The Best and Worst Aghanim’s Upgrades

January 25, 2018

Came across this thread on the Dota 2 subreddit a few days ago.  The OP is now deleted, but it got me wondering how things had changed since this old spreadsheet from who knows what ancient patch.

For a lot of reasons item win rates kinda suck as a statistic, but one of the biggest is that expensive, late-game items will often have inflated win rates due to being luxury pickups that are primarily bought by the stronger team to close the game (and conversely, cheap early game items will have low win rates simply because they’re most likely to be sold/disassembled/converted).  If we could control for different factors like purchase time, item win rates could be at least a bit more useful.  Unfortunately, that information is not available.

So as a next-best, mediocre workaround, I tried plotting the win rate increase in Aghanim’s games with the purchase rate of Aghanim’s for that hero using Dotabuff’s stat listings.  The idea being here that heroes that pick up the item more often likely tend to, on aggregate, view Aghanim’s as a more core pickup, and therefore should tend to pick it up earlier in their item progression and see less of a luxury inflation to win rates with the item.

As an illustrative example, Invoker’s build Aghanim’s in just under 90% of their games on Dotabuff.  Invoker also receives the second smallest win rate boost from owning an Aghanim’s.  Regardless of how good you view his Aghanim’s upgrade, this makes sense because if Invoker built it in 100% of his games the win rate increase from the item would necessarily be 0%.  In general we would expect the item’s win rate to increase the less often it’s built, and this appears to be the case more or less when you plot out all the heroes.

So the basic idea we’re left with is that the heroes whose win rates beat this trend the most decisively will tend to include the ones with the strongest effects, and the heroes that fall below will tend to include the weakest.

I say “tend” because the title’s a bit of a lie, but you try being sufficiently nuanced under that kind of character limit.  This isn’t a diagnostic that gives us a definitive answer on which ugprades are good or bad, but it does provide us an idea of where to start looking if we decide to investigate further.

For example, Slark scores really highly.  He also has less Aghanim’s purchases in the last week than Tiny, a hero who no longer has an Aghanim’s upgrade.  On top of this, it’s possible that when people do pick up Aghanim’s on Slark, they do so with the intent of making it easier to kill the opposing Ancient and close a game that was already won.  Whatever the cause ends up being, it’s likely that the results from heroes with very small samples are not especially reliable.

Conversely, the Aghanim’s win boost on heroes like Visage and Invoker maybe don’t live up to common expectations.  This doesn’t mean that the expectations are necessarily wrong.  It could be that these upgrades are hard to use effectively and perform better in brackets 4k and above.  Or it’s an upgrade that’s situationally good, but is either built too often or too early by the playerbase at large, and similarly performs better in the higher brackets where people are more aware of why they’re building the item.  Skill level is one of the big things that the Dotabuff data doesn’t include, so keep that caveat in mind as you scroll past this text without reading so you can get to complaining in the comments that I’m telling people to rush Aghanim’s on Slark and never build it on Tinker.

Anyway, here’s the results:

Best Performers: (Aghanim’s Usage rate/increase in win rate (yes, I’m absolutely too lazy to go back and paste in column headers))

Slark 0.25% 22.77%
Naga Siren 5.45% 20.69%
Leshrac 12.19% 19.71%
Anti-Mage 20.57% 18.55%
Bounty Hunter 2.50% 20.38%
Earth Spirit 10.84% 19.34%
Axe 1.23% 19.31%
Razor 19.66% 17.29%
Riki 1.43% 18.70%
Skywrath Mage 25.42% 16.17%

Worst Performers:

Medusa 4.09% 3.32%
Doom 17.20% 5.17%
Luna 11.62% 6.23%
Phantom Lancer 9.33% 6.75%
Meepo 18.47% 6.05%
Sniper 1.47% 8.84%
Juggernaut 10.32% 8.28%
Nature’s Prophet 8.55% 9.15%
Mirana 34.05% 6.86%
Queen of Pain 25.93% 7.86%
Tinker 55.05% 5.39%
Bloodseeker 5.10% 10.71%
Nyx Assassin 26.94% 8.73%
Elder Titan 9.50% 10.71%
Outworld Devourer 1.13% 11.64%

Best Performers with at least 10% Use Rate:

Leshrac 12.19% 19.71%
Anti-Mage 20.57% 18.55%
Earth Spirit 10.84% 19.34%
Razor 19.66% 17.29%
Skywrath Mage 25.42% 16.17%
Rubick 21.75% 16.52%
Legion Commander 10.40% 17.62%
Lion 25.65% 16.00%
Shadow Shaman 37.34% 14.70%
Batrider 12.23% 17.04%

Best Performers with at least 25% Use Rate:

Skywrath Mage 25.42% 16.17%
Rubick 21.75% 16.52%
Lion 25.65% 16.00%
Shadow Shaman 37.34% 14.70%
Disruptor 25.64% 15.62%
Windranger 41.86% 12.62%
Clockwerk 44.59% 12.29%
Witch Doctor 49.87% 11.70%
Visage 35.27% 13.02%
Zeus 71.77% 9.05%

Here’s all the raw data

And here’s the graph that somehow manages to be both comically oversized and unreadable at the same time.


And for what little it’s worth, people might be underestimating Meteor Hammer on at least a situational basis, and Spirit Vessel’s win rate looks crazy good given the purchase price.  Would be completely unsurprised to see an eventual nerf on the latter.


TI5 Retrospective Part 1: The Meta of the Absent

September 24, 2015

TI5 Retrospective Part 2: CDEC, Masters of the Meta now available at

(Part 1 is also available here in what is likely a more mobile-friendly form)

When we talk about the hero meta at the conclusion of a major tournament like TI5, the discussion typically revolves around the heroes that dominated the Picks and Bans (Lina and Leshrac respectively), the heroes that put up absurdly high win rates over a large selection of games (for instance, Bounty Hunter’s 69% win rate over 48 games), or heroes that dominated all three of these metrics (Gyrocopter). But for TI5 a huge part of the story is the heroes that are missing, either as part of the 6.83->6.84 transition or just between the International and all of the other games of the 6.84 patch. This is because there’s a conspicuous absence that helps us to identify the connecting factor that led to the success of heroes like Lina, Leshrac, Bounty Hunter and Gyrocopter. And it also helps inform us on what we might expect from the inevitable 6.85.

With that said, I’d like to draw your attention to an unusual statistic: the ultimate cooldowns of the top 15 picks at TI5.


Without context, this doesn’t mean much, so let’s divide it into two groups: heroes with roughly minute long cooldowns or less, and heroes with nearly two minute cooldowns or more.

On the shorter end of things, we have every hero that has gone from having virtually no draft presence to being some of the hottest picks in 6.84.


The longest ultimate of this group is Undying at 75 seconds, but given that it’s a transformation ultimate with a 30 second duration, you’re looking at an effective downtime of 45 seconds. With that adjustment made, we have a group of composed entirely of heroes with sub 1 minute ults.

(I did, admittedly, leave off two heroes that fit my less than 5% P/B in 6.83 to greater than 30% P/B in 6.84 criteria but did not have as big of an influence on TI5 itself. These heroes are Dragon Knight and Visage. Dragon Knight is another transformation ult with an effective downtime of 55 seconds. Visage is the most complicated case of all given the nature of the familiars, but their expected downtime should be significantly less than their 180 second cooldown at level 6.)

“But what about heroes like Lina, Dazzle, and Storm Spirit?” you might ask. Well, let’s examine a second trend: the heroes whose TI5 selection rate outperformed their 6.84 expectations.


Once again you have a list completely dominated by short cooldown ultimates, albeit with the echoed exceptions from before of Naga Siren, Dark Seer, and Winter Wyvern.

Let’s flip the script now and look at the other end of things, starting with the three heroes I highlighted initially: Queen of Pain, Shadow Fiend, and Winter Wyvern. Of the top 15, they had the three lowest win rates, but you can’t really fault the drafters for expecting a better performance out of these heroes given their solid performances in the months prior to TI5.


But even if these heroes struggled, at least they got TI5 representation. The broader trend is that the 6.83->6.84 transition has coincided with a broad reduction in usage for nearly every hero whose gameplay largely depends on long cooldown ultimates.


If there’s a long ultimate cooldown hero that you’ve noticed missing from this list (not named Naga, Dark Seer, or Earthshaker), then it’s likely they were already a non-factor in 6.83.

Now, it’s certainly true that many of these heroes were already on the decline going into 6.83 or bore the brunt of a specific nerf in 6.84, but let’s examine a few specific cases of conspicuous TI5 absences.


Lion has had a very respectable 6.84 patch period. While he experienced a modest popularity decline in 6.84, from the second highest P/B in 6.83 down to eleventh in 6.84, his 6.84 win rate has been an acceptable .493, down less than a percent from his 6.83 performance.

On top of this, teams were highly valuing Lina’s ability to erase an opponent’s most valuable core through Laguna Blade. While there’s certainly a great degree of difference between the characters, it would be reasonable to expect Lion to see some play in situations where Lina wasn’t available due to their similar ultimates.

Despite all this, Lion’s went largely ignored by TI5 drafters, and when he did play he put up a dismal 7-12 (.368) record.


Due to his 6th highest P+B rate and very strong .567 win rate in 6.83, Juggs saw some nerfs in 6.84. While this definitely drove down his popularity in the current patch, he nonetheless maintained an even better .602 win rate going into TI5. Given the tournament’s emphasis on carries that lane well, come online quickly, and have some sort of escape, there was a decent chance that Juggernaut would see at least some niche selection. Instead, he went 2-4 (.333) and with only a single game outside of group stages.


With Thundergod’s Wrath at only a 90 second cooldown, he pushes the boundaries of my working definition for “long,” but he certainly does qualify as a hero largely defined by his ultimate. Magical burst has been very popular in 6.84, and so it might be reasonable to look at Zeus as a poor man’s replacement for the hugely successful and eternally banned Leshrac. Instead, Zeus’ win rate has cratered from .524 in 6.83 to .393 in 6.84. At TI5, Zeus’ record was an abysmal 3-8 (.273).


Ok, Warlock has been mostly a competitive non-presence in almost every Dota 2 patch. So why include him?

Well, MVP Phoenix’s March has the most recorded games with the hero at 28, a total almost triple the next closest player, and a lifetime record of 20-8 (.714). compLexity gaming also surprised a lot of teams by winning with Warlock twice in the regional TI5 Qualifiers.

Given that both teams had surprisingly successful performances, an unexpected pick like Warlock could theoretically helped them steal an extra series and push their playoff runs even further. However, neither team had confidence in Warlock working, and he saw zero picks and bans throughout the entire tournament.

I’ve thrown a bunch of stats out in an attempt to convince you that for whatever the reason these ultimate-based heroes have struggled or been outright ignored in 6.84 and that, with a handful of exceptions, this trend was amplified dramatically at TI5. The question then remains, what is it about 6.84 has caused this? If you can answer that question, then the inversion likely explains what it is that made Lina, Leshrac, Bounty Hunter and Gyrocopter the central players at TI5.

The first piece of the puzzle is the infamous rubber-band change introduced in 6.82. This change dramatically increased the gold and XP bounty per kill, and while this comeback mechanic has been toned down both shortly after release and in 6.84, it’s likely that there’s more of a networth shift currently at stake during teamfights than there was back in the 6.81 days. It’s a complicated subject and difficult to evaluate statistically, but even the watered down bounties of 6.84 put a greater emphasis on winning teamfights (or at least not losing them).

The second piece is that the 6.84 reduced the value of both lane creeps and many neutrals.

The third and final piece is that 6.84 boosted the “non-net worth portions” of hero kills by 10%, but also made changes so that a greater portion of the typical kill bounty goes to supports.

With all of these factors in play, it’s extremely likely that the ratio of kill bounty income to creep income was higher for this tournament than its been in any recent major. This first leads teams to emphasize heroes that fight well in the early and mid game, which then has a reinforcing feedback effect where teams need to draft lineups that can survive against expected aggression.

For an example in this shift of aggression, look at the approach to the hard lane by teams at the last three majors:

laneUsageTI5 was both the height in popularity for dual hard lanes as well as the most successful tournament for aggressive trilanes out of all Dota 2 majors. The contrast is particularly striking to DAC where both of these laning styles bombed in comparison to the more standard solo hard lane.

The implications of this laning shift were most pronounced for carries. Facing a triple whammy of reduced income rates, elevated safelane pressure, and increased emphasis on early and midgame teamfighting, hard carries died off almost completely, resulting in an approach to core investment similar in some ways to the one that dominated TI4.

One response, particularly in the group stages, was an increased reliance on semi-carries (heroes that trade raw right-click scaling for increased utility or burst damage), often paired up in dual or tri-core lineups. Lina, Queen of Pain, and Storm Spirit were the most popular choices for this, but Dragon Knight, Ember Spirit, and especially Templar Assassin were more niche examples that still saw a good deal of success. Leshrac would be included here had he not achieved what was essentially perma-ban status.

The other response was to build around a better scaling hero that could still somehow survive the pressures of TI5. By far the most popular and successful example of this is Gyrocopter. While Gyro’s scaling barely qualifies as a true carry, in a tournament of the blind, the one-eyed fighter pilot is king. More importantly, he possesses possibly the greatest deterrence to (as well as initiator of) laning aggression in the game in Rocket Barrage, and that ability combined with the low cooldown Call Down made him an early teamfight force in the way very few actual carries could hope to compare to.

Shadowfiend was the second most popular selection for this role, but we’ve already talked about his struggles. The next two most noteworthy selections were Phantom Lancer and Anti-Mage. Mobility in the form of Doppelganger and Blink allowed these heroes to survive early aggression, but of the two, Phantom Lancer was the far more stable pick. Anti-Mage was great at punishing passive teams or teams that bungled their aggression, but he took too long to come online against competent aggressors. Luna also deserves a footnote, but not much more than that and we’ll get to it later.

With all these factors in place, it becomes clear that the defining factor of the TI5 meta was early to midgame fighting. In order to win reliably you either needed to outright win these fights or to draw just long enough for your superior scaling hero to win out, and while many teams preferred that second, investment-driven strategy, the only safe centerpieces to run with it were Gyrocopter and Phantom Lancer.

And in this land of eternal war, ult-centric heroes had a tendency to be a liability. Their laning contribution tends to be weak, or at the very least, only strong in short bursts, and this is a greater than usual liability when aggressive duo and trilanes are at their historic peak. Past the laning phase, the teamfight potential of these heroes is strong, but only while their ultimate is available. When teams were as investment focused as they were at DAC this is not a problem, but maintaining a measured tempo against heroes like Storm Spirit, Tusk, and Undying, heroes that can blow everything in a fight and be ready to go again thirty seconds later…it’s not impossible, but it’s significantly riskier than it used to be, and I’m not surprised that the teams acted in a way consistent with the belief that the risk/reward payoff just wasn’t there for the majority of these heroes.

So what made Earthshaker, Dark Seer, and Naga Siren exceptions to this trend. I suggest three factors:

1. A long cooldown ultimate is less of a detriment if the ultimate is not the centerpiece of your kit.

You can imagine every hero having a ratio in teamfight value between their Ultimate and the rest of their abilities. A hero like Tidehunter, for example, is extremely skewed towards the ultimate side of things. Earthshaker and Dark Seer are likely more balanced with Fissure and Vacuum accounting for a greater proportion of their net utility.

2. A long cooldown ultimate is more prohibitive if it accounts for a larger portion of your net teamfight output. This means that not having a long CD utility ultimates or support ultimate is less of an expected loss than a damage ultimate or core ultimate.

Song of the Siren is a gamechanging ability, but a team with a support Naga Siren is still reasonably capable of winning fights with it on cooldown. Teams that include Juggernaut(Omnislash), Zeus (Thundergod’s Wrath), Chen (Hand of God), or Lion (Finger of Death) are less capable on average of winning fights without the full use of their ultimates.

3. Support Naga is simply back to being good

She was amazing in TI3, and fell out of favor when the post-TI3 changes made it more difficult to run greedy supports. 6.84’s increased emphasis on kill bounties allows you to run greedy supports again and farm them up through teamfights. This is a large part of why aggressive Duo and Trilanes worked as well as they did.

Additionally, Naga has always been very bulky for a support, and Ensnare has always been a great form of reliable CC. This allows her to contribute enough to fights even when Song isn’t available, and get enough experience out of these fights to carry her to the big cooldown reductions she receives at levels 11 and 16.

That covers the major points of the TI5 meta. In part two I’ll look at the impact of the meta on individual teams: how CDEC over-performed by finding their comfort zone, what EG did to take them out of it, and why Secret stumbled in a patch they seemed destined to dominate.

Editor: TheEmulator
Graphics: Ninjan, FO-nTTaX

6.79 Hero Picks and the Rise of Uncertainty

November 27, 2013

Originally published on Team Liquid (Gfx: riptide, Heyoka // Editors: TheEmulator, riptide, Firebolt145)

I’ve received a number of requests to do a hero analysis for the latest Dota patch, and to be honest, I’ve been procrastinating pretty hard. You see, 6.79 is weird. At the pub level everything appears to be behaving as normal, but for the competitive scene 6.79 might be the biggest change for the game since the conversion to Dota 2.

The Pull-Camp Blues

Since at least TI2, Defensive Trilanes (or Defensive Duo with a dedicated Jungler) have been the dominant team composition. Effective use of the pull camp served as a significant source of farm for your supports, and their nearby presence helped to ensure the safety of your primary carry. In more recent patches it became more common to see Aggressive Trilanes designed to disrupt this farming pocket, but an Aggressive Trilane was a risky commitment. If you failed to accomplish much in the laning phase, you could find your trilane supports underleveled and unable to accomplish much in the post-laning phase.

Then 6.79 came out, and with it major changes that throw into question the dominance of the Defensive Trilane. First and foremost among these was the neutral camp swap that made the pull camp an easy camp. This alone greatly reduced the effectiveness of pulling, but on top of that, neutral experience is now also shared among any nearby heroes, which means that an offlaner can safely contest a portion of neutral farm by just standing in the general vicinity of the pull. As a result we’ve seen teams do a number of things with their supports to compensate, such as running 2-1-2, Dual Mid, or building 20 minute Midases.

But these changes don’t just affect supports. For an example let’s take a look at the fortunes of the offlane specialist, Dark Seer.

All competitive stats provided by and represent the 6.79 patch period as of November 15th

6.79 has seen a massive collapse in Dark Seer’s competitive presence and performance, and before you ask, no it’s not the months of Vacuum cooldown nerfs finally taking their toll. In an environment with entrenched Defensive Trilanes, Dark Seer specialized in being able to find farm from the offlane position in a way that few heroes could match. Even if he didn’t complement your overall lineup and gameplan, he would still be able to use Ion Shell to find the money for a quick Mekansm and an eventual utility pickup like a Scythe of Vyse.

With Defensive Trilanes significantly weakened (and various other changes like the more favorable creep clash point and larger experience area), Dark Seer’s competitive advantage in offlaning is greatly diminished. He’s certainly not a bad hero, provided you’re actually drafting a team that takes advantage of his utility, but he shouldn’t be treated anymore as your one-stop solution to all your offlaning problems. Essentially, you can afford to get a bit more greedy with your offlane selections, so unless you’re specifically building around Vacuum and Surge, Dark Seer isn’t the greatest pickup.

The tendency for risk aversion isn’t exclusive to Dark Seer either; it’s also apparent in the two other offlane survival specialists, Clockwerk and Timbersaw.

Couple caveats. First, while neither win rate is stellar, they’re both doing far better than Dark Seer. Second, neither hero is really that much off from their 6.78 win rate. Clockwerk ended the patch at 46.9% and Timbersaw at 49.0%. Finally, both win rates are still unstable. In the intervening time since I started working on this article, Clockwerk has jumped to 47.2% and Timbersaw has fallen to 45.1%.

Still, both heroes have seen a tremendous amount of picks but haven’t really put up the numbers to justify it, which is a hallmark of an overexposed hero. Neither pickup is bad, provided they fit into your lanes and composition well, but teams are leaning on them too hard (and possibly drafting them too early) as a risk averse pickup. Hero choices in the offlane are more open then ever, so teams shouldn’t feel caged into having to rely exclusively on survival specialists. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the TI3 Champion Alliance ignored Dark Seer almost completely and only used Clockwerk sparingly in situations where Bulldog had already attracted multiple bans.

The Great Compression

The other major development of 6.79 is a whole host of nerfs targeted at many of the dominant heroes of the 6.78 metagame.

Elder Titan and Troll Warlord were not available for the entirety of 6.78
For more information on the 6.79 changes check out

Outside of the inclusion of Treant Protector and the two heroes added to Captain’s Mode late in 6.78 (Elder Titan and Troll Warlord), this list of heroes includes includes 12 out of the 15 heroes with the highest Pick/Ban rate in 6.78. Besides the support trio of Visage, Naga Siren, and Chen, all of the nerfed heroes have also seen substantial reductions in their 6.79 draft relevance. That being said, none of these heroes look completely crippled, with the possible exceptions of Outworld Devourer and Troll Warlord, who are both much less viable in the mid roll than they were in 6.78.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that competitive win rates can be deceptive. We are still early into the 6.79 patch, so the usual warning of “Small Sample Size” applies. But on top of that, a hero’s win rate over such a short time span can be heavily influenced by which teams are deciding to play that hero. For an illustration, let’s take a look at Magnus.

At first glance Magnus looks much improved in 6.79, and maybe the environment does suit him more despite receiving no direct buffs. But when you look at the breakdown of who is playing Magnus, it becomes obvious that a lot of his 6.79 win rate is driven by Alliance being responsible for over 1/3 of his games in the new patch period. Nearly any hero can look good under those circumstances.

While this should give you pause before you accept a win rate at face value, it doesn’t diminish the fact that Magnus is being treated as a priority again, at least in the eyes of Alliance. Too often the community as a whole overreacts to a nerf by completely dismissing a hero, when in actuality that hero is still very much a threat in the right hands. s4 on Magnus is one example of this, but I’d like to draw your attention to the potential latest overreaction.

After a reign of terror in 6.78 that included achieving the 2nd highest ban total of the patch period (behind only Batrider) and a 5-0 sweep in the International 3 Grand Finals, Io received a brutal nerf in 6.79 that led to the hero having the lowest observed public win rate in Dota 2 history. Maybe this was finally the nerf that would put competitive Io down for the count.

Haha, fat chance. While Io’s Pick/Ban rate has collapsed by a historic 70 percentage points, the hero has still managed to put up an impressive 74% win rate, largely on the back of Fnatic’s 7-1 record with the hero in 6.79. For all of the hero’s faults, Relocate is still an oppressive presence in the midgame, and teams not prepared to deal with it can still be caught with their pants down. Fnatic’s play with Io has thus far been dangerous enough that they are the recipient of over 60% of the hero’s total bans in 6.79.

And on a related note, Treant Protector isn’t dead either. He’s fallen pretty far from the must-ban status he enjoyed briefly before the first Living Armor nerfs, but Goblak is back to his old tricks with the hero, including RoX.KIS’s Game 3 Upset of Alliance that eliminated Alliance from the G-League Western Qualifiers.

Pick a Carry. Any Carry.

One consequence of all these nerfs is that 6.79 has an absence of Flavor-of-the-Month picks that you can just mindlessly grab with your first pick like Batrider, Lifestealer, and Io earlier this year. One place where this is particularly clear is in the selection of carry or 1-role heroes.

The most common picks so far have been Lifestealer, Luna, and Weaver, but as we’ve already discussed, Lifestealer and Weaver are a shadow of their former selves. They’re both still viable, but at sub-45% win rates they’re likely being overpicked by teams that haven’t really adapted to the 6.79 changes and are just reflexively grabbing their old staples. Luna has definitely fared the best of the three, but she hasn’t really looked like a must-pick/ban hero. She’s just a solid performer that’s getting more attention in light of her competition being nerfed.

Looking at things from the other end of the spectrum, we see a number of heroes hovering around the 60% win mark, but they’re all relatively unproven with only Gyrocopter and Lone Druid breaking the 60 game mark. In particular we have heroes like Clinkz (who is looking better than ever with his 6.79 buffs), Shadow Fiend, Anti-Mage, and Spectre all doing quite well, but at the same time we know that all of these heroes have huge vulnerabilities during certain phases in the game that haven’t gone away in 6.79.

The basic gist is that, at least for now, 6.79 is a patch with a wide variety of competitive cores to build a team around and no clear frontrunners, and while this could change at any moment, for now there’s a lot of room for a team to build their own set of quirky strategies around the heroes they enjoy. One example of this is Na`Vi’s experimentation with Medusa, a hero that hasn’t seen a ton of play from any other team in this patch period.

Three other things I want to highlight before moving on. First, the fears of an Alchemist nerf in 6.79 appear to have been highly exaggerated. It might be true that the higher levels of his ultimate are now weaker without the bonus HP, but the extra regen on the lower levels appear to be making up for that. His win rate both in pubs and competitive is up, and he should absolutely be taken into consideration when making your carry decisions.

Second, Viper has seen his pick rate rise dramatically in 6.79, but he hasn’t seen much success. I’m not convinced that this trend of Viper mid is working out too well, as he’s just a big floating target for support rotations. If he has the potential to be competitively viable, teams need to rethink how they use him.

Third and finally, Mirana is not on this list for a reason. Moving on…

The Emerging Support Hierarchy

While the 6.79 changes have definitely breathed fresh air into the stagnant pool of offlane picks, the unfortunate side effect is that they appear to have created at least the perception of a strict support hierarchy. Four supports in particular stand out from the rest as being particularly adept at coping with the nerfs to pulling.

*Ranked exclusively among common supports

As patient zero in the XPM arms race, Lich has received a ton of attention in 6.79 drafts since day one and boasts the second highest ban rate in the patch period for all heroes. The 6.79 buff to Sacrifice that allows him to convert friendly creeps into experience has turned him into a hero that no one wants to face. All the attention might be a tad overblown, as Lich still has the same competitive weaknesses that made him a non-factor in previous patches despite his consistent pub success, but for now he remains a top ban priority.

Crystal Maiden has been trending as a strong support since before TI3, but her ability to use Frostbite as a jungling tool has taken extra importance with the need to find replacements for the pull camp. She’s the most picked hero in 6.79, which makes me less critical of her lower win rate among these four supports.

During the first week of the patch, Venomancer’s win rate had dipped below 50%. Since then, however, his performance has skyrocketed, and he now has the second highest win rate among heroes with at least 100 games played. Along the same lines of Crystal Maiden, Venomancer’s Poison Sting buffs have allowed him to function as a semi-jungler.

Finally we have Visage. Of the four he has the least immediate tools for finding farm, but it’s possible that his Familiars make up for this once he hits six. Visage has appeared to be largely unhindered by his 6.79 nerf as long as teams compensate for his early game fragility.

Outside of these four heroes, support options look rather dismal.


Abaddon was not available for the entirety of 6.78

With the exception of Earthshaker, representation rates are down across the board. On top of that, win percentages are looking dismal for everyone but Bane and Rubick, who are both holding relatively steady, and Nyx Assassin, who is inexplicably up despite the 6.79 Impale nerf. There are a few lesser used supports that are doing alright (such as Vengeful Spirit at a 50% win rate/10.9% pick rate), but there are no obvious contenders to the top four.

Of course there’s the possibility that an increase in jungling is poaching some of these support slots, but the stats don’t really support this theory.

Collectively, pick rates are down slightly for the big three junglers. Chen and Enchantress are struggling some, lending credence to the theory that the neutral creep XP nerfs in 6.79 have hurt jungling, but Enigma appears to be completely unfazed. His 6.79 performances have been quite good (if a bit sparse), but he’s comparable to Anti-Mage/Spectre/Shadow Fiend in that he has the potential to be shut down hard if teams see the pick coming and react to it.

Push Comes to Shove

Thanks to some indirect buffs, mass Necrobooks have come back in style in 6.79 (a trend with likely more staying power than the mass Midas strategy), but that’s not the only boost push comps saw with the patch. Four of the heroes with the largest win rate boosts in the patch are pushing specialists that were mostly ignored in 6.78, and they’ve all seen increased usage in the latest patch.

Pugna has been the standout performer of the four. He saw very limited use in 6.78 but was the centerpiece in a handful of very convincing victories. With 6.79’s buffs to almost every ability in his arsenal, Pugna is being seen as a real threat, and he now has the 3rd highest bans in the new patch. Pugna’s role of an early pusher is comparable to the success Leshrac saw in the TI2 era. Pugna’s one downside is that he is perceived as needing safe lane farm, which often robs his team of a proper late game contingency plan.

Death Prophet might have taken over from Warlock as the strongest pubstomper that everybody ignores, but she may have also taken over from Warlock as the most successful pub hero that can’t make it work competitively. Her record overall has been pretty dismal, but if you look at the individual games there are a number of games that Death Prophet has lost despite putting up what appears to have been a solid performance. Perhaps she lacks closing power in a competitive environment, but my suspicion is that she’s better than her statline would indicate.

Unlike the rest of this list, Shadow Shaman has been quiet and reliable. He’s comparatively flexible when it comes to his role, and has seen a decent amount of success as a support. It’s unlikely he’ll become a must-pick hero, but he’s a great pick-up if you want to shore up your CC and objective control.

Finally we have Lycan, who like Death Prophet, has seen a good amount of pub success mixed in with some abysmal competitive results. Of the four, he’s the hero I’m most skeptical about, but I wouldn’t write him off completely just yet. It could just be a matter of finding the right sort of line-up or lane setup in order to get him to where he wants to be in the midgame. For now though, I don’t expect too many teams to be eager to try him out in a high stakes scenario.

Conclusions, My Top 5, and Some Other Noteworthy Heroes That Just Didn’t Fit Anywhere Else

So that does it. 6.79 is a crazy patch that throws old laning strategies into question and flattens the hero hierarchy. For now, winning is much less focused on grabbing Flavour-of-the-Month picks, allowing teams the room to experiment and innovate. Now with the nuance taken care of, let’s give you an arbitrary top 5 list based on questionable criteria because this is the internet and we all know what you’re here for.

#5 — Gyrocopter
I really only had a top 4, so this pick might be a bit of a reach. Still, even though Gyrocopter has been relatively ignored this patch, at least compared to the attention he’s used to, there’s no reason to believe he’s fallen off. Maybe his 65.5% win rate in 6.79 is a low sample size fluke, but Gyrocopter has been at a reliable win rate over 1,500 games going all the way back to 6.77. I also have more faith in Gyrocopter as a risk-averse carry pick in high profile games than, say, Dragon Knight who has a similar overall 6.79 win rate. During TI3, Gyrocopter put up a 55.6% win rate compared to 43.9% for Dragon Knight. Ok sure, this was largely on the back of Alliance going 8-0 with the hero. Whatever, moving on.

#4 — Pugna
Creepy skeleton baby is a high commitment pick, but he’s a pushing monster that can put a game away quickly if the other team isn’t prepared for it. He might start to fall off once teams learn how to deal with him, but for now the 6.79 buffs have put Pugna in a very dangerous place.

#3 — Venomancer
During the short stretch of 6.79 in October, Venomancer’s win rate was a not especially noteworthy 49.2%, but in November he’s put up an impressive 62.6%. He’s definitely one of the strongest supports of the patch, and to be honest, I think he’ll end up comparing very favorably to the much more banned Lich.

#2 — Bounty Hunter
Whereas Dark Seer has struggled in 6.79, Bounty Hunter has done the exact opposite. The offlane changes have suited him well as he’s a much less safe laner than the Dark Seer/Clockwerk/Timbersaw trio, and he’s perfect for leeching from the enemies’ jungling. Bounty Hunter currently has the highest win rate of any hero with at least 100 games played, and it’s unlikely that he’ll be falling off any time soon.

#1 — Elder Titan
Despite being nerfed in 6.79, Elder Titan is the most banned hero in the patch. He’s not as strong mid anymore, but he’s still a versatile laner that amplifies his team’s output dramatically. Expect him to continue to eat a lot of bans from teams that have this weird aversion to suddenly blowing up.

Finally, there are a number of heroes on the rise in 6.79 that just didn’t fit into any of the above sections, so here’s a quick list on who to keep an eye out for in the near future.

Click here for a more clear image.

Hotkeys – how to select & optimise them.

September 9, 2013

I like to talk about what the average Dota player can do to improve their game, but I focus almost exclusively on strategy when a lot of players are being limited on a purely mechanical level. I felt this was a really good post on how to set up a hotkey system that covers everything you need and will help you build the muscle memory to automate minor tasks. The less you have to think about things like item purchasing and courier control, the more spare brain cycles you have available to plan your next move.


After writing my “Advanced solo mid guide” I’ve received a lot of questions about hotkeys. People wanted to know how to choose them, which settings are the best and what hotkeys I use myself. To answer all of them, here’s a short guide to choosing your hotkeys:

As I said previously, I’m a big fan of optimising and making your play more efficient. But how can you be efficient when you keep missclicking spells and items or not hitting hotkeys that are too spread out? Yes, you can’t.

I’ll state this clear: i will NOT tell you what hotkeys you should use, if you feel comfortable with legacy hotkeys where spells have their own hotkeys scattered all over the keyboard, go for it. I WILL tell you though some general rules you could follow, and how I discovered my ideal combination.

To start off, there are 4 most common hotkey…

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PAX Indie Recommendations

September 2, 2013

I’m going to take some time to redirect my tiny little soapbox to something other than Dota for a bit.  Don’t worry.  There will be actual Dota stuff coming this week, and maybe even something tonight if I can get it done.

Anyway, I have a soft spot for indie games, probably deriving from my deep-seated desire to ignore the last decade and a half of mainstream gaming, so here’s a quick list of the coolest stuff I got to play over the weekend.



Probably the nicest people I met over the entire weekend, if for nothing else than their ability to not explode into a gibbering mess of rage every time they get asked “So it’s like SpaceChem?”  Sokobond is a collection of chemistry-themed brain teasers that revolve around using atomic bond to form molecules while the structure of each stage conspires against you.  As you finish more puzzles, you unlock new areas that revolve around features like atom splitting, rotation, double-bonding, and inert atoms.  It’s minimalist, but a lot of fun.  It was also pretty surprising how hype a group of onlookers could get over a single player puzzle game.

It’s available now and on sale (for 18 more hours) for $8.50, and available on PC, Mac and Linux.  iOS and Android versions are in the works, and it also has a Greenlight entry on Steam.

Super Avalanche



Super Avalanche had another nice group, particularly the part where they sent me a free copy of their game for placing in a high score contest that I didn’t even know I was entering.  Look at me, exchanging good reviews for free stuff.  It’s almost like I’m a real games journalist.

In all seriousness, this is a fun little game that takes some aesthetic cues from the SNES era of Mario games.  It also has rather solid platforming physics, complete with a wall jump that’s actually predictable and responsive.  The gameplay is almost like if you had someone playing Tetris really badly for all eternity as you frantically strive to climb their insanely placed structures.  On top of this, you have an item and mission progression system that’s reminiscent of the recent trend of genre-blurring Roguelikes like Binding of Isaac.  It all comes together quite well as the kind of game that you can both pick up for 15 minutes to clear your head or sit down with for hours as you try to beat your latest high score.

Of the games I played, this one is probably in the earliest stage of production, so some things are still a bit rough.  They’re running with a Minecraft-esque eternal beta, where you can purchase early access for a reduced price of $4.99 and receive automatic updates as they’re released.  They also have a Greenlight.


Lovers in a





I don’t know much about Lovers, except that the demo was an extremely frantic co-op experience.  The obvious comparison on a purely physics level is Asteroids, but the actual pacing feels a lot more like a shmup, with the twist being that instead of innately controlling the vehicle as a whole, you and your partner must juggle your attention between managing all the different subsystems ( the thruster, 4 turrets, shielding, and the giant, rotating laser of doom).  My favorite part was finding out that you could kill enemies with your afterburners, even if reveling in this discovery got me into more trouble than it was worth.

There’s no announced release date, though it is tentatively scheduled for this year, and I don’t know much about the game beyond my short demo experience, but I’m really interested in seeing where this one goes.  It feels like a concept with an incredible potential for expansion, which each new ship design or hostile encounter creating an entirely new and different way to experience the game.



Towerfall is a four-player competitive party game that had a massive, cheering crowd built up every time I was in the Indie expo hall.  I’m a sucker for competitive free-for-all games and Towerfall completely delivers.  Each player begins the game with a quiver partially-full of arrows.  As you attempt to snipe each other, missed arrows will lodge into the walls, so the second phase of action revolves around an ammo collection resource war.  Each stage is full of chests that can give you bonuses like extra arrows or a damage prevention shield, or they can buff your arrows into things like wall-bouncing laser arrows or wall-penetrating drill arrows,  Each round lasts for about a half a minute or until three of the players are dead, and the ultimate goal is to be the first player to get to ten kills.  When starting a set, you have your choice of multiple stage themes, and each stage theme comes with a number of different stage designs that it rotates between during the rounds.  And since this is still ostensibly a Dota blog, one of the characters also bears a bit of a resemblance to Windrunner


Why do you hate gingers so…” (click for animation)

Towerfall is technically already out, and by ‘technically’ I mean ‘only on Ouya.’  I’ve heard that an eventual PC release is likely, so keep an eye out for that if you have any kind of a craving for 4-player FFA chaos.

Honorable mentions go out to Transistor and Hotline Miami 2, even though I didn’t actually play either.  What I saw of them suggests that if you liked Bastion and Hotline Miami, you’ll be pretty happy with these next offerings.  I also skipped over Rogue Legacy since I had already played the demo before this weekend.  Divekick was another big game this weekend, but it’s also one I had already played some.  I will say that the Divekick tournament had a pretty incredible turnout for something that was squeezed in just before PAX closed on Sunday night, and it also makes a great game to play in line with somebody on the Vita.

Finally, I’d like to mention Wildstar.  It’s certainly not indie, but I’ve been interested in the evolution of MMOs since the Lum the Mad days, so deal with it I guess.

Anyway, my take on Wildstar from what I’ve played is one of cautious optimism.  It’s impossible to be much more specific than that since MMOs can blow up on you in any number of different ways, and I’ve only seem small cuts from two different sections of the leveling portion of the game.  Howevern, what I’ve seen from those sections has been largely positive.  Even at level 1 the game gives you a number of interesting buttons to push unlike FFXIV, and the world is much more vibrant and distinct than, say, Rift.  In the level 25 section of the demo, one of the most interesting things was how non-linear the quest progression was, with what I assume was the path choices giving you a wide variety of possible tasks to choose from when entering the area.  These may all seem like fairly minor points, but they’re a really big deal when it comes to making that MMO world have the initial appeal it needs to maintain a sufficient population.

What I might have been even more impressed by was how the staff at the booth was willing to talk about the intended direction of the game without dancing around the inevitable comparisons to other MMOs, and particularly WoW.  It felt to me that they were prepared to explain why they’ve chosen the features in the game and had a working knowledge of the history behind how we’ve gotten to where we are.  In short, the worst WoW-clones give themselves away when they frantically pretend to not be a WoW-clone, and the Wildstar staff didn’t give me the impression that they were trained to frantically deny the comparison.  The impression that I got was that the Wildstar dev team understands where they stand in relation to WoW and have some fairly clear ideas about how they intend to differentiate themselves from WoW.  Now, that’s not a guarantee that they’ll pull it off, but it’s a fairly enheartening stance.

It’s still definitely part of the WoW genealogy, so Ultima Online purists are going to complain about it, but if you don’t have a deep aversion to theme park MMOs and aren’t scared off by a monthly subscription fee (that appears to be adopting some EVE online style player economy for gametime), then Wildstar might have some potential.  Still, cautious optimism.

Quantic vs Rattlesnake Game 2

August 2, 2013

Trying to get ahead of this one, as I learned from game 1 that trying to keep up with a draft through typing is hard.

I don’t expect a big change in strategy from Rattlesnake.  Adjustments during the draft sure, but they know what they want and have multiple variants to achieve it while still reacting to Quantic.

Like I said before, I think Dark Seer + Batrider was a bad opening.  There’s a decent chance that Batrider will be open again, and I don’t have any problems with them taking it, but they might want to consider getting more carry potential out of the mid matchup with something along the lines of Templar Assassin or even an off the wall Viper pick if they find themselves up against Dragon Knight again.  The problem here might be that Funzii appears to be Quantic’s most comfortable Batrider player.  He has a 3-1 record with the hero in 6.78 while Silent is 2-4 and Sockshka is 1-5.

Update 1: Ok, nevermind.  Rattlesnake changes their opening ban to Outworld Devourer, and Quantic grabs Wisp and Chaos Knight quickly.  Rattlesnake might have a plan here to try to contest it with an aggressive trilane, but I’m not optimistic.

Quantic also doubles down with a Nature’s Prophet pickup.

Rattlesnake stats with Dark Seer+Nyx.  Then picks up Gyrocopter and Tidehunter.  Maybe no aggressive trilane.

Meanwhile Quantic adds KotL to shore up their lanes and give another global teleport to their 5th pick.

Both teams are likely to get a solo mid for their last pick.  I guess Tide mid is possible, but I’d be skeptical of that choice.  It seems like Rattlesnake might be betting on early 5-manning and teamfight to defend against Wisp.

With a Bane support pick 5th for Rattlesnake, that means mid Nyx, which at the very least makes more sense than support Tide.  Quantic responds with a mid Puck, so there we go.

Unless Rattlesnake has something up their sleeves, I feel Quantic is likely to win this.  Rattlesnake’s lone hope is that they survive the Relocate ganks once Wisp hits 6.

Update 2: That being said, Rattlesnake has gotten everything they want out of the laning phase with the first blood on Puck from a Tidehunter gank and early tower kill.  Meanwhile, Quantic just isn’t finding the levels they really want on Nature’s Prophet and Wisp.

Update 3: Wisp is doing stuff, but Rattlesnake is not as out of it as people think they are.  Nyx is doing work, and Chaos Knight really does not have amazing late-game scaling.  If Rattlesnake can minimize Quantic’s Wisp ganks and get Gyrocopter farmed up, this is still winnable for them.  Potentially.

Final Update: Really not a lot to say about that one.  Maybe Rattlesnake could have played things out better, but it wasn’t like Quantic was flawless either and still looked in control the entire match.

I can see absolutely no reason for Rattlesnake to ever ban anything besides Treant+Wisp.

DotaBuff’s 6.78 Win Rate Page Appears to Be Working Again

June 13, 2013

Just another quick update to the Dotabuff issues brought up in my last two posts. Their tab for 6.78 win rates is updating again with Warlock going from 50k matches the last time I looked to 350k .  The win rate discrepancies between it and the sidebar now appear to be resolved.  Now that it appears to be working again, I might put together a quick 6.77->6.78 comparison table in the next couple of days.