Dota itemization is a thing of beauty. There are so many different viable options in every game for almost every hero that it can turn into a mini-game of its own. Even the neutral items can sometimes factor into itemization decisions. Because of it, new items are always exciting, so today we would like to theorycraft what could possibly be added or changed in Dota and why.
Simultaneously one of the most frustrating and rewarding parts of Dota is the game-winning last pick. Several niche heroes have been long known to excel under specific conditions. The problem with them is that unless you have a specific answer, they will most likely take over the game.
Looking at the meta tab, it is easy to see who we were leading up to: Tinker is currently winning 54.5% of his games across all brackets, all with a 10%+ popularity. Right now he is the ideal last pick, good second phase pick and overall one of the strongest heroes in the game.
The hero was receiving nerfs, buffs and reworks quite frequently as of late, so perhaps the problem isn’t the hero specifically, but rather the fact that he demands an answer, which isn’t always possible in Ranked AP or even CM.
In our personal opinion, the biggest problem with the hero isn’t unlimited magic burst or a potential permanent hex. The problem is how elusive the hero is and how impossible it is to punish them, unless you have a hero with comparable mobility, which are few, or a hero with some sort of vision-enhancing abilities, which are even rarer.
A “vision” item similar to Neutral Seer Stone could definitely solve the problem. Perhaps Gem of True Sight could get a similar active on a moderate cooldown with smaller AoE. Or a brand new aggressive support item that enhances vision. Shiva’s Guard does fill that niche, but this item assumes you already have mobility in the first place.
Another route could be adding a vision component to an existing item. Blade Mail specifically could use this small upgrade, where enemy heroes who received reflected damage are highlighted, but not revealed for several seconds. It will allow Tinker to still play his game and choose when to engage, but it will create extra opportunities relatively early on for catching the hero.
Overall, we feel like Tinker is one or two nerfs away from getting back into obscurity or one rework away from losing his identity, which would be a sad day for Dota. Providing players with more instruments to deal with the hero, as opposed to making the hero weaker is, in our opinion, a preferable course of action.
We’ve recently discussed how save heroes got indirectly nerfed over the course of the last couple of years, as a result of cast range shenanigans. Right now even defensive supports frequently go for a costly Aether Lens as one of the first items, as it is sometimes hard to make use of support staples such as Force Staff and Glimmer Cape without it.
We believe a small item, perhaps an Aether Lens or Holy Locket component that would only increase Cast Range on items and abilities when you use it on your teammates could alleviate some of the problems, without having to revert a long history of nerfs and buffs and without making Cast Range overpowered again in its aggressive use.
One of the reasons Tiny + Elder Titan was one of the most coveted combos in the International was because with a 550 cast range Glimmer Cape there is nothing a support can do to stop it and by the time they get both Aether Lens and Glimmer Cape, it is usually way too late. More and better counterplay options make for a more interesting spectator experience, while also making support gameplay more impactful. Both are desirable outcomes, in our opinion.
One of the most ironic things in the current Dota is how Overwhelming Blink, the Strength one, is firmly a Tinker item. Moreover, several initiating Strength and Agility heroes, such as Shadow Fiend, Axe, Magnus, Slardar and Centaur all benefit greatly from the cast point reduction on Arcane Blink. We don’t know whether it is by design and whether it would create some unbalanced scenarios if initiators could get cast point reduction that would also increase their primary stat, but we would love to see Valve experiment a little.
Alternatively, some extra cast point reducing items could be introduced. It is a great and interesting mechanic that creates new, unique scenarios in certain matchups. The fact that it is restricted by a 6.8k gold price tag makes a lot of sense, since it can have a massive impact on the game, but perhaps if it was available at a lower price point we would actually see professional players pick Jakiro for a change.
It’s been almost a year since new items were introduced to the game. On top of now-staples, such as Falcon Blade, Orb of Corrosion and Helm of the Overlord, there were several “misses” as well. Most notably, both Eternal Shroud and Mage Slayer remain very niche defensive options that are almost completely ignored by the professional players.
Perhaps adding more mechanics and items into the game, before finding use for the old ones might be premature, but we feel like there are never too many items: at the very least they could always serve as an option for some specific scenarios, as long the items themselves are not too generic.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the item meta? Do you have your own designs in mind you would like to share? Do not hesitate to comment below.
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