What's sure to be a bustling 2017 for the Dota 2 scene is now well and truly underway. ESL One Genting gave the world a taste of top tier competitive action for the first time in the New Year, and it didn't disappoint. The eventual winners were Digital Chaos, who even admitted in interview that they hadn't had much time to practice together because of the festive season.
We saw a total of 89 heroes picked or banned as different teams started to express their different thoughts on what's hot and what's not in the patch. Whether or not it was Meepo, Bloodseeker, Lone Druid or Broodmother, heroes that have been untouched for a while had an apparent resurgence – some with better results than others.
Arguably, the transition to a 7.XX era has been the biggest change in the game's history. It's incredible testament to IceFrog that the game still remains intrinsically balanced, with a variety of strategies and heroes viable. We had a look at just a few of the meta changes that stood out following ESL One Genting.
Slardar’s powers are waning
If we cast our mind back to the main event at the Boston Major, Slardar featured prominently and teams utilised his minus armour and strong roaming ability to devastating effect. The hero featured in the top 10 most contested (by pick and ban percentage) with 61 percent, and sat comfortably in the top five win rates for heroes picked over five times in the main event. His win rate of 66.67 percent only goes to show the strength of the hero – often used in combination with Lifestealer.
Fast-forward just a month and although the beautifully remodelled Slardar was the most picked hero in Genting, his win-rate tells a whole different story. With just a 28.57 percent win rate across the 14 games in which Slardar was picked, there's a clear shift. It's not as if there were any overwhelming nerfs to the hero, but with the introduction of talents combined with shifting game dynamics and playstyles, it seemed as if top players were struggling to achieve as much around the map as they were previously able to.
Shadow Fiend and Queen of Pain are back
It's been almost too long since we've seen the likes of Shadow Fiend and Queen of Pain wreaking havoc from the middle lane. Alas, with the introduction of 7.01, and the introduction of strong talents to both heroes, we've seen the re-emergence of some of our favourite heroes to watch.
Queen of Pain's 70 percent spell lifesteal on top of an Octarine Core seems almost like a gimmick, as she becomes nigh-on impossible to kill as Level 25 is obtained. Shadow Fiend's talents seem strong overall and with the addition of the Shrine's potent regeneration, early pressure doesn't seem to faze the hero as much.
With Infused Raindrop still remaining strong, we haven't seen previously strong magic burst heroes like Lina and Zeus re-emerge as feasible options in the middle lane. We did see a mid-lane Rubick who didn't lane particularly badly against Shadow Fiend, but struggled to transition and make an impact on the game. Zeus wasn't picked at all, and Lina didn't win a game in the two where she was present.
Ember Spirit is not the hero we all remember
Ember Spirit used to be a hero that had arguably two power spikes and a pretty rigid way to build him. He was relatively strong in the early game due to the power of Flame Guard before transitioning into a late game monster, with the combination of damage items and Battle Fury allowing him to slice through enemies with Sleight of Fist from a safe distance. How times have changed.
With a quite simply ridiculous 15 percent spell amplification at just Level 10, the choice to build a Veil of Discord and run at enemies with Flame Guard throughout the early to mid-game adds an intriguing alternative (and arguably favoured) build to the mix. Add to that a Radiance, Mjollinir, Octarine Core or even Blade Mail, and we can now see the plethora of options available to professionals when utilising the mobile hero.
In each of the five games that Ember Spirit was played at ESL One Genting, an Octarine Core (and no Battle Fury) was picked up on the hero. To put the transition into context, in previous patch 6.88f, Battle Fury was purchased on Ember 3,409,005 times and Octarine Core just 7,750 times.
Meepo is borderline overpowered
The tough to play and often niche hero had a 75 percent win rate in the four games it was picked up in Genting. There are few renowned Meepo players across the world – but the fact that Aliwi 'w33' Omar is one of the best meant that it started to be banned against Digital Chaos on a regular basis, allowing them to pick up the best of the rest in the drafting phase on their way to victory. The only loss came when Wings Gaming's Li 'iceice' Peng played a phenomenal Winter Wyvern to effectively cause Meepo to destroy himself.
With the introduction of talents, the faster a hero gets to the maximum level means it obtains the often obscenely strong level 25 talent at an earlier stage. The hero is innately designed so that it gains experience at a faster rate, and as a result having an enemy Meepo with a three second cooldown on Poof early on in the game can decimate teams.
We've seen Evil Geniuses carry Artour 'Arteezy' Babaev spamming the hero in public games in recent weeks, which shows that the hero's strength has not gone unnoticed – every team may well need a Meepo player as a surprise pick that can almost guarantee a win.
The Dota 2 scene is about to transition into a busy period – Dota Pit will be the next LAN finals to take place, where we'll have the opportunity to see more of the best battle it out and express themselves on the new patch. With Dota 2 Asia Championships announced for the end of March and the Kiev Major in April, top teams will be working hard to find the strategy that they believe works best.
The competition in Split later this month will give us first glances at Boston Major winners OG, as well as Western giants Evil Geniuses and Team Secret. It will be intriguing to see their take on 7.01 and which of the lessons we've learned from Genting transition to the next tournament.