 minutes, to scale into the lategame, which is unprecedented.
Nullifier is a bit like Bloodthorn: a very expensive, single target oriented item. The 100% MS slow can be thought of as a barrage of mini-stuns. The item would be much better if players could disassemble it, then it would serve as a potential Divine Rapier slot in the late game. While muting a target in the lategame can be game winning, especially when you prevent a clutch BKB activation, it isn’t a perfect mute either and for its cost there are considerations to be made if something like a Scythe of Vyse wouldn’t be better. Physical damage carries will still have Bloodthorn for single target damage and especially for melee carries, a Basher/Abyssal Blade should yield better results as well.
There’s definitely potential for this item, and it is likely going to be a key item for future Arc Warden builds, but right now it seems situational.
The next Aether Lens? When Aether Lens was introduced, virtually any intelligence hero and spell caster would acquire it, simply because it was too good. It brought in new mechanics (extending cast range and magic damage amplification) and was cheap enough to be worth a purchase. Mana cost & Manaloss reduction are new mechanics as well and for 1950 gold, the item seems more than worth it. The build up is fairly simple, similar to a Force Staff, and the benefits are too good to pass up on. Supports that likely starve on mana and usually need Arcane Boots to compensate could look towards this item and build Tranquil Boots instead, similar to how pros have chosen to build Soul Ring + Tranquil Boots on supports these days.
This is a huge patch, and we haven’t even touched on the vast talent changes--expect a blogpost on those.
Offlaners seem to have a much rougher life, everybody is becoming squishier and the game seems to have more unique flavor than ever.