When most American Dota fans think of Chinese Dota, they'll praise players like Luo "Ferrari_430" Feichi
, Xu "fy" Linsen
, and Xu "BurNIng" Zhilei
for single-handedly codifying the mid, soft support, and carry roles. But when they think of the Chinese metagame? Groans. Shudders. Haunted memories of blocking their own camps to slow down the enemy Lycan. TI4 grand finals.
The Chinese metagame tends to get stereotyped as either deathball or ultra-late-game focused, but that's far from the case. This is partially due to different regional developments, but also because we simply see them less often. What NA and EU fans see at Majors and TI is a small sample size from only a handful of teams. At home, Chinese squads employ a wide range of strategies both in the drafting phase and in overall team philosophy.
With the metagame shaking up slightly in patch 7.27, teams are sticking to what they know and slowly exploring the new patch. This makes it a great time to review the regional metagame of China. With no international tournaments, we're getting the purest look at the hallmarks of the region.
China's defining heroes
The western idea of Chinese hard carries is at least half-true. China favors harder carries than their western counterparts. BEYOND EPIC: China
featured a very healthy dose of both Terrorblade and Anti-Mage from the more classical teams like PSG.LGD and Vici. Both heroes are considered icons of Chinese Dota, so it's no surprise to see them get picked in a new patch and earn 67% and 88% win rates, respectively. The typical suite of late-game monsters has a few curious additions this patch, such as Sparking Arrow Gaming's
signature Nature's Prophet.
In the midlane, Chinese players prefer many of the same heroes that European players do. Queen of Pain and Dragon Knight dominated the midlane throughout 7.26, but 7.27 has brought a few familiar faces back to the river. Void Spirit and Puck have been the most common picks throughout DPL-CDA Season 2
. Both Tier 1 and Tier 2 teams gravitate towards those two picks, and they're often picked up early in the draft.
The offlane is where China really begins to differ from Western Dota. China is all about the utility offlaner. The divide between positions 3 and 4 aren't always clear, and with supports constantly rotating mid, it's harder to secure farm on scaling offlaners. Many teams treat their offlaner like a third support, opting for utility picks like Phoenix, Clockwerk, and the everpresent Mars. The latter has become the defining hero for the Chinese metagame, being the most played hero at both BEYOND EPIC: China and OGA Dota PIT Season 2.
The supports of choice for China are all focused on rotations. Bane and Mirana have been go-to picks for multiple teams since the removal of Dire's combo-pick in the draft. Teams will often Bane first, forcing the enemy team to pick Mirana. Both heroes are still very strong on their own. The moon rider has a 71% win rate at DPL-CDA Season 2, with Bane at 57%.
7.27 has teams starting out with only two bans compared to 7.26's four. Captains are more likely to have their best support available, leading to less diversity in the support pool. Ogre Magi, Earthshaker, and Vengeful Spirit are also common picks, with Disruptor slowly gaining prominence in the patch. Vici Gaming
and Team Aster
in particular have either been rushing his Aghanim's Scepter or losing with a lonely Point Booster in his inventory.
The roles that have developed for Chinese Dota emphasize the carry and midlaner above all else, hoping to build up one player enough to win the game on their own. Supports stick to mid and the safe lane, keeping their cores steady. The scene has responded to the rescaling of gold in the early game with sacking the offlane and keeping the early game's momentum for as long as possible.
China's defining strategies
When it comes to China's strategic defaults, a dichotomy always springs up. In 7.27, the sides of the coin are deathball or, in its triumphant return, four-protect-one. The changes to kill bounties have made rotations less valuable for cores, but the midgame is still quite hectic. The strange thing about the Chinese metagame is that it isn't quite clear what strategy any given team is going to use even minutes into the game.
Ambiguity is powerful in Dota, but being able to swap strategies as soon as you realize the game's trajectory is a captain's dream. That's exactly what teams are aiming for in 7.27. Both sides pick hard carries, but there's nothing stopping the Phantom Lancer from stacking Wraith Bands and a Yasha and becoming a budget Troll Warlord. Medusa, Spectre, Morphling? They can all do the same. This idea doesn't just apply to one of the carries, it affects both the midlaner and safelaner of each team.
This is the metagame of China; both teams are centered around overwhelming the other, but as soon as one team hits a noticeable disadvantage, they swap from deathball to four-protect-one. Sparking Arrow's Zhong" 圣子华炼" Liushuai
, known as God-King to the west, embodies that concept more than any other carry player. His Nature's Prophet can turn on a dime, going from Skadi BKB
to Desolator Mask of Madness
depending on how the first five minutes of the game goes.
There's more to come
7.27 is still a young patch, and the subpatches to come will bring even more change to how professionals play the game. The initial subpatch, however, has set the tone for the next few months of Dota. International tournaments are still a ways away, so regions have plenty of time to learn from themselves. As one of the most competitive regions in Dota, China's meta could become the world's meta once LANs are back on the table.