New patches always usher in a new hero meta. This intrigue creates great potential for strategic clashes in season two of the Dota Pro Circuit. With patch 7.29 stirring the waters of the carry pool, the Southeast Asian region has taken this shake up to the extreme. Only three weeks into the competition we have already seen the entire spectrum of carry strategies showcased.
Perhaps somewhat inspired by OB Neon’s surprising run at the Singapore Major without a true carry player, several teams have run lineups without a prototypical carry hero. At the Singapore Major OB Neon’s safe lane Leshrac and Nature’s Prophet were drafted by necessity. In season two, seeing a safe lane Bristleback, Void Spirit, or Tiny is a much more stylistic choice. These fight-ready cores bring a much faster tempo to the game. This has already proven to be a viable strategy at punishing the slower-paced lineups that focus on farming up neutral stacks.
On the other hand, fast-paced lineups can be a somewhat one-dimensional approach to the game. It is an approach that can be exploited by playing for the late game with delay tactics and heroes like Medusa, Spectre, and Phantom Lancer as the win condition. These stylistic clashes are happening throughout individual series as teams react to each other. Sometimes there are fast-paced games that rely on execution, other times it comes down to which team has a more overpowered late game. Sometimes it’s a little of column A and a little of column B to create a smorgasbord of drafting options.
As of writing this article, the most played “traditional” carry heroes have only appeared four times in 32 games of Dota. These are heroes like Morphling, Spectre and Lifestealer. Of the heroes who have seen some regularity in this role over the history of Dota only Clinkz, Weaver, and Chaos Knight have not been targeted with a pick or ban.
Digging a bit deeper, it does seem like there has been quite a bit of targeting towards carry heroes in the ban phases of the draft. Consistently removing Morphling, core Io, Ursa, Troll Warlord and Lifestealer from the pool has made teams get more creative. Additionally, many of the events and timings that had made Dota feel a bit scripted in 7.28 have been reworked. These macro changes to the game have always held more sway over how pro teams build their strategies. As a result of so many sweeping changes to the game, we are seeing a huge amount of experimenting to find the optimal approach again.
The early days after a patch are always the wildest and this, combined with Southeast Asia’s already eclectic approach to the game, has created the perfect scenario for a wide-open meta. We are sure to see the hero pools condense as the season progresses and teams try to mitigate risk. At the moment though, it’s almost impossible to tell which direction the meta will trend.