posted by Liightsdota,
While we are still waiting for the new patch to shake up the metagame, pro players found innovative ways to still bring some changes to the game. It's all
Today’s article is a continuation of the most recent piece, which discussed the driving factors that change our metagame when there aren’t new patches to drastically shake up the way the game’s played. Instead of changes to the game itself being the trigger for a metagame shift, pro players have been changing the meta themselves by finding new ways to play heroes that were previously considered too weak to be viable. Given nothing in the game is any different than a month ago, these heroes could have been great all along, but they were just waiting for the right innovator to discover how to take advantage of their strengths.

Playing Omniknight as a hard support finally makes him impactful

Omniknight has always been excellent at healing and sustaining his team, bringing some of the best defensive midgame spells available in the game. The hero’s weak laning stage, however, had been holding him back from finding success in his traditional spot as an offlaner. Omniknight simply doesn’t apply enough pressure to the carries he was forced to lane against, resulting in a poor start to games. If he was able to find reasonable farm as a core, the items he built weren’t as impactful on him as a Blink Dagger would be on a more typical offlaner. As a result, Omniknight fell out of the metagame completely, and we hadn’t seen him in competitive play for a number of months.

However, in the last two weeks, some of the best position 5 players in the world, like Johan 'BigDaddyN0tail' Sundstein, Clement 'Puppey' Ivanov, and Kuro S. 'KuroKy' Takhasomi, have all started to choose Omniknight with their first pick in professional matches. People realized that the hero can excel as a 5, similarly to how Undying has been played lately, providing lots of sustain through the laning phase while also soaking up the harass that would otherwise be hitting your carry.

Due to the 5 role looking to be more defensive, his lack of aggressive potential isn’t really a hindrance to his laning phase in the same way. Omniknight pairs excellently with many of the super carries running around this patch, such as Phantom Assassin who rose to prominence in time for the last article. The 50% status resistance provided by Heavenly Grace, along with the physical immunity from Guardian Angel together means that your carry will feel immortal, happily jumping into the heart of the enemy team without fear. The lack of gold from being a position 5 doesn’t really hurt the hero as much as you’d think, as he’s still able to accomplish his job effectively as long as he gets his spells off.

People thought Omniknight was bad in this patch but he just wasn’t being played optimally to take advantage of his biggest strengths, buffing his carry from the safety of his backline. This can be accomplished just as effectively from the 5 position as the offlane, leaving space on your team for devastating team-fight initiation that Omniknight line-ups were lacking in the past.

Viper’s aggression is much better applied to the enemy’s carry, rather than the opposing midlaner

Viper has always been the king of the laning stage, before running into issues closing out the game if he dies once or twice during the midgame. Previously, the thinking was that it was best to focus Viper’s massive laning phase damage onto a single opponent rather than two, making the middle lane the place where he thrived during previous patches. People caught onto Viper’s laning strengths there, however, and simply drafted heroes who could ignore Viper’s pressure by ganking and terrorizing both enemy sidelanes. Because of this, Viper became a very all-in pick, who relied on snowballing off a dominant laning phase in order to remain unkillable and actually break the opponent’s highground.

However, recently people have begun experimenting with Viper as an offlane hero instead, where he’s been finding much more success than as a midlaner. As you’re applying all that laning harass onto the opponent’s carry instead of mid, they don’t have the luxury of leaving the lane to apply pressure to the sidelines. Instead, the opponent’s carry has to simply sit in lane taking a beating, constantly crying for his poor support to buy him Salves. This pretty much secures Viper the excellent laning stage he’s always looking for, frequently securing kills with a partner like Clockwerk or Tusk.

When picking Viper offlane your 4 position support hero must be able to start fights for your team, as that’s usually the job of the offlaner. By applying all of this pressure to the opponent’s safelane, you’re bound to draw rotations from the other lanes, securing an easier time for your team’s real win conditions in the safe and middle lane. By being played as an offlaner, Viper’s issues breaking highground are drastically reduced, because that’s no longer the job of the hero.

When there aren’t any changes to the game by way of patch notes, ingenious new strategies are the drivers of change in how the game is played

In both of these instances, by playing the hero in an unconventional role players were able to get around the main drawbacks that were stopping the hero from finding success in its usual role. Sometimes you need more innovation than just changing where a hero is laned, like different item or skill builds, to help fix weaknesses that the hero has struggled with in the past. By avoiding the hero’s usual pitfalls, people are able to access previously unseen potential that wasn’t available until the hero’s drawbacks were dealt with. It will be interesting to see if any further heroes are discovered by this process before the big patch comes later this month, shaking Dota to its core, and making everything new again.

It’s important to always be open-minded to new ways of playing established heroes, as you might just find the next big metagame innovation.

Photo credit: Valve / ChiZ