Aghanim’s Scepters that could be and should be

Earlier this week I made a post on r/Dota2 about a horrible idea I had for a Techies Aghanim’s Scepter. Feel free to check it out for a few good laughs. After that, I started to think about the potential with the upcoming patch Valve has announced with a November first date. Before then, it might be time to try out some interesting Aghanim’s Scepter abilities.

The ultimate high-ground defense

As if this wasn’t already hard enough. Many games have been lost due to the enemy team holding high-ground, killing your whole team, walking down mid and ending the game. You’ve lost a lot of sleep and even more MMR over it. With a couple Aghanim’s Scepter’s you could create the ultimate defense.

Start out with Zeus’ Nimbus that he gains from having a Scepter. This ability in front of a tower already gets pretty annoying to push into, especially with Lightning Bolt gaining another half-second Ministun with his level 20 talent. Add onto this an Omniknight and Sniper both with Aghanim’s and you will never lose high-ground again! Sniper’s upgraded Assassinate becomes a ground-targeted spell that hits all visible player controlled units in a 400 AoE for a 2.8x critical strike while also proccing a Headshot, also changing the ability from Magic damage to Physical damage.

If this doesn’t make you hate 7.06 even more, then wait until the Omniknight comes in. Actually, he wouldn’t even need to as his Aghs upgrade makes Guardian Angel a global ability that also effects buildings for ten seconds at level three. Just imagine you walk up to high-ground into a Nimbus, Arc spam, a Sniper with a Mjollnir/Aghs and this Omni. Might as well gg.

dota 2 , omniknight, scepter

(Pinterest)

Space cow or clown car

Spirit Breakers resurgence into the 7.06 meta really drove the pace of games, transforming DotA into the chaotic mess of fights we see today. How could this get any better? Well, one of Spirit Breaker’s favorite heroes to play with is Lifestealer. Naix’s ultimate Infest has obvious natural synergy with Spirit Breaker’s Charge of Darkness. It provides a gap closing mechanism to two heroes that want to force fights once Lifestealer reaches level 6. The combo itself is already very potent. Adding a Scepter to Lifestealer grants him a new ability called Assimilate which allows him to swallow another hero. While inside Naix the other hero still gains gold and experience while maintaining auras.

This would allow for heroes like Alchemist with a Radiance to ride around with Naix and his Space Cow pal. On ejecting from Lifestealer the other hero would cause an explosion dealing 300 magic damage in an AoE. Very much like Infest which deals 400 magic damage in an AoE. Pair this with another global hero that does tons of magic damage like Meepo. In theory, Spirit Breaker shows up and bashes you. A Lifestealer jumps out hitting you for 400 damage. Then a Meepo pops out for another 300 damage and nets you while poofing as well. This would make a Black King Bar mandatory on every hero., while still not doing anything against Spirit Breaker. Properly executed, this clown car could dominate the map, making life miserable for all in its path.

Honorable mentions

Finally, I wanted to make sure I thanked the community for this awesome inspiration. Here are some of my favorite comments/theories from the thread.

“TheGreatGimmick” provided an incredibly interesting and well put-together list, but these were my favorite:

Slardar – True Strike now grants True Strike and is only purged by strong dispels.

Ember Spirit – If Flame Guard expires or is dispelled before it has absorbed all the magical damage possible, it deals half the remaining capacity in an AoE as a magical damage nuke. Additionally, Fire Remnants now possess Flame Guard as well as maintaining nuke damage on activation.

Both of these would be extremely fun to see. While the Slardar change would be the Phantom Assassin counter we have all been waiting for. Ember’s fire remnants having flame guard would probably need a little more balancing.

Another great idea came from “acbasco” who might have finally figured out how to help Terrorblade scale into late game.

Terrorblade – Metamorphosis is now a toggleable ability, consuming x mana per second.

This would be really cool for TB who is almost useless without Metamorphosis after the mid game. Also, I don’t think it would be too overpowered as Terrorblade’s mana pool isn’t the best. Regardless, it would be a fun change to the hero that would amplify the reasons that he is already good.

See you all November 1st for Dueling Fates!


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Dragon Lance

Dragon Lance: godlike or garbage

It started innocently enough.  I was playing DotA with three friends, drinking beer and relaxing to the randomness that Single Draft offers.  The ten-minute mark comes up and the four of us start talking about what items we should each build against our enemies.  As Luna, I started getting conflicting messages from my teammates about my item progression.  One person suggested that I finish a Dragon Lance and then work on getting my Manta Style.  It seemed like a solid enough suggestion, until someone else interjected with, “Don’t do that. Dragon Lance is a garbage item for garbage players.”

Wait, what?  Dragon Lance has been a core item on many ranged heroes since it’s introduction in patch 6.86 nearly two years ago.  Just last week, the item was picked up 22 times in the StarLadder i-League Invitational Tournament, and only six of those pick-ups turned into losses for their team.  A success rate of 73% seems pretty solid for a “garbage item”, but I was willing to hear him out.

His argument was that despite the attack range and increase stats, buying a Dragon Lance delayed more important core items.  He would rather put that gold toward an earlier Desolator or Manta Style depending on the hero.  We eventually dropped the conversation and moved on without coming to a consensus or resolution, but the topic piqued my interest.  I decided to take a look at the data and see if I could come to a conclusion for myself.

The Facts

Before we discuss the pros and cons of the item, we need a quick refresher on exactly what it does.  Dragon Lance is a 1900 gold item that gives +12 Strength and +12 Agility, as well as an attack range bonus of 140 units to ranged characters only.  12 Strength translates into an additional 240 health, as well as 0.72 health regeneration per second. 12 Agility translates into 1.71 points of armor and 12 attack speed.  As long as a Strength or Agility hero picks up the item, they will also gain 12 bonus damage to their auto attack.  For comparison, an Ultimate Orb grants +10 to all stats, and costs 2100 gold.

Outside of Dragon Lance and a few specific hero talents, there is no other way to affect a character’s attack range.  This makes the item fairly unique in DotA 2’s item pool.

Dragon Lance: Godlike Argument

Dragon Lance

Image courtesy of Dota2.com

Many of the pros of Dragon Lance have already been discussed in the previous paragraph.  240 health is significant in the early game, and can enable more aggressive play or reduce the success of enemy ganks.  12 attack speed also makes it just a little easier to get those important last hits on a hero.

If we spent the 1900 gold on building a different core item instead, we might not get many of these bonuses.  If we use Desolator as an example, 1900 gold is enough to purchase a Blight Stone and one Mithril Hammer.  This translates into 24 damage and -2 armor on enemy heroes hit.  If instead we’re looking at getting a Manta Style, 1900 gold almost gets us a completed Yasha, which grants 16 agility, 10 attack speed, and a movement speed bonus.  While these bonuses are great in their own right, they lack the additional survivability offered by Dragon Lance.

Another important feature of Dragon Lance is that it builds into Hurricane Pike, an incredible engagement tool.  Hurricane Pike offers an additional 3 Strength and 8 Agility over Dragon Lance for 2750 more gold.  This is in addition to the 10 Intelligence and 6 health regeneration that Force Staff grants.  Not every hero needs these additional bonuses, but they can make up for key weaknesses in the right hands.  Take Luna for example.  Not only does she have terrible attack range, but her Lucent Beam nuke quickly drains her limited mana pool.  Hurricane Pike makes up for these weaknesses and gives Luna a reliable way to engage or disengage during fights.

“But what if I’m playing a hero that doesn’t like to build Hurricane Pike?” you cry.  Well, that leads me to another important feature of Dragon Lance: it can be disassembled.  If the item is underperforming, you don’t have to sell it at a loss to build something more useful.  Disassembling the item grants you the Ogre Club and two Bands of Elvenskin back to build into more appropriate or more late game items like BKB, Aghanim’s Scepter, or Sange and Yasha.

Dragon Lance: Garbage Argument

Dragon Lance

Really, 140 attack range isn’t as much as it sounds like.  Screenshot taken from Youtube.com.

However glowing the previous section might appear, Dragon Lance is not without its downsides.  While many alternative items lack the survivability I mentioned, they have their merits.  If your team is stun heavy, maybe you don’t need survivability because you’re not taking damage in fights.  In this case working toward that Weaver Desolator or Luna Yasha might be more valuable to help burst down stunned targets more quickly.

This might be the heart of the argument against Dragon Lance.  Though it shows up as a core item in many hero builds, it isn’t always the best item to buy.  Does Viper really need a Dragon Lance, or would a Shadowblade be better for ganking early?  Does Weaver really need a Dragon Lance when he already has Shikuchi to help him engage targets?  Players don’t ask themselves these questions often enough in lower MMR pubs.  Often times they will instead blindly buy whatever the next item is on the guide they are following.

Also, while the item certainly helps heroes like Luna, it doesn’t solve her problems completely.  Even with Dragon Lance equipped, Luna is still out-ranged by the basic attacks of more than 40 heroes.  In the end, you can achieve a similar effect with the Yasha movement speed bonus.  Not only does it give Luna more catching power, but the higher agility bonus means she gets more damange and armor than Dragon Lance as well.  From there you can segue into Manta Style, which gives Luna her split pushing power and the survivability she missed by not purchasing Dragon Lance.

Conclusion

Dragon Lance is a unique item that gives great stat value for its price while being versatile enough to build into different items without eating a huge gold loss.  However, players shouldn’t purchase the item on impulse without first considering the game situation.  After seeing both the pros and cons, I found my opinion fell squarely in the middle of the “Godlike to Garbage” spectrum.  Situational is probably the best word to describe the item.

Think about it.  The only heroes that want this item are ranged carries with low attack range, which is a relatively small percentage of the hero pool.  If you are not planning on building into a Hurricane Pike, then purchasing a Dragon Lance becomes even less appealing.  If purchased at the right time and for the right reason though, it can give your carry the momentum they need to win their lane and in turn the game.

I guess it’s pretty much like every other item in the game then huh?


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PGL Open

PGL Open Bucharest: The competition

It has begun. Starting with the Star Ladder i-League Invitational this weekend, there is a ranking tournament for the next three weekends straight.  The DotA 2 competitive dry spell is finally over.

The PGL Open Bucharest tournament is yet another Valve Minor, meaning 300 Qualifying Points will be up for grabs.  While they are not weighed as heavily as Valve Majors, these early points can be very important for players to establish their position on the leaderboards.  Very few teams from Star Ladder will make an appearance at PGL, so we have a lot to talk about.  Let’s get started.

Invited Teams

Evil Geniuses

PGL Open

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

The TI5 Champions have played less than 20 games since TI7, but their performance has been healthy. It is hard not to contribute at least a portion of this success to the return of Fear as 5 position support and captain.  Zai’s departure surely dealt a blow to team morale, but Cr1t- is perfectly capable of stepping up to that 4th position in his stead. Now freed from the stress and responsibility of captaining, Cr1t- can focus more on being the playmaker he needs to be. Other than a surprise loss to Leviathan during the i-League Invitational Qualifiers, EG has been proving that they’re as strong as ever coming into this season.

LGD Gaming  

PGL Open

Image courtesy of 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

LGD’s performance has been a little more shaky since TI7 than our previously mentioned direct invitee. Thanks to their participation in a few extra Chinese tournaments, we have a pool of nearly 50 games played since TI to base this assertion off of. Nevertheless, this lineup contains some of China’s best talent, and it would be a mistake to underestimate them. After all, this is more or less the lineup that placed 4th at TI7.  You don’t achieve that kind of accolade by being a second rate team.

Qualified Teams

Team Secret

secret, dota 2, international, i-League

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

There isn’t much to say about Team Secret that wasn’t already said in my StarLadder competition analysis. They have not had the chance to play enough since then to trigger a change of opinion. After qualifying for three minors back to back they’re still in a great position to get a head start in Qualifying Points this season.

Na’Vi

Na'Vi, i-League

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

Na’vi’s performance at StarLadder so far has been defined by solid team play and unpredictable picks. Unfortunately for Na’vi, their odd drafting picks have been met with mixed success. During their first game against Team Secret, Secret punished Na’Vi’s first pick Tiny hard. This effectively rendered the hero useless during the mid game where he needs to snowball into the late game. The third game was where things got really interesting, as Na’vi last picked an Ancient Apparition for Dendi to take mid. Ancient Apparition mid has not been seen in the meta for years, but it turned out to be exactly what their draft needed to counter Secret’s Timbersaw and Alchemist duo.

Regardless of the results of their erratic drafts, it makes for an incredible DotA watching experience. As long as the fans get good DotA to watch, isn’t that what is really important?

 

Immortals

PGL Open

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Kim “QO” Seon-yeob

Position 2 – Pyo “MP” No-a

Position 3 – Lee “Forev” Sang-don

Position 4 – Kim “Febby” Yong-min

Position 5 – Kim “DuBu” Doo-young

My familiarity with this roster as MVP.Phoenix makes it strange to call them The Immortals. Nevertheless, it’s exciting to see the Korean powerhouse make its return no matter what form it takes. Their return to DotA 2 has not been easy either. Qualifying for this PGL Open required The Immortals to beat teams like OpTic Gaming and Digital Chaos, which is no simple task.

After the original MVP.Phoenix disbanded in January of 2017, the players went their separate ways and played on other teams. Ironically enough, each player still participated in TI7 on teams like Fnatic, Secret and Digital Chaos. After gaining experience on those teams, they decided it was time to get the gang back together. The results will be exciting to watch.

Infamous

PGL Open

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

Other than 5 position support “Accel”, this is not the same Infamous that attended TI7. With the departure of most of their TI7 roster, Infamous absorbed most of the roster of Elite Wolves in early September.

It is interesting to note that Infamous did not originally qualify for PGL Open Bucharest. Digital Chaos.SA originally held that spot. However, thanks to the disbandment of most of DC.SA’s roster after winning the South American qualifiers, Infamous took their spot after beating SG Esports in a replacements finals match 3-1.

It would be great to see a South American Dota team start to make it in the big leagues, but whether Infamous is that team remains to be seen.

VGJ.Thunder

PGL Open

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Liu “Sylar” Jiajun

Position 2 – Liu “Freeze” Chang

Position 3 – Zhou “Yang” Haiyang

Position 4 – Pan “Fade” Yi

Position 5 – Fan “Ayo” Tianyou

I don’t profess to be an expert on Chinese DotA, but to me, this team seems built around Sylar. He is the most experienced member of this team, as well as the one that has seen the most professional success. At the end of the day though, DotA is a team sport, and the rest of the team are no slouches. After all, VGJ.Thunder had to beat teams like Invictus Gaming and LGD Forever Young to make it to PGL Open. If the team can continue to give Sylar the space he needs to do his thing, this team could go far in this tournament.

Mineski

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Kam “NaNa” Boon Seng

Position 2 – Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung

Position 3 – Daryl “iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang

Position 4 – Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong

Position 5 – Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.

Mineski is the final team that is playing in both the current StarLadder tournament as well as the PGL Open. They got off to a bit of a rough start after losing to Team Liquid 0-2  at StarLadder. This result was almost expected though, as Liquid is still playing like the TI Champions that they are. Whatever ends up happening at StarLadder, Mineski can take comfort in knowing they’ll have another opportunity for Qualifying points right around the corner!

PGL Open Bucharest will be held in Bucharest, Romania from October 19th – October 22nd.


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Dueling Fates, Heroes, Sylph, DotA 2

Heroes of the Dueling Fates

During the International, Valve excited the audience by teasing not one, but two new heroes in a single video. Valve did not name these heroes in the trailer, nor did they provide the release date. For the time being, we have to assume that both heroes will come out together, along with the Dueling Fates gameplay patch. Despite the lack of official information from valve, the trailer might be giving away more than it first seems. By analyzing the information in the trailer, we might get a peek at these new heroes’ capabilities.

Swashbuckling Armadillo Man

DotA 2, Dueling Fates

Image captured from youtube.com

This hero took center stage in the Dueling Fates trailer, showing off a a variety of skills. We see our rapier wielding friend start by performing a variety of acrobatics at the opening of the video. What he does next however is far more interesting. Though it’s to a creep and not a hero, he disarms his attacker before kicking him away. Currently there are very few ways to disarm an opponent, effectively preventing them from auto attacking for a few seconds. The main source of this is Heaven’s Halberd, a 3400 gold item that doesn’t see much competitive play due to its highly situational usefulness.

Hero abilities that disarm are also rare in DotA, and most of the time they have significant drawbacks. Crystal Maiden’s “Frostbite” ability disarms an opponent, but requires her to put herself close to the fight. Invoker’s “Deafening Blast” ability is probably the best source of disarm in an ability, but it has a 40 second cooldown. If this ability is a reliable disarm with a reasonable cooldown, it would be a first for DotA 2.

The next exciting thing our hard-shelled friend does is slice off Bristleback’s quills. One of the hardest things about dealing with a Bristleback is getting through his damage reduction. With the introduction of the Silver Edge item and the Break mechanic in 6.84, this became considerably easier. Break is a mechanic that turns off a hero’s passive abilities like Axe’s “Counter Helix”, and currently Silver Edge is the only item in the game that does this. With so few ways to apply this very powerful debuff, it would make sense for Valve to introduce one in this hero.

Finally, Swashbuck McArmadillo rolls into a ball, barrels through creeps, and crushes Magnus under his weight. Based on the video, it could operate similar to Tusk’s snowball or Earth Spirit’s “Rolling Boulder” ability. As a melee hero, some kind of movement ability that would help him engage or disengage more easily makes sense.  Unfortunately, there is not enough information here to guess how this new hero’s ability will be unique.

Sylph

DotA 2, Dueling Fates

Image Captured from youtube.com

Despite only appearing at the tail end of the video, we know a surprising amount about the second of the Dueling Fates heroes. Thanks to some proactive data miners, not only do we know Sylph’s name, but also her ability names. Of course these names could change before the patch is released, but they’re still useful for speculation.  Let’s dig in!

Sylph’s first ability is “Grapple”. This could be a number of things from a movement ability, to a disable, or a combination of the two.  Based on the text, it is reasonably safe to assume it’s a disable of some kind. When grappling, one is generally holding on to their opponent trying to gain the upper hand, so a disable seems likely.

This feisty fairy’s second ability is tentatively called “Shadow Realm”. To be honest, I’m not sure where to even begin with this ability. At first I thought it was a mobility skill or perhaps some kind of escape mechanism. Upon looking at the data closer, I noticed that this ability also had audio triggers marked for “impact”. This leads me to believe this ability involves a projectile of some kind. My best guess is that it is a projectile that applies some kind of buff or debuff to the first hero it hits. This could be anything from granting allies invisibility, to removing the hero from the game briefly, similar to Puck’s “Phase Shift”.

Compared to the last ability, “Flash Powder” is a much easier ability to imagine. This ability might be a targeted spell that will either blind enemies or grant evasion to allies. While these two things sound the same, they can be very different. If the ability blinds enemies in an area, then enemies that enter the fight later will be unaffected. However, if “Flash Powder” grants evasion to allies, then all enemies will be negatively affected no matter when they get to the fight. Either way though, this could be a great engagement tool for team-fights if my guess is correct.

Sylph’s final ability is also the only one we catch a glimpse of at the end of the video. “Will O Wisp” will cause Sylph to send out a little companion to attack her enemies in some way. Will-o’-the-wisps are commonly known as phantom lights that lead travelers astray at night. Slyph’s ability could very well be meant to do something similar. Perhaps it will force enemies close to the wisp to walk toward it slowly, allowing Sylph to re-position her enemies. If so, this could be an incredibly powerful team-fight ultimate.

The waiting continues…

The Dueling Fates teaser video came out almost two months ago, and Valve has not released any further information. In typical Valve fashion, these characters and the accompanying patch will just be done when they’re done. There is very little that gets the DotA community as excited as the prospect of trying new heroes. Here’s hoping that these two are worth the wait.


Featured image captured from YouTube

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i-League, Star Ladder, Dota 2

SL i-League Invitational: The Competition

After a two month lull in competitive DotA 2, the first ranked tournament of the season is now only a week away.  While qualifier games have been plentiful lately, victories there do not translate into TI8 Qualifying Points.  The Star Ladder i-League Invitational will put the first of these points on the board for the competitive season, and set the tone moving forward.  What teams are going to be lucky enough to participate in this tournament you ask?  Well lets take a look.

Invited Teams

Team Liquid

Dota 2 Power Rankings Team Liquid

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

It comes as no surprise that the previous winners of The International received a direct invite.  Even before they claimed the Aegis this year, Liquid was taking first place at tournaments like EPICENTER and DreamLeague.  Their roster has also maintained impressive stability over the last year, with GH being the latest edition in January of this year.  This stability means these players are well practiced when it comes to playing with each other.

Unfortunately, Liquid’s upcoming direct invites mean that the rest of us have not seen them play since August.  What they have been doing since then is anyone’s guess.  Hopefully they’ve been practicing, because the rest of the competition is bound to be fierce.

Newbee

Dota 2 Power rankings Newbee, i-league

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 had a similar run to Liquid leading up to The International this year.  In the span of just a couple of weeks they took first place at ZOTAC Cup Masters and Galaxy Battles.  But there is only room for one at the top, and Liquid forced Newbee to take second place at TI7 after defeating them in a 3-0 sweep.

Since then Newbee has been just as quiet as Liquid themselves.  We’ll have to wait until the opening games to see if this storied team has stayed fresh after a competitive hiatus.

Qualified Teams

Team Secret

secret, dota 2, international, i-League

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 on a tear that hasn’t been seen since their glory days in 2015.  So far they have taken first place at all three qualifiers they have participated in, guaranteeing themselves a chance at each tournament’s pool of Qualifying Points.  If they can maintain this level of performance through the actual tournament brackets, the points they earn could kick start their competitive season in a big way.

It is possible the performance increase is due to recent roster changes within Secret.  After TI7, Team Secret promptly parted ways with Pyo “MP” No-a and Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann.  Replacing them were Ace and FaTa, and it seems they were the final pieces in a winning combination.

Na’Vi

Na'Vi, i-League

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

Na’Vi is in the middle of a resurgence of it’s own this season.  The past few competitive seasons for the first ever TI champions have been rough.  After being eliminated in the first round of both TI5 and TI6, Na’Vi failed to even qualify for the main event at TI7.  A string of disappointing performances and a few roster shuffles later, we have the lineup you see before you.  A lineup that has qualified not only for Star Ladder i-League, but also the PGL Open Bucharest Minor tournament as well.

The Na’Vi brand is legendary in professional DotA 2, and it’s high time their luck turned around for the better.

compLexity

Image courtesy of 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

2017 was a turbulent year for compLexity.  Numerous roster changes plagued the organization throughout the year, including the departure of Chessie back in January.  Now, for the first time since August of 2016, the brothers Blomdin are playing together again.  The team states in an announcement on their website that these two players helped them achieve some of their best results in 2016.  However, while compLexity placed well at the Frankfurt and Shanghai Majors that year, the rest of their tournaments that season were middling at best.

That being said, the team looked strong in the North American qualifier.  The team looked so strong in fact they beat out teams like Evil Geniuses and OpTic Gaming.  Doing well at this i-League Invitational could give compLexity some much needed momentum this season.  On the other hand, a poor showing could very well do the opposite for the team’s morale.

SG e-sports

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Guilherme “FuckinEh” Costábile

Position 2 – Adriano “4dr” Machado

Position 3 – Rodrigo “Liposa” Santos

Position 4 – Thiago “Thiolicor” Cordeiro

Position 5 – Lucas “Bardo” Bardosa

SG e-sports hails from Brazil in South America, which is arguably one of the most underrepresented regions in DotA 2.  Even so, this fledgling team’s recent results speak for themselves.  In the past few weeks, SG e-sports has qualified for three Minors and ESL One Hamburg, the first Dota 2 Major of the year.

One could of course argue that the players are simply big fish in their small pond of a region.  Can their apparent dominance over their fellow South American teams translate into winning tournament performances?  Right now it is difficult to say with any certainty, as this roster is barely even a month old.  Regardless, this new squad is hungry to prove themselves, and they could be the underdogs to root for at i-League.

Vici Gaming

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun

Position 2 – Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang

Position 3 – Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei

Position 4 – Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng

Position 5 – Lu “Fenrir” Chao

Vici Gaming’s roster is completely different from the team we grew accustomed to last year.  However, that doesn’t mean you haven’t seen these players before.  eLeVeN, LaNm, and Fenrir are seasoned vets that once played together on EHOME’s roster in 2016.  At the time they went from the Wild Card team to placing 5-6th at TI6.

During the Chinese Qualifier they got off to a shaky start by losing to LGD Gaming 0-2.  Despite being immediately pushed to the losers bracket, they fought on, eventually winning their runback against LGD 2-0.  The talent on this team can’t be disputed, but will it be enough to overcome the rest of the competition?

Mineski

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Kam “NaNa” Boon Seng

Position 2 – Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung

Position 3 – Daryl “iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang

Position 4 – Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong

Position 5 – Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.

Personally, I was excited back in March of this year when Mineski announced they would be building a brand new team with Mushi as the centerpiece.  As a player Mushi has played in five of the seven Internationals, and has placed in the top four in three of them.  Before making his move to Mineski, Mushi captained Fnatic for nearly two years, and had some success.  The announcement that iceiceice would be joining the team in the offlane was just icing on the cake.

Mineski proved that they are a force to be reckoned with by going undefeated in their qualifier for SL i-League.  We’ll see if they accidentally used up all their luck before the true battles begin.

Star Ladder i-League Invitational Season 3 will be held in Kiev, Ukraine from October 12th – October 15th.


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dota 2, talents, bulba, draft, heroes

Three of the most insane talents in DotA

Talent Trees have been the best addition to DotA

The addition of Talent Trees came with the Reborn patch along with a breath of fresh air into hero composition. Allowing for in-game adjustments to core aspects of your hero within each game. Simultaneously removing stat upgrades that were only useful on a handful of heroes. Talent Trees have also pushed the creativity of DotA players to new levels due to the nature of some of the upgrades.

Early, a few heroes became basically broken thanks to their talent trees. Most memorably was Lina’s first talent tree that allowed her a respawn timer reduction. A small oversight on a hero that can easily justify a Bloodstone to further reduce her time off the map. This would spell the end for respawn talents. All of which were patched out a couple months later. Talents have seen a lot of touch-ups since, but a few remain extremely impactful. Not just Puck’s ridiculous Level 25 talent of +420 Gold/Min.

puck, dota 2, gpm, talents

Puck being blessed by IceFrog

Crazy Coconuts and a Scorched Earth campaign

Witch Doctor’s talent choice at level 15 is between +90 Damage and +2 Paralyzing Cask Bounces. Too bad carry Witch Doctor isn’t a thing. But, support Witch Doctor is boosted with another 2 seconds of lockdown and damage. On the surface this may not seem so powerful. A level 4 Paralyzing Cask already bounces 8 times. Though adding another 2 bounces adds another second of stun in a teamfight. The value of this cannot be underestimated. Coupled with Maledict, a Death Ward, or both can provide devastating damage from a support.

Another hero who’s teamfight presence benefits from a Level 15 Talent is Doom. Scorched Earth is already a powerful ability:

doom, scorched earth, dota 2

(Dotabuff)

So let’s add another 15 Damage and Heal per second to that. Doom has largely fallen out of the meta as an offlaner and support. But, this talent turns him into a very tanky frontliner in any teamfight. Think about it in terms of HP alone. With this talent Scorched earth does 640 magic damage over 16 seconds before reductions. in a 600 range area. While also healing Doom for the same amount. If you were to catch two heroes in a gank for seven seconds; that’s an HP swing of 1155 in favor of your team. In the early-mid game this is incredibly annoying to fight into before even taking into account his ultimate.

How much regen is too much regen

The answer is a Timbersaw with max Reactive Armor stacks at Level 15. Because this is when he gains a passive +14 Health Regen. If you haven’t played against this yet, pray you never do. A Timbersaw with no items and max stacks of Reactive Armor at this point would have a cool 46 HP regen/second. Add in another 21 HP regen with a Bloodstone and you have a real problem chaining all over the place. Physical damage becomes almost useless with all Timbersaw’s armor and regen. You would need a ton of magic damage burst just to make a Timbersaw think about leaving a fight.

DotA has always been a game about talent. With MMR dividing up players into skill brackets. A pro scene rich with extremely skilled players who are always pushing the game’s limits. Talent Trees just provide a in-game nuance that further ensures no two DotA games are the same.

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witch doctor, dota 2, support

Making the case for Supporting in pubs

Supporting in DotA 2 pubs is not the most glamorous way to play, but it can be extremely effective when climbing MMR and enjoying the game.

We have all had games that start with fights over who buys the courier. Then someone caves and drops one in the Fountain, allowing it to sit there until First Blood. Meanwhile, the other mid already has a bottle, your offlaner is hiding in the trees waiting for the Shrine to be up, and your safe kaner keeps dying to get to the Side Shop.

Overall, it’s a pretty abysmal start to any game. This all stems from a vast majority of players wanting to pick core heroes and just trying to carry games. DotA is a team game, though it sometimes doesn’t feel that way. Playing the support role can give you a tangible leg up on a team that chooses not to draft at least one.

Supporting in pubs has incredibly high impact

There is so much going on during any given game. Every role is complex, coming with unique wrinkles in movement, play-style, farm pattern, item timings and teamfight participation. The list goes on. As a support, you have to be aware of all of this while also deciding how to best utilize your role. It becomes both an extremely challenging and rewarding task. Just buying wards and having vision down on the map can teach you something new each game. A well-executed early smoke can boost morale.

support, dota 2, crystal maiden, pudge, sven, drow ranger, faceless void

While these things seem trivial from an individual perspective, they can make or break a game. For example, pushing high-ground without any wards is the easiest way to throw away a lead. When playing against a team who is warding ganks becomes so much harder without counter-wards or smokes. The main knock against supporting is it’s “just not as fun”. Agree to disagree there. Nothing is more fun than winning games.

Supports that feel like Cores

The current meta is also allowing for a lot of heroes to be played in the 4 position while still having the ability to get kills. Heroes like Spirit Breaker and Earthshaker have insane win-rates. Both heroes are also a dream to play as a support due to their lack of early item dependence. Spirit Breaker can be anywhere on the map at any time thanks to his Charge of Darkness. Earthshaker can sit in trees and provide initiation from a distance while staying off the map. Both of these heroes benefit from early rotations, becoming a serious issue for the other team after 2-3 items have been farmed up, all the while boosting the performance of their kills by dominating lanes with early kills or pressure. While these heroes can be played as offlaners, they thrive as aggressive supports.

Currently, Witch Doctor is a traditional support hero that can have a significant impact on a game. If you were to craft the dream support toolkit it would probably end up pretty close to Witch Doctor, as he has a stun, heal and huge damage potential, not to mention one of the coolest Aghanim’s Scepter upgrades in the game.

dota 2, witch doctor, aghs

(Dotabuff)

Overall, Witch Doctor’s ultimate is a very powerful teamfight ability. Most important is that it deals physical damage and carries a true strike mechanic, making it a great counter to heroes with high evasion like Phantom Assassin. Every so often you’ll start channeling your Death Ward and the enemy will pop a Black King Bar charge while they take 150 damage per second anyway. One of the more satisfying feelings out there.

Playing support may not be the most glamorous thing to do in DotA 2. But its impact on games is hard to argue. Having a good support in a game can make even the closest loss enjoyable. Supporting is also so different than the other roles that you learn much more about the game, making for a better experience for your whole team.


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Centaur Warrunner: A pub stomping dream

After losing 200 MMR in ten games, Centaur Warrunner stampeded in and saved me from one of the worst stretches of solo-queuing I have ever had. I went back to a hero I hadn’t played in a while. Centaur Warrunner isn’t the most flashy of heroes, but his abilities and items allow him to get so much done during all aspects of the game. A hero that can tank and initiate with confidence. I hoped this would help the pains I was feeling while playing lately. Messy initiations and teamfights had really stood out to me, but this hero really made an impact on my overall enjoyment and performance in-game.

The Risk of Initiating in Pubs

It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. Initiating ganks or teamfights and pubs can be one of the most thrilling/terrifying feelings in DotA. Thoughts like “will my teammates TP in or will they just leave me to farm?” will always haunt you. But Bradwarden the Warrunner will save you!

Centaur is one of the most tanky heroes in the entire game without any items due to a strength gain of 4.3 per level. That’s 86 health added per level. Already starting out with 640 health at level one, Centaur hits level ten and has 1,520 health without any itemsThis allowed me to buy just a pair of Tranquil Boots before rushing a Blink Dagger.

The hero is also essentially the world’s tankiest ward because his daytime vision is 1,800, greater than the 1,600 wards have. This innate vision buff makes early roaming and ganking that much easier.

(Dotabuff)

dota 2, centaur, warrunner, stats

(Dota 2)

Possibly the biggest knock against Centaur is that he has a small mana pool with a high mana stun. But, his level 10 talent gives him +2 Mana Regen and essentially nullifies that. His most useful ability only costs 100 mana anyway.

Not to mention the rest of his talents are also incredibly strong. Adding magic resistance to a natural Pipe of Insight carrier is a no-brainer. A bonus 15 strength grants Centaur 1,290 HP. Gaining a Return Aura in the late game at level 25 is impossible to fight into without some sort of magic immunity.

Skills for All Occasions

By far the most valuable part of Centaur Warrunner’s toolkit is his ultimate Stampede, a global ultimate then once cast provides an arguably broken buff.

(Dota 2)

This buff has no cast point and can be used to initiate, escape, and even save your teammates. Following up an ultimate with a Hoof Stomp is easy to line up and effective.

Enemy heroes have to invest in a Silver Edge against Centaur due to a powerful passive. Return does exactly what you may think. It returns damage to the attacker based on Centaur’s strength. His high strength gain makes him very hard to lane against with this aura and the HP that comes with it.

Centaur’s lack of dependence on items makes him very flexible in-game and you can justify buying almost any teamfight item. For instance, a Pipe of Insight, Glimmer Cape, Aghanim’s Scepter and Lotus Orb all have their use on this hero.

Overall, this hero is in a great place right now while being present in only 5 percent of games, despite a win-rate above 50%. If your looking for a hero to play in pubs in a patch that’s getting old, try Centaur.


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Team

Analyzing 2018’s new teams

It has been almost two months since Team Liquid claimed the Aegis at TI7, and since then roster shuffles have been in full swing. Though parting ways with an old team can be difficult, it also opens up new opportunities. During these shuffles, many players understandably choose to accept offers from other well established teams. However, some times these players decide to form completely new teams from a large pool of free agents. The latter of these choices is incredibly exciting. While often composed of well-known players within the DotA scene, it is impossible to guess how well teams work together until they play. This uncertainty makes watching tournaments much more exciting whenever one of these wildcards is thrown into the bracket. The TI8 season has already seen its fair share of these new rosters, and here are just a few worth keeping an eye on.

Optic Gaming

Shortly after confirming their departure from Evil Geniuses, Ludwig “Zai” Wahlberg and Peter “PPD” Dager announced the formation of a new team with this tweet.

Teams, DotA, Optic, PPD, Zai, Misery, Pajkatt, CCnC

From left to right, Pajkatt, MiSeRy, CCnC, PPD, Zai. Photo by Optic Gaming

Briefly named “The Dire”, the team was recently picked up by Optic Gaming due to their remarkable talent. As “The Dire”, they qualified for the Dota 2 Minor Beyond the Summit 8 after winning King’s Cup America. The team also placed second in both the PGL North American Qualifier and the Star Ladder i-League Invitational qualifier.

Most of the players on this team require little to no introduction. Per Anders Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille has played MOBAs professionally since the original DotA. Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen and PPD have proven their drafting talents during their time as captains of Digital Chaos and Evil Geniuses respectively. As these two begin to learn from each other, drafting against Optic Gaming will surely be nightmarish. Interestingly enough, this team composition shows Zai stepping back into the offlane position for the first time since his Team Secret days in early 2015. His performance during that time on heroes such as Broodmother and Dark Seer was impressive, and I am glad we get to see more of it.

Quinn “CCnC Callahan is the wildcard on the team. Most recently CCnC played for Team Freedom and narrowly missed appearing in TI7 after finishing third in the NA Qualifiers. Despite playing the game professionally since late 2015, he has few notable tournament results. Formulating an opinion on the young mid-laner is difficult with so little base material, but his teammates clearly see potential. Regardless, CCnC now finds himself in a position to learn from the wealth of experience around him, and that journey is going to be something worth watching.

mID OR fEED

Another new team captained by ex-Digital Chaos vet Martin “Saksa” Sazdov was announced via twitter.

Aliwi “w33” Omar is a world class mid-laner best known for his Invoker, Wind Ranger and Meepo play. It’s interesting then that he is giving up mid to play a four position support role in this line-up. The remaining three members of Mid or Feed have a fair bit of history themselves. KheZu has played in two Internationals, though his teams failed to place well in either. Cancel spent most of his competitive career with Complexity before leaving following a string of poor team performances. Timado recently left the South American team Infamous in August, who he played with in TI7. While these players don’t have many major LAN victories yet, they have the individual talent to make waves.

Since this announcement was made, Saksa has removed himself from the roster after saying he felt “burned out” on his twitter. This is a shame since w33 and Saksa would have been a great foundation to build a team around. Fortunately they have already found a replacement.  After the recent disbandment of his own squad “No Diggity”, Troels “syndereN” Nielsen will captain Mid or Feed moving forward.  SyndereN is a 4 time TI competitor himself, though most of his notable tournament placements occurred before 2013.  However, his time as a caster and analyst demonstrated his deep knowledge of the game, and that is an invaluable tool in today’s competitive space.

Spartak Esports

Russian esports organization Spartak Esports makes its debut in the DotA 2 circuit with the following roster.

It is not surprising if these names seem unfamiliar. For starters, Egor “.Ark” Zhabotinskii and Evgeniy “Chuvash” Makarov have each been active competitors for less than two years. Also, while Maxim “yoky-” Kim and Stanislav “633” Glushan have histories with teams like Virtus.Pro and Empire, the remaining members have played mostly on minor league teams.

But Spartak Esports does have a few things going for them. .Ark, Chuvash and team captain Mihail “Misha” Agatov have all played together at length on the Russian team Commanche. As any DotA player knows, competing with people you enjoy playing with has a profound effect on mindset and morale. DotA players also know that a solid mindset and good moral will not win games without technical skills to back them up. Will this team allow Spartak Esports to compete with top tier teams like Evil Geniuses, Virtus.Pro and Digital Chaos?  Only time can tell us the answer.


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majors, minors, dota 2, 2018, schedule

Majors and Minors: Patching Dota 2’s tournament system

Valve unveils a new tournament structure at TI7

This upcoming season of Dota is going to be unlike any other. This is thanks to a heavy commitment from Valve in the creation of a series of Majors and Minors. A new structure will help propel Dota 2 to the next level of mainstream esports.

Get ready for a lot of Dota

A plan that features 22 organized tournaments of 11 Majors and 11 Minors was announced in Seattle this year. Minors will have a minimum prize-pool of $150,000 USD and the minimum for Majors will be $500,000 USD. These prize pools will then be matched by Valve, but not organized by them. An interesting move by Valve that also makes a lot of sense. By directly contributing resources to the prize-pool Valve is able to heighten the prestige of these tournaments. At the same time, they are placing trust into third-party organizers like DreamHack, BeyondTheSummit and Perfect World to run the events.

These organizers have shown the ability to produce top-notch events and will take a lot of pressure off of Valve and their event production. Valve events have consistently been criticized for their production due to hiccups along the way. Also, this removes the stigma surrounding “Valve Events” being more important than other large tournaments.

Now tournaments are clearly defined as Majors and Minors that contain a brand new point system. Most important is that these points will be the sole factor in obtaining an invite to next year’s International. No more arbitrary invites based on what sometimes felt like complete randomness. Points are given based on a tournament’s prize pool and the timing of the event. Events closer to the International will be worth more points and could provide for some interesting surges by teams late in the season.

An interesting detail to note is that points will be distributed to individual players before being added to a team. While only the points of the top three player point values will be applied to the team value. Roster locks will still exist, but Valve has stated that players will carry points between teams. How will this affect upcoming roster shuffles? Will teams be more inclined to keep a roster together through the season? Could this make dropping players even easier? The bottom line is we don’t know. Keep an eye on this player-based point system as it could shape the scene in new ways this season.

Majors and Minors provide structure to the scene

A season of Dota 2 can be hectic. Months can go by with tier one tournaments happening every weekend, or even simultaneously. Other times can feel void of competitive games. The Majors and Minors system will combat that with a set schedule for the tournaments that is already in place.

dota 2, majors, minors, schedule, 2018,

(Twitter)

This tweet from Team Secret’s Director of Operation, Cyborgmatt, shows a detailed schedule. Something that is already being appreciated by players. In a Reddit interview a few of EG’s players let us know their initial thoughts on Valve’s new system:

“The best thing they did about that is that they laid out a schedule for us, so we’re able to set up bootcamps way ahead of time, so I think that is really important for us.” – Arteezy

 “…If there is an event happening every single week you know, how special does it become? So there’s a couple things that we kind of have to watch out for. It should lead to more money and more stuff coming into Dota, which is good” – Universe

“…it’s pretty nice for the scene I guess, because all of the tier 2 or tier 3 teams are going to have more opportunities to play in tournaments and show themselves.” – Sumail

Dota is a game that is constantly changing. Now the professional scene is seeing a large shift in its structure. The effects will be interesting to see in the upcoming year. Undoubtedly changing the landscape of the competitive Dota 2 scene in ways we can’t foresee. What we do know is that it will be fun to watch!

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