With the third international behind us and Alliance taking their place at the top of the podium, now seems like a good time to look back at what we have learned from the tournament and what it means for the Dota 2 metagame.
As the teams descended upon Seattle and the group stages got underway it was clear from the opening day that the players had their favourite Heroes - such as Visage and Weaver. These heroes had strong showings early in the competition with over 50 games each in the group stages alone. This isn't surprising, as both heroes were gaining momentum prior to the event. Weavers early game aggression and unmatched survivability due to Time Lapse made him the perfect pick for early pressure; with teams such as Na'vi and Fnatic taking full advantage of this in the first few days. Weavers dominance was only overshadowed by the dark wings of Visage who despite being banned 62 times was only overlooked 11 times throughout the tournament's 158 games. Visage's ability to deal insane amounts of damage during early game engagements with Soul Assumption made him a prime candidate for aggressive tri-lanes allowing teams to quickly assert their dominance, even before he gains his menacing Familiars at level 6.
A Familiar Scene During Drafting
This trend continued throughout the rest of the event with Visage and Weaver maintaining number one and two most picked respectively, with Outworld Devourer and Batrider taking the awards for most banned with over 110 bans each. Batrider should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Dota 2 scene, maintaining a 100% pick/ban in the competitive scene for the past few months but Outworld Devourer came as a surprise to many, including the players. His early dominance in the group stages was displayed by multiple teams causing many drafters to prioritise him over previously first ban heroes like Io and Lifestealer. This is due to the incredible mid lane dominance of Astral Imprisonment combined with his ability to become a formidable late game carry due to Arcane Orb, but with Outworld soaking many of the early bans did this let other potentially overpowered heroes through?
I for one feel there is one hero that many overlooked and someone who in the coming months may become a high priority ban for all professional teams: Furion, the Nature's Prophet. Furion played a big part in not only the tournament but in Alliance's victory over the rest of the world. Admiral Bulldog consistently showed that in the right hands Nature's Prophet is a formidable opponent and with Alliance now under a magnifying glass from their colleagues it may not be long until we all feel nature's wrath.
But what can we learn from this year's International and what does it mean for the coming tournaments? For one, I believe we will see a shift in many of the early bans focusing more on restricting the supports rather than the off lane - as is currently the case. Although Nature's Prophet is strong and potentially overpowered if played in the right hands, he isn't without his counters and already we can see teams like Kaipi finding ways to keep him down; in the form of the large space cow, Spirit Breaker. This direct countering along with teams learning how to play against the strongest heroes will allow teams to experiment with new and interesting compositions and lineups in the coming months.
Not long after TI3 the captains mode pool grew by 4 heroes adding Abaddon, Centaur, Troll Warlord and Elder Titan. Each of these heroes has the potential to make a huge impact in the competitive scene and we have already seen each of them picked in the StarLadder Season 7 games this week. Personally I believe Troll Warlord will become a popular mid pickup against many of the current prefered mid laners due to the flexibility provided by Berserker's Rage and Battle Trance allowing the teams carry to skip out on attack speed items for a more damage focused build. As for the other 3, I can see each of them them fitting into drafts here and there - especially Abaddon, providing high levels of early game support via Mist Coil and Aphotic Shield and an extremely difficult kill target, thanks to Borrowed Time.
Drafters, Try Not to Get Trolled
To summarize, the metagame will most likely see interesting changes over the coming months, with many of the surprise pickups becoming fully understood and countered. This will cause them to fade out of the scene, as Slark did after the Western Qualifiers, but clear the way for the next heroes to take their spot in the limelight. Whether that is Troll Warlord in mid lane, Spirit Breaker as a 4 position support or even Elder Titan in the off lane only time will tell.