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Patch 7.22. Aghanim’s Scepter and the rise of supports.

Posted By Team Secret June 4, 2019

Patch 7.22 arrived around two weeks ago and has brought with it a huge shakeup of the meta, opening up entirely new strategies and a fight-oriented playstyle which teams are scrambling to make sense of at ESL One Birmingham in England this week, as well as unleashing two very powerful heroes: Mars and Wisp, into captain’s mode.

In a post-game interview during the group stages, captain of Ninjas in Pyjamas, Peter ‘ppd’ Dager, described Birmingham as a ‘mini TI’ due not only to the calibre of the teams but because of the uncertainty and on-the-fly adaptation surrounding the metagame for the tournament. This is typical of the International, the most prestigious tournament of each year, which holds a meta unto itself. A fresh patch in DotA is eagerly anticipated by all players, amateur and professional alike, due to the exciting new prospects and brainstorming it brings all across the game whilst sweeping away the old-guard of heroes which have been dominating the game in a predictable fashion until now. This patch definitely appears to be a wild ride, and the changes indicate a heavy emphasis on high-octane action and more heated contention over objectives than previous patches.

Even YapzOr can now buy wards.

A fighting meta built around supports

Over several patches supports have steadily grown in power and importance. Flat HP buffs, the addition of talents, bounty runes, and emphasis on 2-1-2 lane meta have surely and steadily contributed to supports becoming far more than ward robots. Instead, supports have evolved into huge playmaking powerhouses capable of devastating impact on games. Secret’s very own YapzOr has carved his name as one of the flashiest (and greediest!) support players in the scene because of his capacity to dominate games in a stylish and unconventional manner on a multitude of hero-slaying support heroes and 7.22 is definitely going to cater to his strengths. The bonus gold income available through bounty runes, talents and more fight participation, in addition to the extra inventory space resulting from observer and sentry wards stacking, and a special slot for a teleport scroll, mean that supports are now finding themselves with an action packed inventory filled to the brim with ammunition to unleash on their enemies. This patch has even reduced ward observer and sentry costs by a further 25 gold, as well as providing 2 tomes of knowledge at the 10 minute mark!

All of these small changes added up over time have made supports far more exciting to play, perhaps to the dismay of hardcore mid and carry players. What’s more, this patch brings with it even more subtle changes which change the way the game is played, and I’ll put these changes into three groups.

Firstly,

  • Deny XP granted to the enemy (the player being denied) increased from 35% to 40%
  • Death cost changed from 50 + NW/40 to NW/40

These changes are designed to make the lane-phase less punishing in order to push back against the previous patches, where winning lanes drastically increases your chances of winning the game. You now lose 10% less xp from denies and 50 less gold from deaths.

Secondly,

  • Killstreak XP bounty increased from 200->1250 to 400->1800
  • XP requirement to reach level 5/6 reduced from 600/620 to 580/600

More XP gained from ending killstreaks, and a faster level 6 means that players have even more incentive to fight. Level 6 is a huge power-spike for most heroes, often giving players  the boost they need to say ‘I can go kill something now!’. Furthermore, if a particular hero is dominating the map, the reward for taking him down offers more XP to incentivise making a comeback.

Third and finally,

  • Siege creeps base attack time increased from 2.7 to 3
  • Siege creeps now spawn two units at 35 minutes instead of 30 minutes
  • Siege creeps can no longer be dominated, enchanted or converted
  • Tier 3+ towers damage increased from 152 damage to 175
  • Tier 1 Tower Protection aura armor bonus increased from 2 to 3
  • Tier 2+ Tower Protection aura armor bonus increased from 4 to 5
  • Tier 2+ Towers now have a multishot attack when glyph is activated. Attacks up to two additional targets. Prioritizes the closest units.

These siege nerfs and defensive structure buffs are a strong indicator that more fighting should happen in the middle of the map, and structures should be defended, rather than knocking down towers like matchsticks and only stalling when the enemy turtles inside their base. Defending safe lane Tier 1 towers and any Tier 2 tower has become more of a trap than a sensible decision most of the time. Teams often choose not to defend Tier 2 towers due to the potential for the enemy team to carrying on and take an easy Tier 3 tower and a lane of barracks should the defenders lose a fight at their Tier 2. Put simply, the risk outweighed the reward. These changes offer the defending team more incentive to not give it up without a fight and it will certainly do something to counteract the momentum of an early advantage translating into a disproportionate lead.

New and Powerful Scepters

In total, 24 new Aghanim’s Scepter upgrades were added this patch, ensuring that all heroes now have a unique Scepter. Some Aghanim’s upgrades are simply not worth the cost (Lycan wolves added to one lane of creeps at random), or made purely for fun (Slark shadow dance affecting nearby allies/Winter Wyvern Arctic Burn toggle), but with this patch’s changes and Scepter existing as a consumable buff independently of having an Alchemist on the team, even the neglected Aghanim’s upgrades will appear in the later stages of the game either due to excess gold on core heroes after their inventory is six-slotted, or on supports due to the newly introduced consumable Agh’s buff dropping with the third (50% chance) and subsequent Roshan kills (100% chance).

Some of the new Scepters definitely pack a powerful punch however, so much so that they will most likely become part of core builds or be situationally perfect item choices. Here I’ll explain why I think some of these new Scepters are an essential pick-up:

Broodmother

“Added Scepter upgrade. Increases Spin Web max count from 8 to 20, movement speed bonus from 70 to 100%, and removes movement speed limit.”

This Scepter’s power speaks for itself. It’s the perfect item for a Broodmother to scale into the game with, and does much to undo the weakness of the hero whilst complimenting her strengths. Despite dominating the early game, Brood’s power withers away drastically in the mid game onwards, and if teams recover from her early pressure she often becomes nothing but an easily squashed bug. With this new Scepter, the problem of web-space is eliminated, allowing her to traverse the entire width of the map at blistering speed instead of being confined to, and hunted in the areas surrounding a single lane. This allows for pesky light-speed rotations across a vast network of 20 webs, threatening all three lanes of buildings rather than being tracked by enemies in a single area of the map.

Death Prophet

“Added Scepter upgrade. Anytime an enemy is affected by your spells (crypt swarm impact, silence debuff, spirit siphon target) or when you attack an enemy, a ghost will fly out and hit the enemy for double the usual damage then return to you with life. These ghosts apply a 100% slow for 0.3 seconds.”

All is forgiven if you, like myself and many others, discarded this Scepter as rubbish. My attention was drawn to this after noticing a trend in the ESL One Birmingham group stage – every single Death Prophet was rushing this as their first main item! The expert Death Prophet players figured this Scepter was the real deal extremely quickly. Aside from providing good stats and health which DP needs, it maintains a pseudo-ultimate ability with extra slow, damage, and life regeneration whenever her spells or attacks hit anything – she pumps out ghosts like a machine gun. This allows her to become a significant threat even when her ultimate is down, and even more so when it’s up – this Scepter upgrade is insane!

Dragon Knight

“Added Scepter upgrade. Adds a 4th level to Elder Dragon Form, a Black Dragon. Gaining Scepter increases the level of your ultimate by one. Black Dragon has 50% more Corrosive Damage, Splash Damage and Slow amount. It also increases your attack range to 600 and grants you +30% Magic Resistance.“

This Agh’s upgrade is straight forward and fantastic. As long as DK gets picked, this Scepter will be made. It adds yet another level to an already powerful ultimate which is the signature strength of this hero. Perhaps IceFrog took some inspiration from recent events in Westeros for this one, and what’s not to like about a big black dragon!?

Other notable mentions:

Anti-Mage

“Added Scepter upgrade. Mana Void kills now add +70 seconds to the highest cooldown ability on the enemy hero. Cooldown starts once the enemy respawns. Increases the stun duration by 1 second, if the target dies during this period it is still counted as a Mana Void kill.”

This scepter at first glance has a meme-quality about it, but upon closer inspection provides some ridiculous possibilities. With a level 25 talent reducing his Mana Void ultimate cooldown to an incredible 20 seconds, adding +70 seconds to the highest cooldown ability on any enemy hero killed by mana void (even those killed by its aoe damage!), this Scepter upgrade has the potential to render some heroes completely useless. Terrorblade with no metamorphosis? Dragon Knight with no Elder Dragon Form? Faceless Void with no Chronosphere? Spectre with no Haunt? The list goes on and I’m sure you can find many more brutal applications of this Scepter, much to the despair of any team on the receiving end of this weapon.

Ember Spirit

“Added Scepter upgrade. Fire Remnant cast range is 3 times longer and initial remnant movement speed is 2 times faster. Maximum number of charges increased from 3 to 5. Activate Fire Remnant costs no mana.”

Faster, flashier, fantastic!

Grimstroke

“Added Scepter upgrade. Grants you a new ability, Dark Portrait. Creates an ink illusion of a target enemy hero. Illusion lasts 20 seconds and is magic immune with +30% movement speed. Takes 200% incoming damage and deals 150% outgoing damage. Cooldown 35. Manacost 200.”

“Ink Swell is now castable on allied Spell Immune units”

Grimstroke’s scepter makes him the ultimate counter to powerful right click line-ups. It’s easy to dismiss this scepter until you see the potential – a magic immune copy of a late-game metamorphed Terrorblade, or a Dragon Knight in ultimate form, that does 150% of the original hero’s damage and moves 30% faster. You can even cast Ink Swell on it! Did I forget to mention this works with Grimstroke’s ultimate – Soulbind? Two hero copies for the price of one! Yep, I think this Scepter is a dark horse and a keen eye will see the potential for this when the time is right.

Closing thoughts

This patch appears to be extremely well constructed, and everything about it heavily encourages more action whilst reducing the pressure on winning lanes. The Aghanim’s upgrades are great additions to the game and offer both entertaining pub-game potential and a set of powerful new tools for the professional scene to use and viewers to enjoy. On top of the steady support buffs with each patch leading up to now, the increased potential for Aghanim’s Scepter Roshan buffs being given to supports means that supporting is more enjoyable than ever before, and players will be diving into the role with a renewed enthusiasm – we’ve already seen the Secret boys having fun with Agh’s on Nisha’s Riki, Zai’s Pango, Puppey’s Spirit Breaker, MidOne’s Silencer and YapzOr.. well.. he makes it almost every game!

— by Duncan James