The Singapore Major gave Dota fans their first look at offline, cross-regional play in over a year. It brought to light some clashes in styles and help develop a very clear picture of what pro players currently value most in the game. The meta at Singapore can be broken down into three major and distinct parts.
With the 7.29 patch only a few days away we will likely see some of these heroes nerfed out of the rotation. At the same time, it’s still worth considering what role they fill in the game because those components will continue to prove necessary to building a successful strategy, barring any massive changes to core gameplay mechanics.
There has been an ongoing discussion surrounding the so-called “mobility creep” in Dota for the past couple of years. The game is so heavily reliant on good positioning and timing that being able to quickly and freely adjust a hero’s position is incredibly valuable. It’s no surprise then that we saw Puck be not only the most picked (59 times) but also the most banned (72 times) hero in Singapore. Of all the heroes in Dota 2, Puck is simply the most elusive in the game. Puck’s ability to quickly get from one lane to another, safely shove out creep waves, and close massive gaps to catch enemies gives the hero an undeniable impact in every single game.
With the value of those mechanics in mind, it’s also not surprising to see Void Spirit (55 picks), Phoenix (48 picks), Earth Spirit (45 picks), and Pangolier (43 picks) all in the top 10 most played heroes. All of these heroes have the ability to free traverse the map terrain, reposition themselves with ease and provide excellent team fight presence as well. For a while, Blink Dagger was considered to be one of the most overpowered items in the game. These days, that 15-second cooldown and 1200 max blink distance feels slow-paced and underwhelming in comparison.
Over the years, Dota pros have gotten extremely good at taking a small advantage in the early game and ballooning it into an easy mid-game victory. Controlling the map effectively means being able to take towers and then hold an aggressive position through sustained pressure. Because of this, early tower damage and reliable healing mechanics have become super valuable to progressing the game.
At the Singapore Major the most banned hero was Io (108 times), no stranger to this position in the meta. Of the top six most banned heroes, five of them: Io, Timbersaw, Alchemist, Death Prophet, and Monkey King all have incredible healing mechanics built into their abilities.
Despite all of these bans, all made numerous appearances throughout the tournament with Death Prophet recording the second most picks (56 total). Other reliable forms of heal and dispel such as Oracle, Abaddon and Phoenix all cracked the top 15 most played as well. The other component of momentum of course is the ability to fight for and take towers. Again we have to point to Death Prophet’s Exorcism, Abaddon’s Curse of Avernus, Troll Warlord’s Fervor and Shadow Shaman’s Serpent Wards as powerful tools in this regard. Beastmaster and Timbersaw are the absolute kings of taking and holding map control early on. This fact logically accounts for their extremely high ban rate, 89 times for Timbersaw and 66 times for Beastmaster.
The most consistent way to close out a game of Dota is to take a decisive team fight around Roshan to claim the Aegis. Especially from the Chinese region, there was a very clear focus on drafting massively powerful ultimate combos to this end. Mars and Phoenix proved to be the most popular pairing for this reason. Other high-impact AoE abilities like Wukong’s Command, Rolling Thunder, and Elder Titan’s entire kit made numerous appearances and secured many victories.
You’ll also notice some serious overlap between mobile heroes such as Puck, Phoenix, Earth Spirit, Pangolier, Monkey King, and their team fighting impact. Every good team fight needs a bit of initiation as well which propelled heroes like Tusk and Lion to join the ranks.
Despite what the upcoming patch might bring, there is a clear priority in what pro Dota players have deemed important. Slower-paced farming carries had only situational impact and the up-tempo and aggressive style of underdog teams like Thunder Predator and OB Neon proved to be incredibly effective.