We've taken a look at the first Dota Pro Circuit event of the Outlanders patch, the meta and how Nigma broke it.

12:00, 14 Jan 2020

As the fireworks settle, one of the most well-produced Dota 2 tournaments in recent memory has concluded. Nigma got back to winning ways at the WePlay! Bukovel Minor after their hiatus through the first part of the Dota Pro Circuit. Having played 49 games starting from the open qualifiers, the Europeans certainly took a long detour and have just a few days for a break before they travel to Leipzig for the DreamLeague Season 13 Major.

Being the first official DPC tournament during the Outlanders update, we had our first taste of tier five neutral items in a pro match, ridiculous throws, and of course, great memes. Through it all, we’ve learned some 

Dispel is the name of the game

Omniknight, Abbadon, and Legion Commander remain three of the most popular offlaners in the game due to the innate strong dispels in their kit.

Strong dispels, whilst a defensive tool, allows for more offensive potential in a team.For example, a carry player fearing a Scythe of Vyse could feel compelled to rush a Black King Bar, but the presence of a strong dispel can motivate the core to go for a greedier item. 

Omniknight was by far the most picked offlaner during the tournament and was the second most picked hero after Rubick. The hero’s defensive skill set allowed him to practically conduct a teamfight, providing normally squishy heroes with bolstered status resistance and strength with Heavenly Grace. Purification and Guardian Angel served as a means to play with even more aggression.

Abbadon was also a flex pick, being capable of playing a hard support role. The hero’s ability to delay teamfights with Borrowed Time proved invaluable in any role as opponents were forced to contend with either focusing their efforts on the hero to attempt to force him out of a teamfight, or watch the hero constantly Aphotic Shield and Mist Coil his allies.

Legion Commander has fallen down the pecking order, but Press the Attack remains a powerful spell as a slightly more offensive dispel due to its additional attack speed. Unlike Omniknight and Abbadon, Legion’s combative skillset meant that the hero provided less utility to a team, where a bad start could ruin the hero’s scaling potential.

Outworld Devourer is still broken

The 7.23 update reworked Outworld Devourer massively, changing the hero from an immense right clicker into a spellcaster. It took players a while to catch on, and the hero even received a buff in 7.23a, but they’ve certainly caught on after seeing the hero dole out teamwipes with one press of a button.

Sanity’s Eclipse has since been nerfed twice, but it still doesn’t seem to be enough. The hero was picked six times at the Minor and enjoyed a 100 percent win rate. Players are now rushing Aghanim’s Scepter on the hero, giving two charges on Astral Imprisonment.

While the Aghanim’s upgrade is mostly used to gain Sanity Eclipse charges, it also banishes allies, providing extra utility to what was already a premier upgrade. 

While the hero is slower to charge up now, it’s still more than capable of instantly wiping heroes with low mana pools. The prevalence of defensive offlaners also ensures that Outworld Devourer isn’t being punished while stacking up charges.

It’s a small sample size, but so far it does look like the hero is unstoppable in the right circumstances.

Phantom Lancer was the carry of the tournament

In a patch where several safelane carries have become acquainted with the dumpster, Azwraith the Phantom Lancer has risen as a premier candidate for the most powerful safelaner in the game.

Azwraith was picked 10 times throughout the event and won eight of them. Through a combination of it largely escaping the attention of IceFrog’s nerf hammer and the developing meta. Phantom Lancer thrived in the tournament.

It inherently counters Drow Ranger and Templar Assassin, two popular core picks that hate gap closers and illusions. With Phantom Rush and Juxtapose, Phantom Lancer has premade solutions.

The Lancer retains slightly favored matchups versus heroes like Slark and Lifestealer. Mana Burn from Diffusal Blade works great to drain away their low mana pools and render them unable to use their spells, while having an inbuilt escape that allows him to kite effectively.

Keep in mind that while Miracle-’s 4-0 record with the hero might skew the stats for the hero, other carries have looked tragic in comparison. Terrroblade lost all four games it was picked in,  Morphling won two out of six, Lifestealer and Slark have 50 percent win rates, perennial top pick Gyrocopter was only played thrice, and classic choices like Juggernaut and Sven went unpicked. The tournament revolved around Drow Ranger and Phantom Lancer, a battle in which Azwraith edged out.


Nigma wasn’t afraid to draft for comfort

Nigma WePlay Champions

While the end result of Nigma taking the Minor championship was not surprising, it’s interesting to take a look at how their drafting strategies evolved throughout the event.

They started the group stage with a series loss to Fighting PandaS, which included experimental picks like Arc Warden and Clinkz that fell flat. Eventually, the team settled on ensuring that Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi had a scaling, physical damage hero that maintained its presence in the mid-game like Phantom Lancer and Ember Spirit, while placing Omar “w33” Aliwi on space-creation heroes that rotated incessantly.

Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi has some of the most individually talented players in the world at his disposal, where several of them has proven their worth on signature heroes and weren’t afraid to flaunt them when deemed necessary.

The biggest example was probably the Windranger, w33’s comfort hero that he’s showed off for years. No other team but Nigma picked Windranger at the Minor. Undeterred, w33 played the hero five times, winning all of them.

Nigma stepped up to further forge a meta of their own, reminiscent of OG’s delightful run at the International 2019. Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi’s Ember Spirit, Maroun “GH” Merhej’s Earthshaker and Elder Titan, and Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov’s Dark Seer all had winning records despite their unpopularity and/or poor performances with other teams.

Nigma’s unorthodox hero picks:

5-0 Windranger, only team to pick it
5-0 Ember Spirit, 1-2 by other teams
4-0 Phantom Lancer, 4-2 by other teams
5-1 Elder Titan, 0-2 by other teams
3-0 Dark Seer, 1-0 by other teams
3-0 with Earthshaker, 1-3 by other teams

It’s important to note that while Nigma weren’t slaves to the meta, there were still quite a lot of unspoken rules to their drafting strategy. They understood the power of saves, picking up Abbadon for both MinD_ContRoL and KuroKy on multiple occasions, or picking Dark Seer for his Surge ability to allow for rapid disengagements. They placed w33 on the attention-grabbing role most of the time, albeit with comfort heroes like Windranger and Huskar rather than the more common Puck, Shadow Fiend and Magnus.

And seriously, if a team can execute plays like this, isn’t it the best justification to do whatever the hell you want? While their run wasn’t perfect by any means, they consistently displayed their top-tier knowledge and skill and fully deserved their Minor victory and the ticket to the Leipzig Major.


Images via Nigma/Twitter

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