The latest patch introduced economic changes to Dota, and in our patch review we wrote that the changes are probably going to be significant, but highly unpredictable. It turned out be both right and wrong at the same time: the game is definitely different, but not in terms of hero win rate changes.
Looking at both professional meta and high level pubs, there is a definite increase in the amount of early buybacks. Teams bait big enemy ultimates and then re-engage, supports quickly come back into the fight to get gold and experience, and defending your structures became significantly easier.
Perhaps the best example of how to use the buyback mechanic really well is a Team Liquid vs. Fnatic Game 3 in Dreamleague Season 9:
In this episode you can see Mind_Control trading himself for a Universe Black Hole only to quickly buyback and return to the fight, allowing his team to bait Fnatic into disadvantageous situation.
The best use of the “buyback comeback” is probably when defending sidelane Tier 2 towers: there are two TP access points nearby and the enemy is already in an overextended position with one of the escape routes leading to shrine and the other deeper into the enemy base.
Given that there is no longer a buyback gold penalty, this technique can be used often, especially when playing from behind. Map control is extremely important if you want to farm up and even with the reduced comeback gold, there is a great monetary incentive to get back into the fight, especially on position three to five.
To counterweight the changes to how likely a turnaround fight is now possible there is significantly less AoE and comeback gold in the game, leading to teams feeling a little more secure. Smoke ganks on secondary targets don’t give as much gold, so “space creating” as a support isn’t as punishing for the winning team.
For better teams the result is definitely changing the way they approach the game. With kills giving less gold, there is an even bigger focus on objectives. This source of reliable gold should not be underestimated, as it allows cores to give back to their supports through extra gold from towers and Roshan.
It is also worth noting that we often see winning teams playing 4+1, with space taken by a position 4 support: if he tanks a smoke gank, it’s not the much of an issue, since he doesn’t give away as much gold. If he manages to farm up a crucial item, your team is going to be in an even better position. Some of these supports are also good pushers on their own, showing the waves into the the enemy side of the map, potentially taking an objective or at least forcing the enemy to react.
This early economic boost from objectives directly translates to how much utility supports can provide throughout the game—an extra item can allow for an unlikely survival or an extra kill on the enemy, creating a snowball effect. Surviving in an engagement means more XP and Gold, which means better items and higher levels, which means higher probability of survival and kills or assists in the next engagements.
Because of it you often see very proactive cores in both the safelane and mid: they are threatening on their own, have a kill potential with the help of supports and can transition an early kill into a push.
Looking at the most popular cores of Dreamleague Season 9, there is a lot of Gyrocopter, Tiny, Death Prophet and Lifestealer: these heroes “enable” their supports, creating a situation where they can actually have early assists and then progress through their utility items.
Without touching hero balance, the patch was unlikely to force a significant meta shift. For the most part the same heroes we saw at Bucharest and Katowice are still dominating the professional scene.
There are, however, some developments. Lifestealer finally became a priority pick, as an excellent countermeasure against Gyrocopter. He matches and even exceeds his aggression in the early engagements, while easily going toe-to-toe with him cet. par.
As mentioned in our Katowice to Bucharest blog post, teams might not have had the time to come up with new strategies and there are definitely some signs of development in Dreamleague. As always, be sure to check our full professional meta recap next Monday, once the Swedish tournament concludes.