The TI9 qualifiers are over and we have the six teams that will be going to Shanghai through the qualifiers.
North America – Forward Gaming
South America – Infamous
CIS – Natus Vincere
Europe – Chaos Esports Club
China – Royal Never Give Up
Southeast Asia – Mineski
The regional qualifiers started on the 7th of July and the last game was played on the 14th of July. Throughout the six regions, a total of 267 games were played to decide which six teams would travel to the biggest Dota 2 tournament of the year along with the 12 that had qualified directly. Patch 7.22d was introduced before the qualifiers (and patch 7.22e after the qualifiers) which meant there would be a small shift in the meta as compared to what we saw in the last Major of the season, the Epicenter Major. And looking at the hero picks, that was evident to an extent. Let’s dive into the details of the regional qualifier games to see what heroes helped the teams make it to the finish line and where the meta is headed.
Most Picked heroes of the Regional Qualifiers
Ember Spirit and Wraith King dominated the TI9 regional qualifiers along with Centaur Warruner. Grimstroke was not too far behind. Ember Spirit had gone missing in the earlier parts of the season and was the beneficiary of a number of buffs. Add to that the fact that he got one of the best new Aghanim’s Scepter upgrades from the 7.22 patch and suddenly, he is the most picked (and most banned) hero of the meta! Ember was contested in 88.01% of the games (235 games out of 267) and that has led him to be nerfed in 7.22e (Sleight of Fist can no longer be used when Rooted). And it’s not as if he does badly when picked – he has a 56.52% win rate so there is a good reason to pick the hero.
Wraith King is the literally a reincarnation story with the hero being forgotten after TI8 (where he was popular mostly as an offlaner) and then reincarnating himself as a prominent carry the next season. Agility carries have been nerfed through the season (although now they have started receiving buffs), WK is a good carrier of Midas (which is good considering farm on the map was reduced and Midas helps cope with that) and his skeletons not only help in team fights and pushing, but also a lot in farming. Just pop your skeletons in the enemy jungle and get out of there and they will make sure they wipe the jungle clean for you! Another advantage strength carries like WK, Sven and Lifestealer have stumbled into this season is the fact that Phase Boots now give armor. Strength heroes have a lot of HP but not a lot of armor. WK and Sven always went Power Treads to cope with their low attack speed, but were left begging for armor until they got an Assault Cusrias. Now because Hand of Midas fits so perfectly into their build and the meta, these heroes can actually afford to forgo Power Treads for Phase Boots. You get armor from the Phase Boots and attack speed from the Midas. I believe this series of events has had a major say in propelling strength heroes to the fore. The only Agility carries that seem to have a voice right now are Morphling and Troll Warlord (although from the recent changes, I suspect Phantom Lancer will be replacing Morphling there). Centaur and Grimstroke were nerfed in 7.22d, but that didn’t hold them back in the qualifiers. However, the nerfs they have been subjected to in 7.22e are substantial so it will be interesting to see if their popularity continues to DOTA Summit 10 and then to TI9.
As I mentioned before, there was a slight shakeup when we shifted from the last Major to the TI9 qualifiers. In the patch that braced us after the Epicenter Major, heroes like Templar Assassin and Warlock got sizable nerfs and come to the TI9 qualifiers, they lost their place in the top 15 most picked heroes. TA’s laning stage took a hit because of Refraction damage not applying when denying. For a hero that depends on winning the lane and snowballing to a win, that change was all it took to put her out of contention. Warlock’s Fatal Bond nerf outweighed the fact that he got a sick Immortal and a new set in the Collecter’s Cache with a jungle-themed Golem. The last notable demise was that of Sand King’s, who was the most picked hero at Epicenter. The strange thing is, Sand King was not changed at all in 7.22d. But even though he was the most picked hero at Epicenter, his win rate was an abysmal 43.4%, so there is a chance teams caught on to the fact that he wasn’t really the best choice and went in other directions.
This gives the whole picture; all the qualifiers clubbed together. Every region had its own set of heroes that they favored. Here’s a breakup of the most played heroes based on the region.
Heroes with the Highest Win Rates (30 games or more)
The list of heroes with the highest win rates has only Ember Spirit overlapping from the most popular list. All the others are fresh faces. Beastmaster and Axe did make a splash in the TI9 regional qualifiers, but with the nerfs in 7.22e, their smiles might just be overturned. Axe, in particular, will be sad because of the nerf to the double Stout Shield. It’s good to see Slark in there – he wasn’t picked too often but in the 31 games that he was, he managed to win 18. Outworld Devourer’s high win rate justifies the fact that he was one of the most banned heroes in the qualifiers.
Most Banned Heroes
Ember Spirit is the highest banned hero – no surprises there. But the next two in line are a bit of a surprise. Outworld Devourer and Omniknight were banned in more than 50% of the games. There is a chance that OD was banned out to make Ember Spirit’s life a bit easier in the mid lane. Most of OD’s bans are in the second phase which means it is usually in retort to a certain pick. Omniknight, on the other hand, has the majority of his bans in the first phase. Heavenly Grace is a very powerful skill and it was only a matter of time before teams picked up on it. Status Resistance, added Strength and bonus HP regeneration? What took them so long? Io and Chen continue with their spots in the most banned heroes (that too in the first phase) indicating that teams just do not want to deal with them.
Heroes picked in less than 10 games
There is a long list of heroes that have less than 10 games under their belt out of the 117; a total of 44 heroes to be precise. Agility carries are suffering as this list shows – Arc Wardern, Bloodseeker, Clinkz, Drow Ranger, Luna, Phantom Assassin, Phantom Lancer, Spectre and Weaver – all of them with less than 10 games in the TI9 regional qualifiers. The small change in Drow’s Marksmanship has made a huge difference as she suddenly went from a hero picked or banned in every game to a hero picked in no games. It’s not an exaggeration, she was picked in 0 games (was banned in a few). Pudge was the only one who was not picked or banned in even a single game. Patch 7.22e has brought some buffs to this list, notably Luna and to an extent, Phantom Lancer. Some of these heroes will definitely make a comeback at TI9 (we can expect another patch after the Summit 10, which will have more of a bearing on the TI9 heroes).
Game durations were very similar to those observed for the 7.22 patch professional games before the TI9 qualifiers. Majority of the games are stacked up in the 30 to 40 minute gap (about 40%) but 40% of the games also go beyond 40 minutes (a lot of 40s here). Long games are what the meta shouts and as I’ve said before, long games are what makes it fun. A fast push strat with Chen in the team can definitely end the game quickly, but those games are far and few. The distribution is very similar to that of the TI8 games, although TI( had even fewer games less than 20 minutes (only about 14%).
We are in the final stretch for the season. There is less than a month for The International 2019 to begin and teams are preparing themselves for the biggest battle of the year – the battle for the Aegis. Last year, some of the heroes that dominated TI were not seen throughout the year (like Clinkz and Wraith King) but managed to have a huge effect in Vancouver. We are sure to have such entities this year as well. Who will they be? Only time will tell.