Centaur: Stampeding back into the meta
After being out of the meta for quite a while except for a very short resurgence within a cheesy strategy, Centaur Warrunner has returned for good. Let’s take a look at what brought the hero back to prominence.
Back in the spotlight
For a good portion of time, Centaur Warrunner was a non-factor in Dota. He had a very hard time claiming his spot as a viable offlaner and was considered a poor man’s Slardar. Whenever an offlaner with an AoE disable to initiate was needed, Slardar was the top choice, with Centaur coming in second.
The only beacon of hope was a new build, taking advantage of illusions in order to slowly siege down buildings with Return. As successful as this build was in both competitive and pub gameplay, it was rather short-lived. Only a couple of days after the trend came up, a patch stripped illusions of Return, rendering the build useless.
After the changes to his illusions, the hero seemed to be dead once more. However, ever since 7.00, Centaur has made an improbable comeback to become one of the most dominant heroes of the meta. Currently, he sits at 54,02% win rate in the 5K+ bracket, making him the sixth highest hero, win rate-wise in very high MMR games. In lower tier pubs, his win rates are even higher, reaching up to 57,80% in games between 2 and 3K MMR.
Most successful heroes in pubs, Image courtesy of Dotabuff
But his success is all but limited to pub games. Centaur Warrunner has also become one of the most successful and popular off laners in competitive Dota. In the CIS Qualifiers for the Kiev Major, he was picked 25 times, making him the third most popular hero. Not only that, but he also won 64% of his games while posting an impressive 4,11 KDA ratio.
Most picked heroes in the CIS qualifier for the Kiev Major
The reasons for the sudden rise in popularity are twofold. First of all, like most heroes that fall out of favor for a longer while, Centaur has received a series of buffs throughout several patches, that he is now capitalizing on. From 6.84 onwards, all of his spells but Hoof Stomp have been buffed several times. The cooldown of Double Edge has been decreased twice, while the damage of Return has been upped multiple times. On top of that, overall the slow duration of Stampede have been significantly increased.
Still, all of these buffs have not resulted in a rise in popularity or success until 7.00, which leads us to reason number two. Ever since the big patch hit, Cent has stampeded into the spotlight, claiming his spot as one of the most popular and successful off laners in the game. While the direct changes he received were mildly favorable, it was the change to the meta game that has really worked in his favor.
Master of the early battles
One of the main issues that Bradwarden was held back by, was the timing of fights. By the time the game used to shift to full-on five on five fights, a decent power spike of Centaur had already passed. With that, he was forced into the role of a one trick pony as a Blink-stun initiator, a role that was filled much more effectively by Slardar.
As soon as 7.00 settled, however, very early teamfights became an essential part of the meta game, revealing an uncharted strength of Centaur. With his skillset, he is one of the best heroes in the game when it comes to fights where all participants engage without major items. In the current meta, there are pretty much no opportunities for a team to dodge or delay fights. With that, the game follows the timing of expensive items much less than it used to, causing very early skirmishes. Due to the lack of items, the result of these fights heavily depends on spells.
Image courtesy of workshop artist Chong
Bradwarden has a lot of tools to take advantage of those often chaotic battles that lack the presence of key items. He provides an invaluable positioning tool for his entire team with Stampede. With fights occurring before major items can be acquired, it becomes even more important to get all of your spells off in an ideal position. Before Blink Daggers and Force Staffs are online, Stampede can make up for the lack of mobility, which makes the spell an invaluable tool for any lineup.
Besides his ultimate, he also provides an AoE disable with Hoof Stomp, which helps his team take care of key targets. While Double Edge is not an AoE ability, it serves a similar purpose as an AoE nuke, since it has the capability to hit several targets when positioned correctly. Furthermore, Return makes bringing Centaur down an even tougher task, especially for rather squishy opponents.
Even though 7.03 brought some minor nerfs to his base armor and the damage reduction of Aghanim’s Scepter Stampede, Centaur will very likely remain one of the stronger and more popular off laners for the months to come.
Centaur's win and pick rate after 7.03, Image courtesy of Dotabuff
At level 1, the skill preference vastly depends on your laning situation. Holding the first skill point for as long as possible can prove beneficial, since all of his three non-ultimate skills can be a viable choice in different scenarios. While Hoof Stomp offers both offensive and defensive potential, Double Edge can be used to get aggressive. In some situations, leveling Return first can put you in a good position for damage trades with opposing supports.
When it comes to the first ability to get maxed out, Double Edge typically gets the nod. The nuke is vital for the damage output of Centaur, which it why it gets priority over Hoof Stomp. The scaling of Return is connected to strength, which makes it much more viable later on in the game, which in turn makes it the last ability to have maxed.
Image courtesy of Dotabuff
Another strength of Bradwarden is his flexible itemization. The hero does not really have too many items he relies upon, letting him adjust to his team’s needs. Pretty much the only must-have is Blink Dagger, which is typically picked up as the first major item.
From there on out, plenty of items make their way into Centaur’s popular builds. One choice that has been thriving in this fight-heavy meta is Aghanim’s Scepter. The damage reduction as well as the free movement bode well with the prospect of constant skirmishes in mind.
Image courtesy of DemIIsaK
Since he is not forced into a specific item build, Bradwarden also often times ends up building plenty of utility for his team. Pipe of Insight, Shiva’s Guard, Crimson Guard and Lotus Orb are all fairly common pickups in order to strengthen his team. Utility carriers are another focal point in a meta of frequent fights, making for another niche for Centaur. In games where Stampede is especially important due to the need for gap closing or mitigating the damage of heavy nukes, Refresher Orb can be a valuable pickup as well.
Here to stay for now
While Centaur Warrunner’s dominance is heavily connected to the current meta game, his success is very unlikely to change anytime soon. The patchnotes of 7.03 do not suggest any type of meta switch at first glance, making for sustained success for Bradwarden. Furthermore, as long as Slardar is utilized as a position 4 support, these two heroes will not affect each other's popularity as they used to a couple of patches back.
KardinalR 20 March 2017, 10:21 25978 1