6.79 - 6.80: Evolution of the Offlane
Last week I presented data on some of the top mid players in the world displaying the changes in their top 5 most played heroes between 6.79 and 6.80. As the post got a lot of positive responses, I decided to follow it up with a similar breakdown for the Offlane. I might still do a post for the Safelane but am not sure about the Support role - since each team has 2 support players, not even always easily distinguishable between which is '4' and which is '5', it's difficult to choose which players to look at, and also much harder to infer relevance.
Speaking of inferences, there were a few complaints about my previous post regarding the actual significance that can be drawn from this data. Given the nature of Dota, any statistical analysis should be taken with a pinch of salt. Context is always very important and it's probably impossible for any analysis to include or even discuss all relevant context. For example, in this case, I'm not providing info on which teams each hero is picked against, or even which heroes they are picked against. That said, I do believe that readers can still gain from this information, and that some inferences can be made fairly reasonably.
bOne7, often seen as a pioneer in terms of new offlaning techniques and ideas, has done it again in 6.80. While his Puck is not completely new, having played it 4 times in the previous version, it is definitely novel to see an Offlane player having Puck as their main hero. Equally impressive is the fact that he has maintained a very high win-rate with this hero. While Puck does have good escape mechanisms, and can cause trouble for any farmer while their supports are away, the hero fell far out of favour as an offlaner for a very long time. Perhaps its return as an offlaner is a delayed reaction to the recent changes to the lane which changed the lane equilibrium as well as the power of creep-pulling.
Other interesting things to note here are the decline of Elder Titan and Bounty Hunter as offlane heroes in this version - which is a trend for all offlaners and not just bOne7. Similarly, Batrider's popularity has gone up significantly (across the board) in recent weeks, while Nyx emerged early in 6.80 as a key pick, and will thus probably be at the top of most offlaners' lists. Lastly, most offlaners have been playing slightly less Clockwerk of late, almost certainly not a reflection on the hero but on the alternatives being chosen ahead of it.
Admiralbulldog is no exception to the decreases in popularity of ET and BH, or the increases in popularity of Nyx and Batrider. Significantly, though, he has managed to retain his signature heroes - Nature's Prophet and Lone Druid - fairly comfortably. That said, the success rate of his Nature's Prophet has dropped massively across the patches - but this is a figure which I'd hesitate to ascribe significance to simply because I've not personally noticed Alliance losing games where he is Furion because of him. So if the hero does deserve its lower win-rate here, it's certainly not due to a change in Bulldog's play.
It is worth noting, though, that Nature's Prophet is barely ahead of the others in his top 5 (yet?) as opposed to in 6.79 where it ended with a 10 game lead on any other he had played. Lastly, at the bottom of Bulldog's top 5 you'll notice Centaur Warrunner, also a hero which has become extremely popular in 6.80 - however, as we will continue to see, a hero whose level of popularity varies quite a lot from team to team.
While Admirabulldog might be playing a bit less Nature's Prophet than before, Funn1k is playing a bit more of the hero in 6.80, having only played 5 Furion's over the entire course of 6.79. Funn1k's 6.79 list is also a reminder that Bristleback has pretty much disappeared in recent weeks, along with the already mentioned BH and ET. As is expected, Batrider and Centaur feature on this list and I should note that Nyx, Clock and Puck are all only just off the list at 4, 3 and 3 games respectively.
Significantly, Funn1k plays Doombringer a bit more often than most offlane players. This is not a reflection on XBOCT not playing the hero, as one might expect - XBOCT having played it 6 times in 6.80 already.
In 6.80, Mag has become the official champion of Clockwerk Goblin, being the only offlaner discussed here who has retained the hero as his most played hero in the version. Where in the past people might have thought of bOne7 when looking at Clockwerk, Mag is definitely laying claim to the hero with an impressive 71% win rate across 31 games.
Not shown on this list but very significant is that, like Funn1k, Mag has actually played quite a lot of Doombringer as well in 6.80. In fact he's played it more than Funn1k, with 9 games on the hero so far in 6.80. Maybe CIS teams rate Doombringer a bit higher than others? Also noteworthy here is Dark Seer, who has begun to regain popularity very recently and is a hero that Mag has only lost with once in this patch.
Speaking of Darkseer without talking about Universe would be blasphemous. Universe picked up this hero as his main hero in this version far ahead of anyone else, long before it starting making a move back towards popularity. And with an 84% win rate after 19 games, it's not surprising that various teams have begun to ban DS in the first phase against EG. Universe also joins bOne7 as a player who we've begun to expect to see playing Puck.
Just off of his top 5 list, Universe has Batrider at 6 games and Tidehunter at 5 games. Tidehunter, especially, is worth a mention, given Universe's 100% win rate with this not-so-commonly-picked hero in 6.80. Lastly, where Bulldog has played a bit less Furion and Funn1k has played a bit more in 6.80, Universe has played much much less of this hero recently, using it only 3 times in the current version while it had been his 2nd most played hero in 6.79. This is probably a result of EG currently playing with Arteezy wanting lots of gold and Fear wanting almost as much, leaving very little room for the 3rd core to be a hero like Furion, who tends to transform into a '1'.
Meanwhile, in China, iceiceice has led the charge in terms of Centaurs moving into the competitive metagame of late. This is especially noteworthy given that Mushi also players Centaur sometimes for DK (whenever they pick Invoker for iceiceice).
As with last week's article, it's important to recognize than the samples for the Chinese teams are a lot smaller, and thus inherently more difficult to infer anything from. That said, it's easy to see that there's been a big change in iceiceice's hero pool in 6.80, given how far ahead Timbersaw and Clockwerk were of his other heroes in the previous version while he has only played 1 Clockwerk, and is yet to play Timbersaw at all, in the current version. I do think, however, that this change reflects more on DK's love for Centaur and friends than on them having taken a dislike towards Clockwerk or Timbersaw.
YYF's 6.80 list, though covering a small sample of games, is very interesting. Beastmaster and Elder Titan are heroes that hardly anyone plays in the offlane anymore - and with a joint record of 5-1, it looks like these heroes are doing very well for iG. Meanwhile, YYF's famous Lifestealer has begun to make something of a comeback - a hero he played only 3 times in 6.79, after playing it 10 times in 6.78. Personally, I think YYF is one of the top Lifestealer players in the world, despite being an offlaner, and iG always feels like they start off in the driving seat when he is on this hero. Also noteworthy is YYF's 7-0 record on Nature's Prophet in this version.
YYF has only played 1 Centaur Warrunner in 6.80, showing yet again that it is incorrect to lump the entire Chinese scene together, as our community so often likes to do. Sure, the hero gained much more popularity, much faster, in China. But that doesn't require all Chinese teams to be responsible for this move any more than it required all Western teams for Arteezy to make Naga popular in the safelane or for bOne7 to make Puck popular in the offlane.
Though playing more of it than YYF, rOtK has also not picked up Centaur Warrunner as his hero of choice in 6.80. In fact, it is mostly just DK and LGD who are responsible for the rise of this hero being associated with China.
rOtK's lists echo some earlier sentiments with regards to Bristleback and Elder Titan losing popularity in 6.80 and Batrider and Nyx gaining it. For me, the most interesting thing about rOtK is that both of his lists tend to be in roughly descending order - and not just in terms of games played! So maybe there's a good reason why he's been playing a bit less Nyx and Centaur than the rest, given how much higher his win rate is on, say, Batrider and Furion. That said, I should caution against taking this analysis too seriously because, again, these samples are ridiculously small - rendering this analysis highly speculative.
What we can say about 6.80 is that some old faces are clearly out at the moment. Bounty Hunter, Bristleback, and (in most cases) Elder Titan have gone from being key picks to being niche picks. Also, Nyx, Centaur, more recently Batrider, and even more recently Darkseer have all begun to grow in popularity throughout every scene in 6.80. That said, the beauty of 6.80 is how much room it has left open, regardless of existing trends. As many pros have mentioned recently, this is a version where many different styles can all work well - and working out any kind of underlying pattern for success has been difficult to achieve.
As usual, all data comes from datDota.com - a site that should really get a lot more praise, given how many writers, casters and stats people rely so heavily on it!
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