If you can believe it, there was a time before Dota 2. While Valve’s lawyers may insist that Dota 2 does not stand for anything and is definitely not the sequel to a game called DotA, that game does exist. Before Valve, before the careful hand of an Icefrog with the benefit of hindsight, there were an army of insane, completely broken, hilariously imbalanced DotA heroes.
This week, we’re going to break from format a little to take a look at three DotA heroes who were just obscenely powerful. You think current Dota 2 heroes seem strong? You haven’t seen these stupid, broken messes.
Io is a pretty powerful hero right now, but back in the days before the 4.X series of patches, they went by a different name. Yes, the lovable wisp was once dark purple, called itself GOD, and specialized in putting enemies to sleep.
Okay, that doesn’t sound super threatening and broken, especially considering it was called GOD in all caps, but trust me on this.
GOD’s basic abilities were mostly pretty harmless. They had a damage-dealing lightning bolt, a shield that absorbed all damage until GOD ran out of mana, and an ultimate that dealt waves of area of effect damage. But their most important ability was called Sleep. Sleep did exactly what it says on the tin. It put enemies to sleep. The only problem is that they’d never wake up.
At level one, a slept enemy would sleep for 20 seconds, but the ability only had a 15 second cooldown at max level, with a 60-second sleep. The math is pretty simple. Any enemy you put to sleep would be essentially stunlocked as long as no one was around to attack and wake them up, they’d essentially be out of the game with no way to gain experience. GOD may have had bad laning and mediocre teamfighting, but their ability to essentially turn any DotA game into a 5v4 makes them one of the most insane heroes the game ever saw.
Maverick the Gambler
In a recent testimony during a trial about Dota 2’s copyright, one of DotA’s key figures, Derek “Terroblaze” Baker said that Maverick the Gambler was “impossible to balance.”
If that doesn’t raise flags about how broken a character is, I don’t know what will.
Gambler showed up in a later 5.X series version of DotA, and possessed some of the most overpowered abilities any DotA hero had ever seen. Gambler got All In at Level 6, which allowed him to deal damage based on his current gold. The more gold he had, the more damage he could potentially deal. However, the attack had a higher chance of whiffing the more damage it would deal, and if you whiffed, you lost all your money. Then again, the attack could deal up to 1,500 damage at level one, guaranteeing a kill that early in the game, so it was almost always worth the risk.
Now, since that attack basically takes gold as ammo, it doesn’t seem as bad as it could be. But then you get to Ante Up, one of Maverick’s basic abilities. Ante Up had Gambler bet 100 gold on any other hero, ally or enemy. If that character got a kill in the next 60 seconds, Maverick got 600 gold. If the character instead got killed, Maverick would still get 300 gold. If neither happened, Maverick got no gold, but that didn’t matter. If you cast that on an enemy right before a gank or during a fight, you’d basically get a guaranteed 300 gold per kill, fueling more and more huge All Ins.
Gambler basically set up a chain of farming fast, almost free gold and converting that filthy lucre into crazy All In nukes. On top of his Lucky Stars ability, which let him passively gain gold every time he hit anything, Maverick basically never had to actually fight. He could just farm gold, then drop nukes on his enemies without even working for it. Also, items were pooled back then, meaning that Gambler could actually use all that gold to buy items for his allies, getting his team way further ahead than they should have been.
Gambler was so impossible to balance they just straight-up took him out of the game and never put in a replacement. There’s no way to fix Gambler. But he lives on in the hearts of salty DotA players.
Finally, we come to perhaps one of the silliest heroes to ever make it into DotA: Nochthitus, the Dark Terminator. He only showed up in just a few versions of DotA Allstars, but Dark Terminator was clearly from the future. Unlike most DotA heroes, who were based on WarCraft 3 characters, Nochthitus was a Terran marine from StarCraft, carrying a machine gun and power armor into battle while most of his enemies were swinging clubs and axes.
Dark Terminator had Drunker Brawler, a passive that gave him seven percent dodge at level one and double critical damage. By level four, that could be 30 percent dodge and six times critical damage. He also got Wind Walk, which turned him invisible and gave him bonus move speed and damage and a 60-second cooldown global Blink, which meant no one on the map was safe from a Terminator dropping on their head and cracking open their skull.
His two ultimates were Reincarnation at Level 6, which let Dark Terminator come back to life after dying, making him effectively unkillable on top of his crazy damage, and the unpronounceable Imita|tcffffcc00rion at Level 10, which created a second Dark Terminator that dealt full damage with every attack.
There’s no explanation out there for Dark Terminator. No one knows exactly who designed him, or exactly who removed him. But he appeared, for the briefest moment, to rain unbalanced, broken terror down on the fantasy world of Dota with his powerful science, and his bizarre, drunken fighting style.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.