By Tyler Morse
The International approaches, and with it the annual pre-TI patch. The current installment proves to be a huge shake-up from the previous meta, while also looks to create an exciting and action packed meta for the spectators of the world championships in Seattle.
After a couple of days of playing, yelling at all my friends about which heroes are now OP and which are now basically unplayable, and reading and re-reading (and then reading again), I’m here to give you the initial impressions of the current version of our game. We wont go through every point, but we will discuss the large changes and what they will mean for the meta.
First off, general gold changes. In general creeps give less gold, heroes give slightly less gold, and raxes give more gold. Another change is that when a hero dies he loses more or less gold, up to twenty percent based on how high or low he stands on his own teams net worth chart. Meaning if I am the lowest net worth hero on my team I lose twenty percent less gold, and if I am the highest net worth I would lose twenty percent more. A similar change in this direction is that the AOE gold distributed for a hero kill (not the direct last hit gold) is now distributed based on how high someone is within their teams own net worth, up to twenty five percent. Again sounds more complicated than it is. If i have the lowest net worth on my team I get twenty five percent more gold and the hero with the most net worth gets twenty five percent less. All of these changes help to reduce the disparity in farm between supports and core heroes. While the basic strategy isn’t going to change much the extra gold is nice on the supports especially since they get a couple cool new item options.
Speaking of items nearly all of them have changed in some way. Eul’s Scepter of Divinity, which has been one of the strongest items in the game lately, now costs 175 mana to activate. This is to make non-intelligence heroes like Shadow Fiend think twice about building it. The extra one hundred mana may not seem like the biggest nerf but it will certainly affect those heroes with small mana pools.
Refresher orb, another really popular item last patch, has received a large rework. Instead of perseverance and oblivion staff it now builds from two perseverances and a recipe. A considerable nerf considering the extra intelligence was integral for some heroes with big mana costs on their ultimates to be able to cast them twice. Most of the completely new items are about decision making which will no doubt increase skill cap and make for some exciting play possibilities.
Lotus orb builds from a perseverance, platemail, and a recipe, and apart from appropriate stats gives the holder the ability to place a shield on an ally that reflects any spells cast on them for 6 seconds. I can only imagine reflecting doom back onto its owner is the most satisfying feeling in the world.
Glimmer cape builds from a shadow amulet and a cloak. It gives passive attack speed and magic resist and can activate to make an ally invisible for 5 seconds. Moving does not break the invisibility but attacking does. Heroes affected by this also get 66% percent magic resist. It’s a cool idea with some neat applications in professional play.
Solar crest is my personal favorite new item, it builds from a medallion of courage and a talisman of evasion and gives the appropriate stats. Its active now gives armor and evasion when targeting an ally and removes armor and applies a 30% miss chance if targeting an opponent. The effect lasts 7 seconds and the item has a 7 second cooldown allowing supports to be very aggressive about using its effect.
As far as hero changes many of the expected changes occurred. Troll Warlord, Sniper, and Axe all received nerfs while many less popular heroes received buffs to push them into competitive play. Bounty Hunter has become a little more shuriken centric and is capable of even more burst damage than before. Dragon Knights breathe fire now applies a damage reduction for 8 seconds, which could very possibly push him back into a strong mid role. Ursa’s ultimate has been reworked to dispel all
Debuffs on the hero upon cast and grant 80% damage reduction for the duration. The ability is certain to allow him to stay on heroes a little better, and may be good enough for high level play. The biggest hero changes have come in the form of new aghanims upgrades for many heroes. Centaur now grants his team 70% damage reduction and the ability to move through all terrain while his ultimate is active. Alchemist can activate the item from his inventory to consume it and grant all the effects of holding an aghanims in someone’s inventory to a teammate permanently, allowing him to essentially farm for another player. Timelapse, on Weaver, gets a cooldown reduction to twenty seconds and allows you to cast the spell on allies. Those are the most notable and all allow for some cool new gameplay options. As a small aside alchemist has seen his winrate drop almost twenty percent since the patch went live.
That’s a lot of changes and these were only broad strokes, so what do they mean for the meta in general? Well farming mids are now a thing of the past. Mids are now expected to fight and fight early. QoP, Lina, Storm Spirit, and Zues have proven popular thus far. In response the number one role has started to pick up slightly more farm based heroes. Juggernaut is still popular despite receiving some small nerfs, as are heroes like Terrorblade and Phantom Lancer. As far as selection for the support role, not a lot of change has been seen yet but some new favorites are certain to emerge after some time passes. A small change that I haven’t mentioned yet that reduces the armor on tier 2 and 3 towers seems to make the games a little faster and make big team fights more risky as an enemy team can do much more damage than previous if they take a big advantage in a fight. Team fights start soon and they happen often. A change that looks to prove extremely exciting for the impending international.
Whether on purpose or not Icefrog has created a meta that will be very fun to watch. In a couple of months this patch will be put to the ultimate test in Seattle, and I for one am more excited than ever!