One of the most common responses to yesterday’s 6.80 hero win rate chart was shock that the hero whose win rate decreases the most in high skill games is Meepo. This flies in our face of our intuition that the heroes that improve the most in higher skill games are skill intensive heroes, particularly ones that are micro-intensive. Meepo ought to be the poster boy of this type of hero, so what gives?
First, let me point out that Meepo doing better in low skill games is not a new phenomena, as it’s been true for several patch periods, including ones before the recent buffs to his ultimate. Second, there’s a common sentiment that this win rate shift is caused by smurfs playing Meepo in the normal brackets. While I can’t rule this out, I’m skeptical that this effect is strong enough to account for the entire shift. Dota 2 is reasonably good at frustrating the creation of smurf accounts, and outside of extremely managed cases, successful Normal bracket smurfs should move to High relatively quickly. So rather than relying on those two explanations, I want to propose that past a certain point of Dota awareness, we begin to overestimate our potential to reach a theoretical skill ceiling while underestimating our opponent’s ability to meet a much lower skill ceiling and disrupt these attempts.
When it comes to deceptively nebulous concept of player skill, we have a tendency to focus on really obvious displays of it. The ability to last hit and farm is the biggest one when people focus on moving out of Normal ranked games. Meanwhile, the closer we get to the top end of the bracket we focus on being able to play skill intensive heroes. It’s no surprise that the list of heroes that see the greatest usage rate increase in Very High games almost always include Invoker, Rubick, and more recently Mirana. Past a certain point, people start fishing for WoDota moments and merely outfarming your opponent in a pub game becomes the passé way to win.
But what we forget is that higher skill also includes improved map and situational awareness. I have a surprisingly good example of this coming up that I don’t want to spoil, so for now let’s focus on ganking. Watch the front page of live games and you’ll see a dramatically greater emphasis on early game aggression (including players who don’t need a tooltip to know that Smoke of Deceit actually exists). These players are better at spotting early weak points and punishing them, and it’s as significant of a shift as the improvement in last hitting and mechanical skill.
So we have Chen. He’s a hero that does better in Very High partially because those players have better micromanagement mechanics, but also because he’s now playing on teams that actually know how to take advantage of his creep army and use it to create early kills. Meepo, on the other hand, is a big squishy gank target. Or maybe it’s better to say 1 to 5 squishy gank targets. But either way it’s a vulnerability that you can’t entirely mitigate through better play, and it’s a vulnerability that’s significantly larger than anything other high skill cap heroes like Chen, Invoker, or Rubick have to deal with.
And yeah, we’re totally capable of finding “that one time” when Meepo got out of control, and for most of us, that time will probably involve N0tail. But take a look at N0tail’s datDota history with the Meepo. 5-5 is a respectable record for a hero most pros won’t dare to touch, but the quality of the teams that he’s beaten with Meepo doesn’t really stack up to the quality of teams that he’s lost to. Meepo looks unstoppable when a team lets him get out of control, but better teams will invest a lot of resources into making sure that doesn’t happen, and they’ll be more efficient at making these investments pay off with kills that prevent Meepo from ever getting out of control.
You hit a similar scenario with Tinker. Yes, we’ve all seen a Tinker with a Soul Ring, Bottle, Boots of Travel, Blink Dagger, Force Staff, and Scythe of Vyse that’s capable of completely dominating the map. But at the same time we forget the incredible amount of investment that took to get him there and the vulnerability he had while he was farming (and the vulnerability the rest of the team has during this period of temporary 4v5 if we want to take things a step further). Shutting down a solo Tinker’s farm isn’t much harder than shutting down a solo Anti-mage. The big difference is that Anti-mage is an investment that warrants 4 protects 1 coverage and Tinker does not.
Basically, Tinker and Meepo are examples of heroes where it’s easy to get overly enamored with their best-case scenarios. From there you then fall into the trap of believing that getting to that best-case scenario is solely a matter of the skill of the player playing the hero and, in the process, forgetting that the opponents are just as capable at exploiting these heroes’ liabilities and preventing that scenario from ever coming to fruition. This isn’t to say that Meepo and Tinker can never have their day in the sun competitively. It’s more that if you want to make heroes like this work you’ll have to have a complete team plan on how you’ll compensate for those liabilities without investing more than is warranted in their protection. While also have a savant playing them.