Patch 7.28c: 6 Heroes That Got Nerfed Hard
The first minor balance patch of the current Dota Pro Circuit season dropped a few days ago, in the form of Patch 7.28c. The patch itself focuses mainly on tuning down some of the most popular picks in the metagame, especially those with high pick and win rates across the board. Some heroes got off with mild nerfs, but others got devastated by the Dota 2 development team.
We’ll be taking a look at the heroes that got hit the hardest in that sense, and why IceFrog and the rest of the devs chose to water them down.
The nerfs to Riki were absolutely to be expected. The Stealth Assassin received a massive buff in Patch 7.28, with his Aghanim’s Scepter upgraded Tricks of the Trade (E) getting changed to hit two targets at once instead of just one. This paved the way for a new Battle Fury-based build, where the plan for the late game was to get cooldown reduction items like Octarine Core and Arcane Blink. The result of this build was a completely unkillable Riki, who could fade in and out of the game every two to three seconds with Tricks of the Trade.
The buff to the Scepter upgrade also basically meant that Riki would eventually deal so much raw damage in teamfights that no other late-game carry could outdo him. Now that it no longer increases the duration of the ability, the build-in question is far weaker. Moreover, Riki’s Tricks of the Trade cooldown talent at level 25 reduces the cooldown by two seconds less now. This makes stacking cooldown reduction in the late game much less effective in Patch 7.28c.
Riki’s win rate has plummeted in the wake of these changes, going from a peak of around 54 percent in January to 49 percent as of February 22. Interestingly, there are some like former pro player Jacob “Maelk” Toft-Andersen that think Riki got away with murder in terms of how much he actually got nerfed. We’ll have to see over the next few weeks whether this is true or not.
Credit Filipino squad TNC Predator for the Morphling nerfs. Just like in their championship-winning campaign at the Chongqing Major in 2019, TNC used Morphling in tandem with Earthshaker in Week Four of the DPC. Utilizing Morphling’s ultimate ability Morph (R) to gain access to Earthshaker’s Fissure, Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte and Timothy “TIMS” Randrup laid a ton of hurt on BOOM Esports with their unlimited stuns.
The key difference between this strategy and the one they used in China, though, is that it is predicated on Earthshaker’s Aghanim’s Shard upgrade rather than his Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade. Having two instances of the upgraded Fissure on the same team was just broken beyond belief. This prompted IceFrog to increase the cooldown of Morph at max level (from 40 to 60 seconds), thus forcing Morphling players to buy Aghanim’s Scepter if they want those 20 seconds back. The cast range bonus from Scepter was also halved from 600 to 300 units.
Interestingly, these nerfs haven’t changed Morphling’s overall win rate much — presumably because this combo requires a specific draft to pull off. If Earthshaker is banned, then the combo doesn’t exist. Still, it’s clear that at least at the pro level, the combo itself was way too good to keep in the game.
Speaking of Earthshaker, IceFrog also saw it fit to smite him with the nerf hammer. His Shard upgrade is now exactly half as effective as before, with the Aftershock effect on the Fissure (Q) itself lasting for 50 percent of its original stun duration.
On paper, this lone nerf doesn’t seem like much, but this actually makes it much more difficult to chain-stun enemy heroes from a safe distance. To put things in perspective, a single upgraded Fissure before the patch could instantly stun a hero for 3.25 seconds — from a range of 1,400 units. This plus the fact that Earthshaker has unrestricted pathing on any active Fissure just allowed the hero to do too many things at once.
He can still walk on Fissures even with this nerf, but at least his kill potential and annoyance factor have gone down significantly in Patch 7.28c.
Another set of nerfs that was honestly a foregone conclusion. Though not an overly successful pick in the pro scene, Outworld Destroyer rampaged through public matchmaking after receiving a litany of buffs from 7.28 to 7.28b. Seriously, the number of buffs that the hero received in January was mind-blowing and really tipped OD over the edge into broken territory.
The icing on the cake however was the advent of the Meteor Hammer rush strategy. With eight points of base armor and incredible base stats across the board, OD was able to leverage extreme staying power in the lane in order to skip stat items and go straight for Meteor Hammer. Coupled with the Astral Imprisonment (W) “H trick” — which involves timing the Meteor Hammer cast when the status bar reaches the “H” in “banished” — OD had the easiest time just taking over games from the off lane position.
But now that Arcane Orb’s cooldown is back to six seconds at level 1 and Astral Imprisonment costs 150 to cast, his laning phase should be worse off. His base armor was also reduced by one point, making him a more tempting target for harassment with regular attacks. These nerfs have so far resulted in a dropoff of about 1.5 percent in his win rate.
Batrider was utterly murdered in this patch with a single nerf. Sticky Napalm now grants 50 percent less bonus damage on all creeps (not just neutral creeps, but lane creeps and summoned units as well), slowing his farming speed by an absurd amount. Prior to Patch 7.28c, Sticky Napalm was also made to grant less bonus damage on ancient creeps, but this one just destroys his early game completely.
We can’t say this nerf wasn’t warranted, of course, especially in the Divine and Immortal brackets. Batrider’s farming game was simply too strong in 7.28b, leading to a 52.16 percent win rate in the aforementioned ranks. His win rate has since fallen off a steep cliff, going down as low as 42.89 percent on February 22nd across all brackets.
Nerfs to Nyx Assassin just had to happen. The hero had a win rate of almost 58 percent in the stretch of games we looked at in our Metagame Report, alongside a pick rate of 27.17 percent. Nyx has been way too strong in pubs as well, with a 53 percent success rate in matchmaking to boot.
His strength in the current metagame boils down mostly to Vendetta (R) and how many buffs the ability has received over the last several major updates. In 7.20, it was given Break on hit. In 7.24, its damage type was changed from Physical to Pure. Then in 7.28 he got his Aghanim’s Shard, which removes the movement speed cap when Vendetta is active, while also giving an additional 40 percent bonus movement speed. This was later changed to 25 percent in 7.28b.
All of these combined to make Nyx an unstoppable force on the map, able to gank with impunity and with ease. Tanky heroes with durability passives likewise kneeled to Nyx’s power thanks to the easy Break from Vendetta. But this is now a thing of the past, as Vendetta will no longer apply Break from here on out. Its cooldown has also been bumped up slightly at levels 2 and 3, making it somewhat less spammable in the mid to late game.
Curiously, these two changes don’t seem to have affected his win rate negatively. In fact, his win rate is still around 52 percent as of February 22nd, indicating that he is still a good pick indeed in Patch 7.28c. Not obviously broken anymore, but still very much viable in certain situations. At least heroes like Bristleback won’t have to cower in fear anymore.