Valve-organized tournaments are generally indicative of what the meta is going to converge on in the patch and we are happy to say that this time around it seems quite diverse—there were only eight heroes unpicked throughout the Shanghai qualifiers, out of the available pool of 109. Not all characters have been utilized an equal amount, with natural conservatism from the players resulting in potential overvaluation of certain heroes, yet this patch is already shaping up to be among the best when it comes to variety of viable strategies and hero picks.
Comfortable picks still tend to persist, with heroes like Gyrocopter and Tusk getting a high priority, but there are also a lot of new kids on the block— Invoker, Witch Doctor and Zeus are among the most popular picks this patch.
Oracle is also getting a lot of attention, albeit with a very poor showing of 36.73% win rate across 49 games. The previous go-to support— Winter Wyvern has unsurprisingly left the meta almost completely, with only a handful of games in the earlier stages of the tournament.
Medusa and Spectre we discussed a week ago are making quite an appearance in the qualifiers with the former boasting an almost 70% win rate across 13 games and the latter being a little less powerful than expected with 45% win rate in 9 games.
As you can see, the game has changed drastically, which is quite unsurprising given how massive the changes were, yet there is one question we would like to address in more detail—is there a place for the “reworked” heroes in this patch and how do they fit into the bigger picture?
The most hated hero of 6.85 is not completely out of the meta, but he doesn’t get nearly the same amount of attention he used to—he was featured in 12 games in the qualifiers with a relatively high success rate of 58%.
Interestingly, the fall of his popularity cannot be attributed to the rework, but rather to the overall nerfs to the hero. Infernal Blade is a more consistent ability with a comparable impact to LVL? Death and it is hence superior in most situations.
Longer cooldown on Doom, weaker Scorched Earth as well as BAT nerf do make for a much weaker hero, yet it is possible to argue that his main strength of being able to turn a fight into 4v5 and get adequate farm even from the offlane persists. In fact, many lineups in the qualifiers revolved around big cooldowns, so why is Doom suddenly out of the loop?
There are many possible answers for this question. The meta is very different and many strategies revolve around fast, aggressive push—Doom simply doesn’t do anything against it without the ability to clear waves. Moreover, the longer cooldown means using his ultimate and even winning the fight still leaves an opening that the enemy can exploit. Longer cooldowns are less of a problem when you are the one in control of the game’s tempo, but it can be devastating when you are playing reactively.
When not facing an aggressive lineup, there is also a big problem of perceived strength—the hero was nerfed and by the looks of it, quite heavily. Why would a team pick him, when there are so many other viable options?
Even though the main strength of the hero remains, he is still going to be considered an inferior option, compared to his old self and compared to the other heroes. In some cases, rightly so, the hero doesn’t scale nearly as well as he used to and has limited options in the later stages. 2.0 BAT effectively prevents him from ever becoming a right-click hero and the only viable build is the utility one.
Doom has been played as a utility core in almost every single game in 6.85, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he is now effectively a one-trick pony revolving around his ultimate. If previously it was the choice of a player to go all-in on this, currently it is forced by the game rules—the net result is almost the same, but the perception of it is different.
I think it is justifiable to say that the hero is almost as viable as he was and still offers a lot to his team. He became more situational and has less means of getting his team into the driver’s seat, but otherwise he remains a solid pick which is currently forgotten.
34 games in the qualifiers with a decent win rate of 53%—the new Lone Druid is certainly here to stay. And what’s not to like, exactly?
The amount of utility and carry potential on the summoned Bear alone is ridiculous—it has the highest “bootless” movement speed of 350, a massive 2700 HP pool and 1.45 BAT—third lowest in the game, on par with Anti-Mage.
On top of it it deals extra damage to structures, has increased magic resistance and has a built-in disable. Two, in fact, if you count Savage Roar as well.
He doesn’t scale as well, with stat items having almost no impact on him, yet there are countless options available item-wise, which do not revolve around stats.
If only it didn’t have to hang around this feeble old man, who can’t possibly stand his ground…
Joking aside, the hero is currently in a very good spot—the meta is push friendly and late-game friendly. The hero more or less excels at both. Granted, the 12-slotted dream is rarely real, but it is not uncommon to see the Druid himself get some decent items by the end of the game. Two heroes is better than one and there is no denying that. Moreover, with the new Aghanims Zepter upgrade the Bear can become pretty independent.
Despite all the praise, there are a couple of caveats when playing the hero—a flat 120 second cooldown on the Bear is not unlike buyback on a core hero in the later stages—once he is killed, the Druid himself can become a liability to his team, until the Bear is re-summoned. Moreover, the amount of gold and XP bounty on the Bear is ridiculous in the early stages—300/300 gold/XP can give a very strong boost and while this pet is incredibly tanky, it can go down under proper focus.
The Druid himself is quite fragile and he needs to be in close proximity to his pet for it to do anything—it makes for a very micro-heavy asymmetric duo which has an incredibly high skill ceiling. The payoff is generally worth it, but be ready to spend a decent amount of time and nerve cells if you want to master the hero.
Overall, the hero fits extremely well into the meta in this patch. Incredible laning versatility and many “customization” options make for a good hero to get early in the drafting stage. Ability to fit into many strategies is also worth a lot and this hero has plans B and C at the ready.
This hero is incredibly one-dimensional and revolves around her ultimate a lot, but it doesn’t make her any weaker, since she is really good at what she does. Her Teamfight > Objective > Cooldown routine has been figured out a long time ago, but sometimes it is just too hard to stop it from being implemented.
The replacement of Witchcraft with Spirit Siphon can be generally considered positive on the hero—she doesn’t get the mana cost reduction on her spells and movement speed, but she does get a very strong ability in return. In fact a similar ability was given to Terrorblade circa 2008 and was deemed too powerful at the time.
This in turn has made the teamfight potential of the hero even higher as well as increasing her survivability by a huge margin, especially if she is facing tanky heroes—her previous iteration’s most hated hero type.
In fact, all these changes combined have given her a very noticeable pro-scene presence—she managed to win 26 games out of 41 in the Major qualifiers. A 63.5% win rate is nothing to scoff at and the sample size is big enough for the data to have statistical significance.
At the same time, she is doing rather poorly in pubs—her win rate in 5k+ games is only 47%. Personally, I find it extremely important evidence towards the argument that high level pubs have less in common with professional games than generally assumed—pro games tend to have a lot more depth, and the impact of personal skill on the outcome of the game is lower, while the impact of proper decision making and strategy is orders of magnitude higher.
Given the rather low average win rate of 47.07% across all skill brackets, it is safe to assume that the hero does not need a specific approach in pubs. However, if I was to give advice for dealing with the hero, I would probably suggest getting either a decent amount of long-range burst, some way to effectively disengage or an armor-providing hero.
Last week the hero had one of the most interesting trends—his win rate in 5k+ games was 57% and the difference in win rate between 4k and 5k Voids was around 7%. The only other hero to ever come as close to this value was Earth Spirit who is notoriously known for his high skill ceiling and high impact on the game.
It has immediately prompted an investigation, but there was no conclusive evidence on why the statistics turned out the way it did. By the end of the week, the win rate on the hero has turned almost uniform for all skill brackets and is currently hovering around 46%—only slightly higher than the win rate of the hero in the Major qualifiers.
The hero was played 33 times during the Shanghai tournament preparation with a rather low win rate of 45.45%. The sample size prevents from arguing that the hero is indeed weak in the current meta, yet he certainly doesn’t look as impressive as other reworked heroes do.
What does he have to offer? Transitioning from the core position/offlane to definite offlane with a potential support dual lane has fully transformed the hero from a right-clicking carry to a utility position—the gameplan revolves around his Chronosphere as a set up and AoE/Focus damage of his teammates. In fact, in most games in the qualifier the hero has been played with a 4/4/0/1 build by level 9, double-downing on the utility aspect through Time Dilation.
More often than not, the hero has been played with a Blink Dagger for proper initiation. 650 range is certainly not enough to catch most heroes and Time Walk currently is more of escape/heal ability, rather than an initiation/chasing tool. What it allows for, is for Faceless Void to become a huge nuisance and create chaos in the enemy team, while staying relatively safe against burst damage. It does have a similar drawback to the escape mechanics of Puck—if you get disabled, you will almost certainly die.
The comparisons to Puck do not end here—becoming an offlaner and being an initiator/space creator makes Void quite similar to the Faerie Dragon, only instead of having nukes, he has stronger disables which pierce spell immunity. There is a downside to it, since it will frequently prevent your melee cores from doing much in a teamfight, but that’s what smart drafting is for, right?
Overall, I feel like the hero remains misunderstood in pubs and suffers from “ideal teamfight” concept in the pro-scene—there are just too many things which have to come together in a span of several seconds for Void to have a desired impact on the team-fight. If these things do not come together in a proper fashion, it will generally lead to a botched teamfight and potential lack of damage, since Void himself offers almost none, especially with the current meta build. And, as was the case with Doom, it will create a huge 100 second window of opportunity for the enemy.
As stated previously, the new meta is shaping up to be quite exciting with a huge variety of viable heroes and strategies. The introduction of comeback gold mechanics last year as well as other global changes have left the game in a weird state, where many heroes have benefitted too much from the changes. It is almost safe to say that the game has finally healed itself from the conundrums introduced after TI4 and 6.86 is, in fact, a very different patch.
The heroes are finding their place in the meta and almost no hero is too weak if the opportunity arises. The reworked heroes have found their place in the game and have already proven their worth.rom now on, it is only going to get more interesting.