Despite all the craziness, the group stage didn’t end up in any tiebreakers, but it still was the most entertaining group stage in the history of the International. The most interesting and the most diverse.
One hundred and ten unique hero picks, one hundred and fifteen contested heroes. Truly, everything can work. Except for Night Stalker and Riki, apparently, but there is still plenty of time for these heroes to show up.
There are three somewhat problematic heroes right now: Alchemist, Enchantress and Shadow Demon all have 80%+ contest rate. All three of them also have 55%+ win rate, so their popularity is definitely not misguided.
Shadow Demon was probably one of the more predictable popular heroes. Soul Catcher is one hell of a spell that can turn most AoE nukes into instant kills. It makes opening kills that much easier, and the hero also provides decent lane presence and safety for the situations where your team is the one getting initiated on. He is good when you are ahead, good when you are behind and very versatile. We expect the hero to remain incredibly popular.
Alchemist is kind of weird, though. On one hand, he should be a risky pick that heavily relies on the laning stage and the first ten or so minutes of the game to get tempo. On the other, recent changes to how Aghanim’s Scepters work allows him to directly translate his gold into useful upgrades until the very late stages of the game. His popularity is probably going to decrease slightly as the tournament progresses, with better teams simply finding more ways of shutting the hero down. Alternatively he will become the highest priority first phase ban for the second pick team.
Finally, there is Enchantress and if you are a support player you know how annoying this hero is to play against. After receiving several buffs in a row, the hero is now among the most banned heroes of the tournament since she can withstand pretty much any lane, has great damage output and can also provide some extra pushing power if needed. Her ability to purge buffs also comes incredibly handy when playing against heroes like Ember Spirit or Ogre Magi. She is also very likely to remain in her priority ban category for the rest of the tournament.
Lone Druid, Mars, Phoenix, Pugna and Pudge all have <20% win rate in at least five games. Teams experimented with them, but they rarely worked, making them very questionable picks going forward. But they are not the overrated heroes.
Omniknight, Grimstroke and Outworld Devourer all win less than a third of their games, despite being picked somewhat frequently. Al three heroes received some nerfs going into TI and it seems the players are just starting to understand the implications.
There is still a place in the game for both Omniknight and Grimstroke: first provides one of the strongest buffs in the game that can turn your carry into an unstoppable machine, while the second can still lead to some amazing combos, but it looks like the OD’s future is really uncertain. There are so many viable cores in the game right now and it is likely we won’t see any more of this hero, unless it is a 10th surprise pick in a perfect game.
But the medal for the most overrated hero still goes to Ogre Magi with a 45% win rate across 51 games. The hero has been played as both position four and position five supports, as well as in the offlane and it seems he doesn’t really work consistently. He can frontline, but his impact on any given teamfight is very restricted, especially in comparison to heroes like Sand King, Earthshaker, Centaur and Tidehunter.
Moreover, regardless of position, Ogre Magi players frequently go for no points in Ignite and that is an interesting new development, one we do not have enough data points to analyze. Though we can say that at least statistics-wise so far it is the build that leads to the highest win rate. We expect less experimentation with the hero going forward, since his ability to frontline, initiate and soak up damage as a position three core is not on par with the competition.
Abaddon, Dragon Knight and Earth Spirit all had great success during the group stage, but were mostly deemed unworthy of bans. We highlighted Dragon Knight in our predictions post, but the hero turned out to be a lot more popular than we expected, with eight games in the group stage already. His level 20 talent is what allows him to win most of his matches, since it solves a lot of the farming problems for the hero in the later stages of the game.
Abaddon was picked sixteen times with a win rate of over 60% and given the rise in popularity of Mirana, he is likely to continue on being a viable position five option. Earth Spirit is still the good old Earth Spirit — he was played only by four teams, but all of them had great success with this incredibly niche hero.
We expect both Abaddon and Dragon Knight to start rising in popularity, as the tournament’s meta starts developing. Earth Spirit is still too specific of a hero that must be trained, before he can have an impact.
It is really hard to analyze the current meta. Everything can work and even Pudge won one out of his five games somehow. That means we can’t give you our usual suggestions of what to try in your pubs or what heroes to increase your MMR on.
And that is what is great about Dota right now. The game is at its best, you are free to try weird combinations, experiments and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. This process of exploration is what got lost with the rise of the competition and right now is probably the best time to recapture the magic of simply playing Dota and having fun. So, maybe, instead of looking through data, trying to analyze every bit of information that can give you a competitive edge, simply go and play some games. That’s what we are going to do.