The 7.00 Dota 2 patch ushered in a plethora of changes that shook the very foundations of the game we know and love. The introduction of shrines, talents and map changes were but a few of the wide-ranging changes made to the game as we welcomed Dota 2.5.
The move to a talent tree for each hero was a system met with great intrigue, and it's since been embraced by the community. There's still active and open debate over which talent is better on many a hero; another layer of complexity has been added to the already difficult to grasp Valve masterpiece. Balancing Dota 2 has historically been a thankless task. Certain balance changes have become long running jokes within the community; the repeated increase in Dark Seer's Vacuum cooldown or gentle increase in Necrophos's armour spring to mind.
Make no mistake, the competitive meta was arguably the most balanced it had ever been during 6.88, but IceFrog decided to add a whole new plethora of tools to meddle and balance the game we know and love even further. With 112 heroes available, that's 448 talents at the mastermind's disposal, and each and every one of them can be altered to bring a hero down a notch or turn an awful pick into first pick material.
7.02 has recently hit, with alterations to talents prevalent. We had a look at the patch and picked out five changes that may have the largest ramifications across the board.
Imba Spirit hit with the hammer
Ember Spirit's new magic damage build, with a Veil of Discord and 15 percent Spell Amplification courtesy of his Level 10 talent, was obnoxious to play against and the sheer strength of the hero shone in his remarkably high win rate in both competitive play and high level public play. He had a 54 percent win rate above 5,000 MMR, which is considerably higher than pre 7.00.
The combination of bringing his Spell Amplification down from 15 to 12 percent, as well as disabling Active Fire Remnant during Root effects should bring the hero back on a level pegging with several of his midlane counterparts.
Considering how effective the Root effect is against heroes such as Storm Spirit and Mirana, the change to Ember makes total sense. The previously uncatchable Xin in pub games may now be fodder should you coordinate properly. Add to that the change to the interaction of Octarine Core and Blade Mail – meaning that you can no longer spell lifesteal from Blade Mail – means that the popular build will also be less effective, yet still viable. A series of gentle tweaks have hopefully brought the hero back to a fine balanced state.
Lycan re-enters the fray
Necrophos, Techies, Treant Protector and Lycan were all temporarily removed from Captain's Mode due to their intrinsic hero changes when 7.00 hit. The first hero to make it back into the mode prevalent in competitive gameplay is Banehallow, the Lycan.
The melee strength hero underwent a series of changes and with Helm of the Dominator's rework, he seemed fairly strong when played in a similar style to previous. Summons have always benefitted from his howl, aura, and with Helm it just adds another aura to his strong toolkit. In the DAC qualifiers, Lycan was picked up three times in the limited matches where he was available and won two of the three.
Liquid showed their dominance over B)ears with the hero, and NP then utilised it to beat Team Onyx. In the second game of the best of three, Onyx picked the Lycan themselves, but didn't manage to utilise the hero to the same potential and fell to defeat.
Helm of the Dominator weakened
One of the items that emerged as the biggest surprise package was the new Helm of the Dominator. Previously, the item offered lifesteal and was a component in building Satanic, but with the 7.00 revamp it became a very well rounded item stat-wise and also had a fantastic aura. Initially reactions on many a patch analysis video were that the item would be utilised mainly on supports, but people quickly started to notice Artour 'Arteezy' Babaev of Evil Geniuses picking up the item on almost any carry he played and it became extremely popular.
The aura remains strong, but the stat bonus has been adjusted to bring it on par with other items of a similar cost. Additionally, they stuck a constant creep bounty on dominated creeps so if you managed to kill one of the high movement speed pests, it now provides adequate reward.
Alone Druid rightly adjusted
Lone Druid was the second most contested hero in the DAC qualifiers. The hero had a 77 percent pick or ban rate across the 53 recorded games and considering he was still prevalent after 7.02 went live, it shows the sheer strength of the hero.
Like Ember Spirit, Lone Druid was almost reinvented with the introduction of 7.00. Professionals started to play the previously unheard of build where items would be kept on the hero and not on the bear. This was in part due to the heroes talents allowing him to become a right clicking machine with incredible range and a powerful escape at the ready. It comes as no surprise that the talents that encourage the dubbed Alone Druid build have been nerfed and his bear was gently buffed.
Whilst the changes are comprehensive, it remains to be seen whether or not it's enough to put the pros off picking him.
Shrines are now vulnerable after a tier three tower has been taken
Prior to 7.02, you were able to destroy the two enemy shrines that are positioned outside of the base after taking down all of their tier two towers. Losing all of your tier two towers meant that the shrines were almost instantly removed, thus losing significant match control.
Against certain line ups, this would happen early on and make the task of coming back almost impossible. The change to making the shrines vulnerable after removing tier three towers makes sense. It rewards line ups that are able to take an early lane of barracks, meaning map control can be removed and an advantage can be pressed. Pushing uphill is almost always more difficult than removing the three tier two towers so it favours less deathball orientated team line ups.
With Starladder and DAC to play before the Kiev Major gets underway in April, it'll be interesting to see if this is the final batch of tweaks before the second Major of this season gets underway. We'd hazard a guess that it's not, as certain heroes still look too strong on paper. Then again, we've been wrong before. Who remembers when a pro said that the change to Sniper's Shrapnel way back wasn't game-changing? As with everything IceFrog does, only time will provide us with the answers we so desperately crave.