Here at The Meta, we believe that every Dota 2 patch is a whole new game. Taking that to its logical conclusion, I am proud to present the first review of an individual Dota 2 patch in the long and illustrious history of Serious Videogame Journalism.
Since we’re treading new waters here, I think it’s important to lay out the rubric by which Patch 6.88 shall be judged. Each of the following scientific criteria will be assigned approximately equal weight:
1. How diverse was the patch in terms of viable heroes?
2. How exciting were the professional games produced by the patch?
3. Did the patch involve the hero Sniper in any meaningful way?
4. How did my personal favorite players perform during the patch?
5. What did the patch do to my pub games?
I remember June 12, 2016 like it was yesterday. I was twenty-four-and-a-half at the time, still full of youthful exuberance—and, it goes without saying, naïveté. My exact words, upon witnessing the release of 6.88’s patch notes: “Boy golly, a patch!”
Was my Patchnight’s Eve excitement misplaced? Every patch goes through a honeymoon period; it’s only in the long months of cohabitation that follow that the dirty secrets begin to unearth themselves. Even the widely-despised radioactive disco-goat Leshrac looked like a fun change of pace when he first rose to prominence back in 6.84. As the last major balance update before The International 2016 (TI6), 6.88 had a tremendous weight riding on its shoulders. Let’s see how it fared!
“Boy golly, a patch!”
How diverse was the patch in terms of viable heroes?
In a week of play at TI6, 105 heroes were picked. Only five characters went un-chosen: Bloodseeker, Leshrac, Lina, Treant Protector, and Visage. An additional fifteen were picked but never managed to win a game (the worst of these was Lycan, who clocked in at 0-4). The top-end was dominated by Mirana (90 games, 57% winrate), Batrider (79, 46%), and Shadow Demon (60, 58%), but the distribution of heroes flattened out quickly after that. Twenty-nine heroes were picked at least 20 times; fifty-six, more than half the total cast, were selected 10 times or more. But if any one entity demonstrated 6.88’s diversity, it was Wings Gaming. In their 3-1 Grand Finals victory, Wings picked 18 different heroes, repeating only Oracle and Faceless Void. They were the only team with the cojones to pick Pudge (twice) and Techies (once). Yeah, they didn’t win those games, but they sent one hell of a message.
Hero diversity: 10/10.
How exciting were the games produced by the patch?
Some metagames center around five-hero deathball pushes, ending early and anticlimactically, with little chance for teams to come back (See: TI4. Or don’t. Probably don’t.). Others reward turtling in one’s base long past the forty-five minute mark until one’s opponent makes a truly godawful mistake (See: 6.84, and every low-level public game). 6.88 was a Goldilocks patch: the games weren’t too long, nor too short, but juuuuuuust right. TI6 featured several lopsided stomps; it also featured base races and late-game shenanigans and the greatest Dota 2 game of all time, game one of Evil Geniuses vs EHOME. With a focus on mid-game rotations and teamfights, no lead was ever completely secure in 6.88. This patch might have emphasized sophisticated teamplay more than any in Dota 2 history, and it showed in the quality of TI6’s games.
Competitive Game Quality: 10/10.
Did the patch involve the hero Sniper in any meaningful way?
No, thank God. The insufferable butthole dwarf was picked only once in all of TI6, by Vici Gaming Reborn, and he lost in 23 minutes.
Sniper Obscurity: 9/10
How did my personal favorite players perform during the patch?
Here’s where I feel that Patch 6.88 really lost its way. My boy Artour, who by my count has now been cheated out of THREE International Championships, placed DEAD LAST at TI6. Also, Digital Chaos took second, and I’ve always quietly resented them, for reasons I don’t fully understand. (Being a Dota 2 fan isn’t just about supporting your favorite team—it’s also about finding teams you hate and rooting for their public humiliation.) On the plus side, EG did pretty well, except for losing to (sigh) DC, and Wings played such a fantastic tournament that I can’t help but love them. Also, MVP was great.
Performance of Players I Like: 6/10
If I never see Mirana again, I’m okay with that. I really am.
What did the patch do to my pub games?
I’m going to be honest with you: if I never see Mirana again, I’m okay with that. I really am. Also, this is technically a 6.87 thing, but Phantom Assassin’s stupid auto-attack crit daggers can fuck right off.
On the plus side—at least Invoker’s still viable!
Pub Game Quality: 6/10
6.88 was an excellent patch. TI6 was amazing, Sniper sucked ass, and pub games were honestly no worse than usual. Arteezy might have flamed out in
unprecedented fashion, but I’m sure his next team will finally be The One. For all these reasons and more, I give Dota 2 Patch 6.88 a firm 8.5/10.