dota 2, storm spirit, 7.07

Balling back into the meta

Sometimes some of the smallest changes can propel a hero back to relevance. That’s not what happened with Storm Spirit once 7.07 rolled around. The patch brought along a lot of large changes to the game. Many of which benefit Storm Spirit’s play-style.

Return to lane dominance

Storm Spirit has always been a hero best utilized in a solo lane. This is because of his heavy dependence on levels to be relevant. But the other reason he excelled was the ability to magnify a skill gap between two players. As a midlaner there was nothing worse than being left alone to get zoned out by a competent Storm player. Frequently resulting in a huge advantage in both Gold and XP for the Storm. His remnant along with his passive allow him to dominate the laning stage. A 180 magic damage nuke (one remnant, one overload) at level one is nothing to laugh at.

Though it was this hero’s need for levels and an early advantage that hampered him in the previous patch. The mid lane was so much different back then that each hero was constantly babysat by a support. If they weren’t careful they could sap away a ton of XP from the Storm. Thus slowing him down from his first power peak in the early mid game. With the traditional dual lane setup in mid on the last patch, Storm’s early gankability was also an issue. Before getting Ball Lightning at level six the hero is very slow and has no save. Something that is not as easy to exploit in the current meta that has re-emphasized the laning stage.

dota 2, storm spirit, remnant

Improving Storm’s item scaling

Even at his previous popularity, Storm’s itemization was a little bit odd. You would always start off with a stack of tangos and a Null Talisman. The end goal was a Bloodstone, as it still is, but the item is really expensive and there was a huge lull between getting the Soul Ring and the Soul Booster that left you in limbo with your gold. You didn’t want to spend it if you could snowball properly, but you also still felt squishy enough to lose it at any time.

That is no longer an issue with the introduction of Kaya. An item seemingly handed down by IceFrog to Storm players. For a poultry 1950 gold you can give your Storm a bunch of mana, cooldown reduction and spell amplification, providing the perfect bridge from your early game items to the reworked Bloodstone. Though now more expensive, it is arguably even stronger on Storm Spirit due to the addition of a Perseverance instead of a Soul Ring. This regen allows you to show up to more early fights to farm heroes instead of creeps. On top of talents that are already incredibly strong, this hero now scales without having to rely on snowballing out of control to dominate a game.

dota 2, storm spirit, talent tree

A Storm Spirit can take over a game if left alone for too long. But that does not mean the hero is broken. If you see one pop up in your pubs there are two easy ways to counter him. Drafting stuns and silences makes a Storm Spirit’s life absolutely miserable. Coupling those mechanics with large amounts of burst damage is the best way to attack a Storm. Heroes like Templar Assassin, Silencer, Viper, Anti-Mage and Juggernaut can be very effective.



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Hot fix: Bringing balance back in 7.07b

When there is a patch as big as 7.07 was, imbalances in the game show up sooner or later. Sooner seems to be the answer in this case, as 7.07b arrived a mere week after 7.07 launched. Even in this short amount of time, the community lamented these imbalances and cried out to dear IceFrog for a remedy. It seems their voices reached the enigmatic DotA developer, as the most common complaints were addressed.




Anti-Mage gets his own section in this article because he was an absolute terror in 7.07. His stat gain coupled with his new talents negated his old weakness of having to wait until the late game to come online. Developers reduced his strength gain to give him less health, and spell shield was also weakened to make him more vulnerable early. The biggest change though is that Blink Illusion moved up to a level 20 talent from level 15. Trying to chase a mid level Anti-Mage with this ability was incredibly difficult. Though the illusion took increased damage, the mana it drained would quickly make chasing impossible. This fix should return Anti-Mage to his former glory, without getting a free power spike in the mid game.

The new heroes

Pangolier fans rejoice! Your hero received some much needed buffs. Shield Crash grants increased damage reduction at all levels. Rolling Thunder turn rate is universally improved, so hopefully we’ll see fewer players getting stuck in corners. On top of that, it also does more damage than before. The most important of these buffs though is how Swashbuckle’s damage is now calculated. While previously it was treated as physical ability damage, Swashbuckle damage instances are now treated the same as normal right clicks. This means that on hit effects previously unavailable to him like lifesteal and crit are now completely viable. This is huge news for Pango players, and we’re bound to see his build diversity go up as a result.

I’m more of a Dark Willow person myself, and I’m not even upset about the nerfs she received in 7.07b. Bedlam was absurd on a 20 second cooldown and everyone knew it. By level three the ultimate is still about as strong as it previously was, so no harm was done to her late-game potential. Bramble Maze now also deals its damage over time instead of all in one instance. This brings the spell more in line with similar roots such as Crystal Maiden’s Frostbite, and gives players a chance to save themselves with healing items or spells. To be fair, it was pretty absurd for a low health hero to walk into a bramble patch and just explode to a 250 damage nuke.

Tiny is a big boy again…



I played one game of Tiny after being intrigued by the massive changes made to the hero in vanilla 7.07. I never felt like I was able to contribute anything meaningful at any point in the game. Valve gave Tiny so much love in this patch that I’m cautiously optimistic about trying him again. Most of his buffs were to his Tree Grab ability, which previously had a long cooldown at lower levels. The cooldown was so long in fact that I never felt like I had it up when I needed it to push.

The ability’s cooldown has since been lowered from 40/32/24/16 seconds to just 15 seconds at all levels. Splash damage done by the tree now deals full attack damage. Tiny even gets an additional swing with the tree once he hits level four with the ability. These 7.07b changes help to turn Tiny into the split pushing tower crusher he was meant to be, and hopefully make him relevant in the meta again.

Meteor Hammer

Most of the other item changes are minor, but Meteor Hammer’s function changed in a pretty meaningful way. It now deals less damage over time, but has a small burst of damage on impact. Players questioned why it was not this way to start with. It made little sense that being hit with a meteor dealt no damage initially. While the weapon’s function now makes more sense, I’m still not sure it is exactly what the item needs to be relevant. The biggest drawback is the three second channel time, which makes it very easy to interrupt or dodge. Most of the time I would probably rather use those three seconds to cast any of my other abilities. Chances are they would probably be more productive.

More changes coming?

Undoubtedly. After all, patch 7.06 went all the way up to 7.06f before the developers finally decided to increment the patch number. It has still been less than two weeks since Valve introduced us to 7.07, so we’re bound to see more in the future. Watching the pros experiment with the patch has been exciting, but it’s clear that they are still learning too. I guess it’s time for us all to get back into it and play more 7.07b DotA 2.


Featured Image: Screenshot grabbed from

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Is Hearthstone operating on a complaints-based balance system?

Tracing back all the way to the 7.1 patch, the changes made in Arena are definitely due to the complaints of the playerbase rather than a confirmed case of metagame-warping cards. While “feeling bad” about losing to something is certainly an aspect of gameplay that the developers should keep in mind, it’s not easy to strike a balance between removing cards that the community finds problematic and outright neutering specific ones just because they are powerful – and this is a discussion worth having again now that the Death Knights are getting removed from Arena.


One of the long-running issues with the game’s draft-based format is that the developers eventually shied away from actively curating the card pool, even though they had a successful attempt at it in September 2016, removing 45 cards – some good, some bad – in order to make the classes closer to each other. Simple, understandable, logical, easy to adjust and change: it’s a shame they ditched this method and opted to adjust offering rates both based on card type and individual cards, with the rates of the latter micro-adjustments not even being available to the playerbase unless they collect their own data via sites like HSReplay and ArenaDrafts.


Should we ban Tirion as well? Source:

The problem with this, of course, is that if losing to a card “feels bad”, knowing that it’s rarely going to show up in the draft makes it even worse when they actually are dropped on you, especially because it becomes an incorrect strategy to play around them due to their rarity. It also led to an interesting development where the officially noted changes are almost exclusively centered around the community’s complaints: the offering rates of Abyssal Enforcer and Flamestrike have been slashed to half forever, no matter how the arena metagame might change with new releases and adjustments, while certain cards like Vicious Fledgling – and now the Death Knights – that did not have obscenely high winrates but were “bad to lose against” have been completely banned.

Here’s the main issue: where do you draw the line? If you’re going to eventually ban or neuter most of the powerful cards in the format, all you’ll accomplish is that previously less annoying cards will take their place as the villains. This isn’t a sustainable nor a necessarily productive way to balance a draft-based format: directly curating the pool, with sets or specific cards occasionally rotating in and out would be a much more interesting and effective approach. The new, Arena-specific cards also seem like a good way to go, making such extreme decisions as these outright bans even more excessive in the process.

Keep in mind that most of these concerns are validated by the developers’ previous work: these decisions are final in their mind. We’ve never seen a reverted nerf in either of the large formats, and that’s probably not a good thing.

A brief history of Constructed nerfs

If you look beyond the beta period of the game, Hearthstone’s long and checkered history with card adjustments is a sad sight to behold with each changes coming long after a particular card or deck has warped the metagame, with the developers eventually turning them into unplayable junk. Warsong Commander, twice. Starving Buzzard. Undertaker. Big Game Hunter. The list could go on – and this doesn’t even account for the head-scratchers like the changes to Molten Giant, Blade Flurry or Hex. In general, these changes have rendered the cards completely useless and crippled the archetypes they were involved in.

The usual explanation by the developers is that they can only change so many stats and just a single added mana or one reduced health is a large increase in percentage. I would argue that this isn’t really an adequate reason why Blade Flurry’s cost had to double while also losing a critical part of its effect. With regards to our current discussion: if these changes weren’t final, if Team 5 was open to re-evaluating them and changing the cards once more at some point, an overkill like this would not be a problem. As things currently stand, if the community complains long and hard enough, the developers will actively butcher an archetype forever, no matter its winrate. I guess it’s a sign that they are paying more attention to Arena that they are displaying the same attitude over there as well. The main takeaway from all this? Be careful what you wish for…

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The many talents of Dark Willow

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Dueling Fates made massive changes to how the game is played, but it will take much more time for players to fully understand the information released in the patch notes. What will not take more time is for players to experience the true headliners of this patch: the new heroes. Dark Willow and Pangolier have invaded pubs the same way every new hero does shortly after launch. I admit partial fault for this, as I’ve been playing the hero extensively in an attempt to understand what makes her click. I will always have more to learn, but I wanted to share what knowledge I’ve gained so far in the hopes that it helps you either play a better Willow, or counter one on the enemy team.

Who likes crowd control?


I sure love crowd control. It is one of the reasons I was so attracted to this hero in the first place. Let’s start by breaking down some of these crowd control abilities and their uses.

Bramble Patch creates a large maze of thorns that roots enemies that touch the brambles. This skill has many qualities that set it apart from other similar abilities in positive ways. Even at level one, the brambles created by the skill last for a full 15 seconds. If Willow places a Bramble patch behind her team to help them escape, the enemy can’t wait out the duration. They either need a method of ignoring the root, or they have to give up on the chase.

Cursed Crown is a delayed area of effect stun that targets an individual hero. If it hits, this disable will stun all heroes within range of the targeted hero for a full 3.5 seconds at level four. I do use the word “if” for a reason though. Cursed Crown is probably the easiest stun in the game to dodge or disjoint with its 4 second delay. Activating BKB, Aeon Disk, Guardian Greaves or Manta style any time before the stun hits completely removes the effect. When the ability does hit though, it removes at least one hero from the fight for a substantial amount of time. To me, it seems worth casting even if it only baits out a premature item use due to its low cast time.

Terrorize, one of Willow’s two ultimates, forces enemies in a moderate area to flee toward their fountain after a short channeling time. This is a great disengagement tool on its own, but coupled with Bramble Patch it can flip a team fight on its head. If placed correctly, enemies will be unable to dodge the brambles, forcing them to both take damage and be rooted in place for upward of 2.5 seconds. This is definitely a large enough window for the cavalry to arrive and clean up.

But how does she do damage?

I’m glad you asked! Dark Willow’s damage lies primarily in her Shadow Realm nuke and Bedlam, her second ultimate. After taking her +300 Shadow Realm damage at level 20, Shadow Realm becomes a devastating 660 magical nuke. That’s not even the best part. The best part is that Willow becomes untargetable by spells or auto attacks while the nuke is charging. The 600 bonus range granted by the ability ensures that she’ll be able to hit her target, even if the target has turned around and given up chase.





Bedlam, on the other hand, requires Willow to be close to her targets. Once activated, Willow’s faerie companion will circle her while firing magic projectiles at the nearest enemy unit similar to Witch Doctor’s Death Ward. As Willow is not a durable hero, charging in with no plan is ill-advised. When used in tandem with Shadow Realm, Willow can keep herself safe while melting a single hero fairly quickly with Bedlam. It is important to note though that Willow is not completely immune while in the Shadow Realm. Any untargeted AoE abilities will still hurt her, so Willow players should be mindful of their positioning at all times.

So she’s a support, right?

Willow’s strength lies in her ability to disrupt the enemy, making her ideal for a support position. Cursed Crown and Bramble Patch make her incredibly useful for setting up kills and escapes in the laning phase. As Shadow Realm levels up, her increased burst damage and range can help secure kills on more elusive heroes as well. Add that to the fact that her abilities scale well with levels and not items, and you’ve got a solid support on your hands.

One of Willow’s biggest problems in the laning stage comes with her mana pool. Her abilities generally require tons of mana and have long cooldowns to start, making mana boots a must buy. A Kaya purchase in the mid game basically solves her mana problems for the rest of the game. The additional spell amplification also helps her nuke, making it a great item for support Willow. Unfortunately, Willow’s other weakness is that she is still incredibly squishy, even in the late game.

Initially, I thought that Meteor Hammer might be the item to solve this, but I was disappointed with the results. Though the strength gain and regen provided by the hammer seemed great, the active ability left me wanting. Even under the protection of Shadow Realm I frequently found myself unable to channel the hammer for the full duration. If for some reason you’re getting tons of gold as Willow, feel free to give it a try yourself. For those less adventurous, a Glimmer Cape will increase your survivability just fine.

Dark Willow has a lot of freedom in the late game when it comes to items. Rod of Atos can help lock a hero in place while you Bedlam them to death. Shiva’s Guard increases Willow’s tankiness and inhibits right click heavy line-ups well. Purchase a Scythe of Vyse if you absolutely need to lock down that one problem hero. Feel free to go more aggressive with an Orchid into Bloodthorn to increase damage as well. As long as you’re picking intelligence items that are appropriate to your individual game, it’s difficult to make a wrong choice.

But in a game I played…

Yes, I am fully aware of the number of carry Willow builds out in the wild. While I don’t think this is the optimal way to play the character, the concept is not without merit. In fact, Willow’s +200 attack speed perk at level 25 almost single-handedly enables this kind of build. First of all, the character’s attack animation is already solid even at level one, tacking almost two full moonshards for free at level 25 transforms her into a machine gun.

If you’re keen to try this playstyle, I would highly recommend the mid lane for a couple of reasons. First of all, you won’t have to be fighting for farm in another lane where your teammate thinks they’re a better carry than you. Secondly, Willow’s abilities benefit greatly from fast levels, which are inevitable in the mid-lane. Willow’s great attack animation should help secure the CS, and an early bottle will sustain her mana in the early game.

As a carry, the enemy team might try to focus you more than as a support. For this reason, a glimmer cape probably is not going to cut it as a defensive item. I have had some success purchasing a Linken’s Sphere as an alternative. Linken’s coupled with Shadow Realm invulnerability makes Willow maddeningly difficult to lock down, and the extra stats and regen help solve her mana problems further. On the way to level 25, additional intelligence items like Scythe or Atos still help with both her lockdown and attack damage. The magic burst from Mjolnir coupled with even more attack speed makes it a solid pick as well.

If you still have money after all of those purchases, Nullifier is a great addition to a carry Willow’s arsenal. By the time you get a nullifier, machine gun mode should be online. Willow will attack so fast that she’ll be able to keep a Nullified enemy slowed all by herself. Bloodthorn will keep enemies from fighting back while giving her machine gun attacks chances to crit.

What are your closing thoughts then?

I still don’t fully agree with carry Willow, but sometimes it is necessary to adapt to the needs of the team. There are worse heroes than Willow to answer the call for an impromptu mid player. Her world-class crowd control abilities make her relevant in every stage in the game, and her talent choices make her versatile enough to shift roles should the need arise. Though I’m sure we’ll all still be learning where she fits into the competitive scene over the next few months, putting in time on her now is definitely a worthwhile investment.

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Meta adjustments in 7.07

The game of DotA 2 has changed dramatically in the wake of patch 7.07. When pasted into a word document the collective patch notes total over 70 pages. Seventy full pages of changes to heroes, items, talents and core mechanics can be difficult to absorb quickly.  Taking time to analyze every change line by line would generate an article longer than the patch notes themselves. Instead, we are going to evaluate the high level changes that Valve has made to see if we can discern how they want the game to be played in 7.07.

Before the horn

Hopping into a match in 7.07 feels familiar, yet still different. While nothing compared to previous map changes, there are a few specific ones worth talking about. Arguably the most notable change is the relocation of the bounty runes and shrines. Offlane bounty runes and shrines have practically swapped positions, and safe lane shrines have been moved closer to their respective team’s tier two towers.  Safelane bounty runes have also been moved closer to the river.


Teams can practically stare each other down from the rune spots now. Screenshot taken from the Dota 2 client

These changes have many implications across all phases of the game. For starters, teams may be more eager to fight over bounty runes at the start of the game now that they’re so much closer to each other. During the laning phase, an enemy support can also easily sneak into your jungle and steal your rune thanks to its new position. With easier escape options, the rewards quickly begin to outweigh the risks of attempting such maneuvers.

On the other hand, the new shrine positions serve to strengthen a teams position in the mid-game. After tier one towers have been taken, the previous shrines offered a great forward position, but at a cost. The problem was that they could not help teams defend their tier two towers thanks to the distance between them. Players trying to teleport to the shrine to defend a tier two either wouldn’t make it in time, or find a nasty ambush waiting. The new shrine positions give players a place they can retreat to should a tower fight go sour. It also gives allies a safer place to teleport should they wish to assist in such a fight.

The laning phase

The big ticket item in the laning phase is the adjustment to the XP reward gained from killing lane creeps. Melee creeps XP increased from 40 to 57, while range creeps XP decreased from 90 to 69. The large previous discrepancy between the values rewarded players much more for killing or denying the range creep in each wave. While the ranged creep is still more valuable, players may no longer weigh it so heavily when fighting for those initial last hits.

This experience change is also a nerf to any hero that likes to purchase a Hand of Midas, albeit a small one. Range creeps were prime Midas targets in 7.06 thanks to their ultra high XP reward. Now that range and melee creeps are closer in value, it becomes more efficient to Midas a siege creep, but those do not spawn every wave. If there is no siege creep, Midas carriers are likely to leave the lane for a large jungle camp creep in order to maximize the return on their investment. Midas characters will have more to consider when moving around the map, which isn’t a bad thing.

This change is also the nerf to Lich that some players had been hoping for. While he can still sacrifice the ranged creep in one lane at the start of the game, it no longer grants him as much experience, nor does it deny a full 90 experience from enemy heroes in that lane. This change won’t stop this behavior, but it reduces the impact substantially.

Denying the ranged creep might be less important than in 7.06, but denying as a mechanic has become more crucial to success in lanes. This is due to the reduction of experience received by the denied team from 75% to 25%.  Denying lane creeps is now quite literally three times as effective as it was in the previous patch. This change is going to put more pressure on players in the laning stage to perform well. Before, losing a lane would leave you with a little bit of catch up to do in the mid-game. Now, a losing player might find themselves hopelessly under-leveled if their lane goes poorly enough.

The mid/late game

Games need to end sometime. So many games in 7.06 would stalemate for too long as teams were afraid to take high ground. This was not a fun way to play, nor was it fun to watch. Valve has looked to remedy this by bring quicker ends to games in a couple of ways.


It may look like a shrine, but now its just a useless “filler building”. Screenshot taken from DotA 2.

The first of these is the removal of the shrines in each base. Shrines in each lane gave high ground defenders multiple chances to heal up and push back their attacker.  This was a nightmare to fight into, especially when a single bad teamfight could flip the game on its head. Removing these shrines removes unnecessary second chances for the defending team, and should also serve to shorten games overall in 7.07.

Almost every hero talent adjustment also contributes to this in some way. Many generic stat-boosting talents have been removed in favor of more hero specific talents, many of which are incredibly powerful. Taking Enigma’s new +70 Eidolon damage talent in addition to +8 Eidolons at level 25 grants unrivaled pushing power. Gyrocopter’s new Global Call Down talent allows the hero to clear any lane from the safety of his base. He can even participate in fights he’s nowhere near.

Moving forward with 7.07

As we expected, some heroes were nerfed, some heroes were buffed, the map changed and nothing will ever be the same. 7.07 definitely hid a few surprises for DotA fans, and I’m sure there are possibilities we’ve only begun to discover. It will take a few weeks and some tinkering for the new meta to reveal itself, but that’s most of the fun.

DotA Esports seems to benefit from this patch more than even the players. The changes I mentioned lead me to believe we will start seeing more early game skirmishes and shorter games overall. Shorter games will allow tournaments to stay on schedule more easily, and should prevent viewers from getting bored of watching drawn out games. If those aren’t victories for 7.07, then I don’t know what are.

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Are matchmaking seasons enough?

DotA 2 Patch 7.07 arrived a full day early, much to the surprise of DotA fans used to Valve’s affinity for delays. “It will be ready when it is ready” seems to be the company motto after all. This time, with hardly any time to absorb the patch notes properly, fans are already jumping in with the new characters, abilities, talents and modes. There is however one very important new feature that Valve is holding on to for a couple more weeks. I am talking of course about the new Matchmaking Seasons.

For years now DotA has measured player skill using a single MMR number. When the first season starts in two weeks time, this will instead be measured by a collection of badges that will be shown at the beginning and end of each game to give teammates an idea of where you stand. This seems like a cool feature at first, but why is it being introduced in the first place?

The problem

It’s no secret that the community has some problems with the current matchmaking system. Players often complain about quitters, feeders and generally toxic players affecting their games and their MMR. Valve has tried to address these concerns in previous patches by implementing new features like “behavior score” system, but these have been met with critical feedback and mixed results. Even if well behaved players are placed together, it is still frustrating to perform well personally, but lose game after game due to perceived weaknesses in the rest of your team.

While there are those who have achieved whatever their MMR goals are, there are still many who are struggling to dig themselves out of a skill tier they do not feel like they belong in. MMR may just be a number, but the larger DotA 2 community uses this number as a measure of credibility when discussing nearly anything about the game. Because of this it can be difficult not to feel self-conscious about having what is considered a “low” MMR. Feeling stuck in the “low skill” trenches can thus feel incredibly demotivating. This is especially true when players feel like they’ve learned from their past few (hundred) games, but still can’t get the results that they want.

The solution


Screenshot grabbed from

The question becomes how Valve hopes to create a more positive experience with this season system. The idea is to give players a biannual opportunity to re-calibrate their ranking. By removing the usual limits on how much MMR can change between matches briefly, players that deserve a higher ranking can attain it more quickly should they perform well. Of course, the same can be said of higher skilled players falling to lower ranks as well.

This solution also affects players returning to the game from extended breaks. Chances are high that if a player has not played in months, they may not be able to perform well at their old skill tier immediately. If they re-calibrate in a new season, they may find themselves below their old rank. This seems frustrating, but this new system will also allow players to showcase their previous season’s medal to celebrate past achievements.

But will this solution be enough? Valve’s own patch notes claim that players will be seeded by their previous season’s MMR. If that is the case, will the MMR changes be fluid enough to allow for the large jumps in skill tiers that players want to see? The system itself isn’t very transparent at the moment, so it is difficult to say. In typical Valve fashion, they have explained what they want the system to accomplish without showing us details on how it achieves the result. We’ll have to wait until mid November to find out, as I’m sure there won’t be more information coming before then.

Is it enough?

The most surprising thing about DotA’s competitive seasons might be that we are just now getting them. Other MOBA style games have been using similar systems for years. Vainglory has introduced quarterly seasons in October of 2015. Heroes of the Storm has operated on seasons ever since they launched ranked play in 2016. There are other examples both within the MOBA genre and outside, so why has it taken so long to receive what is basically an “off the shelf” solution.

To be fair, the previously mentioned season systems of Vainglory and Heroes have features that make a season system very attractive. Both Vainglory and Heroes operate on a freemium business model that uses virtual currency to unlock playable characters. By offering this virtual currency as a reward for good performance during the season, they provide additional incentive to play ranked throughout the year. This is of course dissimilar to DotA, which does not have a virtual currency system. This lack of additional motivation to play ranked during the season makes the argument for seasons significantly weaker. All DotA players are going to get is a nifty new emblem next to their MMR number. I’m not sure that is going to be enough to convince players to continue grinding through each season if they’re not already actively grinding MMR now.

One step forward

Maybe it is all part of the grand plan. As I have mentioned previously in this article, Valve is known for keeping information close to their chests. We still have two weeks before this system is rolled out in full, and surprises could very well be waiting. A seasonal reward system could do a lot for player retention similar to how the tournament specific Battle Passes already function. Since seasons are a free feature, I certainly would not expect a Battle Pass level of complexity, but any kind of seasonal reward would be welcomed and appreciated.

These rewards are a good wish list item, but they’re pretty unrelated to the underlying problem that seasons are trying to solve. When it comes to creating more fair matches, I think these seasons can be considered a step in the right direction. Though we’re bound to see tweaks in the coming years, it is good to see Valve trying to step up to better such a divisive matchmaking system.

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Two nerfs and one buff for 7.07

Besides adding two new heroes, patch 7.07 is set to shake up DotA 2. It has been over five months since we have seen more than balance changes. That is all set to change on November 1. While 7.06 has been a fun patch the prospect of new heroes and tweaks to other heroes who are dominating pubs is needed.

The only thing this hero can’t heal is pubs

Necrophos has been a scourge on pubs for what feels like a while now. The pace of the meta brought about the perfect storm for this hero. Continuous skirmishes became normal and this hero has the perfect spells to withstand this fighting. All beginning in 7.00 when his passive, Sadist, was absorbed into Death Pulse, opening the door for the creation of Ghost Shroud. Adding this ability to the hero propelled Necro into relevance. Boosting his heals by 75 percent, nullifying physical damage and only amplifying magic damage taken by 25 percent. Let’s hope this hero gets hit hard by the nerf hammer.

A welcome change that wouldn’t completely render useless would be lowering the amount of regen provided by Death Pulse kills. At level four, kills with Death Pulse provide seven regen per second to both health and mana. Stacking once with creep kills, but ten times on a hero kill. The first remedy would be providing a stack limit instead of just a timer, along with a re-scaling of the overall regen. Hopefully, this would nerf Necrophos enough in the laning stage to give teams a chance.

bloodseeker, dota 2, hero


No more blood left to give

Another hero that is seemingly in every single game is Bloodseeker. For good reason as he is incredibly strong right now. This hero needs almost no regen if you can last hit enough thanks to Bloodrage. Bloodrage has 100% uptime at level two and provides a 30 percent damage increase on top of healing the hero for 21 percent of a killed unit’s max health at no mana cost. Add onto this one of the games most powerful teamfight spells in Blood Rite. Not his ultimate, Rupture, that does pure damage anytime a hero moves. Blood Rite is arguably more powerful in teamfights due to its burst damage, large AoE and six second silence at level four.

Tweaking Bloodrage by adding a mana cost seems inevitable, though this hero should see numerous nerfs to all of his spells. Reducing the burst damage and silence duration on Blood Rite should help balance this hero out, while letting Rupture and Thirst define him.

tusk, hero, dota 2


Snowballing into the meta

One hero that could really use a buff is Tusk. The hero has zero base regen. According to Dotabuff his winrate is a pathetic 42 percent. Which is odd because one would think Tusk would benefit immensely from the current fight-heavy meta. This is partially because of the high cooldowns on his abilities before they reach level three, on top of a high mana cost on his Ice Shards at all levels. Really detrimental for a hero that wants to push tempo, but suffers from a small mana pool.

Adjustments to the early game of this hero could very easily make him relevant. Damage and cooldown boosts at the early level of both Ice Shards and Snowball would provide him with a great toolkit to be a four-position support. Putting him firmly in the niche of other roamers with spammable spells such as Earthshaker.

The upcoming patch is one of the most anticipated in recent memory. Carrying with it the ability to change the roles of heroes with any simple adjustment. Some heroes that were highly picked are bound to fall to the wayside, while others will surge to the forefront with the help of new builds. Patch season is always an exciting time in DotA 2.

Featured Image courtesy of DotA 2 In-Game Client

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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

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.


DotA 2, Dueling Fates

Image Captured from

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


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 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 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 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.



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.


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 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.


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.


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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