dota 2, storm spirit, 7.07

Balling back into the meta

Sometimes some of the smallest changes can propel a hero back to relevance. That’s not what happened with Storm Spirit once 7.07 rolled around. The patch brought along a lot of large changes to the game. Many of which benefit Storm Spirit’s play-style.

Return to lane dominance

Storm Spirit has always been a hero best utilized in a solo lane. This is because of his heavy dependence on levels to be relevant. But the other reason he excelled was the ability to magnify a skill gap between two players. As a midlaner there was nothing worse than being left alone to get zoned out by a competent Storm player. Frequently resulting in a huge advantage in both Gold and XP for the Storm. His remnant along with his passive allow him to dominate the laning stage. A 180 magic damage nuke (one remnant, one overload) at level one is nothing to laugh at.

Though it was this hero’s need for levels and an early advantage that hampered him in the previous patch. The mid lane was so much different back then that each hero was constantly babysat by a support. If they weren’t careful they could sap away a ton of XP from the Storm. Thus slowing him down from his first power peak in the early mid game. With the traditional dual lane setup in mid on the last patch, Storm’s early gankability was also an issue. Before getting Ball Lightning at level six the hero is very slow and has no save. Something that is not as easy to exploit in the current meta that has re-emphasized the laning stage.

dota 2, storm spirit, remnant

Improving Storm’s item scaling

Even at his previous popularity, Storm’s itemization was a little bit odd. You would always start off with a stack of tangos and a Null Talisman. The end goal was a Bloodstone, as it still is, but the item is really expensive and there was a huge lull between getting the Soul Ring and the Soul Booster that left you in limbo with your gold. You didn’t want to spend it if you could snowball properly, but you also still felt squishy enough to lose it at any time.

That is no longer an issue with the introduction of Kaya. An item seemingly handed down by IceFrog to Storm players. For a poultry 1950 gold you can give your Storm a bunch of mana, cooldown reduction and spell amplification, providing the perfect bridge from your early game items to the reworked Bloodstone. Though now more expensive, it is arguably even stronger on Storm Spirit due to the addition of a Perseverance instead of a Soul Ring. This regen allows you to show up to more early fights to farm heroes instead of creeps. On top of talents that are already incredibly strong, this hero now scales without having to rely on snowballing out of control to dominate a game.

dota 2, storm spirit, talent tree

A Storm Spirit can take over a game if left alone for too long. But that does not mean the hero is broken. If you see one pop up in your pubs there are two easy ways to counter him. Drafting stuns and silences makes a Storm Spirit’s life absolutely miserable. Coupling those mechanics with large amounts of burst damage is the best way to attack a Storm. Heroes like Templar Assassin, Silencer, Viper, Anti-Mage and Juggernaut can be very effective.

 

 

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Tournaments

DotA needs more non-traditional tournaments

I was incredibly surprised when I discovered that Captain’s Draft was an official DotA 2 Minor with qualifying points on the line. For ages, Captain’s mode has been not just the preferred tournament game mode, but the only one. To be fair, Captain’s Draft and Captain’s mode are very similar. The only major difference is the fact that Captain’s Draft has a significantly smaller hero pool. For those that don’t know, Captain’s draft reduces the hero pool down to nine each of strength, agility and intelligence heroes. For a brief stint this game mode was actually available for Ranked play. Due to the increased segmentation of the ranked player user base, Valve permanently relocated it to the unranked playlist.

But then we have the Midas Mode tournament that is currently going on. While it is not a Minor itself, it is considerably more unique than Captain’s Draft. In the tournament, each hero costs a certain number of currency to draft, and teams start with a certain amount of this currency. A hero’s cost correlates with their current popularity and win rate. Teams can earn currency back by choosing to random or by completing a set of community created challenges. Teams can even bet their currency on games that they are not participating in. While this is more than unorthodox, there are merits to tournaments like these granting Qualifying Points. I hope to explain why through this article.

It challenges teams

Captain’s Draft challenges teams to make the best out of what is likely a poor situation. Of course if top tier heroes happen to be in the pool, teams will immediately pick or ban them. Other than that, the mode generally pushes both captains and players outside of their comfort zones. Teams can actually use this opportunity to try off-the-wall strategies, or sub-optimal synergies. Maybe a player is trying to add a hero to their hero pool but their not comfortable with it in a tournament setting. Well, in Captains Draft, the enemy team might be at the same disadvantage. This makes it the perfect time to try a new hero in a more high pressure situation outside of pub games or scrims.

I know that teams play their fair share of pubs to test new strategies. I also know that they occasionally have practice matches against each other. Unfortunately neither of these really reflect the atmosphere of a major tournament. In pubs, a professional team may very well find themselves against a team that has not played together as often, ensuring an easier victory. In scrimmages against other teams, players may not wish to reveal pocket strategies that they hope to use in future tournaments.

Midas Mode further challenges teams by giving teams a limited amount of currency to deal with throughout the whole tournament. Each decision the team makes is determined by the amount of currency the team has at their disposal. While the economical balance of the mode can be called into question, it IS the first tournament of it’s kind. It will undoubtedly be improved in the future as they work out the kinks.

They are viewer friendly

Say what you want about the staged performances between matches, but the actual games and drafts themselves are a blast to watch for viewers. One of the major reasons that fans become tired or professional matches is that everyone fights for the same heroes in every draft. New draft? Well we can expect that W/X/Y/Z heroes are going to be picked or banned in the first phase. With much of the variety taken out, matches become much less interesting. These non-traditional formats take care of that.  In Captain’s Draft, a limited hero pool means that viewers will almost always see meta-unfriendly strategies and drafts. This prevents the games viewer from getting bored, and keeps the games much more exciting.

Tournaments

Image from twitch.tv/moonducktv

Midas Mode takes it to the next level by introducing a popularity based cost system to drafting as well as a community driven challenge system for players to participate in. The cost system requires players to carefully choose whether they pick the expensive meta-popular hero or a less expensive underdog during the draft. The mode even rewards teams for randoming or skipping a ban. All of these mechanics result in some of the most exciting drafts I’ve seen in recent memory.

But the fun extends to the main game as well. Tournament organizers collect challenge suggestions from fans on a daily basis, and use those suggestions to inform their decisions for the tournament. Challenges can be simple and predictable, such as “Kill Roshan at level 1”. They can also be completely absurd and specific, such as “Announce that you are doing a “360 NO SCOPE” in all chat. Within 10 seconds that player must perform a 360 spin and then kill an enemy player. Can only be attempted once per game by each team”. If that last challenges sounds too far fetched to actually work, OG claimed that bounty during one of their games. These challenges ensure that the viewer base is always entertained in new and exciting ways.

Why we need more tournaments like these

While these are just two examples of the possibilities afforded by new game modes, I do not thing the creativity should stop there. I have no suggestions for my own, but these kind of tournaments tick all of the boxes. Players are challenged in new and interesting ways, while viewers have something new and different to watch. These types of tournaments could break up the monotony of professional DotA that had fans crying out for a patch mere weeks ago. Though Midas Mode is in it’s testing phase now, it could be become a Minor in time. My argument is that it should be so. These kind of tournaments add a much needed layer of unpredictability to the DotA 2 competitive scene. We should be welcoming them with open arms into the DotA Pro Circuit.


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Na’Vi impresses at DreamLeague Qualifiers

The inaugural Dota Pro Circuit is underway and DreamLeague Season 8 is already turning heads, heralding the return of one of Dota’s proudest franchises: Natus Vincere. Taking games off of both OG and Virtus Pro, they clinched a spot in the upcoming Major. A great opportunity to grab some early points in the season. Whether it’s the new patch, roster or something else, Na’vi is back.

Midlane reworks allow Dendi to shine

A large reason that Na’vi has found its way back into relevance is the 7.07 changes to the midlane. The terrain changes to this lane have severely impacted the laning stage. Previously, mid was full of heroes throughout this part of the game. Sometimes with a support almost dedicated to sitting midlane and ensuring their teammate a better start. In many matches this could balloon into a trilane happening mid. But now the extra creep is gone and there is much more space around the tier one towers to position for last hits.

One change that stands out as benefiting extremely high-skilled players is the narrow point at the meeting of the initial creep wave. Dendi and other mechanically gifted mids are able to manipulate the creep wave from high ground. The concept of high ground has always been important in Dota 2, but these midlane changes allow for the best players to exploit it. Keeping the creeps closer to your high ground, as a midlaner, allows you to remain much safer and easily out-lane your opponent. The miss chance along with the vision advantage are enough to secure any lane.

These changes have also driven mid back to a true 1-v-1 matchup. Further compounding the advantage Dendi has over the opponent. A knock against Na’vi for most of their struggle last year was that Dendi could not carry games with the way the midlane worked. Now he can truly exert his immense individual talent in order to snowball out of control.

 

dota 2, ancient apparition, dendi

Dendi with the farm on an Ancient Apparition at 26 minutes (Dota 2 Client)

What have you done for me lately

This year it’s all about the points. That’s what decides who goes to TI. Currently, Na’vi does not have any points in the Pro Circuit. Which is almost certain to change the way they have been playing lately. In their last 11 series, Na’vi is 7-2-2. Boding very well for them with 1,800 points up for grabs over the next 30 days. They will be competing in the MDL Macau Minor as well as the DreamLeague Winter Jonkoping Major.

As a team they have been playing top-notch Dota. Reasserting themselves as a top level team while taking care of business against teams they should beat on paper. Their 2-0 over Virtus Pro came after a hard fought Grand Final in the Dota Summit 8 Minor Qualifier. They did lose 3-1, but proved they could adjust with the result at DreamLeague the next day. They even made a mid Ancient Apparition work.

Na’vi seems to have a pretty good read of where their strengths are within the patch. Their most picked heroes on 7.07 as a competitive patch are Winter Wyvern and Vengeful Spirit. Two heroes that they have helped bring into the meta. Rounding out their five favorite heroes are Enchantress, Viper and Earth Spirit. Hard to argue with a winrate on average of 71.57% across their top five most-picked heroes.

Featured image courtesy of YouTube

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Pro Circuit

DotA Pro Circuit: Balanced or broken?

By now the new DotA 2 Pro Circuit system probably feels familiar, as if it has always been there. Finally though, we have a system that transparently dictates which teams receive invites to The International. Invites in previous years have been met with a wide range of criticism from fans who follow the scene closely. “But what about X team?” they ask. “They’ve won two of the past three tournaments they’ve participated in! Surely they are worthy of an invite.” Conversely, fans have questioned the inclusion of teams they considered unworthy of skipping the highly competitive qualifiers. The question now becomes, is this new Pro Circuit system the final solution? Perhaps it is just a step in the right direction.

Transparency is good

Pro Circuit

Image courtesy of dota2.com

Fans like to be kept in the loop. It is plain and simple. The lack of visibility into Valve’s previous selection criteria was problematic. It put some fans in a sour mood before the opening ceremonies even began. Though they undoubtedly enjoyed some high quality DotA in the end, Valve never wants their 20+ million dollar tournament to start off on the wrong foot. The new system definitely addresses these concerns. By the end of the final tournament before TI8, or maybe even before that for a few teams, the masses will know exactly who has earned those coveted invites to the biggest tournament of the year.

There are other benefits to this new system as well. Because the Qualifying Points are awarded to players and not to organizations, rosters are incentivized to stay together if they are performing well. Too many times in the past have we seen a team win a tournament only to immediately drop players for unknown reasons. Team Secret dropped Aliwi “w33” Omar and Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen after winning the Shanghai Major in 2016. Perhaps the most memorable instance of this behavior is when Evil Geniuses dropped Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling shortly after taking the Aegis at TI5. When points are attached to these winning players, these kinds of changes are far less likely. Hopefully this change will make the competitive scene less volatile, and thus easier to follow.

But there are always problems

Of course there are two sides to every argument. One could easily argue that despite good performance, any player creating friction in a team game can be mentally exhausting for all involved. This will undoubtedly hurt a team in the long run. Peter “PPD” Dager eventually went on to explain that no amount of winning was worth the stress he was going through working with Aui. Now I know that after TI, the point values will reset, but let’s play pretend for a second. If Evil Geniuses had just won a Major with Aui instead, would they have let him go? A DotA 2 Major is worth a whopping 750 points per player on the winning team. A loss of that many points could take a series of wins to make up for. This brings me nicely into my next point.

A victory at a Major is worth a full five times the amount of Qualifying Points as a Minor. This disparity seems incredible, especially considering that points are never awarded below fourth place no matter the event. Any team would have to win five Minor tournaments to even catch up to a team that has won a single Major. This disparity seems a little extreme, especially considering that many of these competitions see the same competitors.

Pro Circuit

Current Qualifying Points standings courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Say that Team Liquid, who has two first place Minor finishes and one third place Major finish, never win a Major this season. They need to win at least two more Minors to even tie Virtus.Pro, who won that first and only Major so far this season. Virtus.Pro is bound to continue participating in tournaments for the rest of the year, and their lead seems difficult to surmount. While a team of Liquid’s caliber might be up to the task, plenty of other great teams may fall short.

A great start

I am certainly not trying to say that this new Pro Circuit system is bad. Far from it! The Qualifying Points system makes seasons easy to follow, and informs viewers of tournament stakes outside of prize pools. However, the point disparity between Majors and Minors is alarming to me. Granted, the season is still young. We still have no idea how the greater part of the season is going to turn out. Everything could turn out fair and balanced, but I worry talented teams that succeed in Minors will find it hard to qualify without a Major win.

At the end of the day though, teams failing to earn Qualifying Points are not completely lost. Even if they do not manage to secure direct invites, they will still be able to work their way up through the Regional Qualifiers, or even the Open Qualifiers. Maybe that will be enough to balance the Pro Circuit. Only time will tell.


Featured Image from blog.dota2.com

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For a more in depth look at what The Game Haus thinks of DotA 2, be sure to listen to our DotA 2 podcast “Secret Shop Talk” here.

7.07b

Hot fix: Bringing balance back in 7.07b

When there is a patch as big as 7.07 was, imbalances in the game show up sooner or later. Sooner seems to be the answer in this case, as 7.07b arrived a mere week after 7.07 launched. Even in this short amount of time, the community lamented these imbalances and cried out to dear IceFrog for a remedy. It seems their voices reached the enigmatic DotA developer, as the most common complaints were addressed.

Anti-Mage

7.07b

(dota2.gamepedia.com)

Anti-Mage gets his own section in this article because he was an absolute terror in 7.07. His stat gain coupled with his new talents negated his old weakness of having to wait until the late game to come online. Developers reduced his strength gain to give him less health, and spell shield was also weakened to make him more vulnerable early. The biggest change though is that Blink Illusion moved up to a level 20 talent from level 15. Trying to chase a mid level Anti-Mage with this ability was incredibly difficult. Though the illusion took increased damage, the mana it drained would quickly make chasing impossible. This fix should return Anti-Mage to his former glory, without getting a free power spike in the mid game.

The new heroes

Pangolier fans rejoice! Your hero received some much needed buffs. Shield Crash grants increased damage reduction at all levels. Rolling Thunder turn rate is universally improved, so hopefully we’ll see fewer players getting stuck in corners. On top of that, it also does more damage than before. The most important of these buffs though is how Swashbuckle’s damage is now calculated. While previously it was treated as physical ability damage, Swashbuckle damage instances are now treated the same as normal right clicks. This means that on hit effects previously unavailable to him like lifesteal and crit are now completely viable. This is huge news for Pango players, and we’re bound to see his build diversity go up as a result.

I’m more of a Dark Willow person myself, and I’m not even upset about the nerfs she received in 7.07b. Bedlam was absurd on a 20 second cooldown and everyone knew it. By level three the ultimate is still about as strong as it previously was, so no harm was done to her late-game potential. Bramble Maze now also deals its damage over time instead of all in one instance. This brings the spell more in line with similar roots such as Crystal Maiden’s Frostbite, and gives players a chance to save themselves with healing items or spells. To be fair, it was pretty absurd for a low health hero to walk into a bramble patch and just explode to a 250 damage nuke.

Tiny is a big boy again…

7.07b

(dota2.gamepedia.com)

I played one game of Tiny after being intrigued by the massive changes made to the hero in vanilla 7.07. I never felt like I was able to contribute anything meaningful at any point in the game. Valve gave Tiny so much love in this patch that I’m cautiously optimistic about trying him again. Most of his buffs were to his Tree Grab ability, which previously had a long cooldown at lower levels. The cooldown was so long in fact that I never felt like I had it up when I needed it to push.

The ability’s cooldown has since been lowered from 40/32/24/16 seconds to just 15 seconds at all levels. Splash damage done by the tree now deals full attack damage. Tiny even gets an additional swing with the tree once he hits level four with the ability. These 7.07b changes help to turn Tiny into the split pushing tower crusher he was meant to be, and hopefully make him relevant in the meta again.

Meteor Hammer

Most of the other item changes are minor, but Meteor Hammer’s function changed in a pretty meaningful way. It now deals less damage over time, but has a small burst of damage on impact. Players questioned why it was not this way to start with. It made little sense that being hit with a meteor dealt no damage initially. While the weapon’s function now makes more sense, I’m still not sure it is exactly what the item needs to be relevant. The biggest drawback is the three second channel time, which makes it very easy to interrupt or dodge. Most of the time I would probably rather use those three seconds to cast any of my other abilities. Chances are they would probably be more productive.

More changes coming?

Undoubtedly. After all, patch 7.06 went all the way up to 7.06f before the developers finally decided to increment the patch number. It has still been less than two weeks since Valve introduced us to 7.07, so we’re bound to see more in the future. Watching the pros experiment with the patch has been exciting, but it’s clear that they are still learning too. I guess it’s time for us all to get back into it and play more 7.07b DotA 2.

Bummer…


Featured Image: Screenshot grabbed from Dota2.com

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For a more in depth look at what The Game Haus thought of patch 7.07, be sure to listen Episode 1 of our DotA 2 podcast “Secret Shop Talk” here.

dota 2, casting, lyrical

Lyrical on casting, new heroes, and more

Earlier this week, I was able to chat with Gabriel “Lyrical” Cruz. We had a great conversation about casting, the evolution of DotA as an Esport, among a lot of other things. Huge shoutout and thank you to Lyrical for taking the time to chat with me. You can find his Twitch and Twitter accounts at the links provided.

You can also listen to the audio of this interview at our new DotA Podcast “Secret Shop Talk”. Part of The Game Haus’ Soundcloud lineup.

Without further adieu, enjoy!

Eli: Well we’ll start out with just an easier one. So when did you know that you wanted to make Esports casting a career specifically in DotA 2? And when did you know that it was something that could actually take you somewhere?

Lyrical: I think it was always going to be DotA probably if I was going to be doing anything. I didn’t really have an idea that I wanted to do something until it had kind of already happened. If that makes sense? I was casting in-house leagues just for fun with my friends because they would, you know? They have these matches that would go on every night after work I would come home and play some DotA. Or I would like sit in the lobby and watch those people who would be casting them just for fun because you know you want to make it feel like the game has a little bit more meaning.

Somehow it feels like that’s the case; people are casting it and talking about it it feels like it kind of elevates it something beyond just a regular game that you’re playing. It’s cool to hear people talk about stuff. And so from that I kind of just started casting. And then people said I should keep doing it. And it kind of just grew from there so it was never really like a conscious thought of what needed to happen. It was more just something that happened.  

And I think the first time that I realized it could actually go somewhere was when I had been doing it for a little bit. And there are a couple different points but probably the first time I had made you know that it could be something was around the time that I started to get noticed by this company called HeflaTV which I put out a big reddit post saying that I was going to cast these games for TI5 because I wanted to cast the group stages for it and I just wanted to see if people would be interested in it at all and then I got in touch with HeflaTV which is somebody that used to do the Tier 2 scene. And they brought me on for some more stuff so that was probably the first time.

Eli: You’ve been around the scene for how long would you say then?

Lyrical: I think that it was October. Around the time that 6.20 came out. When I first started playing DotA. Actually like being a person in the scene the first event I ever went to, the first time I think anybody really heard my name, was the Frankfurt Major Qualifiers so however long ago that was. I’m not exactly sure how long ago that was.  

Eli: And yet it really just with every patch that comes out every tournament feels like years and years ago when it might not even be that long.

Lyrical: So the fall of 2015. And that’s like two years ago I guess.

Eli: Where the scene’s at right now, you’re almost a seasoned veteran.

Lyrical: Yeah, I guess!

Eli: How have you watched the scene change over those two years and how do you think it might have changed for the better and sometimes for the worse?

Lyrical: Let’s see. How has it changed. Probably the biggest thing will be the implementation of the Major-Minor system. That was obviously something that had just gotten started with the Frankfurt major because that was the very first one that came around, and it was an experiment. They kind of made a first iteration of it that it had its ups and its downs.

The ups was that there was, you know, these big tournaments that everybody had kind of plan around. The downsides with those big tournaments is that everyone still has to plan around. Where it kind of ran into trouble with third party events, then they made the new iteration of it which is the next year where there are just two majors. That was a little bit stronger I think because you were planning around the big tournaments that were happening but there was more room for third party events and now we’ve moved on this year where it’s very different in that the third party events have become the majors.

Also they’re more marketable. So it feels like each time we’re kind of moving in a direction that’s aiming to fix the problems that happened before and it feels like we’re getting closer. I just want to see what the next round of iteration is. Besides that there’s not really a ton outside of the game specific things. You know obviously has been a ton of changes to DOTA. But that doesn’t really affect the macro sense of what’s happening in the scene.

Eli: So moving on. As a caster, how have you had to adapt specifically this year with all the increase in Tier 1 events?

dota 2, dotapit, newbee, liquid, 7.07

(Esportsranks)

Lyrical: The biggest thing for me is all the qualifiers. There’s a ton of them going on right now. And in some ways it’s kind of tough and in other ways it’s good. On the one hand you get a lot of new opportunity for up and coming casters. For instance I know that today was some Moonduck stream games going on that they couldn’t have the main Moonduck casters on it because they’re all coming back from Dotapit so they had other people that were filling in for them. That’s really cool because it gives a lot of opportunities for up and coming people that you know try out their hand. From my point of view it’s really tough because if I’m going to some events it means that I’m not able to cast as many of the qualifiers. And I kind of just go from event to event when they’re happening and that can be tough to keep up with what’s going on in the rest scene.

But it just means that it’s more opportunity to put in hard work and grow from that. The other big thing is that it’s sometimes a little bit nuts. So for instance during the games that I was casting today it was like Vega versus Empire which normally is this absolutely huge event but because there’s like three other tournaments that are going on. It also means that the viewership is split between those three whereas before it would just be like one main headlining stuff. So it means that there’s more opportunities for viewers to pick and choose from what they want. And also it’s less clear that this tournament is going to get this amount of viewership which can be kind of tough, I’d imagine, for tournament organizers.

Eli: Do you think with all the planning that went into doing all these majors this year is that saturation going to show up in the marketing numbers. Like the business side of it. How do you think that saturation might affect the scene?

Lyrical: I think whenever you have competition, I mean really because that’s what it is that you’re talking about, is saturation, is mainly just competition. So you’ve got tournament organizers that are competing against each other for viewership and the tournaments that have the best or the most work put into it are going to get the best viewers so that at the end of the day can only be good for a tournament.

The problem becomes if you have so many high class tournaments that then like I don’t know I think that it can only be good. But it sort of also depends upon what teams go to which events because of a lot of viewership is also based on what teams are going and which teams are playing. No matter what if it’s a South American tournament or a North American tournament the North American one is going to be getting viewership regardless of production value.

Eli: You also do a little bit of streaming on top of being a caster right?

Lyrical: A little bit yeah.

Eli: Do you think that with the scene going right now are you going to have to move more towards casting or are you going to be able to stream? How do you think that’s going to affect what you want to do?

Lyrical: I mean I’m always going to like the idea of playing games on my own stream but I know that that’s also not what people are going to be as interested in me for I’m not as good of a player as these other people. So I think that it’s just going to be more casting which is understandable and makes me happy I love casting Dota. That’s when I first started streaming before I started playing games on my own. So I think that it’s just going to mean that I’m going to be playing a lot more which I’m not upset about at all. Like I said love casting so it’s not like I’m losing much.

Eli: On this thread of of casting and streaming. if I’m wrong correct me but I remember seeing something about you casting people’s pubs for them?

Lyrical: I do that every now and that. It depends on what it is that that’s going on. If I haven’t had like a lot of stuff going on for a while an old cast goes. There was a time recently when I was doing it for charity stuff because I was just thinking thatd be a cool thing to do. It was right around the time when all the hurricanes were coming through the Texas and Florida area. So I said if somebody donated 10 bucks to the Red Cross that I would cast their pub. So I did that for a couple of people. And also there was some for a Reddit charity thing happened too.

Eli: Would you be interested in doing more of these like charity based kind of events? Because that’s one thing that I think is lacking in the scene in form of identity of corporate social responsibility so to speak. Would that be something that you’d be interested in?

Lyrical: For sure. I think it all depends upon working around the schedule because at the end of the day if there’s something where I’m going to need to be able to pay my rent because I’m casting games versus being able to do charity stuff that I’m going to pay my rent over it.  But there’s usually a good amount of free time. I certainly wouldn’t blame anybody for not wanting to do it. Sometimes the hours that people work in Esports are pretty ridiculous. At events it’s not unusual for it to be a 12 to 14 hour day and that’s all like the whole time you know being on camera and being in front of lights and stuff like that. And then when you’re doing the same thing for casting online qualifiers 14 hours isn’t uncommon either and afterwards you do need to take time for yourself as well. But it’s also tends to be like seven days a week. But you know if you have downtime and I think some people should be down.

Eli: That’s something I’ve always wondered. What’s it like being in those super long days where it’s 14 hours of casting and you have to be on your A-game and you have to be in front of the camera and you know people are watching you. What’s that like? How do you motivate yourself to push through those?

Lyrical: It’s not too hard because we’re doing what we love. I think for everybody that’s doing it. So it’s just about making sure that you’re going to be excited and it’s tough to do that. The thing that’s toughest about it is that it’s just like remembering what the stakes are because if your casting, particularly you meet somebody who still, I wouldn’t say by any means I’m established in the scene, that people sort of know me, I think generally speaking. But there’s going to be a lot of people from casting on a big tournament are going to be like “Who is this caster?”.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the end of a long day or if it’s the beginning and I’m completely fresh. Their first impression of me is going to be what they run into when they hear. So you have to keep in mind like what the stakes are in that if you have a bad first impression that’s the impression that you’re going to leave with these people forever. So. Just sort of like reinvigorating yourself drinking caffeine a ton and that type of thing. I don’t know it’s sort of you go through stages of sort of where your beginning casts are really really really really good. And then it steadily drops off as you become more and more tired and your casts become worse. Then eventually it hits this point weren’t like suddenly spikes up and you’re so exhausted the kind of don’t care what you’re saying anymore. You just kind of run off of instinct and that’s when casts become really good for a little bit and then they really drop off the deep end and they become terrible. But if you sort lose all of your inhibitions that’s when the coolest moments come out.

Eli: Could you give me an example of one of those moments that just kind of happened upon you? Maybe in a game and all of a sudden you’re going back and forth and there’s this huge teamfight that comes in and you just kind of run with it.

Lyrical: Yeah I think I have some that are on my YouTube channel actually. Let me see if I can find them because one of the things that came up was that there was this period of time where I was doing, it was like maybe a year ago or something, I was casting from midnight until like 8:00 in the morning and then I was sleeping for four hours and then I was casting for another seven hours. And then I would sleep for another four hours and then it was midnight again. I did that for like two weeks. And it was just insanity. It was like in the throes of all of that when I started to cast this one game that was for WESG Europe.

Eli: I was going to say was this during the WESG stretch because I remember listening to you on a ton of those games and you were just so entertaining. It was just a great run for you right before TI, too.

Lyrical: You know I think that’s what it was. And the one that it was I think was Alliance versus Horde. No no no. It was the SingSing stack, yeah. I don’t remember all of it . I literally don’t remember this game except that there were like a ton of kills right at the start. And beyond that I don’t remember whatever else happened. It was just insanity.

Eli: That’s wild. Do you want to try and play it?

Fight for First Blood right at the beginning of the game. 

Lyrical: Wow. That’s pretty good. It was a good couple of games.

Eli: I mean that’s a great sound clip though. I mean just overall, you’re flying around. You can just tell. I’ve taken on to listening to some of these streams and listening to stuff like this and not even watching the audio because I think the casting is at such a high level right now. Do you think there is an avenue for DotA to go to a non-visual? Like there’s a lot of podcasts and stuff out there right now but there’s not a lot of like audio streams for matches and stuff.

Lyrical: Maybe. It’s tough. It’s really tough. There is this thing that was a while ago that came out called “DotaRadio” which Toffees did.I think it kind of fell by the wayside. It was an experiment to try and be exactly what we’re talking about there. But I don’t know. I like listening to a lot of podcasts usually because, you know, cleaning up around my house or something and you know I’ll need something to do during that time. But it feels to me like it might. It’s never going to be as strong as the visual aspect but it could be and it’s sort of a problem that you run into with like you know sports talk radio or something like that or a radio broadcast of a basketball game or something like different styles where you have to say what’s happening visually describe it visually see paint the picture and somebody else’s head which you can do in DotA.

I could say something that describes the picture that formulates in somebody’s head. But I have to use all these key words that are saying where exactly the person is relative to each other and allow the person to visualize the map in their head. And then I’m helping them direct through it. That’s not what’s important when you’re doing an audio cast. So I think it’s harder to do an audio cast it’s a different skill set to an audio cast only. Versus doing a cast of a game that h as the picture there as well. So you need to specialize in it yourself and I don’t know what the market would be like for that.

Eli: No I agree I think DotA is an extremely visual game that a lot of points there’s a lot of visual cues and stuff happens so fast that it just feels kind of difficult to be able to encapsulate it in just audio. Moving on from that, what do you think of the new patch so far? We talked a little bit that you’re going to you know dive into it, I’ve played if I play a bunch of it too. I just kind of want to pick your brain. What do you think’s going on right now?

Lyrical: I still don’t have much of an idea. I don’t think you can take much from the Dotapit results. Or rather that the Dotapit meta that was formed because it was literally like the day before. And so teams didn’t have fully fleshed out ideas. I don’t think of what was happening and what the what should be happening. But I do think that if you get towards probably the Perfect World Masters I think is going to be the next big tournament that’s going to be where a lot of the meta evolves. You’ll be able to get to see some of it during the qualifier events. And I’ve got to see some but it’s still team specific what everybody is doing. So as far as which specific heroes are important it’s kind of hard to tell. Also the teams that are playing in the qualifiers that surely aren’t going to be as good as the top tier teams.

The meta that evolves there’s going to be different anyways. So the biggest thing to me is what I’ve seen hasn’t looked that different from what we are seeing at the end of the last patch. But that’s also because teams haven’t developed their own strategy yet. There are a couple of heroes that feel very strong to me. I saw Chen today looked really really good. What he was doing was they ran Chen/Sand King dual-lane and then Chen would send back the ranged creep in the Sand King offlane that way the wave would naturally push because you can send back a level one with Holy Persuasion and Chen’s not doing anything during that period anyways. And then what would happen is Sand King would naturally get towards about level 2.  

He could basically expend his whole health and mana pool onto the safe lane, bringing him down very low. And then Chen would send back the Sand King and then Sand King can TP back to lane his free TP. He would basically be really far ahead in the lane. I think that’s possible with a lot of other heroes. I think that maneuver might need to be nerfed in some way but I’m not exactly sure how you can do it. But the big thing there is that it feels like it enables your offlane to get a good start and then he can roam mid.

Chen feels like a very strong hero to me. And also I’ve seen other times where Chen feels completely terrible. So it’s like which specific heroes are actually good in which instances. I think it’s going to be like a really long time before we get a clear picture. Maybe the end of Perfect World Masters. Even after that there’s going to be new stuff being discovered

Eli: You have Chen 2.0 with the level 4 Call of the wild on Beastmaster you just get a random creep now.

Lyrical: Oh yeah. I mean he’s he’s actually the best hero in the patch right now. Beastmaster. And I don’t think we’re going to be seeing him at all. I think he’s going to be first banned every time.

Eli: What do you think adding another ban to both sides is going to do for the meta?

Lyrical: It just means the teams have to be more versatile. That’s the biggest thing. And for specific teams that’s really important. You think about Liquid, they had three heroes and you had to ban or pick them and get them away from Liquid and you just couldn’t do that every game. Or else they would be able to run strategies that were just so strong that it didn’t matter. So to me it feels like it’s making sure that teams have to be able to beat you with more than just you know the things that they’re very comfortable with.

Eli: Right it just takes a lot of that comfort picking out of the game and makes you kind of adapt in-game. It seems like in Dotapit a lot of the series kind of formulated into these micrometas almost depending on how they played each other.

Lyrical: Yeah definitely. It’s just sort of to be expected but I think that Perfect World is probably going to be the big instance where we see a lot of the top teams getting together and these metas have been resolved and some issues have been figured out. Like people understanding a little bit better what’s happening. I was looking I’ve only played 23 matches so far on this patch and most of those are Turbo Mode so I don’t have a ton of familiarity with it yet. I have been casting more DotA than I’ve been playing. But it’s been it’s been good. I’m excited to see what it brings. I think that there’s a lot of cool changes.  

Eli: Turbo Mode is interesting. I’ve only played one Turbo Mode game and I’m not going to lie, I hated it. I thought it was terrible. DotA is already so hard for me that a Turbo Mode game, there is just way too much going on.

Lyrical: It’s a lot going on but I think that that’s what’s cool about it. It is a game mode that’s different and it’s for people that have trouble getting into DotA. You’re not going to be able to come at the game as tactically as like sort of you know; you go here, you take down this tower, then this tower, then go for Roshan. It’s too chaotic for that and that chaos also means that everybody is kind of on the same level of “What the hell is happening? What do I do?” Because you’re not used to those timings that are sort of built into your brain.

It means that it’s an environment where you can get people into the game more easily. I really like the mode a lot because it it feels like it’s an answer for casual fans that want to enjoy pro DotA like they can watch pro DotA themselves. They don’t have to invest like an hour into the game if they’re like not going to have fun with it. And you know sometimes games suck and it’s cool to be able to have turbo mode where you sort of have that out.

Eli: I do see a lot of utility there for having the casual DotA 2 pro fan come in and just being able to interact with the game in some form where they don’t have to worry about their positioning or going to what shop. And it just seems like a lot of quality-of-life stuff for the casual player base.

Lyrical: Yeah and it doesn’t take anything away from people that enjoy a more hardcore experience.

Eli: Very true, very true. So do you enjoy the more hardcore DotA experience? What is your role in pubs? What do you like to play?

Lyrical: I have switched off a lot. When I first started I was like strictly a hard support. Then I switched over to playing a lot of mid. Then I became an offlaner. I would say right now probably my most comfortable role is either offlane or carry. As far as like more casual/more hardcore, the main reason I’m playing turbo mode is because I’ve been playing a lot of the new heroes and I’m playing a lot of heroes that have been changed really heavily. Because I want to get a feel for what those heroes are like. And that’s really sort of the crux of it is as a caster you got to be able to understand. I don’t have to understand the intricacies of like high level DotA. But I do need to be able to understand DotA enough to make a call in the middle of a teamfight saying this fight is going well for this team and if I say that and it’s wrong and it’s actually not going well for them that’s not as good. That’s pretty bad.

Eli: What do you what do you think of the new heroes? Because I hear a lot of “Oh, Dark Willow is super OP right now and then I hear a lot of why isn’t Pangolier as good as it should be?”

Lyrical: I think it’s just getting used to the vector targeting. Pangolier feels very strong to me. People aren’t  either playing him right like understanding the potential from him. I think that his “Q”, I need to learn all the spell names still, is quite good. Swashbuckler? I think?

Eli: It’s Swashbuckler or Swahbuckle. But yeah I would agree with you I think Pangolin is very strong played correctly.

Lyrical: Yeah ad his ulti is quite good as well. I think that [Shield Crash] moving forward now is a pretty good answer for some of the problems that he was having before. Just gives him more maneuverability. He can use swashbuckle now and then afterwards jump out with his “W” and then he’s like in a little bit of a better spot. So I think he’s fine. I think Dark Willow is very very good. And it’s not surprising. It feels a lot like Puck when I play her. Just not as maneuverable. Illusory Orb. You really miss a spell like that on Dark Willow, but it still feels like it’s a pretty frickin good hero.

Eli: Touching back on Pangolier since people are kind of split on him. What do you think the right way to play him is?

Lyrical: I am not entirely sure about that. I think you can’t play him offlane. He’s got some escape. And if you get levels on him that ultimately becomes really really strong especially with how low the cooldown is. So probably offlane right now is where I put him as the best role. You don’t need to get a ton of farm on him although you can and it becomes quite strong. But, you can use them as more of like him fight hero and maybe pair him together with a Lifestealer or something and do some Lifestealer bombs. Who knows.

Eli: Yeah that’s kind of what I’ve been doing. I’ve been getting a Diffusal Blade, getting a Skull Basher, and “Q” my way straight into a fight. Pressing “W” getting all that damage reduction. Then just kind of being a pain after that is good. Anyway, let’s talk a little bit about TI7. You were there as a caster. What was that like?

Lyrical: It was awesome. You know everything that I wanted. It was really cool like being a part of the event and being able to do so many things. Obviously casting at it was the was the very very fun part of it because you know it’s casting TI. But I was only casting in the group stage so it was very low key. Actually I brought four suits with me and I brought like maybe 15 different shirts and maybe like 20 different ties before I found out that I was never going to be on camera the entire time. I did like casts in my sweatpants when we were in the hotel because that’s all we had to do. We were like in a hotel room just chilling during the group stages which works well I think. The group stage casting was fine.

I did the newbie stream during the main event which was also really cool. I was working with Torte De Lini and I would switch off where he would take like the first two games of the day and I’d take the next two and then he’d take the next two and I would take the next two and we just sort of run it back and forth that way. Then I also got to work with a couple of people from Valve that I got to work with pretty closely and they’re really cool. That was probably the coolest thing about TI, outside of being able to cast it, was meeting the people behind the game. Like everybody from Valve is very very competent and really really cool. I don’t know. Sort of you build them up in your head as the sort of this mythical faceless thing, but they’re actually people. Which is sort of a strange realization to have.

Eli: What do you mean when you say they’re competent? Like in their knowledge of the game or just kind of in general?

Lyrical: In everything. I mean I don’t want to reveal too much about any one person in particular, but in talking with people they have very interesting backstories, places that they came from, things that they’ve done. If you look at valve and some of the stats behind it there’s some of the most productive people monetarily in the world. I think that the dollar that they make per person or something is like the highest in the world or something. Might be talking out of my butt here but I feel like that’s the stat that I read somewhere. But they’re there. They know what they’re doing and they do it well.

Eli: You said before you don’t really think that you’re that big time of a caster yet. Getting to go to all these events like TI7 and StarLadder that you’ve done. I remember even listening to you cast a lot of like Mineski games and stuff. I had no idea who they were and then I come in and listen to you because I see you’re on the cast. What do you think your name brings to some of these tournaments? Do you think you have that power yet of “Oh, Lyrical is casting this game. I want to go listen to this”?

Lyrical: I think I might have some fan base that feels that way. I have always gotten pretty positive perception. There’s some people that don’t like my cast. I think that, if anything, is more indicative to me that I’m sort of making it. The worst thing that you can have is somebody that’s indifferent. If they actually know you and then they hate you. That means that you must be doing something right because there’s probably an equal number of people if not more that really like what you’re doing as long as you sort of get a variety it means that your overall numbers are going to be increasing.

I think that there are some people that definitely tune in because it’s me casting but I think for anything it’s just…there is the thing that’s been cool it’s that I think that there are people that know the scene and people that understand the industry then are starting to recognize that I have something of value to offer. I think that’s the coolest thing that’s happened over the last year for me.

Eli: How would you classify that? What do you think your style as a caster is? What do you think you bring to the table specifically?

Lyrical: Authenticity. I feel like I’m very authentic and when I get excited about stuff I think you can hear it and feel it. When the cast happens I would I would agree with that as somebody who is partial to your cast. I would agree.

Eli: Yeah. So I wanted to kind of ask for some of your favorite players some of your favorite teams to cast is there a certain style that you find better suited to kind of the way you like to cast teams players.

Lyrical: I always get into trouble with those because I feel like I think that the natural implication of biased caster’s something like that that always gets thrown around. It’s so frustrating to hear it right. I don’t think any caster has a stake in any team. There might be a couple here and there but it’s really very very rare that a team with B or a cast would be like really rooting for one team or another to win to the point where it would affect the way that they cast. It’s like subconscious. But that would only happen if like they really eat somebody or really dislike somebody and even then I think that I’ve tended to notice that caster’s who really like certain players would tend to be more harsh towards them than they would be otherwise. But I would say that for me I tend to just really enjoy action packed though.

Lyrical: I think that that’s you know the normal you look at it. See I don’t know that was a classic. I’ve really come to love SEA DotA throughout the past year or so since I started casting like one of my first tournaments was the BTSA Series Number Two and it was like it’s just there’s so much action that happens particularly like one of the things that always feels like it comes around is as a puck played in the offlane where they play these off winners in a one 1-v-1 matchup. So you basically have to one of the ones that are happening the off lane. And then 1-v-1 in the middle lane and then it’s like a 3-v-3 bottom and that always feels like very cool.

Eli: Yeah there is that period of games where you were casting a lot of like Raging Potato on Puck and that was just wild.

Lyrical: There are definitely I think probably one of my favorite players is KuKu. I really like him a lot from TNC just because he’s always he’s either like he’s either going to win the game or he’s going to lose the game but he’s definitely going to do one of those too. He is not going to be a neutral party in any game.

Eli: Yeah he’s a very he’s very high impact guy on well otherwise man that’s really all I had for you. I think this went very well this was a lot of fun definitely for sure.

Lyrical: Thanks for the interview!

Eli: Of course, man. I really appreciate you and all you do and I’m going to enjoy watching you this year and I just want to say again thanks for coming in taking the time out of your day to do this.

Lyrical: Yeah definitely hope that it all goes well for you.


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Willow

The many talents of Dark Willow

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Dueling Fates made massive changes to how the game is played, but it will take much more time for players to fully understand the information released in the patch notes. What will not take more time is for players to experience the true headliners of this patch: the new heroes. Dark Willow and Pangolier have invaded pubs the same way every new hero does shortly after launch. I admit partial fault for this, as I’ve been playing the hero extensively in an attempt to understand what makes her click. I will always have more to learn, but I wanted to share what knowledge I’ve gained so far in the hopes that it helps you either play a better Willow, or counter one on the enemy team.

Who likes crowd control?

Willow

Dotabuff.com

I sure love crowd control. It is one of the reasons I was so attracted to this hero in the first place. Let’s start by breaking down some of these crowd control abilities and their uses.

Bramble Patch creates a large maze of thorns that roots enemies that touch the brambles. This skill has many qualities that set it apart from other similar abilities in positive ways. Even at level one, the brambles created by the skill last for a full 15 seconds. If Willow places a Bramble patch behind her team to help them escape, the enemy can’t wait out the duration. They either need a method of ignoring the root, or they have to give up on the chase.

Cursed Crown is a delayed area of effect stun that targets an individual hero. If it hits, this disable will stun all heroes within range of the targeted hero for a full 3.5 seconds at level four. I do use the word “if” for a reason though. Cursed Crown is probably the easiest stun in the game to dodge or disjoint with its 4 second delay. Activating BKB, Aeon Disk, Guardian Greaves or Manta style any time before the stun hits completely removes the effect. When the ability does hit though, it removes at least one hero from the fight for a substantial amount of time. To me, it seems worth casting even if it only baits out a premature item use due to its low cast time.

Terrorize, one of Willow’s two ultimates, forces enemies in a moderate area to flee toward their fountain after a short channeling time. This is a great disengagement tool on its own, but coupled with Bramble Patch it can flip a team fight on its head. If placed correctly, enemies will be unable to dodge the brambles, forcing them to both take damage and be rooted in place for upward of 2.5 seconds. This is definitely a large enough window for the cavalry to arrive and clean up.

But how does she do damage?

I’m glad you asked! Dark Willow’s damage lies primarily in her Shadow Realm nuke and Bedlam, her second ultimate. After taking her +300 Shadow Realm damage at level 20, Shadow Realm becomes a devastating 660 magical nuke. That’s not even the best part. The best part is that Willow becomes untargetable by spells or auto attacks while the nuke is charging. The 600 bonus range granted by the ability ensures that she’ll be able to hit her target, even if the target has turned around and given up chase.

 

Willow

Dotabuff.com

 

Willow

Dotabuff.com

Bedlam, on the other hand, requires Willow to be close to her targets. Once activated, Willow’s faerie companion will circle her while firing magic projectiles at the nearest enemy unit similar to Witch Doctor’s Death Ward. As Willow is not a durable hero, charging in with no plan is ill-advised. When used in tandem with Shadow Realm, Willow can keep herself safe while melting a single hero fairly quickly with Bedlam. It is important to note though that Willow is not completely immune while in the Shadow Realm. Any untargeted AoE abilities will still hurt her, so Willow players should be mindful of their positioning at all times.

So she’s a support, right?

Willow’s strength lies in her ability to disrupt the enemy, making her ideal for a support position. Cursed Crown and Bramble Patch make her incredibly useful for setting up kills and escapes in the laning phase. As Shadow Realm levels up, her increased burst damage and range can help secure kills on more elusive heroes as well. Add that to the fact that her abilities scale well with levels and not items, and you’ve got a solid support on your hands.

One of Willow’s biggest problems in the laning stage comes with her mana pool. Her abilities generally require tons of mana and have long cooldowns to start, making mana boots a must buy. A Kaya purchase in the mid game basically solves her mana problems for the rest of the game. The additional spell amplification also helps her nuke, making it a great item for support Willow. Unfortunately, Willow’s other weakness is that she is still incredibly squishy, even in the late game.

Initially, I thought that Meteor Hammer might be the item to solve this, but I was disappointed with the results. Though the strength gain and regen provided by the hammer seemed great, the active ability left me wanting. Even under the protection of Shadow Realm I frequently found myself unable to channel the hammer for the full duration. If for some reason you’re getting tons of gold as Willow, feel free to give it a try yourself. For those less adventurous, a Glimmer Cape will increase your survivability just fine.

Dark Willow has a lot of freedom in the late game when it comes to items. Rod of Atos can help lock a hero in place while you Bedlam them to death. Shiva’s Guard increases Willow’s tankiness and inhibits right click heavy line-ups well. Purchase a Scythe of Vyse if you absolutely need to lock down that one problem hero. Feel free to go more aggressive with an Orchid into Bloodthorn to increase damage as well. As long as you’re picking intelligence items that are appropriate to your individual game, it’s difficult to make a wrong choice.

But in a game I played…

Yes, I am fully aware of the number of carry Willow builds out in the wild. While I don’t think this is the optimal way to play the character, the concept is not without merit. In fact, Willow’s +200 attack speed perk at level 25 almost single-handedly enables this kind of build. First of all, the character’s attack animation is already solid even at level one, tacking almost two full moonshards for free at level 25 transforms her into a machine gun.

If you’re keen to try this playstyle, I would highly recommend the mid lane for a couple of reasons. First of all, you won’t have to be fighting for farm in another lane where your teammate thinks they’re a better carry than you. Secondly, Willow’s abilities benefit greatly from fast levels, which are inevitable in the mid-lane. Willow’s great attack animation should help secure the CS, and an early bottle will sustain her mana in the early game.

As a carry, the enemy team might try to focus you more than as a support. For this reason, a glimmer cape probably is not going to cut it as a defensive item. I have had some success purchasing a Linken’s Sphere as an alternative. Linken’s coupled with Shadow Realm invulnerability makes Willow maddeningly difficult to lock down, and the extra stats and regen help solve her mana problems further. On the way to level 25, additional intelligence items like Scythe or Atos still help with both her lockdown and attack damage. The magic burst from Mjolnir coupled with even more attack speed makes it a solid pick as well.

If you still have money after all of those purchases, Nullifier is a great addition to a carry Willow’s arsenal. By the time you get a nullifier, machine gun mode should be online. Willow will attack so fast that she’ll be able to keep a Nullified enemy slowed all by herself. Bloodthorn will keep enemies from fighting back while giving her machine gun attacks chances to crit.

What are your closing thoughts then?

I still don’t fully agree with carry Willow, but sometimes it is necessary to adapt to the needs of the team. There are worse heroes than Willow to answer the call for an impromptu mid player. Her world-class crowd control abilities make her relevant in every stage in the game, and her talent choices make her versatile enough to shift roles should the need arise. Though I’m sure we’ll all still be learning where she fits into the competitive scene over the next few months, putting in time on her now is definitely a worthwhile investment.


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pangolier, dota 2, immortal, dueling fates, dota 2

Pangolier build to crush your pubs

Dueling Fates is upon us! The new patch brought some of the biggest changes the game has seen since 7.00 aka Reborn. Two new heroes, Pangolier and Dark Willow, were introduced to the DotA community on Halloween. Building these heroes in the infancy of their DotA lives is always interesting. DotA has so many nuances in each game that must be accounted for. Builds change based on a myriad of factors in real-time. So how do we figure out a brand new hero like Pangolier?

Pangolier’s ability to control a lane

Admittedly I have been spamming Pangolier in pubs since his release. Mainly in the safe lane, but I think he is better as an offlaner now. He’s a ton of fun to play. His spells have a lot of utility. You really only have to itemize to fight. With abilities that point this hero towards an initiating role.

pangolier, dota 2, dueling fates, 7.07, swashbuckle

(Dotabuff)

pangolier, dota 2, shield crash, dueling fates

(Dotabuff)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s start with Donte’s first two skills as they are most important to success in the laning stage. You can use his Swashbuckle to do anything you want. Effective for last-hitting, escape, initiation and even harassing once you get used to aiming it. One skill point on Pangolier’s “Q” provides a 96 physical damage nuke over a huge range. Moving onto his second ability, Shield Crash. This is going to be your bread and butter in the lane. Many of the early builds for Pangolier max his nuke which I think is detrimental. Only two points in Shield Crash will give you a 10% damage reduction buff per hero hit with this ability. Hitting two heroes with a “W” does 150 damage to each of them while Pangolier takes 20% less damage for the next ten seconds; allowing you to be very tanky with minimal items. Which is why I prioritize this ability over Swashbuckle in lane. While the latter provides great damage it’s much more useful for escape and harass in the early game. Shield Crash‘s stacking damage reduction buff and increasing magic damage is too hard for me to pass up. I am able to sustain in lane much more with multiple points of Shield Crash.

They see me rollin’ they hatin’…

heartpiercer, dota 2, dueling fates, pangolier

(Dotabuff)

dota 2, dueling fates, pangolier, dueling fates, rolling thunder

(Dotabuff)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving on to his passive, Heartpiercer. It is not at all what I was hoping for. The Dueling Fates preview led a lot to believe that Pangolier was going to have an ability that provided a “break” mechanic. Which would have been extremely novel as “break” itself is a rare mechanic with immense impact. Overall the skill is underwhelming as it only lasts for two seconds with a 15% proc chance. Comparatively Spirit Breaker’s Greater Bash has a 17% proc chance. The saving grace for this ability is that it becomes very powerful once you get a couple items on Pangolier and are able to instigate fights. Until then it just does not feel as worth the skill points as his two active abilities.

His ultimate ability is aptly named Rolling Thunder. Another ability that has a bushel of uses, especially in teamfights. With only a 40 second cooldown Rolling Thunder is a 6/7/8 second Black King Bar with a stun and a knockback that does 200/250/300 damage. Seems legit right? You can also cast your Shield Crash while rolling around the map like a Techies dream. It is most effectively used as a counter initiation. The channel time means you should cast it while out of range and then roll into the fight stunning the enemy. Cast Shield Crash on top of enemy heroes right before you pop out. Doing a whopping 600 magic damage and reducing your damage taken by anywhere from 14%-70% of damage. Go ahead and right-click to your hearts’ content because you aren’t dying!

Itemizing the ultimate fighter

Right now it’s impossible to know what the “best” items are on this hero. I’ll share what I have been trying lately as it has felt strong. Starting off with a mango, sages mask, ironwood branch and a stack of tangos. Quickly building into a Magic Wand and Ring of Basilius. You have enough base movement speed to get away with this before building a pair of Power Treads. After this my core items are a Vladimir’s Offering and a Maelstrom. The complete removal of unique attack modifiers allows for Maelstrom to proc off of your Swashbuckle providing another nuker and a farming tool. Transitioning into the reworked Diffusal Blade allows Pangolier to scale his damage and adds onto the effectiveness of your “Q” even further. Anything after this is situational. Adding a Mjollnir for even more damage is an option. More defensive players can build a Vanguard into a Crimson Guard to tank up. Any item that allows you to keep up the aggression is a good choice.

Pangolier has a unique toolkit that allows him versatility in all areas of the game. While no build is perfect, he is a hero who benefits from fighting. Teamfighting at a peak in the mid-late game when teams tend to group up is best. Move around the map with your team once you have your items and you’ll slash your way to some easy MMR.

Featured Image courtesy of DotA 2 In-Game Client

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7.07b

Meta adjustments in 7.07

The game of DotA 2 has changed dramatically in the wake of patch 7.07. When pasted into a word document the collective patch notes total over 70 pages. Seventy full pages of changes to heroes, items, talents and core mechanics can be difficult to absorb quickly.  Taking time to analyze every change line by line would generate an article longer than the patch notes themselves. Instead, we are going to evaluate the high level changes that Valve has made to see if we can discern how they want the game to be played in 7.07.

Before the horn

Hopping into a match in 7.07 feels familiar, yet still different. While nothing compared to previous map changes, there are a few specific ones worth talking about. Arguably the most notable change is the relocation of the bounty runes and shrines. Offlane bounty runes and shrines have practically swapped positions, and safe lane shrines have been moved closer to their respective team’s tier two towers.  Safelane bounty runes have also been moved closer to the river.

7.07

Teams can practically stare each other down from the rune spots now. Screenshot taken from the Dota 2 client

These changes have many implications across all phases of the game. For starters, teams may be more eager to fight over bounty runes at the start of the game now that they’re so much closer to each other. During the laning phase, an enemy support can also easily sneak into your jungle and steal your rune thanks to its new position. With easier escape options, the rewards quickly begin to outweigh the risks of attempting such maneuvers.

On the other hand, the new shrine positions serve to strengthen a teams position in the mid-game. After tier one towers have been taken, the previous shrines offered a great forward position, but at a cost. The problem was that they could not help teams defend their tier two towers thanks to the distance between them. Players trying to teleport to the shrine to defend a tier two either wouldn’t make it in time, or find a nasty ambush waiting. The new shrine positions give players a place they can retreat to should a tower fight go sour. It also gives allies a safer place to teleport should they wish to assist in such a fight.

The laning phase

The big ticket item in the laning phase is the adjustment to the XP reward gained from killing lane creeps. Melee creeps XP increased from 40 to 57, while range creeps XP decreased from 90 to 69. The large previous discrepancy between the values rewarded players much more for killing or denying the range creep in each wave. While the ranged creep is still more valuable, players may no longer weigh it so heavily when fighting for those initial last hits.

This experience change is also a nerf to any hero that likes to purchase a Hand of Midas, albeit a small one. Range creeps were prime Midas targets in 7.06 thanks to their ultra high XP reward. Now that range and melee creeps are closer in value, it becomes more efficient to Midas a siege creep, but those do not spawn every wave. If there is no siege creep, Midas carriers are likely to leave the lane for a large jungle camp creep in order to maximize the return on their investment. Midas characters will have more to consider when moving around the map, which isn’t a bad thing.

This change is also the nerf to Lich that some players had been hoping for. While he can still sacrifice the ranged creep in one lane at the start of the game, it no longer grants him as much experience, nor does it deny a full 90 experience from enemy heroes in that lane. This change won’t stop this behavior, but it reduces the impact substantially.

Denying the ranged creep might be less important than in 7.06, but denying as a mechanic has become more crucial to success in lanes. This is due to the reduction of experience received by the denied team from 75% to 25%.  Denying lane creeps is now quite literally three times as effective as it was in the previous patch. This change is going to put more pressure on players in the laning stage to perform well. Before, losing a lane would leave you with a little bit of catch up to do in the mid-game. Now, a losing player might find themselves hopelessly under-leveled if their lane goes poorly enough.

The mid/late game

Games need to end sometime. So many games in 7.06 would stalemate for too long as teams were afraid to take high ground. This was not a fun way to play, nor was it fun to watch. Valve has looked to remedy this by bring quicker ends to games in a couple of ways.

7.07

It may look like a shrine, but now its just a useless “filler building”. Screenshot taken from DotA 2.

The first of these is the removal of the shrines in each base. Shrines in each lane gave high ground defenders multiple chances to heal up and push back their attacker.  This was a nightmare to fight into, especially when a single bad teamfight could flip the game on its head. Removing these shrines removes unnecessary second chances for the defending team, and should also serve to shorten games overall in 7.07.

Almost every hero talent adjustment also contributes to this in some way. Many generic stat-boosting talents have been removed in favor of more hero specific talents, many of which are incredibly powerful. Taking Enigma’s new +70 Eidolon damage talent in addition to +8 Eidolons at level 25 grants unrivaled pushing power. Gyrocopter’s new Global Call Down talent allows the hero to clear any lane from the safety of his base. He can even participate in fights he’s nowhere near.

Moving forward with 7.07

As we expected, some heroes were nerfed, some heroes were buffed, the map changed and nothing will ever be the same. 7.07 definitely hid a few surprises for DotA fans, and I’m sure there are possibilities we’ve only begun to discover. It will take a few weeks and some tinkering for the new meta to reveal itself, but that’s most of the fun.

DotA Esports seems to benefit from this patch more than even the players. The changes I mentioned lead me to believe we will start seeing more early game skirmishes and shorter games overall. Shorter games will allow tournaments to stay on schedule more easily, and should prevent viewers from getting bored of watching drawn out games. If those aren’t victories for 7.07, then I don’t know what are.


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Are matchmaking seasons enough?

DotA 2 Patch 7.07 arrived a full day early, much to the surprise of DotA fans used to Valve’s affinity for delays. “It will be ready when it is ready” seems to be the company motto after all. This time, with hardly any time to absorb the patch notes properly, fans are already jumping in with the new characters, abilities, talents and modes. There is however one very important new feature that Valve is holding on to for a couple more weeks. I am talking of course about the new Matchmaking Seasons.

For years now DotA has measured player skill using a single MMR number. When the first season starts in two weeks time, this will instead be measured by a collection of badges that will be shown at the beginning and end of each game to give teammates an idea of where you stand. This seems like a cool feature at first, but why is it being introduced in the first place?

The problem

It’s no secret that the community has some problems with the current matchmaking system. Players often complain about quitters, feeders and generally toxic players affecting their games and their MMR. Valve has tried to address these concerns in previous patches by implementing new features like “behavior score” system, but these have been met with critical feedback and mixed results. Even if well behaved players are placed together, it is still frustrating to perform well personally, but lose game after game due to perceived weaknesses in the rest of your team.

While there are those who have achieved whatever their MMR goals are, there are still many who are struggling to dig themselves out of a skill tier they do not feel like they belong in. MMR may just be a number, but the larger DotA 2 community uses this number as a measure of credibility when discussing nearly anything about the game. Because of this it can be difficult not to feel self-conscious about having what is considered a “low” MMR. Feeling stuck in the “low skill” trenches can thus feel incredibly demotivating. This is especially true when players feel like they’ve learned from their past few (hundred) games, but still can’t get the results that they want.

The solution

Matchmaking

Screenshot grabbed from dota2.com

The question becomes how Valve hopes to create a more positive experience with this season system. The idea is to give players a biannual opportunity to re-calibrate their ranking. By removing the usual limits on how much MMR can change between matches briefly, players that deserve a higher ranking can attain it more quickly should they perform well. Of course, the same can be said of higher skilled players falling to lower ranks as well.

This solution also affects players returning to the game from extended breaks. Chances are high that if a player has not played in months, they may not be able to perform well at their old skill tier immediately. If they re-calibrate in a new season, they may find themselves below their old rank. This seems frustrating, but this new system will also allow players to showcase their previous season’s medal to celebrate past achievements.

But will this solution be enough? Valve’s own patch notes claim that players will be seeded by their previous season’s MMR. If that is the case, will the MMR changes be fluid enough to allow for the large jumps in skill tiers that players want to see? The system itself isn’t very transparent at the moment, so it is difficult to say. In typical Valve fashion, they have explained what they want the system to accomplish without showing us details on how it achieves the result. We’ll have to wait until mid November to find out, as I’m sure there won’t be more information coming before then.

Is it enough?

The most surprising thing about DotA’s competitive seasons might be that we are just now getting them. Other MOBA style games have been using similar systems for years. Vainglory has introduced quarterly seasons in October of 2015. Heroes of the Storm has operated on seasons ever since they launched ranked play in 2016. There are other examples both within the MOBA genre and outside, so why has it taken so long to receive what is basically an “off the shelf” solution.

To be fair, the previously mentioned season systems of Vainglory and Heroes have features that make a season system very attractive. Both Vainglory and Heroes operate on a freemium business model that uses virtual currency to unlock playable characters. By offering this virtual currency as a reward for good performance during the season, they provide additional incentive to play ranked throughout the year. This is of course dissimilar to DotA, which does not have a virtual currency system. This lack of additional motivation to play ranked during the season makes the argument for seasons significantly weaker. All DotA players are going to get is a nifty new emblem next to their MMR number. I’m not sure that is going to be enough to convince players to continue grinding through each season if they’re not already actively grinding MMR now.

One step forward

Maybe it is all part of the grand plan. As I have mentioned previously in this article, Valve is known for keeping information close to their chests. We still have two weeks before this system is rolled out in full, and surprises could very well be waiting. A seasonal reward system could do a lot for player retention similar to how the tournament specific Battle Passes already function. Since seasons are a free feature, I certainly would not expect a Battle Pass level of complexity, but any kind of seasonal reward would be welcomed and appreciated.

These rewards are a good wish list item, but they’re pretty unrelated to the underlying problem that seasons are trying to solve. When it comes to creating more fair matches, I think these seasons can be considered a step in the right direction. Though we’re bound to see tweaks in the coming years, it is good to see Valve trying to step up to better such a divisive matchmaking system.


Featured Image from dota2.com

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