This meta still has a few of the stable of mid heroes from previous patches. Dragon Knight may never be out of the meta. Players will play Invoker for as long as they’ll play Pudge, regardless of how strong they might be. And Kunkka is still a solid pick with few poor matchups, even with the changes to Cleave.
As patch 7.21 disrupted the meta, 7.21b followed up and gave some heroes the extra nudge they needed to emerge in pub and professional play. As ESL Katowice and MDL Macau unfolds, we're seeing a few new heroes and item builds surfacing in the midlane.
Secret.Midone’s Atos+Greaves build against Gambit
Since 7.21, both Viper’s pick rate and win rate have precipitously increased. The hero’s weakness in past iterations has been his ability to carry his team through the mid and late game, in spite of his strengths in the laning stage. MidOne’s Atos, Drum and Guardian Greaves build is an interesting take on Viper. They’re all stat efficient items that makes a hero like Viper even more of a nuisance. And in this match particularly, where Team Secret had three Hands of Midas, he needed to shoulder the early game load. Viper is a stable pick who excels at maintaining the early to mid game tempo, and sometimes thats all your team needs.
Monkey King was viable in the previous meta, even when he had a paltry win rate. Patch 7.20 gave Monkey King a free Manta Style dodge, in the form of Mischief, and opened up the gates for high skill level players to abuse the hero’s potential. With 7.21, his pub win rate has increased by 6% (44% to 50%)—one of the largest trend changes we’ve seen.
Though his Agility gain did get buffed, he also benefitted largely from the movement speed changes in 7.21. His base movement speed increased by 5 and Phase Boots was buffed, from +20% to 22%. Every bit matters when it comes to placing Jingu stacks.
Monkey King’s power spike was always a little awkward relative to other heroes. Getting level 6 doesn’t do much for him, when he needs more items and levels to make use of Wukong’s Command. Now that the meta has slowed down and Hand of Midas is back in vogue, the game is more his tempo.
His laning has been hamstrung since his rework of Death Pulse, moving his passive regeneration onto his Hearstopper skill. But patch 7.21 did bring a corrective, increasing his Int gain (2.5 to 2.9), buffing his his Ghost Shroud talent (+20% to +30%), and increasing his Death Pulse damage (100/140/180/200 to 100/150/200/250). He may not have the same relevance in the competitive meta, but in pubs he has an outsized impact, with the 4th highest win rate.
Patch 7.21 buffing both Pangolier’s base damage and Agility gain may be what he needed to make him viable as a midlaner. He was already a solid offlaner, but teams like Alliance and Secret have been bringing him mid with some success during ESL Katowice, where he’s currently the most banned, core hero.
Pangolier didn’t suffer as much from the hit to attribute bonuses, as his item builds lean towards more magic damage based items (Javelin and Maelstrom) and utility ones (Guardian Greaves). With a slower early-mid game in this patch, heroes like Pangolier benefit from an extended window where he’s at his peak.
For pros, there’s a greater value in heroes that can play multiple roles. It allows them to conceal their lane matchups until as late as possible. With so much at stake in the early game, many teams will also rotate their lanes and play unconventional matchups, searching for an edge. It’s partly why heroes like Monkey King and Pangolier have surfaced as midlaners—not necessarily because they’re strong mids, but rather because they can wear multiple hats.