6.81 Hero Stats, kinda

May 29, 2014

With my former method for interacting with the API increasingly appearing to be permanently disabled, there’s not a lot left for me to do.  But people still want to know what’s going on in the new patch, so I’ve taken a look at DotaMax, a Chinese site that claims to have hero stats with skill bracket information.

I say “claims,” because I have no way of personally vouching for the quality of their data.  I have a suspicion as to how they get it, and if my suspicion is correct there are likely gaps in their match records.  These gaps might be innocuous, or they might actually warp the results.  They definitely appear to have less total matches on record than Dotabuff.  In my 7 day test, Dotamax only had 88% the match volume of Dotabuff.  6.80 looks even worse, with Pudge for example having only 55% the Dotabuff numbers.

The better news is that the numbers themselves tend to conform to my expectations from other sources.  This doesn’t prove that they’re good, but they’re at least not obviously bad.  So far.

One last caveat.  This was an experimental project done over the course of a couple days.  I used DotaMax’s Last 7 days setting for the 6.81 numbers, but because this wasn’t done all at once there may be discrepancies.  These should usually be small, but if a hero’s win rate changes between sections, it’s because of this.

Normal/High/Very High Match Distribution

According to the DotaMax numbers, it was 75% Normal, 15% High, 10% Very High.  This is a larger Very High section than usual, which could represent matchmaking maturing over time, but as I mentioned, DotaMax appears to have an incomplete set of games.  If my suspicion from earlier is correct, it’s a lot more likely for them to drop Normal and High matches, which would artificially compress the distribution some.

As a reminder, it’s theorized that public approximations have Normal as being somewhere around < 3000 MMR and Very High being > 4000.

Ranked vs Unranked Match Distribution

People have speculated that the N/H/V distribution is significantly different for ranked matches only, and DotaMax appears to agree with them.  In only ranked matches the distribution I found 51/26/23.  ~57% of VH matches in the Dotamax results take place in ranked compared to 18% in Normal and 26% overall.  These trends represented by these results are likely factual even if the particular numbers might be warped by unevenly distributed dropped matches.

VH Top 25 by Win Rate


Hero Shifts by Skill Level


No surprises, but a couple things to point out.

First, Terrorblade and Phoenix took their hits in the patch, but they’re both looking competitive in higher skill games, especially Phoenix.

Lycan is another hero whose 6.81 nerf might have been exaggerated by his predominantly low skill performances in Dotabuff.

The people saying Earth Spirit would be competitive in Captain’s Mode might have a point.  Despite having the worst overall public win rate in Dota 2 history, he’s consistently putting up the strongest VH trend since 6.78 Wisp.  It’s true that at 42.61% Earth Spirit still doesn’t have the greatest of VH win rates, but neither does Shadow Demon and SD sees plenty of competitive play (though perhaps a bit more than he ought to).  And if you look exclusively at VH Ranked games, Earth Spirit’s win rate goes all the way up to 45.30%, albeit with a small sample of just under 10k games.

Necrolyte (technically -phos but whatever) has the latest case of Spirit Breaker syndrome.  Necro still isn’t getting much competitive attention, but pubs are mostly ignoring him too so he might be able to evade nerfs for a bit longer.

I won’t trust Legion Commander‘s results until I have proof that people have stopped skipping Overwhelming Odds to max Moment of Courage.

Hero Popularity: China Versus the World

One interesting feature of this site is that it also provides results exclusive to the Chinese servers.  This gives us a glimpse into the shifts in hero popularity between China and the rest of the Dota 2 servers.  The end result is pretty large, so I’m just going to thumbnail them.

<-Very High | Normal ->


Lower level Chinese pubs appear to be much more conscientious towards team composition than their predominantly Western counterparts.  The top 10 less-played heroes on the Chinese side starts with Pudge and then goes entirely pub-carry with Drow Ranger, Phantom Assassin, Riki, Ursa, Sniper, Faceless Void, Bloodseeker, Meepo, and Troll Warlord.

In both brackets, Chinese players show a big affinity towards Axe, Earthshaker, Slark, Doom, Skeleton King and Kunkka.

Bloodseeker and Viper are surprisingly popular in VH pubs.

Besides Earthshaker, Ancient Apparition appears to be the support of choice.

Invoker is present in 56.76% VH games.

Concluding Remarks

As a reminder, I can’t completely vouch for these results.  They look believable, but that doesn’t preclude them from being warped in some subtle way.  Do with them what you will.

On a final note, I had to mess around with a Chinese translator to navigate the site and came across a hero translation I’ve never seen before.  I guess in the Chinese backstory he’s a disgruntled Counter-strike grognard.



[TI4Quals-CN]Brewmaster: Drinks Are on You (link)

May 23, 2014

In the continuing series of the hot heroes of the International Qualifiers we have a look into Brewmaster’s meteoric surge in popularity along with his struggle to produce results.

Previous Entries in this series:

[TI4Quals-SEA]Treant Protector: Into Forest Shade

[TI4Quals-Americas]Mirana: A Wild Mirana Appears


Also there’s our TI4 Qualifier Hero Comparison Chart, which will be updated tonight with the playoff results from the China Qualifier.

TI Qualifiers: Hero Usage by Region[Link]

May 21, 2014

Curious about how hero preferences differ between regions?  Well, I took the Pick/Ban stats for each of the TI4 Qualifiers and compared them the overall hero stats of 6.81 before the Qualifiers began.  Come marvel at Americas love for Shadow Demon and Fiend or SEA’s complete and utter refusal to sync up with anyone.

Available Here: http://www.liquiddota.com/forum/dota-2-general/3335-ti4-quals-by-the-numbers

The Virtue of Not Knowing

May 20, 2014

Came back to my computer at 5 AM Sunday morning to an absolute deluge of messages, comments, and e-mails.  Redditor ThirstyCows had discovered a bug in 6.81 that was causing Pudge’s Rot to do a incorrect amount of damage.  As of yesterday, the bug was fixed and the results were immediate:

So with that out of the way, I’d like to address the idea that fact that some people appear to have missed the point of the post where I examined this Pudge shift days before the bug was discoveredThe suggestion is that I spent a lot of words trying to figure out the ‘why’ behind Pudge’s sudden win surge and then had to admit that I didn’t know, when the real goal of that article was to prove that we didn’t know.

The fact that I didn’t know the answer was never in question.  I was upfront about this a mere 24 hours after the patch dropped in my 6.81 First Look.  Pudge had one of the largest win rate increases.  I had no clue why it was happening, but I was sure that it was a big deal.

What I then ran into were comment sections full of explanations that hinged on this-or-that meta shift.  I decided to go through a couple of these and look at them in detail, and I found them overall to be wanting.  At a first glance they were neat and plausible, but, as we now know, they were wrong.

And far be it from me to criticize someone for attempting to come up with an explanation about Dota, but the problem is that too often we use “it’s the meta” like it’s this omniscient being that directs the course of Dota in a way far beyond the comprehension of us mere mortals.  Being able to explain any change with “the meta” helps us feel like we know everything we need to know about this game that we know far less about than we pretend to.  This might actually be a necessary coping strategy sometimes for life in general, it’s pretty terrible in an environment where you’re trying to gain a competitive edge.

Dota does change constantly but in very much knowable ways, and to be able to keep up you need to be willing to throw away things that you thought you knew.  Like Wraith King.  A year ago people would constantly tell you that he’s a terrible competitive hero that will never see the light of day.  Now he’s the 11th most picked hero in 6.81.  With enough power boosts any kit can be competitive, and the wonderful thing about pub play is that it’s so big and random that any large win rate change almost has to correspond to a shift in raw power.  There are, of course, exceptions, but they’re almost never sustainable.  When a hero, any hero, sees big changes, it’s time to reevaluate their viability, and pub win rates give us a useful (if incomplete) idea of which changes are big.


And to close on a completely different note, with the TI qualifiers going on I have a couple of short articles out about the biggest hero stories so far:

TI4 AM Quals: A Wild Mirana Appears (Everywhere)

TI4 SEA: Into Forest Shade

Encyclopedia Pudge and the Case of the Strangely Surging Win Rate

May 13, 2014

As you might recall, last week I published a thing on the hero win rate shifts of 6.81.  At the time, I said that the biggest mystery of the patch is Pudge’s win rate increase.  Well, that mystery has not abated over the past week, so I want to take some time to examine the potential suspects and see how their alibis stack up.

The Scene of the Crime, as it were

The Scene of the Crime, as it were

First the facts.  At the time of this draft, Pudge has exhibited the largest win rate boost on Dotabuff in the 6.81 patch period at 3.94%.  This is odd because the usual culprit for shifts this large are official balance changes, and Pudge received none.  He also, as far as I can tell, received no direct or indirect buffs bugfixes that would have driven an improvement of this magnitude, and I can find no reported bugs in 6.81 that Pudge would benefit from.  Of course, just because I cannot find them doesn’t mean that they’re not there, but at this point it’s safe to say that on this front I have no leads.

For now, let’s assume that Pudge’s recent success has nothing to do with a mechanical power boost and examine some alternative explanations.

Theory 1: Pudge is being played by better players in 6.81

The typical explanation goes like this.  There are a lot of bad Pudge players.  These Pudge players get distracted by new shiny things in the patch, so they play heroes other than Pudge.  Pudge’s win rate goes up accordingly.

There’s some support for the idea that popularity trends can influence win rates.  The most clear and consistent example is how every new hero introduced to the game has had huge day 1 usage rates that quickly fall off, and as they fall off the hero’s win rate always creeps upwards.  Some of this win rate improvement, especially for newer and more complicated heroes like Earth and Ember Spirit, is players just learning how the hero works.  Still, even with more basic heroes there tends to be a tourist effect.  It’s not even much of a surprise; people who pick a hero because they like them tend to outperform people picking the same hero out of a sense of novelty.

The problem then is that there’s no real evidence that this effect makes much of a splash in the opposite direction, and even if there were, there’s no reason to believe it would effect Pudge dramatically more than every other hero in the game.  And on top of that, Pudge’s use rate didn’t even decline post-patch.  It actually hit a month high 39.24% last Thursday up from his usual 35-36%.

Verdict: Implausible

Theory 2: Pudge is taking advantage of trendy strats like Aghs-rush Lich and KotL

This theory we can actually test.  Using the Dotabuff Pudge matchup page we can find out how often he plays against different heroes during different patch periods and his win percentage in each head-to-head matchup.  Has Pudge fed off of a sudden surge of sloppy play?


In terms of usage rates, 6.81 did not shake things up dramatically.  More important to the theory is that the heroes Pudge is facing more often in 6.81 aren’t exactly favorable matchups.  Only Invoker, Keeper, and Phantom Assassin are better than average matchups both pre- and post-patch.  Not by much in the case of Invoker and Keeper who are 42 and 45 respectively out of 106 in 6.81.  Phantom Assassin was Pudge’s 11th best matchup in 6.80, but her6.81 buffs have improved her to 33rd.  On the other end of things Wraith King was tied for Pudge’s worst matchup in 6.80, though things have improved for Pudge such that it’s now 104 out of 106.  Ursa and Lich are also amongst Pudge’s top 10 worst matchups.

It’s also worth pointing out that this group is, if anything, outperforming Pudge’s overall win rate shift of 3.94%, thanks in a large part to buffs to Huskar, Faceless Void, Phantom Assassin, and Silencer.

Verdict: Implausible

Theory 3: Pudge is benefiting from a favorable meta-game shift, and his win rate comes from a handful of advantageous matchups

This explanation gets trotted out to explain any otherwise inexplicable win rate shift, and while it sometimes is valid for competitive play, things are rarely that responsive in pub Dota.  Competitive Dota is a highly self-aware system where teams work to respond to specific matchup threats and any seemingly successful strategy will get integrated at-large as a counterpick option.  By contrast, picks (and lane assignments) in pub Dota are essentially random dice rolls weighted by the innate popularity of the heroes in question.  As a result, the influence of the metagame on pub win rates tends to be rather weak.

To demonstrate this, let’s use a thought experiment.  Invoker is Pudge’s most commonly seen foe in 6.81 Dota, so let’s simplify things and just say he shows up in 1/5 of all Pudge games pre and post patch.  In 6.80 Pudge’s win rate vs. Invoker is the same as his overall win rate at 48%.  In 6.81 his win rate jumps four percentage points to 52%, but this increase is solely because of a favorable development in the Pudge vs Invoker matchup.  As a result, his win rate in the 4/5 of games without Invoker stays at 48%.  What would Pudge’s 6.81 win rate against Invoker have to be to make this possible?

The answer.

So yeah, you’ll basically never see a win rate shift this large determined by a single match-up, at least in pub play.  At a tournament like TI3 you can see a single hero like Outworld Devourer sunk entirely by counterpicks like Razor, but that was an incredibly small environment where teams had a very specific gameplan involving these two heroes.  Pub play is a bit under a million games a day being played players that, on average, either have no concept of a Dota metagame or have an incredibly wrong one.

But perhaps there’s a broader explanation at work here.  A cluster of heroes that are working in concert to lose to Pudge.  Well, if there is, I’m sure not seeing them.

Using the Dotabuff matchup page again, I compiled the win rate shift in every individual matchup against Pudge between the two patch periods.  60 out of 106 of the heroes fell within a +/- of .75 from Pudge’s overall win rate shift of 3.94.  Of the 46 that did not, the vast majority were heroes that had their own win rate shifts thanks to buffs and nerfs they received in the patch, with their Pudge shift being a rough summation of the individual win rate shifts.  In short, Pudge’s newfound win rate appears to be distributed relatively evenly among the entire cast.  I can’t completely rule out that there isn’t something more complex going on, but it’s definitely not a simple question of 1v1 matchups.

Verdict: Very Unlikely

Theory 4: With recommended items changed in the patch, Pudge players are now spending their money more effectively.

This…actually might have some merit.  Maybe.  I can’t actually determine if Pudge’s recommended items did change with the patch, as I can’t find a reliable source on what his recommended items were pre-patch.  What I can say is that there has been some interesting item trends going on with the hero.  Two in particularly actually.


I’m skeptical that the Force Staff -> Blink Dagger is the big driver here.  From what I can tell using (Last Month – 6.81) to get an estimate of late 6.80, this trend towards Blink Dagger has been a gradual once ever since Pudge received the ability to use Blink Dagger in 6.79.  If Blink Dagger was the source of Pudge’s win rate, we would expect his win rate increase to have also been gradual and not suddenly surge on patch day.

The Boots shift is much more likely to be due to recommended items.  My estimate of (Last Month – 6.81) puts Phase Boots at a ~29% usage rate, which fits the profile for a precipitous dropoff in 6.81.  Tranquil Boots is also definitely a part of Pudge’s current core items.  It’s also worth mentioning that Pudge has a lower win rate with Phase Boots despite Tranquils being much cheaper, so there’s a case to be made that reduced Phase Boots usage should actually increase his overall win rate.  The question though is whether this boot choice alone could drive a 4% win rate shift.

Verdict: Plausible, but possibly only a partial explanation

And that’s the case as it stands.  It could be that Pudge stands out as the somewhat surprising biggest winner of the 6.81 recommended item changes, but I’m skeptical that this is the entire story.  As I’ve pointed out, Pudge’s win rate increase in the patch was the largest of any hero, and a boot switch doesn’t seem like it would be enough regardless of the fact that Phase Boots are Pudge’s least successful Boot upgrade.

So we still have an open mystery on our hands.  In the meantime, strongly consider skipping the Phase Boots when trying to get that Pudge compendium win.

One Weird Trick to Raise MMR That Raijin Thunderkeg Doesn’t Want You to Know About

May 7, 2014

In recent news, we have this tale from the PlayDota forums of one man’s harrowing tale of taking a 2900 rated Dota2 account to 5400 in the course of 144 games with a 122-22 (.847) record.  Some might say that this disproves the existence of ‘ELO[sic] Hell.’  But of course for some people it didn’t, and today I want to focus on one of the objections.

Juice, the player behind the experiment, prefers to play mid and carry and did so throughout the experiment.  A common reaction then has been that all this experiment proves is that if you want to raise your MMR, you need to pick ‘high impact’ heroes, preferably mids.  Juice seemed to prefer Ember Spirit, Storm Spirit, and Templar Assassin, though his picks overall were actually quite varied.  In any case, I want to examine the idea that maining these snowballing mid heroes are some universal secret to raising your MMR.

1. Let’s start by looking at the overall win rates for some mid heroes:


Outside of our three exceptions, things don’t look so good for traditional mid heroes, and when people recommend picking a high impact mid, Zeus and Necro aren’t typically the heroes that get brought up.

Of course it’s true that some of these heroes do perform better in higher rated games.  Ember, Storm, Tinker, Invoker, and Templar Assassin are all among the heroes with the greatest win rate improvement in Very High games (roughly >4000 MMR).  But at the same time, none of these shifts are strong enough to get any of these heroes to +50% in that category.  Furthermore, these heroes are only nearing that range of success in the hands of people with the mechanics to make it to >4000 play.  If you can’t make it to 4k using the heroes you’re comfortable with, it’s extremely unlikely that you have the mechanics necessary to make any of these heroes your ticket out of the so-called trench.  At least right now.  If you aspire to learn everything there is to know about one of these heroes, then good, go for it.  Just don’t pretend it’s going to be the fast fix that will carry you to the MMR you really deserve.

But I feel that this simple win rate examination fails to capture the entirety of what’s going on here, so…

2. Let’s step back and ask ourselves what exactly it is that hero win rates measure in the first place.

If you’d like to know, I can tell you that in your universe you move freely in three dimensions that you call space. You move in a straight line in a fourth, which you call time, and stay rooted to one place in a fifth, which is the first fundamental of probability. After that it gets a bit complicated, and there’s all sort of stuff going on in dimensions thirteen to twenty-two that you really wouldn’t want to know about. All you really need to know for the moment is that the universe is a lot more complicated than you might think, even if you start from a position of thinking it’s pretty damn complicated in the first place. I can easily not say words like “damn” if it offends you.

-Mostly Harmless

Think of a hero win rate as a giant array of outcomes condensed into a single number.  Two key dimensions within this array represent the probability that the hero will influence their team into a positive gold/XP state and the probability that a hero can take a positive gold/XP state and convert it into an even more dominant position.  The heroes that we think of as supports tend to produce good outcomes of the first type while the heroes that we think of as carries tend to produce good outcomes of the second type.

Of course it’s more complicated than that.  Lich likely has one of the highest public win rates in a large part because you can stick him into any dumb pub composition and he’ll accomplish something in the laning phase.  Meanwhile, Shadow Demon has one of the worst public win rates because his early impact is extremely dependent on having someone take advantage of Disruption initiation.  On the other end of the spectrum, Anti-Mage has possibly the strongest capability to convert GPM into total dominance, but his mere existence on a team makes it less likely to get to those stats.  Viper has a much weaker gold conversion but has a dramatically higher win rate because he lanes well in general.  Spectre provides a somewhat more puzzling counter-example, as she, like Anti-Mage, is a weak laner, and yet she still has had a consistent >52% win rate for several patch periods.

Anyway, We’ve got this idea of snowball or momentum heroes, so where do they fit in?  We could say that they’re just a lot like carries since carries snowball too, but that feels off.  Items do matter for heroes like Templar Assassin, Storm Spirit, and Outworld Devourer, but not really in a way that’s comparable to Anti-Mage or Spectre.  Anti-Mage and Spectre aren’t dependent on momentum; they’re more like time bombs, with their rate of farm determining how much time you have to disarm them.

What I suggest is that the success of these snowball semi-carries isn’t about reaching some kind of item-based end state like it is with a traditional carry.  Instead, the goal of a snowball semi-carry is to create a gap between their damage progression and the HP levels of the opposing team.  The most straightforward example of this is Outworld Devourer’s ultimate.  Sanity’s Eclipse does damage based on the difference between OD’s intelligence and the target’s.  If OD gets an item and level lead, Eclipse will do huge amounts of damage in a large area of effect.  Conversely, if OD falls far enough behind it won’t do any damage at all.

The central unifying feature to this class of heroes appears to be a specialization in burst damage that tends to be at least as level dependent as it is item dependent.

  • Templar Assassin can use the free damage and armor shred from Refraction and Meld to melt low HP heroes.  Damage items like Desolator and Daedalus can be useful but aren’t strictly necessary and often skipped/delayed in favor of pickups like a Blink Dagger.
  • Storm Spirit thrives on hitting that point where any lone traveler is dead within the duration of Electric Vortex and Orchid.
  • Ember Spirit gets right click damage scaling off of a 5-second AoE nuke with a very long range, but struggles to keep up with the sustained damage output of a true late game carry.

If any of these heroes get ahead, they can consistently blow up out of position targets and put their opponents on the defensive with a 5v4.  If they fall behind, or even just fail to stay ahead, they can find themselves put into more prolonged fights that their kits are not as well suited for.

And that’s fine.  Part of being a hero that depends on momentum is the downside of potentially becoming dead weight if you lose that momentum.  The first choice you make in any Dota game is trying to pick a hero with a strong array of outcomes, but those arrays aren’t fixed.  Wisp’s array in pub play is pretty terrible, but his array in competitive play has been stellar.  Just like Shadow Demon, if you draft a positive environment for the hero, they can drastically outperform their performance in essentially random pub environments.  Snowball mids are just another class of hero where a good environment is essential to success.  Subsequently, their overall pub win rates kinda suck because pub teams in general are tremendously more self-centered than even the most marginal of competitive teams.

 3. So if we accept that environment influences a heroes success, why can’t MMR (and matchmaking in general) itself play a huge role in shaping the expected environment?

Imagine that we have Juice, a ~5500 rated player, queuing into his first match on a 2900 account and playing Templar Assassin.  What do we know about the match conditions?

GPMYou probably don’t recognize this graph from over a year ago, but it shows the distribution of game ending GPM for players in Dota’s three skill brackets back in 6.74.  I’m going to run with the assumption that the shape of these distributions hasn’t changed dramatically since then, partially because it’s likely true and partially because I don’t want to go through the trouble of making an updated version right now.

The blue distribution is Normal games, which roughly correlates to < 3000 MMR.  The red distribution is Very High games, roughly > 4000 MMR.  Green is everything in between.

Thanks to the Dota2 blog we also have an idea of the shape of the overall distribution of MMRs.

5% 1100

10% 1500

25% 2000

50% 2250

75% 2731

90% 3200

95% 3900

99% 4100

With a ~5500 rating, the games Juice plays on his main account would be deep in the tail end of the red distribution.  Based on the chart, we’d expect his games to fall around the 400 GPM per player mark per average.  And what do we find when we take the average GPM of all the players in his last 10 games on his main account starting with 646057416?  An average GPM of 406.41.  We don’t have a fair measure the average GPM of the games at the start of this experiment because Juice’s presence in those games inevitably warps the results, but if we trust that my 6.74 data holds, it’s likely somewhere between 300 and 325.  XPM likely has a similar, if somewhat less pronounced gap.

For a hero based on momentum this is a dream environment.  If your potential as a hero is based on the difference between your stat progression and theirs, then with 100 GPM worth of a handicap that difference will practically never go away.  On top of this, you get a guaranteed 1v1 lane against a player you almost certainly massively outskill, and there’s virtually no risk of ganks since you’re in a bracket where supports, if they even exist, largely have no idea what they are doing and believe that only mids gank.  You give a top .1% player all those advantages and it’s not surprising that the immediate result is this:


So yeah, if you’re a player playing 2500 MMR below your true MMR, snowball mids might indeed be the fastest, most reliable way to maximize your winrate and MMR growth, but for the 99% of players playing at a relatively accurate MMR, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that these heroes are a fast fix to a positive win rate.  Sure, with enough practice a hero like Storm Spirit can get you up there, but the operative word here is ‘practice.’  You’ll have to actually put in the effort to improve as a player, and you’ll be better for it than a player just trying to Flavor-of-the-Month it up the ladder.

4. Epilogue: The Origin of an Idea

Suppose that instead of MMR, matchmaking just threw 10 people randomly together into teams to create games for you.  What would these games look like?  Well to start we need to add ourselves, so let’s assume that we’re a vaguely defined ‘above average’ player with an MMR somewhere between 3500-4500.  The other 9 slots would tend to be distributed pretty similarly to the distribution earlier from the official Dota 2 blog.  This means that on average, 8 of the other 9 people are going to be below 3000 rating, and 5 of 9 are going to be below 2250.  So if you’re a 4000 player in one of these games, most of your games are going to going to be you as a ~4000 rated player, and a bunch of other people 3000 or below.  In other words, the games from your perspective would look an awful lot like the game’s Juice went through on his experiment.

I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the social structure of original Dota, but it’s likely that basic Battle.net custom games were pretty similar to this as the normal distribution has this pesky tendency to show up just about everywhere.  This means that if you were a decent player in the Dota days, then just about every game you played was similar to the ones in Juice’s experiment.  Is it any wonder that ‘play a snowball mid’ is common knowledge?  It would have really been true in almost every game.

For better or worse (hint: better), matchmaking has killed this, but Dota players in their opinions are often the slaves of some defunct patch period.  You can see the same effect when it comes to win rates.  In a completely random system, a 60-80% win rate would be evidence of the equivalent of a 3000-5000 rated player.  With Dota2’s matchmaking, win rates are no longer a direct predictor of player skill.  But you still have this crowd longing for the regular assurance that they’re nominally above average that you would get in a completely random.   And so you get complaints about ‘socialist matchmaking’ forcing 50% win rates.

6.81 Hero Shifts: Day 1

May 3, 2014

(Better tables available at




Going to do a quick and dirty comparison for the hero changes in patch 6.81 using the shift on Dotabuff between their4-30 win rate and their previous monthly win rate.  Someone will inevitably complain that it’s “too early” to look at win rates, and I will patiently ignore the epistemological nightmare involved with unpacking that statement.  To try to shortcut that, there have been enough games that large results are guaranteed to be indicative of something.  It is true that sometimes it takes the general public some time to digest a new change.  Typically this effect is strongest among heroes with a low win rate or a large win rate drop and tends to be positive as the community learns to play them.  Small results might be indicative of a small but noteworthy change, or they might just be statistical noise.  Non-results are not proof of no change.  Some hero traits are only noteworthy in an organized setting and do not make a statistically significant impact on pub play.

Also, I don’t claim to have an exhaustive knowledge of the bugs fixed in 6.81 nor the bugs introduced.  I also don’t know offhand which heroes saw the most noteworthy changes to their recommended item lists.  6.81 is kinda unique for hero balance in this regard, so keep in mind that the listed hero changes do not tell the entire story.

Now let’s start with the Competitive Hero Nerfs:


  • Ember Spirit -6.57%
  • Lycan -4.50%
  • Luna -3.22%


  • Naga Siren -2.25%
  • Visage -1.83%
  • Dazzle -1.65%
  • Centaur Warrrunner -1.34%
  • Invoker -1.07%


  • Ancient Apparition -0.56%
  • Mirana -0.32%
  • Batrider +0.13%

Ember Spirit got crushed, with his first day win rate now hovering around 40%.  This is a somewhat larger shift than I expected, but a small damage nerf to a short cooldown ability adds up.  People might still need time to adapt to this one, and it would be interesting to see some returns by skill build.  A relatively early 4 points in Searing Chains might be a must now with treating it as a one point wonder being even worse than it already was pre-patch.

HP nerfs are a big deal, but I wasn’t certain that only losing HP on his ult would hurt Lycan as much as it did.  In any case good.  Maybe DK (and DK alone) had figured out how to stop the hero, but Lycan had the highest competitive win rate of 6.80 of any hero with over 100 games.  It’s also positive that Lycan is the hero most hurt by Roshan receiving an extra point of armor in the patch.

Of course, the 2nd highest win rate was Mirana at 59.9% and third highest draft rate, and she barely got touched in 6.81.  Expect to continue to see a lot of her just about everywhere.

Luna proves once again that base primary stats are pretty important.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another Naix situation where Luna is still viable but in a much narrower window leading to a pretty substantial win rate drop until teams stop treating her as a default option for their carry.

I felt that Naga Siren‘s carry potential was overrated, but I’m not going to cry if Naga the Living Roomba falls off the face of competitive Dota.  Ember Spirit’s competitive evolution is the much bigger loss.

I’m disappointed at the Dazzle nerf.  He was popular in competitive 6.80 (7th most games played) but he wasn’t unreasonably successful at a 51.8% win rate.  Maybe there’s a more long-term intention here that I’m not seeing, but this feels harsher than was warranted.

Finally we have Visage whose drop is, I suspect, more of a result of the negative attack speed bug fix to Grave Chill than the modest cooldown nerf to the ability.  But we’ll get more into that attack speed bug fix in a moment.

Moving on to the Pub Nerfs:

  • Terrorblade -8.00%
  • Phoenix -2.87%

Not going to say much about Terrorblade.  The hit to level 1 Reflection’s duration makes him a lot less threatening in lane, and Strength nerfs of any kind are a big deal.  He’s currently hovering around a 46% win rate, so his status as premiere pubstomp carry should be considered obsolete.

Phoenix is actually a bit more interesting.  She took a couple of separate nerfs, but she was also considered to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the negative attack speed bug.  Given this, you’d expect her win rate to have taken a bigger hit, but so far it’s been a relatively modest drop.  We’ve already talked about Visage as being another hero with negative attack speed, but here are a few others.

  • Enchantress -1.13%
  • Lich -1.22%
  • Viper +0.17%

Enchantress received a minor buff to Untouchable’s duration presumably to offset the loss of effectiveness, but the net result appears to be a nerf.

Despite buffs to both Frozen Armor and his Aghanim’s effect, Lich is down as well.  I’m assuming this is because every ability other than Sacrifice comes with an attack slow, but it could also be a result of the Aghanim’s effect, which we’ll get to shortly.

Viper didn’t see any direct changes in the patch, but every ability besides his passive provides an negative attack speed debuff.  Confusingly Viper is slightly positive in the patch.  Could this be due to Mek replacing Vanguard in his recommended items?  It’s impossible to say yet, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

With Lich already mentioned, time to move on to Aghanim’s Upgrade Buddies:

  • Omniknight +2.83%
  • Abaddon +2.29%
  • Keeper of the Light +0.03%
  • Shadow Demon -0.29%
  • Windrunner -0.51%
  • Lina -0.65%

Aghanim’s Effects are one of the few buffs that can hurt a hero’s public win rate because they encourage players to change their playstyles in a way that might actually hurt their team.  I still feel that Keeper of the Light‘s new Aghanim’s effect is amazing, but it’s not surprising that it hasn’t had a positive impact.  It’s a great item for a support with excess cash, but it doesn’t turn him into a legitimate, farm-deserving semi-carry.  KotL mid is dumb (generally, not going to rule out edge cases but you shouldn’t pub around edge cases), and KotL stealing farm in lane from actual carries is even dumber.

So the general takeaway from this is that it’s hard to judge the value of an Aghanim’s upgrade from pub returns because how you get the upgrade can be the most important factor of whether it was worth it for a support.  With that in mind, Abaddon‘s Aghanim’s Upgrade is looking surprisingly potent because I can’t figure out what else would be driving his win rate increase.  He even has a (relatively minor) attack speed debuff.  Maybe Mek as a core item is new for him.  In any case, his day 1 win rate is 58.88%, and if it holds up he’ll likely have the highest pub win rate for the foreseeable future.

Omniknight sees an even higher win rate increase than Abaddon, but he received a set of buffs in addition to his Aghanim’s effect also being buffed.  I suspect that the base duration increase to his ultimate is the big driver of his win rate, but it should be mentioned that his Aghanim’s effect has been substantially improved this patch.

Don’t conclude anything about Windrunner yet.  She’s the only one of the Agh Effect heroes that haven’t seen a surge in usage, so it’s impossible to say whether people are actually experimenting yet.

In other item driven shifts, let’s look at the No Longer Unique Attack Modifier Duo:

  •  Huskar +1.31%
  • Ursa +0.23%

Ursa is a funny case in that what seems like it ought to be a huge change is barely registering, but the bottom line is that this change does nothing if you don’t take advantage of it and just rush a Vlad’s as always.  Once people start experimenting with newly available itemization pathways and the better ones start spreading through the collective consciousness of pub play, then we’ll likely see a bit more movement.

Huskar is a simpler case.  Since his rework Burning Spears has been hugely important to his success, but came at the expense of having lifesteal.  People kept on buying lifesteal, either at the expense of using Burning Spears as much as they should or at reduced rates of return on item progression.  Now there’s no trade-off, so have fun disregarding viability and just rushing a Satanic because it’s hilarious.

In the final specialty carry, we have the Less of a Pub Disasters:

  • Broodmother +4.26%
  • Earth Spirit +1.70%

Substantial improvements to two of the three least successful pub heroes in 6.80, but neither hero is exactly tearing things up.  Broodmother‘s 6.81 day one win rate is just 43.29% and Earth Spirit‘s is 34.45%.  Both heroes are a bit problematic from a balance perspective given how much stronger they are in experienced hands.  Expect to see more carefully applied buffs in the future in both cases.  Nevertheless, Broodmother has so far received the largest net win rate boost of the patch.

With all of the side stories taken care of, I’m going to just group the rest of the patch changes by hero role, starting with the Carries:

Substantial Buffs:

  • Faceless Void +3.43%
  • Phantom Assassin +2.65%
  • Troll Warlord +1.89%
  • Juggernaut +1.79%
  • Sven +1.67%
  • Chaos Knight +1.34%
  • Legion Commander +1.25%

Faceless Void is an interesting case, as I can’t remember the last time we saw a turn rate buff.  Combined with a small base agility buff (half the magnitude of Luna’s base agility nerf), these two buffs make Void the most obvious winner of the patch out of the carries.  He might still be too specialized to become an top Pick/Ban competitively, but expect to see more of him in teamfight strats like DK ran vs Empire in the StarSeries finals or like C9 ran against RoX.KIS earlier today.

Juggernaut, Sven, and Troll Warlord all get noticeable boosts off of their buffs.  It’s uncertain whether they’ll see any competitive play off of this, but of the three Juggernaut was the least irrelevent in 6.80.  Troll Warlord is an interesting case in that professional teams did get a lot out of his ultimate when he entered CM, but the nerf to Whirling Axes damage appeared to kill off his viability mid.  Without mid as a laning option, it might be difficult for teams to fidn a satisfactory way to lane him.

Legion Commander‘s buff is far more substantial than it appears.  The vast majority of people playing her in pubs are still running jungle strats that ignore Overwhelming Odds.  People who lane her and max Overwhelming Odds first were already more successful and most of her buffs were targeted exclusively at this skill.  She may have also benefited from the Duel bug-fixes in the patch, but it’s difficult to say how much of a role those played.

Phantom Assassin and Chaos Knight both receive much-needed buffs, and PA’s net benefit was actually quite substantial.  They still don’t look like especially strong picks in general with day one win rates of 46.43% and 46.22% respectively.

Substantial Nerfs:

  • Riki -1.15%
  • Wraith King -0.94%

I don’t know why Riki is down.  As hilarious as the idea of him becoming too effective at denying his teammates is, that’s probably not driving this.  Smokescreen does come with an attack speed slow though…

Wraith King saw both a buff to his Crit passive (+25% at all levels) and a -1 nerf to his armor, and I guess if +1 armor makes you take literally no damage then -1 armor must make you take literally infinite damage.  In all seriousness, this tradeoff appears to be a net negative over all pub play, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the results play out differently if you look exclusively at higher level play.

Small or Statistically Insignificant:

  • Gyrocopter +0.68%
  • Lone Druid +0.63%
  • Medusa +0.62%
  • Bloodseeker +0.44%
  • Anti-Mage +0.24%
  • Sniper +0.18%
  • Drow Ranger +0.04%
  • Tiny -0.08%
  • Doom -0.28%
  • Shadow Fiend -0.43%

For all the talk that Bloodseeker‘s 6.81 buffs have gotten, I don’t feel that they’re as big of a deal as the ones he saw in previous patches.  This is more of a “Maybe Sempai Will Notice Me” buff from Icefrog, because Bloodseeker is ripe for the noticing.

Moving on to Semi-Carries (and no, I do not want to have a long and tedious discussion on the precise definition of “semi-carry” right now):

Substantial Buffs:

  • Necrophos +3.42%
  • Razor +3.30%
  • Brewmaster +2.93%
  • Kunkka +1.74%
  • Silencer +1.60%
  • Beastmaster +1.29%

Necro is seeing a pretty huge boost off of a fairly unique set of changes.  I’m going to assume Reaper’s Scythe adding extra death timer is the big driver here, and I’m honestly a little shocked at the magnitude of the effect.    His day 1 win rate if 58.48%, which is less than a half a point behind Abaddon’s.

Strength buffs are a big deal, and Razor is largely riding off a .6 increase to his strength per level.  Like Necro, he’s not a character you can just shove into any lineup situation, but his ability to jam a right-clicker in lane is unparalleled and with Scepter he’s a pretty strong pushing hero, so I’ll be surprised if we don’t see any teams trying to work him into their 6.81 playbooks.

Not only is Brewmaster apparently getting a lot out of his patch buffs, he’s also doing it while having an Attack Speed slow on Thunder Clap.  Maybe 6.81 will be the patch that returns Brewmaster to prominence.

Similarly, Kunkka‘s buffs might end up being pretty significant.  Especially because I am 100% certain that the average pub Kunkka is not getting as much out of X Marks the Spot lasting twice as long on allies as they could be.

Does Silencer belong here instead of with the supports?  I don’t care, but you have to admit that the sizable buff to his agility growth is a semi-carryish kind of buff.  In any case, I’m assuming it’s doing more of the work here than the cooldown decrease to Curse of the Silent, and maybe we’ll see a shift in how Silencer is played as a result.

Beastmaster‘s +4 base damage is statistically relevant, but not especially exciting.


  • Tusk -7.69%
  • Axe -3.87%
  • Zeus -0.94%

I really wouldn’t have guessed that Tusk would have the second highest win rate decrease of the patch, ending the day at 38.55%.  It’s too early to tell whether the new Snowball is an net nerf or if virtually nobody has a clue how it works yet.

Axe losing almost 4% with no direct changes other than Counter Helix being moved to Pseudo Random is almost as hilarious.  I don’t claim to know what’s going on here, but I am curious as to why Axe sees such a huge negative change when Legion Commander’s also received the Pseudo Random treatment but has a positive shift.  It could come down to the actual value of proc rate between the two abilities being vastly different so that Helix benefits far more from proc clustering, or it could be that the Overwhelming Odds change is so strong that it’s canceling out the effect.

I also have no idea why Zeus is down off his changes.  Yes, he saw some vision range hits, but you would expect the cast time on arc lightning and the new utility of Lightning Bolt to make up for it.  Whatever the case, this likely has no bearing on his potential for competitive viability, as an organized team will make better use of the scouting potential of Lightning Bolt.

Small or Statistically Insignificant:

  • Templar Assassin +0.49%
  • Meepo +0.42%
  • Elder Titan +0.39%
  • Bristleback +0.18%
  • Pugna +0.18%
  • Magnus +0.17%
  • Spiritbreaker +0.10%
  • Bounty Hunter +0.02%
  • Nightstalker -0.17%
  • Queen of Pain -0.26%
  • Tinker -0.46%

The only surprising entry here is Meepo.  I would have expected +10 movement speed to have a more noticeable effect.

And finally closing with supports, first we have the more Support Oriented Junglers:

  • Chen -1.58%
  • Enigma +1.80%

Chen is another curious case as his only direct 6.81 change is a relatively insignificant cooldown buff to his least often skilled ability in Penitence.  I have no idea what’s hurting Chen in 6.81.

Enigma on the other hand is doing pretty well for himself, presumably off the area increase to Midnight Pulse.

Now for Traditional Supports:

Substantial Buffs:

  • Undying +4.12%
  • Skywrath Mage +1.99%
  • Witch Doctor +1.81%
  • Vengeful Spirit +0.79%

Undying is far and away the biggest 6.81 winner of the supports, and so far he has the second highest net win rate increase of 6.81.  This boost is likely driven by the Zombie Deathlust buff for Tombstone, so watch out for that.

Unlike Meepo, Skywrath Mage actually sees a decent boost off a +10 movespeed buff.  Well, that and a slight damage increase to Concussive Shot.  The more important question is how many people have I managed to piss off by listing Skywrath as a support and Silencer as a Semi-carry?

Witch Doctor sees a decent increase that’s primarily driven by extra damage on his ult.

Vengeful Spirit sees a small increase, but that’s not surprising given how rare it is for players to max Vengeance Aura.  6.81 may have substantially changed her skill priority, but for now it’s too early to call.


Nyx Assassin: -1.69%

I’m skeptical that a 11 to 13 second cooldown on impale is driving that much of a decline for Nyx Assassin.  Maybe it’s more important than I give it credit for, but there’s a decent chance something else is at play here (or just statistical noise).

Small or Statistically Insignificant:

  • Leshrac +0.59%
  • Warlock +0.17%
  • Tidehunter +0.07%
  • Lion -0.62%
  • Disruptor -0.83%

Tidehunter might be another case of the average pub player not utilizing the 6.81 changes effectively.  Organized teams with actual ancient stacking strategies might get more out of it, but I am surprised that the damage reduction buff alone isn’t making much of a splash.

Disruptor and Lion are both down off of buffs.  They weren’t major buffs, but I would still assume this to be noise until a more substantial trend is proven.

While writing all this, Dotabuff released their actual 6.81 table, happily invalidating all of my effort.  I’m going to include the 6.80 vs 6.81 table at the bottom, but here are a few heroes with large win rate shifts despite no direct patch changes:

  • Pudge +3.95%
  • Storm Spirit -1.40%
  • Death Prophet -1.56%
  • Sand King -1.65%

I have no idea what’s driving these shifts, particularly that absurdly high Pudge performance.  Maybe something is going on with the 6.81 mid meta, but for now it’s anyone’s guess.