Same game, new experience.
With the recent conclusion to The International 7, players were able to get a clear picture of the current state of DOTA 2 and what needed to change. To address these issues, Valve released a new patch on August 20. While the tweaks may seem minor, the impact they have will change the current meta of the game.
Not all changes implemented were as impactful as others, so for time’s sake, I will be focusing on some of the more relevant ones. Of the changes made, items tend to be the most poignant. In patch 7.06f, several changes were made to items that will affect player builds. Perhaps the biggest change made was to Mask of Madness, which received a massive nerf. The Mask now decreases user armor by -6 instead of -5 when activated, and its cooldown has been increased by two seconds. Basically, Mask of Madness will leave the user in a weaker state and isn’t as reliable in team fights where every second counts.
In contrast, Helm of the Dominator received a buff, with its attack speed aura being increased from 10 to 15. While it may lack the lifesteal of Mask of Madness, this simple change means it will have a greater impact in team fights and that it may become a go-to item for supports or carries. Force Staff and Diffusal Blade were also nerfed, but not in any significant way that would discourage purchasing them.
During The International 7, it quickly became apparent which heroes needed changes. Among those picked, Earthshaker was chosen the most with 71 picks and 39 bans, with a win rate of 60.56%. Normally a support hero, pros have been utilizing him as a hard carry as of late. It’s not hard to see why, as Earthshaker has massive stuns, low cooldowns, and an ability that can amplify the damage of his next attack by up to 400%. To address this, the patch has done two things: increasing Fissure’s initial cooldown and adjusting the mana cost of Enchant Totem at lower levels. Earthshaker players will now be less viable early game, unable to combo attacks either due to do longer CDs or insufficient mana. These changes are pretty significant and may cause players to overlook him, as Earthshaker shines early game. It should be noted that these changes will not affect his late game.
Sven also received considerable nerfs. In contrast to Earthshaker, Sven was only picked 39 times but had a larger win rate at 64.10%. Sven’s signature ability, Storm Hammer, had its stun duration reduced at lower levels. Additionally, Warcry’s cooldown has been increased at all levels, meaning longer team fights will leave Sven at a disadvantage. Compared to Earthshaker, these nerfs will affect Sven’s entire game. Players may find picking a different hard carry to be more effective after these changes.
But perhaps the biggest nerf was to Nightstalker, with the duration of his ultimate ability, Darkness, being reduced from 50 to 40 seconds. Not only does this mean that Nightstalker will have smaller periods of burst damage, but team vision will decrease as well. Targeting this ability made sense, with Nightstalker not only receiving a high amount of picks but also receiving the most bans with over 108 recorded during The International this year.
Plenty of buffs went out as well. Truthfully, most were minor, but a few did stand out. Tiny received some massive early and late game buffs, with lower tiers of Toss having its mana reduced. Likewise, Grow’s scepter attack range bonus was significantly increased, from 85 to 150. Skywrath Mage also received buffs. The mana cost of his ultimate was reduced at lower levels and his level 15 right talent was changed from +10% to +15% spell lifesteal. Another notable change was to Wraith King, whose ultimate received a shorter cooldown and saw his level 15 right talent movement speed bonus double from +15 to +30. Due to these changes, we will undoubtedly see more of these heroes in future games.
Oddly enough, the patch failed to address several heroes with both high and low win percentages during The International. Nyx Assassin was fairly prominent during the tournament, with a massive 71.11% win percentage and 105 bans. After all, Nyx’s high burst damage and crowd control abilities make him a great support. A massive nerf would only seem natural after such a performance, but Nyx managed to escape it, receiving only a minor base damage reduction. On the other hand, poor performing heroes like Sand King and Faceless Void were completely ignored by the patch. Compared to others mentioned, these heroes had a low win rate even though they were regularly picked or banned. Honestly, it is a bit disheartening to see such beloved heroes ignored. Whether or not a future patch addresses these issues remains to be seen.
For now, we will just have to adjust and learn the new meta as it is discovered. While this may seem like a pain for some, I personally believe this is what makes DOTA 2 special. DOTA 2 is a constantly evolving MOBA, whether it changes the map, jungle camps, or adds a new hero; it never stays the same for long.
For a full list of changes, check out the official DOTA 2 patch notes found here.