Carry Axe takes the Dota 2 WePlay AniMajor by storm
Every big tournament has a few surprises to offer in terms of hero picks. For the Dota 2 Kyiv Major, it is the carry Axe that is making the headlines.
Premier tournaments that tend to go on for close to two weeks are a lot of fun because of the high number of games and entertainment they provide. But the other interesting aspect of long tournaments is that they lead to the formation of an internal meta of the tournament; strats not seen too commonly in events before. That is exactly what has happened in the WePlay AniMajor, taking place in Kyiv. While a lot of surprising picks have been on display, there is none that beats the position 1 Axe, which was brought out by PSG.LGD. The first time it was on display was in the second game of their series against Evil Geniuses, and the North American team was completely caught off guard. Since showing the potency of it, other teams have started picking it too.
Axe was out of the meta for a long time. But his Aghanim’s Shard made him viable again.
The Shard combined two of his former talents, making it a good Shard. But the buff in Dota 2 patch 7.29 was the one that made it one of the strongest Aghanim’s Shards in the game – a 10% increase in the Counter Helix proc change, which takes it from 20% to 30%. Since then, it has been nerfed to 5% in patch 7.29d, but even with that, the Shard provides a lot of benefits. It didn’t take too long for the top-tier players to realize how to make the most use of it with a Manta Style. The Manta illusions do take more damage and output lesser right-click damage, but they have the same damage when it comes to Counter Helix! Imagine three Axes outputting 180 pure damage, every time Counter Helix procs. Terrifying! The build became popular in the DPC Leagues, but it was mostly still used on a position 3 Axe.
Somewhere between the DPC Leagues and The Kyiv Major, a few teams realized it can be a lot more effective if Axe is played in the position 1 role instead, which is exactly what teams have been doing. The typical build is
Vanguard → Brown Boots → Manta Style → Aghanim’s Shard if is 20 minutes/Blink Dagger if it can be farmed before 20 minutes → Blink Dagger/Aghanim’s Shard
The build after that depends on how the game is going and what type of damage the opposition has. It can either be followed by a BKB or Assault Cuirass, or even an Aghanim’s Scepter, if the team is going for a negative armor strat (the most recent iteration of Axe’s Aghanim’s Scepter reduces Berserker’s Call cooldown by 2, while reducing the armor of heroes affected by the call by 7, and giving Axe 7 armor per affected enemy). The build also benefits from the fact that Manta Style recently got buffed, with the damage taken by melee hero illusions reduced from 350% to 300%. The strong illusions are extremely effective in keeping lanes pushed out and also farming jungle camps.
Dota 2 statistician Ben “Noxville” Steenhuisen pointed out how strong Axe has been this event, with four of the 16 Axe’s having gone over 700 GPM coming in the last four days, at the Kyiv Major.
Three teams have embraced the carry Axe at the WePlay AniMajor – PSG.LGD, TNC and Team Liquid. Team Liquid has been eliminated, but the other two carry on. Looking at the bans, with Axe being first banned against these teams, it seems teams have realized that the hero has a lot of potential in that role. With a day’s rest between the end of the group stage and the start of the playoffs, there is a good chance that more teams will practice and try to emulate what has been done, by utilizing Mogul Kahn in his most lethal form. There are bound to be some haters of every unique strat though, like Alliance’s owner and coach. Does the craziness of carry Axe brings back haunted memories of fountain hook Pudge? Maybe!
It will be interesting to see how many teams opt for the carry Axe in the final stage of the tournament, and how they prepare to counter it in case their opponents turn to the red beast.