One of the questions most frequently spotted floating around the Dota-sphere, possibly tied with “Artifact Beta when?” is “Dota 2 patch when?” This week, let’s discuss patches after The International.
It seems natural that there would be a patch after The International (TI), heading into the new Dota 2 Pro Circuit (DPC) season. It’s the perfect time to introduce changes to the game, tweak heroes, and shake things up so that the game feels fresh.
As a counterpoint to that, it’s useful to remember that amateur players are inspired by TI to play themselves. Being able to play a version of the game that’s as similar as possible to what they’ve spent two weeks watching is important. Trying to emulate the pros is even more difficult when the terrain has changed or a key mechanic has been altered, let alone when hero skills are different, possibly even reworked entirely.
Still, there is an expectation that there will be a big patch. And while we’ve had a few patches since TI8, these hasn’t been the large patch that we anticipate. 7.19b and 7.19c primarily tweaked a handful of heroes and items. The former also adjusted buyback respawn time penalties, the XP requirement for level two, and put Glyph on cooldown until three minutes on the in-game timer. We saw the importance of buybacks at TI, and how they can be used aggressively to change the outcome of team fights. Tweaking buybacks with a change to the time penalty is a step toward changing how Dota 2 is played, particularly at the highest level of competition where seconds matter. But none of this satisfies that major patch itch.
One Measure for Whether We “Need” a Patch
For all the adjustments to heroes, we’re still seeing a lot of the same picks and bans at post-TI8 qualifiers that we saw during the LAN event. I used Dotabuff to compare the most picked, banned, and overall contested (picks+bans) heroes during the LAN portion of TI8 to the qualifiers for the Kuala Lumpur Major, DreamLeague Season 10, and ESL One Hamburg. What I found is that all top five bans and three or four of the top five picks at each of the three events post-TI8 were in the top eight bans or picks at TI8.
This, of course, carried over into a comparison of the most contested heroes as well. Tiny, Io, Weaver, Necrophos and Silencer, especially, were all near the top of the list for each of the four events.
Sure, Tiny’s cute, but do we need to see him every game? Probably not.
This doesn’t mean we need a new patch. Yes, there’s clearly some heroes that are being given higher priority at the most competitive tier of play, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the game needs rebalancing or to be altered in bigger ways. There are certainly plenty of measures for when a patch would be welcome. I only speak for myself when I say that for me, the best indicator is when hero picks are starting to feel stale. I think we’re starting to hit that point, personally. I’m ready to see a shake up in the top ten most picked and banned hero lists.
So when might we expect a bigger patch to arrive?
Wykrhm Reddy highlighted a Valve employee’s Reddit comment in a tweet this week:
I looked back at previous years to see when the first big patch post-TI happened each year. Looking at the last four, we have:
- 2017, Valve released the 7.07 update on October 31. In addition to various in-game mechanic changes, this added Dark Willow and Pangolier to the game, added Turbo Mode, and overhauled every hero’s Talent tree.
- 2016, 7.01 was released on December 20, probably the smallest of these notable patches. It shifted experience requirements for leveling, and tweaked heroes.
- 2015, we received 6.85, which affected many heroes and items, on September 24, but 6.86 on December 16th saw significantly more changes to the map and mechanics.
- 2014, 6.82 came out on September 25, reworking the game map, gold and experience, creeps, and adjusting various heroes and items.
We’re clearly not getting a big September patch at this point. Though it’d be lovely to see the patch in the next two weeks, I’m not holding my breath that this will be the case. The Reddit comment implies, to me, that we’ll be waiting a bit longer on the major patch, though we might get some more tweaks between now and then. But if we don’t get a patch soon, we’re not likely to for some time as there are tournaments from the end of October through mid-November. Mid-tournament is a dreadful time for a patch.
This is purely speculation, but a patch after the Kuala Lumpur Major, before the second Major qualifiers begin looks like the best spot in the schedule to me. This would put the patch in the November 19-23 window. It wouldn’t impact significant LANs and that timing would ensure the changes drop before qualifiers for the next round of Major and Minor qualifiers in the DPC. I think its important that teams qualify on the patch that is played at those tournaments, if possible (by which I mean barring any unexpected bugs or serious new imbalances).
If the patch isn’t ready by that time, then we’re looking at an early-mid December patch time, which is in line with major patch timing in 2016 and 2015. That would be consistent with DanielJ_Valve’s comment.
Unless specific heroes are simply too overpowered to counter, we may see those top picks shift as teams develop counter-strategies. This may extend the longevity of the patch and make the upcoming tournaments feel fresher.
We also have the teams themselves switching things up. With the changing of the season, we had massive roster changes, resulting in some new, powerful combinations of players. As teams start to solidify their own strategies and playstyles this season, we may see them naturally branch out to other heroes to show-off their own strengths. If nothing else, we can enjoy those new player combinations as they make use of familiar heroes.
How long do you think it’ll be before we get a major patch?
I love talking about esports and books. I think compassion and curiosity are really important and that a balance between serious and silly keeps life interesting. You can follow me on Twitter @writingdaeja