Which Heroes Belong in the New Player Pool?

A few test server leaks are out of the upcoming New Player matchmaking mode.  This mode appears to be an AP variant designed for new players that limits the available hero choices to newbie friendly characters.  The hero composition for this mode is still tentative, but I thought it’d be fun to discuss which heroes belong, which heroes do not, and precisely what the selection criteria should even be.

Let’s start out with the current list:

Strength: Earthshaker, Sven, Dragon Knight, Axe, Tidehunter, Skeleton King

Agility: Drow Ranger, Juggernaut, Vengeful Spirit, Sniper, Clinkz, Viper

Intelligence: Zeus, Lina, Lich, Lion, Witch Doctor, Necrolyte, Warlock, Death Prophet

Actually, a surprisingly good list.  I have 3 big objections to their inclusions.

Earthshaker is a risky addition.  He doesn’t lane well.  His ult is fairly hard to use.  Fissure is somewhat difficult to use, particularly when it comes to managing your mana constraints.  There are some new players that I would recommend Earthshaker to, people new to Dota specifically but they get the general idea and want a fun way to be aggressive.  For the absolute new player he might be too challenging to use effectively.

I don’t like Witch Doctor’s inclusion.  The heart of his kit involves using Cask and Maledict effectively, and both skills actually require quite a bit of game sense to use effectively.  His ult also involves some tricky positioning demands, and altogether he’s just far less forgiving than what you’d like from a newbie support.

My biggest objection though is Clinkz.  In every sample I’ve looked at, Clinkz has had low 40% win rates that go up dramatically in the High and Very High brackets.  As far as I’m concerned he’s the most timing sensitive farm carry in the game.  What I mean by that is that he needs a farm advantage to be useful, but unlike most hard carries that farm advantage has an expiration date.  Most low level players simply cannot last hit well enough to take advantage of this window.  What’s worse is that if a low level player does manage to farm a quick Orchid, this is also the bracket least capable of knowing what to do in response.  He simply does not belong in the New Player Pool.

Now, are there any heroes that weren’t included but deserve to be?

Starting with Strength, I think you can make cases for Slardar and Centaur Warrunner.  Both pretty simple.  Not farm dependent.  Encouraging new players to learn how to initiate is a good thing and they’re pretty good candidates.  Centaur Warrunner might not be appropriate if he’s due for further balance changes in upcoming patches.  Sand King might be ok as well.

Spiritbreaker and Nightstalker might be alright to add in a few gankers.  On the other hand, if you’re selecting heroes that aren’t too overwhelming for new players to play against, these might be bad additions.  On the other other hand, if overwhelming to play against is a selection criteria should you really be including Drow and Viper?

Chaos Knight might be fine.  Lifestealer too, but Lifestealer might be worth not including if you don’t want to add any heroes capable of semi-legitimate jungling.

For Agility, Ursa should be treated similar to Lifestealer.

Riki and Bounty Hunter might be ok, but they might also have been left out specifically to exclude stealth heroes from the pool.  But then why include Clinkz, the least appropriate of them all?

Luna is a perfectly appropriate addition.  Venomancer as well.

Bloodseeker might be ok, but he might have been skipped specifically to avoid adding Rupture to the pool.

I wouldn’t outright object to adding Spectre and Slark, but I wouldn’t really push for their addition either.

Moving on to Intelligence, I feel the only possible additions are Crystal Maiden, Shadow Shaman, Jakiro, Ogre Magi, and Keeper of the Light.  Crystal Maiden and KotL in particular are much easier to contribute with than Lina and Lion in my opinion.

Intelligence is the trickiest category.  You want to include it because new players simply don’t pick enough intelligence heroes.  But on average I’d say Intelligence heroes are harder to use than Strength and Agility heroes.  That’s why I like the additions of Necrolyte, Death Prophet, and Zeus.  Those three heroes have consistently maintained a high matchmaking win rate despite seeing very little professional play, and every test I’ve done suggest that their effectiveness is highest in the Normal bracket.  If anything, I’d say they are the three easiest intelligence semi-carries for new players to win with.

People also complain that not enough heroes with escapes are included, but I honestly encourage that.  Dota is balanced in such a way that escape-based heroes typically require higher standards of play  to win with.  They often have weak early games or weaker scaling than similar heroes that lack escapes.  To really leverage an escape hero you can’t treat their escapes as a free insurance policy; you actually have to push the boundaries of what you can get away with before escaping.  New players in general are extremely incapable of this, and encouraging them to rely on escapes to survive is a really bad habit to develop if you actually want to get better at the game.

Anyway, that’s my take on which heroes are newbie friendly.  Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments or wherever else.

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2 Responses to Which Heroes Belong in the New Player Pool?

  1. jimmydorry says:

    I have to say I completely agree with your take on “Escape” heroes. Too often I see people say that “Escape” is not a role, and does not contribute to the team.

    To be honest, I don’t understand why Drow and Viper are in the pool. Apart from Drow being imbalanced as crap in all tiers of play, why let the “norms” play against her when they won’t have the appropriate experience to counter it?

    I hope they make a mode in the future where only the 40 lowest win-rate heroes for the month can be played. Either the character is “bad”, or people can’t play it properly. Forcing these heroes to be played more will bring flaws to light, and re-inforce the usage of characters.

    I am guilty of this sometimes, but never-the-less can’t help but feel mad if someone picks a low win-rate character on my team. The odds are against us from the start.

    • phantasmal says:

      I’d be amenable to a selection criteria that didn’t include Drow and Viper, but they are definitely two of the easiest carries to play effectively. Valve might also be trying to make this mode require little to no changes regardless of the current state of hero balance, which might suggest things about her inclusion.

      I feel that something similar to a 40 lowest win-rate heroes would have a better chance of becoming a populated matchmaking option. It’s definitely what I was expecting when I first heard about Least Played, and I’d be more inclined to play a Least Played mode that restricted everyone to the least played heroes overall instead of just their personal least played.

      And as for feeling mad at low win-rate picks, a game I won’t be talking about much was a RD where we first picked Invoker. Their response picks? Keeper of the Light and Phantom Lancer. Having to start solo against their eventual KotL/PL/Lich tri-lane really set the tone of that match for me.

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