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, 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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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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A New Scope – The AWP Nerf Years On

Over two years ago, Valve released one of the most memorable updates for seasoned players, the AWP nerf. The patch, released in early April of 2015, reduced the speed at which players could move while scoped in with the sniper. The aim was to make AWPing on the terrorist side less impactful which it definitely achieved.

By making the change, terrorists were unable to use many of the long-time opening pick spots since the slower movement speed means that they could not peek angles already scoped in. This made T side AWPing more difficult because for an AWPer to be able to use these angles, they would have to quickscope and sometimes even prefire common CT spots, in order to try and gain an advantage.

An example would be long on dust2. It is not uncommon for an AWPer with a good spawn to peek long doors in an attempt to catch a player crossing to pit. However, post nerf, terrorists would move too slowly to attain the kill without peeking before scoping in. This gives Counter-Terrorists a god like advantage since not only is it already harder for the T to kill them but the slower movement means that the CT can Molotov deep and deal a substantial amount of damage as the AWPer exits the doorway.

Although the changes impacted a lot of AWPers in a negative way, the patch has allowed certain players to come to fruition. So in this article, I’ll be taking a look at some of the most affected players and where they are now.

Troubling Times

In spite of his return to form in the latter stages of 2016. Fan favorite Kenny “KennyS” Schrub fell from grace a little when the AWP nerf hit years ago. The Frenchman’s ratings dropped from his usual highs to unusual lows from April onwards in 2015. Overall his HLTV rating dropped by 0.14 despite playing with a better line up in Team EnvyUs. He openly admitted in an interview with Aftonbladet that it took a huge toll on him emotionally, when he could feel his confidence slipping away. KennyS will undoubtedly always be a household name in Global Offensive, gifting the community with an array of highlights and montages to watch and love. It will be interesting to see if he continues his rise back to number one and maybe even surpass his 2014 form.

KennyS playing for Team EnvyUs at the Cluj-Napoca major. [Photo Dreamhack]

Similarly, to Kenny players, such Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács and Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham are world-class AWPers that have struggled with consistency ever since the nerf. Both of these players still show us glimpses of their past performances, however, have a higher tendency to go missing. This has led to the world where a lot of AWPers are no longer the star players of their teams. Back in 2014 teams would be built around the likes of KennyS and GuardiaN, however, nowadays they play second fiddle to daring impact players such as Richard “shox” Papillon and Alexander “s1mple” Kostylev. With fantastic skill, s1mple and Shox can utilize not only rifles and pistols but also AWPs just as effectively as their main AWPers.

As I just alluded to the AWP nerf didn’t necessarily make our most famous AWPers play worse. It simply closed the gap between being a good AWPer or an extraordinary AWPer. The niche skill was effectively, no longer niche. Teams would sometimes overly push double AWP setups because they would have their long time god-tier AWPer, for example, Jesper “JW” Wecksell in Fnatic, and their star player, Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer, who on his day, could out AWP his counterpart. This is a situation that occurred in many teams. To name a few s1mple and GuardiaN in Natus Vincere, Nikola “NiKo” Kovač and Chris “chrisJ” de Jong in mousesports as well as Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo and Marcelo “coldzera” David in SK amongst many more.

Despite being one of the world’s best GuardiaN has struggled with consistency. [Photo ESL]

Who Blossomed?

Since the patch, the AWP is seemingly more effective on the Counter-Terrorist side. This has led to the rise of defensive AWPers, for example, Aleksi “allu” Jalli. Allu is a player who anchors critical spots on the map by dominating with strong positioning. An instance would be long on Inferno which he locked down throughout his tenure on the Ninjas and carried through into FaZe. In the clip below you can see he gets the opening pick mid. Following that Allu uses the advantage to aggressively hold second mid gifting himself another kill. However, the last three kills demonstrate his positional knowledge. He uses the corner of the wall to slightly peek out eliminating much of the risk of re-peeking.

Another player who has perhaps benefited from the changes is FalleN. Known as the brain behind Brazilian beasts SK Gaming, FalleN was a star AWPer in the first iteration of Counter-Strike yet didn’t take on the role in Global Offensive. Not until the removal of Caio “zqkS” Fonseca from his roster in favor of Coldzera. As aforementioned, the changes led to the ascension of strong all-around players taking star player spots. This allowed FalleN to settle back into AWPing more easily and play as the second star who supports Coldzera. Being the second star allowed him to take on the leading role more effectively as it meant the team didn’t rely as heavily on him allowing FalleN to focus more on the other four players.

In spite of previously arguing having two great AWPers as a negative, the change cites a reason for some of the greatest teams in Counter-Strike history. Fnatic and SK, who have both had periods of total domination, were built on JW/Olofmeister and FalleN/Coldzera. The fact that the teams could switch between the two added depth to their team play and allowed an individual player to take over if needed, rather than force the AWP into a players hands if he is having an off game.

Olofmeister (Center) and JW (Far Right) were a force to be reckoned with during the Fnatic Era of CS:GO. [Photo ESL]

Conclusion

As I learned in my previous article on Lurking in CS:GO, though not quite to the same extent, AWPing is becoming less of a defined role within certain teams and more of a situational pickup. Gradual changes to the game are placing a greater emphasis on increased movement speed and the use of pistols and SMGs. Thus giving us a rise in incredibly skilled line-ups. This, Combined with the changes to the AWP some teams have up to three players capable of AWPing at the pro level.

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Keybind

Keybinds, Brood War 1.18 and a Letter to Blizzard

Earlier this week, Blizzard made the announcement that custom keybinds will be dropped from the upcoming Brood War patch 1.18. Now, this was a confusing call for a lot of reasons. Primarily, praise for the feature seemed almost unanimous, so of course, the community has been quite vocal in response.

How can something as simple as keybinds spark a debate? That’s a valid question, so let’s get into it.

 

Lack of Transparency

To start, the announcement itself was a bit awkward. Literally all the information we were given was that the intention was to gather feedback and that the feature will not be live with 1.18. And of course, the promise to continue the conversation in the feature.

Hello darkness, my old friend.

If you feel like something is missing here, there is. And that something is context. As in, there was absolutely no context here to work with whatsoever. Was this a decision based on negative feedback or was it that the version in testing was simply to buggy to meet the intended release date? We don’t know, and naturally, wherever there is a lack of information, speculation and assumptions rush in to fill the gap.

Many have expressed concern that this was an intentional design choice while others insist it is only a temporary deferment. But the reality is we’re all just taking turns in our attempts to read between the lines.

 

A Letter to Blizzard – A Matter of Common Decency

The debate over whether or not custom keybinds should go through is largely a stubborn rivalry between purists and progressives. Before we get into the details, its important to note that purity is very important to the StarCraft Remastered project. Particularly, preservation of the original gameplay absolutely must be kept as is.

Brood War, even after 19 years, still has an active playerbase that rivals, if not surpasses, that of the StarCraft 2. Particularly in Korea, the home of StarCraft, StarCraft 2 never had lasting appeal over its predecessor. To say StarCraft 2’s Korean playerbase is a fraction of their Brood War scene is still saying very little.

For this reason, any type of change that may affect Brood War’s gameplay is a very touchy subject. For the most part, both the foreign community and feedback from Korean pros seem to be in agreement that features such as unit pathing and control group sizes are important pivots in Brood War’s gameplay and absolutely should not be touched.

Keybindings are a bit more of a grey area. It’s not at all controversial to say Brood War’s default layout is absurd. Some of the most basic interactions require you to move your hand all the way across the keyboard and back. Not only is it exceptionally awkward for new players, the setup has the effect of tiring out your wrists making Brood War largely inaccessible for players with weak wrists or wrist injuries.

Preservation of the original gameplay is important. That’s something I would never argue against. Keybinds, however, don’t have a direct effect on gameplay. Nor does having the ability to customize layouts have a negative effect on professional players. In StarCraft 2 for example, at the highest level players are known to use Standard layouts and Grid among others with minor customization.

On the other hand, the inability to customize hotkeys ostracizes any player whose wrist can’t take the stress of the default layout. The arguments against this have been, from what I’ve seen, non-existent. The firm stance of Purists on the matter has been either “f*** casuals” or the more ironic declaration to “stop being lazy”.

Brood War is an iconic game and I understand purity is important. But this isn’t a matter of purity, it’s a matter of common decency.

Wrist related injuries are becoming more and more common in the esports world. And failing to accommodate players with injuries for the sake of purity isn’t a road anyone should consider going down. Because right now we’re at keybindings and it raises the question: what is the next stop down? Refusing to allow colorblind mode because “f*** casuals”?

 Keybinds

 

This is Brood War and Korea remains King

At the end of the day, StarCraft Remastered, and Patch 1.18 by extension, is Blizzard’s own love letter to Korea. And the truth is they’ve more than earned it. While StarCraft 2 never met a warm reception in Korea, Koreans have long stayed loyal to Brood War. Even 19 years later it remains one of the top five games in the country that laid the building blocks for modern esports. Brood War wouldn’t still be around if it wasn’t for Korea’s passion for the game.

And regardless of how highly our approval was for this feature, we’re still the foreigners here. Ultimately, the country that has kept Brood War alive for over 19 years will be the ones to make this call. And that’s as it should be.

Unfortunately at the moment, like everything else, we don’t know what the reception of the Korean community has been. What we do know is that many Korean Brood War pros were consulted and intimately involved in this project. Including the legendary “TaekBangLeeSsang”, the four most dominant players in the history of StarCraft.

It’s very unlikely this feature would have even gone into testing without the approval of at least some of Brood War’s pro scene and that is perhaps the one hopeful thought I have to offer.

If there is a resistance against this feature within the Korean community, we haven’t been told so. But if there is, I can only ask to Blizzard to appeal the humanity in your audience. Because while indeed some foreigners see Koreans as Gods, I can assure you wrist injuries and disabilities affect them every bit as much as they affect us.


Featured images courtesy WallPapersCraft and Blizzard Entertainment.

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3.11

Community Concerns – Patch 3.11

Micro-transactions. Often described as the plague of modern gaming. But for much of esports, they’re the very foundation that keeps them from collapsing under its own weight.

Very few know this better than the StarCraft community does. The ability to support the scene through micro-transactions has been one of the most requested features by players for years. These requests were finally answered in Patch 3.7. The introduction of the Collection Tab brought with it unit skins and new in-game advisers or Announcers. Since then, Blizzard has continued to support the Collection tab with a steady supply of new Announcers. Alongside a healthy rate of Co-Op Commanders releases, players have had many opportunities recently to keep the scene funded.

However, one area that has been notably lacking are unit skins. The launch of the Collection tab brought three new skins for purchase in StarCraft II. A month later at Blizzcon, The War Chest, StarCraft’s answer to DotA’s Compendium, was announced. Promising unit variations were among the list of rewards. Since then, information has been scarce.

Now Patch 3.11 brings bundle packages for unit skins as well as other purchases. This is, of course, a good thing. But the fact is, it’s been over four months since 3.7, yet those three skins have been the only releases. And now rather than releasing a new line, Blizzard is bundle packaging the only three skins that are available.

While not bad, it’s very easy to see why more than a few red flags have been raised.

 

The War Chest

 

 Before we can discuss what we want to know, we should first establish what (little) we actually do know. And that is The War Chest.

As said before, The War Chest is StarCraft’s answer to DotA’s compendium. They’re a single purchase, seasonal item that unlocks rewards over the course of a season just through playing the game. Most notably, faction specific skin lines. Like the compendium, a percentage of the proceeds from The War Chest will go towards the World Championship total prize pool. The latest update on this upcoming feature came in late January. On Janurary 25th, it was announced that the current ETA on the first War Chest is Q3 of this year.

Now just to be clear, this isn’t a bad thing. Of course, it isn’t a good thing either, it’s just a thing. New features take time to develop. This is just to be expected. As a general rule of thumb, the more you attempt to rush out a product, the probability of that product releasing as a busted piece of crap rises exponentially. That’s just science.

There’s no reason to rush development on this. Contrary to what many seem to believe, Blizzard isn’t out to spite StarCraft. They’ve done a damn lot to support StarCraft in recent years. This is a project that’s potentially profitable for them. It will release when it’s ready. So all there is to say with regards to War Chests is patience is a virtue.

So what else is there? Well, nothing. That’s literally all we know at the moment. This is actually where the concern starts.Patch 3.11

 

Everyone’s Got a Theory

 

From the initial announcement, it sounded as if themed skin lines would be specific to War Chests. Or, at the very least, faction themed lines. But there has been absolutely no information about non-War Chest affiliated skins. This has naturally raised speculation as to whether there just aren’t any plans to release any. A few of those themed skins were previewed at the announcement, and the initial line does look somewhat uninspired in comparison (in my opinion of course). So I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a bad thing. But the lack of transparency is odd, to say the least.

Naturally, in the wake of information, speculation has risen to fill the gap.

Perhaps the most thought-out rationale was raised by TheSkunk_2 who speculated the original engine limitations may still be a mitigating factor. While unit skins have been a heavily requested feature for years, Blizzard’s stance on the matter for a long time was that they were unable to without raising the system requirements. It’s speculated that while a handful of cosmetics have surfaced now, the engine still needs work before they can start featuring unit skins en masse.

Many others proposed the initial line just didn’t sell enough to warrant a revisit, while some suggested the art team is just occupied with other projects.

Whichever you fancy, they all rose from the same source. A lack of information to work with.

 

Required Reading

 

All we really know on the matter is that there is a lot we don’t know. What’s more concerning is that we don’t know, why we don’t know, what we don’t know. And that’s never a fun place to be in.

A good starting point is actually being transparent about why there is no real conversation taking place. Then perhaps taking a few of the questions that there’s been absolutely no information about. An example being Structure skins, which has not been discussed in any way, despite being a long requested feature. While we do know there are certainly beautiful structure variations within the game, we have no idea if there’s any intention to bring them into multiplayer.

StarCraft has actually come a long way in terms of community engagement. The balance team actively tries to keep the community in the loop regarding what changes they’re considering and why they’re considering it.

But in other aspects of the game, we’re still very much kept in the dark. And it is reason for concern because at the end of the day, when it comes to cosmetics and micro-transactions, we’re the ones that are going to be buying these things. So we should have at least some input into what’s on the menu.

Patch 3.11

 

 

Featured images courtesy Blizzard Entertainment and Gamespot.

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Royal Arena

Royal Arena #2 Preview

Royal Arena #2

Royal Arena #2 is the second Dota 2 online tournament hosted by Royal Arena. It will take place from December 28-30th. This tournament is a six team, invite only, online tournament consisting of mainly tier two European/CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Dota 2 teams. The tournament consists of two groups of three, in which teams will play each other in a round robin format. The second and third teams from each group will start bracket play in the Quarter-Finals. The first place team from Group A and B will start bracket play in the Semi-Finals. Bracket play is single elimination (meaning anything can happen), and will take place on December 30th, with the teams fighting to take home a share of the $5,000 prize pool.

1st Place – $3,000

2nd Place – $1,500

3rd Place – $500

The first Royal Arena tournament was won by “Imperial”, now known as “Danish Bears”, with a dominant 3-0 victory over the old “Escape Gaming” Roster. Danish Bears return and are joined by five other teams. Lets take a look at who is competing in this tournament.

The Teams

Group A

Alliance

alliance Royal Arena

Image courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/

 One of the most, if not the most, recognizable names in Dota 2 history. The all Swedish roster may be different than the group who won The International 2013, but at the heart of it, Jonathan “Loda” Berg and Jerry “EGM” Lundkvist remain. The team is hoping to use the new 7.00 update to their advantage.

Roster –

Position 1 – Loda

Position 2 – Limmp

Position 3 – Jonassomfan

Position 4 – Handsken

Position 5 – EGM

Prediction (1st in Group A) – The Alliance should be considered the favorites to take their group, and arguably the whole tournament. They have been playing together since September, and although they failed to qualify for the Boston Major, I expect big things from this Alliance team moving forward into the 2017 Dota season.

 

Horde

hordelogo Royal Arena

Image courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/

A relatively new roster in the Dota 2 scene, Horde, another all Swedish team, will be hoping to build on their recent success of qualifying for the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG). With the new 7.00, Horde will work to try and become the dominant Swedish team in the Dota 2 scene.

Roster –

Position 1 – Gorgc

Position 2 – Xcalibur

Position 3 – Eskillz

Position 4 – Pablo –

Position 5 – Akke

Prediction (2nd in Group A) – I expect that Horde will qualify in second place out of Group A. I think that this is a very solid squad, however I do not believe they have what it takes to bring down some of the more successful teams in the tournament. I do, however, believe that Horde could be a dark horse, so I am interested to see how they fair in this mid-tier tournament.

Team Empire

600px-team_empire Royal Arena

Image courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/

One of the biggest names in Esports, Team Empire are currently in a period of transition in Dota 2. Playing with several stand-ins, this tournament will be a chance for them to try and get a finalized roster for the 2017 season. It seems as if Team Empire are going to be in a rough position until they have finalized their roster.

Roster –

Position 1 – Chappie

Position 2 – Fn

Position 3 – Ghostik

Position 4 – Yol

Position 5 – Miposhka

Prediction (3rd in Group A) – Playing against two teams with confirmed rosters will make Group A a difficult place for Team Empire. I think that this tournament is probably a bit too soon for Team Empire, however I expect them to start challenging in the CIS scene soon enough.

 

Group B

Danish Bears

danishbearsicon Royal Arena

Image courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/

Returning champions, Danish Bears, previously known as Imperial, return with the same roster that won the first Royal Arena tournament just over a month ago. In that month, they have been dropped by their organization and returned to their original team name of Danish Bears.

Roster –

Position 1 – Ace

Position 2 – BabyKnight

Position 3 – HeStEJoE-RoTTeN

Position 4 – NoiA

Position 5 – Ryze

Prediction (1st in Group B) – Danish Bears are returning champions, which will give them a distinct advantage over their competition. I think that they will finish at the top of Group B and will more than likely meet up with Alliance in a final that could go either way. The Danes play with a certain organized chaos, that can catch teams off-guard. Lets see if they can live up to expectations in 2017.

Vega Squadron

600px-vega_squadron_2016 Royal Arena

Image courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/

Another powerhouse in the world of Esports, Vega Squadron are trying to rebuild a successful Dota 2 team. The squadron last tasted success on an international scale at ESL New York 2015. They have struggled in 2016 mainly due to continuous roster changes throughout the year. Having recently dropped their Carry player, Rostislav “Fn” Lozovoi, they will be hoping that whoever they bring in to play Carry can help them re-establish themselves on the international scene.

Roster

Position 1 – To be announced

Position 2 – G! (God)

Position 3 – Mag ~

Position 4 – Sonneiko

Position 5 – Cematheslayer

Prediction (2nd in Group B) – Vega may not have announced who their Carry player will be moving in to 2017, but I think that their core four players have enough to help the team secure second place in the Group. However, moving in to bracket play, I worry about the solidity of the roster.

Rebels

rebels_dota2_logo Royal Arena

Image courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/

 

 

The old FlipSide Tactics Dota 2 roster have returned to their old name of Rebels. Rebels have been looking for an opportunity to establish themselves in the CIS region, and this tournament could provide them with that opportunity.

Roster

Position 1 – Sedoy

Position 2 – Afoninje

Position 3 – Shachlo

Position 4 – RodjER

Position 5 – ArsZeeqq

Prediction (3rd in Group B) – Unfortunately for Rebels, all of the teams in this tournament are strong and are capable of winning. As such, Rebels are going to have to play consistently well in order to get a good seeding coming out of their group. I think that the Rebels roster may be able to surprise teams, but whether this will be enough remains to be seen.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it’s exciting to see some more competitive Dota on the 7.01 patch. I expect that either Alliance or Danish Bears will be the eventual winner, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if any of the other four teams grabbed this opportunity by the horns too.

I look forward to seeing how this tournament unfolds. Stay tuned for more coverage of Royal Arena #2 once Group Play is over and the bracket is decided.

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lucioball

Dear Blizzard, Keep Lucioball Forever

Lucioball came seemingly from out of nowhere. Blizzard pushed an update to Overwatch today that not only added a ton of new cosmetics available for a limited time, but a brand new game mode called Lucioball. For those who are uninitiated Lucioball is very different from all of the other brawls and game modes Blizzard has created in Overwatch. It’s a mode that basically recreates first person Rocket League where the only character available to players is of course Lucio. The object of the game is to score as many goals as possible in a short time frame. The teams are small, only sporting three players each, and requires basic understandings of futbol strategy.

Like Rocket League the rules are easy to grasp, you don’t need to know what all the characters abilities are, or how they chain together. You don’t need to understand the complexities of the competitive meta to know why switching characters is a big deal in the middle of a game. Lucioball just is.

I’m not only writing this as a breakdown of just why Lucioball is fun and quaint, but why Blizzard should seriously consider keeping it around in the game forever. Much like previous games in the FPS genre, Overwatch’s developers toy with the games mechanics in order to create fun new modes. Fans of Halo will know the name Griffball, originally a fan created game mode later embraced by Bungie and its current caretakers 343 Industries. Griffball is not only a fan favorite game mode, it’s actually home to it’s own tournaments and community. Griffball is an excellent example of how a game played at a high competitive level can have multiple modes of play. Even the game most similar to Lucioball, Rocket League, has multiple modes of play, and more are being added by the developers all the time.

I don’t expect Lucioball to be as big as the normal Overwatch experience, or even as widely watched, but there is something special about having a more accessible and fun game mode to break up the monotony. Tournaments could run smaller side tournaments where, in between matches, organizers could run a smaller Lucioball tournament. In a way it breaks up the formula of watching normal Overwatch, gives people who are still learning Overwatch a nice entry point and gives something for more versed players to have fun with.

Blizzard please, don’t get rid of lucioball, don’t time gate it, don’t only bring it back for events, leave it in the game. I guarantee that if you left it in there, multiple communities and tournaments would crop up around it. Lucioball could be a great thing for this community, don’t drop the ball.

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Dota 6.88

courtesy of dotamods.ovh

The small, frequent balance updates keep coming, which is quite the pleasant surprise compared to what we were used to.

This patch consists mainly of quite a few minor tweaks, mainly buffs and only a handful of nerfs. Let’s see the most important ones:

Arc Warden
* Flux cooldown reduced from 20 to 18
* Tempest Double duration increased from 12/13/14 to 12/14/16
* Tempest Double cooldown reduced from 50/40/30 to 40/35/30

The ex-rat will most likely keep getting minor boosts until people consider him playable again. I still believe he has decent ganking/control potential.

Bounty Hunter
* Track self gold reduced from 170/260/350 to 150/250/35

Gondar’s incomes have been reduced once more. He’s still going to be a very valid pick.

Brewmaster
* Brewmaster’s Earth attack range increased from 128 to 150
* Brewmaster’s Fire attack increased range from 128 to 150
* Brewmaster’s Fire armor increased from 0 to 0/3/6
* Primal Split duration increased from 15/17/19 to 16/18/20

Return of the Panda? This guy has some decent laning and team fight potential. I think right now he’s one of the underrated ones.

Clockwerk
* Rocket Flare radius increased from 575 to 600
* Power Cogs cast point improved from 0.3 to 0.2
* Power Cogs radius increased from 200 to 215

Death Prophet
* Spirit Siphon base health drain reduced from 25 to 16

A much needed nerf on Krobelus, who’s found her way into the top pick material once more.

Disruptor
* Static Storm silence no longer lingers for 0.5 seconds after the duration is over

More important than it may sound. Disruptor is one of the most favoured supports right now because of his extremely good control.

Enigma
* Black Hole damage type from Magical to Pure and pierces Spell Immunity
* Black Hole damage reduced from 55/110/165 to 50/100/150

Puppey must be really happy right now.

Earth spirit
* Magnetize cooldown increased from 80 to 100/90/80

This Hero keeps getting nerfed and is still powerful. His early game will be hindered a bit, but I doubt it’s enough to put him down.

Invoker
* Forge Spirit damage decreased from 29/38/47/56/65/74/83 to 22/32/42/52/62/72/82

Ditto.

Kunkka
* Torrent slow duration increased from 1/2/3/4 to 1.75/2.5/3.25/4
* Tidebringer bonus damage increased from 25/40/55/70 to 25/45/65/85

With the new torrent slow duration he may have a good chance as a roamer/support.

Lifestealer
* Base attack time increased from 1.7 to 1.85

For those who may not know, Base attack time is, simply put, the cooldown of a Hero’s right click attacks. N’aix has become a beast with the new items, and this will reduce his overall damage output.

Ogre Magi
* Ignite manacost reduced from 95/105/115/125 to 90
* Multicast interval increased from 0.4 to 0.5

Ogre will be able to spam his slow a lot more often in the early game, perhaps making for a very good roaming support. The second change is a buff. It means the target will be stunned longer with a multicast from Fireblast.

Outworld Devourer
* Essence Aura mana bonus increased from 75/150/225/300 to 125/200/275/350
* Arcane Orb Intelligence steal duration increased from 50 to 60

Did you miss him? While I think OD still was a very valid (not broken) Hero after the nerf, this will maybe allow people to reconsider picking him.

Phantom Assassin
* Phantom Strike can now target Spell Immune heroes

Arguably the best buff of this patch. Mortred would lose a lot of her damage output against BKBed enemies. She’s slowly but steadily becoming a scary assassin.

Phoenix
* Sunray base damage reduced from 15/20/25/30 to 10/15/20/25

The new trend, Sunray Phoenix. It’s a good nerf, I think we’re still going to see him flying around regardless.

Riki
* Smoke Screen mana cost increased from 75/80/85/90 to 90

Roaming Rikis are a common sight nowadays. This will hurt his already low manapool a bit.

Treant Protector
* Base damage increased by 6

The return of jungle Treant? Iron Tallon certainly allows for it.

Troll Warlord
* Berserker’s Rage no longer provides 100 Health Bonus
* Strength increased from 17 to 20
* Berserker’s Rage armor bonus increased from 3 to 6
* Berserker’s Rage base attack time improved from 1.55 to 1.5
* Ranged Whirling Axes travel distance increased from 945 to 1000

While he isn’t the monster he was about over a year ago, Troll can really still pack a serious punch; he’s also the type of carry that doesn’t forgive mistakes, as after one team fight he can really threaten the enemy base.

Undying
* Intelligence gain increased from 2.5 to 2.8
* Decay cast range increased from 625 to 650
* Decay duration increased from 40 to 45

Ever since his level 1 Tombstone requires only 3 hits to destroy, he’s really been forgotten. Once again though, I think people overreact to certain changes. Undying can still very dangerous if played properly.

Dragon Lance
* Strength and Agility reduced from 15 to 14
* Attack Range bonus increased from 130 to 140

Hurricane Pike
* Attack Range bonus increased from 130 to 140
* Active now grants 100 Attack Speed for the 4 attacks it provides on the target

Hurricane Pike can now have a more aggressive as well as a defensive use. It’s true that ranged right-clickers have more use for damage rather than survivability.

Full patch notes:

http://www.dota2.com/news/updates/22385/

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