Right after the conclusion of qualifiers, Valve released a new patch, addressing some issues present during the qualification process. The patch mostly focused on hero balance changes. Given there is only one tournament left until TI and it is unlikely to have all the top teams, it might be safe to assume that this version of Dota is either final or very close to what we will actually see at The International.
The majority of heroes haven’t been changes significantly enough to result in win rate swings, but there are several notable exceptions we shall discuss today.
For the first time in recent history Io actually received a nerf that will have a major impact on his competitive presence. Changing Relocate from delayed cast to an actual Channeling spell means saving allies is going to be a lot harder: it creates positioning problems, hence makes the cancelling easier as well.
This change resulted in Io losing 4.04% win rate in pubs and will potentially dethrone the hero from being an almost guaranteed first phase ban or pick. This alone should substantially help with diversifying the meta for the upcoming TI—ever since the Tether rework the hero has been banned in almost every single game.
Night Stalker also got weaker, but only during the daytime. His movement speed was further reduced, while Void now deals only half its damage during the day, resulting in a 3.52% win rate decrease. Changes made the hero even weaker while Hunter in the Night is inactive, but don’t change anything for when the hero is at his best.
Night Stalker is a very unique hero with a very unique set of advantages he offers his team. Scouting, coupled with early game pressure should theoretically allow him to retain his position in the competitive meta: it is still excruciatingly hard to play when the enemy has a massive advantage in terms of initiation, vision and disengagement potential for more than half of the game.
Several other heroes also got worse, all losing slightly over 1.5% win rate: Phantom Lancer, Naga Siren, Skywrath Mage and Windranger all got some very deserved nerfs. While the changes for the latter three were quite small, mostly restricted to stats and number changes on skills, they were noticeable enough to open way for other support heroes, further helping in diversifying the meta.
Ursa’s lane dominance, Roshan potential and teamfight presence have all been substantially increased with a simple +1 stack of Overpower. At level 1 of the ability, he hits the enemy 4 times in less than 1.5 seconds, making it very hard to react to, while the extra damage from Fury Swipes makes every hit count.
The hero is still at his best when supported by teammates who can actually take objectives, other than Roshan, but the amount of space he can create in the first 20-25 minutes of the game is almost unparalleled. If players of all skill levels actually used the provided space, the hero would probably win even more than 55% of his games.
Terrorblade received a rather boring, but evidently effective change. His Agility gain has been further increased—4.2 a level is something old “cancer-lancer” used to have. This change resulted in win rate shift from 48.7% to 52.8%.
The way the hero was balanced lately is somewhat saddening: all of his interesting abilities were nerfed and to compensate for it he was simply made stronger. He is not necessarily easier to play against, compared to his Reflection spam days, but it is probably less frustrating for the opponent and that might be something Valve and IceFrog were going for.
Finally, there is Enchantress, who spent the last several months in Chen’s shadow. The hero received some small all around buffs: Untouchable now scales much better, Impetus deals slightly more damage while the hero herself can attack from slightly further away. The end result is surprising 3.7% increase in hero’s win rate.
It is unclear how well the hero will fit into competitive meta: one one hand she is a decent counter to Chen laning, especially after his cooldown on Holy Persuasion was increased. On the other, that was mostly true even before the Enchantress buffs and almost no one actually tried to play the hero.
Heroes covered today are the only heroes we expect to be played substantially more or substantially less in the upcoming TI. At least during the group stage. As was always the case, by the time playoffs hit, most teams draft not around the meta, but rather around their opponent and it looks like this patch will actually support this approach well.
There are probably going to be small balance adjustments further down the road, especially after the Summit, but they should be mostly smaller number adjustments, rather than drastic overhauls. It is both saddening, but also quite helpful: we will keep you up to date with all pub developments in the upcoming months, explaining how win more of your everyday pubs and what heroes to pick.