Dota 2 is an ever-changing game with constant updates that tweak the gameplay mechanics and relative playstyle of heroes with every patch. While these updates generally fix what is imbalanced at the time, they end up creating a new meta that brings other heroes and items out of obscurity. With over 120 heroes and several item combinations, this is why Dota 2 is a hard game to balance.
The updates in the last couple of years have done little to spark interest in the game either. This could be down to the fact that IceFrog, the brains behind the current Dota 2 scene, has not been a part of the project for a while now. With the return of IceFrog seemingly near, we are hoping for some new and exciting changes to the game, especially with certain heroes that have been considerably lackluster.
Dota 2 heroes that need reworks
With their relatively low pick rates and lack of action in competitive games, these five heroes generally go unnoticed. This is because they have been picked often enough that most players already know how to counter them. Another reason is that these heroes had once been overpowered in their own right which caused constant nerfs to their skills till it got to the point where they became unplayable.
Regardless of the reasons for these heroes’ decline in the Dota 2 scene, here are the five heroes that could most likely make a comeback with a rework or two.
Bristleback was once one of the most feared heroes to play against, in both competitive games and pubs. While he still terrorizes low-level pubs where players do not know how to play against him, his shine in the competitive scene has pretty much worn off. The hero is currently the least-picked hero in the pro scene, with an abysmal 40 percent win rate while barely going above a 45 percent win rate in pubs. So what caused this hero’s drastic decline?
Well, simply put, the hero is countered hard by a few mechanics. One is the Break mechanic, which completely destroys the hero’s tankiness. Since Silver Edge is a common carry pickup and heroes like Viper are currently in the meta, Bristleback does not last very long. Heal reduction is another big counter to him and while Spirit Vessel is easy to dispel, the common Drow Ranger, and occasional Ancient Apparition, pick ruins his game.
And finally, his spells have been getting nerfed since patch 7.30. His Aghanim’s Scepter is not as strong as it once was with the cast range being nerfed. Warpath has become weaker when compared to his peak strength. While he still works in some niche lineups, he is still unreliable as a carry or as an offlaner. All of these factors make him a subpar choice, only mostly viable in uncoordinated pubs. Hopefully, we see some reworks to this old favorite.
Keeper of the Light
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Keeper of the Light was one of the strongest midlane heroes around this time earlier last year. This was down to the Null Talisman stacking build, back when they provided spell amplification, which let him one-shot creep waves at level seven, making him impossible to lane against. This let him flash-farm the lane and the small neutral camp, letting him snowball out of control within 15 to 20 minutes of the game. He also used to be Bristleback’s best friend and now look at them.
Since Nulls were reworked, his early efficiency dropped drastically. Then the neutral camp was removed, making it worse. Finally, his Will-O-Wisp was reworked into needing a 4200 gold item, which he found it harder to farm now, and it was nerfed to no longer interrupt heroes. This removed Keeper of the Light’s viability as a support hero as well, with his best-case usage working as a mana battery for his core.
Keeper of the Light is somewhat viable in magic-oriented snowball lineups due to his Solar Bind, but it is fairly easy to counter and dispel with the multitude of Eul’s Scepters and Lotus Orbs. He briefly came back into the meta as a utility midlaner with Spirit Vessel but even that build has fallen off due to dispels. He is still a niche counter-pick to heroes such as Razor, who is currently in the meta, but beyond that, he needs some reworks to be strong once more.
Necrophos has always been the classic anti-tank hero since his introduction to the game. Currently, the hero falls under this strange hybrid of tank and healer, both of which he does not perform very well at. This is due to the fact that the hero’s tanking potential is severely underwhelmed by heroes that counter him being prevalent in the meta. His strength has always been his constant damage output and sustain using a low cooldown Death Pulse repeatedly, but some heroes have taken a stand.
Heroes such as Drow Ranger with her Silence and healing reduction Hypothermia arrows completely destroy Necrophos at any stage of the game. Viper is another powerful counter that shuts down Necrophos with Nethertoxin and Viper Strike, turning his own Ghost Shroud against him. These heroes combined with the constant nerfs to his Reaper’s Scythe have turned Necrophos into a shell of his former powerful self.
During the peak of his power, Necrophos’ Reaper’s Scythe would either prevent enemy buyback upon death or severely increase their respawn timer, effectively taking them out of the game for a while. These aspects combined with a lower cooldown on Reaper’s Scythe once made him the bane of pub and pro games everywhere. Now replaced with a bonus health and mana regen buff, the once-feared Necrophos is now in dire need of some reworks to his abilities.
Phantom Assassin falls in the same vein as Bristleback does, she dominates low-level pubs and her effectiveness tends to gradually decline as you go higher up the brackets. She is virtually non-existent in pro games now unless a perfect lineup is drafted around her to enable her playstyle. She needs an almost perfect game to be able to perform well, with squishy targets that she can assassinate in a few hits before winning the teamfight.
The problem with Phantom Assassin is that she has two hard counters. One of them is, again, the Break mechanic. Her evasion and critical strikes are completely disabled when she is under the effect of a Break, making her virtually ineffective in a fight. Secondly, if the enemy carry hero purchases a Monkey King Bar, her potential to trade with them is negligible and she ends up dying because of her low health pool.
Her viability in games briefly spiked with the addition of her Fan of Knives Aghanim’s Shard, but her downsides are more prevalent to warrant a pick. She provides nothing but raw damage, which can be mitigated by players that know how to play around her. Her biggest source of damage is random chance, which means that it is less reliant on skill and more on luck. A hero reliant on probability on the level of Phantom Assassin is a recipe for failure. Here’s hoping for some tweaks soon.
Windranger has always been a strange hero to categorize. This is because of her innate versatility when it comes to her skill set. She can disable, nuke, escape, and deal consistent DPS simply through her spells. The problem here is that half of her skills are pure skillshots while the other half are unreliable at best against experienced players. Windranger thrives on deleting one hero from the fight before it even begins and even that potential has been somewhat undercut recently.
To truly succeed with this hero, you have to fully commit to secure the kill. If a Windrun into a Shackleshot into a Powershot/Focus Fire burst does not happen successfully, it leaves her open to an easy counterplay because she has a terrible health pool and armor to survive any sort of retaliation. This works well in low-level pubs because of the lack of map awareness. A good blink initiation can take out a backline support hero before the enemy can react while Windranger Windruns away.
Against experienced players, however, it’s a whole other story. She needs several items to position herself and secure kills which she can only do as a core. And even then, she has a mediocre laning phase at best and is not the fastest flash farmer. The introduction of her Gale Force Aghanim’s Shard opened up the potential of a good position four support because of its global cast range, but even that was nerfed recently.
Simply put, there are other heroes that can do what she does but better. Which is why we believe she is one of the prime candidates that could use a rework.
As is the state of such a dynamic game with so many variables, heroes tend to get lost in the shuffle in favor of stronger heroes that pop up when the current metagame is favorable to them. While it is almost impossible to properly balance such a game, we hope that some of these old favorites, which get so much love from the community, come back into the game soon so that we can witness their greatness again.