To say that the International Group Stage had some unexpected results would be an understatement. Underperforming WEU, the return to glory for China and EEU dominance made for a very entertaining Group Stage, but the Road to TI has just begun and teams now have several days to re-evaluate their understanding of the meta and adapt to playoffs.
Interestingly, while Dazzle, Treant, Pango and Invoker are also top4 most banned heroes of the Group Stage, Kunkka is often let through, though his win rate isn’t particularly impressive: 43% across 28 games,
In fact, out of top5 most contested heroes only two have a positive win rate. Treant Protector is at a very comfortable 54%, while Dazzle is approaching 70%, though the sample size is very small, with only 13 games. The hero is absolutely worth paying attention to and he will probably get nerfed after the International.
As mentioned previously, Pangolier isn’t particularly successful. A 31% win rate across 26 games will probably force most teams to re-evaluate this hero. We don’t expect the hero to leave the meta completely, but it is unlikely he will be prioritised early in the draft as much.
There is also a save support duo of Vengeful Spirit and Shadow Demon, who aren’t doing too hot. Venge and her 39.4% win rate will probably remain popular and it doesn’t feel like the hero is weak by any means. Her sub-40% win rate is a bit concerning, but she is still an excellent early stage pick with many bases covered.
Shadow Demon, on the other hand, looks and feels bad. 28% win rate across 25 games is very telling. The hero is good against self-buff type of heroes, sure, and he can also be powerful in the late game against heroes who rely on passive effects, but for the most part he just doesn’t get to this point. He isn’t necessarily strong in lane, often relying on teammates to do well. He also doesn’t have a powerful, game-changing ultimate, unless he is picked to counter a specific hero and the end result is unsurprising. We fully expect teams to give up on SD and only pick him in some very niche scenarios.
Several picks really stand out in terms of their popularity and success. First one should have been obvious for most of our readers: we’ve been hyping up Ancient Apparition ever since the Ice Vortex rework and the professional scene finally caught up to high level pubs, it seems. That is after several small nerfs to the hero as well.
Another stand out character is Primal Beast. Between strong laning stage, built-in mobility, good damage and BKB-piercing disable, there is very little the hero doesn’t do for their team. Access to Break is a cherry on top and we will probably see some tweaks to how the hero operates after the tournament. Right now it feels like he does too much.
We also feel like he could be one of the biggest reasons Pangolier is struggling: Pulverize stops Rolling Thunder and cuts it short, so Primal Beast with a Black King Bar can fully negate Pangolier ultimate. He can actually do the same with Aether Lens, Eye of Vizier or Telescope aura since it allows him to grab Pango before getting stunned, but it isn't advice, just trivia. Psychic Headband, which is only 25 less extra cast range compared to other neutrals doesn’t allow for the same trick, though.
Finally, there is Chaos Knight who is a strong, reliable laner who now finds himself in the meta where most flash-farming heroes have been nerfed. Gyrocopter isn’t as much of an issue as he used to be, Sven has been nerfed and that directly benefits all illusions heroes.
Both Naga Siren and Chaos Knight won big off the back of this meta shift, but the latter is considerably more popular, perhaps due to his high aggressive potential in lane, or perhaps because he is better at focusing down and deleting a target quickly. 65% win rate across 26 games make him the hero to watch out for and he will most likely become even more popular.
Finally, there are a couple of heroes who could see a bump in their popularity, since they seem to be doing exceptionally well, though with a relatively small sample size.
Spectre is the first that comes to mind: she was recently changed to be more proactive and aggressive and it made the hero incredibly scary. Having the ability to globally get on top of an enemy support is a very big deal, especially on such a low cooldown. In a meta where flash-farming heroes aren’t as powerful as they used to be, Spectre is also not getting outpaced as much as she used to be and that is a very strong indirect buff.
Another hero worth mentioning is Wraith King. Primarily seen as a position three, he feels kind of stupid, to be honest. His Aghanim’s Ultimate is incredibly annoying and powerful, but it often results in games just lasting longer, as opposed to swaying the balance between teams. Some drafts can definitely capitalise on longer matches and the hero is definitely good, but we wouldn’t mind seeing the hero being changed to fit the carry role better after the tournament.
There is also Skywrath Mage who seems to be a good meta fit. Him and Ancient Apparition both have access to magic damage amplification abilities, allowing for better and quicker takedowns on high priority targets. In a patch where Heart of Tarrasque is one of the more popular items, having extra damage is never bad.
We were mostly correct in our meta predictions and it is very surprising to see so many professional teams still cling to outdated concepts and strategies. The game is ever-evolving and even high individual skill can’t make up for draft shortcomings.
The new format of the International is a bit interesting though, as it gives teams time to prepare. We hope that this preparation period will result in teams developing actual new strategies, as opposed to simply fixing their mistakes, but we will definitely see some adaptations.
What are your predictions for this weekend? Are you surprised some heroes are still unpicked and who do you think is the most overrated hero of the tournament? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.