Patch 7.00 may well be the most significant update to Dota 2 since the game was launched, with eight new talents and three inactive item slots added to every hero, an overhaul of the map and UI, four major hero reworks and two heroes added to competitive play.
At the pro level at least, the most far-reaching gameplay changes likely won’t come from the reworked levelling and talent trees. Though those (like all hero changes) will definitely have some impact on drafting and strategy, many of the changes in patch 7.00 — like adding 1,500 gold in outer-tier objectives for each team — seem focused on creating more pressure on teams to actively defend the map rather than turtling for the late game. It looks like it will be exceedingly risky to play for the very late-game, which means pros won’t regularly see those juicy level 25 talents.
On the other hand, the addition of new structures and changes across the map make map control a much more important condition for winning the game.
Control the map, control the game
Mid-game map control has never been more important than in 7.00. With new Shrines out on the map both providing a staging point for engagements and Rosh attempts, and jungles that provide greater wealth for the team that can control them, there are a lot more reasons for each team to defend their side of the map from enemy incursions.
Shrines are a big game changer. Not only do they provide an important map control point, but as objectives that need to be defended, they will force teams that are behind to seek defensive engagements out on the map, rather than turtling on their high-ground and waiting for opponents to initiate.
Each team gets two Shrines, one in each friendly jungle, which can be triggered once every 5 minutes to activate a 500 AoE healing and mana regeneration aura to your team. They won’t be easy to take down, since they are invulnerable to attack until all of a team’s Tier 2 towers are down, and even then they have health equivalent to a Melee Barracks and more armor. But when they do fall, each one will grant 150 gold to each member of the opposing team, giving a nice late-game surge to help push high-ground more confidently.
Shrines don’t grant vision, but they can be teleported to like any other friendly structure, which will give each team better access to contested areas — especially the new Rosh pit. Although Dire's Shrine is about 1600 units away (by blink), Radiant is only 1400 walking units away (from the rear). However, Dire has the advantage of having two walking paths to the Rosh pit — one from the front and one from behind — which will help when they try to contest a Radiant Rosh attempt.
As long as those Shrines stand, teams will be better able to convert a successful Rosh take into a major push, since they can quickly heal off their damage and choose a lane to engage. Before 7.00, Radiant had a major post-Roshan pushing advantage because the pit was closer to Dire's base, making it easier to reach their structures before the Dire team respawned. Rosh’s new location makes the playing field more even in that regard, but also strips much of the Dire-side access advantage away.
Dire should still have some access advantage because barring major changes to laning conventions, their safe lane tower is more likely to stay up, and therefore their safe lane jungle more likely to be controlled, longer into the game.
Speaking of Roshan, the tweaks to his stats will make negative-armor items and abilities much more important. With roughly 30 percent of his health pool traded off for physical damage resistance, armor debuffs from Medallion of Courage and Solar Crest will be at a premium, especially with the deliberate changes to these items to make them more effective against Rosh.
Jungle control will also be much more important, with more creep camps that respawn less often and four bounty runes to collect every two minutes. Drafts that rely heavily on late-game potential at the expense of mid-game control will most likely fall out of favor, since an opponent successfully invading to farm your jungle can take a big chunk out of your team’s income. Meanwhile, the ability to contest or steal jungle stacks, especially ancient stacks, has never been more important, as it will take twice as long to assemble.
Expect to see pros experimenting over the next few months with compositions and plays that leverage Shrines to protect their jungle from enemy roams, and some that are designed to make aggressive forays into the opponent’s jungle and secure Rosh.
The rise of the roaming support
With the increased importance of map control, roaming supports will likely continue to rise in prevalence, and some teams may even opt to take two roamers rather than commit one of them to the safelane.
The first step to map control is ward vision, making supports the starting point for any defensive or aggressive control strategy. At the same time, finding effective jungle ward locations (and clearing them) will be more difficult in 7.00, since carries farming the jungle will need to rotate from camp to camp more often.
Roamers will also need to do a lot more work to stack camps, especially the new ancients. Since neutral creeps spawn every two minutes instead of every minute, it will take longer to stack, and all the more important that a support do so efficiently to give their team an advantage in farm. It’s worth noting that with lifesteal removed from Helm of the Dominator, it’s a less likely choice for DPS cores, which puts even more pressure on supports to stack. On the other hand, cores may be able to eat an ancient camp earlier on the game with their now less than 100 percent spell immunity and a nearby Shrine, so failing to stack ancients early may mean less overall farm is lost.
In order to maximize gains in both the safe-mid and Secret Shop jungles, supports need to be both near the offlane and between the mid and safelane. The reduced creep spawn rate also makes safelane stacking and pulling less effective, and forces supports to travel farther. That may encourage teams to commit one support to handling each jungle, either with two roamers or with a roamer and duo offlane. Since Dire cannot pull as easily with the new camps, we may see dual offlane become standard with that faction, while the former safelane is less heavily prioritized.
The staggered timing of Powerup Runes and creep camps will help streamline roaming through the jungle, since supports will be able to stack ancients on odd minutes and contest Powerups on even minutes. If a roaming support does pick up a haste or double damage, they have the full duration of that rune to seek a kill before they have to get back and stack another camp.
Roaming supports have also been given some advantages in 7.00, likely encouraging the shift. With Bounty Runes spawning along their roaming paths and more defensive spawning points, they will have an easier time keeping up in farm and they won’t be punished as hard if they aren’t able to secure ganks. Gold penalty for dying is now based on net worth rather than level, so supports who die on risky missions have less to lose.
Although the backpack feature will help super-farmed heroes such as Naga Siren or Alchemist, far more often it will help supports, who can now carry dust, wards, smokes and recipes around without requiring an inventory slot. That means they’ll have more room to carry impact items in the mid game, and even smaller ones like consumables or casual bracers could make a big difference.
At the same time, many common supports’ talent trees have been designed to offer greater survivability and XPM or GPM boosts through level 15, then shift to an increase in damage output for levels 20 and 25. In Dota history, there's never been a mechanic which so significantly attempts to scale supports into the late game. Not only will supports have utility if the game pushes into fifty or sixty minutes, but teams will have cause to actually focus experience on them for a final power spike.
Bring on the violence
Faster max movement speed, more jungle resource hubs with fewer overall jungle resources, an equitable Roshan pit and greater support impact all imply one thing: more team-oriented combat. The patch seems to anticipate this by making kills worth slightly less gold and experience — suggesting there will be more of them.
Pros may take advantage of this in a handful of ways. They may attempt to rush a farming core to level 25 with massive camp stacks and Tomes of Knowledge (which now scale with each purchase on the team), while four other heroes play an aggressive defense — essentially a classic four-protect-one, but with greater emphasis on jungle control. This is the route Ben "Noxville" Steenhuisen seems to expect, and though I disagree with some of his calculations regarding experience gain, I agree with some of his conclusions regarding that strategy's possible viability.
Another route is an MVP Phoenix/Ad Finem style, where combat is king and outer-tier objectives are taken either to bait fights or as a reward for winning them. This would likely be paired with heavy push supports and a global pushing core, like a Lycan or Nature's Prophet.
We could see teams attempt to play more greedy overall, a la Secret 2015, with supports allowed to farm the jungle themselves and given a much larger percentage of overall net worth. However, teams that take this approach may struggle to maintain that all-important map control, especially while teams are still figuring out the patch and risky, aggressive plays are more likely to be rewarded.
Every team will investigate this patch in its own way, and it's far too soon to tell which heroes will be winners and which will be losers. The skill trees create an impossibly high level of complexity, as do the mechanical changes. In Captain’s Mode right now, there are over 134 million possible combinations of 5 heroes for just one team, and now those heroes can each reach the end-game with up to sixteen possible talent configurations, before even considering itemization.
In short, there's going to be experimentation. A lot of it. But regardless of the strategy teams employ, as a viewer you can expect to see more intricate support play and more player-on-player aggression, both things that will add to the depth of skill and excitement of high-level Dota.
Ryan "Gorgon the Wonder Cow" Jurado writes about esports and freelances for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.