Itemization trends since 7.00
With every major Dota patch, the attention shifts to hero changes and how they will affect the meta. At the same time, direct and indirect changes to items have an enormous effect on the way Dota is played. Let’s take the time to analyze how itemization has changed from 7.00 onwards.
Shaking up the mechanics
7.00 brought along a rework of several items. Satanic, Drum of Endurance, Helm of the Dominator and Mask of Madness have experienced changes in their buildup and/or function. While Satanic and Mask of Madness kept their original purpose and therefore are still used in very similar ways, the changes to HotD and Drum meant a completely different purpose for both items.
In many ways, Helm of the Dominator has taken over the role that Drum of Endurance used to fill. With its relatively low price it serves as an entry level item for carries, providing attack speed, stats and health regeneration, just as the old Drums used to do. However, the active of HotD tops the one of Drums by a landslide when it comes to value for a carry.
Heroes using Helm of the Dominator, image courtesy of Dotabuff
While the increased attack and movespeed you received upon using Drums could be used when pushing down towers, team fighting or chasing, Dominate is really a Jack of all trades. Neutral creeps have received a number of buffs over recent years, making them as valuable as ever. Besides the ever popular Alpha Wolf and his damage aura, there are several neutrals that are being used very frequently. While in the past, a lot of creeps were hardly usable due to their lack of movement speed, 7.00 pushed the speed of dominated units to 425, causing a huge popularity spike for HotD.
Everyone is at the helm?
The Satyr Banisher and his Purge is being considered a carry’s best friend ever since the old Helm of the Dominator rose to prominence in the ancient camp stacking meta of 6.88. Despite several nerfs, the short cooldown slow is still a valuable tool to chase enemies down or make for creative interactions, as this innovative Pudge build by Dendi shows.
With the current meta focussing heavily on AoE spells and disables, Centaur Conqueror has been another popular choice due to his War Stomp, with aura creeps rounding out the field of possibilities.
But not only the spells of neutral creeps have been fitting the meta. With fights happening early and often, sustain and cheap items have highlighted both pub as well as competitive gameplay. Helm of the Dominator fits that description perfectly. Even though two nerfs have brought the additional stats the item grants from 6 down to 2, it is still a very popular choice. The extra attributes are really only the icing on the cake, especially amongst high level players, who know how to utilize dominated creeps to their advantage.
Drumming quietly, but steadily
While HotD has taken the spotlight in pub games and competitive Dota alike, Drum of Endurance took a step back at first. It went from being a popular intermediate items for cores to being an item nobody seemingly wanted. By now, however, a new group of heroes has rediscovered it. Once Swiftness Aura was stripped of its attack speed bonus and the health regen was replaced by mana regen, it was clear that the item was no longer fitted for carries.
While that did cause a significant step back in terms of overall popularity, it is slowly making its way back into several item builds. Supports who suffer from low base move speed and mana problems such as Shadow Shaman or Crystal Maiden have given Drum a new purpose. While both of these heroes used to save up for Blink Dagger or Force Staff in order to ensure their mobility, Drum has heavily cut into that trend.
In a very fast paced meta, it can prove to be troublesome to save up 2250 gold for a Blink, when you are constantly forced into fights which often lead to your death. Drum of Endurance, however can be purchased in many cheap parts, allowing for a more steady and also less risky buildup with benefits on each step.
Besides acting as a mobility tool, Drum also providess a decent bit of tankiness plus mana regen, both typical needs for many support heroes. With the recipe cost dropping from 700 to only 575 gold, the item is bound to be more popular amongst supports.
Image courtesy of Dotabuff
Speaking of supports…
While Drum of Endurance has entered the pool of potential support items, others have left it. Items like Mekansm used to be a typical choice for position 4 heroes, but the itemization has adapted to the overall playstyle in the meta and shifted several items towards heroes with better farming capabilities.
Due to the fact that constant fighting is very likely to start at the end of the laning phase, the timing of sustain items such as Mekansm is absolutely crucial. Granting your team the survivability bonus of Restore in the first couple of fights can easily make the difference between winning and losing, making the item trend towards core heroes, that have the ability to farm up the necessary gold much quicker.
Therefore, utility-heavy cores such as Necrophos and Underlord have taken over the role as Mek-carriers. Since 7.03 raised the cost of Headdress by 100, bringing the total cost of Mekansm up to 2375 gold, we will most likely see that trend intensify with supports having troubles to farm up that amount within the timing restrictions of the meta.
Greed is good!
Because position 4 heroes have been bailed out of providing sustain items such as Mekansm and Pipe of Insight for their teams due to timing reasons, they often turn towards much more greedy item builds. As a consequence, Hand of Midas has become a more frequent choice amongst support and roaming heroes.
With a meta revolving around constant fighting and therefore very little time to farm, many heroes turn to a Midas in order to cover their farming needs. While some off laners like Nyx Assassin have used that strategy for quite a while now, it has proliferated to supports ever since 7.00. This has been on display in Natus Vincere.G2A’s run in the Kiev Qualifiers as well, with rmN- picking up a Midas on four different heroes.
Without the need to provide specific items for their team and with a high dependency on levels, those are position 4 heroes like Silencer, Undying or Ogre Magi who opt for a Midas much more often than they would have in pre 7.00-days. The extra gold enables these heroes to have a decent net worth around the 35 to 40 minute mark, which is the typical timing for high ground pushes.
Since these pushes are absolutely crucial to the outcome of games in the current meta due to comeback gold and the popularity of heroes excelling at defending high ground, every bit of advantage a team can build up before trying to break the last line of defence can be game changing. An extra Glimmer Cape or Force Staff on one of the supports can therefore go a long way in these defining moments, which has made Hand of Midas almost a must-have for heroes further down in farming priority.
Constant nerfing wears the stone?
While we have already talked about the several nerfs to Helm of the Dominator, there are other items which are on quite a streak when it comes to nerfs. The first one up in that category is Dragon Lance. Ever since 6.88, the item has been subject to quite a number of nerfs, because the item is so stat efficient, that even melee heroes started to buy it. Therefore several changes to the attribute bonus provided have been made, bringing it down to 12 agility and strength in 7.03.
Heroes purchasing Dragon Lance, Image courtesy of Dotabuff
Despite Icefrog trying to discourage melee heroes from purchasing the item, there is one character that will not cease to build Dragon Lance due to his unique mechanics and playstyle. Meepo is extremely stat dependant and wants to finish the game fairly early, making Dragon Lance a perfect fit with its cheap price and high attribute value. Therefore, the (double) Dragon Lance build will last throughout the 7.03 nerf.
Another item that has been nerfed several times in a row is Bloodthorn. While Dragon Lance is being nerfed due to its seemingly overpowered value, the reason for the Bloodthorn nerf is due to its comparison with a similar item.
Ever since the introduction of Bloodthorn, Daedalus has been dropping in popularity. The added crit damage of it does simply not match up with the utility value of Bloodthorn’s silence and true strike. Therefore, the cooldown has been increased several times, reaching 14 seconds in 7.03. However, as long as a fight-oriented meta is present, the well-roundedness of Bloodthorn will prevail over the raw damage of Daedalus, even despite more potential nerfs coming down the line.
What the future holds
The popularity, as well as the success of items is (as anything in Dota) closely connected to the meta. New patches always bring new heroes to prominence, which in turn brings up new item builds and preferences. With every hero having signature items, the popularity of items is closely connected to the fate of the heroes that like to build them. A handful of buffs to the right heroes can turn a rarely used item into one of the most popular ones.
Another way an item can rise to prominence is the changing of the prevalent playstyle. For example, Necronomicon, an item that has seen a decent amount of buffs lately, could easily become enormously popular overnight. Split-pushing hasn’t been a crucial part of Dota for a while, which comes with buffs racking up for heroes that rely on it. With one of the next patches, we might just see the armies of Necronomicons starting to march again.
KardinalR 24 March 2017, 15:10 2286 1