With the DPC Tour over and, unfortunately, still no news on the upcoming patch, it is a good time to have a look at the current state of the professional meta and figure out what heroes and why are being picked at the highest level of play. Professional meta usually doesn’t translate into pub meta in a straightforward fashion, but knowing what to strive for and what heroes can theoretically dominate if you play them well is still incredibly important.
The most popular pick across all regions, except for WEU. Tiny has been nerfed substantially in the pre-Tour patch, but his core identity as a strong nuker and a repositioning hero remains. This is a strong design, regardless of numbers: positioning is the most important aspect in Dota for some heroes, including some cores.
On top of it, Tiny is still a little bit of a flex pick. While his default role switched from position one or two farming core to a position four initiator, he can still excel in both and that makes him one of the best opening picks in Captain’s Mode. We believe the same logic can be applied to pubs as well and perhaps leaving second phase picks to one of the supports can be very beneficial.
While Tiny was the most picked hero, Puck remained the most contested one: he was picked or banned in 85%+ of all DPC games. There are many obvious reasons for it: despite the changes, the hero remains exceptionally strong and he has close to zero bad mid lane matchups. He can shove in the wave, take the small camp, contest the runes and scale well into the later portions of the game.
Much like Tiny, the hero also has a win rate well above 50% and is a prime candidate for nerfs next patch. Right now Puck is just too good when played by a pro or by any competent player. His pub winrate is below 50% in all brackets, but the Divine+ one, where it rapidly increases to almost 53%. It feels like unless you have a good answer to deal with the hero, the game can be completely taken over by Puck.
Dawnbreaker is not looking too hot. Third most popular hero in the professional scene, one of the highest contest rates and a <45% win rate. We are not saying the hero is bad, we are saying that maybe she should not be a first phase pick in that many games: there are many interesting and powerful counters to what the character wants to do.
Having global mobility and, as such, a free pass on farming up and getting big even as a soft support is definitely a strong concept. However, the price the hero pays for it is the lack of actual strong initiation: her stuns are very well telegraphed. She can jump, zone out and frequently outright kill supports, but since the hero is mostly about counter-initiation, the enemy supports most likely already used their crucial spells and are now fine being the bait.
For the whole duration of the previous patch we talked about how important BKB is and how it is frequently built as a first item on 50%+ of all core heroes. Well, it seems like pro players are starting to remember the existence of a hero who has a BKB built-in already.
Lifestealer is a bit of a weird hero right now: his damage output is highly dependent on his farm and generally can’t compare to the damage output of other, more popular position one heroes. His default engagement involves simply and slowly hitting people until they die, which is a very old-school approach to the game and seemingly shouldn’t work.
However, he does have a ~10 second downtime on Spell Immunity while every other hero is at ~80 seconds. This is a massive strength that is very straightforward to leverage into a very strong midgame and while the hero falls off later on, especially against overwhelming physical burst and physical armor on more conventional Agility cores, closing it early is well within the realm of possibility for Lifestealer.
Bane’s been receiving nerfs for a couple of patches now, but it feels like Valve are a little hesitant about making the hero substantially weaker: all the nerfs were mostly superficial and didn’t change how the hero worked as a lane bully, who also has a very strong late-game presence through spell immunity-piercing control.
The second part is the core of Bane’s identity and we would hate to see it change, but we feel like something has to be done about the hero’s laning stage. Perhaps no longer being able to hit slept targets could be a solution, or nerfed early levels of Brain Sap could prevent Bane from dominating 95%+ of all matchups. Simple stat decreases could also work wonders for the hero who has been a successful meta staple for over two years now.
It’s been a while since the last big gameplay-altering patch and we truly hope that the Arlington Major will be a bit of a testing ground for the International patch. The game is in a very good state and there are no glaring issues, a couple of cheesy heroes like Visage and Arc Warden aside. However, it is getting slightly stale.
Most regions play a similar style of Dota with very similar highly contested heroes and it is never a good sign: it means that there is a consensus on the best approach to the game regardless of local preferences and that means a new patch is very necessary. It might not improve the game, but it might change it enough to make it feel fresh once more.