The Summit 9 was the last tournament before the International 2018 and while it might have lacked international representation, there are still some very interesting developments. More than a month after the China Supermajor, the meta is changing once again.
More than half of teams at the tournament were the American representatives, so it isn’t surprising we saw the return of Enchantress and Drow Ranger. The first was an offlane specialty for Complexity almost two years ago, while the latter started out with Resolut1on and his Digital Chaos days.
Enchantress proved to be an amazing offlaner in the current meta. Her ability to survive most early engagements, sustain herself in lane while applying pressure is what made the hero so popular.
Dota 7.19 significantly nerfed the current playstyle with level 1 Nature's Attendants, increasing the manacost of the ability by more than 50%. Time will tell whether this will deter players from picking and banning her in 93% of the games, but the nerfs were well deserved. With her lane sustain and pressure, as well as late-game damage output, the hero won almost 55% of the games she was played in.
Drow Ranger was even more successful, however she was only played in 7 games total, winning four of them for a 57.14% winrate. Interestingly, she was one of the most unsuccessful bans—teams that banned Drow Ranger only won 38% of the time.
Three extra damage at the start of the game can go a long way in this laning-focused meta and it can even turn some matchups around. At the highest level of play, small things can have an immense impact on how the game will play out and in this environment three+ damage is a big deal. Moreover, the hero offers some of the best objective taking in the game and can constantly push out waves, providing her team with information and openings.
Pudge became a staple pick in the professional scene. 19 games, almost 58% winrate—the hero was definitely on the OP side of things. Luckily he was nerfed in 7.19.
Cooldown increase on Meat Hook made it an even riskier ability and not as threatening in lane. Most heroes will still die if hooked into opponents, but the current downtime at least allows for some calm periods, where Pudge is easy to deal with as long as you don’t get too close to him.
For a hero to have 48% pick rate and almost 54% win rate in the highest pub bracket, something must have gone terribly wrong during the balancing stage. And there is a chance that the cooldown increase won’t really matter too much, since Pudge was mostly manapool limited. It still a little bit unfair that all he has to do is hit one hook, while you have to avoid all of them.
Winter Wyvern took many players by surprise, becoming the 8th most contested pick and boasting a 70%+ winrate. We’ve recently talked about the hero and how she might be a good fit for the current 2v2 meta and it seems she is finally starting to get recognized.
Interestingly, she was played slightly differently from what we expected. Most professional players fully concentrated on her offensive capabilities until later in the game, prioritizing Splinter Blast first. They still frequently got two levels of Arctic Burn in lane, but then opted for outpush and teamfight tool in Splinter Blast, rather than fully maxing out Arctic Burn. Most of them also skipped Cold Embrace until at least level 8.
Given the prevalence of magic damage cores in the meta, it is unsurprising to see Cold Embrace having a lower priority. At the same time, access to two slows with an above average damage makes WW a very strong offensive hero against tankier targets with lower burst damage. She can also push waves very quickly, something that is highly valued on the professional scene.
Both Necrophos and Pugna decided to make a comeback into professional meta right before The International. While Pugna is definitely a far cry from what he used to be last year, Necrophos is actually rather successful as an offlane core.
Once again it comes down to lane presence and pressure and Necrophos is good at both these things. In a 2v2 matchup he can potentially deal 200 damage for 100 mana. Coupled with his ability to regain mana for last hits and denies and the constant damaging aura, it is easy to see how he can be a very tough lane opponent, that doesn’t necessarily kill you, but rather deters you from ever coming too close to the creep wave.
53% winrate across 19 games is not an amazing result, but statistics show that the hero is definitely viable at the highest levels of play and we will probably see more of Necrophos at TI, despite him receiving some nerfs in 7.19.
Pugna, on the other hand, was one of the most overrated heroes of the tournament with a 35.71% winrate across 14 games. The hero didn’t necessarily receive major nerfs throughout the year and was simply forgotten. Maybe dual lanes don’t fit him too well, maybe he is not as survivable in a meta where he can’t simply Decrepify the enemy core and reduce their damage to zero or maybe players are simply better at dealing with him, but right now it doesn’t look like Pugna is here to stay.
The Summit 9 gave us a glimpse of things to come at TI8 and for the most part the core principles behind drafting stayed the same: get strong lanes, acquire early advantage and choke the enemy. It is no reason to be disenchanted, however, as there are many ways to do these three simple steps and it provides a good hero variety.
There are also teams that are experimenting with a completely different approach and they weren’t completely unsuccessful. Fnatic took second place in the tournament by being greedy and playing for late game. Medusa, Terrorblade and Spectre are hardly lane dominators, but Fnatic made them work for most of the tournament and it is something worth paying attention to.
Perhaps you don’t have to answer the enemy’s early game all-in with an early game lineup of your own. If you can keep on surviving until later and later stages of the game, where you have a natural advantage, maybe there is a reason to play Dota differently and hopefully it is not something only understood by Fnatic. With some luck and creativity from the professional players, we might actually see even more diverse Dota at the biggest event of the year.