Dota 2 patch 7.26 analysis for ESL One Birmingham: Earthshaker and Ember Spirit dominate the meta

Dota 2 patch 7.26 was released in parts – just three gameplay changes initially followed by changes to items and heroes. This was done so that players would get time to get accustomed to the changes. It’s been nearly two months since that first patch was released, and since then, a decent number of professional games (1114 games, because of all the online events happening) have been played on patch 7.26. Of the premier tournaments to have taken place on Dota 2 patch 7.26, ESL One Birmingham was the only one which was played in all six regions and was perhaps the most popular one too. The regional online leagues saw a total of 359 games played with Fnatic (SEA), Quincy Crew (NA and SA), Team Secret (EU and CIS) and PSG.LGD (China) ending up as the winners. Let’s take a plunge at analyzing the games from ESL One Birmingham to see how the top teams ended up deciphering the patch.

Most played heroes

Earthshaker, Ember Spirit, Beastmaster and Queen of Pain are
dominating the meta; and dominating is the right word as not only do all of
them have more than 100 games played, they have very decent win rates as well.
Earthshaker’s rise to the top comes as a surprise as he has been untouched
since Dota 2 patch 7.23 and the 20% weakening of talents in patch 7.26b nerfed
ALL his talents, literally all eight of them. Yet somehow, like he does at
every TI, Earthshaker has managed to slam all the other heroes. It is a
potentially a question of the hero being more suited to the patch. Patch 7.26
made games longer and high ground sieges difficult. Longer games reduce the
potential of getting run over by death ball lineups, giving Earthshaker the
chance to farm and have more impact on the game. A well placed Echo Slam can
turn the tables in a high ground fight.

Ember Spirit has been a strong hero for a very long time and
his versatility in terms of where he can lane and also what kind of role he
plays based on item choices makes him a strong hero. In patch 7.25, Ember was
also being played as a support, but that seems to have reduced now. Beastmaster
rose to power in the fast paced death ball meta of patch 7.25, but even though
that has passed, the hero is still a strong pick and is one of the very few
that has still remained relevant since the turn of the patch.

Seeing Queen of Pain as a meta hero is something pleasing.
For a long time, QoP was a fringe pick, seeing a game or two here and there,
but never a force to be reckoned with. Like Earthshaker, QoP had all eight
talents nerfed in patch 7.26b, but she did have a series of buffs before that,
which might have eventually led to players realizing her potential. It is also
a question of the meta changing and certain heroes becoming unviable which made
others shine. Heroes like Lycan and Pugna, which were being picked every game
during patch 7.25, are seen a lot less now as a reason of the game getting slower.

Phoenix and Enchantress are two other heroes to take note
of, with both having a win percentage of around 60%. Hearts go out to the two
newest heroes in the game, Snapfire and Void Spirit. Void Spirit is in the top
15 most picked heroes, but has a very low win rate of 42.50%. For Snapfire,
it’s even worse, being picked just 20 games and losing 13 of those (35% win
rate). Both of them are in need of slight buffs to make them decent meta heroes
again; at least Snapfire.

Most contested heroes

The most picked list doesn’t always tell the full story,
which is when we need to turn to the list of most contested heroes. Ember
Spirit is set apart from the rest, being contested in over 94% of the games! In
nearly every game that he wasn’t banned in, Ember got picked AND he had a very
good win rate. Clearly, if there is one hero that is calling to be nerfed next
patch, it’s Ember Spirit. He has been a part of the professional meta for quite
a long time.

An interesting case is that of Lycan. Lycan was banned for
252 games (meaning he wasn’t banned for 107 games), but picked only 42 games.
It seems with the meta slowing down, teams are still wary of playing against
the hero, but tend to pick him only in very specific lineups as or scenarios. It
comes as a surprise as Lycan is quite the versatile hero who can be played as a
mid, safe lane or offlane hero.

Heroes with the highest win rate

This list comprises of heroes that were picked for at least
30 games or more. Winter Wyvern, who just makes the cutoff, tops it with an impressive
win rate of nearly 65%. But even more impressive is Kunkka, with 32 wins from
50 games. Since Dota 2 patch 7.21c, majority of the changes that have been made
to Kunkka have been nerfs, but the hero keeps topping the charts for nearly
each patch. Kunkka, like Ember, is quite versatile in the way he can be played.
He can be a quick fighting hero which goes for Spirit Vessel, or a Radiance builder
who can farm fast and be one of the best Divine Rapier carriers in the late
game. Also, he loses very few lane matchups and has the ability to make comebacks
even if he does. Can’t ask for anything more in a mid hero, can you?!

Luna is a fresh face in the mix. Luna hasn’t been a meta
hero for quite a while and it is good to see Selemene smile upon her, with her
Helm of the Dominanator build making her a good carry in the current meta. Also,
Ember Spirit again? Can anyone pour some water on him already?

The unpicked

The list below shows the heroes that were picked less than
10 games. The first hero that catches the eye is Alchemist, who was tearing
apart opposing heroes till not too long ago. The nerf to Greevil’s Greed seems
to have done the trick as Alch is no longer seen as a viable hero, even as the
meta has migrated towards longer games.

Spirit Breaker’s Aghanim’s Scepter seemed promising when it
was released in patch 7.25, but as it turns out, it wasn’t that enticing to
pick the hero. Chaos Knight is a perpetual member of this list and by now,
IceFrog has probably given up hope of ever making him a viable hero in
professional games. A hero that has been viable a lot of times is Drow Ranger.
IceFrog has experimented a lot with Drow in the last two years and it seems the
latest version is the one most teams are averse too. Maybe it’s time to bring
back the ranged hero aura?

Game durations

An overwhelming number of the games seem to be ending in the
30 to 40 minute window. There is about an equal distribution of games on either
side of this window. Valve’s plan to end the death ball meta seems to have
worked in a way, as the number of games ending before the half hour mark has
gone down by about 10% as compared to patch 7.25. But a good chunk of those
games have landed in the next 10 minutes, instead of spreading out evenly.

The Dota 2 community grows into most patches, but with patch
7.26, it seems a bit different. The dearth of kill gold has made fights less
lucrative (or less beneficial, for any team that likes taking them early) and
the with no comeback component, a lot of games seem to be decided way before
they end. OG’s Ceb tweeted out recently to bring back quality Dota 2.

Because of the pandemic, Valve did release patches a lot quicker this year as compared to last year. With Dota 2 patch 7.26 being nearly two months old and a lot of players voicing their dislike for it, expect a new patch not too far in the future with a significant number of changes. With TI10 postponed, Valve have a lot of time on their hands to experiment before they churn out the perfect patch for The International 2020 (which will most likely be played in 2021!).

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