7.20 brought several new offlaners and solidified positions of some old ones as well, making for a rather diverse and interesting meta. It also seemingly got rid of the meta with carries in the offlane—current offlane heroes are predominantly utility cores.
The first reason for it is that the games are shorter—you can be greedy, but you can’t be too greedy in the current Dota. You need heroes who will create space, initiate and frontline, rather than deal damage, otherwise you can get quickly overrun.
The second reason is probably even more interesting—the 2-1-2, while still the most popular laning composition, is not ubiquitous. We’ve seen teams take extra care of their carries, we’ve seen roaming heroes and that means that sometimes you need heroes in the offlane who are capable of standing solo and work well with levels alone.
We can’t start talking about offlaners in the patch without addressing the elephant, or rather the Magnoceros in the room. Magnus is easily the most iconic hero of the patch. Phantom Assassin might feel unfair and is undeniably strong in certain situations, but in half the games it is actually Magnus who makes her look that good.
This hero gives a massive damage boost to his carries, increasing their farming capabilities by a huge margin if they are melee. Farming and dealing damage are pretty much the two big things carries have to do in the game and Magnus bolsters them both.
He also has a waveclear and nuke that allows him to never be truly behind and an escape tool if things get hard in lane. The latter also doubles as a soft initiation tool, a slow, a save and pretty much whatever you want it to be—you can think of Skewer as Meat Hook in an AoE that can be also used to push the enemies away from your team.
Finally, there is Reverse Polarity. It is a good ability, but its long cooldown is preventing it from being great. Nonetheless, a BKB-piercing AoE hard disable for almost 4 seconds is potentially game-changing and also works incredibly well with the rest of the kit.
One of the more popular heroes in the professional scene seems underlooked in pubs. New Sand King is a force to be reckoned with even after the nerfs. His damage output and good disable coupled with relative safety in lane and a resource drain on enemy supports make him an ideal candidate for the offlane.
More and more people are maxing out the new Sandstorm and it definitely limits the hero’s initiation potential in the early-mid game. But it also almost guarantees a timely purchase of Blink Dagger—at this point the low range on Burrow Strike becomes less of a factor.
Sand King is also exceptional against many melee carries in lane. Melee carries are quite popular in the game right now and it means SK generally gets a favorable matchup. Caustic Finale is unlikely to outright kill your enemy, but it will slow down their farm and will force them to get extra regeneration in lane.
Slowing down enemy carry while having a reliable way to get farm makes for a very powerful combination for a midgame hero. Sand King might not scale exceptionally well, but he is exceptionally strong in the 20-30 minute mark and the majority of games are approaching their end at this point.
The new Hawk might have lost some versatility, but it still provides a lot of vision—something truly abusable only in the professional scene and in high-level pubs. Current Beastmaster build fully revolves around having access to pretty much two extra wards on the map at any given point in the game and that in itself is already enough to start considering the hero.
Top it off with a single target, BKB-piercing disable for 4 seconds and a pretty powerful aura and you get a hero who will always be useful, regardless of matchups.
Latest item build trends also show that more and more often Beastmasters opt for Vladmir's Offering aura over getting extra summons from either Necronomicon or Helm of the Dominator. We’ve talked about how armor is now more impactful and it is great to see players adjust to the new patch. Coupled with maxed Inner Beast aura mere presence of Beastmater already puts his team at a huge DPS and survivability advantage.
Centaur got a new ability that makes his right-clicks very powerful in the early game and potentially allow him to scale. It was the Chinese teams in the Chongqing Major qualifiers who were the first to try the 1-1-3 build for laning, often catching enemies off-guard with their 300+ damage autoattacks before the 10-minute mark.
The mid- and late-game viability of the hero comes primarily from his Stampede—a great tool that can either allow your team to safely disengage or will turn every single hero on your team into a decent initiator. The Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade is still very much worth it—40% damage reduction on all incoming damage is a massive boost to survivability.
Reworked Brewmaster feels at home in the offlane, but generally as a greedy position four support. As an offlaner he does get access to more items, but we’ve seen his playstyle develop further from the Blink and more towards auras.
This development seems quite natural—Thunder Clap is a very powerful slow and nuke, but it is not a hard disable. Most mobile targets will have time to disengage, most carry heroes will have time to press their BKB and will generally have the ability to react. As such, building a relatively tanky Brewmaster with good auras who can frontline, draw attention and, if needed, use his ultimate in a fight where the enemy engaged themselves is what most professional teams do.
For that to be effective you don’t necessarily need Blink Dagger, hence the overall cost of the hero is slightly lower and his timings aren’t as crucial. This means that he can be played as a support and feel perfectly fine or, alternatively, stay solo in his lane after the first 5 minutes of the game, leeching XP and farming jungle when possible. That frees one of the sidelane supports and in the current meta it can be pretty powerful.
Axe is still great. Having a slightly weaker Reverse Polarity, but on a 10-second cooldown instead of a 130-second one is a very good trade-off. Moreover, Axe can be very strong in lane and jungles faster than most heroes in the game.
That makes Axe consistent. He can consistently get his Blink Dagger and levels. He can consistently initiate on spell immune targets. He can consistently deal considerable amounts of damage.
That doesn’t make the hero exceptional, however. Magnus can reposition enemies, Centaur provides disengagement tools, Brewmaster neutralizes a threat for a very long period of time, Beastmaster provides great auras and a massive vision advantage. Axe initiates or counter-initiates and that’s pretty much it. Especially in the later stages of the game where getting Culling Blade buff is harder.
As such, the hero is probably at his best when you have several high-risk, high-reward heroes who need space and are only very good in specific scenarios, like hitting enemies who can’t retaliate.
Looking at stats from the recent qualifiers and smaller high-level tournaments one thing is certain—the meta is still evolving. There are still many things to explore and counters to think of. Of course, there is Magnus and PA—a seemingly unbeatable duo, but even without the nerfs we believe there are answer to these heroes.
Looking for these answers is one of the exciting parts of Dota and we strongly encourage players to keep on experimenting and sharing their ideas with the community.