The International 2018 was hands down the most enthralling version of the competition till date. OG, from not having a full five man roster in May, made an upper bracket run till the end and defeated PSG.LGD 3-2 in the grand finals. It was only the second time in the history of the great competition that a grand final had gone the distance. The first time was when Alliance defeated Na’Vi 3-2 at TI 3! Arguments can be made about which grand final was better, but I would imagine majority of the votes would go to the TI 8 grand final. Congratulations to OG and commiserations to PSG.LGD. Now that the small matter of TI 8 is done and dusted, we can go into the depths of how the meta unfolded for this great game called Dota 2 in Vancouver.
The heroes that were picked in Vancouver were nothing like a lot of the community would have expected. Just a few days before TI 8, when The Summit 9 took place, the choice of heroes was very different for the teams playing there. But with a small change coming with the 7.19 patch, things seemed to have changed drastically. Also, a lot of professional players said they ended up realizing the effectiveness of certain heroes like Clinkz and Wraith King in the scrims leading to The International 2018.
Most Played Heroes
A few heroes on the list here were expected to be there. Tiny, Mirana, Weaver, Crystal Maiden, Earthshaker and Phantom Lancer were safe bets for being in the top picks of TI 8. What was not expected was Vengeful Spirit being the top pick of the tournament! I guess as the meta is dependent on the laning stage to quite an extent, any boost to a hero’s laning stage presence would have made a good case for him/her. And Vengie did get that boost in 7.18:
-Increased Magic Missile stun duration from 1.2/1.4/1.6/1.8 to 1.5/1.6/1.7/1.8
-Increased Wave of Terror damage from 45/70/95/120 to 60/80/100/120
Both changes make her better in lane and once she started winning, all teams started going with the hero. Vengie also brings in versatility in a couple of ways to the draft. It is a hero that can be played with a Drow lineup, but does well even without it. Vengeful Spirit can also be played in a core role, as Secret showed us a couple of times. Playing as a support, she was utilized as either a position 4 or a position 5 and there aren’t too many heroes that can fit in well with both roles.
Wraith King was the biggest surprise to me. The hero was contested 129 times in 195 games at The International 2018. For the rest of the season before TI 8, Wraith King was contested 139 times in a whopping 5036 games! Like Vengeful Spirit, Wraith King was played in a number of roles, but the most frequent of those was the offlane. A lot of the professional players at TI 8 mentioned that it is important to pick lane winners, which is something traditional offlaners like Tidehunter, Centaur and Dark Seer are not. But heroes like Wraith King, Ursa and Weaver, who we would usually categorize as safelane carries, were played a lot as offlaners to ensure the lane was won and the opposition carry thwarted.
Clinkz was never played as an offlaner. It was either mid or safelane. In case of Clinkz, it was a classic case of keep buffing the hero until someone finally realizes how strong the hero is and starts using him. Clinkz had already started terrorizing pubs and we needed to go to the last tournament of the season for the professional circuit to realize how good a hero he is. I’m glad heroes like Wraith King, Ursa and Clinkz finally got their time in the spotlight.
The surprising thing, in a good way, is that none of the heroes in the most played list had a win rate of more than 60%. Weaver was the highest one with 58.06%, but that doesn’t sound too bad, does it? All in all, the current meta is comparatively quite stable which made the games at TI 8 some of the best ever seen at the competition.
Most picked heroes at TI 8 (taken from www.datdota.com)
Most Contested Heroes
The most played heroes often do not give us the full picture of an event. Prominent names that don’t make the most picked list from here are Enchantress, Io and Broodmother. Enchantress was banned 150 of the 195 games at TI 8. Just thinking about it makes me feel dizzy. Including the picks, she was contested in a total of 94.36% of the games. That is, in one word, insane. The nerf hammer is coming in 7.20 and we know it will be hitting Enchantress hard. She can’t really be killed in lane because of Untouchable and Nature’s Attendants. Late game, Impetus hits hard even on heroes like Spectre. It’s basically the whole package! We did see a few support Enchantresses, but majority of the times she was picked, it was in a core role.
Io has the next highest ban numbers with 140 bans in 195 games. Even though relocate was nerfed, the hero’s ability to provide sustain to a carry still remains. Io-Gyrocopter was one of the most hotly picked pairs (21 games) and it was for a reason. Io helps Gyrocopter farm like a mad man and reach the critical mass a lot earlier. With the +25% XP Gain talent, Io hits level 15 quite early to give Gyro the Scepter bonus! I don’t see a world where Io will not be popular. As long as Tether and Overcharge remain, the hero will always remain viable. Weaver and Necrophos are in line for a nerf as well, although IceFrog might consider going a bit easy on Necro as his win rate at TI 8 was just 43.86%.
Broodmother was picked only 18 games, but that’s because she was banned in 91 games. In the 18 games she was picked, the team drafting her won 12 of the games (66.67% win rate). The issue with Brood is, she has all of a sudden become a fist phase pick instead of a third phase pick. Like Optic Gaming’s Neta ‘33’ Shapira said at TI 8, because the gold and XP from spiders has been reduced a lot, teams don’t care if the opposition drafts heroes that can kill spiderlings easily. This is something that definitely needs to be fixed, if you ask me. A hero with so much snowballing potential should always be a niche pick. Secret thought they could deal with Liquid’s Brood and didn’t ban it. Liquid picked the hero in the first phase in both the games and won. It will be interesting to see what nerfs IceFrog has planned for the spider.
Most contested heroes at TI 8 (taken from www.datdota.com)
The International 2018 was one of the most diverse tournaments in terms of heroes with 110 heroes being picked. Of the five that weren’t picked, it was really surprising to see Dark Seer and Slark be a part of the list. Those two heroes had received buffs quite recently and were even being picked at DPC events. Slark had become a common pick in the two final Majors of the season. I can’t imagine what more buffs those two heroes could want. Coming to Dazzle and Slardar, they can maybe expect a good number of buffs coming their way. I really cannot say anything about Techies.
Heroes not picked at TI 8 (taken from www.datdota.com)
The list below shows the heroes that were picked less than five games. It breaks my heart to see Pudge in there. When it finally seemed he would have a TI to remember after the fountain Hooks at TI 3, the nerf to Meat Hook in 7.19 ensured the hero was not picked a lot at TI 8. Other heroes to receive possible buffs might be from this lot, although a lot also depends on what gameplay mechanics come in with patch 7.20.
PS: Luna and Warlock may be a part of this list, but they will be remembered as a part of the unusual (not per the meta) draft by PSG.LGD that won game two against Evil Geniuses in the lower bracket finals on the final day of TI 8!
Heroes picked in less than 5 games at TI 8 (taken from www.datdota.com)
Game Durations at TI 8
The graph below shows the distribution of the 195 games at TI based on duration. As compared to a lot of tournaments in the early part of the season, very few games ended before the half hour mark. Majority of the games got over between 30 to 40 minutes which was followed by the bracket from 40 to 50 minutes. This was exactly what made it conducive for picking Spectre this meta. The hero might now show up in the most picked, but when she was picked in crucial games, Spectre delivered. Just ask OG! It is just a question of getting Spectre to level 20. By then, she has a decent chunk of farm and the +500 Health talent, which kind of helps her hit critical mass. It reminds of the time when Medusa was popular at the start of the season. Get her to the +800 Mana (it was 800 back then) talent at level 20 and she would take over the game. The stretched out games also made sure that deathball lineups involving the likes of Death Prophet and Razor were hardly seen at TI 8, and am I thankful for that!
Distribution of games based on duration at TI 8 – 195 games
At the end of the day, 7.19 was a great patch to have The International 2018 on. The meta, though not favored by a few teams due to its dependence on the laning stage, was a good one that made games enjoyable. The next patch that will be bestowed upon us will change a lot of things from gold, XP, the deny mechanic (maybe, as a lot of players complained about it), the map and hero talent trees. It will take a good month or two after the big patch to see where things are going. Personally, I like the current meta. If I were to change anything, it would only be making the jungle more viable in the early part of the game. What IceFrog has in mind, only time will tell…