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.

Conrad Janzen on Dota 2's top-heavy scene: 'I would just love to see more tier 2 support'

by 21h ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Valve

Conrad Janzen, former Cloud9 player manager and current Twitch partnerships team member, has a few ideas.

Appearing on theScore esports Podcast Monday, Janzen spoke on everything from why he thinks The International’s prize pool will break its own record (again) this year, to how Valve can improve the Major system.

When asked about whether the prize pool for TI7 would exceed TI6’s massive $20.7 million purse, Janzen said the company behind Dota 2 would find a way to make it happen.

“If I had to bet on Valve, it’s always going to be more and they’re going to figure out some way to do it,” he said.

“Valve is going to figure out ways to steal money from my wallet every year in the best way possible,” he said. “They do a really good job of providing value and that’s the one thing I think Dota does a really good job compared to a lot of other free to play games as well as just games in general."

It's all about making the existing player base happy, he said.

“They provide a lot of value to their hardcore users, to their regular users and there’s always going to be somebody who’s willing to spend even more than I think I do.”

Janzen also commented on the Major system, saying that although it was overall beneficial to the Dota 2 scene, is isn’t not without its shortcomings.

“It is bad in some ways, I think it does hurt third parties,” he said.

“Obviously last year we saw Boston Major take precedence over DreamHack, and that was a very unfortunate case.” One solution, he said, would be to model things more closely on Counter-Strike’s tournament structure.

“Things I would like to see is maybe make the qualifiers more valuable, make them a LAN event very similar to CS:GO, right? Where you have all these teams coming in so it’s truly international,” he told theScore esports Podcast.

“What Valve is going to have to do in this case is take a step forward and be like, ‘This is an important part, we want to grow Dota as a whole.' So, very similar to the CS:GO system where they have a regional qualifier that mostly takes place online, and then they bring all those teams together to a major qualifying tournament,” he said.

Improving the Major structure would help showcase rising Dota talent that, at least right now, is getting lost in the shadows beyond the Majors' spotlight.

“I would just love to see more tier 2 support,” he said. “I think that’s the big thing we’re missing, is these up-and-coming stars are not getting as revealed as they used to be. In-house leagues, these sort of concepts, have disappeared," he said.

“To have a healthy, growing esport, you’re going to have to support those tier 2 players as well with smaller Cups, smaller tournaments.”

Colin McNeil is a supervising editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

EPICENTER's second Dota 2 tournament announced for June 4-11

by 1d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of EPICENTER

EPICENTER: Moscow returns with its second Dota 2 event, slated to take place June 4-11, the tournament organizer announced on Wednesday.

The event will see 10 teams compete for a $500,000 prize pool, with qualifiers being held in the European, CIS, North American and Chinese regions in a similar format to the first EPICENTER: Moscow event.

EPICENTER: Moscow's group stage will be held on June 4-7, while the playoffs will take place at the VTB Ice Palace on June 9-11.

The event will also host a cosplay tournament with approximately $3,500 on the line.

Further details are expected in the coming weeks, such as qualifier dates and invited teams.Team Liquid are an expected invite since they were the champions of the first EPICENTER event.

RELATED: Team Liquid defeat Newbee, win EPICENTER

While this is the third event dubbed EPICENTER: Moscow, this is only the second Dota 2 event, as the previous event was a CS:GO tournament. That was won by the former Team Diginitas roster now part of North.

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 Pharah. You can follow him on Twitter.

Packers LB Blake Martinez: 'During the next session out in Green Bay I want to speak to our president about sponsoring [an esports] team in the near future'

by 2d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Dylan Buell / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Green Bay Packers linebacker Blake Martinez isn't just a big Dota 2 fan, he's also an advocate for the game and esports in general among his NFL teammates.

Martinez has been streaming Dota 2 for charity almost every day since mid-February, and he was recently invited to MoonduckTV's Kiev Major Qualifier hub and helped cast dozens of Dota games in the lead up to the Major. theScore esports caught up with Martinez to talk about how esports are perceived in the NFL, how he got into Dota 2 and his plans to pitch the Packers on esports.

How did you get into Dota?

The way I got into Dota was an interesting story because my friends were all playing in our living room my sophomore year of college at Stanford and kept egging me on to play with them but I was so focused on football that I didn’t take up the offer but after a week or so they finally got me to try and I fell in love with the game and was one of the things I do to get my mind off of football!

Do you keep up with Dota during the season? Either playing or keeping up with the esports scene?

I watch Dota 24/7 whenever I am stretching or in the ice tub or any down time that I get from film watching and all other football obligations. Also I only play on our off days because there isn't enough time on a daily basis during the season to get games in! It was tough my rookie year, I didn't play Dota for about 6-7 months.

What position do you play in Dota? Who are your favorite heroes to play?

I mainly play the carry role and the shot caller of my team when I am in solo ranked, but I know how to play all positions since a lot of Dota players like to instantly pick the core roles regardless of skill. My favorite heroes are Storm Spirit, Luna, AM, Earthshaker, and Juggernaut.

What was your worst solo queue experience?

Worst solo queue experience happened about a couple weeks ago, I had a offlane Underlord that went afk farming the whole game (key note was that we were still winning the game without him). Then at about 30 mins the Underlord came out of the jungle with a rapier and fed it to the enemy team and we lost the game. Then I asked him why he did that and he said "I hate Monkey King pickers so I didn't want to win...."

What's your favorite Dota team? Why?

My favorite Dota team was the original No Diggity team that Synderen started, because I love the underdog role in any situation and they proved to everyone how good they are. It was awesome when they made it to the main stage at TI.

If you could play a game with any Dota pro, who would it be and why?

The one person I would want to play a game with would probably be Fata from Bears because I have just heard how amazing of a player he is, and I would just want to learn from his play!

What prompted you to start streaming? Do you find it hard to balance offseason training with your daily streaming?

The main reason I started streaming was because I play this game so much and it is one of my favorite hobbies, so I thought it would be a great way to use it in a beneficial way! That meaning I use it to donate money to the Saint Jude’s children's cancer research program! All the money I make from streaming goes to Saint Jude’s also every 100 followers I get I donate $50 to the foundation as well!

What do you think of the growing interest from traditional sports in esports? Do you think the NFL is going to get involved, given that it's been mostly from the NBA so far?

I think it is awesome how much sports and esports are meshing together! I knew it would happen sooner than later, because every professional sports player plays video games of some sort and the competitive aspect always catches the eyes of the real sports players! I think soon the NFL will get involved, and it is my mission to be the one that gets that to happen as soon as possible! During the next session out in Green Bay I want to speak to our president about sponsoring a team in the near future.

Are esports and gaming things that people talk about in the Packers locker room?

A lot of us talk about gaming because everyone plays console games and we have massive tournaments in Madden, FIFA, and UFC, but not too many conversations about esports competitions until I got there! I think every day I got asked "what are you watching on your phone" and I would always have to explain what Dota is, what Twitch is and the grand scheme of the tournaments, prizes pool, TI etc... and after I talk to anyone about it they think it is the coolest and greatest thing so hopefully that is a good start in easing its way into the NFL!

What is the most played game among the Packers' players?

The most played game is probably FIFA, I think there is a tournament in our game lounge almost everyday!

What's it like casting the Major qualifiers? Is casting something you've wanted to do before?

Casting was an amazing, crazy experience because I had no Idea what I was doing, but the people at Moonduck were extremely helpful in teaching me the ins and outs of casting. Also they just made it a fun and enjoyable time throughout the qualifiers. It was always something I wanted to try but never thought I would be able to do!

Jeremy Lin is noted in the community for being a pro athlete with an interest in Dota, he even has a team named after him. Could you beat Jeremy Lin in lane?

Yes I could easily beat Jeremy Lin in any lane or game!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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

theScore esports Podcast ep. 6: Conrad Janzen on The International, Dota's Major system and Kiev

by 3d ago

1:55: Conrad Janzen on Kiev invites, the amount of Chinese teams
3:09: Janzen picks OG to win Kiev, Digital Chaos as the dark horse
4:50: "100 minute games are very easily possible" at Kiev
6:05: Why teams won't be holding back at DAC
7:15: TI prize pool "always going to be more," Valve will find a way
8:30: On the future of Dota 2: "Have we reached peak Dota? I don't think so"
10:03: Ded gaem? Why Dota 2 won't go the way of StarCraft
11:53: How to improve the Major system
17:37: Teams like OG, EG and DC will benefit from 7.03 changes
18:23: "Monkey King is going to be a huge presence" in 7.03
21:00: The time Janzen and Arteezy got drunk and debated swords vs. guns
25:28: Kyle on being on SXSW's esports panel with Dyrus
29:21: Ryan hijacks the podcast and talks about Thorin
31:26: Enter Dennis Gonzales, theScore esports' Valve guy
32:48: What Dota's Major system could learn from CS:GO
34:21: Team Liquid, OG among the teams to watch at Kiev
35:44: Has Valve given up on NA when it comes to Dota?
37:57: Esports audiences are getting burnt out
42:03: Jungling in Dota? "I'd say you're kind of screwed"

Click or tap here to listen in on SoundCloud.

Pick your lane, oil up your meat hooks… and don’t think too hard about that metaphor, because this week on theScore esports Podcast, we’re talking Dota.

Hosts Colin, Ryan and Kyle sit down over Skype with former Cloud9 player manager and current Twitch partnerships team member Conrad Janzen to talk about The International, The Kiev Major, and the state of Dota 2 today.

Janzen breaks down his picks for who will succeed at Kiev and DAC, why The International’s prize pool will forever increase year after year, and gives us some insight into how Valve’s Major system could be improved.

Next up it’s theScore esports’ own Dennis Gonzales, who has his own thoughts on who’s looking hot heading into Kiev, as well what the competitive Dota scene could learn CS:GO.

Colin McNeil is a supervising editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

A beginner's guide to jungling in Dota 2

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Valve

Jungling in Dota is a difficult job, but when done properly, can be the difference between winning a game and losing one.

While a dedicated jungler is not required in many games, picking a jungler provides a number of benefits, including securing a large amount of farm and the ability to gank lanes to assist a struggling teammate.

RELATED: Returning to Dota 2: A Brief Guide to 7.00's Map

In this guide, we'll go over which heroes make for strong junglers, how to effectively farm neutral creeps, and what to do to counter the opponents' jungle game.

Jungler Heroes

Junglers excel at efficiently farming neutral creeps at the beginning of the game. As a game progresses, other heroes become more than capable of taking down neutral creeps on their own, but the jungler is uniquely suited to clearing out neutral camps without much difficulty.

Broadly, junglers come in two varieties. They can either sustain themselves through the damage done by neutral creeps, or they can summon minions or convert neutral creeps to take damage in their stead. No matter what kind of jungler you pick, it is important to pick up items that increase health and mana regeneration, as they need to be able to stay in the fight for as long as possible without going back to base to ensure they farm effectively.

Junglers with a focus on survivability typically have one or more abilities that allow them to either heal through lifesteal, or are capable of dealing high amounts of damage in a short period of time. Ursa makes for a prime example with his Fury Swipes, which increase the amount of damage dealt with each consecutive attack. Lifestealer is another solid choice, as he can heal himself with Feast to remain in the jungle for far longer than other heroes.

Summoner heroes, on the other hand, excel at jungling because they don't have to tank creeps' damage in order to clear out camps. Enigma and Nature's Prophet are great for their ability to summon more units, while Enchantress and Chen can convert the creeps to their side.

Compared to other junglers, summoners can take medium and large camps earlier. In general, these heroes should prioritize mana regeneration first so that they can remain in the jungle longer and sustain their high cost abilities.

Creep Stacking

Creep Stacking is essential to proper jungling. In short, creep stacking involves pulling away the creeps from a camp shortly before their respawn timer activates. If the creeps are outside of the camp's spawn box, additional creeps will spawn,which you can subsequently kill. The more stacks on a camp, the more farm you get.

The recent 7.00 update changed the spawn timers for neutral camps, drastically changing how jungling works. Whereas the spawn time for camps used to be 0:30/1/2/3/4/etc., it is now 0:30/1/3/5/7/etc. The two minute time between spawns now means that speed is not as important as it once was. You now have enough time to clear out more camps and possibly execute a gank in between respawns.

To stack a camp, you must first either attack a neutral creep or walk close to their position, causing the creeps to chase after you for a short period of time. While the size of each camps spawn box varies, it is generally possible to pull the creeps at the 53 or 54 second mark to safely stack a camp.

While creep stacking is easy to pick up, there are other methods that can allow for even more efficient farming. A more advanced technique is creep pulling, which involves pulling a neutral camp into the path of incoming lane creeps. This is much harder to pull off, requiring careful timing, and is not recommended for beginners. Once it is mastered, however, you can use the lane creeps to take down harder neutral camps easily and without needing to worry about your survivability.

Counter-Jungling

While having a jungler on your team is important to secure farm, it's just as essential to know how to properly shut one down and prevent the enemy from doing the same.

RELATED: A basic guide to warding in Dota 2

As mentioned earlier, neutral creeps will not spawn in a camp if there is another unit inside of it. This includes wards, which are invisible to the enemy team unless they are using a Gem of True Sight or are placing Sentry Wards to counter-ward their jungle. Placing a ward inside a neutral camp in the enemy jungle will lower their overall efficiency, though it is up to you whether you use Sentry Wards or Observer Wards for the job.

Observer Wards are great at providing sight range, but the limited amount your team has on hand combined with the fact that the most common spots to place them are often the most frequently de-warded means that they're often best used in other locations. That said, placing Observer Wards in the enemy jungle is a reliable way to both prevent additional creeps from spawning as well as potentially allowing you to see where the enemy jungler is, which could be used to set up a gank.

On the other hand, Sentry Wards do not provide much vision, with their only other use being to de-ward enemy wards and detect invisible opponents. These are much more difficult to spot, and can be used to effectively shut down a neutral camp without much difficulty.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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