What separates a good patch from a great one is often the sheer amount of viable strategies and playstyles. It is underwhelming to see multiple or even all regions converging on the same pool of heroes with very little deviation, even if the game is well balanced within those confines. We are happy to say that 7.29 is definitely a great patch and the end result is that each DPC region has its own unique identity and signature heroes. With slightly over a week before the Major, it is time to look at what the competitors are bringing to the table.
It is common to think of Mars as a very flexible and reliable offlane or mid hero and this line of thought is not wrong. The hero was popular for a very long time, because a potentially unavoidable stun, a strong tanking passive and an area denial + enemy fixation ultimate on top of a pretty decent stat growth is simply a good combination for a playmaking, frontline hero. However, we feel like South America understands the initial design intentions behind the hero the most and are fully utilizing the unique benefits the hero provides. This is why it is the most picked and the second most contested hero in the region.
Mars is one of the few heroes with an actual “taunt” built in. Tanking in Dota was always problematic: you are playing with and against mostly sentient humans and they typically try to avoid committing to the most durable, but not the most threatening target. Mars can essentially force ranged enemies to attack him and can also block all incoming or outgoing projectiles. In a meta where ranged carry heroes are experiencing a resurgence, training a character that can render the enemy first position 70% ineffective is a very smart move, and even if the enemy goes for a melee core, you still have a flexible, reliable, and effective frontline hero.
This one should be very obvious. Warlock is being an annoying nuisance in pubs all across the world because of North America. While the region as a whole is often memed about, and while oftentimes it is well deserved, there is still no denying the effectiveness of Warlock as a teamfight sustain hero in a patch where the balance between durability and DPS got skewed towards the former.
The hero received several small nerfs, but we firmly believe that it is not going to phase North American teams. If anything, we will be surprised if other regions don’t jump on the Warlock bandwagon.
Eastern Europe region is the “Davai” region. Wraith King is a “Davai” character, who rewards risky plays and isn’t as heavily punished when they don’t work out. These two sentences are probably enough to explain why Eastern Europe likes Wraith King and why it is the most contested and the second most picked hero in the region. But why is it a good hero?
We think it mostly has to do with tempo. Wraith King farms incredibly fast and it is not uncommon to see a ~13-minute Radiance, after which the hero’s Net Worth starts to skyrocket. This can create a very sizable advantage for Wraith King’s team in the midgame, which can be used to close the game or take over the map. The idea is similar in concept to how Luna is played but without the drawbacks of being countered or inconvenienced by other meta heroes, such as Mars and Faceless Void.
In theory, it should work really well: ranged carries got buffed, so teams try to outsmart the opponents by picking heroes who are good against ranged carries. In response, some teams start picking heroes who are good against heroes who are good against ranged carries and that is how the “meta” is formed. That said, we truly hope that the Eastern European teams won’t end up outsmarting themselves.
The fourth most contested hero in the region that was virtually non-existent in the rest of the world. Bristleback was played in all three core positions, but predominantly in the middle lane, where he can get an early level advantage and build Vanguard into Aghanim’s Scepter. Even a simple Vanguard from the offlane Bristleback can be very oppressive, but SEA took that principle and supercharged it.
It feels like Aghanim’s Scepter buffs in 7.29 was the straw that propelled Bristleback into the SEA professional meta. It might not look like much, but having a 0-cast point Goo is a big deal. Losing 0.3 seconds to cast point every 1.75 seconds to spam Nasal Goo would pretty much mean being stunned ~17% of the time. It is a crude way of thinking about it, but it perfectly explains why the hero suddenly became so strong. So, no, it isn’t a simple QoL change. It was one of the biggest buffs in the previous patch and it seems only SEA has caught wind of it so far.
Grimstroke keeps losing ~60% of all his pub and pro games patch after patch. We keep calling the hero out patch after patch and keep asking for buffs. The Western European region keeps picking the hero patch after patch and the hero never gets properly buffed, due to his high popularity. Pikachu face.
Without being cheeky, we do agree that the hero deserved to be explored and experimented with after 7.29 was released. Strong Dispel is a very powerful and a pretty rare mechanic to frivolously ignore. The problem is, while Aphotic Shield or Press the Attack are immediate in their effect, Sharded Ink Swell isn’t. It isn’t as effective when played as a reaction to counter a long-duration disable.
When used as a part of an initiation, it might look good, but it still leaves room for counterplay. So it is an upgrade that can’t be used as a counterplay itself and is attached to an effect that is so easy to notice and process, that the first instinct from the enemy players is already the most effective counter-strategy.
It is sad that the most uniquely Western European hero wins ~35% of his games, but perhaps this stubbornness will pay off in the end. Worst case scenario, we will finally get an explanation for what happened in Singapore.
Possibly the most brutal of qualifiers. Given the level of competition, it is unsurprising that all gloves were off from the beginning. While we fully expect that most teams will have a dedicated Brood player or will incorporate the hero into the first two ban phases, it is China who is currently the leading expert on arachnids.
It is hard to say how much of the hero’s success could be attributed to an “undocumented feature”, where Shard would also reduce the Web cooldown. It is also hard to say how strong Brood’s laning presence is going to be, now that the Insatiable Hunger level one is much weaker in terms of lifesteal, but we underestimated Broodmother before and we are not going to make the same mistake twice.
We truly hope the teams are not going to underestimate the hero either. A little bit of spicy cheese can enrich the tournament’s flavor; too much and it might be ruined.