Change is good.
A unique modifier of esports is the ever-changing landscape of the games. Patches alter playstyles and strategy viability, keeping the game fresh -- or depending on whom you talk to, frustrating. The latest Dota 2 patch, 7.06, means pro players will be forced to adapt, and some of these changes could make or break a team. And with The International 7 on the horizon, the stakes are high. Dota 2 aficionados Victoria Rose and Timothy Lee sat down to discuss what the alterations mean, and the potential esports impact.
Victoria Rose: So, it usually takes a full read to form initial thoughts, but they dove pretty quickly into some game-shifting changes. There definitely seems to be a trend to reward aggression and mechanical skill based on the creep changes and killing re-spawn talents alone, and that's before we get into illusion and item changes. There's just so much going on in this patch, but that re-emphasization feels like the bottom line to me.
Timothy Lee: Yeah, this feels like a fighting patch to me. My initial thought when reading the important notes was: "Oh, it's a total shout-out to Dota 1." The fighting will start early and often, the lanes will be a constant tug-of-war, and the teamfight and ball of death potential will be sky-high. The positives for playing support are numerous: increased experience from denies, an extra creep for the middle lane, the return of pulling and stacking, and the death of a useless off-laner. This all feels like a patch that will encourage early fights because of the experience boost from so many new changes. We may even see the return of Helm of Dominators because of the stacking potential and the increased potency of siege creeps.
Rose: Absolutely, and that theory is backed up by the neutral changes and the new recipe for Helm -- you've got even more survivability there. And by the way, welcome back, creep stacking. That's going to be a major point of contention mid-game because of the shift toward more frequent neutral re-spawns. It almost feels wrong to not be trying to take over the map the entire game. So we're getting big fights in the early game, the team that's behind likely trying to catch up mid-game in the jungle, and whoever comes out of that will cinch the late game. It's insane how much has been affected, though it may have pretty exciting implications for pro matches.
Lee: I'm a fan of deleting all the re-spawn timer talents and replacing them with actual impactful talents. Sure, the faster re-spawn was fun for certain heroes (ones with bears), but the actual replacement skills are nothing to scoff at. Here are a few of my favorite ones:
Earthshaker picks up +350 range on the longest stun in the game.
Sand King gets -50 Epicenter attack slow.
Warlock drops a random Golem upon death.
Jakiro's ultimate pierces spell immunity.
And of course, welcome back, Io's tether stun.
The common theme there? Supports. I don't know if I made that clear (I totally did), but supports are getting a massive boost in this patch. I hope I'm not just going to eat my words when the biggest winners from this patch are random heroes like Techies and games still crawl to 50 minutes because no one bought a Solar Crest. Oh, and can we talk about how there are no more unique attack modifiers?
Rose: I was trying to figure out if there were any unique attack modifiers left.
Lee There are five left: mana break, arcane orb, Mask of Madness, Morbid Mask and Satanic.
Rose: Yeah, looks like just the lifesteal items have it left. That's nuts. We're going to have some wacky item combinations. Also, I laughed when I saw Warlock's re-spawn replacement, as a support player myself. But you're right there, it's a great patch for supports. For instance, yes, that 10 gold does make a difference for Mango, and its inclusion in Soul Ring means that we don't just waste it.
A few support items got some interesting changes, such as price shifts and Aether Lens' change into a mana-focused item. And a lot of supports got some neat changes -- I'm pretty excited about Lich's Chain Frost and Vengeful Spirit's Wave of Terror cooldown, among other changes. Though maybe not that Warlock ult mana increase. But at the same time, Icefrog really hit attributes hard. They did increase starting mana, but they rescaled both health and mana, so we have less mana in the long run but quicker-scaling strength and thus health. Personally, I think it's hard to be precise, but I can see supports and just Intelligence-based heroes in general having a harder time pulling off skills and ganks frequently unless they really earn gold for mana-improving items.
Lee: I'm not sure ganks or rotations are that important over the lane phase from first glance. With the war in safe lane and offlane, it may be best to plant down and rotate once or twice instead of roaming supports like Bounty Hunter or Riki dominating the field. But let's talk about these hero changes -- which ones caught your attention?
Rose: I'm a huge Bristleback fan, so I'm excited about that mild spell steal talent replacement. Same with Windranger's Invisibility addition to Windrun. But I think Axe's Aghanim Scepter upgrade is going to be pretty impactful overall; it'll make him a must-have on any team planning on frequent team fights against squishy heroes. Which is a lot. Anything catch your eye?
Lee: The first thing I saw was Alchemist. Greevil's Greed is just four now. What a massive downgrade to my favorite fat man. All the Aghanim Scepter upgrades look crazy. The ones I keep going back to are the Dazzle shallow grave area of effect and Silencer's glaives breaking all spell immunity and increasing damage to silence units. In addition to that, Sven receives a big boost from everything in this patch. Sven's getting a nice upgrade in strength when he activates his ultimate, and the return of stacking is a bonus. I think the biggest winners are Shadow Shaman with the damage increases, Sand King with all the rescaled cooldowns, Sven, and Phantom Lancer with all his buffs.
Rose: In my opinion, "biggest winners" is subjective, given a lot of heroes got some great buffs. I'd definitely agree with Shadow Shaman and Sven. Though, Sven's changes shifts his utility in teamfights to one of tank, instead of that nice balance between tankiness and damage it gave. I'm also excited about Dazzle, plus there's Tiny's change, how Grow increases Craggy Exterior. If he isn't shut down in the early game, the late game will be pretty painful for his enemies, and I think that's what he needs to find his way back into the meta. I think the only real losers here in regards to direct changes are Alch and Monkey King, and Mirana even more so. And I'm surprised about Monkey King and Mirana, given they haven't really done much in the pro circuit.
Lee: The professional scene may enjoy this patch more than the past few because games could speed up due to all the experience buffs and the emphasis on lanes. Western teams that do well mechanically in lane like Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid and OG will enjoy these buffs. Teamfight teams like Invictus Gaming, Virtus.Pro, and Team Secret will also benefit from all the potential combinations and support buffs available. The rich may just get richer, and the wild-card teams like a Digital Chaos, Vici Gaming (Welcome back Chen "Hao" Zhihao) and Natus Vincere can squeeze out victories through sheer individual skill or forcing the game to be in a 30-minute scramble.
There were few farm-heavy teams that emphasized the late game over the lane phase and midgame execution, so I doubt many teams will truly be affected in a negative way from a fight-heavy and experience-rich patch. It should provide for a multitude of fireworks when teams prepare its Phantom Lancer/Shadow Shaman strategies with a zero second cooldown teleport Nature's Prophet. Or, I can totally be flat and all teams will just buckle down and be conservative in the lane phase for a final ball of death push -- although, I'd hate to see it happen.
Rose: Well, protecting the carry in the laning phase and mid-game was always Secret's plan, so now it'll just be everyone else catching up to that tactic, I guess. The versatile, in-your-face teams such as OG and Virtus.Pro will absolutely thrive here as they have before, but mostly because they're just so good at shutting down their opponents at all stages. You're definitely right on most of that, though, that the teams and players with strong skill will do well. And I want to put a lot of faith in Southeast Asian teams for that reason, like TNC with Raven and Kuku, because there's a lot of raw mechanical skill coming from that region, and their opponents will need to deal with that directly. Still, it's Dota 2, so teams will probably try to find their way around that.
Lee: Overall, this patch felt bigger than 7.00 to me. It was a return to the old "adapt or die" adage that Dota stood for. I'm really hoping this is a fight patch. I think the game needs a shot of adrenaline.
Rose: Completely agree. Kiev was exciting, but this is a vast patch, in a few words. Everything in 7.00 up until now felt like an experiment or project, trying to figure out how Talents and Shrines would pan out, and this is the Dota 2 team going, "Cool, so we know what we need now." And this is just what we needed. I'm hoping for more aggressive style, raw skill and tension.