After the conclusion of the Boston Major, a short teaser announced the next patch for Dota 2. Rather than a sequential upgrade, from 6.88 to 6.89, it jumped all the way up to 7.00. Historically, an increase in the main number has signaled major changes in the game; 6.00 was more than a decade ago, before Dota 2 even existed, and was the patch where the current enigmatic developer of Dota, known simply as "IceFrog," took over. The new patch brought enough changes that many have been jokingly referring to it as "Dota 3." Shifts in the map, bounty runes, gold and experience gain, a new hero talent tree, buffs and nerfs galore, and a new hero as the cherry on top.
We've spent the past few days grinding games on the new patch to suss out a new meta, and results are still inconclusive. So we turned to the best and brightest, pro players and expert analysts, and even the winner of the most recent major, to get their input on the new patch.
The talent show
A lot of responses to patch 7.00 were about arguably the greatest change: hero talents. Rather than getting some extra points in stats after leveling your skills, points can now go toward branching talents at levels 10, 15, 20 and 25. At level 10, you might choose between bonus experience gain or some extra strength to endure a couple of hits more in the next fight. The stars are the level 25 talents, game-changing choices that can completely alter the way you play.
"Lich going right-click mode with a free 150 damage talent at level 20 and Skadi talent at 25 could be funny," said Tal "Fly" Aizik, captain of OG. "Not that it would happen too often."
Though there has already been a few people testing out hard-carry Lich in pubs, other heroes may see a return thanks to talents bolstering other aspects of their toolkit. "Sniper looks strong with the new Shrapnel perks," said Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka of OG, referring to the extra DPS and bonus four charges the sharpshooter can receive from talents.
"The talent tree thing is also a bit confusing for now," said Sam "BuLba" Sosale. "It's hard to think about the other heroes in the game and what talents they have so far. They didn't nerf many of the heroes, but gave really good talents to the weaker heroes and added mediocre ones to the heroes that were already strong. That was a cool approach."
"When asked for comment, Complexity captain Kyle 'swindlemelonzz' Freedman simply replied with a 'mind blown' GIF."
There was also the regular bout of hero nerfs and buffs, though many heroes were more tangentially affected than directly changed. The changes to the Root status effect, which now locks down some of the more complex mobility options available to heroes, has opened the door for a few heroes to gain some footing in the new patch. "Heroes with root spells like Crystal Maiden and Ember Spirit might make a comeback," Aizik told ESPN. "Root looks strong!"
Treant Protector is one of the higher profile adjustments, and though the big tree will not be in captain's mode for the time being, his new passive cloak and free bash every couple of seconds is already wreaking havoc. "Treant sounds silly," Aizik said. "Somewhat perma-invisibility, not sure if this will make him imbalanced or just ridiculous. He will be a good pub hero though."
Aizik also pointed to Lycan's rework, another hero removed from captain's mode due to the major changes in his toolkit. The OG captain theorized that Lycan's Howl gaining strength at night could lead to teams running a combo of Lycan and Night Stalker, which could create some heavy early-game pressure.
A lot of changes that both players and commentators, like Austin "Capitalist" Walsh, pointed to signaled a shift toward early-game aggression. "I've always been a fan of fighting offlane cores like Clockwerk," Walsh told ESPN. "So I hope he becomes a constant pick. Also strong roaming gankers like Tusk may come back into the meta, which I would love as well."
As both a high-level player and commentator, Walsh is familiar with both the in-game and spectator experience. Though he believes certain roles within Dota, like the offlaner and roaming supports, will have to be reinvented, many teams will look to experiment with turning traditional hero roles on their head. "This new patch will make for a crazy few months," Walsh said. "But I think that in the long term this patch will create a more dynamic and faster-paced game while maintaining the strong strategical element that is at Dota's core."
Where we're going, we won't need a map
That strategy relies on a board teams are familiar with, and for many captains, coaches and players alike, the map changes were what affected the greatest shifts. Bounty runes spawning every two minutes in each team's jungle, adjusted river routes, new jungle camp timings and locations all significantly shift the execution of older strategies.
"Something is imbalanced for sure, and it probably has a lot to do with laning and fighting bounty runes," said OG's Johan "n0tail" Sundstein. "So many people will die for bounty runes."
When asked for comment, Complexity captain Kyle "swindlemelonzz" Freedman simply replied with a "mind blown" GIF. It's not an abnormal reaction; teams have built strategies around the map, and with Roshan relocated to a new home and new buildings called "shrines" giving regeneration to damaged offlaners and supports, it's hard to know where to even put your wards down anymore. "New shrines will make for interesting team plays," said Aizik. "Since they don't give vision, you can camp them or ward in new areas allowing for new strategic movement."
The camp timing adjustments also puts a burden on farm-dependent carries. Sven, for example, could rely on ancient stacks to carry him through to his big-ticket items. Now there's more camps, but with respawns happening every two minutes instead of one, there will be less stacks for him to clear. It will be much more critical for teams to secure their ancients farm.
"My initial thoughts are that games are going to revolve around heavy ancient farming, because of the addition of two ancient camps," said Team Liquid's Lasse "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen. "Teams are going to structure the neutral spawnings due to the spawns [happening] every two minutes."
There's no doubt that patch 7.00 is one of the biggest changes in Dota history. It's the kind that only Dota seems able to make, tossing everything up in the air and seeing where it lands.
"I have played this game for more than 10 years, and 7.00 is the biggest change I've seen after the transition to Dota 2," said Team Liquid coach Lee "Heen" Seung Gon. "I think I echo a lot of people's sentiments when I say I have mixed feelings of excitement and concern."
While changes and map adjustments that alter the game to its core may seem scary, many players have already started to adjust and thrive. Some have likened it to relearning how to ride a bike: the mechanics are the same, you just need to get a feel for the new vehicle.
"I have faith that this patch will bring the game forward like every patch has in the past," said Lee. "It's human nature to grow attached to things they get used to, but everyone will get over it and enjoy the new changes before they know it."
The recurring sentiment was excitement at relearning the map, testing out new heroes and builds, experimenting with strategies not possible until now. There's a lot of time between now and the next major, and even further until The International. For now, it's time to test out your support Chaos Knight and carry Lich with less reproach from your teammates, and spend the holiday break spectating pubs and theory-crafting for the new meta we're all shaping.