At its core, playing DotA is a sea of numbers and statistics that wail against each other until a winner is decided. Teams of players try to steer these numbers in their favor through the choices they make. Most players see mixed results, but that is expected. There is so much to keep track of in a single game of DotA that professional players are still learning optimal strategies. Infrequent major patches to the game don’t help that either. But this is not a discussion about all of the mechanics in DotA. Instead, I wanted to focus on a single, relatively new mechanic that, though it has its place, feels underutilized within the game. I’m talking about Silver Edge, and the “Break” mechanic.
Valve introduced the Break mechanic in patch 6.84. Before then, there were inconsistencies with how passives were impacted by disables like Hex or Doom. Break became the mechanic that was responsible for disabling passive ability, and greatly expanded the number of passives impacted. It is important to note of course that only hero passives are affected by Break. Item passives like Butterfly evasion can only be disabled by a different debuff, and are unaffected by Break.
The number of abilities affected by break is impressive, and very damaging. Heroes like Slardar and Spirit Breaker lose their ability to bash. Phantom Assassin loses her ability to evade attacks and hide on the mini-map. Bristleback loses his eponymous skill “Bristleback” thus losing his damage reduction and automatic Quill Spray trigger. For these heroes, losing these abilities is a blow to their usefulness in combat, and can easily flip a fight on its head. If the ability is so unique and powerful, why then is it also so exceedingly rare?
Give me a break!
Though Break was introduced in 6.84, no hero was immediately able to apply the debuff until 7.00 when Valve re-worked Viper’s “Nethertoxin” ability. Even then, the small AoE skill only applies Break as long as enemies remain within its radius. You can argue that both Doom’s “Doom” and Shadow Demon’s “Demonic Purge” also apply Break, but only after purchasing an Aghanim’s Scepter, a 4200 gold item that is never seen until the late game.
As I mentioned earlier, the only item in the game that can apply this effect is the Silver Edge. However, at 5500 gold, the item is a massive investment for line-ups that require it. Despite granting +15 to all stats, it’s also not an item many heroes want to naturally build. Shadow Blade, Silver Edge’s precursor, is a sneaky engagement tool, or for squishy characters to escape from ganks. At 2700 gold though, it’s still not a casual pickup. It is also only a stepping stone on the way to Silver Edge.
It seems odd that an ability so recently re-defined would have such a minimal presence within the game. While its strength cannot be underestimated, Valve has shown us they know how to balance it with proper drawbacks. Viper is actually the poster child for how more heroes could incorporate Break into their abilities without bringing imbalance to the game. Many people even speculated that Pangolier would be the hero with a built in Break given his trailer. You’ll remember that the trailer showed him cutting the quills off of Bristleback’s bristleback, which seemed as clear a sign as any. His Heartpiercer ability by comparison has been disappointing to say the least.
I really do not believe it would take much to bring more Break into action. Plenty of heroes are primed with abilities that could add a Break effect in exchange for efficiency elsewhere. So far Viper possesses the only non-targeted Break in the game. Perhaps other AoE abilities could incorporate this? It would be great to see a targeted Break added to a non-ultimate ability as well. Maybe the Break wouldn’t take effect until the skill is level 4, effectively helping to balance it.
I do not claim to be a game designer, but I strongly believe that granting more heroes Break-like abilities would increase draft diversity and increase utility in certain compositions. Though it might sound like I’m advocating for adding more noise to the cacophony that is the DotA we all know and occasionally love, more options doubtless make drafting decisions more varied and interesting. If they took the time to create a new special mechanic, it should be more prevalent than it currently is.
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