The last minor of the season is over. The last four DPC slots are going to be heavily contested at the Epicenter Major and it seems we are in for yet another treat: the meta is highly varied and hasn’t settled after the latest balance patch.
In just 45 matches of the StarLadder Minor a total of 97 heroes were contested, with only a single hero at above 90% contest rate. Sven is definitely here to stay, as we pointed out in our previous blog post, but there were also new developments, some of which are quite surprising.
Ever since the re-introduction of Io to the competitive scene, we’ve been quite vocal about our dissatisfaction of how unscathed the hero left their “pub play only” confinement. 7.22c gave the hero much needed nerfs.
The hero wasn’t contested much during the tournament with two picks and three bans. Naturally, there is a question of the level of play—Io is exceptionally scary when played by the very best teams and might not be as popular among professional teams of slightly lower caliber, but it seems Valve might have taken it a bit further than needed.
Is there a place for Io in the game? Almost definitely. Despite hero being much weaker in lane, it still offers a lot of map presence and frequently needed safety for his lane partner. The inability to play aggressively when needed, though, is definitely going to make the hero a lot less flexible.
Batrider has always been a high-profile tournament staple and the hero almost always makes a return by the International. The ability to force the enemy out of position and quickly kill them in isolation is something many teams find useful, especially when the stakes are high.
This time around, going into the last DPC Tournament of the year, Batrider is not only popular, but also highly effective, with an almost 70% win rate. Lower popularity of Lifestealer and Juggernaut might be one of the reasons, but we shouldn’t forget that the hero was also substantially buffed in 7.21.
Extra speed from Firefly makes early plays easier and also means Batrider can be useful without Blink Dagger—something valued highly on a position three cores in the current meta. By building extra speed and extra tankiness, Batrider can be the frontline hero for your team for long enough for your other cores to come online.
Make sure you max Firefly first, though—the benefits of extra speed are generally greater than extra slow from Sticky Napalm. Most professional players during the tournament had a 2-1-4-1 build by level eight, generally going for a value point in Flamebreak early and then skipping ultimate at level 6 in favor of extra points in Firefly.
Grimstroke isn’t particularly impressive stat-wise: the hero won 50% of his 20 games. The interesting part is that of those, nine games were played by Alliance and all nine times it was Grimstroke that maxed Ink Swell instead of Stroke of Fate.
The hero also won 66% of his games when played in such a manner. This build heavily restricts the farming speed of the hero, but it offers a lot more utility during teamfights. 3.7 seconds of stun is no joke and they are easily achievable with any decently mobile hero.
The extra movement speed bonus is also crucial in closing the gap to the enemy, getting a better position or when running away. According to our builds page for the hero, Stroke of Fate is maxed out by level seven in almost 90% of all pub games and maybe it is time to try something different. Especially given how even in pubs, going for extra points into Ink Swell gives better results.