MDL Disneyland showcased everything good about the patch—the hero diversity was high, with 102 contested and 97 picked heroes and the strategy diversity was equally good, with many teams trying both early-game and late-game oriented drafts. There were also highlights of some problematic things—no hero had a 100% contest rate, but two heroes came pretty close with Drow Ranger at 93% contest rate and Doom at 98%.
These two heroes aside, however, the meta felt pretty good. And there were a couple of new surprises. Two heroes stood out to us as something worth incorporating in your everyday pubs.
Sven was picked a total of six times, winning six games during the tournament. It is probably safe to say that the hero works well, despite the small sample size.
Not much has changed about how the hero is played—players still max cleave, try to farm as much as possible with early Echo Sabre in the early game and then come into midgame as a strong, independent core with the help of Blink Dagger. Sven might not be the hardest of carries and should preferably end his games before the 40-minute mark, but having an AoE stun and a way to save teammates on your position one should not be underrated.
The hero is also pretty flexible—with the help of his talents, depending on the situation, he can either become a better damage-dealer or more utility oriented. The only talent pro-players at MDL were ubiquitous about was the +30 MS at level 15, though we have to say that having an access to dispel might be worthwhile in certain games, against heroes like Dark Seer, Necrophos or natural Aeon Disk carriers.
Build flexibility of the hero is also worth highlighting—in games with Dark Seer on his team, Sven could afford to skip Blink Dagger and go all-in on acceleration items. We frequently saw Sange and Yasha into Satanic as well, for the extra status resistance, akin to Troll Warlord. Finally, Bloodthorn can be an amazing pick-up, when your team lacks control.
Overall, definitely have this hero on your radar, especially until the next patch hits, since he is among the few heroes who are exceptionally good at dealing with Drow Ranger. Sven farms as fast as Drow. He can jump on her and not let go with the help of BKB. And he also provides his teammates with extra faux HP from Warcry—something very valuable against armor-piercing attacks.
We do not encourage Ancient Apparition in the third position, like Team Secret did in their game against Evil Geniuses or in the second position, as Virtus.Pro did in their game against Mineski, but we certainly encourage AA picks in pubs. Heroes such as Necrophos, Io, Bloodseeker and Abaddon are very successful in high-level pubs, while heroes like Morphling and Oracle are popular enough to deserve a preemptive counter-pick.
AA is decently powerful in lane on top of being great at disabling regeneration and healing effects. Most of his strength in lane comes from Chilling Touch, which deals a significant amount of damage early on. Perhaps more importantly, it is also mixed damage, with both Physical and Magical components, meaning that it will be at least somewhat effective against the majority of offlane heroes, be it high HP pool or high Armor targets.
AA does require a proactive lane partner to truly shine—Cold Feet really doesn’t do much on its own and is at its best as a follow-up stun, cast preemptively. Because of it, heroes with some form of lockdown are more or less a must as a lane partner, otherwise AA simply won’t have a game.
Later in the game, he can be pretty devastating through Ice Vortex magic damage amplification, however we would still recommend maxing out Cold Feet first, for the most damage and lockdown—3.5 seconds of stun and 360 damage is no joke. Chilling touch should be left at two points in most games until other abilities are maxed, since most of its utility comes in the laning stage, rather than in actual teamfights, where AA is at his best when slightly behind his team, carefully aiming his Ice Blast.
Overall, we feel the hero is currently in a very good place and while he was made somewhat redundant with the introduction of Spirit Vessel, there are still a lot of scenarios, where he should be picked.
Like most player, we can’t wait for the new patch to hit. Dota could use a breath of fresh air after almost four month of the same patch. That said, we were still impressed with how long 7.21 kept everyone entertained—each tournament we had new strategies and picks emerge.
Hopefully the next patch is going to have a similar diversity and longevity. With a single Major to battle-test it, it is most likely 7.22 is going to be this year’s TI patch.