Last season, we had new patches coming in every two weeks and the meta kept changing from tournament to tournament. This year, it’s a bit more stable with new patches being introduced every couple of months or so. The latest patch that has been bestowed upon us by IceFrog and Valve is 7.22 and will be the patch on which the last DPC Major of the season, the Epicenter Major, will be played. The Major starts tomorrow, the 22nd of June as we head into the tournament that will finalize the 12 TI9 invites, let’s dive a bit deeper into the current meta to see how it has developed and what we can expect at Epicenter.
Only two premier tournaments have been played on the 7.22 patch: ESL One Birmingham and the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2. The patch has given us a total of 131 professional games (as per datdota’s records), which even though not a lot, are enough to set the trend for a meta. These are the heroes that have been the most popular since the turn of the patch.
The top 15 heroes have been featured here and the surprising thing is, except Ember Spirit and Warlock, none of the heroes were really buffed in 7.22! Ember Spirit got an Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade which is one of the best upgrades from the new ones and we can see a lot of players getting the Scepter as their third or fourth item. But the rest of the heroes? Most of them in fact have been nerfed! Warlock was buffed in the main patch, but seeing his impact at ESL One Birmingham, he was nerfed in 7.22c. Doesn’t really seemed to have stopped teams from picking him. With Fatal Bonds now affecting six targets right from level one (a change from the main patch), Warlock has become a really good laning hero. Well, he already was good, now he’s just better. Mars being in the list is understandable, he was recently introduced to Captains Mode. Sand King was the most played hero of last season, but fell off near TI8. It sure seems he back at the top again, even with slight nerfs being thrown his way. But his win rate has another story to tell, hinting that teams are comfortable with the hero although it isn’t a recipe for victory. What is a recipe for victory is picking Sven – the Rogue Knight has a 73.81% win rate in 42 games. That is insane! And this is after Storm Hammer was nerfed in 7.22c. The last time Sven was this popular was at the beginning of 2017 when Dota 2 7.00 had just been introduced. It has been a long wait for Sven, but it seems he’s making the most of it. The long games help a carry like Sven, who isn’t ready to fight from the start of the game. The Hand of Midas build, which if I’m not mistake was started by Miracle, seems to agree with the hero. One of the possible reasons Sven is popular is that he can play the position 1 role quite well, but can also slide into a position 2 role if a hero like Medusa is in the mid lane. He can also be played in the offlane or as a support at times, which gives the draft a bit of a mysterious touch. The only other carries in the top 15 are Troll Warlord and Wraith King. Wraith King was one of most played heroes at TI8, but that was more in an offlane or support role. Teams have realized Wraith Kings skeletons not only help him farm a lot quicker than before but are also very effective in taking out enemy supports. A Wraithfire Blast followed by summoning of 8 skeletons and paper heroes are sent back to the well. It’s not everyday that you see strength carries dominating agility carries when it comes to picks. Templar Assassin is another refreshing name to see in the list. TA hasn’t received any buffs either (she did get a Scepter upgrade, but nobody really uses it), but it seems the options in the mid lane are dwindling which has made her a popular choice. Batrider, Dark Seer, Shadow Shaman are all heroes that were nerfed in 7.22, but continue to remain popular. Either the nerfs weren’t enough or other heroes weren’t buffed enough to pip them over the existing stock. If these 15 continue to dominate at Epicenter, then there is a good chance there will be heavy nerfs incoming in the patch which will be the final patch before TI9.
In terms of win rate, Sven, Batrider, Chen, Abaddon and Shaman are the heroes win the highest win rates in the 7.22 patch (20 games or more). Abaddon’s nerfs haven’t affected him too much it seems. The only member of this elite club who is here because of recent buffs is Chen. The Divine Favor aura has skyrocketed his popularity and a Chen draft can run over enemies who are playing for the late game.
Why is Chen not in the most picked heroes in that case? That’s because he is banned out in nearly ever game. A look at the 15 most banned heroes of the patch tells us that Chen is in fact, the most feared heroes of sorts and no team wants to face him. He has been banned in 86 out of the 131 games played, which is testimony to the fact. Io, Nyx Assassin, Morphling, Oracle and Monkey King are the other names in here that didn’t make the most picked list due to being banned out in a lot of games. Batrider is the most contested hero of the patch right now, with the hero being either picked or banned in 111 of the 131 games.
While we celebrate and applaud the heroes that have been doing well, let us also have a moment of silence for those who have not been doing so well. Here are all the heroes that have not been picked more than thrice this meta, and there are quite a few of them! 33 heroes in all haven’t been considered worthy and some names like Chaos Knight, Faceless Void and Slark are just heartbreaking. IceFrog has been buffing and trying to make these heroes viable for quite sometime now, but it just isn’t happening. There is a good chance though that the next set of sizable buffs will be delivered to some of the heroes from this group.
Game durations are a great way of analyzing where the meta is headed and from the looks of it, it is heading (well, it’s there already) for long games. Comparing the game durations for the last four patches, 7.22 has a game time distribution similar to 7.19, the patch on which TI8 was played. After 7.20 and 7.21 (which were fast paced metas, especially 7.20), it seems IceFrog has steered the ship in a direction where TI9 games will end up being interesting , because let’s face it, no TI has gone down in history for having 25 minute games (well TI4 has, but for the wrong reasons). The additional tower armor, damage and multiple tower hits during the Glyph has made seizing high ground a lot more daunting and has increased the chances of comebacks.
In most of the past Minor-Major pairings, we have seen the Minor favoring a set of heroes only for the Major to have a completely new set of heroes being popular. It will be interesting to see if that happens at the Epicenter Major as well. The Epicenter Major has a lot resting on its shoulders as it will not only decide which teams will get direct invites to TI9, but also which heroes will be nerfed or buffed before it.