Marci, Dota 2’s latest hero captured the imagination of Dota 2 fans, renewing interest in the game just as TI10 was coming to a close.
In late October, Marci, The Dota: Dragon’s Blood character became the latest hero in Dota 2, and instantly made an impact as a highly contested pub hero. But after just a few days of release, the Marci nerfs arrived, perhaps into oblivion, by Valve’s eager nerf-hammer.
It’s a common policy of some games to release frankly broken characters to garner skin and in-game currency purchases. But for the most part, Dota 2 has often erred heavily on the side of under-balancing new heroes.
Notably, Dawnbreaker saw strictly average pub play prior to her competitive release. Even Snapfire and Mars, who were functionally broken as they entered high-level play, didn’t receive large nerfs until much down the line. But Marci, Dota 2’s mute heroine, found herself the eager target of ‘balance changes’ just days after release.
Marci picking was so prevalent even prominent streamers were hit with bans as auto-clicker exploits to select the hero flagged Valve’s anti-cheat mechanisms. Marci was so picked pre-nerf, she was getting people banned, even if they weren’t using auto-clickers.
But what went wrong? Why was Marci so broken?
Broken abilities, even after Nerfs
As Shannon “SUNSfan” Scotten and Troels Lyngholt “syndereN” Nielsen go over in the latest edition of their We Say Things podcast, the major selling points of Marci are her four spells. Even post nerfs, the utility of these spells isn’t going away
Her first ability, Dispose, her fling, the duo compare to Magnus’ Horn Toss. An ability that arguably won TI for Team Spirit. Some see this as a more of a broken Tiny ability than a Magnus rip-off. However, this doesn’t make it any less potent. “The best spell name,” says syndereN of dispose “It sounds like you’re taking out the trash when you’re tossing people.”
Marci’s Jumping springboard is vector targeted and gives allies move speed if cast ont ehm. Vector targeted abilities are some of the funnest in the game, so it’s natural to give a new hero this ability. But on Marci, with the rest of her kit, this ability just feels broken. Combined with her Ally or self cast bonus damage and life steal (and the boost they get from the springboard) this is a potent support hero as well as a carry.
As SUNSfan describes, heroes like Marci are so unique, in that while they are unique, they’re great for any role. “You can play them carry, it has some use in support as well.”
The pair go on to compare Marci to Monkey King, a hero that feels at home in multiple roles. Perhaps then, it’s Marci’s versatility that makes her so popular
Nerf Multi-role Marci?
Marci’s ultimate turns her into an Ursa clone, and applies a pulsing slow on the final attack. But if Marci can be equally adaptable as a one position hard carry, then why is she still contested from every position 1-5?
According to syndereN, it’s the fact her build is so versatile. Marci reveals with damage dealing items even from the four position, with a Phase Boots, Eul’s Scepter, Blink Dagger, Skull Basher build creating havoc.
“I think its cool that itemization for this hero in this role [Support] is out of the ordinary, but that you can also go for the ordinary.” A Marci stacked with usual support staple items will still be just as effective, albeit in a slightly different way.
47% to 53% win-rate before Marci nerfs kick in
Marci quickly jumped to a 52.5% win rate upon release. Just two days, Marci was nerfed, reducing her toss ability and her damage scaling. Her win-rate stayed at a healthy 51%, having fallen just 1.5%.
Marci win-rate post-launch:
- Day 1: 47.08%
- Day 2: 52.59% (+5.51%)
- Day 3: 52.77% (+0.18%)
- Day 4: 53.50% (+0.73%)
- Day 5: 47.88% (- 5.62%)
- Day 6: 48.30% (+0.42%)
- Day 7: 48.44% (+0.14%)
- Day 8: 49.91% (+1.47%)
- Day 9: 48.52% (-1.39%)
Three days later on November 2nd, Marci’s cooldowns received a nerf and her talents were shifted. This shot the hero down to a 47.88% win rate, but that number is slowly climbing back to the elusive 50%. Marci, it seems, needs a lot of tweaks.
November 1st Nerfs:
- Dispose damage reduced from 70/130/190/250 to 70/120/170/220
- Dispose stun duration reduced from 1.2/1.5/1.8/2.1 to 0.9/1.3/1.7/2.1
- Level 15 Talent reduced from +0.75s Dispose Stun Duration to +0.5s
- Rebound cooldown increased from 15/13/11/9 to 17/15/13/11
- Unleash cooldown increased from 90/75/60 to 110/90/70
- Unleash time between Fury combos increased from 1.5s to 1.75s
- Level 20 Talent 1.5s Sidekick Spell Immunity moved to Level 25, and it now applies a basic dispel
- Level 25 Talent +50% Sidekick Lifesteal moved to Level 20 and reduced to +25%
So is Marci still worth playing?
As you can see from the above, the November 1st nerfs were substantial in number. The hardest hit were her Dispose and Unleash abilities. Taking out the some of raw damage and lockdown of Dispose, and increasing the cooldowns on Unleash has made the hero more nuanced. No longer can you mindlessly fling opponents into stuns. And you’re not able to just jump in and beat the opposing carry to death every one and a half minutes until at least the latter portion of the game.
The immunity granted by her Sidekick ability was also shifted to the level 25 talent, meaning invulnerable super carries with Marci are only really a thing later in the game. All these changes mean that Marci rewards more intelligent use of her abilities.
Rather than just jumping in with a teammate as soon as your abilities are up and nuking the opposing carry. Simply, these are still fantastic abilities—they just require a little more brain-power to execute on now.
Ultimately, this means that even with a slightly negative win-rate Marci is still in a great place. The hero is flat-out one of the most popular additions to Dota 2 in years.
While not an addition inspired by classic the Warcraft 3 mod DotA or HoN, the hero took one of the most popular characters from the Dota anime, and one with the least inspiring abilities, and made it something compelling to play.
Marci is a triumph of Dota game design, in that her in-game character only enhances her sidekick role in the animated series. She’s fun to play, doesn’t feel broken (even if she might be) and is a treat to watch played by high-level players.
Ultimately it will lie with the pro scene to decide whether Marci, with her diverse utility should see play. Her raw utility suggests she’ll see a lot of play in the upcoming DPC league, but only time will tell.