Viper was dominating the professional and high level pub scenes. Valve has acknowledged that he was a problematic hero, along with a variety of buffs to many unpicked characters. While the patch itself is pretty small, we believe it will result in disproportionate changes to the meta.
Deny XP changed from 30% to 35%—slowly, but surely, we are seeing the return of the suicide lane in its former glory, opening way for roaming heroes and trilanes. 35% still generally means that an offlane hero will need some help at the beginning of the game against a trilane, but if your roaming hero can secure the other two lanes and apply pressure to them, the enemy team will be forced to adapt through support rotations. This can theoretically leave the offlaners in a much more secure 1v2.
Changes to the Drum of Endurance and Hand of Midas should be noticeable, but certainly not gamebreaking. Even with the price increase, Drum of Endurance is a very cost-efficient stat item with a decent team aura. Hand of Midas lost 11% of its gold effectiveness, but its XP effectiveness and Attack Speed bonus were left intact. It is still a very situational and very punishable item that is overused in pubs and even some pro-games, so think twice about building it, especially after the nerfs.
Most of the buffs were small enough to have little to no impact on the success of the heroes. We believe Alchemist might make a comeback, since his Acid Spray now once again covers most of the river in the midlane, securing his early farm, but with so few players actually playing the hero, it is mostly a speculation.
Nerfs in the patch are a lot more pronounced. Elder Titan suffered a massive decrease in his laning efficiency, with his attack bonus from Astral Spirit being reduced. ET can still be a dominant force in the laning stage and will probably remain a popular pick in the professional scene, but his pub career might be in jeopardy—applying pressure in lane became a lot harder and that is what most pub ET players were struggling with in the first place.
Despite all the talk, Kunkka is still doing relatively ok in his pubs. Losing a significant amount of deny attack damage is a huge nerf, but the hero is still pretty hard to lane against, with his constant harass and guaranteed last hits. Plus there is now more incentive to use Tidebringer aggressively, so while the hero is slightly weaker overall, playstyle adjustments can make up for most of it.
Monkey King should be a weaker hero in the hands of the top 0.1%, who could consistently evade stuns and high-damage nukes, but as stats suggests, the majority of pub players were relatively unscathed by the changes to the Mischief.
Nature’s Prophet is now a lot less obnoxious in lane, losing a considerable amount of damage from his level one treants. It means that squishier supports now have a modicum of a fighting chance against the hero and this change is certainly welcome. Theoretically, the nerfs should also decrease the hero’s farming and pushing speeds and perhaps we will see less position three Prophets and more support Furions.
Finally, there is Viper, who received a massive manacost nerf to Nethertoxin—the hero will have a much harder time flash-farming the jungle and won’t be able to spam Nethertoxin as much during teamfights. It was a necessary and a welcome change: hero’s winrate decreased by almost 5%, from apparently overpowered 60%+. Coupled with nerfs to the early levels of Poison Attack, the hero should be in a much better place—according to pub stats Viper is still relevant and even strong, but he shouldn’t be omnipresent in the professional scene.
Releasing a patch so close to the Minor was unexpected, but it feels like it was necessary: ESL Katowice and MDL Macau were two independent tournaments that both quickly converged on the same couple of heroes.
While we at Dotabuff are fans of longer patch cycles, which allow the meta to develop naturally, stats definitely pointed to the fact that Viper was simply overpowered. Hopefully we won’t see anything similar in the upcoming DPC tournaments.