This is Pro Breakdown, a series by Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia where we talk with pro players, coaches, experts, and other personalities about anything and everything in the region's esports scene.
Dota 2's 7.32 update and the subsequent 7.32b patch were released just in time for the regional qualifiers of The International 11 (TI11), this year's iteration of the game's annual multimillion-dollar world championship tournament.
The recent updates made sweeping changes to the game, significantly slowing down gameplay and adding the new Flagbearer Creeps to the lanes, among many other tweaks.
But how will all these affect the way the pros will play in the TI11 qualifiers?
We sat down with Singaporean Dota 2 veteran and Nigma Galaxy SEA coach Nicholas "xFreedom" Kelvin Ileto Lim (@xfreedom on Twitter) to break down how 7.32 will affect the TI11 regional qualifiers.
What do you think is the biggest change that 7.32 introduced that makes the biggest impact on pro play?
xFreedom: I think the biggest change is to how much EXP is required to level up now, as the game now starts to slow down at around level 10.
Because if you look at the old patches versus the new one, the current one is a 1,000 to level 10, the old one was a 1,000 to level 12. I wouldn't say the game is slower per se, you just have to get used to playing at lower hero levels for longer.
How do you feel about this change of pace?
xFreedom: I think it's to encourage teams to depend less on their levels to take fights. They don't want everyone to always be waiting for the right levels to take fights.
I'll give you an example: sometimes the people who are fighting get more EXP than the carry who is farming, because the carry is just hitting creeps and neutrals, compared to those taking teamfights, who are getting hero and creep EXP.
How does this affect how pro teams play? Will we see less tri-cores now?
xFreedom: I don't think the dual-core or tri-core meta will be affected much.
It's just leaning more towards whatever gives the most EXP on the map, which is heroes. It encourages people to fight more, instead of just hitting creeps.
Let's move on to the new Flagbearer Creeps, how has their introduction changed the game?
xFreedom: If you look at it, teams cannot ignore the Flagbearer in the laning phase. It's like when you use Smoke of Deceit and there is a Siege Creep wave.
You cannot ignore that wave and throw spells, and if the siege creep stays alive, it gives away the smoke.
The same applies with the Flagbearer, you can't just Smoke and ignore it.
Will we see less pulling and stacking due to the Flagbearer in the laning stage?
xFreedom: I think yes and no. Probably if you do well in your lane, you'll wanna split the EXP.
Maybe the supports will come to the lane to secure the Flagbearer gold, then go back to pulling if they can.
In my opinion, the laning phase is neutralised.
Back then only the hero who secured the creep gets the gold, now it's shared in some sense. Now the support can get some gold and buy some regen, so it's less one sided now.
At the same time, GPM has been reduced by 15%. Is this another change that slows the game down or does it have more impact on certain roles?
xFreedom: I think it's the same as the EXP change. IceFrog is trying to speed the pace of the game without depending that much on items and levels.
In the past you'd hit your timing at say 10 or 15 minutes with these items and levels. And people only take teamfights with those timings.
Now at 15 minutes you're barely level 12 on everyone.
It's just more rewarding for teams that are more daring to make moves early now.
Don't get me wrong, people are still gonna farm when the stakes are high, sometimes the best offence is a good defence. But if you fight you get better rewards.
With less gold on the map, are heroes gonna be less flexible and more forced into specific roles?
xFreedom: I'll say depending on which role you’re referring to.
If it's a support then it's just not rewarding for you to be farming on support roles, look to set up on kills unless you really have to fix lanes.
7.32 also finally introduced Primal Beast to Captain's Mode, is the hero pickable in pro games?
xFreedom: I think Primal Beast is a viable hero.
It's just people hate and love new things in Dota, so people are still figuring things out.
We have a new XP change, an XP and gold recession.
I think Primal Beast will be picked in competitive play but it will take time. Most likely as a position 3 or 4 hero.
How do you feel about the direction the game is going with the slower pace and all?
xFreedom: I actually prefer this meta, it's slow at some points in the game but it accelerates at others.
If you look at previous patches, it rewarded the game for being slow. You still got enough resources even if you did nothing.
I'm not saying you don't get resources right now, you just get slightly less than before.
You're rewarded for taking risks now due to the new EXP requirements.
Is this more of a carry patch with the gold nerf to supports?
xFreedom: I think it's always been like that.
But I wouldn't say that support gold got nerfed, it's just they have to be more active now.
This feels more of a change aimed at pubs. People in pubs think "I hit creeps, I make gold" but this is a MOBA game, you want people to fight and that's what the patch encourages.
We also saw the usual buff and nerfs, which ones stood out to you? Which heroes didn't get their deserved nerfs or buffs?
xFreedom: I don't really look at buffs or nerfs, I see it more as rebalancing.
I think heroes who didn't get buffs are Oracle and Riki. A lot of heroes just got their numbers tweaked or received new talents and abilities.
Which hero buffs stood out to you the most?
xFreedom: Probably the ones to Shadow Fiend and Tidehunter.
Shadow Fiend is now viable in the safe lane thanks to the new slow and the way he scales into the late game. Also for the mid lane, because he is afraid of melee heroes rushing at him and the slow helps with that.
Tidehunter is probably viable in the future as teams start to experiment more with him again.
Back then, if you wanted to initiate as him you only had Blink+Ravage, sometimes the target goes magic immune and runs away.
Now, he has a new skill to initiate [from his new Aghanim's Shard upgrade], similar to Impale.
Another big change in 7.32 was the removal of the small camps near the mid lane. How does this change affect the pro meta?
xFreedom: I think this is a patch of strong mids, you can't lag behind a bit and fall back on farming camps.
That's how it's been for a few years. You lose mid and it's still ok, you play a comeback mid hero that just farms or looks to rotate around.
Supports now need to leave the lane to help the mid. It gives mid more chances to move around now.
With fewer creeps to hit, will we see fewer heroes like Keeper of the Light mid due to the camp removal?
xFreedom: I think it's something people have to get used to if they play him.
He doesn't have the 100% uptime on Spirit Form, now it has like an extra 20 seconds downtime.
It's definitely toned down, but this hero still does the same thing in the early game.
Out of all the new Neutral Items introduced in 7.32, which one stood out to you?
xFreedom: I think the Ogre Seal Totem is a bit overpowered.
I think it's from Aghanim's Labyrinth, its numbers definitely need to be tweaked down a bit.
It's like Tumbler's Toy but it comes with a slow and repositioning.
Can you imagine this item on any teamfight initiator? You Ogre Seal and Blink into position, it's a very strong initiating tool.
Generally, you wouldn't rely on the slow, it's more on the repositioning.
Do you think strong movement abilities should be removed from Neutral Items?
xFreedom: I think this has always been the problem with Neutral Item balancing, one side has an item and the other doesn't.
That's what makes the game exciting, all these elements of chaos being thrown into it.
Sometimes you get what you want and sometimes you don't.
Who do you think got the best and worst new Aghanim's Shard upgrades?
xFreedom: Broodmother, Dark Seer, and Hoodwink got the best new ones. Their upgrades are really good value for their money.
The worst one has to be Nature's Prophet's.
I won't say it's bad, but compared to Greater Treants it's not as good. The whole point of the hero's pressure came from Greater Treants. The point of the new Shard is to give him some form teamfight presence.
This patch gives me DotA 1 vibes, where everyone just picks pushing heroes.
What about Aghanim's Scepter upgrades? Is the new Centaur Warrunner cart enough to put make him a viable pick?
xFreedom: I think they are trying to make the hero not fixed to a role.
His Scepter for now is a meme until the patch settles down.
People are still figuring out the patch before they bring it into in competitive play. I see “Hitch a Ride” as a save and repositioning.
Doom got some sizeable buffs, but did the hero need buffs? What's the state of the hero right now?
xFreedom: Doom is fine right now, he's a situational pick.
I think he feels comfortable since he can get gold by just Devouring creeps. He can use Hand of Midas on the Flagbearer so everyone gets gold.
The hero is simple and it's hard to go wrong with him.
Did you expect such a big patch coming right before TI11? How will it affect the game from the perspective of both pro teams and viewers?
xFreedom: I think some teams like it and some don't.
Personally, I like it because teams that are quick to adapt are rewarded.
From a spectator's point of view, they will definitely enjoy it. People watch what the pros do and adapt to that.
Otomo is a long-time gaming enthusiast and caster. He has been playing games since he was 10 and is the biggest Dota 2 fan.
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