Okay, so pointing out that a major Dota 2 update will rebalance the game is a bit redundant. Sue me.
Either way, the Shifting Snows update – or Dota 2 6.83, if you prefer – has landed, bringing with it a slew of gameplay changes. At least, Valve say it’s landed, but I can’t see any of the new items in the store. I also can’t see the snowy map, and the balance changes don’t appear to be in. So, uh… maybe it hasn’t actually hit yet, in which case their blog post stating “The Shifting Snows update has arrived” might be a bit premature.
Before we take a look at the balance changes, let’s talk about the cosmetic fluff. The seasonal winter map is in, winners of Fantasy Dota Season 2 now have a new teleport effect and a new trophy, and there are two new treasures, a gift wrap option, and the ability to purchase frosty effigy blocks (to make your own hero statues to decorate your base) in the store.
So, balance. Most heroes have had a buff of some sort, either through specific changes to their abilities/stats or through changes to items. As an example, the maximum attack speed has been buffed from 500 to 600, which isn’t likely to affect many heroes… except for those like Windranger and Ursa, through Focus Fire and Overpower. Illusions now deal 25% less damage to structures, too, meaning illusion ratting should be a little bit harder, and armies of illusions won’t shred buildings quite so quickly.
More to the point: the very first rune spawns in the game will now always be Bounty Runes that are twice as effective as normal. Diffusal Blade is no longer a Unique Attack Modifier, so it can work with other UAMs. The Courier is cheaper. Medallion of Courage can now be used on allies to give them armour. Blink Dagger is no longer disabled unless you actually take damage, so things like Spiked Carapace or Templar Assassin’s Refraction will keep Blink active when those heroes are under attack.
As I mentioned, most heroes have had a buff – far too many to list, honestly, although I’m amused that Lina has been made even more powerful and Windranger’s Powershot distance has increased by about 30%. In a nice themed touch, Crystal Maiden is also a bit more lethal, with Frostbite getting a lower cooldown, Crystal Nova slowing attack speed more, and Freezing Field having a longer duration, a wider range, and a wider explosion radius. Night Stalker’s Darkness doesn’t last as long and doesn’t pause the day/night cycle anymore, but it does have a lower cooldown, and the man himself has a higher base attack damage. Queen of Pain’s Sonic Wave now does pure damage and hits the magic immune. Io no longer has to turn. There are nerfs, too, though: Ogre Magi’s Fireblast is thankfully a bit shittier. Etc.
I’m not going to list every buff and nerf (and there are a few really big ones hidden in there) but some of the most prominent are to Sniper and Lifestealer. Lifestealer’s Infest now allows him to control the unit he’s infested into via a sub-ability (except for heroes, obviously), with the downside that using the Control ability makes it attackable by enemies. Nonetheless, that could be rather nice if you’re ganked in the jungle. Hop into a Centaur, stomp, and hop out again. Sniper, on the other hand, has had a change to Shrapnel: it no longer does damage to buildings, and now has three charges with a 40 second refresh time, rather than a cooldown time.
Also, you can now alt-click a shitload more stuff. You can alt-click items that have no activation, and alt-click a hero’s health/mana to announce that to your team, and ctrl-alt-click the Glyph to say you don’t want to use it, and alt-click buffs and debuffs, and… yes. I’m all in favour of this, actually; it allows for significantly easier communication. If someone’s wondering why I’m not pushing and I can just alt-click to indicate that the enemy’s carry is respawning in 10 seconds, that will hopefully indicate that it’s a horribly unsafe move. Hooray!
Valve have apparently taken the alt-click frenzy on board quite seriously, actually. Every single thing on the update page can be alt-clicked for a response. You can even alt-click the name of the update, which actually made me laugh. I highly suggest doing this.
The Dota 2 Shifting Snows update is apparently out now, but it doesn’t really seem to be. If that changes, I’ll let you know.