Let’s look at the mechanics of the game and each position to see how the latest patch will shake up The International 2019
MOBAs are evolving games. With 117 heroes and hundreds of patches in the history of Dota, no two games are ever exactly alike. Heroes rise and heroes fall, and the core mechanics of the game are often tweaked and tuned.
That means that every International is its own beast entirely. Various strategies have dominated in past years, like deathballing at TI4 or lane versatility at TI6. The International 2019 is a month away, and the patch for the biggest esports event of the year is finally here. This patch will define the biggest event in all of esports.
7.22 has been a lengthy patch, with six subpatches so far. The original update added an Aghanim’s Scepter to every hero and even reworked Roshan to drop an Aghanim’s Scepter consumable after a few deaths. Many of the subpatches involved tweaking these new Aghs upgrades.
While Dota 2 became fairly formulaic during 7.21, the various subpatches of 7.22 have done a lot to diversify Dota’s metagame. Let’s look at the mechanics of the game and each position to see how the latest patch will shake up The International 2019.
Professional Dota 2 has largely hinged on the laning stage since patch 7.21. Getting an early advantage is extremely powerful as it allows teams to establish map control and take away the enemy’s farm. For the most part, teams focus on taking the enemy safelane tower around 10 minutes and then invading their jungle from there.
That means that Dire is usually playing the bottom side of the map while Radiant plays the top. The only source of consistent safe farm is the offlane jungle, often dubbed “the triangle.” Carries will spend a lot of their time alternating between the jungle and the nearby lanes.
While they’re keeping their GPMs high, their team will focus on making space for them. Offlaners are incredibly strong in 7.22, so teams will often play around theirs. Having a big tanky brute that can dish out damage and control the enemy team is downright mandatory. Supports are also quite strong in the midgame thanks to their recently improved scaling.
Gold in the early game is hard to come by, meaning that teams have to get creative with their farming patterns. Carries can stay in the triangle by themselves or splitpush as their team draws attention away. Hand of Midas was practically mandatory at the beginning of 7.21, but even after several nerfs the item is still picked up regularly.
With those factors in mind, let’s look at each position and run down which heroes are the most successful.
The lack of early game gold in 7.22 means that a few carries are practically forgettable. Terrorblade and Anti-Mage are highly situational picks because they rely on a good start to exponentially accelerate their farm.
The most popular carries are ones that can survive the laning stage and make an impact early. Wraith King has been the archetypical carry throughout the patch since he can farm passively, dominate the lane, tank a ton of damage, and doesn’t really have a clear weakness.
Other popular carries include those can theoretically go mid. Juggernaut can essentially lane on autopilot by spinning out the waves and going to the jungle. Enemy picked a melee mid? Throw Lycan in there. Though traditionally played mid, Ember Spirit feels comfortable in the safelane and can easily switch based on the matchup.
Situational picks include Faceless Void, Phantom Lancer, and Alchemist. The latter is picking up a lot of steam in pro games since he can grant the rest of his team Aghanim’s Scepters.
While supports, offlaners, and carries play radically different from how they used to, the mid lane is pretty much the same as it has always been. Static lanes and a lack of roamers means that it really is a 1v1 matchup the majority of the time.
The most common mid heroes include those that can come online quickly while interacting with their lane opponent. Templar Assassin is the best example. She can use her traps to stack an Ancient camp while she lanes, meaning she can easily recover from a rough start or shoot past everyone if the lane goes well.
Other rising stars include Visage, who saw limited play at the Epicenter Major. Pugna has also seen a rise, with a 56% winrate in top level pubs. The little goblin provides his team with tons of push potential and damage as well some utility.
Speaking of utility, Zeus has also seen a surge in popularity. 7.22 massively increased the bounty on enemy vision wards, and Zeus’ constant stream of True Sight can net him thousands of gold over the course of a match.
Long gone are the days of the suicide lane. Offlaners have been creeping up in power over the past year and their strength has reached a fever pitch. Much of a game’s success depends on how well the offlaner can transition from taking the enemy safelane tower to taking over their jungle.
Naturally, tanky strength heroes dominate the offlane meta. Centaur Warrunner nearly broke the metagame alst patch due to his insane damage and strength gain, but even after the nerfs he’s a viable pickup.
Other all-stars include Omniknight and Sand King, who both thrive in an uninteractive lane. They can both push the lane out quickly and force the carry to farm under his tower, freeing up the jungle for themselves.
Underlord currently has the highest winrate in all of Dota 2. He’s incredibly versatile and difficult to force out of lane. Just like SK, he can shove the lane easily and boost his GPM in the jungle. Atrophy Aura decreases the enemy team’s damage output while greatly increasing Underlord’s own, making him a powerful lategame threat.
Overall, tanky heroes that can control the lane are the go-to picks for pro teams.
Position 4 is one of the strongest in Dota. Various heroes that are usually relegated to core roles, like Lina, Ursa, and even Weaver, have found a home in the offlane. The position is the most versatile in the entire game.
Most semi-supports serve as a compliment to a team’s existing strategy. Want to outlast the enemy team in a drawn out game? Omniknight is your man. Want to pin the enemy team down while you're breaking down their barracks? Elder Titan is ready to go.
Despite having “support” in the role’s name, position 4 heroes can oftentimes become outright cores. Many Chinese players have been experimenting with 4 Pangolier and Windranger. Both of those heroes have roaming potential too, so they can leave their tanky offlaner to cement other lanes.
Dota’s most iconic hero has seen an uptick in winrate in high level pubs. Pudge’s ability to reposition his opponents and lock them in place is valuable in a metagame based around invading the enemy jungle. We’re unlikely to see him team up with Techies like in the grand finals of TI6, but any appearance of Pudge at TI is sure to be fun to watch.
The newfound strength of position 4 heroes isn’t without cost. Positions 5s have become more and more sacrificial as the 2019 has gone on, and now the role is used to buying every consumable their team needs.
To that end, the heroes that are most popular for the role are those that can go without. Bane has become very popular in pro level pubs thanks to his versatility and lack of item dependence. Seriously, what do Banes even build besides Arcanes into Aether Lens? Nothing, that’s what.
Also popular are heroes that can reliably push lanes that the cores don’t have the time to attend to., Crystal Maiden and Grimstroke can both do so while providing a ton of oomph to teamfights. Rogue picks include Treant Protector and Vengeful Spirit, who can keep lanes in check while providing valuable lockdown and vision.
All in all, position 5s have to do a lot with a little and certain heroes are more suited to that than others.
The Mac Daddy of Dota supports is undoubtedly Warlock. Fatal Bond was reworked in 7.22 to apply to six units starting from level one, making lane harassment a breeze. If stacked up with Aghanim’s Scepter, he can end the game all on his own.
The International Open Qualifiers gave us a solid glimpse into how the professional metagame is developing, but with 7.22f, it’s once again open season for Dota 2 teams. The heroes mentioned above are just some of the ones teams use, but who knows what wildcards they’re training right now? To find out, you’ll have to check out the event itself on August 15th.