Dota 7.12 patch came in-between Day 1 and Day 2 of a major tournament and one would expect for the changes to be minimal. That is not the case and 7.12 is a patch full of significant hero changes that will shake up both professional and pub metas.
We’ve talked about how the hero might not necessarily be ready for Captain’s Mode, but apparently Valve is ready to take risks. There is no longer need to speculate and assume about the hero, as we will almost definitely see him played in DAC, especially with Round Robin BO1 Group Stage being a perfect format for weaker teams to catch a stronger opponent off guard.
The stacking bonus is still small enough for it to not influence the behaviour of professional players, while providing a mostly psychological incentive for pub players to play more as a team. Overall, a rather insignificant increase to an already insignificant bonus.
Nullifier pretty much should only be used in melee range now, since the projectile speed is slow enough for most players to react to with either Manta or a BKB. The item was getting a little bit too popular, once players started realizing how strong it actually is and the nerfs are finally coming.
Spirit Vessel changes should theoretically allow the item to actually deal more damage, given the target has no extra sources of magic resistance. Moreover, this damage can now be amplified through various means, be it Elder Titan or Rubick aura, or Ice Vortex from Ancient Apparition. We are not entirely sure how much it will actually matter in the end, since the main reason to get the item is healing reduction, but the item is certainly a lot more situational now.
Most other changes are rather small in comparison to these two. Silver Edge is a little worse now, but since it is generally used to set up “blowing up” a hard-to-kill target, this extra second rarely came into play.
Level 1 Mana Void now deals significantly more damage, allowing Anti-Mage to join fight or at least clean-ups a little earlier. On a target missing 800 mana, the difference in damage pre-patch and now is 160 and that is in an AoE. Against heroes with even bigger mana pools Anti-Mage is sometimes picked against, the increase in potential damage is even higher.
This buff is actually stronger than it sounds on paper. The way Axe is mostly played now is with one or two levels in Battle Hunger early on, with a heavy focus on zoning out the enemy from getting any last hits. This change translates to roughly 50 extra damage and it is quite significant in terms of laning stage.
The hero was getting a little more attention lately and some nerfs were to be expected. This nerf doesn’t change much about the hero, but rather makes his life a little bit harder.
This change might actually make the hero viable in the professional scene. 4 seconds in Dota is a pretty long time and having an ability to keep on chasing, keep on dealing damage and keep on killing enemies can allow Bloodseeker to snowball pretty hard within a single fight. It is a risky pick, but it is certainly an interesting one.
No more creep send backs. Chen was doing a little too much, with an ability to dominate lanes, significantly help his offlane to get to level 2 all while scaling into a decent midgame hero. This nerf was both necessary and expected.
Crystal Maiden might actually be a hero worth picking now, since her sustain in lane and harass potential are both at a decent level. She is still pretty far from being a prime 4 or 5, but in certain situations she can become a valuable asset.
A series of quite meaningful buffs for a long forgotten hero. Dark Seer might still be a risky offlane pick and his overall utility still depends heavily on the ability of his team to actually abuse the Vacuum repositioning, but he has one of the highest potentials to create highlights and we hope to see him played.
The hero was in dire need of some nerfs, even though her stats might not show it. Her utility and damage output remain unscathed, but at least she can no longer fight as often as she used to.
Some very necessary nerfs to one of the strongest cores in the game. Once again, they aren’t as heavily concentrated on decreasing the overall power of the hero, but rather the ability to fight continuously. Death Prophet’s peak in teamfights is still the same, but without the ability to take them as often she will harder time snowballing out of control.
One of these changes is a bit more of a bug fix, rather than an actual balance change, but it does indeed nerf the hero quite substantially, especially later in the game, when Disruptor has Aghanim’s Scepter. These 0.5 seconds can be the difference you need to use a mobility spell, pop BKB or cast a teamfight-turning ultimate and it will most definitely come into play.
A 6% damage increase from precision aura doesn’t really justify a Drow Ranger pick outside of some cheesy strategies. The hero still feels a little too inconsistent and vulnerable to be picked in the professional scene. If you don’t snowball out of control with a Drow draft, there are simply too many ways the enemy can play around your pick.
A much bigger nerf than it looks on paper. 0.6 seconds of initial stun would allow your team to deal considerably more damage enemy couldn’t respond to. Moreover, the instances where you wake the enemy up unintentionally are going to be more frequent, even in the highly skilled professional scene.
A series of very necessary nerfs to one of the most oppressive offlane heroes in the game. Enchantress was definitely too strong in the previous patch, with her ability to not only survive the offlane, but actually win it. The downside of it was often she forced the supports out of the lane, so they had no other option but to gank your other lanes, but Enchantress herself scales so well that it rarely mattered—she could carry the game if needed. She is still a pretty strong pick and is arguably as strong in the late game. But at least she is no longer as much of a nuisance in the laning stage.
An extra series of nerfs to a very popular hero in the professional meta. He teamfight potential of the hero remained untouched and he still has access to his ultimate every minute, allowing him to set the tempo. At the same time, his farm game isn’t nearly as strong as it used to. That severely limits his scaling, firmly solidifying his position in the game as a tempo core, rather than a hard carry. The hero definitely remains viable, but is a lot more situational now.
A series of very interesting changes to the hero that result in an overall significant buff. Having an ability to match the speed of an ally, all while having a constant tether makes Io a lot easier to use and increases his potential: the hero can even skip any kind of boots, using money on better utility items instead.
The hero has been getting buff after buff in the last several patches and was probably in a viable state even in the previous patch. These changes push him into an almost overpowered territory, since he has a lot of utility and damage from a support position. Undoubtedly, the hero is as janky as Jakiro, but we saw the latter being picked and Leshrac has all the potential to take his place.
The manacost decrease on this ability increases the harass and kill potential of the hero. More stuns=more opportunities to gank and kill=faster level and gold progression. It was something the hero was lacking and Lion is definitely worth exploring.
Magnus was in dire need of buffs for a while now and these changes make him a much stronger hero early on: extra 0.5 seconds of stun will mean a couple of extra hits from cores, buffed with Empower. It can be a significant amount of uncontested damage, depending on the situation. Unfortunately, the hero’s laning stage is still very inconsistent and putting him in the offlane can be a very risky endeavour.
Necrophos still remains a very risky hero that doesn’t really provide much for your team, especially when compared to other options for magic damage you have. Even after these buffs he is outclassed by heroes like Pugna and Venomancer and there is rarely a reason to pick this hero.
The Supernova radius increase is a massive buff for the hero—in a situation where the enemy is forced to run away, the catch radius is simply too huge to disengage consistently. On top of it, it now outranges Blink Daggers, potentially denying the enemy the ability to counter-initiate. There is also fun interactions with KotL and Night Stalker and sometimes it might actually come into play.
Community is very split about whether this change is a nerf or a buff. The ability currently works best against single targets rather in teamfights, but with the higher damage potential and longer duration it is probably on overall buff. There is also a chance it makes core Riki viable once again, as the damage output of this ultimate with Battlefury is simply too good.
Some pretty serious nerfs to the Sand King that might push him out of being the most popular position 4 in the game. The stun duration changes are significant, but it is the loss of 5 movement speed that makes the hero a lot trickier to play. You need all the movement speed on your catch hero you can get, especially in the early game and with so many heroes getting small buffs in this regard, Sand King might simply get outclassed.
Easily the biggest change and the biggest buff of the patch. Shadow Demon makes almost all melee carries irrelevant, while being a heavy counter to a variety of different heroes: it prevents Omniknight from saving a target with Guardian Angel, doesn’t allow Windranger to run away or chase safely and makes Storm Spirit almost completely irrelevant for seven seconds. There are also quite a lot of potentially bugged interactions with abilities that "hide" the enemy, but hopefully they will get fixed.
The laning stage buffs was something the hero really needed but it is still unclear whether it is going to be enough. Slark now starts the game with almost 3 regeneration, making him a lot more sustainable and in less need of a babysitter, but with the tempo most teams are playing now, he might simply get outpaced and never really come online.
These changes coupled with the Sand King nerfs might actually allow Slardar to see some competitive play. Being a little bit safer early can allow for an extra re-engage in a gank or a teamfight, and that is pretty much the only thing the hero really needed—continuous disables and catch.
A small buff to the laning stage of the hero, but as with the case of Slark, there is a chance Spectre will never get a chance to become a factor in teamfight. She is a rather slow farmer, needs a lot of gold before joining teamfight and late in the game can be easily countered and killed, regardless of her farm level. Unless professional players will find a build that significantly decreases the tempo loss of a Spectre pick, she will remain quite unviable.
Increasing the chase and disengage potential might actually bring the hero into the meta, with a slightly different build in mind: there is a chance we will see professional teams go for a 3-1-1 build on Spirit Breaker early on and the max out the Empowering Haste aura: the stun chance on Greater Bash remains static anyway, but a massive speed boost can go a long way in terms of positioning and spell usage.
This buff should not be underestimated, as Templar Assassin is one of the fastest mid heroes in the game right now. It means she will have easier time outrunning her gankers or getting away from Razor and Death Prophet links: something that can go a long way in making her a viable hero. She is still a very risky pick that heavily relies on being able to snowball, but the potential to two-shot supports is still there.
Some very considerable buffs to a niche hero that didn’t see play even when heroes like Dragon Knight were extremely popular. These changes might put him back into the game, since they solve a little bit of his early game mana issues and allow him to participate in fights earlier.
The laning stage nerfs for one of the strongest lane dominators in the game are a very healthy change for the meta. The burst potential and sustainable damage are still there, as well as very good scaling into mid and even late game, so it is unlikely the hero will suddenly get ignored, however there are now more ways to play around him and that’s a good thing.
These changes are actually making the hero a lot more interesting in the fourth position: given the chance to survive in the fight, Undying can become a very potent damage dealer and utility support: with increased AS on Tombstone Zombies, the BKB-penetrating slow stacks will have a much bigger impact, while Undying himself will remain a tanky target you can’t simply ignore, but will also have trouble bursting down.
Late game Warlock is a much bigger threat with these changes, since not only does the buffs increase his teamfight presence, but also allow for much stronger push, so fight into objective conversion is a lot stronger. Warlock wasn’t necessarily a bad hero before the changes and it is very likely we will see more of the hero in the coming days.
These buffs combined make Winter Wyvern a lot more threatening during the laning stage. She now has a longer “cast range” on her slow, allowing for better ganks and catch. Coupled with changes to Arctic Burn manacost a couple of patches ago, we might see the hero actually see some competitive play.
The biggest problem with Zeus has always been the fact that he kept most of the farm on his lane uncontested for the enemy: with his low attack range and damage he had problems denying his creeps, which ultimately led to the enemy midlaner getting ahead. These changes change this dynamic a little bit, making Zeus a much stronger midlaner. He is still quite susceptible to ganks and doesn’t like being pressured, but his damage potential in the late game, once BKBs start getting shorter, is still extremely high. And with the addition of Aghanim’s Specter upgrade, he now has two ways to have global presence: something undeniably potent in the right hands.
It is very interesting that Valve decided to stick to their patch release schedule, despite it colliding with the DAC, but it is definitely going to make the tournament very interesting. On top of it, it will also provide a lot of relevant data for future balancing straight away, allowing for more refinement in the next patch.
Given how lately the patch schedule alternated between hero balance changes and global changes, we will have a month of this hero meta and looking up what and how professionals play the game is definitely the best course of action if you are looking to improve at the game.