Last week we talked about how diverse and flexible the current meta is and the International keeps on delivering. No hero has over 90% contest rate, only three are above 80% and only nine heroes were completely ignored throughout the group stage and the beginning of the playoffs. Today we are going to talk about these heroes and discuss their chances of appearing on the main stage.
After a short stint in a core position, Abaddon was substantially nerfed and it feels like he is back to being a utility character. There were also several pretty significant buffs to his healing and protecting abilities over the last couple of small patches, but it doesn’t look like it is enough.
There are two main reasons for it. One is pretty simple: you can’t have a melee support in lane that doesn’t have some OP abilities. Treant Protector, Tusk and Undying offer significantly higher laning presence while also having much more impactful midgame.
The second reason is Ancient Apparition and other anti-heal effects. Abaddon is a very strong healer and can theoretically become a problem in the later stages of the game with his Aghanim's Scepter, but that playstyle is often countered by the first couple of picks in most drafts. The strong dispel you get from Aphotic Shield is brilliant and can be very helpful against things like Spirit Vessel, but simply being a save and heal bot is not something the current meta allows for.
Perhaps there is a cheeky position three Abaddon possibility, but we feel like the hero is going to remain ignored.
Dragon Knight generally fits the description of a tanky frontline position two or three hero who jumps in first, catches priority targets and deals some damage. The problem is, there are simply better options. Tidehunter, Centaur Warrunner, Primal Beast, Kunkka, Earth Spirit are tankier and, more importantly, they don’t rely on Blink Dagger to initiate.
We honestly don’t see a reason for a DK pick or ban. Maybe some team will try a more DPS and pressure-oriented build that skips Blink Dagger in favour of Manta Style and Aghanim's Scepter, but it feels like too much work for little payoff. Then again, Black Dragon is a force to be reckoned with so maybe an upper bracket experiment is a possibility.
Both heroes were playable recently and we feel like the main reason they fell out of meta is because there are simply better options. When dealing with multiple tanky heroes, single target hard crowd control is less of a priority than damage or even AoE soft disables, hence the dip in popularity.
Lion is also struggling with very long cooldowns, especially in the early levels. That said, given how games averaged 42+ minutes at the International, perhaps this is less of a problem. He is also very underrated as a mana battery for potentially powerful heroes like Storm Spirit so we wouldn’t be too surprised to see the hero picked once or twice.
Meepo is always a potential niche, cheesy pick for a specialist player. There aren’t many of them left at this TI, but the option is always there. It’s not like the hero is unplayable: a last pick Meepo in a good game can completely take over the map and some of his historically strong counters are similarly out of meta. Bristleback is definitely a problem, but most teams ban the hero in the first phase regardless.
Slardar’s absence is a bit surprising. The hero is pretty strong when playing a “run at you” style of Dota and hasn’t been Blink Dagger dependent for a really long while. We understand that the hero doesn’t farm well and can’t really pressure lanes or towers, which is what the meta is about, but we’ve seen some teams successfully play other styles of Dota and a surprise pick Slardar in a meta where Dazzle is already a good pick could pay off. He can also synergise well with Bristleback if some team wants to try to run Bristle in the first position.
Another FLCN.AMMAR_THE_F hero who would 100% see play if he was at the International. And once again the hero’s absence is very surprising. In a Strength meta with Heart of Tarrasque being a popular choice, not seeing one of the strongest anti-Strength heroes is weird.
There are many Timber counters in the meta, sure. Muerta ignores most of his survivability, while heroes like Grimstroke make Timber too reliant on teammates: with Chakram out he can’t even get rid of Phantom’s Embrace by himself. Still, he can be a strong situational pick when facing heroes like Kunkka, Earth Spirit or Chaos Knight.
No complaints here.
The hero was a victim of Universal hero craze, where all Universal heroes were viable as DPS cores for a little while. Since then he core prowess was nerfed significantly and the hero is back to being a support, which isn’t necessarily bad in vacuum, just not at this TI in particular.
Muerta, Ancient Apparition, Dark Willow and many other sustained magic damage dealing heroes are incredibly popular, so Wyvern’s Cold Embrace is more of a setup for the enemy team, rather than a save. Landing a good Winter’s Curse is also both hard and not necessarily effective and Wyvern’s laning stage isn’t impressive either.
It is a hero that isn’t necessarily bad, just outclassed by most other meta supports in terms of adaptability. There is perhaps a game for the hero, but we don’t think anyone will try to risk it in an elimination match.
Nine ignored and fourteen unpicked heroes is a very good result and the meta is in a very healthy place. That said, there is always room for surprises in Dota and hopefully we will see some interesting ideas developed over the break period.
What are your thoughts on the current meta? Do you think some heroes are criminally underrated and why? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.