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Pro Breakdown: What does Dota 2's patch 7.31d need to change?

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This is Pro Breakdown, a series by Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia where we talk with pro players, coaches, experts, and other personalities about anything and everything in the region's esports scene.

The ESL One Dota 2 Stockholm Major concluded last week, with OG defeating TSM FTX in the grand finals to claim their fifth Major championship.

OG's incredible run to the Stockholm Major title was made even more remarkable by the fact that they won with Sébastien "Ceb" Debs and Johan "N0tail" Sundstein as stand-ins after Mikhail "Misha" Agatov and Evgenii "Chuvash" Makarov encountered visa issues.

We sat down with Singaporean Dota 2 veteran and Nigma Galaxy SEA coach Nicholas "xFreedom" Kelvin Ileto Lim (@xfreedom on Twitter) to break down all that happened during the Major.

For this installment, we'll be breaking down the metagame during the Stockholm Major and how they may cause changes in the upcoming 7.31d patch:

Mars, Storm Spirit, and Windranger were some of the most popular and successful heroes of the ESL One Dota 2 Stockholm Major. (Photos: Valve Software)
Mars, Storm Spirit, and Windranger were some of the most popular and successful heroes of the ESL One Dota 2 Stockholm Major. (Photos: Valve Software)

Storm Spirit was the most picked mid hero of the Stockholm Major. Is that because of Evil Geniuses always first-picking the hero or is Storm Spirit just that strong?

xFreedom: I think it's due to the Null Talisman effect. Of all the Spirit heroes, I think Storm is the strongest one due to his interaction with Null Talismans' mana cost reduction.

It's a 500 gold item that upgrades at the 25-minute mark. I don't see any other hero who can abuse its mana cost reduction mechanic like Storm Spirit does. Like who else can get so much value out of 500 gold?

Should Storm Spirit's interaction with Null Talisman's mana cost reduction be changed then? Only Storm can abuse it to such a massive effect.

xFreedom: Yes, exactly. It's only fair for other heroes. Every intelligence hero is getting at least one Null Talisman, sure, but only Storm Spirit is abusing this mechanic to such a high degree.

You said Storm Spirit is the strongest Spirit hero, how does Void Spirit fit in the meta right now?

xFreedom: Void Spirit is alright but you can't really compare him to Storm Spirit, who basically gives you everything. Storm Spirit is like the better version of Void Spirit.

After 25 minutes, items like Null Talisman, Bracer, and Wraith Band get upgraded. How do you feel about that mechanic?

xFreedom: I don't really have an opinion on that, things always change in Dota and you have to roll with it. I'm not going to complain. If you cant beat them, join them

The current Dota 2 meta seems more fight-heavy than previous patches, how do you feel about that?

xFreedom: I think the game has slowed down at certain points but accelerated at others. Personally, I wouldn't say I like it or hate it. there's always something in every meta that you will like or dislike and all you can do is wait for a new patch. Until then, just enjoy the ride.

We're seeing traditionally support heroes like Keeper of the Light and Winter Wyvern go mid while carry heroes like Monkey King are now supports. Have roles in Dota 2 really become more flexible over time?

xFreedom: I'd say that heroes are more flexible and people are more willing to accept the idea of flexing due to the success of certain heroes being flexed. If nobody does it then nobody would be open to the idea, it's only viable when a pro has done it. Like Ivan Borislavov "MinD_ContRoL" Ivanov using Anti Mage in the offlane.

However, flexing only works in specific conditions, it won't always work. Just because it works in one game doesn't mean it can be applied to every game.xFreedom

You also have to look at it from a drafting phase, if a hero is picked to be a core and then gets countered, you have to be willing to switch things up.

Why do you think Marci has not yet been included in Captain's Mode?

xFreedom: Approaching The International, you don't want game-breaking heroes in the game. You want it to be a stable meta. You wait for a big tournament to be over to put in something chaotic.

As a coach, do you think it is a good thing that patches become a bit more stale as The International approaches?

xFreedom: From the pro scene, you definitely want a stable patch heading into major tournaments. You don't want to go in and something new pops out. Small changes already affect matchups and how the game goes.

(Photo: Valve Software)
Tiny was arguably the strongest carry hero back in The International 10. After some well-deserved nerfs, he's now struggling to stay relevant. (Photo: Valve Software)

I wanna talk about Tiny, he's been heavily nerfed but still appeared as a carry and sometimes a support. Is the hero still viable?

xFreedom: I think Tiny's nerf to his talents, with his big damage talent moved to level 20, gave him a much later timing. Before the change, he could already fight with just Power Treads and Echo Sabre. But then the new change came and people now build Moon Shard, which surprised me.

Tiny just wasn't that popular at the Major since teams know the strengths and weaknesses of the hero. Plus Chaos Knight is a better version of Tiny.

How come Sven gets no love when he seems similar to Tiny?

xFreedom: Sven still needs a couple of more buffs to be playable. When comparing Sven to Tiny, Sven seems like a Terrorblade without illusions since he has a long downtime on his damage from God's Strength.

But if you look at Tiny, that hero has natural armor while Sven has to use Warcry to get armor. If you give both of them the same item build, it won't work. Sven lacks the armor, Tiny can afford to skip some armor items since he has naturally good stats and damage while Sven doesn't.

Speaking of carries, what do you think about Nature's Prophet being used by BetBoom and other teams during the Major?

xFreedom: I think BetBoom wanted to play fast and Nature's Prophet is one of the strongest laners in the game. He's a fast hero and the current meta allows teams to pick Nature's Prophet, since a fast tempo carry is good right now. Honestly, it's more of a team identity thing.

There were four heroes that were completely ignored in the Major that surprised me, they are Tinker, Axe, Slark, and Dawnbreaker. Why do you think they went completely unpicked?

xFreedom: When you look at the game right now, during the laning phase you have to fight for runes. Tinker is not a hero who excels at rune fights, he's just too slow. He needs to farm ancients and he needs Blink Dagger to come online, so he's simply too slow to come online.

For Axe, its due to his matchups against many heroes in the current meta being able to shut him down. When you compare Axe to Mars, the latter is able to sort of play against most of his matchups, which is why Mars is still a popular hero.

As for Slark, for him to come online, that hero needs to keep hitting a hero multiple times to build up Essence Shift stacks. He needs buffs right now, when you compare Slark to other carries if they had the same item build, all of the other carries would do better. Slark has a meh laning phase and he can't hit buildings either. He just kills heroes.

Finally for Dawnbreaker, I think it's because it's hard to land her abilities. And even if you do land them, the risk-reward disparity is really huge.

I think the hero needs a number buffs, especially on her cast times. Most of Dawnbreaker's abilities have long cast times. For example, when you use Starbreaker your last swing just hits the air. I think the hero is just dumpster tier, there are way better options

What are your thoughts on neutral items, love them or hate them?

xFreedom: I think neutral items belong where they are, it's nice to be rewarded for hitting the jungle creeps. But one neutral item that I think is imbalanced is Philosopher's Stone.

It either should drop for both teams or neither team. No other item gives gold per minute (GPM) like that since all the GPM talents were removed.

Every few patches IceFrog adds a new objective to the game. Before it was Shrines and now we have Outposts, how do you feel about these secondary objectives?

xFreedom: I think it's just something for teams to fight over, otherwise there is no reason for teams to go to those areas. I think Outposts are perfectly fine.

New items were also recently added to the game, including Boots of Bearing. What are your thoughts on that item?

xFreedom: I think Boots of Bearing is just too expensive.

Sure, it just gives you extra Endurance charges but it's very situational against slows. All that for a 1600 gold cost? That price is just too much. You're halfway to a Lotus Orb with that, you don't need the boots upgrade.

Should we expect a small patch tweaking numbers or some big gameplay changes soon?

xFreedom: I think if they wanna add something big, now is the time. Otherwise, we will just get a numbers patch after the next major. But I'd like to see some map changes.

Are you satisfied with Roshan's location? It's always been a big part of balancing in dota 2

xFreedom: I think Roshan is where he should be. I think maybe add another objective as big as Roshan, so one team can go for Roshan while the other can go that other objective. I think that would make the game spicier.

Otomo is a long-time gaming enthusiast and caster. He has been playing games since he was 10 and is the biggest Dota 2 fan.

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