The Summit 8

The Summit 8: Top competition

Ahh “The Summit”. A tournament beloved for its highly competitive games, yet relaxed and casual atmosphere. Casters sit on comfy couches in street clothes, while players not currently in a match wander around the kitchen looking for food in the background. It’s a fairly human look at the players and casters that tournaments don’t usually present to us. Of course, the casual atmosphere at this weekends “The Summit 8” tournament does not mean that the competition will be lacking. Thus, without further ado, lets take a look at the teams that have a chance at The Summit’s pool of Qualifying Points.

OG

The Summit 8

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Johan “N0tail” Sundstein

Position 2 – Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok

Position 3 – Gustav “s4” Magnusson

Position 4 – Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka

Position 5 – Tal “Fly” Aizik

The year has not been kind to OG until very recently. Despite changing nothing about their roster, the four time Major winners have been plagued with disappointing finishes. That being said, they were finally able to put themselves on the board by taking first place at MDL Macau recently. It very well could be that it has just taken this group a bit longer to understand the new meta. With the gravity of the changes that occurred, no one would blame them. Regardless, they appear to be back in form now, and it will be exciting to see what they can manage this weekend. They still have a long way to go to secure a TI invite, but the season is yet young.

Evil Geniuses

PGL Open, ESL One, DreamLeague

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Artour “Arteezy” Babaev

Position 2 – Sumail “Suma1l” Hassan

Position 3 – Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Aurora

Position 4 – Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen

Position 5 – Clinton “Fear” Loomis

 

Evil Geniuses’ 3rd place finish at Dream League is certainly not an achievement to scoff at. Of course they did it in typical EG fashion as well. After losing the first series, the boys in blue decimated every team they faced in the lower bracket 2-0. It is hard to blame them for losing their first set either, as their opponent, Team Secret, went on to win the whole tournament.

EG’s opponents were not easy ones either. Virtus.Pro is still looking strong after their recent Major victory, and Na’Vi fans are celebrating their team’s return to form this year. Say what you will about the SADBOYS, but they’re still a force to be reckoned with, and I reckon they will perform well in The Summit 8.

Team Kinguin

The Summit 8

Image from teamliquid.net

 

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Natan “Exotic_Deer” Michalewicz

Position 2 – Michał “Nisha” Jankowski

Position 3 – Paweł “Patos” Naruszewicz

Position 4 – Rafał “eL lisasH” Wójcik

Position 5 – Jakub “kacor” Kocjan

 

Team Kinguin started out on the right foot at Perfect World Masters by building a story-line worth following in the group stages. While Kinguin is a common gaming and esports brand, they only entered the DotA scene recently. As such, viewers really didn’t expect them to perform well. Kinguin immediately caught everyone’s attention when they took two quick games off of Team Secret during the group stage.

Unfortunately their group stage success did not translate into results in the playoffs. Regardless these players have shown that they can stand toe to toe with the best. I hope that this team can pull out a repeat performance if for no other reason than it makes for some darn good DotA watching.

LGD Gaming  

PGL Open

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Wang “Ame” Chunyu

Position 2 – Lu “Maybe” Yao

Position 3 – Xu “fy” Linsen

Position 4 – Yao “Yao” Zhengzheng

Position 5 – Chen “Victoria” Guanhong (Standin Yao “QQQ” Yi)

LGD have not improved their luck since the last time I covered them in one of these articles. Though they managed a 2nd place finish at PGL Open Bucharest, they’ve hardly been seen in a playoff series since. They were eliminated in the group stage of both Perfect World Masters and MDL Macau. There is however going to be a small change in their roster for this tournament. Victoria will be unable to attend, so the team’s coach QQQ will be standing in for the 5th position. At this point any change seems like it wouldn’t be a bad idea. We’ll have to wait and see how well they can represent Chinese DotA at The Summit 8.

Fnatic

ESL One, DreamLeague

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao

Position 2 – Abed “Abed” Yusop

Position 3 – Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin

Position 4 – Djardel “DJ” Mampusti

Position 5 – Johan “pieliedie” Åström

 

 

Here we have it. The first team on the list with a permanent roster change since the initial roster lock. Steve “Xcalibur” Ye has been moved to a Sub position, while Abed replaces him in the 2 position. As the first player to reach 10k MMR, it’s clear that he is an individually talented player. Whether he alone will be enough to pull the organization up from their current slump remains to be seen.

Sacred

The Summit 8

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Benjamín “Benjaz” Lanaos

Position 2 – Leonardo “Leostyle” Sifuentes

Position 3 – Renato “Kingteka” Garcia

Position 4 – Farith “Matthew” Puente

Position 5 – Álex “Masoku” Dávila (Standin “DEMON”)

If this lineup looks familiar, it’s for good reason. Sacred is none other than the remnants of DC.SA, DC’s South American branch. Clearly these players were not ready to give up their pro careers yet. The team only formed in October of this year, so it is nigh impossible to guess how they will fare against these top teams. This is especially true considering they too will be playing with a stand-in player in the 5th position.

Virtus.Pro

Virtus Pro VP The Kiev Major, ESL One

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Roman “RAMZES666” Kuchnarev

Position 2 – Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko

Position 3 – Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov

Position 4 – Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk

Position 5 – Alexei “Solo” Berezin (Sub “Artstyle”)

Virtus.Pro showed us middling performances in both Dream League and MDL Macau recently. While they made it to the playoffs of MDL Macau, they were immediately eliminated by TNC. They did not fare much better at Dream League, where despite beating Na’Vi fairly handily, they ended the tournament in 5th-6th place. Despite these lackluster performances, it’s impossible for a single team to win every tournament. When VP’s drafts click, their momentum can feel impossible to stop. Though the Summit 8 may feel like a more casual tournament, there is still a lot at stake here, and VP will be sure to come at it with everything they have.

compLexity

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin

Position 2 – Linus “Limmp” Blomdin

Position 3 – David “Moo” Hull

Position 4 – Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman

Position 5 – Kyle “melonzz” Freedman

I will admit that compLexity is one of those teams I often root for despite overwhelming evidence that the odds are stacked against them. There is something unique about a team comprised of people that are literal family to each other. The fact that Kyle and Zfreek have played DotA together for so long without going the way of the Gallagher brothers shows their trust in each other as players and brothers.

But familial bonds do not win a DotA tournament, as shown by their single 3-4th place finishes at Star Ladder and Perfect World Masters. Though they always perform well in qualifiers and group stages, they have not been able to carry that momentum into a playoff scenario. I’ve seen nothing recently to indicate this will change, but that won’t stop me from hoping they will surprise me at The Summit 8.

OpTic Gaming

Optic Gaming Esports organisation

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Per Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille

Position 2 – Quinn “CC&C” Callahan

Position 3 – Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg

Position 4 – Martin “Saksa” Sazdov (Standin)

Position 5 – Peter “ppd” Dager

Given their pedigree, most people expected OpTic Gaming to be doing better than they have this season. PPD is TI winning captain and drafter, and the team he built around himself is full of talent both new and old. They’ve picked up the pace lately with a victory at Midas Mode, and a second place finish at ROG Masters. Unfortunately for them, neither of these tournaments yielded any Qualifying Points.

Saksa has been standing in for MiSeRy ever since his departure from the team, so maybe that has something to do with their recent upswing in momentum. Saksa has announced however that he’s not looking to get back into DotA for a while, so the chances of him becoming a permanent fixture on the team are low. Regardless, maybe they are in a better place than ever with their new teammate to take their first tournament and put some points on the board at The Summit 8.

The Summit 8 will take place in Los Angeles, CA from December 13th to December 17th.


Cover image from teamliquid.net

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Silver Edge

Silver Edge: An argument to Break DotA 2

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.

An introduction

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.

Under-represented

Silver Edge

Courtesy of Youtube.com, from the Dueling Fates Trailer. See why people thought Pangolier would have Break?

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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dota 2, seasonal matchmaking, matchmaking, mmr, dota 2

Does the new matchmaking system work?

On November 22nd the DotA 2 matchmaking system was changed. For better or for worse, the new system has partially done away with numerical MMR. In its place is now a badge system that looks to quell the woes of many players who were getting tired of the constant grind. Also looking to boost game quality and reduce the number of account buyers and smurfs. The first week of the Seasonal Ranked system has come and gone in a whirlwind. Instituting a new system is one thing, but is it actually working?

The roller-coaster of re-calibrating

With a new system in place all players were forced to re-calibrate their matchmaking ranking. Resulting in a pub environment that really felt competitive again. During calibration there was a much higher emphasis placed on winning rather than just stacking up kills and items. Cores were showing up to fights and even supports were being picked!

A large part of this can be credited to the structuring of the medal system. Before there was mention that numerical values had been, mostly, done away with. This is because it was replaced by an interesting badge system.

dota 2, seasonal matchmaking, medals, mmr, ranking

(In-game client)

These medals are all tied to numerical MMR values, according to the DotA 2 Wiki, but they have done a very good job of grouping players based on skill. This was a large knock on the previous system as games would almost feel over before they began if one team’s average MMR was much higher than the other. Being the high MMR in a game either made you a target or focus for blame. Overall, the grind for MMR could become a toxic environment with every +/- 25 being held close to the chest.

Initially, the sticker shock of re-calibrating set the community ablaze. Many people were saying it felt like supports were being favored and calibrating in at higher rankings. There are many reasons this could be, probably the most obvious being that a team with a support is much more likely to win than a team with five cores.

What was most glaring were the massive losses some professional players were taking in MMR. Check out Sumail’s surprisingly calm reaction to losing 3K MMR. Well aside from throwing a little shade at his Evil Geniuses teammate, Arteezy.

A slightly less uphill battle

Now the task of climbing through the rankings seems much more doable. Instead of focusing on climbing a full 1000 pts in MMR, manageable goals are tangible with the new badge system. If you calibrate at Archon 2, for example, it’s much more feasible to say “I want to get to Archon 4 by (insert time here).” This can be echoed for all the rankings as players can now focus on climbing within their badge group with stars before transitioning into the next badge.

Your MMR still matters and you can still see it. So for those of you who really care about the number, have fun. But what is interesting is that the badge system takes into account both ranked and unranked MMR. While solo MMR is weighed more. This is a great change. It allows for a player’s ranking to be largely based on their individual skill, rather than who they are stacking with. A sort of regression to the mean for DotA that has deemphasized the grind of climbing MMR. Honestly, this is a quality of life change to those who may not have the time to grind game after game to go up in ranking. Allowing for a fair representation in skill no matter how much time is committed to climbing.

This is not to say the new system is without any hiccups. Losing 3K MMR like Sumail did is probably an issue that needs to be corrected. As calibrating in at Divine 5 does not feel like such a high ceiling. Though it just doesn’t seem to matter that much when you’re already at the highest badge? So far, the new matchmaking system has been nothing but a positive. It will be interesting to see what adjustments are made for the next season.

Featured image courtesy of Dota2.com

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DreamLeague

DreamLeague 8: The competition

The second Major of the competitive season is upon us. Since the last major, the point totals have seen some shuffling, and the game itself has been patched. While Virtus.Pro has been sitting pretty at the top, the 1500 points that are on the line could change that quickly. Of course if Virtus.Pro wins DreamLeague as well, they will further cement their spot in TI8. They’re not the only ones with their eye on the prize though, so let’s take a look at their competition.

Team Liquid

Dota 2 Power Rankings Team Liquid, ESL One, Dreamleague

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen

Position 2 – Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barqawi

Position 3 – Ivan “MinD-ContRoL” Ivanov

Position 4 – Maroun “GH” Merhej

Position 5 – Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi

 

 

 

Liquid has shown no signs of slowing down after a dominant start to the season. Currently they are the only team to have won more than one tournament this season. Liquid continue to prove that they are a team to be reckoned with, and I doubt anyone would be surprised if they were the team to take the lead in the rankings after DreamLeague.

Newbee

Dota 2 Power rankings Newbee, i-league, ESL One, Dreamleague

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Xu “Moogy” Han

Position 2 – Song “Sccc” Chun

Position 3 – Damien “kpii” Chok

Position 4 – Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi

Position 5 – Zheng “Faith” Hongda

 

 

Newbee is fresh off the heels of a victory at the Perfect World Masters tournament. It is clear they are not going to let their TI runner-up stigma effect their performance moving forward. Though soul-crushing at the time, they have bounced back well. During the Chinese Qualifiers for DreamLeague, they only dropped a single game. Newbee is clearly the pinnacle of Chinese DotA right now, and we can expect good games from them at DreamLeague.

Team Secret

secret, dota 2, international, i-League, ESL One, DreamLeague

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard

Position 2 – Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng

Position 3 – Adrian “Fata” Trinks

Position 4 – Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat

Position 5 – Clement “Puppey” Ivanov

Team Secret is looking for redemption after falling just short of first place at the last Major. Fortunately for them, their second place finish at ESL One also puts them at second place on the current rankings leaderboard. Their chances at the Perfect World Masters Tournament was hamstrung by a personal emergency that left them without MidOne, but the gang is back together now and ready to give it their all.

Evil Geniuses

PGL Open, ESL One, DreamLeague

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Artour “Arteezy” Babaev

Position 2 – Sumail “Suma1l” Hassan

Position 3 – Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Aurora

Position 4 – Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen

Position 5 – Clinton “Fear” Loomis

 

It has not been the best year for Evil Geniuses so far. As it stands, the team has only managed to secure a single third place victory this season. That being said, they pulled it together for the DreamLeague NA Qualifiers, and only dropped a single game. This could be a sign that they are trying something new, or getting more familiar with the patch. The team will definitely have to step up their game if they hope to perform on the main stage. So far though, their chances do not look the greatest.

Fnatic

ESL One, DreamLeague

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao

Position 2 – Steve “Xcalibur” Ye

Position 3 – Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin

Position 4 – Djardel “DJ” Mampusti

Position 5 – Johan “pieliedie” Åström

 

 

Fnatic is the first team on the list without a single Qualifying Point to their name. Though their 7-8th place finishes at ESL One and Dota PIT earned them some prize money, that money will not help them secure a spot at TI. That being said, Fnatic have been looking better and better over just the last two weeks. They achieved first place in both the DotA Summit SEA Qualifiers and the DreamLeague SEA Qualifiers. I don’t know what possibly could have happened to warrant this 180 turn, but Fnatic may just be a real contender in this tournament if they can hold on to this momentum.

Infamous

PGL Open, DreamLeague

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Alonso “Kotaro Hayama” León

Position 2 – Mariano “Papita” Caneda

Position 3 – Steven “StingeR” Vargas

Position 4 – Elvis “Scofield” De la Cruz Peña

Position 5 – Christian “Accel” Cruz

 

 

 

Not much has been heard from Infamous since their disappointing finish at PGL Open Bucharest. They succeeded in taking first place at the World Cyber Arena tournament in South America last month, but since then they have only been playing in qualifiers. This tells me that my previous evaluation of them may have been true. In the confines of the small South American scene, Infamous are kings on the playground. Unfortunately this does not translate well to success on the world stage. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see a team from an underrepresented DotA scene succeed. Everyone can remember how hype Ad Finem’s run through the Boston Major was last year right? It makes me sad to say that I’m unsure if Infamous is the team to bring that hype back given their poor performance recently.

Virtus.Pro

Virtus Pro VP The Kiev Major, ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Roman “RAMZES666” Kuchnarev

Position 2 – Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko

Position 3 – Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov

Position 4 – Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk

Position 5 – Alexei “Solo” Berezin

 

 

The champions of the last Major are back to prove they can do it again. However, their DreamLeague qualifier performance does not exactly inspire the utmost confidence from their fans. They were only one loss away from being tied with OG at 7-7 and forcing a tie breaker. At the same time they recently crushed the DotA Summit CIS Qualifier by beating Na’Vi 3-1 when Na’Vi is looking strong. I have no doubt Virtus.Pro will make the top 4 at DreamLeague, but they need to bring their A game if they hope to win another Major.

Na’Vi

Na'Vi, i-League, DreamLeague

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek

Position 2 – Danil “Dendi” Ishutin

Position 3 – Victor “GeneRaL” Nigrini

Position 4 – Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan

Position 5 – Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev

 

 

I could gush about Na’Vi’s return to relevance in the DotA 2 scene for hours. This team has had a rough few years, but things finally seem to be turning around. Fellow Game Haus writer Eli Sherman already wrote a great article on the topic, which echoes many of my sentiments as well. You can find that article here.

DreamLeague Season 8 will take place in Jönköping, Sweeden from Dec 1st – Dec 3rd.


Featured image courtesy of dreamleague.dreamhack.com

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Skywrath Mage

Skywrath Mage returns

Dragonus, the Skywrath Mage has been through a turbulent couple of years in DotA 2. Though a favored support pick in TI4, he as since fallen out of favor due to some glaring weaknesses. However, the sweeping changes in 7.07 brought some needed buffs to the hero. These buffs increase his viability in a multitude of ways, and I believe he’ll see increased play in pubs and tournaments because of them.

Skywrath’s problems

Where can I even begin here. For starters, though a powerful nuker, all of his damage is magic based. As soon as teams buy BKB, most of his potential effectively disappears. Once the game hit this point, there wasn’t a whole lot a Skywrath Mage could do. His skill set is centered around picking off heroes, and he does this very well in the early game. Unfortunately this leaves him incapable of pushing lanes or taking objectives. The hero’s inflexible nature made him unappealing to teams who might need to pivot strategies mid match.

Until recently, Skywrath also had trouble getting solo pick offs without outside help. For a hero who was supposed to excel at this, this was a major problem. While concussive shot slowed enemies in order to set up his Mystic Flare ultimate, it was not often enough to keep the enemy within the spell’s effective radius on it’s own. In order to ensure full damage, an ally would need to open the engagement with a stun for Skywrath to achieve his full potential.

It’s all a thing of the past

Skywrath Mage

Image courtesy of Dotabuff.com

Skywrath Mage

Image courtesy of Dotabuff.com

IceFrog has graced the Skywrath Mage with a few choice buffs in the last few patches. These buffs both increase his kill potential and his late game options, effectively addressing both of his previous weaknesses.

We’ll start with the buff before 7.07, with the buff to Rod of Atos. Atos was already a fantastic item on Skywrath thanks to the slow stacking with Concussive Shot. While the stacking slow was akin to a full stun, there was still some wiggle room that allowed enemies to escape the Mystic Flare radius. In patch 7.00, Atos’ Cripple ability changed from a four second slow to a two second root. This change makes Skywrath mage a mid-game ganking fiend. Unless an enemy has an escape mechanism or a ton of health, they will find themselves dead if they get caught by this combo.

A talented bird-man

Skywrath Mage

Image courtesy of Dotabuff.com

With the old news out of the way lets move forward to the present. Skywrath received and entirely new series of talents. A couple of these are more noteworthy than others. For starters, the Ancient Seal cooldown talent changed from a level 25 talent to a level 15 talent. Not only that, but the cooldown reduction was increased from four seconds to six seconds. With the ability at level four, Ancient Seal becomes a six second targeted silence with an eight second cooldown. This amount of uptime for a disable is phenomenal, especially as early in the game as level 15. This dramatically improves Skywrath’s ability to participate in fights early by potentially silencing two heroes per fight.

More important is probably the talent sitting on the other side of the level 15 branch: +1 Arcane Bolt. What used to be an Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade in the late game is available for free at level 15. Better yet, the talent stacks with Aghanims, meaning Skywrath can cast 3 Arcane Bolt mini-nukes for just 70 mana. The ability to cast two arcane bolts give’s Skywrath an ability to push lanes that he didn’t have before. Of course other heroes still clear waves better, but now Skywrath has a way to help his team once the BKBs roll out. Naturally, they also drastically increase his damage in team fights.

A pub pick up

Skywrath is a versatile nuker that can disable key carries in team fights and melt supports with his early game pick off potential. While I believe he will remain a situational pick for professional DotA, he can really be an all-star in pub matches. Arcane Seal is a massive disruption for teams with poor communication, and Arcane Bolt remains a relevant low cost nuke late in the game thanks to his new talents. Most importantly though, hitting the Rod of Atos/Mystic Flare combo never gets old. In a matchmaking world where people seem hesitant to pick supports, it is hard to go wrong with a Skywrath Mage pick.


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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

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Ben!

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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.

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