What about this hero makes him so successful in NA, but nowhere else? We crack down on this mystery with the help of Jenkins, Capitalist, Brax and 4Beats.
It's been almost a month since the release of Patch 7.29, and the meta is finally starting to take form. As the dust settles, one creepy old man has emerged as the NA DPC's new flavor-of-the-month. Warlock has gone from entirely untouched in the DPC last patch, to being the most contested hero in NA so far.
The unsuspecting support certainly has the results to back his popularity, with a whopping 78.95% win rate. With results like that, the hero must surely be broken in some way.
NA picks Warlock more than all other 5 regions combined
Here's the kicker - no other region seems to think so. To put it into perspective, NA alone has picked or banned Warlock more than all five other DPC regions combined. Apart from Liquid from EU, no one else seems to be able to pilot him to success.
So what does the NA DPC know about this hero that the other regions don't? Is Warlock secretly OP, and being slept on by the other regions? To solve these mysteries, I consulted some of Dota's sharpest analysts and experts of the NA region.
What changed for Warlock in Patch 7.29?
Last patch, Warlock wasn't played for a simple reason. The hero, in every sense, was just way too slow. In a meta of constant fighting all over the map, he was a static support who couldn't really rotate or keep up. Without his ultimate, he was nothing more than a glorified ranged creep with a heal.
So what propelled him back into the meta this patch? For better insight on the Warlock of Patch 7.29, we spoke to Jenkins. He confirms my suspicions that while "Warlock always had overwhelming god-tier teamfight, (he was) useless outside of that."
According to Jenkins, the main factor behind Warlock's resurgence is his new Agh's Shard upgrade, which makes Shadow Word an AOE ability. This was previously Warlock's level 20 talent, but was shifted to his shard in Patch 7.29.
While the changes don't seem significant on paper, Jenkins believes that "the shard gives (Warlock) some other extremely overpowered thing to play around. So basically, they took a hero that was always decent even though all he did was win team-fights, then they essentially doubled his effectiveness."
The AOE does a lot more for Warlock than people might realise. On top of the absolutely nutty sustained healing for his whole team, he can even use the ability to farm (gasp) and push waves. Shifting this powerful upgrade to his Shard just made it more consistently available for Warlock, adding a whole new page to his black grimoire.
While the shard gives Warlock a shiny new tool to play with, it still doesn't solve his blatant weakness of being too slow overall. What's stopping opponents from crushing through the Warlock's team and dominating early?
Brax, offlaner for NA DPC team 4 Zoomers, has the answer to our question. "(While) the shard is extremely powerful, he is the king of team fighting in the early-mid game. It's a lot harder to take towers and objectives without confrontation with the new TP changes and tree areas around Tier 1/2 Towers."
With how dangerous early objectives have become, the pace of the early-mid game has slowed down significantly. With split-pushing no longer being as viable, any fight that Warlock's opponents hope to take will be right into his spells. And what happens when you try and fight into a Warlock? Chaos baby.
How Warlock fits the NA Meta
Between his shard, and the slowed pace of the early-mid game being in his favor, it would seem that Warlock's in a really good place right now. With that said, there must be something about the hero that makes him worth being first-picked and banned.
We asked 4Beats, an NA Dota enthusiast and content creator about why NA thinks so highly of the hero. "A lot of the carries that are popular right now in NA are heroes that have big team fight ultimates (Luna, Faceless Void and some Spectre)," said 4Beats. "Warlock compliments this playstyle a lot as he also has a similar weak/strong pattern based on his ult cooldown."
In the downtime between Chaotic Offering cooldowns, the carries favored in NA are happy to AFK farm. In fact, this carry-centric meta is unsurprising, since it's been a hallmark of NA's playstyle since last Season.
Capitalist agrees that the NA meta is generally "a bit slower and more farm intensive", on top of the already slower pace we're seeing this patch. Jenkins doubles down on the point that "In NA, there's a lot of stacking, farming, and controlling of one area that goes on. So, a hero that fights infrequently is reasonably fine."
To put it all together, Warlock is a perfect fit for the way NA wants to play the game. While he can't really make moves all over the map - he doesn't need to. Between securing his side of the map for his cores, the amazing shard and team fight wins guaranteed - it's a rock solid recipe for success.
Just a regional favourite - or sleeper OP?
The biggest question still remains - why aren't the other regions capitalising on Warlock's power?
With NA adopting a their own take on the meta, it's not surprising the other regions have their own drastically different style.
Jenkins explains it: "In Europe and CIS, for example, there's constant fighting and smoking across the map that happens, but you can't do that as much when you are limited by a long cooldown like Warlock's ultimate"
The only success Warlock's found outside of NA so far comes from Team Liquid. More than anything, it's an Insania specialty hero. Perhaps teams just haven't tried the hero out for themselves, or find that he doesn't fit the playstyle of their region. The answer remains inconclusive for now.
So is he really broken? Jenkins is hopeful. "I think that Warlock is genuinely OP and the regions that don't respect this hero will respect it very quickly come next Major."
"I think that Warlock is genuinely OP and the regions that don't respect this hero will respect it very quickly come next Major"
As the major for DPC Season 2 draws nearer, we can expect to see the different regions and their own unique specialties emerge. Which region has the best idea of the meta? We'll have to wait for the major to find out.