Whenever a big patch launches, there are a variety of things people look out for. Among the most interesting changes, there’s usually at least one or two quality of life improvements for supports--a trend that manifested itself throughout the past years with cheaper consumables and vision items.
The 7.00-7.02 era brought in more than just quality of life improvements for supports. Talents have made it easier for supports to transition into the lategame and global changes to experience have of course changed the way we look at the game. Which supports have adapted best to the new Dota?
Going into the Boston Major, the Chinese scene had been riddled with Rubick picks. The hero was a constant first-phase pick for many teams, as it obviously never warranted a ban while providing sufficient flexibility to not be tied to any certain laning layout or any strategy. It was a trend that other teams started to pick up at the event, which led to Rubick finishing as the most picked hero.
This trend has continued in 7.00, certainly because the meta didn’t drastically change and because Rubick did get buffed after all (increase in Fade Bolt damage and damage reduction %). More so than that however, the new economy of the game and the fact that even supports will likely farm up high tier items faster and more consistently, make Rubick a highly valuable pick in this meta. He can fit in virtually any line-up and can counter virtually any line-up as well.
The new talents allow Rubick to transition much better into the lategame, with an early GPM talent, a cast range increase and a late cooldown reduction, he’ll be well equipped to be a threat in all stages of the game.
In the 3 major LAN events in the 7.00-7.02 era (ESL One Genting, Dota Pit, StarLadder i-Series), he’s been the most picked support at both Genting and StarLadder and placed 2nd at Dota Pit right after Earth Spirit. In pub games, he doesn’t get much playtime in the lower brackets. The higher the skill however, the more recognized he is. In the 5k+ MMR bracket, Rubick is the 2nd most played hero after Pudge with a 31% pickrate. His winrate may be anything but impressive in both pub and pro games, but that is to be expected of a hero that is picked as consistently as he is.
Rubick seems to be in a very good place right now, and will likely continue to be a relevant pick in the foreseeable future.
When Earth Spirit was first introduced into Captain’s Mode about a year ago (6.86), teams immediately knew that, despite the nerfs, he’d be competitive and strong. He immediately became a top tier hero and it forced Icefrog to nerf the hero in the following patches. Yet, without any significant buff, aside from the introduction of talents, Earth Spirit has rolled back into the meta and is once again a top tier support.
Like many heroes that have become popular in 7.00, the talents are quite important to look at. Additional intelligence, GPM and spell amplification are, similar to Rubick’s talent tree, key factors that allow ES to scale better into the lategame.
The meta also has more focus on a solid, if not successful laning stage and a hero like Earth Spirit can win multiple lanes as well. With the introduction of the new Bounty runespots, roamers like Earth Spirit have become more effective in the early game. Before 7.00, roamers and gankers needed to be successful or at the very least have a way to get the farm back that they couldn’t get through ganking. This lack of farming capabilities and reliance on successful ganks edged Earth Spirit out of the meta for a while, but he’s back.
At Dota Pit, Earth Spirit was picked in 12 games, was thus the 2nd most picked hero at the event and still boasts a 75% winrate. At StarLadder, Earth Spirit was picked only 6 times, but still mustered an 83% winrate and was also banned 11 times.
Pros are clearly recognizing the strengths of the hero in the current meta, but that hasn’t translated well into the pubs just yet. As the hero remains a rather difficult hero to execute, his pickrate is still among the lowest (3.36%, 93rd in popularity). It comes to no surprise that it is the 5k+ MMR bracket that picks him the most (15%), but even there he only has a 48% winrate, though it is still way above his general winrate across all skill brackets (41%).
Earth Spirit will always be a hero with a higher skill ceiling than most other heroes, but as long as pros continue to pick him, he’ll eventually find his way into more and more pub games.
Ogre Magi has been among the top tier supports in our last analysis already and remains a top pick. That said, Ogre has been nerfed quite significantly since then, with a movement speed reduction in 7.01 and an intelligence growth nerf in 7.02 (from 2.4 to 2.0).
Perhaps that is why Ogre was picked significantly less at StarLadder than at previous events, with only 4 picks. In pubs, his pickrate has also dropped quite a bit and went from 12% to now 10%, though his winrate has remained at roughly 53%. Like most other supports in this list, he’s most respected in the 5k+ MMR bracket, with an almost 17% pickrate. That said, he has the lowest winrate here, with only 51% of won games.
The nerfs in 7.01 and 7.02 were quite significant and with the return of other heroes like Warlock and others, it may be the end of Ogre Magi in the pro meta for a while. His pub pickrate is slowly, but steadily declining and his winrate at all recent LANs has been below 50%.
Ever since 6.78 (June 2013), Keeper of the Light has been consistently buffed up until 6.88e (October 2016). Sure, his buffs have been small and mostly targeted towards Mana Leak, a spell that was disregarded a lot up until a few months ago, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this hero has been continuously buffed and that he’s in a good place right now.
In pubs, KotL may not be the most popular support (6% pickrate), which makes sense because unlike the heroes above, he is not a flashy support that likely ends up in a highlight reel or even on the scoreboard and he generally may feel too strategic, more so than mechanically challenging. But the recent StarLadder LAN event suggests that he’s on the rise.
10 picks and 11 bans make him the 8th most contested hero at the event, but it was the way teams used him that seemed more impressive. Team Liquid had already used him in their run during the DAC qualifiers and he seems to be a strong addition to many of their line-ups. He can be a strong dual-lane partner for the offlane, as Chakra Magic allows any hero to use their spells to harass more efficiently. In later stages of the game, his Aghanim's Scepter provides map control that is trumped by only few (most notably Night Stalker of course).
A more detailed breakdown of KotL in the meta will be published later.
With further quality of life changes for supports (Sentries split into single purchases, TP range indicator) and talents, which usually help any support better transition into the lategame, this patch may be the best patch for supports yet. There’s always something to do, be it to cover Bounty runes or to contest them.
Of course, there are many other viable supports right now. Io will always remain relevant, at least in the pro scene, and Shadow Demon is still very much the nuisance he proved to be in the previous patch. Dazzle and Warlock are both at the cusp of return in the pro scene and maybe even Oracle may make it back.