With 120 Dota 2 heroes and counting, most have made an appearance at the game’s biggest tournament of the year, The International. But Io, Batrider, Rubick, Mirana, and Sand King have regularly been in the spotlight and are some of the most likely heroes to appear on The International stage over the years, according to data collected by esports bookmaker Unikrn.
The data set tracks each hero’s pick and ban rates starting from TI3 to TI9. The first two editions of TI didn’t have the required level of detail and were thus excluded from the data set, according to Unikrn.
Dark Seer, Queen of Pain, Lycan, Earthshaker, and Ember Spirit round out the top 10. Grimstroke and Dark Willow, who only became available for drafting in the last edition of TI, both managed to creep over an 11-percent interaction rate.
While Pudge is the most-picked hero in public matchmaking, seeing play in one out of every five games and accumulating more than 3.5 million matches, according to Dotabuff, he’s been picked or banned just 98 times at TI, good for second-to-last. The last-placed hero is eternal pariah Techies, having just 79 interactions.
Let’s take a dive into the reasons why some of these Dota 2 heroes remain a staple in the competitive scene in spite of ever-changing metas and patches.
If you’ve watched a drafting stage at TI, one-third of them have involved Io and Batrider. For the Guardian Wisp, it’s banned in more than 55 percent of all matches—and for good reason.
Io’s strength as an enabler is unparalleled. The hero’s Overcharge makes him one of the few heroes that can simultaneously make its Tethered ally tankier, hit and move faster, and heal obscene amounts due to double-dipping. Io’s partner thus farms faster, stays healthier, and even the most immobile of heroes can be easily brought across the map using Relocate.
At TI9, Io found a new mainstream role thanks to OG’s innovative approach to the game. Carry player ana was tasked with taking the hero into the safe lane, using Spirits to efficiently farm neutral camp stacks and a Helm of the Dominator rush to swiftly move across the map, all for a power spike at level 15 with the Spirits hero damage talent and Aghanim’s Scepter. The hero has since been changed, but OG’s Io carry revolution has opened up the Wisp to a more flexible role even to this day.
Batrider’s historical prowess as a scout and initiator sees him banned just slightly under 50 percent of the time and picked in more than 16 percent of matches for a total interaction rate less than one percent lower than Io. Traditionally played as a mid or off lane core, recent patches have seen pro teams trial the hero in a support position for increased drafting flexibility and even more ban and pick potential.
The hero’s Sticky Napalm is perhaps the most annoying slow in Dota 2 and is the only basic spell in the game that can reduce turn rate. It allows him to bully entire lanes and it remains relevant in the game as a damage booster and vision provider. Coupled with his free movement Firefly and the magic immunity piercing Flaming Lasso, few people can outrun the Bat.
Batrider’s historical prowess might be at an all-time high. The recent Mistwoods update buffed the hero’s creep farming ability tremendously and opened up a safe way for him to clear Ancient stacks, but his time in the sun was quickly overcast by a major 7.28c balance patch. Regardless, expect both Bat and Io to remain in hot contention at the 10th edition of The International.
Rubick is the only hero on the chart with a higher than 20 percent pick rate, echoing Pudge’s popularity in public matchmaking. The Grand Magus is almost at a 22 percent pick rate, whose ultimate Spell Steal makes him one of the most versatile supports and teamfighter.
The hero’s low cast point makes him a capable initiator from range with Telekinesis, often followed up by a stolen spell. Fade Bolt remains one of the better creep clearing spells and its damage reduction aspect since release makes it a competent harassment and trading tool.
While the Grand Magus’ passive has changed over the years, from Null Field to his current Arcane Supremacy, it generally makes his and Stolen spells stronger, making it a valuable ability no matter the iteration.
Rubick’s hero concept means that certain opponents are forced to change their playstyle entirely just by existing. Crowd controllers like Enigma and Earthshaker, for example, have to be exceedingly careful with their positioning and spellcasting.
Mirana’s Swiss Army knife adaptability has seen her role drastically evolve over the years. She’s been a dreaded physical carry, magic nuker, and roaming support, allowing her to stay relevant despite the meta.
Along with Sand King, she’s one of the two heroes in the top five present since the first alpha version of Dota 2. TI1’s limited hero pool at just 46 meant that she was one of the event’s premier hard carries. As more capable position ones were introduced in the game, her solid attack animation, good attack range, and hybrid damage potential saw the Priestess of the Moon continue to be relevant in the mid lane.
In April 2016, Patch 6.87 introduced her new Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade, which caused Starstorm to trigger passively. It tuned her viability as a magic damage nuker to unprecedented potentials and caused her to become the most picked and banned hero in the proceeding TI as a speedy wave clearer and mixed damage core capable of both magical and physical burst thanks to Starstorm and Leap’s buff.
Now, she’s usually sent to be a position four, helping to follow up on targets with her powerful but unreliable Sacred Arrow and providing teamwide, global invisibility with Moonlight Shadow for both offense and defense. Her innate lack of a damage steroid, except for Leap’s temporary buff, means that she’s generally outclassed as a core in the current meta. But it’s not out of the question for Mirana to find a way back as she’s so often done.
Of the top five heroes, Sand King’s role has perhaps changed the least. He remains one of the better initiators in the game thanks to Burrowstrike’s near-instant cast point and line stun.
Sand King would be played as a position four in the past, roaming around the map before dipping into the jungle to quickly clear out stacks with Sand Storm for a quick Blink Dagger and exert map pressure once more.
Patch 7.20’s change to Sand King that allowed him to move around in his Sand Storm pushed him toward an off lane core role. Increased mobility within his damaging spell means that he was able to last hit and deny instead of relying purely on DPS, as well as catching unaware opponents with Burrowstrike for devastating damage.
He’s less of a Blink bot now, sometimes opting to purchase typical off lane aura items to supplement his and his team’s tankiness. While Epicenter is still decidedly mediocre, Sand King’s unchanging kit means that he still remains a terrifying teamfight presence no matter the meta.
Here’s the full table of heroes and their usage rage, courtesy of Unikrn.
|Hero||Picked||Pick %||Banned||Ban%||Interaction %|
|Queen of Pain||502||17.45%||917||31.87%||49.32%|
|Keeper of the Light||148||5.14%||258||8.97%||14.11%|