Three Lane Highway: Patch 6.82 and the Dota 2 of tomorrow

Dota 2

Three Lane Highway is Chris' weekly column about Dota 2.

My PC's power supply exploded a few hours after the patch notes for version 6.82 were released, which should tell you a few things about how significant this update is—even if it ultimately teaches you nothing about the relationship between correlation and causation. Post-International patches are always a big deal, but this is the big one. Sweeping changes to the map, and in particular the structure of the early game, mean the death of the deathball and a refresh to which heroes can be laned where. Combined with a fresh set of nerfs and buffs and some silly new Aghanim's Scepter upgrades and, well, it's time to start learning again. We are entering the era of 6.82.

So let's start with the small things. Shadow Fiend's remodel has arrived, a long with an Arcana that more or less turns him into Ragnaros: a rare example of a hero derived from a Warcraft character being turned into a different Warcraft character. I like his regular new look, though. He looks like Sauron's little brother who you remember from when he was a kid but then you see him years later and he's been working out and picked up an attitude. You realise that this kid you used to know (who collects souls) is a grown-ass adult and you look over at Sauron and realise how old you both have become. You say something stupid like "hey, Shadow Fiend, how's college" and he good-naturedly tells you that actually he finished a year ago; he's looking for a job; he's considering becoming a personal trainer or curating a library of stolen souls. You wish him well and then you and Sauron get blind drunk and he won't shut up about hobbits and you wish you were hanging out with his cool kid brother and the first deep fractures form in your friendship.

Anyway. There is a Dota patch!

On the safelane and in the jungle

I'm not going to cover specific changes as much as themes and the way I think the game will shift, particularly in the early stages of a match. It's useful to focus on specific lanes to do this.

Runes now spawn at both ends of the river, and one is always a new 'bounty' rune that grants bonus XP and gold. This reduces the amount of luck involved in finding runes but equally makes securing the rune spots—already the difference between a good support and a great one—even more important.

Ideally you do not want either rune to go uncontested. On both sides, I suspect that trilane supports or junglers will play a role in securing runes closest to the safelane, vying with mids and offlaners for the advantage. Teams will have to make a decision about letting supports take bounty runes or leaving them for core heroes. Both approaches are viable. With the nerf to tier one tower gold, bounty runes will become an important source of early income for supports that can't jungle, and they'll also incentivise early roaming. In general, playing safelane support will be a lot more active, even in pubs.

The new position of Roshan makes Dire's tier one tower on the offlane really important. For this reason, where push strats survive I expect to see them on the Radiant safelane. Shadow Shaman would do well here, and it'll be interesting to see what happens to Lycan. Despite the nerfs he's still a strong pusher, and by evening out the Dire Roshan advantage he may find a new home as a Radiant safelaner. This is also where Terrorblade is useful, but despite being in Captain's Mode he's not terribly strong at the moment.

I'm really looking forward to experimenting with new trilane combinations. Bloodseeker's changes lend him great opportunities to synergise with other heroes, giving him a place in a trilane either as a core or - perhaps, I'd need to experiment - as a support. His damage amp is also potentially a heal, and he has a huge AoE silence. A Disruptor, Bloodseeker, Shadow Fiend trilane could make an offlaner's life very, very hard.

In mid

The rune changes, coupled with downplayed bottle charges, make mobility important again. Expect to see Queen of Pain and Puck. Ember Spirit isn't going anywhere, either, because his ult is one of the few spells capable of moving him between rune spots in time to snatch both. This is also a direct buff to the mid support Io strategy popularised by Fnatic: with a fast bottle and a good team, Io can reliably secure a lot of regen.

The increased importance of runes makes mid less independent from the rest of their team in pubs, because they can no longer comfortably win their lane alone. This means that drafting mid will need to take into account a map-wide strategy for securing an early lead, which isn't often the case at lower skill levels.

I don't think you can totally count pushing and farming midlaners out, though. Now that teams are heavily incentivised to use Glyph of Fortification on their tier ones, being able to pressure multiple towers at once is useful because it means that the enemy will need to pick where to defend after the glyph wears off. Having a mid who can threaten a tower solo, like Dragon Knight, could secure advantages elsewhere.

On the offlane

A lot of heroes became viable solo offlaners in this patch. Leshrac was already strong, and the buff to his ult means he benefits from early levels even more. Ogre Magi has health regen all day. Legion Commander would work here too, particularly on Dire where her counter-push will be most useful. I'd expect to see the rise of Undying continue, and maybe even offlane Puck and Queen of Pain for their strong harass and ability to secure runes. Windranger is more viable too, which I'm very happy about. Earth Spirit's rune control makes him a big winner as well.

There may be a place for Huskar here somewhere, but it's an outside chance. Poor Huskar.

Opening up the pathways around each offlane tower means that defensive engagements—and aggressive roaming onto the enemy offlane—will be more interesting. One of the first tasks will be to determine optimal new ward spots to cover these approaches, because there are many new blind spots.

I love the way these new changes interact with the offlane. I'd felt for a while that it was too easy to solo, and that making it hard again would defang characters like Void and Doom. What we got is, on paper, better. The offlaner now has more to deal with, from securing runes to preventing the enemy from being in a position to pressure multiple towers. Dark Seer is another character that benefits directly from these new objectives. In short: passive heroes out, active heroes in.

Tomorrow's wombo

It's way too early to break down exactly how 6.82 is going to affect the small details of battle. So, instead, I'm going to pitch a number of silly combos enabled by this update. These are not particularly viable, but they would make good YouTube. I would like to try them.

Surprise! Double Surprise! Triple Surprise! MONSTER SURPRISE!

Make the grandest possible entrance by stashing Lifestealer inside any hero. Then, put that hero into a Tusk Snowball with Earth Spirit and Phoenix. Roll at the enemy, and at the exact moment that the hero emerges, pull them into an Aghs Supernova. Defend the Supernova. Then, as the hero is reborn, turn them into a Stone Remnant and kick them at any surviving enemies. Finally , Lifestealer may emerge.

The enemy will experience this as a snowball that becomes the sun; the sun that becomes a statue; a statue that becomes a hero; a hero that explodes and becomes a zombie. Who needs acid?

Hero Centipede

Create a mobile chain of digestion by having Io Tether to Phoenix, Phoenix cast Sun Ray at Pugna, and Pugna use his Aghs upgrade to vomit health at an ally. It's like a disgusting laser hose that saves lives!

We're Just A Bunch Of Big

Guys Who Make Each Other Stronger

Draft Beastmaster, Lycan, Sven, Bloodseeker, Troll Warlord for a manly draft full of dudes who really enjoy each other's company. Farm up an Aghanim's Scepter on Sven to maximise the good times by ensuring that everybody is properly hype.

It's a soap opera as well as a pocket strat. Sven wants to buff Lycan, but he takes so long to get ready these days! Troll Warlord and Beastmaster get on now, but who's going to feel most useless when they hit attack speed cap? Bloodseeker might have impressed Lycan on the drag racing strip before, but the old wolf's faster than ever. Perhaps if he gives Blood Rage to Lycan and only Lycan, sensei will finally notice him? Find your own answers! Inevitably lose your own games.

The sun is tickling me to death and I can't even

If Phoenix uses Supernova on Bane during Fiend's Grip, and both have Aghanim's Scepters, does anyone who attacks the sun get affected by nightmare? Because that would be broken as hell. Let's hope so.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

Chris Thursten

Joining in 2011, Chris made his start with PC Gamer turning beautiful trees into magazines, first as a writer and later as deputy editor. Once PCG's reluctant MMO champion , his discovery of Dota 2 in 2012 led him to much darker, stranger places. In 2015, Chris became the editor of PC Gamer Pro, overseeing our online coverage of competitive gaming and esports. He left in 2017, and can be now found making games and recording the Crate & Crowbar podcast.