Image by DNADota
Once again we are looking at how our favorite game was shaped by some of the best players in the world. Today, we are going to discuss the Carry: the role that broadened the least, yet refined the most over the last seventeen years.
There were many great players throughout the game’s history, each bringing something new to the table or finding ways to squeeze out even more efficiency out of a hero. From as old as Burning Anti-Mage, to as recent as K1 Hector’s Wraith King, amazing Carries were trying to get more, be more, do more.
Yet very few of them resulted in IceFrog stepping down and having to completely change the rules of the game for a character — most gameplay developments were expected and followed the design. The ones we want to focus on did not.
Trying to find ways to surprise your enemies is a huge part of the game, but OG took it to the extreme in the International 2019. Taking a hero that has always been a sacrificial, healing and sustaining support and making him one of the scariest tempo carries in the game.
A lot of it definitely comes down to the concept of Strength ranged hero, of which there are few. There is a reason IceFrog was extremely careful with Snapfire, for example, or why Phoenix has such low starting armor. There is also a reason why a minor net buff to Huskar propelled him to a 54%+ win rate. And note how none of them have any farming abilities and still stay relevant in one way or another.
In 7.22 they gave Io this farming ability: get an early Aghanim’s and not only does your damage skyrocket, but you also get three-quarters of a Radiance burn in periodic damage. While amplifying all your stats, hence survivability. With how sustainable Io was in lane and how quickly he could then farm both lane and jungle with Helm of the Dominator, Aghanim’s pre-minute 16 wasn’t unheard of.
In a sense, OG and Ana found ways to break several fundamentals of Dota with a single hero. Heroes usually need boots, but Io doesn’t, even if he is playing alone, since he can get Helm of the Dominator and run around with a decently fast creep. Heroes usually need to sacrifice early game presence and tempo for a farming tool, but Io doesn’t since his Aghanim’s was essentially a teamfight, farming and even a little bit of a survivability item.
They also correctly identified that 140 attack speed on a ranged Strength hero is, frankly, overpowered. All of that resulted in some very heavy nerfs to the hero in the International 2019 aftermath, with multiple talent changes, reducing the hero’s damage output, as well as Overcharge changes, which no longer grants damage reduction.
Looking at the most recent changes to the hero, we can still see ripples of this Ana TI9 run: even in 7.31 Valve and IceFrog are still cautious with what they do to Io, nudging the hero towards a support role in quite a heavy-handed fashion. Given how strong the jungle creeps became in the new patch it only makes sense and it doesn’t look like the hero is struggling right now as a support, with a 52%+ win rate in Divine games this week.
Surviving through one exceptional player forcing the nerfs is already hard as it is. Gyrocopter went through two independent nerf events, off the back of two distinct players and more or less opposite playstyles. No wonder he ended up like this.
First there was XBOCT, the first TI winner and a carry player often overlooked even by his contemporaries. He wasn’t necessarily the most mechanically skilled player even in his prime, especially when compared to players like Burning, Hao and Sylar. But he was never afraid of taking risks and ending up on top. This is what ultimately led to an iconic MLG Columbus 2013 game and what ultimately forced some heavy Flak Cannon and other Gyrocopter nerfs.
Because XBOCT didn’t see a problem building Divine Rapier as his fourth major item on Gyrocopter. Or his fifth major item. And then, after dying, as his sixth major item. All of that was possible because of how ridiculously quickly the hero could farm with Flak Cannon early on and how useful he was with damage alone. This wasn’t the first flash-farming game for the hero, but it more or less solidified Gyrocopter as this late-game monster who could theoretically go toe-to-toe with any hero in the game.
A couple of years later, a completely different player saw something different in the hero. Where others saw late-game potential and the ability to flash-farm, Agressif saw strong laning presence, high early game damage output and ridiculous potential teamfight contribution. And he was right.
Carries rotating to gank was more or less unheard of at the time. Carries rotating to gank pre-level six was even less common. But CDEC in their TI5 cinderella run did exactly that: they surprised the hell out of pretty much everybody by breaking the rules of Dota and going on the offensive much earlier and much harder than anyone anticipated.
Once again, this flash of brilliance was followed by a long trail of nerfs to the hero, this time concentrating on his early game and magic damage. The end result is felt to this day: Gyrocopter in the professional scene was quite unpopular outside of Io pairing for a really long while and is only now starting to make a comeback off the back of being one of the few heroes who have not been slowed down economy-wise in the latest patch.
Even being relatively better off, though, Gyrocopter remains quite unsuccessful in pubs, with less than 47% win rate this week in Divine+ games. And both XBOCT and Agressif are definitely responsible.