7.19b and 7.19c changes allowed for some meta developments, and while it may take time for the pubs to adjust, professional players are already adapting. It’s hard to call this adaptation innovative, since for the most part teams went for the “next best thing” of the TI patch, but at least we aren’t watching the same exact Dota as we did during The International 2018.
Tiny, Io, Weaver, Silencer and Necrophos were the most contested heroes of the qualifiers, with 80%+ contest rate. Interestingly, the weren’t any heroes with more than 85% contest rate, compared to five such heroes at TI. Perhaps this patch is more balanced, or perhaps teams and players are still adapting and experimenting, but overall it is a good sign.
All five most contested heroes were also priority bans—they were banned substantially more often than they were picked. This holds true for all top20 contested heroes, except for Earthshaker, Mirana and Phoenix, who were actually played very frequently.
Earthshaker, Tiny and Weaver were the most popular picks, despite two of these heroes receiving a lot of bans. Earthshaker was one of the more popular and successful heroes of TI8 who didn’t get nerfed hard in the aftermath: his Aghanim’s Scepter Enchant Totem upgrade can’t be used under the effects of root, but otherwise the hero is pretty much the same, with more and more people discovering his strengths.
Io, Necrophos and Weaver were the most popular bans of the qualifiers. While Io is more or less an automatic ban in most games in the professional scene, especially when the meta isn’t properly settled, the latter two are interesting because they did receive some significant nerfs over the last two patches, but still remain highly competitive and viable. Moreover, they are some of the most powerful heroes during the laning stage.
The laning stage does not guarantee victory, but it can be very frustrating to be continuously punished by heroes with this amount of sustain or escape. Once again, without major meta developments, professional players tend to ban heroes who are overall annoying and tough to deal with.
Now we come to the interesting part of the discussion—how good statistically are the heroes professional players tend to pick. Bear in mind that the sample size is rather small and that simply copying the professional scene is not always the best course of action for your pubs—there is a significant difference between how the game is played even in the highest level matchmaking, compared to the pro scene.
First thing that stands out the most is that the pro players still value Spectre, despite her having a horrendous winrate of 35% across 60 games. Last two patches changed the decade-old question of “can you get away with a Spectre pick?” to “is she actually going to be worth it?”. Desolate doesn’t work most of the time, given the increased range and that means that Spectre lost 50, 100 ( Haunt illusion) or 200 ( Haunt + Manta Style illusions) pure damage from every single auto-attack she lands.
Damage-wise, taking into account the prevalence of high-armor targets in the meta and her illusions, she more or less lost a Divine Rapier. We are tired of repeating it over and over again, but Spectre right now is a very questionable pick, especially in the professional scene, where coordination is on a much higher level.
Enchantress is in the same boat—the hero won only 37.14% of her 35 games and given the amount of nerfs the hero received we are surprised at both her questionably high pick rate and the fact that she still manages to win a decent amount of her games. We expect both these heroes to become less popular going forward, given there are no changes to the game.
The third popular hero with low winrate is Dark Willow, but she is doing quite ok and is probably situationally viable: she won almost 40% of her 53 games and will probably follow the same pattern as Earth Spirit once did. Her overall popularity will slowly start to decline, but one or two exceptionally gifted players will occasionally make her look so good, that it will warrant another round of nerfs to a point where she will only be played by the most dedicated of players in pubs. It is up to you, if you feel like it is worth investing time in deeply studying the hero.
Drow Ranger, Terrorblade and Io were all picked more than 35 times and were very successful in their games. Drow Ranger was among the best heroes during TI, utilized incredibly well by NA teams, and it seems she might be in need of further nerfs—almost 70% winrate across 35 games looks a little bit too good. She was up there with both Spectre and Wraith King at TI, but somehow flew under the radar of the balancing team.
Terrorblade is currently feeling himself really well—with Spectre heavily nerfed, he is more or less the king of late game. 62.79% winrate in 43 games is impressive, but probably doesn’t warrant extra nerfs, unless the trend continues for too long.
Finally, there is Io, who isn’t really worth discussing more than we already did over the years. This hero remains a win condition in a support position and can make some already powerful carry or tempo heroes even more powerful.
We’ve already seen how good Axe can be during the International, but both Tinker and Faceless Void are making a comeback into competitive scene as strong late game cores. Tinker is especially happy about the absence or weakness of Spectre, since she was one of the best counters to the hero, while Faceless Void is seeing an almost even split between being played as a safelane carry and an offlane utility core.
It is also worth mentioning that the current lane meta makes Faceless Void a lot more appealing, because he does feel much better in 2v2 and because in the offlane there is a high chance he is going to be facing a weaker, more farm oriented opponent he will have less trouble contesting farm from.
Both Wraith King and Spectre nerfs left a massive power void and we now witness many new heroes competing for the spot of the strongest hero in the game. It makes the pool of heroes significantly more diverse, especially in pubs, since there are no must-pick heroes just yet.
Going forward we are hoping to see this diversity translate even further, with a wider roster of viable support heroes: core players now have a great deal of different options and this underdeveloped meta welcomes many different types of carries, while supports are still restricted to a pool of lane-dominating heroes who can do something in the game in the first several minutes and secure the lane.