If you’ve played Dota for any amount of time, chances are you’ve had “The Pudge Experience”. Despite spending several years in a nearly unpickable state, Pudge has routinely maintained one of the highest pick rates in the game. Obviously the hero is iconic and fun to play but Dota is not a fun game when losing so the real question is; why pick a hero that actively makes it harder to win?
Don’t worry, we will get to Mars here in a second but understanding the psychology of what makes a hero have a high pick rate is somewhat complex. The fun factor plays a big part and so does the infamous nature of the hero. We also see some heroes such as Ogre and Wraith King showing up often due to their relatively easy play styles. Additionally, heroes that are deemed overpowered each patch see their pick rate rise as the meta trickles down from high level games over time.
One factor that might not be so obvious and the one that seems to have kept Mars in the meta is perceived impact. This is the idea that it feels like you, the player, are doing impactful things regardless of whether you are or not. This is pretty easy to see in Pudge because the difference between whiffing Hooks all over the map and hitting a critical target at a critical time is so huge. Few things feel better in Dota than hooking an enemy carry deep out of position and completely turning a fight around. All the failed hooks, weak impact and deaths fed away up til that point be damned!
This similar phenomenon is very clear in a hero like Earthshaker. The visceral impact of hitting a huge Echo Slam can often make even a terribly lost game feel kind of satisfying. There is a sense of, “well at least I did my job,” even if there were countless mistakes before that moment. Arena of Blood seems to fall into this category and even seems to have lured many professional teams into leaning heavily into the hero despite middling or poor results.
The Mars we see in today’s DPC games is a faint shadow of the damage dealing, unkillable monstrosity that Icefrog added to Dota in 2019. Since his release, Mars players have shown us all sorts of amazing techniques and ability combos. In response to the rising level of Mars has been continuously nerfed, normally a death sentence to a hero’s spot in the meta. However, Mars has persisted patch after patch as one of the most picked offlane heroes in the game. Even after having his ultimate’s cooldown severely increased, teams continue to throw Mars into the mix. The question is now, are they simply too comfortable getting mediocre impact out of what feels like a game changing ultimate ability?
To be fair, there are some Mars specialists and even full regions that seem to be wringing further value from the god of war. South America in particular sports a 63% win rate with Mars as the most picked hero in the DPC Upper Division. Meanwhile, regions like SEA and Western Europe show sub 50% win rates while using Mars a huge percentage of the time. China in particular stands out with an 18% win rate on the second most picked hero in the region.
All of this data points to Mars no longer being that all important glue piece of every lineup. In typical Icefrog fashion we seem to have finally arrived at a place of relative balance for one of Dota’s most important heroes over the past couple of years. Mars can still work but his place in a lineup seems to require specific criteria for real impact.
i see it
I'm master tier on Mars, as well as having it be my most played hero. The reason why this hero is still a pillar of pro team drafts despite the numerous nerfs is, in my opinion, the simplicity of the hero. Aside from spear being harder to land than most skills, all of his kit is straight forward and simple. This means he will always preform his job, even if it isn't able to be as flashy as it used to, with lower damage numbers across the board. He still has debatably the strongest laning out of any offlaner in the early levels, being able to secure ranged creeps with a nuke on a low cooldown and manacost while also harassing the enemy hero. Additionally his E counters every ranged carry, slightly less so for Drow and Clinkz, but dissuading an entire group of heroes because of Bulwark + Arena is powerful, and it sometimes bleeds into mid heroes as well, like TA.
See mars buy refresher in pro scene, using arena two times trapping enemy ranged carry. She deals no damage since all of her projectile get blocked by the wall of arena. BKB is useless since it doesnt protect the projectile.
I think you are looking mostly at stats, the hero simply works well with the meta, with the items that are good right now, and current preffered playstyle for the offlane role, just compare Mars with the rest of the offlane heroes, it doesn't matter if a hero is nerfed or has a negative winrate if it's still better than the other choices in it's role, if the hero is picked so much by HIGH LEVEL PLAYERS it's for a reason, and if they don't stop picking it is because they don't regret it.
Good hero, but pretty much very straightforward and unflexible, so maybe not the best for pros, but what he does he does well.
I played a lot of mars . Imo he works like a pro players axe . Reliable , stable offlaner with tools to deal with anything . Is he overrated ? Yes , a lot . Is he must have ? Nop. Is he a pudge of pro scene ? I wouldnt agree. Comfort pick , yes but not a pick for fun and hit one good spell to win a game type of hero.
Yeah these statistics really dont mean anything, Mars is picked in the first 3-4 picks which means that the other team takes steps to reduce the impact of the hero. So yeah, early pick heroes will have lower winrates but can still be very good.