i-League, Star Ladder, Dota 2, The Aftermath

Star Ladder: The Aftermath

Two months passed between the end of TI7 and the start of the TI8 competitive season. Some teams took well deserved breaks, some doubled down on their practice, and some teams broke apart entirely.  More important is how these players and teams adapted to the game of DotA during the break. With the completion of Star Ladder, it’s a good time to take a look at some data from the aftermath, and try to answer this question!

Most Picked Heroes

 The International 7

  • Earthshaker – 71
  • Sand King – 69
  • Batrider – 63
  • Puck – 61
  • Nightstalker – 51

 Star Ladder

  • Earthshaker – 12
  • Venomancer – 12
  • Pugna – 11
  • Earth Spirit – 11
  • Puck – 11

It probably isn’t too surprising that we see some similarities between these lists. After all, Star Ladder and TI7 were both played on the same patch. The reason teams favor these heroes is also fairly apparent.  An Earthshaker with a blink dagger is hands down the best team fight initiator in the game. Puck on the other hand is notoriously difficult to kill due to his elusive abilities. His ultimate and AoE silence make him a great team fighter and initiator as well. But everyone knows this. It is probably more productive to talk about the differences between these lists than the similarities, so lets start with Venomancer.

Showstoppers

At TI7, the venomous tower pusher didn’t even break the top 20 most picked heroes. As a matter of fact, he even received a minor nerf post TI7 when Valve lowered his daytime ward vision. Perhaps teams are just making better use of his versatility. Not only do his plague wards allow him to put pressure on towers early, but they also enable him to farm multiple jungle camps if his lane goes poorly. Poison Nova is a deceptively powerful teamfight ultimate that can deal 1360 magical damage to all heroes hit at level 3. Tools like these allow Venomaner to fill many roles on the team, making him a great comfort pick.

Pugna had some impressive showings as well at Star Ladder, though his win rate was only around 54%. In the matches he DID win, he was a terror. His ability to disarm enemy right click carries with Decrepify should not be underestimated. If he has allied stuns to back him up, Decrepify paired with Life Drain seals the fate of about any hero in the game. Similar to Venomancer, Pugna is also a great pusher thanks to his Nether Blast ability. We can see here again that it’s the hero’s ability to fill multiple roles that makes him so appealing when locking in a draft.

The Aftermath

Image courtesy of dotafire.com

If there was one show stopping hero at Starladder though, it would have to be Earth Spirit. Earth Spirit lost only a single game that he was picked in at the tournament, giving him a 91% win rate. Earth Spirit’s major selling point is his wide array of disables. He does not scale as well into the late game as Pugna or Venomancer, but his group stuns and silences keep him a credible threat through all phases of the game.

But what happened to the heroes that were dethroned from the list since TI7? Well despite the fact that Sand King and Bat Rider were among the most picked heroes, their win rate left something to be desired. Batrider won 48% of his 63 games, while Sand King only won a disappointing 35% of his 69 games at TI7. On the other hand, Nightstalker didn’t make the Star Ladder top 5 because he is still being banned in a large percentage of drafts.

The Aftermath: Conclusion

Though DotA 2 has not seen a new patch in nearly half a year, seeing these lists change somewhat is a small comfort. Even within the same patch, portions of the meta will still shift as heroes fall our of favor.  These microshifts help keep the game feel somewhat fresh, but a new patch is incoming on Nov 1st.  It will be exciting to see how the meta shifts with another round of major changes.  Needless to say, we’ll all be playing a very different game of DotA after that.


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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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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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dota 2, pangolin, zorro, armadillo, ti7,

What’s to come for Dota after TI7

The International 7 was one to remember…

The International 7 has come and gone. Congrats to Team Liquid on the first ever sweep in TI Grand Finals history! There were some amazing moments, as always, during the entire tournament. Along with the highest stakes of any Esports event.

Kuroky finally secured the Aegis in his seventh TI. The whole team received a shoutout from an investor who knows about hardware:

magic johnson

(Twitter)

Bringing an end to this Dota 2 season does come with some perks. The downtime after TI usually brings a different kind of excitement to the community. One of hope and speculation. Players begin to experiment more with heroes. Trying to find the next pub stomper to raise their MMR.

What’s next for Dota fans?

Everyone has heard the saying: “there ain’t no rest for the wicked”. This could be altered to “there ain’t no rest for the Aegis” when it comes to Dota 2 teams. Not even a few weeks after the tournament and teams were already making big changes.

 

OG’s Ana takes a year off

The community was already buzzing with rumors that Newbee’s Sccc was thinking of leaving the TI7 runners-up for a new squad. Pictures of him at the The International 7 after party with OG’s n0.tail and Fly raised an eyebrow. This followed Ana’s announcement via the team’s Facebook page that he would be both leaving the team and taking a year off from competitive Dota 2. Setting a very interesting stage for Newbee and OG fans alike. Will Sccc stay with the team that gave him his start?

Newbee has been very successful during Sccc’s tenure with the team. A departure to OG would leave a big hole in the Newbee roster. Sccc would also be leaving two players (Moogy and Faith) whom he played with on Newbee Young prior to being called up to Newbee.

OG’s mid lane is one of the top spots available during this roster shuffle. Filling it with a superstar is going to be key for OG after another disappointing TI result.

 

Misery to Evil Geniuses?

One of the best parts of the Dota scene is how active some of the players are in the community. Many will have conversations via twitter, interact with fans or randomly post about the game. The overall level of engagement between players through social media can provide for some interesting theories. Such as this one which was hatched when Misery tweeted out about his casting experience post-TI:

dota 2, ti 7, misery, sumail, eg

(Twitter)

Admittedly, this is a little more convincing than the previous theory on Sccc and OG. Though it is also very possible that Sumail and Misery are just having a laugh at the expense of the fans. Initially this sounded like Sumail moving to Team Secret with Misery. Which was debunked once Khezu and MP left Team Secret while they retained their mid player (MidOne) and both supports (Puppey and Yapzor).

Taking this into account that leaves a return to EG as a possibility for Misery. So far, Evil Geniuses hasn’t announced any roster moves. This roster has been pretty stable since Fear and ppd left it. Adding Arteezy, Zai and Cr1t was the last big move this NA juggernaut made. Maybe this year EG will be the ones shaking the roster shuffle period.

Roster shuffles always provide a lot of hype for the community. Rumors circulate of team activity and fans craft their dream teams. Overall it is wildly unpredictable and always interesting to see where players land. Although, this offseason there is even more going on in-game!

 

The Dueling Fates update

Towards the end of TI7 Valve announced some huge news. They will be adding two heroes to Dota 2 via the “Dueling Fates” update. Most TIs have been followed-up with a gameplay patch that also adds a new hero (most recently Underlord and Monkey King). Valve has been consistently adding heroes to the game, but the “Dueling Fates” update is unique. It will add two shiny new heroes to the game that were not present in the original Dota or Dota All-Stars.

The video shows the first hero, we’ll call him “Pangolin”, moving over terrain with ease. At one point, even curling into a ball and rolling through a creep-wave. Showcasing some interesting mobility and even disarming a creep. The hero then fights BristleBack and cuts off the bristles. Could this be foreshadowing a new “Break” ability? As of today, there are only two sources of “Break” in the game with Doom and Silver Edge. Breaking an enemy hero’s passive has become an extremely useful mechanic in the current meta. Heroes like Earthshaker, Bloodseeker, Anti-Mage, Drow Ranger and Spirit Breaker were all popular at TI7. All of these heroes benefit from very powerful Passive abilities that can currently only be countered in two ways. Creating a new hero with a Break ability makes a lot of sense.

After Pangolin finishes off his intro with a flourish, fans everywhere were jbaited into thinking that was all Valve had in store for us this year. Until the video cuts back to an interaction between Pangolin and a new fairy hero, referred to as “Sylph”. This new hero ends the release video by propelling a ball of light from their lantern towards Pangolin. Not much more about this hero was revealed in the trailer as it was mainly focused on Pangolin’s first scene.

Regardless, this offseason of Dota 2 has a lot in store. The competitive games might be over, but the community is going to have a lot to think about and experiment with. A big roster shuffle always has fans mesmerized post-TI out-of-game. Adding two brand new heroes on one patch will keep us busy in-game.

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Overwatch League should allow hero bans

Overwatch should allow hero bans in the OWL. I know this is controversial and I am not 100% convinced of it myself, but the pros outweigh the cons. This is the most effective way of reducing one trick heroes and giving the game another strategic element, raising the skill level and allowing teams to innovate more.

However, they need to wait until the release of at least two more heroes and then, and only then, they should allow one hero ban per map. Not per stage.

This would give them time to get every important role filled with at least one replacement. There are however cons, but I firmly believe that in a couple of months the pros will outweigh the cons. An argument could be made for implementing this now. Yet, Blizzard should wait until season two of Contenders.

Waiting until they filled some more roles would help alleviate role banning. First, we need another speed hero before we can ban heroes. Lucio is the only hero that doesn’t have a contemporary.

Pros

Strategies

Every esport has several aspects that facilitate strategic thinking, separating the great from the merely good. Teams can use strategic thinking to separate themselves from the herd; both in other esports and Ovewatch. In Season 2 of OGN Apex you had two teams use strategies to advance themselves farther than anyone thought possible. MetaAthena used the wackiest, and some of the smartest, set plays to overwhelm otherwise superior opponents. On the other hand, you had RunAway using other more fluid strategies to propel themselves to the final of OGN Apex where they pushed Lunatic-Hai to the brink.

Photo: Robert Paul

 

However, this is not typical of Overwatch. Throughout Overwatch, there has typically been one dominate strategy, or meta, that nearly every team has run. And the team that plays that specific meta will win everything. In the western scene’s case at this moment, this is Rogue. They were strong before dive comp and now they are dominating the scene, but that gap is closing. Slowly.

The gap is closing only because other teams are learning how to play dive. But, what if you could ban Soon’s Tracer? You just handicapped Rogue and forced them to pull out one of the other strategies that they are always mentioning. This would force teams to innovate and come up with strategies while allowing the meta to be more open and broad.

Teams would be forced to come up with counter strategies for other teams and specific maps. You could ban out Ryujehong’s Ana or ban AKM’s Soldier. There are enough other heroes that fill those roles to allow you to still-hit scan or to get heals or even main tank.

Eliminating one tricks

 

While I love seeing players play their best hero and seeing the level of skill that these players bring to the game, I hate to see players get away with playing only one hero. It drives the meta issue and doesn’t facilitate innovation. Which is one of the reasons that we are stuck with a meta for several months.

Players who can play multiple heroes at that high level should be more praised than someone who can play only one hero. Albeit at a slightly higher level.

There aren’t many players who can play 5 or more heroes at a high level. Only a few such as Flow3r, Surefour, and Tviq can do this. We haven’t even seen Soon play that many heroes in a professional setting. Let alone be good at them. This is not to diminish the skill level of Soon, he is incredibly good at what he does. But, variety is the spice of life.There are almost no players with this natural skill and they deserve to be highlighted and depth of roster to be rewarded.

Forcing these players on to other heroes would mix up the strategies and force innovation. Because it is hard to push players to innovate when they are winning everything. Nor should we. The losers need a little more chance to innovate and come up with new ideas.

This is a better method of getting them to do this than adding and balancing heroes. Because if you constantly update heroes you get what LoL has. The team that can adapt to the new meta fastest wins.

The winning team should do so through superior skill and strategy; not whoever runs the current meta the best.

Another solution to the innovation problem is releasing heroes. Blizzard doesn’t seem likely to increase the hero release rate too much and we don’t want them releasing poorly designed and made heroes.

Allowing hero bans is the easiest, most fluid solution.

Cons

Not seeing the best possible players

Hero bans

In my mind this is the only con. We wouldn’t get to see top players playing their best heroes as often. We wouldn’t get to see WhoRu destroying teams with Genji because teams would ban him out. Nor would we get to see a lot of Soon on Tracer. This is my biggest issue with a banning system. However, the pros of forcing these players to learn other heroes outweigh this con. Forcing players to learn other heroes improves the professional scene as a whole.

I would miss seeing some of these players pop off on their favourite hero,  but at the end of the day this isn’t even that big of a con. The meta will determine what needs to be banned out and what doesn’t; so having such a star player playing on a sub optimal might be better than having him play a slightly worse on a slightly better hero.

At the beginning of this system, each team would be allowed to ban out one hero. A total of two heroes would be banned and neither team would be allowed to use said team. I could see a problem when both teams ban out Orisa and Reinhardt, or something similar. Then you aren’t battling with any anchor tanks and forced to play dive. As soon as there are more heroes, this won’t be a problem anymore.

This is a risk that needs to be taken as the pros outweigh the cons. The potential for more strategies and the reduction of one tricks would be awesome and nearly immediate.


Tracer: A guide to getting out of gold

Tracer is one of Overwatch’s more difficult heroes to pick up and instantly learn. She can be very disruptive and one of the most hard-carry heroes in the game, which is ideal for the lower ranks of competitive play where you can only rely on yourself to win games.

At the higher levels, teamwork becomes a bigger issue, but it is possible to hard-carry out of the lower ranks.

While writing this guide, I am going to assume that you have a basic understanding of Tracer’s abilities. This will be discussing strategies, how to pick targets, and, when & how to engage. If you don’t have a basic understanding of Tracer then watch this video and try her out in quick play.

What Tracer is best used for

Tracer isn’t supposed to initiate engages, but she is best used as an opportunist hero. The moment a hero gets slightly low in health, then Tracer should be there to finish them off. That’s her job. She isn’t there to create space or to get solo kills.

There are two ways to play Tracer: aggressive or passive. She is most effective played aggressively, but it depends on how much space she has to work with. If your tanks are able to split the enemy team up a bit then you should go aggressive. But if you don’t have that space, then you need to play much more with your Recall and leave your tank line in three-second intervals so you can recall to safety, poking and looking for a low health target to pick off.

When to engage and when not to engage

Tracer

Tracer is one of those heroes where positioning isn’t the most important part of being good with her. Her movement is the single most important aspect. But what separates a good Tracer from a great Tracer is knowing when to engage and who to engage.

Looking at this photo, this Tracer should go for the Genji. Normally, in almost every situation, you want to go for the Mercy. But the Genji is dragon striking so right now he is the biggest threat. If he wasn’t ulting, then Tracer would be gunning for the Mercy.

When looking at an enemy team you are going to be looking for mistakes. Specifically, mistakes in positioning. Tracer acts a lot like a teacher, there to punish mistakes and help the other team learn.

Look for anyone who is too far from their team or is low health. Then blink towards them and eliminate them. Ideally, you should be able to one-clip a full health Mercy or Ana. Working on your aim will help you finish off targets before they can respond to you.

When engaging an enemy, you need to keep in mind how long you have been away from safety. Keep it short. Never for more than three seconds, otherwise, your recall will not help you get to safety.

You should blink into the enemy team, do as much damage as possible, then recall out. You want your recall to bring you back amongst your team, or wherever you started your dive. And that’s exactly how you want to play Tracer: Blink in, Recall out.

Strategies

Tracer

Tracer doesn’t require the best game sense, nor does she need the best positioning. If you are more mechanically gifted, then Tracer is a great hero. That being said, there are strategies that every Tracer should know and utilize. The most obvious is knowing the paths and maps. You cannot effectively play Tracer without knowing every single map.

There is only one way to get better at this. Play, play and then play some more. The more you play the more you will get to know the maps. Knowing the maps matters so you can do backward blinks and move around without having to look where you are going. You should never go backward and get stuck somewhere.

Pulse bombing effectively is important too. First off, when throwing a Pulse Bomb, always aim at the feet. This makes the pulse bomb reach its target faster because of its trajectory, allowing your aim to be a bit better with the bomb. Another way to land more Pulse Bombs is to target large heroes. And this isn’t artificially padding your accuracy since Pulse Bomb + a 1 clip will kill nearly every single hero in the game.

But ideally, you want to kill the supports. Every Tracer’s focus should be on the supports and then the DPS. Ignore the tanks, unless they have a game changing ultimate.

Sometimes you have a room full of bad guys that need to die and then you don’t really have to aim. In that case, just toss and run.

How to pick targets

Tracer

Tracers main strength comes from killing the right target at the right time. Like most DPS’, what separates a good Tracer from a great Tracer is target selection.

As a rule of thumb, you kill supports. Sadly, it isn’t as simple as that.

You have to think about other things such as who has ultimates and who is the biggest threat to your team. Deciding who is the biggest threat can be difficult. You have to have a lot of information on them, and some of this comes down to game sense.

If Mercy has Rez, then you should be gunning for her, otherwise, you have to win the fight twice. But if Zen has his ultimate, then you might want to go for him instead to prevent the Transcendence ultimate.

Watching the pros play Overwatch is the best way to get better at this. Pay attention to who they target and why; understanding why is the key part here. If you don’t understand WHY someone is doing something then you won’t know when to not do it. There are certain situations that you shouldn’t be doing something you saw a pro do. Because they had different information at the time (and because everyone makes mistakes).

 

Tracer is a hard carry hero. Learning to pick targets is the best way to get out of gold (or lower). But you also need to work on your aim. If you don’t find your aim improving then you may want to focus on another hero. Consider Dva or Winston. Someone whose positioning and cooldown management are the most important aspects of their play.

Heroes like Tracer take a small amount of mechanical skill, but mostly movement skill. Understanding and timing your cool downs will make a big difference.

Remember, put your mouse on their head and click.


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The Dive Comp: Which hero is played and why

In today’s pro Overwatch scene, what has become popular is not the triple tank or the standard Reinhardt composition, but rather the dive comp. It is really interesting to watch as these fights become more chaotic and the outcome less definitive until the very end. What has brought this comp into the meta?

Each hero has their strengths and weaknesses, and each patch changes which character becomes strong. And these strong heroes are the cornerstone of every team composition. For example, season three Ana, who brought along the triple tank meta because she could build nanoboost in what seemed like mere seconds. This patch’s strong heroes are specifically three different heroes: Winston, Tracer and Lucio, who all have a higher than 70% pick rate in the current pro scene. They are followed closely by D.Va, Soldier, Ana, Zenyatta and Genji, who all fit into the Dive comp nicely. What has made all these heroes popular?

Winston

Winston has been one of the least changed heroes in the game. His last change was on March 21, 2017, when they changed his barrier cooldown to start when it was placed,not when it was destroyed. While Winston has never been the weakest character, he has seen much more play recently, and it is not because Blizzard buffed him. To see what gives him such a high pick rate, we must first look into his counters.

Winston Counters: Reaper, Roadhog, Mcree, D.Va, Bastion and Zarya.

To start off, Reaper has been weak and has almost never been picked since the Beyblade meta back in Season 2. And it was for good reason too. The supposed tank buster can’t even kill the tanks he is supposed to kill! D.Va can just matrix his shots and shoot him in the face while Reaper reloads. As for Roadhog, there’s an old saying: “Roadhog can do everything Reaper can, but better”. What made Reaper so weak was that Roadhog could basically one shot him with a hook. Take into account that they both have shotguns, they both could blow up tanks. Except, Roadhog didn’t have to endanger his life to damage and kill these tanks because he has his hook ability. This left Reaper in the dust. Why would anyone want to pick Reaper over Roadhog? There are very few merits to Reaper that Roadhog doesn’t have.

Miro on Winston dives the back line at the Overwatch World Cup last year. Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Since Reaper counters Winston, then Roadhog, too, must counter Winston, and maybe to an even greater degree. But Winston has seen an increase in play while Roadhog a decrease. Why? The reason is simple: Roadhog was nerfed. First, they increased hook cooldown by two seconds, but more importantly, they changed the hooking distance, where heroes are now pulled 3.5 meters away rather than two meters. This means that he simply does less damage to all heroes that he hooks, especially Winston. What’s more is the defense matrix buff to D.Va, who can bail out anyone who gets hooked. Winston now doesn’t have to worry about being blown up the moment Roadhog grabs him. Furthermore, the very essence of the dive comp counters Roadhog, as he has no escape abilities. What is to happen to him when a Tracer, Winston, and D.va all target him? And, how can he save his healers who are getting dove by three different people? Roadhog is just unlucky to have all these changes happen at once, and has caused a reduced play rate for him, and therefore, an increased rate on Winston.

Zarya also has her own fair share of problems. With an increasing pick rate of Winston and D.Va, Zarya should have seen herself be picked more to counter them. However, while Zarya may counter D.Va and Winston, they are almost never in a position where they have to 1v1 Zarya. What Zarya does have to worry about, is D.Va eating Graviton with defense matrix. And even when she does finally pull off the five man Graviton, there is another obstacle: Zenyatta. Zenyatta can build Transcendence faster than Zarya can build Graviton, so Zarya’s team would need to bait out Zen’s ult. With no mobility allowing her to be easy pickings, along with her ultimate ability becoming less impactful, she can’t really do anything to a Dive comp.

Mcree’s flashbang has a very long cooldown of ten seconds, making him very weak against multiple flankers and divers.
Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Mcree, on the other hand, has his flashbang to counter Winston! He should be able to kill Winston immediately, right? No. The problem here with Mcree is the cooldown on flashbang. With the Dive comp, Mcree should shine; after all, he is the designated counter-flanker. While Mcree can flashbang Winston, how is he going to stop Tracer now? Couple that with one of the worst ultimates in the game and very low mobility, Mcree also cannot do anything against the dive comp.

Then there’s Bastion. Poor him. He had a 100% pick rate for a week with his 35% damage reduction ironclad. Then it all disappeared and he was gone again. Let’s be real here, Bastion can’t do anything against a dive comp, he’s literally the most immobile character in the game. Tracer can easily bomb him for an easy kill and make the fight an instant 6v5. He doesn’t get picked unless you want to cheese (surprise) the opposing team. But that only works once, and then he will get full countered. You can even add Sombra to the mix. There goes all of his protection and there goes his life and pick rate.

The one popular counter to Winston is D.Va. However, D.Va only “counters” him because D.Va out duels him in 1v1s. As I’ve stated before, there are very little opportunities or reasons for 1v1s. While D.Va can kill Winston, she can’t stop Winston from diving into the back line. D.Va can’t stop Winston’s feather duster of a gun, and Winston can distract the opposing healers and stop them from healing their teammates. He can then get out before he is killed (or just use Primal Rage).

So, now that we’ve established that most of Winston’s counters are weaker, we can easily see why he has gone up in popularity: no one can really deal with him effectively when running this exact comp. D.Va and Tracer will back him up and Lucio can speed everyone in or out to save him. Remember, Winston’s primary job is to distract the enemy team, especially the healers, so that the rest of Winston’s team can swoop in for the win.

Lucio

Lucio has been one of the most popular supports in the game since launch. What has made him so popular is the one thing no one else can do: the speed boost. While Blizzard nerfed his speed and healing boosts, they reverted some of it back with one little caveat: his aura is now the size of decently sized boulder. But, that doesn’t matter at the pro level of play.

Winz sound barriers to protect his team from the ensuing attack. Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

A coordinated team will always keep tabs on where everyone is and what they should be doing, and Lucio is the perfect hero to enhance this. Need speed boost to run out of D.Va bomb or Genji ult? No problem for Lucio. With the reverted numbers, the dive comp becomes even stronger. He can speed the entire team and focus down the enemy, or help his fellow support, whoever it is (mostly Zenyatta or Ana), to get out of trouble. There is also his sound barrier, that can save the lives of everyone on his team from virtually any ultimate, be it Dragonblade or D.Va bomb. With a coordinated team (or any professional Overwatch team in the world), Lucio is a must pick, as he can do everything. With speed boost he can save his teammates or focus down an enemy. There is his boop to knock enemies back to their death or for just simple protection. Obviously, there is heal amp for healing, and then there is sound barrier to negate enemy ultimates. Why need a Mercy if your teammates don’t die? That right there is 200 IQ thinking.

 

Tracer

While Winston is a hero you can look back and say, “Why, he is quite balanced! He doesn’t seem to be buffed or nerfed too much,” Tracer is the epitome of untouched goodness. Blizzard has never changed anything about Tracer. Ever. Unless you count bug fixes, but those don’t count. What has made her popular of course, is not what Blizzard did to her, but what Blizzard has done to others. Again, we must look into what her counters are to see why she is so popular.

Tracer Counters: Mcree and Roadhog

Hmmm, interesting. Tracer has the same counters to Winston. Mcree was supposed to be the one who kept Tracer in check, but he isn’t getting picked anymore due to lack of mobility and long cooldowns. But there is also Roadhog.

Before the cooldown change of his hook, Tracer always had to be wary of getting hooked before finishing Roadhog off. But now, with an increased cooldown, Tracer only has to dodge one hook to ensure herself a clean kill onto Roadhog. Roadhog is also an extremely easy way to build ultimate, giving Tracer many ultimates throughout the course of a game.

So now Tracer does not have to worry about getting uber counter picked. But that is not all the pieces to the puzzle. Tracer is also an essential piece to the dive comp as she is the most mobile character in the game. She can dive in and focus who Winston is focusing, or jump onto a different hero as Winston distracts the teammate. The monkey-Tracer pair is truly terrifying.

The Dive Comp

With the three heroes becoming very popular in the current meta, there are still three other hero slots a team must fill: one tank, one healer, and one more DPS.

 

The 2nd Healer

For a team’s second healer, they have a choice between Mercy, Ana, and Zenyatta. They all have their benefits and disadvantages.

Mercy:

Her recent buff has allowed her to see more time in both solo q and pro play. Her ult now builds every single fight, and more importantly, she doesn’t leave the team in a 5v6 after rezzing. Furthermore, when paired up with a pro Pharah, they become an extremely deadly force. However, if there is only one huge problem with her, and that is the dive comp. If she can’t hide, she dies in two seconds. The enemy team will definitely focus her down. And if she does hide, first off, she leaves her team in a 5v6, and there is only hope that she can resurrect everyone nicely. But that is a problem: the dive comp can become very chaotic. People die left and right, and sometimes too far apart. Mercy’s at the pro level sometimes just pull off one man rezzes just to save their skin or to prevent the ensuing disadvantaged chaos of the fight.

Ana:

Ana has always seen play ever since the beyblade. Her high skill floor means that the best of the best can do wonders with her. Furthermore, she can protect herself with sleep dart and Lucio. Her anti-nade still remains one of the strongest abilities in the game, and nano is still very strong when used properly. However, she is not as strong as she once was, causing a small dip in pick rate.

Zenyatta:

Ever wanted to save yourself from a nanoboosted Genji who is charging right at you? Soundbarrier is sometimes too slow to cast, but luckily you have Zenyatta, who will save you from your demise! Zenyatta’s ultimate is strong in the sense that it has no cast time, and is effective immediately. What’s not so good about it, however, is that once you stop hugging Zen, you are dead from whatever there is out in the open. Unlike sound barrier, you always have to be near your support to save yourself. But Transcendence is strong nonetheless. What makes Zenyatta picked is not only because of his ultimate, but also his discord orb. The discord orb pairs up very nicely with the dive comp, and coordinates the entire team to focus down one player. His one weakness is his squishiness. If positioned incorrectly, the enemy team will easily demolish Zenyatta or bait out his ultimate. But good teams will know where to place their Zenyatta, out of harm’s way.

All three supports have a time and place in the current meta, and are very balanced. Different situations and compositions call for different supports, and each hero shines in different areas.

The second DPS

AKM uses tactical visor to kill a dragonblading Genji in the Overwatch TakeOver 2 Tournament Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

After Tracer comes two different DPS characters. The first is Genji and the second is Soldier: 76. Why would you want to pick one or the other? Soldier: 76 gives your team much more consistent DPS and extra healing pad if your team lacks heals. He also has some good burst with Helix Rocket, and Tactical Visor can really be devastating if it weren’t for one hero: D.Va. Without D.Va, Soldier: 76 would be in almost every single game; however, D.Va can block all of Soldier’s shots and can nullify everything about him. In order for Soldier to ult, a team must first keep track of defense matrix, D.Va, or find a way to get rid of D.Va’s mech.

Rawkus nanoboosts Shadowburn’s dragonblade, who then picks up two kills for his teama in the Overwatch Contenders Cup (Season 0) Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

 

Your other option, if you just don’t want to deal with D.Va, is Genji. Genji has his own merits, and one of that is that D.Va doesn’t hard counter him. He can dive supports and kill them in a flash with a very nice combo. His Dragonblade two shots every squishy, and Ana loves nanoboosting him. His only problem is that he is much more volatile and unreliable compared to Soldier. As Genji needs to really get close to do tons of damage, he can be killed easily if he makes one mistake.

Pro teams can pick and choose which hero they want: to go with Soldier for the consistent and safe DPS, but worry about D.Va, or pick Genji, and get more volatile and aggressive damage. These two heroes change up yours and your opponent’s game play.

The Second Tank

The most common tank is D.Va. While she may be boring to watch, her defense matrix is a very strong ability. She shuts down most DPS characters and she can zone with her ultimate. She can protect hooked characters and does enough damage to tanks. But if you don’t want to go D.Va, you can go Reinhardt or Zarya.

Voll uses D.Va Self-Destruct to zone out Faze Clan in the Overwatch Contenders Cup (Season 0) Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Reinhardt’s shield protects everyone behind him and allows his team to poke the enemy team. However, a dive comp doesn’t care about that and would jump in over his shield, into the back line. Furthermore, with the introduction of Sombra, he can become a walking meatstick with no purpose to a team. However, while Reinhardt isn’t necessarily strong against the dive comp, his ultimate is. When a team runs a standard dive comp, almost nothing can stop a well-timed Earthshatter. Reinhardt only has to wait for Winston bubble to pop, and he is good to go, and will most of the time win the team fight.

And then there’s Zarya. Zarya will always have her Graviton, one of the most game changing ultimates in the game, and she can build up lots of charge and ultimeter against a Winston and/or D.Va. She can protect her healers or DPS’s with her bubble from the team comp, making her a viable pick. However, she is immobile, and a slight mistake in positioning with doom her. Also, her Graviton, as stated before, is countered by Transcendence.

While Zarya and Reinhardt still have some place in the meta, the tanks have seen the biggest change in hero selection over the course of the past year. With more Winston, D.Va, and the dive comp, Reinhardt and Zarya are not seen as much anymore.

Conclusion

Winston and Tracer are now extremely strong due to their counters being nerfed, or at least, weaker. Lucio now has his stats reversed back to what it was before, but a smaller area of effect. But that doesn’t matter to a pro team, who can coordinate him very well in certain situations. For the other three slots, it depends on what a team is going for, but they will always try and build around the other three heroes mentioned above.


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