Original article by: Dot Esports
Dota 2’s metagame is notorious for shifting and changing courses on a dime, given the flexible nature of hero roles and the huge impact items have on the game. These days especially, diverse tournament metas are to be expected with only a handful of heroes going unpicked.
At the highest levels of play, games can be won or lost even before the creeps spawn. Having a good hero composition can spell the difference between a struggle to breach high ground and a team with heroes that complement each other and form a well-oiled machine.
This tier list—based on the current competitive metagame—outlines which heroes are picked most often by professional teams and those that stand out in terms of win percentages. Note that this list will not include every single hero, mainly because there are simply too many in Dota to count. Instead, we’ll break the list down to roughly 40 of the most popular and effective heroes.
A month of relatively lower-profile and shorter tournaments, coupled with no patch changes, has caused teams to introduce more heroes into their rotation. Targeted nerfs from 7.27d are starting to see their effect on flavor of the month heroes like Doom, while heroes like Phoenix and Tiny continue to defy expectations and maintain their status as stable first picks and bans.
- Vengeful Spirit
- Faceless Void
Tier one belongs to heroes who make an appearance in almost every drafting stage, whether it’s for their role flexibility, the versatility to fit any draft, or a unique skill set that no other hero can replicate.
Several heroes in the top-tier scale well into the late game but are able to provide a significant contribution in teamfights and objectives. The game has slowed down considerably thanks to the 7.27 change that prevents Outposts from switching hands until a tier-two tower drops.
Surprisingly, Phoenix has become one of the top picks of the meta. The hero received a significant early-game nerf in its Fire Spirits cost, which was slightly compensated with an extra hit point on his level one Supernova. The hero was never the strongest laner anyway but has always provided one of the strongest teamfight presences in the game, even as a gold-starved support.
With laning becoming less important, the Fire Spirits nerf has been deemed inconsequential to the hero’s strength in early and mid-game teamfights. Sun Ray is both a potent heal and damaging ability, with its percentage scaling and level 20 talent that allows it to be used during Supernova making it relevant throughout all stages of the game.
Against all odds and tons of nerfs to Tiny’s Toss, the hero has once again become the hot pick of the meta. A hero that can comfortably play the mid or support role, Tiny’s high burst damage with Avalanche and Toss, coupled with his inherent tankiness as a bulky strength support supplemented with Grow’s armor increase, makes for a fearsome hero no matter how much farm he has.
The hero’s Tree Grab changes have come a long way to making him viable once again. While permanent Tree Grab before 7.27b made him a niche carry pick, the movement speed decrease along with several number nerfs made him a far less effective ganker. The ideal damage combo consisted of him throwing the tree anyway, so permanence wasn’t a very attractive prospect. As a support, the hero can eliminate squishy targets with just a Blink Dagger. As a core, the hero’s high base damage allows him to scale with items like Echo Sabre, Crystalys, and even Aghanim’s Scepter. He’s not the best hero in the lane, but he still possesses a unique threat with Toss backs to the tower or an awaiting ally, making him a superb all-rounder.
Clockwerk has long been regarded as one of the weakest offlane heroes for a long time, with his entire skill kit being too feast or famine to reliably pull off even at the highest level. Yet the hero has found new life as a hard support.
Rocket Flare remains one of the most powerful vision-givers in the game. It has a global cast range, lingers for a long time, and is a supreme intelligence-gatherer for key objectives like Roshan. Players also use it as a split-pushing tool, but the vision it gives is its most powerful aspect.
The hero’s suicidal tendencies by using Hookshot directly into enemies is less impactful with a reduced role in the game. Clockwerk still remains a capable roamer from role five and is actually pretty decent in lane with his bulk. Plus, Clockwerk always remains an annoyance against support heroes, especially those that can’t afford a Force Staff.
Vengeful Spirit has become a top-tier five thanks to her reliable and effective kit. Everything about her skills screams reliable: a single-target stun, an AoE armor reduction effect that also provides vision to scout enemies and wards, an offensive aura, and a point-and-click initiation or save. Group them together and you have one of the best position fives in the game.
The hero makes up for her lack of babysitting skills with a potent mid-game. Ranged heroes like Drow Ranger and Metamorphosed Terrorblade benefit greatly from her Vengeance Aura and their squishier tendencies can be compensated with Venge’s Netherswap. Even without the bonus attack range, which carry hero would say no to more damage? To cap it all off, she’s effective even in death, spawning an illusion that continues to provide her grudge-bearing aura.
It’s official: Bloodseeker is the real deal. Since Team Secret first destroyed OG with the unconventional offlaner in the last week of August, the hero has flourished in his new role. His Thirst passive makes every aggressive action, even on the opposite side of the map, a potential threat, and his high damage Bloodrite nuke is potent well into the later game thanks to its added Silence utility.
It’s a great indication of a hero’s overloaded skill set when he can buy pretty much whatever he wants and still play an important role in the game. The hero is generally played as a tanky bruiser, with items like Guardian Greaves, Veil of Discord, and Blademail. Some teams have experimented playing him in an initiation role, using Eul’s Scepter of Divinity to virtually guarantee a successful Bloodrite cast to kick off any fight, and Aghanim’s Scepter to provide an extra charge of Rupture control.
Magnus has surged back into the meta as a strong flex pick. He’s capable of taking the midlane, rarely losing due to his innate cleave skill. In a lesser priority role, Skewer can function as a decent escape and a strong, if unwieldy enemy repositioning tool. A BKB-piercing ultimate in Reverse Polarity is always in demand.
Besides, no matter how many nerfs hit Empower, it’s one of the strongest farming steroids in the game for a melee, last pick carry like Troll Warlord and Phantom Assassin. It mitigates the risk of picking heroes so dependent on pace and being ahead, allowing them to forgo a Battlefury in favor of fighting items, letting them pose a threat much earlier in the game.
A slower meta has helped bring Doom back into the fold. The hero’s one point increase in lane armor, while a classic meme, has actually helped improve his laning. Buffs to Devour gold has helped to rapidly increase his net worth accruing speed, allowing the hero to enter the mid game with an almost-guaranteed item advantage even if he loses the lane.
He’s even being played mid, a rather new role for the hero, in addition to his usual spots in the offlane as a core or support. Doom’s powerful ultimate has always been well-established as one of the most potent spells in Dota 2 and a buff to a few key pieces of his kit has turned him into a terror. After 7.27d’s nerf to Devour health regeneration, the hero has seen his primary role switched to mid, where he’s subjected to less harassment and continues to benefit from expedited levels.
Faceless Void provides one of the best teamfight ultimates a hard carry can offer. It goes fantastically with the more teamfight-focused meta Dota 2 has been trending towards with heroes like Venomancer and Phoenix. He’s still one of the hardest carries in the game, and Chronosphere means that often-prized slipperiness for heroes like Anti-Mage don’t mean much.
- Void Spirit
- Ember Spirit
- Drow Ranger
- Nature’s Prophet
Tier two represents stable picks in the meta that don’t merit instant bans or anything so extreme. Some of the heroes in this tier are ones you can safely pick without giving away too much of your gameplan.
Xin the Ember Spirit has been a constant first-phase pick and ban for months. Ember’s kit makes him one of the best chasing and lockdown heroes in the game. Certainly, there are heroes that can offer even more ridiculous range, such as Storm Spirit, but none of them offer it with such item independence.
All Ember needs to get going is levels, which is why he’s often seen in the mid lane to expedite his experience gain. Even from the safe lane, poking from Sleight of Fist and Searing Chains makes him a constant kill threat. If all else fails, the hero can retreat to the jungle or push out waves with his Flame Guard. He’s one of the best assassins in the game, able to punish enemies instantly with his long-range initiation. And his talent tree allows him to scale into the late game with both physical and magic damage builds.
Void Spirit, like his cousin, plays much of the same role. He’s still being played mid, often rushing Aghanim’s Scepter, which provides two charges of Resonant pulse for additional nuke damage and crowd control. Though recent trends have seen him being built more as an annoying initiator and space creator playing from the offlane.
The hero’s two escape spells make him ultra slippery and good magic damage on all of his skills makes him a potent killing core in a sidelane duo. His Aether Remnant is seeing expanded usage as a temporary ward and chokepoint holder, rather than just as a stun and nuke.
Drow Ranger has skyrocketed in the tier list for carries. For a hero that has been one-dimensional most of her life, Multishot makes her an artillery cannon in teamfights and ganks, and she remains an ever-present ranged damage threat. Since the skill scales off her attack range, Dragon Lance has become a core first item on her, and a Grove Bow drop or Vengeful Spirit support allows her Multishot to cover an absurd area.
With Heaven’s Halberd becoming one of the most popular items in the game, Drow now has ways to get around the long disarm. Drow’s ultimate, Marksmanship, pierces the innate evasion the item provides, and if she is hit by the active, Multishot still can be casted to deal tons of physical damage.
Following Necronomicon’s nerfs, Spectre’s revival as a priority carry pick brings with her an unexpectedly inefficient stats item: Crown. The item translates directly into Drums of Endurance for the hero, which is still an incredibly inefficient item after 7.27d’s stat nerf to the item. The Crown can also go towards a Meteor Hammer, but it is a less popular choice due to its unreliability.
Possessing the ability to always join fights with her ultimate Haunt, a Spectre with just Drums of Endurance can become an unexpectedly serious problem for the opposing team. Instead of rushing for Radiance, a standard item build for a long time, players are now opting to go for a right click build by going Yasha into Manta Style. The extra illusions deal pure Desolate damage, a devastating counter to fragile enemies he can easily jump into, and even works on Roshan, making Spectre a decent Rosh threat.
- Elder Titan
- Arc Warden
The heroes in tier three have proven to be effective over a limited number of games. They serve as good options for teams looking to diversify their drafts in an effort to become less predictable—or as niche picks to counter certain popular heroes.
The meta is seeing two different Elder Titans. When played as a four, the hero retains much of his conventional playstyle, using stacks and Astral Spirit to be a dominant force in lane, before becoming a more orthodox support with long-range initiation and scouting.
The importance of his Astral Spirit is taken up a notch when played as a three, however. Teams opting for this style go for Phase, Drums, and an Aghahim’s Scepter, which grants him magic immunity duration based on the amount of heroes he hits. He becomes a monstrous teamfighting core in the mid game, often deleting heroes in a couple of hits thanks to his insane Natural Order aura.
Elder Titan has likely benefited from the 7.27d change that removed Vladimir’s Offering armor aura. Once an ubiquitous pick for offlaners, it’s become less prominent due to its lowered all-around effectiveness, thus making a boxer ET even more terrifying in regulating a mid-game tempo.
Pro teams seem split between the two styles as of now. Teams like Secret and OG have tasked their offlaners to play Elder Titan, while Nigma have continued to play closer to the chest in the four role.
Enchantress has generally been considered a flex pick for most of her life but has been almost exclusively played as a five thanks to her immense babysitting abilities. Her high range and movement speed allows her to effectively kite offlane heroes, who are usually melee. Impetus further amplifies her damage.
Her most potent spell in the lane would be signature skill Enchant. A large creep in the early game can be as effective as an enemy hero. The threat often forces large creep camp blocks from the enemy, which still benefits her carry as it removes the ability for opponents to pull. She was practically abused by VP.Prodigy, who rode the hero to a grand finals appearance against Team Secret in OGA Dota PIT on the final weekend of September.
With Hand of Midas in its strongest iteration in several years, it’s no wonder that a hero that can use it twice is enjoying a popularity boost. The slower meta is helping Arc Warden as well, allowing him time and space to farm up to truly threatening levels.
The hero’s Magnetic Field is a fantastic siege delayer, and skilled players like Arteezy further abuse its placement during teamfights, such as placing it in unpathable terrain and squeezing himself in the edge to prevent enemies from ever hitting him. His level 25 talent, which is easy to reach thanks to double Midas, boosts Spark Wraith damage into death trap territory, turning the battleground into a literal minefield for enemies trying to pick a fight against the king of turtlers.
Whenever Battlefury gets better, expect Anti-Mage to benefit. A cheaper cost helps the hero to begin accelerating even earlier and aforementioned Outpost changes further aid arguably the best split-pusher in the game. He’s still a great gotcha pick but remains rarely useful outside of that.
Morphling is a great one-vs-one laner, especially in mid, and is an extremely hard carry that doesn’t care too much about physical damage. Since Waveform is also his escape spell, using it aggressively can spell a quick death. The hero does require a team to commit to his early well-being, however, either by picking him into a good matchup or protecting his lane, since he can be severely punished during his first few levels and doesn’t actually farm well until he amasses a legion of Wraith Bands and Power Treads.