With the last DPC tournament concluded there are now two month until the biggest event of the season. Two months filled with qualifiers that will hopefully provide enough data to fix some apparent issues with the game before the International 2018.
China Supermajor was a great tournament. It had the best format of all majors this season, with no bo1 series, hence every victory and every placement feels rightly deserved. There were also only 13 unpicked heroes and 10 completely ignored ones, which indicates that meta is quite diverse.
Yet it is hard to call it perfect. One hero being a compulsory pick or ban is definitely unhealthy for the esports scene and Io has to be dealt with before the International. 99% pick+ban rate as well as 83.33% win rate across 6 games showcase how overpowered the hero is.
Reworks, introduced in 7.12 and 7.14 made the hero a lot easier to play for everybody, but it also allowed the best players on the hero to squeeze out even more utility out of Io.
With Tether capable of targeting spell-immune allies and allowing Io to match the speed of his target, there are a lot fewer things to think about when playing as Wisp and it allows the players to concentrate better on decision making, both in and out of teamfights.
Changes in 7.17 are a step in a right direction, but their impact should be minimal: losing 15 damage or 5 regeneration on a talent will only come into play in some very specific cases, while a 2% speed loss from Tether is mostly negligible.
The only meaningful change of 7.17 is that the damage from Spirits has been decreased by 20%. It will make the hero a little less powerful during the laning stage and early skirmishes, but, as is generally the case with strong by design heroes, it shouldn’t impact his popularity too much. Professional players definitely don’t pick Io for his damage output or slow.
Some nerfs to the hero should definitely be expected and they will be very welcome.
Lycan, Night Stalker and Beastmaster were the most popular offlaners of the patch. Granted, both Lycan and Night Stalker can be played in a different position, but when let through they were mostly used as offlaners.
One thing all three heroes have in common is that they provide a great deal of vision and are excellent at allowing your team to find favorable engagements. Lycan and Beastmaster are also good at taking down objectives and have good teamfight presence.
These three heroes were the most contested heroes of the tournament after Io, all having an above 70% contest rate. All of them also received minor nerfs in 7.17, hopefully allowing other offlane utility heroes to step into the meta.
Night Stalker, who was the most popular hero of the trio, had a contest rate of 81%, with 65 bans during the tournament. He was hit the hardest in the new patch, with significant increases to his cooldowns at early levels. Extra three or two seconds on Void at level three of the hero will make quite a bit of a difference, since the first night is generally the most important one for the hero. It will probably make position four Night Stalker even less appealing, since the hero really needs to get his levels to be as effective as he used to be.
Lycan and Beastmaster left relatively unscathed. Lycan lost a miniscule amount of extra damage on early level of Feral Impulse, retaining his lane-sustaining regeneration. Beastmaster lost two armor and now starts the game with 2 armor, instead of 4. It is a decent nerf, but it still doesn’t prevent Beastmaster from either farming in lane or forcing the enemy supports to babysit their carry.
Several heroes in the tournament performed excellently, but didn’t get too much attention from the professionals. Chen wasn’t even in the top10 contested heroes of the tournament, but had a 100% win rate across 8 games.
His ability to easily zone out several opponents with the help of early creeps is almost unparalleled. Double Mud Golems, with the first one shattered from getting control of the second one, puts an extreme pressure on the enemy lane and is possible to achieve as early as two minutes into the game. It is essentially three or even five 125 damage, 0.6 stun nukes.
Dark Seer also performed admirably, granted he was only picked in four games. With the increase in damage and tankiness, Wall of Replica illusions are now even more of a force to be reckoned with, while the hero himself remains one of the most consistent offlaners in the game. He is also quite flexible, with potential dual lane setups being quite strong: Ion Shell on a tanky hero with a gap closer can utterly destroy the enemy safe lane.
Bloodseeker being a consistently good pick is quite surprising, but the hero performed incredibly well in the tournament. We recently did a full feature on the hero and how he is at his best when played as a tempo-core, so give it a read
Ember Spirit also performed better than many expected, with a 67% win rate across 21 games. The hero benefited greatly from the Maelstrom changes and is primarily played as a space creator for the first three quarters of the game. He is elusive, deals a lot of damage from his abilities and forces attention to himself. Later in the game, if needed, he can then transition into a full hard carry, with an almost unparalleled burst damage. In a sense, Ember Spirit currently fills the Kunkka niche.
Finally, there is Bane, who was the go to support of the tournament. Consistent and massive lane presence, coupled with a lot of disabling power makes for a very strong combination. He is good in 2v2, he is excellent in 2v1 and can have a massive impact even in the very late game, courtesy of a BKB-piercing disable. He often starts the game with two or three mangoes and completely outregens his opposition. Nerfs in 7.17 are unlikely to change that.
Dragon Knight, Gyrocopter and Leshrac — it seems only recently the heroes have been praised for their consistent and reliable presence in the professional games. This tournament they all won less than 40% of their games, despite being picked more than 25 times each. The combined effects of some smaller direct nerfs and teams learning to play against these heroes made them a lot less viable.
To add insult to injury, despite being quite unsuccessful in the Supermajor, Gyrocopter also lost his crucial level 15 buff in 7.17 and now doesn’t have access to the game-changing +3 Flak Cannon attacks talent. The hero felt weak in comparison to many other cores during the Major and after the nerfs there is very little incentive to play the hero.
The same can be said about Leshrac: his cast range on Lightning Storm has been reduced further and now is a static 650. It means that if you can cast Lightning Storm on the enemy, he can attacks you back or retaliate in some other way.
All three heroes definitely have their niche. DK is still a very stable laner with pushing power, Leshrac is still a flex pick and Gyrocopter is still one of the most aggressive carries in the game. But these heroes are now a lot more specific and hopefully teams will soon start realising it and diversify their hero pools. Tournaments are not won with comfort picks alone.
China Supermajor was a great tournament. There were definitely issues with the patch and meta wasn’t necessarily as diverse as we hoped, but the format made up for it, allowing teams to experiment more, try out new things and develop their playstyle on the go.
Hopefully this experience, as well as a two month rest period for the qualified teams, will allow them to come up with new interesting strategies, involving underused heroes. Clinkz has been getting buff after buff and is a dominant force in high level pubs. Crystal Maiden and Shadow Shaman are still great supports that have decent teamfight presence and enable their whole team, while Magnus can still turn your Chaos Knight or Slark into a farming machine on top of them being great ganking heroes.
It may be too much to ask to have a team like Wings that can play any lineup with a great deal of expertise, but hopefully The International 2018 will still surprise us.