Check out the Dota 2 meta at TI8 and why it changed so much

- Emergenceingame

Changing tactics in The International is common, but this year we saw too many changes in the TI8 meta. Before the tournament, everything was focused on turrets and dual lane. But when TI comes in, new supports come in and sometimes even trilanes. This – plus interesting stories in the tournament – ​​makes TI8 unforgettable in the hearts of players.

Meta before TI8

To understand why there is such a big difference, we need to look back at the pre-tournament season. Actually everyone needs to talk about ‘meta-meta’. With the arrival of the Dota Pro Circuit and the update coming out every 2 weeks, professional players are actually playing Dota worse. It’s not that they don’t master the structure of the game, it’s that their ability to understand the game becomes weak because of less time to practice.

With a DPC tournament system for everyone – and a tight patch schedule – that means players have less time to understand the TI8 meta and then try to turn it into results. In an interview with Alexi “Solo” Berezin at ESL One Birming Ham, he touched on the subject when talking about disappointing results before entering the tournament (the tournament that VP later won):

Let’s talk about the time before the Birmingham tournament. The team doesn’t look as great as before. Why did this happen?

We had three tournaments – Katowice, Bucharest, WESG – and then the team immediately went to DAC. The members have no time to rest, no time to adapt to the new patch. We were pretty tired at the end of EPICENTER. Everyone went home for 5 days, then boot camp for 2 days, then had to attend EPICENTER. We simply weren’t prepared in time. Nothing special at all.

Is not being prepared for updates a big deal?

It’s not a big deal if you have time to scrim, debate, and practice. We simply don’t have the time. We have to play. Now, when the members have about 15 days to boot camp, the team has carefully prepared.

So what do you do in the scenario where you have to participate in the million-dollar tournaments almost every week but feel like you don’t have enough time to prepare? You will choose the safe option. And in Dota, the safest way to play is always a 2-1-2 lane split. Setup 3-1-1 is more risky, even for professional players. If you don’t get some important offlaner kills while your opponent does, the team has basically lost two lanes and that’s enough to make things go badly.

While 2-1-2 isn’t much of a risk, it’s still there. Having more heroes appear in the “safe” lane means that your position 1 hero will be harassed more and will probably make yourself regret if you lose that lane for this reason. That’s why Witch Doctor and Warlock were so competitive in that period. They help carry carry good lane. It is also the reason Crystal Maiden is present at the end of the season. Her Crystal Nova is buffed, making it a good anti-tank tool with the ability to harass multiple heroes at once.

And obviously there are many changes in the TI8 meta – like how the XP deiny system is distributed – the tight schedule is also a big factor.

Why did the meta change?

With a completely empty schedule ahead of TI8, it’s obvious that a meta change will happen. For the first time in 6 months, teams can catch up with the meta and come up with their own plans. With this extra time, they find heroes that are buffed for a long time and discover ways to disrupt the laning tower meta. The best example is probably Necrophos. When looking back at the history of this hero, you can see how this hero made its way into TI. Starting from 7.12 – launching in March – Necrophos gets buffs, buffs, and buffs. Yet the pick/ban rate in Supermajor is only 2%. At TI8, that number was close to 88%. Same story with Enchantress. This hero was completely ignored at Supermajor and became the hero of the tournament at TI8.

The meta change with these two heroes forced teams to approach support in a different direction. Necrophos and Enchantress are two typical heroes that can stay in lane with their quick self-healing abilities. When talking to Brian “BananaSlamJamma” Canavan about the TI8 meta, here are his thoughts:

When you have heroes like Necrophos and Enchantress, you can’t keep them out of lane. You must kill these two heroes, immediately. With heroes like Witch Doctor and Warlock it’s impossible to do that because these heroes focus on lane towers and swapping lives. You can’t switch networks in favor with offlaner. Bloodseeker, Alchemist, Enchantress… these heroes can’t be outdone in turret lane.

This is verified by the parameters. If we compare The International with Supermajor, things become clearer. Hero with self-sufficiency skyrocketed in the two months between TI8 and Supermajor.

Ban/pick ratio of heroes that can take care of themselves
hero Supermajor TI8
Enchantress 0% ninety four%
Necrophos 2% 88%
Wraith King 2% 66%
Huskar 2% 42%
Alchemist 0% 30%

These heroes disrupt the laning turret meta and force teams to pick supports differently. Why have a Witch Doctor or a warlock in lane to scratch an opponent’s itch if the opponent can heal immediately if it feels unsafe?

This causes the previously competitive heroes like Warlock – 58.25% to have a ban/pick ratio at Supermajor – completely disappear. At the end of the event, Warlock only had a 1.54% ban/pick ratio. Apparently the change in Shadow Word in patch 7.18 caused the hero to drop, but that’s not the main reason. This also applies to harassing heroes, heroes that have the ability to make enemies weak like Bane or Clockwerk: they can blatantly go in, cause the enemy to lose health, and then come out. If facing Necrophos or Enchantress in lane, they will laugh at you and fill up with health before your abilities heal. Again, the numbers speak for themselves:

Ban/pick ratio of harassing supports
hero Supermajor TI8
Bane sixty seven% 28%
Clockwerk 62% 11%
Warlock 58% 2%


While nerfs and buffs play an important role in which heroes are used at The International, many believe that the tight schedule of updates and tournaments plays a more important role in changing the meta. At least more than before. With little time to prepare, teams must get back to playing Dota as safely as possible, until everything is clear at The International.

The big question now is is it good for games? With teams that excelled all season suddenly losing to teams that had only a few weeks to refine their play. While this makes for great stories at TI8, some believe that the fact that new teams like OG and Evil Geniuses can catch up quickly sets a bad precedent for Dota.

The International became glorious champions in the DPC season and mirrored the meta of the whole season. There should be game-balancing patches during the season, but big meta-reshaping patches shouldn’t appear more than 3-4 times in a year, while in 2018 it happens almost every two weeks. OG and EG are not champions of any tournament in the DPC. If like previous years, these two teams may have to leave early at TI after a few rounds.

With that said: these two teams were not to blame for their success in playing and writing fairy tales at TI8. Either way, IceFrog and Valve need to look back and decide how they want Dota. If we want to keep the system intact, we can understand. The stories behind OG’s championship cannot be measured with money.

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