Image by EPICENTER
EPICENTER XL was by far the most diverse tournament of the season. 105 different hero picks and only seven ignored heroes across 97 matches is a definitive proof that 7.14 was a great patch.
Moreover, only two heroes truly stood out from the rest in this tournament: Io and Leshrac had a Pick+Ban rate of 88% and 81% respectively. No other hero was contested in more than 70% of the matches, with Nature’s Prophet coming the closest with a 68% popularity.
Compared to the stats from the previous several Major and Minor tournaments, there is no denying that the meta is extremely diverse, with many teams experimenting with different heroes and developing their own playstyles.
Doom and Gyrocopter were the most successful popular picks of the tournament with above 60% win rate across more than 25 games.
Gyrocopter’s resurgence is easily explained by the introduction of a new build for the hero: Aghanim’s Scepter became the core item for the hero, often followed up by either Black King Bar or Maelstrom.
Many questioned the hero’s viability after a series of nerfs to Flak Cannon and Homing Missile in 7.10 and 7.12, but the hero remains a comfort pick for many teams. New build allows him to be decently tanky, while dealing a considerable amount of damage, even when disabled. With the new Maelstrom Gyrocopter also farms much faster and has an even bigger impact in fights against heavily armored targets.
Doom didn’t receive any direct changes in the last couple of patches, with the exception of 7.10, where the hero’s starting intelligence was increased by 2. However, he greatly benefitted from the changes to attributes introduced in 7.13 with his massive 3.5 strength growth per level, making him a prime candidate for the offlane.
The hero is decently tanky, moves fast and can pressure a solo enemy core, forcing the enemy team to either sacrifice their core’s farm or stay in lane to protect him, opening up opportunities for ganks on other lanes. Later in the game Doom can also ensure high net worth and build the necessary utility items for his team, while ensuring one of the enemy targets is going to be very ineffective in the teamfights.
Leshrac was the second most contested hero of the tournament with a 81% Pick+Ban rate. His popularity, however, doesn’t necessarily come from his strength alone: while the hero won 56% of his games, it is his flexibility during the drafting stage that made him so popular.
During the tournament we’ve seen teams play Leshrac in every single position: he was used as an offlaner in aggressive dual or triple lanes, he was played mid and could fill either support position, if necessary.
With his low cooldown and low manacost abilities, high teamfight presence and massive pushing potential, Leshrac quickly became the go to hero for the opening stages of the draft, leaving the enemy guessing whether Leshrac is going to be a core or a support.
It is hard to call the hero imbalanced in his current state, but he is definitely on the stronger side of the spectrum and well worth exploring in pubs.
Slark won 11 out of 13 matches he was played in, making him the most successful situational pick of the tournament. We’ve recently talked about how the hero got much stronger with buffs introduced in 7.12 and 7.14 and the EPICENTER XL stats are the definiteive proof of it.
With secure laning stage and high impact in the mid to late game Slark remained unbeatable on the main stage, but it might be too early to call him overpowered. He is still a highly situational hero that requires a response and many teams have either forgotten about the hero during the draft or didn’t give him enough respect: there were no Lion or Shadow Shaman counter picks to the hero, with only a couple of Axe games.
In his current form Slark is very similar to Broodmother of the previous patches: he can be absolutely devastating if the enemy isn’t prepared for him, but can and should be accounted for and countered during the draft. Hopefully we won’t see heavy nerfs to the hero who only recently got back into viable state and Valve will allow the meta to self-correct.
Techies was picked four times during the tournament but didn’t win a single game. The recently introduced hero was perhaps overhyped by us and the community and looks rather tame in his current form.
At the same time, Techies is a highly specific hero that requires a lot of practice to be effective. Even during TI5, only EG could consistently pressure the enemy into banning Techies. Complexity, OG and Team Secret will probably need to explore the hero further, before attempting another Techies pick.
Troll Warlord and Slardar were the least successful popular picks of the tournament: both heroes have a 26.66% win rate across 15 games. Slardar is still highly outclassed by Sand King in terms of his utility and damage output, being a better pick only in some very specific situations.
Troll Warlord sounds decent on paper with his high tempo and objective pressure, but in reality he often fell off after 25 minutes into the game. The hero doesn’t offer the lane pressure of Gyrocopter, late game power of Terrorblade, Slark or Morphling and doesn’t even push as fast as Luna, making him a jack of all trades that rarely has a bad matchup, but never has a good one. In the current meta it is simply not good enough.
EPICENTER XL was a great tournament that showed major progress in terms of meta development. With so many excellent teams having to adjust on the fly, it created a little bit of chaos when it comes to drafting, but it was ultimately for the best: the work on Dota balance is an ongoing process and hopefully some of the kinks will be smoothed out by the time we hit MDL Changsha.
With three months and three Major tournaments left before the International 2018, the patches we see will probably be smaller and more precise and while it means less exciting changes it also means more balanced professional games and higher diversity during the most important tournament of the year.