They say artists are only as good as their tools. For skilled players, Dota offers a chest of tools so dynamic and diverse that every play-style and predilection can be captured simply by drafting the right hero.
However, there are heroes that go beyond the realm of preference; their utility and strength so prolific that they necessitate consideration every time the draft begins. They’ve turned competitions into blood-baths and become staples such that no quantity of nerfs can keep them from seeing play.
This year, numerous picks captured the attention of pro-teams and balance junkies alike. Some were carries, some were supports. But ultimately, 10 heroes in particular became the signature of Dota in the year 2014; ten heroes whose contributions were as appreciated as they were maligned, from pub games to The International itself.
Dota is well-known for the saying “everything is over-powered, so it’s okay.” This, of course, refers to an ability or champion whose influence on the game is disproportionate to their peers. But few abilities exemplify the Dota MO like Tidehunter’s Ravage.
Nerf what you will, the off-lane monster is always one ultimate away from turning an even fight into a whitewash. With a 50.7 percent win rate in over 1,742 games, it’s clear that Tidehunter isn’t nearly the one-sided pick players imagine him to be. Yet despite these figures, the persistent threat of Ravage is a weapon all its own, one that kept Tidehunter more than relevant, particularly in the hands of Saahil “Universe” Arora.
Every MOBA has those pub game picks with which even the most sloppy and selfish player can make a difference. Whether it’s Gyrocopter’s point-and-click onslaught or Rikki’s permanent invisibility, some heroes can turn the tide of battle with too little difficulty.
But king among them is the purple time-walker himself. Faceless Void clocked in a staggering 88.9 percent win rate at The Summit 2, his ultimate performance at the hands of Dominik “Black” Reitmeier writing the first-place check for Vici Gaming. With a Mjolnir, a Mask of Madness, and a giant purple sphere, Faceless Void quickly became a routine headache for opponents that no amount of Ibuprofen could overcome.
No one wants to fight a bear. A drunk bear is even worse. But when that drunk bear becomes three ethereal spirits with nothing to lose, that’s when things head south.
Brewmaster was a first-pick monster in the middle of the year, and for good reason. Tempo controllers made all the difference as fast-moving Razor and Death Prophet rose to prominence. With a hearty laugh, a swirling tornado, and a giant rock, Brewmaster turned matches into foregone conclusions, particularly when paired with carries who turn extra gold into a tidal wave of right-click damage in the late game.
Admittedly, there are carries with bigger kills who could have made the list in Witch Doctor’s place. Even Dazzle’s Shallow Grave made him a candidate for “Most Infuriating Hero of 2014.” But Witch Doctor’s explosion in popularity and fight-turning Death Wards were simply too good to be ignored.
The wily, skull-throwing shaman had a banner year in 2014, seeing six times as much play-time this year as in the previous season. With an Aghanim’s Scepter and the right timing, one Death Ward could turn a stunned carry into a liability, with good bounces turning even fights into one-sided affairs. Even the right level two Paralyzing Cask could effectively feed allies less than three minutes into the contest.
Shocking fact of the day: Terrorblade possesses a mere 47.9 percent win rate on patch 6.82. Yes, you read that correctly.
Yet despite this, the auto-attacking menace has quickly become one of the most controversial heroes in the game. A point-and-click ultimate that swaps health with your assailant and an army of hard-hitting illusions guarantee that, unlike most carries, Terrorblade will become a monster, given the time and a modicum of space.
The recently-enabled champion has become a veritable steam-roller in the hands of Reitmeier, Jacky “EternalEnvy” Mao, and Artour “Arteezy” Babaev. Babaev has even said, “As soon as you have your (Eye of Skadi), the game is over.” Several roll-over wins later, it’s hard to argue with him.
While not the prettiest hero in the game, Venomancer’s contribution to professional Dota has been impossible to ignore. A carry Veno helped topple Evil Geniuses at The Summit 2, his dirt-cheap wards helped further the hyper-push strategy that dominated (for better or worse) the latter stages of The International in July.
The poisonous, passive aggressive serpent has, from the ashes, made it to pub-game hit lists across the globe. With a demonstrated record of quietly destroying your safe lane while poisoning entire lineups with the click of a button, Veno’s resurgence is inarguably complete. At a 62.4 percent win rate on patch 6.82, just remember to take your blood pressure medication when you meet one in lane.
Some heroes are known for their game-changing abilities; others for their sudden and inexplicable rise to prominence. Razor’s story, however, is strange to say the least.
The lightning-wielding pain-bringer quickly gained traction at The International this year, becoming most notably, Babe’s staple. But what began as a love story took a peculiar turn as the competition handed the overnight first-pick a 42.4 percent win rate at the biggest tournament of the year.
The fact still remains that a Refresher Orb and Aghanim’s Scepter could turn Razor into a tower-munching monster. But Razor’s story of first-pick/losing pick is one of the most bizarre in Dota‘s narrative. One can only assume that The International participants came down with some psychosis-inducing virus. How else do you explain deliberately selecting a hero with a lower win rate than post-nerf Dark Seer?
Love her, hate her (let’s be honest, you probably hate her) Death Prophet is push incarnate. The haunting call of her Crypt Swarm can burn through regen while her ultimate can burn through towers and heroes with equal aplomb.
With a 54 percent win rate over nearly 900 games in 2014, Death Prophet simply would not go away, whether melting wayward carries or turning rax into rubble. She may not have been the flashiest hero of the year, but her contributions were felt every time she hit the field.
Batrider is on the back-burner these days, his effectiveness limited by badly needed nerfs. But prior to his castration, a blink dagger, force staff, and Flame Lasso were all it took to extract the most valuable member of your team from the safety of your supports.
The flame spewing goblin was first-ban/pick worthy against all teams for the early part of the year, amassing a 52.7 percent win rate over 1877 games. Clinton “Fear” Loomis has even managed to turn the toned-down version into a menace across several matches during their recent campaign.
While he isn’t what he used to be, fans of balanced Dota will hope that a pre-nerf-Batrider-esque hero never arises again, the specter of well-timed Flamebreaks and lassos over flaming forests still fresh in everyone’s mind.
If Brewmaster is everything right with Dota (powerful, micro-intensive ultimate that punishes misuse) and Terrorblade is everything wrong with Dota (massive push and absurd solo kill potential), then Ogre Magi is both.
Fans of competitive games celebrate meaningful support play. Ogre Magi contributes damage, a reliable stun, and an attack steroid for allies that, when used properly, can affect all facets of battle. Combine with a few right-clicks, and the two-headed dunce is everything right about playing support in the original MOBA.
Then he levels Multicast.
The same fans who extol the importance of making an impact with little farm are made to cringe when Fireblast’s explosion is followed by the slot-machine noises of fortuitous RNG. It’s this luck-based mechanic entirely that has turned support players into game-breakers and keyboards into paperweights.
But truly, Ogre Magi is 2014 Dota at its finest. A seemingly meaningless pick turned into a hero, a mechanic that can let you down as easily as it can win the fight, and a personality as quirky as the game itself.
Dota this year was a cavalcade of curious characters, each one more strange and overpowered than the last. But we should be thankful that these 10 heroes made it into the competitive sphere this year. If Dota is the game of “anything can work,” then it’s all too appropriate that these top ten heroes both saved and vanquished our favorite teams with abilities elegant, OP, and everything in between.
Stats via datDota.com