The qualifiers are over, and minus one wildcard team we have our International 2013 roster! Team mousesports and team LGD have won their respective qualifiers with some pretty fantastic dota, and all 17 teams headed to Seattle are now headed to various team houses and lans to prepare for the main event, which starts on August 7th! Congrats to them!
Now that the qualifiers are over, we can do some analysis on the metagame that has evolved over these weeks. During the break here between the qualifiers and TI2013, however, we're expecting Icefrog to release 6.78; take the following analysis with the note that things will probably change some. Thanks also to www.dota-academy.com for providing an easy way to look at these pro game stats.
Still! These three weeks have been exciting and interesting, so here's a peek into how the qualifiers have shifted the metagame.
The metagame after TI2012 had been a bit up in the air. Teams were looking for a way to replace Morphling after his severe nerfs, as well as other nerfed top picks like Rubik and Tidehunter. Eventually there was a steady roster of top picks and bans, including heroes like Lifestealer, Keeper of the Light, Batrider, and Wisp. In fact these five heroes were picks/bans in upwards of 90% games. This created a short stagnation after the 6.77 changes, since strategies containing these heroes would rarely lose.
Batrider and Wisp allowed teams to break down the lategame plans of teams by forcing fights anywhere they wanted. Tiny or Chaos Knight often accompanied them, creating intense early game pressure at the cost of late game potency.
The stagnation here was partly because many teams had taken downtime after TI2012, and less practice means less dynamic strategy. The teams still wanted to play for the mid-late game: tri-lanes were still incredibly popular, but off-laners began to suffer as teams learned how to punish the single heroes such as Windrunner and Bounty Hunter usually taking that position. This lead to the main metagame transformation that would bring us into early 2013: aggression. As the off lane tower was going down at increasingly early points in the game (often before 3 minutes), teams found that they could use the increased map awareness to be more agressive on the middle lane, and the off lane heroes needed to be more careful than ever.
However, as teams learned how to deal with the intense aggression that those heroes represented, there was also a distinct rise in the popularity of Gyrocopter and Lone Druid. Both of these carries were extremely potent early-mid game to compete with the aggressive metagame, and more specifically to counter the now-prolific Lifestealer. Druid's Entangle and Gyro's sheer aoe output allowed teams to compete with the strong early and lategame that Lifestealer defined. Phantom Lancer too was given a try, and though there are games he rolls even in competitive Dota, it seems that teams haven't found a good way to put his strengths to use consistently.
Also on the rise was Magnus, a recently-ported hero whose buffs allowed him to be extremely competitive as an off laner (until his slight nerf) and mid. Still, Reverse Polarity proved such a strong spell that teams were forced to play around Magnus as much as Lifestealer or Batrider. Rubik again became the go-to hero for teams, as they looked to steal RP and have a better shot in teamfights.
Welcome to March-May
Again the scene began to stagnate externally, but it seems now that much of the out-of-the-box thinking was taking place in privately hosted matches as teams prepared for the qualifiers. People were scared to let heroes like Wisp or Batrider through the pool, but were those heroes worse than Lifestealer or Magnus? The question on everyone's minds was "What can we do against this lineup?"