I wouldn’t normally write something like this, but… well, I’m actually kinda impressed with what’s been added in Dota 2‘s 6.80 patch. There’s the usual bunch of little tweaks and changes, sure, but there are also two new heroes (both of whom are actually rather fun to play), and a new game mode that turns Dota 2 on its head. I want to write something about these things, just to get the joy out of my brain so that whatever article I write next is as cynical and morose as usual. That is what I am doing right now.
I don’t normally play new heroes that much; I quite like Skywrath Mage, I admit, but he’s about the most recent hero I’ve really enjoyed. Abaddon was interesting, but ultimately unexciting. Ember Spirit isn’t my sort of hero. I’d prefer not to see Earth Spirit in any matches I play. I’ve never actually played Legion Commander because, up until this week, a guild member first-picked her in every single match we started. Etc.
Then there are Phoenix and Terrorblade, both of whom I’ve spent a bit of time with, and both of whom I actually rather like.
Phoenix is a really, really odd hero. Barring the fact that every ability he has (ultimate aside) actually drains his own health, he seems like he can fulfil pretty much any role except mid. He can support pretty well since regen items like Mekansm help him a lot, and his abilities are useful with or without items; conversely, if given the opportunity to farm, getting items like an early Tranquil Boots or some late-game bits like Heart of Tarrasque and Shiva’s Guard can make him nigh-unkillable and let him spam his abilities every time they’re off cooldown without bringing himself to the point of death. He’s way more useful with farm, but he can dish out some serious pain without.
Huskar aside – who also has self-harming abilities – Phoenix is also one of the only ranged Strength heroes in the game. Early on he’s slow and squishy, but later on he’s tough, resilient, and surprisingly powerful. Every ability he has hits an area, so he’s useful for teamfights, and most of them apply a debuff and do damage-over-time, so he can harass fantastically well. And let’s not forget that Icarus Dive can be cancelled part-way through, giving him a burst of movement over any terrain that lets him escape or catch up to enemies with impunity. You can even spam Fire Spirits while diving, turning him into a strafing bomber. Then there’s his ultimate, Supernova, which gives him a free super-Radiance and regenerates him to full if the orb isn’t killed before it finishes.
Which, I suppose, is sort of like a reverse-Abaddon. Right now people aren’t used to targeting the giant floating Supernova orb, much like they weren’t using to switching target when Abaddon made a big gongggggg noise. Give it a bit of time, and it’ll be a lot less effective.
I’m not quite sure about how useful Phoenix will be in the long run, though. Sun Ray – which reduces enemy HP by a percentage for every second that it hits them – seems a little bit weak and easy to dodge unless something’s forcing the enemy team together or you’re in a narrow space, and… well, the hero seems to be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades who requires a certain team setup to really shine. Fun to play, but I’m not sure how often I’ll be picking him in matches. I think I need to spend more time with him to really get a handle on how best to work him.
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Then there’s Terrorblade, who’s a lot more standard. He’s an Agility hero. He carries quite well. He’s got some phenomenally useful abilities.
Honestly, Terrorblade reminds me a lot of Spectre, only while Spectre is a very, very hard carry – who cannot do anything until the point when she can win the game by herself – Terrorblade is actually useful in the early game. Metamorphosis switches his attack to ranged and gives him 20/40/60/80 bonus damage, which is a hell of a lot in the early levels. Factor in a 60% movement and attack speed slow (which, late game, also hits really hard) and the ability to create illusions of himself, and you’ve got someone who moves fast, hits like a truck, and has illusions that also hit like a truck – and which can be used to scout, to keep him safe.
There are really two ways of looking at him, I guess. He can be run as a Nightstalker-ish hero, where he’s extremely powerful when Metamorphosis is up but very weak when it’s not. Alternatively, you can look at him as an illusion-based hero, which is how I’ve been playing him. Aiming for a fast Manta Style provides even more illusions, movement speed, attack speed, and damage; start factoring in stuff like Diffusal Blade or items that push Agility up, and they quickly start hitting very, very hard.
Oh, and his ultimate swaps his health and that of anybody else. Including the enemy’s carry. And it goes through magic immunity. And you can also use it to swap out Terrorblade’s health with one of his illusions, if they happen to be on full-health.
So yes, I like the new heroes. There’s a melee carry that’s useful early on. There’s a ranged… thing… which has fun abilities and is really quite unique, even if I’m not quite sure I’m using it right. Then there’s the patch’s crowning glory: Ability Draft Mode.
I love this mode. I love this mode so much.
Here’s how it works: you, and every other player, are assigned a random hero. The abilites of all of those heroes – plus two more – are shoved into a big pool. All players then take it in turns to choose abilities from this pool until everyone has three standard abilities and one ultimate.
It is, in short, Create-A-Hero mode. Or Create-A-Devastating-Combo mode. Or… something. It’s locked off until your profile hits level 11, but this is probably for the best, considering you need to have some idea of what every hero’s abilities do, as well as how their base stats function. I mean, you don’t want to go taking a lot of high mana-cost spells on Sven. On the other hand, it’s such a fun, light-hearted mode that relative newbies might actually enjoy it, so most of this paragraph can be taken as a literary shrug.
I’ve played as a Disruptor with Kinetic Field, Witch Doctor’s Paralysing Keg, Venomancer’s Venomous Gale, and Riki’s Permanent Invisibility. I was raw initiation: the enemy team would show up, and from out of nowhere I’d hurl Keg and then drop a Kinetic Field around them to lock them in place. If they survived my team jumping them at that point, we had Gale to stop the survivors getting away.
I’ve played as a Lina with Dragon Slave, Broodmother’s Spin Web, Tidehunter’s Gush, and Tinker’s Rearm. I was a lane-pushing nightmare: I had Travel Boots, and I had webs everywhere. I had 522 movement speed on webs. I could reappear on the other side of the map, fire off a Dragon Slave, Rearm, fire off another Dragon Slave, and then portal to an entirely different lane. I could hide in the trees, pop out to do some damage, and then go invis and hide again. We ended up losing the match (due, in large part, to a hard carry Earthshaker on the other team who had Slark’s ultimate), but I don’t care. It was fun.
I’ve seen a Dragon Knight with God Strength and Phantom Lancer’s illusions. I’ve seen a Drow Ranger with Assassinate, and a Sniper with Marksmanship and Burning Spears. Beware Dazzle with Fiend’s Grip. Beware Venomancer with Maladict. Beware Pudge with Untouchable and Elder Dragon Form. Beware the Magnus with Take Aim, as that means he’s meleeing at a 400 range. In general: beware.
On the other hand, beware people who cannot draft a hero. Woe betide the person who first-picks Luna’s Eclipse as their ultimate, which then prompts someone on the other team to take Lucent Beam (Eclipse does absolutely nothing if you don’t have Lucent Beam). Also beware your preconceptions; knowing what each hero should be able to do is hilariously brain-breaking.
It’s still kinda tricky to draft a strong hero at this point – if you’re as rubbish as me, at least – but Ability Draft is one of the most amazing things in Dota 2. It’s similar to a certain mod, yes, but it’s chaotically stupid, impossible to take seriously, and even more random and varied than the base game itself. It is wonderful, and if you have a profile of high enough level to actually try it out, it’s pretty much worth giving this patch a go by itself. And hey, you even get items and experience for playing it.
So yes: hooray for this patch. I haven’t played enough to judge whether or not a lot of the more general patch changes are good or not – I like Drow’s new Silence, I like Broodmother’s changes, and I like the fact that Earth Spirit requires at least some degree of skill now, but I haven’t played nearly enough to see any issue with them. For now, though, I’m thoroughly enjoying the big parts of the new patch, and even the little parts haven’t bothered me much. Hooray!