The top carry heroes from the TI 10 qualifiers were: Terrorblade, Luna, Templar Assassin (mid and carry), Spectre, and Medusa. All are heroes that really enjoy retreating to the jungle and accelerating their farm via Ancients, stacks, and built-in farming mechanics. Another hero that we should mention is Axe who, despite a poor win rate, stormed into the meta as a carry and exhibits many of the same playstyle preferences as the previously mentioned heroes.
One hero is noticeably missing from this roster of ancient farming greed-machines.
Not too long ago, Sven was the big bad boss of nearly every Dota game whether pub or pro. The hero’s absurd farming speed, massive damage output and buffed mobility through Aghanim’s Scepter made him a terror. After months of dominance, Icefrog moved Sven’s “Storm Hammer Dispels” ability from a talent into an Aghanim’s Shard. Patch 7.28 also took away Sven’s free attack on stun impact and made a couple other fairly minor nerfs.
Obviously, losing the ability to utterly murder every other hero without much counterplay at level 15 was a big deal. Sven’s win rate and pick rate tanked and the hero has been largely unplayed ever since. It seems like Sven might have suffered a bit from “meta fatigue.” The hero was so prevalent that everyone was ready for a change and when an excuse to move on presented itself people were happy to do so. The truth is, Sven still has the ability to do exactly what he did before but is no longer just objectively overpowered. In fact, I think that Sven might actually be the perfect fit for Dota’s current carry meta.
First, let’s look at the previously mentioned TI qualifier carries. Because of these carries, stacking has become a huge part of the early game for supports. It’s not uncommon to see the carry get bullied out of lane early only to dip into the jungle for five to ten minutes and emerge absolutely stacked with net worth. Spectre, Medusa, and Terrorblade prefer to let their team control the tempo while betting heavily on the late game. On the other hand, Axe, Luna, and TA all look for a strong mid game timing with their inflated net worth to end the game. Sven farms at least as quickly as the later three and can often outcarry the previous three with correct itemization. Medusa is probably the best late game counter to Sven in the current meta but can rarely keep up with his farming speed in a real game. Templar Assassin can present some problems but is also a strong enough hero to warrant banning every game anyway.
Next, let’s talk about items. The most popular early game items for carries right now are Mask of Madness, Echo Saber, Sange and Yasha, Dragon Lance and Manta Style. Excluding Dragon Lance and Manta, these are the ideal items for Sven to be buying. After Black King Bar, the trending late game items for a carry are Daedalus, Satanic, Eye of Skadi and Swift Blink. Again we can see that nearly all of these are ideal items for Sven to carry, especially if we consider that Satanic now provides a basic dispel on use.
Speaking of dispel, second Roshan has become a huge focal point in Dota because of the Aghanim’s Shard that drops. There are few Aghanim’s Shards that are better than Sven’s dispelling Storm Hammer that reduces the cooldown to only 8 seconds as well. Aghanim’s Scepter has fallen out of favor since the nerfs and though it is still situationally useful, a Blink Dagger can be bought for half the price.
Any time we try to evaluate whether a hero is good or not we need to also consider the current meta of heroes. In high MMR pubs, heroes like Broodmother, Phantom Lancer are on the rise. Other popular picks such as Luna, Leshrac and nearly every support rely on magic damage and distance to survive. Once Sven reaches a Blink Dagger and Black King Bar timing, there is not much to stop him from taking over. All that said, the hero is certainly not without weakness
Winter Wyvern (12% pick rate) and Timbersaw (8% pick rate) can present issues for Sven. He also definitely suffers against some of the popular carry heroes if he does not get an early lead. Many of the late game tanky carries like Medusa, Terrorblade, and Spectre can outlast Sven as the game goes longer. Sven’s talent tree also leaves quite a bit to be desired, though Luna’s mediocre one has not affected her popularity.
Even with some potential problems, it’s hard to ignore how many things appear to be in Sven’s favor. Icefrog began buffing Sven again in patch 7.29 and if we get a new patch with some incremental balance changes, the Rogue Knight may be poised to rise again in the meta. There have been some Sven sightings in the match histories of top five MMR pros from China and Europe lately. At the very least, he appears to be a hero to keep an eye on.