Dota 2’s Shanghai Major is developing an incredible meta

Mercedes Benz Arena

The Shanghai Major has been all kinds of eventful, but no one’s been talking about the actual games. It’s a shame because the competitive play has been absolutely spectacular to watch. Just as every Dota 2 patch brings out confusion and experimentation for casual players, pros are also figuring out what it takes to be a top Dota 2 player in patch 6.86. The results have been wild, with the basic feel of the game reaching new levels of excitement. Here are some of the biggest trends of The Shanghai Major.

Dota 2 got super fast

Passive laning seems almost non-existent in Dota right now as teams all across the group stages are getting into brawls earlier and more often. In contrast to other fast-paced metas, like the ‘deathball’ pushes found at The International 2014, teams are focusing on fighting players rather than buildings. Naturally these player kills lead into tower demolition, but aggressive plays have made the Shanghai Major an incredible show so far. Most of the broader trends from the group stages tie into this concept of faster play.

Games are moving faster, but that doesn’t mean they’re ending earlier. The median game length is 37 minutes, which is about the same length as The Frankfurt Major Group Stages. Teams are playing faster to control the game, but highground is still a difficult obstacle to overcome, and heroes like Zeus can make for easy reversals. Still, once a team is in control of the map, it becomes easier to exploit mistakes and take more objectives. Teams are also approaching aggression in different ways. Some use lineups with huge teamfight capabilities like Tidehunter and Enigma, others use Io for the global map presence, and some just abuse heroes that can gank and push well. Teams are staying on the offensive though, and that’s because...

Defensive play in the early game is much weaker now

Ever hear a player say “always carry a town portal scroll?” It’s great advice, and it’s been common for pros to carry them as early as the start of the game. The advantage is that it gives teammates a chance to respond to aggression. Enemy diving your midlaner? Stun one of the divers. Enemy at your tower? Teleport in and coordinate a gank on them.

However, 6.86’s aggressive pace has greatly devalued these defensive teleportations and defensive play in general. Using a defensive town portal scroll might lead to a kill or two, but it’s rarely going to translate to an objective advantage in the first couple minutes of the game. This is because the offensive team is fighting on their terms, and a well-initiated fight should have some sort of follow up, even if it’s just a denied creep wave. Defensive actions have to grab what’s available, which is often nothing in the early game. If the offensive move fails, early game revive timers are so short that the attackers can still make a play if they have their teleport available. Respawning gankers can switch to another lane for a push, kill, or whatever they want with full knowledge of where the enemy rotated to and whether or not their TP scroll is on cooldown.

An excellent example of this is from Fnatic vs Team Spirit game one. Team Spirit initiate an aggressive dive with a roaming Earth Spirit and Outworld Devourer. The gank fails because of a defensive rotation and Earth Spirit is killed, a win for Fnatic. Once the defending supports roam away, though, there’s no backup for the recently-saved Invoker. So Team Spirit does the exact same dive again and succeeds, getting a kill on a more important hero and wasting a ton of Invoker’s time. The Fnatic supports would have had to waste their time and stay near mid to stop the follow up gank. They’d be sacrificing experience and farm for a chance save Invoker if they saw the same gank again. It was a guessing game that gave Team Spirit full control.

This scenario repeats itself a couple minutes later with Team Spirit once again getting the better gank and wasting Fnatic’s time. That’s just a gank, but a good offense can lock down farming time, towers, and Roshan, while most early defensive rotations can only garner a kill or two. Stay aggressive, stay ahead.

On the next page: hero picks and the return of the Rogue Knight.