Have you seen more Lycan, Chen, Beastmaster, and even Visage in your pugs? Helm of the Dominator, Helm of the Overlord, and ‘Zoo’ heroes are taking over Dota 2
Since the release of Patch 7.30 on August 18th, the meta of Dota 2 has quickly shifted. While the patch seemingly focused on mobility and macro play, one set of buffs has brought a different playstyle back to prominence.
Thanks to a series of changes to Chen, Beast Master, Lycan, and Visage, the ‘Zoo’ style is back in vogue. These heroes can control mass amounts of minions and create enormous early game pressure. Couple this with Dota’s Helm of the Dominator, an item that allows you to control neutral minions and suddenly the game starts to look a lot more like a traditional RTS.
Hats Off (or Helms Off) to the Zoo Heroes
So potent has Helm of the Dominator been that its users have become must-pick and ban heroes. Across the board, Lycan received a considerable increase to his win rate, jumping over 12% in the five days since the new patch. Similarly, Chen’s win rate rose above 50% for the first time in months as soon as 7.30 dropped.
In pro-play, the effect has been more pronounced. At ESL One Fall 2021, Tundra Esports, early adopters of the new patch’s quirks, crushed opponents Thunder Predator 2-0 thanks to two Lycan picks. Their early game dominance caught some attention, as later in the day, T1 would first ban the hero twice in losing efforts against Tundra. Tundra would return to the zoo strategy with their Visage pick against Team Spirit on August 22nd.
Meanwhile, Virtus.pro let slip that Egor “Nightfall” Grigorenko had grinded out 300 Lycan games. The team held off picking it against Thunder Predator, though.
Nerfs for Helm or Leave As Is?
Paradoxically, Helm itself didn’t receive a true buff in 7.30. Instead, it was the upgrade item Helm of the Overlord that saw a significant tweak. The added aura, and increased Creep power, made the item a more appealing late-game option. Zoo heroes tend to perform well in early game situations, where their creeps provide the biggest amount of utility and damage. But getting them successfully to late-game can be a chore. The buffed helm made picking them much more appealing.
The massive uptick in zoo heroes meant Valve slapped a hot-fix nerf onto Helm of the Overlord in 7.30b. The 7.30b patch, released in the small morning hours of August 23rd, only had a dozen or so changes. But the apparent targets of its nerfs were clear: A reduced health Beastmaster’s controlled units, nerfs to Lycan, and a cost increase for Helm of the Overlord.
Whether these small changes will be enough to recage the zoo remains to be seen. So for fans of Chen, Beastmaster, Lycan, and the like, get your wins while you can—It’s unlikely the fun will last until TI10.
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