Patrick Bonifacio, February 15, 2017

WinteR on Dota 2's 7.02 patch: "Back to the dumpster [QoP] goes"

It’s been nearly a week since IceFrog dropped patch 7.02 on every aspiring DAC participant right in the middle of the qualifiers, but the fact that “stable release builds” no longer seem to be a thing is a story for another day. For now, we’ll be looking at some of the changes that immediately stand out, with a look back at the meta in 7.01.

Understanding the meta is the best way to pick out teams more capable of making good on your Dota 2 bets. For this, we were able to pick the brains of Mineski-X team captain, analyst desk staple and occasional Beyond the Summit caster Chan “WinteR” Litt Binn.

Safer Sanctuary

The very first entry in the changelog states that shrine invulnerability is now tied to at most one tier 3 tower instead of all tier 2 towers. This means that for as long as a team has a missing tier 3 tower, the opposing side has the choice to attack their shrines.

This raises a few interesting questions. Do teams that have strong pushing lineups go for the throat by pushing a single lane in order to take a tier 3 tower with extra rewards, or do they hold back and secure the map in safer ways? How does this affect the defending side if they’re at a net worth disadvantage? “It makes it easier for losing teams to come back,” WinteR says. “Technically, this change allows teams to keep their [off-base] shrines for longer. This in turn means more map control that you can use when behind.”

Either way, it will be exciting to see teams that choose to be aggressive and go for high ground pushes early. The value of the additional TP spots that the off-base shrines offer is undeniable, and is a key factor in the map-control-heavy meta of today.

Extinguished Flames

Ember Spirit was the second most popular hero at the DAC qualifiers, with a combined pick and ban count of 148, leaving Slardar as the sole hero that slips ahead of him. Ember boasts a perfectly even 50% win rate across the 64 pro games he actually managed to play in, as well. These two things combined seem to have forced Valve to hit him where it hurts: the spell amplification talent and his ability to make easy escapes with Fire Remnant.

The spell amp talent’s bonus was reduced from 15% to 12%, which seems small on paper but will have an impact on how quickly he can kill supports. The new root mechanics also now disable the Fire Remnant’s jump activation, making it easier for Rod of Atos carriers and even Lone Druid to lock him down. No longer as slippery as he once was, Ember must take extra caution especially when farming waves away from his team. This change will likely affect pubs far more than the pro level, though, considering the vast difference in mechanical skill.

The slight buffs to Battle Fury’s cleave radius and distance are noteworthy though, and initially spark ideas about a possible resurgence for the old physical damage Ember build. WinteR, however, feels that it won’t really happen. “I think mage Ember Spirit will still be the norm. The classic cleave build will likely stay situational.”

Your Queen, Dethroned

Queen of Pain was a standout hero in the last patch in terms of item builds, thanks to the interaction between Blade Mail and her incredible 70% spell lifesteal talent at level 25. Combined with Octarine Core and right-click-boosting items, she became an annoying, mobile pseudo-tank in the late game that had enough scaling on her attack speed to dish out respectable damage with auto attacks.

With 7.02, this is officially obsolete. The aforementioned Blade Mail interaction was removed from the game entirely, putting an end to the build. “Back to the dumpster she goes,” says WinteR of the deposed succubus monarch. Neither did she get any significant improvements to her other talents to compensate the loss (from +5 to +6 strength? Really?), so it’s pretty safe to assume WinteR is right on this one.

Protector of the Forest

You can’t talk about the 7.01 meta without mentioning Lone Druid, whose item build shifted focus from the Spirit Bear to the hero itself thanks to a host of fantastic talents for ranged right clicking. He terrorized enemy teams with an early power curve stemming from a Dragon Lance and his level 10 talent. His respawn time reduction talent also made sure he was always around to wreak havoc, and was mentioned by Andrew “Zyori” Campbell as one of the chief reasons for his return to the top tiers of competitive play.

He’s been toned down just a tad in 7.02, with negative changes being made to the talents that made him a big threat in the previous version. The attack range bonus was nerfed from +200 to +175, and the respawn time talent lost 10 seconds of reduction. In addition, it looks like Valve recognizes that the “druid” side of the talent tree is just more favorable overall, and the additional +5 armor to the Spirit Bear (for a total of +12 armor) at level 20 would suggest they want to diversify builds. Regardless, WinteR believes that the hero will still be a good pick: “The nerfs are small and will not affect his current build much. He will still be a very strong choice.”

Interestingly enough, Lone Druid posted a win rate of less than 40% across 45 picks at the DAC qualifiers despite the community’s measurement of his power level.

Dire Straits No More

Aside from the talent changes, tweaks to the Dire side of the map gave the red team some much-needed love. The Dire’s win rates in 7.00 and 7.01 were abysmal, to say the least. Fortunately, Valve seems to be making moves to restore order before the map gets covered in too much green.

On the milder side of things, more trees were added around the Dire outfield towers in order to provide more cover. This will help supports to TP to these towers for sneaky, quick-hitting ganks on Radiant heroes that have strayed too far from their side of the river. One of the Dire jungle bounty runes has also been adjusted back slightly.

The real big stuff, though, comes in the form of Dire neutral creep camp improvements. The offlane ancient camp’s position has been swapped with that of the offlane medium camp, making it so that the distance between the midlane exit from the Dire jungle and the ancients in the offlane is a lot shorter than that of the Radiant. “Heroes that can farm the jungle from the outset, such as Enigma, will have a much easier time farming on the Dire side now that the travel time from the jungle to the offlane camps has been reduced,” says WinteR.

Their respective spawnboxes have also been cut down in size, making it easier to stack the camps in question. This also means that supports will have to take slightly bigger risks if they really wish to block the camps with wards. Will all of these buffs combined help tip the scales back in the Dire’s favor? Next week’s games at StarSeries will tell all.

Honorable Mentions

There were some changes that we didn’t touch on with WinteR, but we felt that they deserved some words either way. The buff to Sange’s maim chance from 24% to 30% is pretty nice on its own, but the jump for those numbers in upgrading it to Heaven’s Halberd is massive when comparing it to the previous patch (24% to 35%). Not to mention that the active ability’s cooldown has been reduced to 22 seconds.

Solar Crest got a modest buff to the bonus armor on its active ability, bumping it up from +10 to +12. This makes it an even more attractive choice for offlaners and position 4 supports who might need the increased effective HP.

Helm of the Dominator, which was one of the most powerful items in the previous patch, now carries a significant risk similar to the illusion meta fix – all dominated creeps will cough up 125 gold when killed by heroes. This figure is comparable to the bounty given by the level 2 Necronomicon creeps, and so those who purchase the item must now be more careful with their converted units.

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We would like to thank WinteR for his valuable input. You may follow him on Twitter @WinteRDota.

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick is a Dota 2 fanatic, specialising in the SEA scene. He's also a massive K-pop fan but we don't offer markets on Girls Generation (yet) so he writes about esports instead. You can follow him at twitter.com/EthanKairos_