A couple of you noticed a conspicuous absence in Dota 2 Item Trends in 6.77. In truth it was intentional, because the shift in Shadow Blade usage since the large changes the item received in 6.75 deserved a post all to itself. Let’s go straight to the top 6.74->6.77 item usage shifts in Very High.
We already covered how Dagon and Diffusal were covered by the rise of Nyx and Phantom Lancer respectively, and Refresher is likely attributable to a combination of Magnus and Warlock. Tranquil Boots and Rod of Atos were recently introduced items that have seen increases acceptance as people have become more accustomed to them. But at the top of the list is the Shadow Blade everyone was expecting to see. Truth is, the only reason Shadow Blade didn’t show up in my previous post was that I chose to look exclusively at the shift between Normal->Very High. Shadow Blade didn’t show up there because it’s increased usage was relatively uniform across all three skill brackets.
I’ve mentioned how often a shift in item usage can be attributable to underlying hero shifts, but with Shadow Blade this is not the case. I isolated 32 heroes with what I consider a significant amount of Shadow Blade usage (a >3.8% usage rate in any bracket in either patch). Three of these heroes were not in the game in 6.74. All of the remaining 29 saw their Shadow Blade usage increase between 6.74 and 6.77 in both the Normal and the Very High brackets.
(Click for Usage by Hero in Very High Bracket)
(Click for Usage by Hero in Normal Bracket)
Focusing exclusively on 6.77, let’s look at the trends in usage between Normal and Very High:
The distinct trend here is that Very High is much more likely to build Shadow Blade on melee heroes for the speed boost and initiation, with Alchemist being the poster boy for this trend. Normal is more likely to build Shadow Blade on ranged carries, but this gap has lessened significantly since 6.74. Normal also sees a much higher presence of supports buying Shadow Blade. Aside from both these trends we have Nature’s Prophet as a much more common carrier in Very High and Death Prophet as a more common carrier in Normal.
Of course the question on everyone’s mind is whether the post-6.75 Shadow Blade is better, and unfortunately I don’t have a good answer for you. Win rate comparisons on items through the API is a messy and often misleading endeavor. I have some ideas about new ways to approach it, but they’re not ready yet.
You might be tempted to just look at the base win rate of Shadow Blade alone, but this is a bad way to go about it because of compositional issues. To illustrate this, let’s look at the 6.77 item data. As you can see at the bottom of the chart, Shadow Blade has a 61.6% win rate in Normal and a 59.02% win rate in Very High. Must mean something right?
Not so fast. Remember that while we’ve already looked at the usage rates of Shadow Blade on the most popular heroes, the usage rates of the heroes themselves vary significantly from bracket-to-bracket. To show what’s going on, I counted up the total observed carriers of Shadow Blades in the two brackets (i.e. of all the Shadow Blades built in Normal, Drow Ranger is the carrier for slightly over 1 out of 5).
The composition between the two brackets looks completely different, largely due to how less often ranged carries like Drow, Sniper, and Viper get picked in Very High. Drow in particular is a big deal because her win rate in 6.77 was quite high and her increased influence on the Normal win rate of Shadow Blade could easily account for its better performance in the bracket.
To really look at item performance, we need to look at each hero in isolation while controlling for factors like GPM and (in an ideal world) purchase time. In the meanwhile, let me say that while I believe Shadow Blade is definitely a stronger item now, I suspect it’s not strong enough to justify all of the extra purchases it’s receiving in 6.77. Just because it’s a decent purchase now doesn’t mean that there aren’t times and situations where you have more pressing needs, and it’s probably still a bit dumb to build 2 or 3 on a single team.