The first Major of the new DPC season might not be attended by some of the top teams, but it is still filled to the brim with the best players in the world, who never stop innovating, theorycrafting and adapting. Because of that, the meta of the qualifiers was quite different to what we’ve seen at the International, despite being in what, for the most part, was essentially the same patch.
Mixed damage heroes are incredibly relevant right now, with a wide open meta. They can be picked early and can adjust their playstyle, depending on the needs of the team, sometimes even switching roles.
We believe it is the main reason both Kunkka and Gyrocopter are the most contested picks of the qualifiers. These heroes lane and scale really well, while having access to both powerful magical bursts and physical attacks.
Kunkka can also be played in both mid and the offlane, adjusting his item build if necessary. The hero was also occasionally played as a position four, though it is incredibly rare right now. Gyrocopter can be played both mid and as a safelane carry, though the former option is certainly less popular in the current meta, compared to the International.
Interestingly, Faceless Void also managed to get into top3 of the most contested heroes and can boast an incredible 64.77% win rate across 88 games. The hero certainly deserves the attention of players, but we are still unsure why he suddenly became so popular. Though he did get some buffs in 7.22c, which made him slightly more reliable in terms of control he offers to his team.
Gyrocopter is joined by Rubick and Ogre Magi in the top3 of this category. Ogre Magi really needs no introduction—the hero was a staple at the international and remains one of the tankiest and most reliable flex picks. Rubick, on the other hand, is probably a direct response to the amount of mixed damage heroes in the current meta.
If many teams decided that they need active cores who can fight early on and have access to spells, which don’t necessarily scale from items, Rubick becomes a lot more appealing. He can use powerful enemy spells better than the enemy and that counts for a lot.
It is much easier to find a use for something like Homing Missile than for something like Stifling Dagger on Rubick and the heroes more akin to Gyrocopter are a lot more prevalent than the heroes like Phantom Assassin, as discussed previously.
Despite not being in the top5 of the most contested heroes, Outworld Devourer still managed to get into top3 of the most banned ones, joining Faceless Void and Kunkka. The most important part of the hero, the one that made him ban-worthy, is the fact that he is one of the few core heroes with a save.
Astral Imprisonment is a very powerful spell in a meta, where cores are very reliant on their abilities to deal damage. Both Kunkka and Gyrocopter hope to focus the enemy down to low health with the use of their spells, at least for the first 30 minutes of the game. Outworld Devourer prevents most of it, at least if played correctly. He is also one of the most annoying counters to Faceless Void, provided he is not the target of focus.
All of this, combined with potential mana issues and high amounts of damage from Sanity's Eclipse, make this hero a priority ban. Typical mixed damage cores can’t boast high mana pools or high mana regeneration and losing 30% of it in the middle of the fight can leave them without access to most of their kit.
We’ve already highlighted how Faceless Void has some incredible stats, but he is not the first in this category of reliably excellent picks. The first two positions are occupied by Abaddon and Crystal Maiden respectively.
The first was incrementally buffed after receiving a massive cast range nerf on Mist Coil and the end result was that the hero pretty much changed roles. Currently, Abaddon is mostly played as a position three core, following the same trends for offlaners we’ve seen in the last several months—the hero frontlines for his team, forcing spells and providing vision and information with his own body.
Crystal Maiden, on the other hand, is a bit interesting. The way the hero’s been played is a bit of a deviation from what we were taught to expect from Crystal Maiden: she doesn’t max Arcane Aura to globally support her team, going for extra levels into Crystal Nova instead. That allows her to have a much stronger laning presence and outpush potential, ensuring higher pressure on the enemy and more options on the map. We typically see something along the lines of 4-1-2-1 by level eight.
Lich, Bane and Tiny were the most overrated heroes of the tournament, with all having less than 40% win rate across a high amount of games. Interestingly, Tiny was probably the original trendsetter as a core hero with mixed damage, but the consequent nerfs to pretty much all of his spells and his Aghanim’s made him less than optimal. He is still a pick worth considering, especially with Faceless Void on your team, but probably shouldn’t be a priority.
If you’ve been attentive while reading this post, it will be easy for you to understand why Lich is so unsuccessful—the hero is excellent at dealing with physical damage burst, courtesy of Frost Shield, but does very little against mixed damage compositions. We believe that Frost Shield is the strongest and the most impactful spell the hero has, but it is very situational and in games where he doesn’t fit perfectly, Lich is reduced to a decent slowing nuke, suboptimal channelling disable and a very unreliable ultimate, making him inferior to most other supports in the game.
Finally, Bane just doesn’t seem to fit the meta, where a lot of damage is dealt incredibly quickly and burst is of high importance. Bane is still a very strong laner, but past the laning stage, to fully realise his potential, he needs to find a good position and be able to channel through at least half of his Fiend's Grip. By that point, most of the fighting is frequently over.
Mixed damage cores are the name of the game in the current meta, but it doesn’t mean that the iconic physical damage cores are completely out—you just need to know when to pick them. We’ve seen the likes of Templar Assassin be incredibly successful and we strongly believe that there is a place for almost any hero in the current meta.
That said, when picking your heroes in pubs right now, considering what the enemy might pick is still very important. Given how supports are typically picked first, we strongly recommend going for all-around flexible supports, rather than strong silver bullets. When picking cores, however, especially the last two picks, remain very flexible and carefully weigh your options.