We're two weeks into patch 6.85, and its impact has reverberated throughout our pubs. Storm Spirit, who hovered slightly below a 50% win rate in 6.84c, now rests at the bottom at 43.53% in 6.85. Leshrac, the instant pick/ban mid hero for TI5, dropped from 56% to 47.39%. His pick rate at the same time has dipped by more than half. Techies suffered a similar fate, perhaps much to the public’s delight. Patch 6.85 has seen little guidance from major professional tournaments—the most recent being ESL One New York— and so its impact has been largely due to consequence and natural order, like observing a chain of events in the wild. There is still more time for the meta to develop, more time for heroes to either peter out or continue their trajectory, but here are few of the largest consequences of 6.85.
Leshrac takes the cake for being the biggest loser in this patch, dropping nearly 10% in win rate since 6.85. His nerfs were brutal. First, he’s a casualty of nerfs to two of his core items: Bloodstone and Eul’s Scepter. Second, the reduction in the damage to his base attack and Lightning Storm knocked him out from top tier mid hero to the gray zone of viability. He may still have a place in some matchups or as a role in support—the damage output of his other spells went untouched. Puppey played him as a support at ESL One and both VP and Fnatic tried him out in the safe lane. However, wherever he lands will be a far cry from being the 100% pick and ban hero for the majority of TI5.
In one day, his win rate dropped from 53.92% to 46.80%. He also dropped from the second most picked hero in 6.84c, right behind Pudge, to the 11th most picked hero in 6.85. Though still popular, his appearance in pubs won’t always be met with groans from the enemy team. Perhaps the appropriate response to a hero that loses a majority of his games should be delight. He’s now less frustrating to play against in the early laning phase, with the nerfs to Thirst and the heal from Bloodrage, though this may go unnoticed for many since our statistics show that 40.59% of Bloodseekers lane in the jungle.
Despite being a hero with an average pub win rate and many counters, Storm Spirit was still a menace in high skill games, where a proficient player could use his potential to capitalize on the smallest of enemy errors in movement and positioning. Pros such as Sumail and Maybe created highlight reels off the backs of their signature Storm Spirit play during TI5.
His win rate dropped from 49.45% to 43.78% after 6.85. In the recent ESL One NY, he went through the main event unpicked. The mana cost nerf on his Static Remnant was a nerf not only to his lane, but also his ability to jungle. What the mana cost nerfs amount to is a hamstring on Storm Spirit’s potential in the early game, not only to snowball, but to break even in unfavorable matchups, or come back through farming stacks in the jungle. Though the mana cost nerfs are negligible in the late game, the changes to Bloodstone are not. Bloodstone is no longer that safety cushion that allowed Storm players to expend their mana pool and die with little risk to their unreliable gold. Part of his fall could just be an adjustment period for players to get used to his mana costs. But at the moment, the outlook for Storm Spirit looks bleak.
His pick rate dropped by nearly half from 11.93%, at his peak in the last month, to 5.84% today. The nerfs to the hero are interesting. The changes to land mines damage and cooldown hampers his burst damage in team fights, especially with his most common partner, Tusk. Combined with the mines no longer stacking, it’s now easier to back pedal from a group since you won’t trip over the stack at once.
He’s no longer a bane to an enemy lineup with melee heroes, who can now destroy mines with a quelling blade. He’s also no longer a gold and time sink against supports, who now receive 10 gold for removing mines. This last change was perhaps the most significant. Techies created space for his team at little to no cost. If you gank him, he suicides. If you spend on detection, there’s no reward. There are two types of Dota games: ones with Techies and ones without. With the recent changes to Techies, we’ll be seeing a lot more of the latter.
He received two nerfs and at the time both seemed minor and inconsequential—certainly not enough to affect his win rate as it did. The agility gain nerf from 3.0 to 2.6 seemed trivial, but keep in mind his damage output scales off his illusions, which scale off agility. The more significant nerf was the seemingly innocuous change of Doppelganger cast time from 0 to 0.1. Having a cast animation now makes him vulnerable to many forms of initiation that at high skill levels he was immune to before. Orchid initiators such as Queen and Storm no longer click on air. Blink initiators, such as Lion, Earthshaker, and Sand King, can reliably catch a split pushing Phantom Lancer. PL can no longer evade a Eul’s+Stun initiation from Lina and Leshrac. Before the nerf, PL could leverage his slipperiness and an early Boots of Travel build to bounce and create space with little to no risk. Now there are solid options to catch him.
Puppey is the pioneer of Bottle strategies. First, he bought bottle as Chen for the mid hero. Next, he gets his Alchemist carry to buy a bottle for the mid hero. Hypothetically, with the Greevil’s Greed change from 4x to 5x bounty, Alchemist could grab both 0 min runes and buy himself a Midas recipe.
Alchemist has the largest positive win rate change of 6.85, from 40% to 48.08% today. This change, however, occurred gradually during 6.85, unlike many other heroes whose win rates spiked. It suggests that the strategies behind the hero are still developing, with recent iterations at ESL One NY perhaps being the most interesting. Team Secret started with Solar Crest as the first core item on Alchemist, as a means to compensate for his poor base stats and survivability. Invictus Gaming, however, opted for a Radiance build. Both teams didn’t hesitate to lane Alchemist against Queen of Pain, perhaps now the most dominant mid laner after the fall of her friends. With the buffs to Acid Spray, Alchemist in the worst case scenario will break even in the mid lane, but he’s a persistent threat with his net worth. From the mid lane, he can function as a utility hero and, sometimes, the Aghanim Scepter buyer for his allies. The door is still wide open for innovations on Alchemist strategies.
Terrorblade has been on a rollercoaster. He was in cancer tier, to trash tier, now he’s back to somewhere in the middle. The nerfs to illusions still remain, but the buff to Reflection may be the biggest reason for his rise. It’s a no brainer Wall of Replica on a 22-16 second cooldown. You don’t have to target it, and it gives Terrorblade some teamfight utility, a refreshing change from the solitary tower pushing hero he was before. He still starts with 435 HP and has one of the lowest Strength gains in the game, but the added survivability of Reflection and the new Sunder range certainly helped Terrorblade become a playable hero in pubs.
Forget the LVL? Death cooldown reduction from 8 to 7 seconds. Scorched Earth total health and damage went from 120/216/336/480 to 120/288/504/768. You can get close to Radiance damage at lvl 7 and a heal that’s bound to frustrate players unfamiliar with the recent buff. However, there are still some inherent problems with his lackluster ultimate. He retains his old nerfs to Doom from previous patches, and there are other options to delete a hero from the game—ones without a 0.5 cast point.
Doom was only seen once at ESL One, but he may have a place in 6.85 where he didn’t in previous patches. If the pace of the game slows down, even without his ultimate, Doom is a solid laner and a good farmer for utility items such as Mek and Solar Crest. Aghanim Scepter is now required for the Break mechanic, but it can certainly fit in his item progression. Changes in the meta and the buffs to his laning might help him make that leap back into the competitive meta, for better or worse.
Invoker has long been the ambassador of Dota—often heralded by fans as why Dota is unique to any other in the genre. No other hero has 10 spells, with each one requiring a combination of keypresses. Every old school mid player has an Invoker in his wheelhouse. Yet, the hero has been MIA in recent memory. He’s one of the strongest benefactors of Midas, an item that doesn’t fit the meta. He is hard countered by BKB at all stages of the game. And the meta of a split pushing Quas/Exort-Necronomicon Invoker is long gone.
He received a quality of life buff in 6.84, with Invoke no longer going on cooldown when switching spell slots. He also received an intelligence growth buff from 2.5 to 3.2. That number has grown again, from 3.2 to 4.0 in patch 6.85. Aghanim Scepter now has more of a use over Octarine Core, and Quas/Wex can be a competitive mid lane build without the assistance of Drow’s aura. These small, incremental buffs, along with the fall of Leshrac and Lina, may amount to something that could be enough to nudge Invoker back into the competitive meta.
Necrophos may have withered away from the professional meta in 6.84, but he’s been consistently near the top of pub win rate over the past few patches (it should be noted that the disappearance of jungling-ancient Necrophos players may have an impact on his win rate increase). In 6.85 he received a few non-trivial buffs to Death Pulse and Sadist that increased his potency in the laning phase. Lvl 1/2 Death Pulse dealing 125/175 damage, from 75/125, opens up his viability as a capable mid hero, where he can now effectively harass and grab cs in those crucial early levels. It even reopens his role in an aggressive trilane, as we saw Team Secret execute in ESL One with an effective Necro, Wisp, and Bane combo. Necrophos was always a strong hero in pubs, but lacked the lane presence to appear in the competitive meta for 6.84. With these recent changes, his success at ESL One NY, and the nerfs to Glimmer Cape, he may come back to delete heroes again, for two minutes at a time.
To be honest, Batrider at 40.52% win rate in 6.84c had nowhere to go but up. From one perspective, pub players are simply bad at playing Batrider and playing around Batrider. At the height of his power in the professional scene, he was still at the bottom of pub win rate charts at 45%.
Since only a minority of Batrider games involve his new Aghanim Scepter upgrade, the shift in his win rate is largely due to the 20% increase in damage to his Flame Break. It’s also a consequence of nerfs to items that counter his initiation: Eul’s Scepter and Glimmer Cape. In the case of both, the cast range, now shortened, can be pivotal on whether a hero is saved or not. Batrider has been in the dump for way too long, and it would be refreshing to see a little bit more of him back in the meta.
There are two events that impact our pubs the most, on how heroes are played and built. One is a patch, and the other is a major competitive event. Buffs and nerfs may guide us towards certain innovations, but watching pros demonstrate their developments on the main stage also changes our pubs. So far, we've seen the initial impact of patch 6.85. With Frankfurt and MLG around the corner, we'll be keeping a close eye on how our pubs change afterward.