It’s been a week since Valve released a hero balancing patch and now is the right time to look at first emerging trends. The patch itself was pretty interesting, reverting some of the changes made to the heroes over the last couple of years, but is the result a better, more interesting game?
Some time ago we discussed several heroes, who could really use a buff, after being absent from high-level meta for quite some time. These heroes were, indeed, buffed in a slightly more straightforward fashion than we assumed, but it was a step in the right direction nonetheless.
Sven currently wins almost 52% of his games across all brackets and almost reaches the “perfect” 50% in Divine+ games. 40 seconds of God’s Strength and extra movement speed certainly helped the hero, and while it is still too early to say that he is back in form, he is not completely unplayable as he was for the last year or so. In fact, we fully expect him to make an appearance in the professional scene, since his acceleration through jungle farming fits the current meta quite well.
Phantom Assassin was also buffed, receiving some extra base damage for better laning as well as some talent reworks, but it doesn’t look like enough. The hero might have reached a decent 48% win rate in Divine+, but with so many viable options in the game, there is little to no reason to pick the character outside of personal preference. There are heroes who do PA’s job better than PA, while being less vulnerable. On the bright side — despite pretty straightforward power level buffs, PA didn’t suddenly start crushing lower level games.
Finally, there is Leshrac, who is suddenly relevant in the highest level bracket: 52% win rate in the last week is a much better performance than previously, though the popularity of the hero is still pretty low. Extra three damage at the start now allows Leshrac to lane better in a 1v1 situation, which is a big deal in Divine+ games, since it now increases the number of games where Leshrac can fully skip Lightning Strike in the beginning, to commit to pushing and farming. Lightning Strike itself was also buffed through talents and while the utility from it is still pretty questionable, it is a much better ability past level 20 on the hero.
Clinkz was certainly among the biggest winners of the patch, even after the bug with illusion Death Pact got fixed. The hero still wins almost 53% of his games in the highest level bracket, and it doesn’t look like he is going to stop. What is perhaps more important, the hero got his identity back: while Burning Army is still an option for when team fights become a must, Clinkz is firmly an assassin-type hero once again. As we all know quite well, these types of heroes definitely excel in the pub environment and perhaps we are even going to see more Clinkz picked in the professional scene.
Juggernaut, one of the most iconic Dota 2 heroes, also got buffed: his ultimate now grants +40 Attack Speed at the small expense of the Attack Rate modifier, which means the ultimate is considerably better at early levels and isn’t much worse at the later stages of the game. This was, essentially, the only notable change to a typical right-click Juggernaut, but it looks like it was enough. Or perhaps, the magic damage Juggernaut, made stronger through talents, made the hero flexible enough to showcase his prowess even in the highest level bracket: Bladefury can now deal 300 damage per second with the appropriate talent and it works wonders against high-armor targets Juggernaut typically struggled against.
Finally, there is Magnus, who always heralds the return of melee meta: Empower is now back as a pretty strong acceleration ability for your teammates. Sure, it is a far cry from several years prior, but getting a third of your damage as cleave works wonders in a meta, where farming is once again a priority and where stacking is incredibly important. Add to it the buffs to Skewer and Shockwave and you get a hero who is a stronger independent piece, helps his team better, and is incredibly flexible; while the hero is still primarily played as a mid or offlane core, there are some experiments with position four Magnus.
Bloodseeker is now a lot more similar to how he was back in the day and it’s not a good look. The game definitely has progressed since then, and Bloodseeker in his current form feels distinctly out of place. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what made the hero suddenly lose almost 60% of his games in Divine+, since on paper there are some quite powerful combinations with the hero, but they do require some almost-perfect coordination to be effective. Perhaps a new build, based off of his magic damage amplification might work, but until such build is created or the hero receives some buffs, we would advise against playing him in any bracket.
On paper, the new Medusa is stronger: her new (old) Split-Shot results in her dealing 400% of her damage, while the old (new) one dealt “only” 325% of it. In practice, the effectiveness of this damage has definitely been stifled. Being able to deal your full damage to a priority target, while softening up other targets around it, made Medusa a lot easier to use effectively. Now, the trade-off is just too much. A lot of the game revolves around being able to focus down a priority target over a duration of a stun, and Split-Shot is now strictly worse in that regard.
Finally, there is Ursa, who has been finally tamed: Earthshock is no longer as obnoxious in lane and doesn’t slow as much, Enrage now has a much longer cooldown at early levels and these two changes combined no longer allow Ursa to be the most dominant force on the map in the first 20 minutes of the game. He is still strong, just not strong enough to essentially force the whole enemy team to cover in fear and skip farming. That is a good change and while the hero did lose almost 4% win rate, he is still a viable choice in most pubs: perhaps not in the highest level bracket and most likely not in the professional scene, but he’s been a staple there for a bit too long.
Nostalgia is, perhaps, the main theme of this balance patch: many heroes got reworked into previous versions of themselves. Whether it is a good thing or not is hard to say: on one hand, some heroes got their identity back and are now even more distinct. On the other: some of the previous concepts no longer work, since the general level of play is ever-progressing.
What are your thoughts on the patch? Do you think Valve made a correct decision, reverting some of the changes of the last several years? What hero would you like to see getting reworked back to his roots?