The Return of the Hard Lane
Image courtesy of Wallpaper Abyss - Alpha Coders
It's no secret that in recent months Icefrog has been actively shifting the offlane meta away from semi-cores capable of leveraging accessible farm and the solo XP boost received - in favor of more dedicated offlane heroes. Many of this year's patches have curbed the effectiveness of the offlane farmer, to the point in which the strategy is perilous to pull off solo, and still onerous with a support. The most viable offlane options in the current meta predominately consist of durable heroes that offer utility without a heavy reliance on resource acquisition. At the moment, it appears the meta is trending towards the traditional 2-1-2 lane setup but it's not entirely there just yet. The prevalence of a dedicated support in each side lane is becoming increasingly noticeable, however the current advantages of the trilane remain routinely exploited.
While the various tweaks made to the offlane may have made life more challenging for offlane enthusiasts, the transition away from greedy semi-cores should restore an emphasis on a dedicated laning phase - allowing mid players to battle 1v1 without constant interference. That being said, the numerous modifications impacting the offlane put players at a considerable disadvantage to trilane setups. In coming patches, it will be interesting to see how Valve handles this disparity (if at all), and whether or not they intend to solidify the 2-1-2 lane setup or fully commit to the hard lane.
Detailed below are some of the more significant updates affecting the offlane beginning with Patch 7.06.
- Creep denies now grant the denying team 30% of the XP bounty
- Neutrals now give 20% less XP and Gold
- Creeps now meet closer to each team's respective safelanes.
- Denies XP granted to the enemy (the player being denied) reduced from 70% to 25%
- First neutral creep spawn changed from 30 seconds to 1 minute
- Removed Iron Talon and Poor Man's Shield from the game
- Bounty Rune base gold bounty increased from 50 to 60 (affects runes after the first one)
- Bounty Rune no longer gives XP. Previously gave 0 at the start and increased by 7 per minute.
- First creep wave no longer draws aggro on the side lanes until they meet the other wave
- Bounty Runes now spawn every 5 minutes
Trials and Tribulations
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The imposing level of adversity offlane players face in the current meta has been exacerbated by the changes listed above - particularly the way in which they favor safe trilane setups. Offlaners have become extremely limited in terms of what they can accomplish in lane. Offlane players running solo are easily zoned out by enemy supports with powerful kill potential and indomitable lane presence. In most instances, the enemy trilane gets so far ahead, that enemy supports will begin rotating on mid - leaving offlaners to contend with a carry that has 2-3 levels on them. With such restricted access to the lane, the main priority for offlane players becomes not dying, unless the death expends enemy resources or alters creep equilibrium in their favor.
Significant reductions to the amount of denied and jungle creep XP received starves offlane players of resources, while the enemy carry farms with minimal resistance. The option to passively acquire XP and Gold by hiding in the tree line has been curbed by the aforementioned deny changes, in conjunction with the level of risk attached to remaining within close proximity to the default creep wave collision point. Extended jungle first spawn times and the removal of first creep wave aggro hinders the offlaner's ability to disrupt creep equilibrium from the start, forcing them to put themselves into precarious positions to pull the lane closer towards their tower.
Increased spawn timers for Bounty Runes from 2-5 minutes, coupled with the removal of the XP they once granted further impedes offlaners by eliminating the option to fallback on rune XP to narrow the level gap between themselves and the enemy carry. Of course, enemy supports reaped similar benefits, however timely offlane players were often capable of securing the enemy's rune before claiming their own.
While these updates indirectly modify the offlane, they consequently provide ample room for exploitation that often renders offlane players powerless early on.
A Fighting Chance
Image courtesy of Dotageeks.com
Taking into account the various challenges of the offlane, what alternatives do players have to make their circumstances more manageable? Picking effective junglers is one option, despite reductions made to neutral creep XP received. Heroes such as Axe can easily stack and kill creeps within neighboring jungles to at least maintain a comparable level to enemy supports. Selecting Strength heroes provides obvious benefits in terms of durability, an incredible asset for surviving ganks and non-stop harass from supports.
Alternatively, players looking to take a more proactive approach to the offlane can still do so by disrupting the safelane's carry. Stripping them of their resources by throwing off creep equilibrium is still possible, albeit more difficult in the current meta. Heroes such as Clockwerk, Earthshaker and Tusk, are quite capable of using their skills to disrupt creep equilibrium by blocking friendly or enemy units to draw the wave closer to their tower. Blocking your own creep wave is a dynamic option for players that cannot safely navigate the enemy's jungle without getting picked off. Heroes like Enigma and Lich possess the ability to deny friendly creeps with Demonic Conversion and Sacrifice, making them potent companions in the offlane.
Heroes with larger HP pools such as Beastmaster, offer players a compelling option that can stand 1v1 with most carries, while demanding the attention of enemy supports. The vast army Beastmaster progressively accumulates throughout the laning phase, serves as a vital deterrent for enemies looking to secure a kill without dying in the process.
For players looking for one of the most robust offlane heroes in the current patch, look no further than Doom. The power of Infernal Blade and the utility of Scorched Earth make Doom a devastating opponent to 1v1 against, especially once his ultimate becomes available. His ability to accelerate mid game helps mitigate the XP/Gold setback associated with the current state of the offlane. Doom's abilities allow the hero to turn the tide of battle in his favor - providing substantial utility in teamfights.
Despite the current imposition for offlane players, selecting utility heroes with sustainability helps curtail the level of frustration to some degree. While the offlane is harder now, it isn't impossible to overcome. The recent updates Valve has rolled out seem to be returning Dota to its more "traditional" roots. Personally, I'm excited by the direction Dota is heading in, and remain confident that current concerns will be addressed in the near future.