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Dota 2 Esports

Star Ladder: The Aftermath

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

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

Most Picked Heroes

 The International 7

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

 Star Ladder

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Aftermath: Conclusion

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

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