Tried-and-True: The Meta Must-Picks
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Throughout this season of the DPC, the competitive scene has been forced to promptly adapt their lineups and positions in accordance with what fits the ever-changing meta.
These alterations have resulted in one of the most exciting DPC seasons to date by promoting draft experimentation, aggressive gameplay strategies, and inventive combinations. Both the fluid meta and close proximity of each of this year's tournaments has served as a catalyst for diverse and mesmerizing spectacle. It has been fascinating to witness each professional team modifying their strategies in real-time. As TI8 looms in the not-so-distant future, identifying the most effective heroes, their counters, and combinations, has never been more important.
Gyrocopter - "I'll start the checklist"
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Within the context of the DPC, Gyrocopter has risen to the top of the pick priority chart in the past thirty days - with over 152 combined picks/bans and a 53.3% win rate. Professional teams have increasingly capitalized on Gyrocopter's capacity for early game impact and potent AoE devastation derived from his ultimate. The breakneck pace of gameplay this season is well-suited to Gyrocopter's ability to engage in early skirmishes. The synergy between Gyrocopter's primary abilities: Rocket Barrage and Homing Missile is unparalleled in terms of escaping and deterring ganks, as well as securing kills in lane.
Gyrocopter's growing popularity this season began at ESL One Katowice - where he became the fourth most contested hero in the professional scene. From Virtus.Pro to Vici Gaming, some of the most successful teams dove on the opportunity to secure Gyrocopter for their lineup (if he was not already banned). Since then, the hero has remained a mainstay option for teams looking to satisfy their position two core-slot.
With such robust utility stemming from his powerful skill set, Gyrocopter is capable of applying immense pressure to lane-opponents. As the game progresses, his expanding dominion over the rest of the map dictates the pace of combat. The hero also serves as an effective roamer, with the 1050 cast range of Homing Missile allowing him to subtly stun his target before swooping in with impressive burst-damage. When paired with a strong disable hero i.e. Jakiro or Puck, Gyrocopter is difficult to contest. The flexibility of his various build options also makes him highly-adaptable and difficult to counter under most circumstances.
With the increasing prevalence of Terrorblade in the competitive scene, Gyrocopter serves as an excellent counter with Flak Cannon. While patch 7.12 increased the cooldown for Flak Cannon from 30-40 seconds and reduced the number of hits necessary to destroy homing missile to three - the search radius and cast range remain the same for both abilities. It's too early to determine how dramatically these nerfs will affect Gyrocopter's impact. Much of the hero's strength was derived from the frequency at which his abilities were off cooldown. On the surface, these changes seem a bit severe, however, the rate at which Gyrocopter could engage in fights at full strength was too high. The Dota 2 Asia Championship 2018 will be the first tournament we get to see how these changes affect Gyrocopter's prevalence.
While Gyrocopter tends to fall off beyond the forty-five-minute mark, the professional meta's focus on early-mid game dominance fits his skill set. The hero's early game presence, sufficient damage output, and above average scaling - make him a consistently-reliable addition to any lineup.
Death Prophet - "Let me tell your fate"
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Death Ball Dota has enjoyed a revival in the current meta. The re-emerging popularity of the strategy which prioritizes early tower pushing with a focus on kill acquisition has led to a recent spike in Death Prophet's appearance in recent tournaments. The death ball strategy - originally popularized by Vici Gaming in TI4 - requires a lineup of heroes with capable AoE and powerful abilities to properly execute. The broad functionality of Death Prophet's abilities makes her a viable cornerstone for such strategy. The diversity of Death Prophet's highly flexible skill set allows her to satisfy multiple functions on the battlefield. Death Prophet brings dynamic utility to almost any situation - whether it be pushing towers with Exorcism, soaking damage with Spirit Siphon, or silencing targets with Silence's 425 unit radius.
Patch 7.12 has increased Silence's mana cost from 80 on each level to 80/90/100/110, while also increasing the charge restore time of Spirit Siphon from 45 on each level to 60/55/50/45. While no significant changes have been made to Death Prophet since patch 7.07's release, it will be interesting to see how the professionals interpret these recent alterations. Conceivably, Death Prophet should remain a formidable midlane opponent that boasts toughness and imposing damage output. The professional meta's focus on building momentum on the foundation of a successful laning phase befits Death Prophet - expanding her dominion to other lanes after conquering hers with relative ease. That being said, Death Prophet's lane dominance is not her only asset - her impact extends to team fight presence as well. The only thing more terrifying than witnessing swirling-ghostly-visages tearing apart your teammates - is being the victim of Spirit Siphon at the same time. Spirit Siphon allows Death Prophet to mitigate a tremendous amount of incoming damage, while rapidly depleting her target's health.
Strategy and skill set aside, Death Prophet's strong midlane potential, in conjunction with the series of direct buffs she's received between patches 7.00-7.07 - have made her an irrefutably compelling option in the competitive scene. In the recent GESC: Thailand Minor, Death Prophet was the second most contested mid-hero and fifth most contested overall. Death Prophet currently ranks seventh in the DPC's pick priority chart - with 120 combined picks/bans in the past thirty days and a 50.8% win rate. At this point, it's evident this prophet is on everyone's radar.
Sand King - "Sand King cometh"
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Historically speaking, the professional meta has largely overlooked Sand King in the past. Perhaps this was a result of his tendency to burrow below the periphery of perception. With the professional meta's prioritization of lane dominance, the time is nigh for Sand King to erupt onto the scene. Sand King's incredible versatility has earned him third place in combined picks/bans - behind Gyrocopter and Chen in the past thirty days. The hero is currently first place in picks (with a total of 80). He is also the number one off lane pick and fourth top core pick overall. Needless to say, Sand King has become the epicenter (pun intended) of attention.
Sand King serves as an attractive option because of his competency in almost any role (including semi-carry if he performs well). While typically prioritized in the off lane, Sand King also provides aggressive support for carries in a dual or tri lane (especially against melee). Abilities like Burrowstrike or Sand Storm, serve as powerful deterrents for lane opposition looking to secure kills on the carry. Should Sand King find any difficulty securing early game kills, Caustic Finale allows the hero to retreat to farming. These low cost, low cooldown abilities also grant the hero cheap evasion.
Sand King remains a persistent threat throughout the match, as a result of incredible scaling afforded by his vigorous skill set. The kinetic utility of Sand King's abilities is further amplified when paired with Blink Dagger and Force Staff. With the proper build, Sand King demonstrates some of the strongest catch in the game. In terms of team fight presence, the sheer devastation of getting caught by Epicenter can quickly turn the tide of most battles. The hero's unparalleled capacity for initiation allows him to swiftly enter the fray, stun/slow opponents, and deal catastrophic amounts of damage before retreating unscathed. Ideal for teams looking to dictate the pace of the match early on.
In pub matches, Sand King has a 48.02% win rate compared to a 51% in the DPC. The win rate disparity is most likely attributable to his relative difficulty to play. In the hands of a capable player, Sand King is a mighty force to contest. In the hands of a player that fails to achieve timely item and level progression, Sand King becomes an easy target.
The lengthy list of nerfs introduced with patch 7.12 did not overlook Sand King. Burrowstrike's stun duration has been rescaled from 2.17 to 1.9/2.0/2.1/2.2 and his base movement speed has been reduced from 295 to 290. The shorter duration stuns attached to lower levels of Burrowstrike seem like a fair trade for a .03 second comparative extension at max level. The negligible movement speed reduction is easily counteracted by the level of mobility attached to the hero's standard item build.
With the release of the most recent update on the same day the DAC 2018 began - fans are about to find out if Sand King remains or returns to the sands once more.
Timing is everything in Dota, especially when the meta is transforming so quickly. Now more than ever, teams capable of effectively anticipating which direction the meta is heading in will gain the advantage. Understanding which heroes offer the utmost reliability and benefit the most from each new change is paramount to success. The heroes listed above satisfy the conditions of the current meta but for how much longer?
It's an exciting time to be a Dota fan with so many considerable changes being made. As the meta continues to transition we'll be with you every step of the way. Stay tuned!