After almost five months of Patch 7.28 and its thrilling conclusion in Singapore, professional players and fans alike were eager for The Dawnbreaker Update. While casual fans clamored over the new Hero, pro players were more interested in the adjustments targeting river runes, drafting, and teleport scrolls. All three mechanical changes have had a significant impact on the Chinese DPC metagame, which is still developing before our eyes.
Thankfully, China’s innovation is accelerated by running concurrent events. Many of the teams competing in the Dota Pro Circuit’s second season also attend i-League, giving us a much larger sample size to pull data from. From the matches we’ve seen so far, three distinct Heroes have come to represent the 7.29 Chinese metagame.
Mars — the optimistic offlaner
Chinese want three things out of their offlaners; a Blink into stun, an Ultimate that wins teamfights, and enough tank to protect the backline. The best Position 3s can do two, but no one ticks all three boxes as well as Mars. His well-roundedness makes him a perfect Hero to open up a draft without committing both supports. Out of 23 drafts across the DPC and i-League, he’s been picked in the first phase 17 times.
Despite being synonymous with top level Chinese offlanes, Mars is a contingency plan at best in other regions. Eastern Europe and South America are the only other DPC regions drafting the Hero, and he’s far from the most popular. It’s possible that teams are leaning heavily towards their comfort picks, as is customary when a big patch rolls around. For now, Arena of Blood’s warcry accompaniment might as well be China’s theme song.
Nature’s Prophet was an uncommon pick last patch, but a new aggressive build has turned him into a ganking monster. Elephant and Royal Never Give Up are both pioneering different NP builds at i-League with a 66.6% win rate across six games. 7.29’s Town Portal Scroll changes have made his global presence even more valuable than before. Other globally-present Heroes like Spectre and Zeus have seen an uptick in popularity, but Nature’s Prophet has evolved the most since 7.28.
Zhong "GodKing" Liushuai
exploded onto the scene with his innovation Position 1 NP, and he continues to develop it today. Previously, Nature’s had to pick between attack speed, stats, and armor for his first item. Witch Blade gives all three along with a fantastic on-hit effect. A Quelling Blade no longer guarantees safety from the Prophet. The build is currently 3-1 at i-League, though Royal Never Give Up could lean into it at the Dota Pro Circuit.
Zhou "Yang" Haiyang
from Elephant has a different interpretation of the Hero. He’s been rushing Orchid of Malevolence instead of Witch Blade. Despite farming in the offlane, he averages a 14 minute timing. He treats the Hero as a counter pick to INT splitpushers like Leshrac and the ever-present Storm Spirit. Yang’s anti-caster build went 2-0 in Elephant’s match against Team MagMa.
Grimstroke — the power of combo pick
Just like Mars, Grimstroke has everything a captain wants in a support. He can stall pushes with Ink Stroke, save his cores with Ink Swell, and distract enemies in teamfights with Phantom’s Embrace. His true power, however, comes from Soulbind. Of the 120 Heroes in Captain’s Mode, 86 of them have a single target ability that gets doubled by Grimstroke’s Ultimate. He’s one of the most successful supports at the Dota Pro Circuit, currently flaunting a 75% win rate.
The removal of combo pick in Patch 7.27 had a potent effect on the support metagame. Mirana, Bane, and Shadow Demon formed the holy trinity of China’s support meta. One team would first-pick Mirana, forcing the enemy to preemptively pick or ban Bane. Shadow Demon added an extra layer to this mindgame; he could demand a first-phase ban or still secure Sacred Arrows like Bane.
Grimstroke is the centerpiece of 7.29’s draft metagame. He’s not strong enough to warrant a ban and he’s versatile enough to work in any draft. However, even the smallest amount of synergy can warp teamfights in his favor. Ru "RedPanda" Zhihao
is the foremost expert on Grimstroke. Elephant’s go-to partner is Doom, but the exact formula varies from squad to squad. Team Aster prefers Ogre Magi and EHOME loves their Warlock. No matter what Heroes teams choose, Grimstroke can bring out the best in them.
China’s DPC Upper Division will run until May 23.