Patch 6.87 introduced 7 new items to Dota, bringing the total count to 152. That’s 152 unique items, consisting of consumables, attributes, weapons, armor, artifacts—most of which are produced by combining several of these items together. The rhythms of a Dota game are dictated by item choices and timings—a midlaner’s Orchid Malevolence, a surprise Divine Rapier, or a support’s early Blink Dagger that aims to threaten every opponent’s lane. These items are powerful, and they pace and control the game as much as the heroes picked in it.
What kind of impact have these 7 new items had on the community and the competitive scene? The usual reaction is an overreaction, such was the case with Octarine Core, when it introduced the mechanic of Spell Lifesteal. It was still a powerful item, but not to the extent of everyone’s protestations. Bloodthorn may follow the same path of community acceptance. It’s a strong item, but the second most costly one in the game. Then there’s the change to the Intelligence attribute and how it amplifies spell damage. Was it all too much? Everyone has had a few weeks to tinker around with the new items, move them up in their item build queue, and discover their impact to the shifting meta.
Bloodthorn is now the second most expensive item in the game, and its impact should reflect it so. It presents itself as a natural upgrade for Orchid carriers, such as Queen of Pain, Windranger, or Invoker, who need to transition to physical damage in the late game. The only issue is that its active skill—granting 1.35x crit, True Strike, and Orchid’s Amplify Damage for all attacks on the target—has common, late game counters in Manta Style and Black King Bar (and even Eul’s). Yes, it’s still a good item to pick off supports, but did you really need Bloodthorn for that?
Bloodthorn is in a tough spot in the competitive scene. Late game, Int carries would most likely exchange Orchid for a Scythe of Vyse, when BKBs run rampant. Most recently, Newbee did build Bloodthorn on their Gyrocopter, as a means to counter Secret's Halberd on their Huskar. It's still in question how much impact the item had, as EternalEnvy did have BKB and Hao eventually built MKB as his next item. The active is certainly powerful, but Bloodthorn isn’t an ideal item to rush, so for the time being it’ll be stuck as a utility item that’s a little too late.
Blight Stone did have some interesting prospects in the early game, such as the unpleasantry of dealing with a roaming Bounty Hunter equipped with both Orb of Venom and Blight Stone. But, as the meta has shifted, and as Roshan’s bounty was nerfed, Medallion of Courage has fallen out of the item builds of its natural carriers, like Vengeful Spirit.
Infused Raindrop is a passive “consumable” that fits best against early magic harass, except that it has a 3 minute buy timer. It does have a potential of blocking 600 damage, and for 225 gold, it could be a decent slot filler for a core in the mid to late game. Team Liquid has also been using it on several of their heroes. But best use scenario may be on Wisp, as DC’s Misery showcased during their qualifying run for the Manila Major.
Team Ad Finem running their safelane Sven with Echo Saber
Everyone can be Weaver now, but the item works best, intuitively, on slow, hard-hitting cores and cores with passive procs. That brings to mind heroes like Slardar and Spirit Breaker—slow base attack speed and game changing procs, when they happen. Practically, however, the item has been used on Sven and Slark throughout the Manila Major Qualifiers. Though the main advantage of the item is its double attack and slow, the 10 intelligence, 75% mana regen is a welcome bonus for your typical mana-starved, strength hero.
Again, it’s never one change that tips the balance scales of Dota. The reign of strength cores we’re seeing can also be attributed to the global changes to the Strength attribute, the buffs to Armlet, Sange, and Heart of Tarrasque, or the targeted buffs to Strength heroes, like Lifestealer. Echo Sabre is just another nudge in that direction.
Out of all the new items, Tome of Knowledge perhaps has the most impact overall, only because it’s now a necessary purchase in every game. Like wards, you buy it whenever it’s off cool down, and anyone other than the buyer can also consume it. 425 experience gets you 70.8% of the way from level 5 to level 6. The item forces players to readjust their intuitions about the level 6, ultimate timings of support heroes. And especially for those who habitually check the score screen to keep tabs of enemy hero levels, that Tome-assisted level 6 can come as a surprise.
Despite all the reactions to the new items, Wind Lace was the first to get the first minor change. Patch 6.87c increased its cost by 10 and removed it from the Side Shop, where it was a convenient pick-up for supports to then rotate and roam. 20 movement speed for cheap is a non-trivial amount, where patches often calibrate hero movement speeds by 5-10 (see: Sven, from 295 to 290, and Earth Spirit, from 305 to 295). An early Wind Lace, with or without boots, let supports zone offlaners with impunity and increases their chances of successful rotations in other lanes. Before the nerf, it was common to see 3-4 players in the early game carrying Wind Lace just for its cheap utility and convenience.
Despite the active’s implications, the item seems to steer towards being a defensive one than an offensive one. It seems tailor made for a kiting Drow Ranger, whose Marksmanship buff is negated at 400 range—the same as Hurricane Pike’s active. It was built a few times during the Manila Major, in both winning and losing efforts. But on first impression, the item appears extremely niche, and its uses so far in the competitive scene hasn’t justified a larger role.
Are we that game yet? “Intelligence now increases your spell damage by 1% per 16 intelligence points.” To put it into perspective, the change adds .0625% spell damage per point of intelligence. For Invoker—the hero with the highest Int growth of 4 and a commonly picked for his spell damage—this change buffed his spell damage by 7% at level 25, not counting any additional items. Compare this to Luna at level 25, where her near 97 Agility results in 97 damage and attack speed.
It’s not a significant enough change that would dictate new item builds. Aether Lens, recently nerfed, gives a spell damage bonus equivalent to 80 intelligence. The change is just another perk for intelligence heroes, who were often expendable and relegated to utility roles in the late game. For a few patches now, Valve has sought to change this balance, with spell caster favored items such as Octarine Core and Aether Lens. The intelligence buff is small, but as we’ve seen with heroes who’ve received incremental, minor buffs, these changes can compound.
Everything is connected to everything else. Dota is so expansive that it's a futile effort to theory craft the context in how these changes, these new items impact the game. It will be through experimentation, through play, both casual and competitive, that the new landscape of Dota will slowly come into focus.