The Competitive Journey: Predicting the biggest changes patch 7.00 will bring to pro play

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Valve

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.

LGD.Forever Young sign White, swap Jixing and Yao with main roster

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Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / LGD Gaming

LGD.Forever Young have signed Lei "White" Yipei to replace Zhang "Xiao8" Ning and have swapped Yao "Yao" Zhenzheng to LGD's main roster for Xiao "Jixing" Zihao, according to Valve's Dota 2 Major Registration page.

Yao was moved to the Forever Young roster in September along with Xiao8 and Luo "lpc" Puchao when the roster was formed. He'll be headed back to the main roster, while Jixing, who replaced Yao on the main roster, will now be taking his place on LGD.FY.

Xiao8 retired earlier this month, and was the captain for the LGD.FY roster. He'll be replaced by White, a relatively unknown player, who will be filling the support role on the team.

LGD.FY recently placed 5th-8th at the Boston Major and fifth in the Dota 2 Professional League Season 2 Top Division.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Cloud9 returns to Dota 2 with ex-Imperial roster

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Cloud9

The all-Danish former roster of The Imperial has signed with Cloud9, the organization announced Thursday.

Cloud9 announced their return to Dota 2 through a post on the Red Bull Esports website. C9 CEO Jack Etienne said that his organization believes in the future of the game.

"Dota 2 is and will continue be a top esports title for the foreseeable future," Cloud9 CEO Jack Etienne told Red Bull. "Cloud9 is always looking to participate in the most exciting and relevant esports titles."

Jon "13abyKnight" Andersen said that the team's perseverance is one of the qualities that gives it an advantage.

"Every team has issues and the easy thing to do is to throw in the towel, look for another team or just quit altogether," he said. "Sticking together and learning from your mistakes, not being too hard on one another but instead looking inwards and improving as a player and a human being is what sets apart good teams from the best."

While the roster was with The Imperial, they finished fourth-place finish at DreamLeague Season 6, and earned a seat at the regional qualifier after running the gauntlet at the the Boston Major EU open qualifiers. They did not make it to the Major itself after finishing 5th-10th at the Europe qualifier with a 4-5 record in the round robin.

The roster left The Imperial on Dec. 9, at which point the organization's CEO Oli Adams noted that "the opportunity they've been offered was something we could not compete with," and that "It is upsetting that organisations such as ourselves can't grow when bigger ones come knocking."

The roster was known as the Danish Bears before they signed with the Imperial, and they narrowly missed qualification for several major events. They did manage to defeat Ad Finem 3-0 in the Rumble Town finals after victories over RoX and Prodota Gaming.

The new Cloud9 Dota 2 roster is now as follows:

  • Marcus "Ace" Hoelgaard
  • Jon "13abyKnight" Andersen
  • Mikki "HesteJoe-Rotten" Junget
  • Danny "Noia" Junget
  • Christopher "Ryze" Winther

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.

MVP acquire NoLifer5.Reborn, team renames to MVP Revolution

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Thumbnail image courtesy of MVP

MVP have acquired Kyrgyzstan-based Dota 2 team NoLifer5.Reborn and have dubbed the roster MVP Revolution, according to MVP's social media manager Felix "JeeF" Jedelhauser on Monday.

The news closely follows Kim "DuBu" Doo-young's departure from MVP Phoenix earlier today to form Team Onyx with North American Dota 2 veterans Jimmy "DeMoN" Ho and Sam "BuLba" Sosale.

It's not clear why the Korean organization chose to pick up a non-Korean, Kyrgyz team as their secondary squad, but the former NL5.R roster have shown some promising results at the tail end of 2016.

The team primarily competes in the CIS region, but during the national competition, WESG 2016, they competed in the Asia Pacific Finals. There, NL5.R topped their group over lesser MAX.Y and Power Gaming to move on to the playoffs and later swept TNC Pro Team 2-0 in the quarterfinals and swept Signature.Trust 2-0 in the semifinals, the team who notably defeated MVP Phoenix 2-1 in the quarterfinals. NL5.R later lost 2-1 in Grand Finals against To.be.or.not.to.be, which features former Newbee Young players Zhou "Lwy" Xinyi and Zhang "MelodyLovers" Hangqi.

MVP now have four Dota 2 rosters under their banner after rebranding NL5.R to MVP Revolution, joining the team's primary roster MVP Phoenix and the other secondary squads, MVP HOT6ix and MVP Aegis.

Here's what MVP Revolution's roster looks like:

  • Bektur "Runec" Kulov
  • Duulat "StormC4t" Subankulov
  • ilgiz "NapaleoshQa" Djunuşaliev
  • Džoni "Blizzy" Ri
  • Bakyt "Zayac" Emilzhanov

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev Discipline Priest. You can follow him on Twitter.

The most memorable Dota 2 moments of 2016

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Thumbnail image courtesy of The International 2016 / Twitch

From rough seas in Shanghai to the top of the world at TI, this was a year full of surprises in Dota 2. In 2016 we saw teams like OG and Wings Gaming ascend with standout performances from new stars and old veterans, while the largest prize pool in esports continued to grow and the game itself changed dramatically.

Good and bad, here's what we'll remember most about Dota 2 in 2016.

'James is an ass'

Where to begin with The Shanghai Major?

The second Major tournament in the 2015-2016 season was marred by production problems, from extreme delays between games, stream lag, frequent audio issues, missing equipment and a lack of food and water for staff. The problems were so bad and so numerous that before the second day of the group stage ended, Valve made the unprecedented decision to fire the English host, James "2GD" Harding, and KeyTV, the production company responsible for the event broadcast.

The move was announced by Valve co-founder Gabe Newell in a Reddit post, in which he declared, "James is an ass, and we won't be working with him again" — a statement that would fuel memes for months to come.

Old Man Fear retires

After 10 years in competitive Dota, Clinton "Fear" Loomis retired from play in August to become Evil Geniuses' coach. Fear ended his playing career as arguably the greatest American Dota player, and one of the best in the world. As the man himself said:

EternalEnvy vs. Team Secret

In October, Jacky "EternalEnvy" Mao accused Team Secret — who he helped win The Shanghai Major — of delaying payments and taking a cut from players' tournament winnings without their consent. EE further alleged that team captain Clement "Puppey" Ivanov was verbally abusive and refused to take blame for any of the team's mistakes.

The lengthy blog post gained a great deal of traction in the Dota community. Secret and Puppey only indirectly addressed the allegations.

The Great Fall of China

While the Shanghai broadcast suffered under mismanagement, Chinese teams were having a meltdown of their own.

Going into the event, Chinese invites EHOME, CDEC Gaming and Vici Gaming were riding high on months of strong performances. In the qualifiers, LGD Gaming and Newbee looked to be in top form.

Yet only LGD qualified for the upper bracket after the group stage, where they were promptly knocked down by MVP Phoenix. Not a single Chinese team made it to the Top 8 — precipitating the breakup of almost every roster that attended in the following months.

The rise of Slacks

It turns out Jake "SirActionSlacks" Kanner is the hero Dota 2 deserves.

While he has created content and made appearances at tournaments in years past, 2016 marked the first time Dota's top memer appeared as an interviewer at TI6, as well as the Manila and Boston Majors. Though the choice was initially controversial among fans, Slacks rose to the occasion with interviews and segments that struck just the right balance between serious Dota and comedy.

The first comeback from Mega Creeps in a ticketed match

Game 1 of EHOME vs. Evil Geniuses' upper bracket series at TI6 offered up 75 minutes of the most riveting Dota fans had ever experienced.

After what seemed like ages of back-and-forth battles, EHOME destroyed EG's last barracks to secure Mega Creeps at 71 minutes. EG needed to play perfectly to have any hope — which is exactly what they did. EHOME pushed too far and were repeatedly caught off guard by the American team, who played knowing that they have nothing left to lose.

Ad Finem's 300 moment

Ad Finem was the first European team to qualify for The Boston Major, defeating established teams like Team Liquid and Team Secret in the process. By the time the Major ended, Ad Finem had garnered a legion of fans through their aggressive play and their adamant refusal to give up.

In the playoffs, Ad Finem secured wins over Newbee and LGD.ForeverYoung before crushing Digital Chaos 2-0 in the semifinals. The crowd fell in love with the Greek team, cheering on their enthusiastic celebrations and rooting for them even when they were losing. And they did ultimately lose, 3-1 to OG in the Grand Finals, but their dogged persistence turned their one win in Game 3 into the best game of the event.

The puppet panel

Fans who tuned in for the TI6 pre-game discussion were surprised to see the analyst desk mysteriously transformed...

Wings Gaming conquer TI6

Wings Gaming were one of the few teams that didn't change their roster in the 2015-2016 season, sticking together even as every major competitor in their region disassembled. Though Wings missed both the Frankfurt and Shanghai Majors, they took the opportunity to learn and grow stronger, rather than try to infuse fresh blood.

That perseverance paid off at TI6, where they stormed through the upper bracket to defeat Digital Chaos 3-1 in the Grand Finals and win the largest prize in esports history.

Dota 7.00

Just when the pros thought they had the game mastered, Valve dropped the biggest patch since the initial release of Dota 2.

An overhauled map with shrines and a new Roshan pit, the new hero Monkey King, a new HUD and user-scripted training bots were just a few of the dramatic changes and additions to the game. Along with some standard-issue balance tweaks, every hero was given a new talent tree that dramatically changes the way players build them.

It's not an exaggeration to say that 7.00 flipped the Dota 2 meta on its head, and the effects it will have on competitive play have yet to truly be felt. But if nothing else, 7.00 heralds a fresh and exciting 2017 for Dota.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports whose journalism idol is Dino Ghiranze. You can follow him on Twitter.

Dota update 7.01 adds Necrophos to CM, adjusts XP curve

dota2.com
Thumbnail image courtesy of Valve

Dota 2's first post-7.00 patch has been released, and it balances a number of heroes as well as adding Necrophos to Captain's Mode and adjusting the XP required to level up in certain intervals.

Click here for the full patch notes via dota2.com

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