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.
- Faceless Void
- Ember Spirit
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.
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.
Venomancer has become a top offlane pick. There simply isn’t a better harassing spell in the game than Poison Sting, and coupled with an army of Plague Wards, the Venomancer can be impossible to push out of the lane.
The hero is a powerful lane dominator and will feast on basically every melee hero in the game. Even against a bad matchup, Veno can safely invade enemy territory with his vision-granting Plague Wards, which can also steal jungle creeps away from the enemy carry. Trying to gank Venomancer is a difficult task as well, since his bevy of slows make any ground he treads a poisonous one.
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 might see his primary role being switched to mid, since he would be 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.
Interestingly, teams like OG have been experimenting with going Aghanim’s Scepter on the hero, providing an alternative crowd control spell tied to his Time Walk. With the spell’s cooldown increase talent moved to level 15 from 20, he could potentially become a fearsome initiator. The results have been mixed, however, and there’s still a lot of tinkering that needs to be done for the hero to reach the top echelons.
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.
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.
- Dark Seer
- Drow Ranger
- Void Spirit
- 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.
Dark Seer recently became a top-tier pick thanks to his incredible busted Surge, which allowed heroes to break the speed barrier before 7.27d brought it back to the previous haste mechanic. A primary reason for his revival, the hero is likely to drop down in the rankings after the nerf. Still, with heroes like Sven in the meta, Dark Seer is still a great initiator that can supplement a team’s lack of chase, and Wall of Replica is still a fantastic counter-tool for agility carries.
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.
With Necronomicon nerfed, 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.
With 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.
Nature’s Prophet has immense global presence. Coupled with his varied item choices, the hero has been picked across all five roles in Dota 2. Prophet’s above-average stat growth in agility and intelligence makes him scale well into the late game. A well-played Prophet naturally gains farm due to his ability to literally Teleport into deserted areas and his creep-killing button, Wrath of Nature. Core Prophets generally end up an item or two ahead of enemy cores, while support Prophets can fill up their slots with utility to allow their allies to build more greedy items.
- Arc Warden
- Spirit Breaker
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.
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