The dust has settled on The International and whilst the competitive rosters sort themselves out, we eagerly await news of a potential gameplay patch before the competitive scene really kicks back into action. Whilst 6.88 has been heralded as one of the best patches ever, both 6.86 and 6.87 were both phenomenal patches and each patch that Valve have released in recently history tends to have got better and better. Although there is a huge array of heroes readily at the professional’s disposal, there’s always scope for more balance as certain heroes continue to be overlooked or feel underwhelming in both the pub and pro scene.
We have a look at five heroes we would like to see given positive tweaks before we head into the Fall Major.
Since his dramatic rework in September 2014, Valve has never found the perfect balance for the low-MMR pubstomper. It’s all too familiar for an ordinary Dota player to see an enemy Bloodseeker moving at 700 movement speed diving past towers at just ten minutes to grab yet another kill. However, with the absence of away-from-keyboard jungling Lifestealers retreating back to fountain with their tail between their legs in the professional scene, Bloodseeker struggles to excel. His ultimate, Rupture, feels underwhelming as it is all too easy for the enemy to just Town Portal Scroll away – and at the moment Keeper of the Light’s Mana Leak genuinely feels like a better version of the spell, yet it has a ten second cooldown. As per usual, the lack of lockdown or crowd control coming out of a Bloodseeker makes him all too easy to deal with and a well organised team will destroy him when he has Bloodrage active. It’s not been since Arteezy and s4’s memorable Bloodseeker/Lina combination in the finals of ESL One Frankfurt 2015 that we’ve seen the hero utilised properly at a high level.
Lina was part of the extremely strong band of spell casters in and around Valve’s 6.83 patch. Since then a series of tweaks and nerfs to her abilities combined with the gradual buffing of other traditional mid-lane heroes has led to her demise. The introduction of the extremely strong Infused Raindrop means that her solo kill potential has waned and the hero struggles to gain momentum quite as well as she once could. With no escape ability and being an extremely squishy intelligence-based hero, she is all too susceptible to roaming ganks on the mid-lane which are now a staple in competitive Dota 2. The emergence of heroes such as Riki, Bounty Hunter and Earth Spirit has made immobile mid-lane heroes extremely difficult to run in Dota 2.
When Drow’s Precision Aura was altered in 6.84 to only affect Creep-Heroes when it was activated, Visage saw a steep decline in the professional scene and is now very rarely seen. Although the Drow/Visage strategy was often considered cheesy, with familiars ripping through towers and split pushing at a ridiculous rate, it gave a greedy four position Visage a place in the meta. Nowadays, though, with Familiars seemingly too squishy and easy to deal with, Visage has disappeared and seems remarkably underwhelming. Despite Valve’s series of small buffs throughout 6.88 they still don’t seem to have got it exactly right. There remains little reason to pick Visage over the plethora of other supports who are far more able in the early to mid-game.
The twin-headed dragon remains all too situational a pick. We saw Digital Chaos surprisingly run Jakiro in the middle-lane during the lower-bracket final of The International 6, but again the hero fell short despite having a good start. All of his abilities seem slightly too easy to avoid, and the hero falls short in the late game as his Liquid Fire becomes more and more negligible in impact. Whereas supports such as Lion can have devastating initiation and crowd control in the latest stages of a game, Jakiro offers very little – especially if a team is playing from behind. Unless a line-up is centred around pushing early, it seems that Jakiro has very little place in many drafts. As shown by Digital Chaos at TI, Jakiro is still someway off being able to transition to a core role as well.
Rhasta the Shadow Shaman seems to be a support that requires just a bit too much to get going properly. He peaks heavily in the mid-game where his Serpent Ward ultimate is extremely strong in decimating towers and pressing an advantage. However, due to the nature of his Shackles ability he is often difficult to position safely in a fight where he will be able to use his array of abilities effectively. Whilst his Hex has the same range as Lion, it has a longer cooldown and lasts for a shorter duration when at max level. Similarly, Lion’s ultimate and stun is always of use even when behind and does not require positioning as pinpoint as that of Shadow Shaman. At the moment, Rhasta feels underwhelming when compared to Lion and there’s little to no reason that teams will go for Shadow Shaman over a Lion pick.
Generally the consensus across Dota 2 is that 6.88 is very well balanced and a plethora of heroes are completely viable in the current meta. The dream is that every hero has its time and place in the competitive scene and with a few tweaks to the weaker heroes here and there IceFrog may not be far off crafting the perfect game. Of course, we’ll leave it down to the expert though and wait to see what Valve have up their sleeve for the next, eagerly anticipated gameplay patch.