It’s been a week since the release of the patch and it definitely shook up the meta in a fabulous fashion. A lot of previously underused or underpowered heroes are now close to being OP and today we are going to talk about the biggest winners of the patch.
Spell immunity-piercing Pure damage is insane. Even though the actual damage values on Death Ward were reduced, for targets with more than ~7 Armor the changed ability now deals more damage. Sometimes significantly so.
Coupled with the fact that one of the recent patches also made Maledict a bit more reliable in its application, we now get a support hero who can more or less solo the enemy carry at every stage of the game, including hyper late game. He doesn’t even need a lot of gold for it: just some smart positioning and good game sense.
He is getting nerfed, though. There are no two ways about it: the hero is way too strong and will most likely get a pretty significant damage cut. That said, if the pure damage buff isn’t reverted, he is still going to be viable, even if his actual damage output gets reduced.
Sometimes the strongest buffs are the most simple ones. The only thing Riki got was a massive buff to his Agility gain, but it was more than enough to make him a very viable late game carry. The hero now gets a whole extra Agility per level. Coupled with the starting Agility buff, he is now at +42 extra Agility by level 30 and for a hero that is so closely tied to his main attribute, it is a lot.
He also doesn’t feel too squishy. Sure, the hero lost 0.6 Strength per level and now has ~400 HP less at level thirty, but he somewhat makes up for it with extra Armor. Bursting Riki down with magical damage is easier. That said, connecting spells with this elusive hero, who gets to snowball even harder and scale even better is very problematic.
Sand King wasn’t a bad hero in the previous patch, but he was heavily countered by the Dust changes. It was very hard for him to play around a continuously applied effect and his usual ways of surviving through dispels didn’t work anymore.
Hence the 7.34 changes. 100 ms is very, very slow, but it is enough for Sand King to potentially crawl out of Dust area to survive. Moreover, it is a lot more powerful from the farming and macro perspective: there are multiple areas in the jungle where Sand King gets to farm multiple jungle camps in a single Sandstorm.
With the extra Sandstorm radius now also increasing the size of the Spikes from Aghanim's Scepter, Sand King also became more reliable in terms of crowd control. He is still somewhat risky during the laning stage, but with some stacks he can quickly and efficiently recover and become a very strong initiating and teamfighting hero.
Another offlaner who should be on everyone’s radar. When it comes to trading, Slardar now has +10 damage at level two and +20 damage at level three. It is impossible to trade against this hero in lane on any melee core and he is absolutely soul-crushing with any sustain or kill support in lane.
There is even an argument to be made about Mid Slardar, since he can get good mileage out of his water-based sustain. We will leave this to theorycrafters, while pointing out that Slardar is possibly the biggest threat in the game at level six. The hero gets to run at you with +30 damage, good movement speed while also reducing the armor of his target by ten or more. There is very little counterplay to that.
Everything about the hero is now stronger. He right-clicks better, he fights better and he gets to be the ultimate Universal Spirit Vessel carrier.
One of the reasons Universal heroes were so good, is because Rod of Atos gave them a lot of early game stats, so they had high utility while dealing respectable right-click damage. Spirit Vessel is what Rod of Atos was in the last patch and it so happens that it is also one of the core items on Quas-Wex Invoker.
The end result is a hero who has a massive attribute gain, is incredibly tanky, can go late-game with right-clicks alone and has a whole arsenal of abilities on top of it.
If you look at the high-level stats, most Invoker players, even the best ones, simply ignore Exort until level 10 or so, because they don’t even need the abilities: between the EMP+Tornado+Cold Snap combo and the ability to sustain oneself with Ghost Walk while also ganking side lanes, Invoker is simply way too good. The hero will absolutely get nerfed, the question is when.
It looks like the new patch introduced a lot of imbalanced heroes to the game, but we are somewhat happy about it: the Universal hero dominance seems to have been tamed and once the dust settles, the game will be in a better place.
That said, there are only a couple of weeks before The International qualifiers start, so we hope to see some changes soon: there are usually no big patches between the Qualifiers and until after the International, so we will be potentially stuck with a single game version for several months and the current iteration of the game definitely needs some touch-ups.