PC Gamer

Dota 2's character roster can be intimidating, even after hundreds of games. It's easy to settle into the same familiar picks, and fear of falling deeper into the trench can prevent new and intermediate players from experimenting with lesser-seen heroes or new roles. In this series, we're going to highlight a hero that you might not be playing as much as you should: someone with a strong win-rate but low pick-rate. In short, an unsung hero of Dota 2.

This week, that's Warlock. According to  Dotabuff, Dota 2's grimoire-obsessed demon-wizard is picked in only 4.6% of games despite enjoying a healthy 54.99% win-rate: the 11th highest in the game. He plays very differently to our last unsung hero, Omniknight, but some of the reasoning for his low popularity is the same. Warlock is typically played in the support role, has huge potential game impact, but his unusual skills fall outside of traditional archetypes. He's weird, requires good judgement, but is deadly in the right hands.

What does Warlock do?

Warlock is an intelligence ranged hero most commonly played as a support. His abilities provide strong harass and lane support as well as potentially-huge teamfight impact.

Fatal Bonds (Q) is cast on a single enemy, at which point it 'binds' them to a number of nearby units. When a bound unit takes damage, 25% of that damage is shared to all other bound units. In lane, this can be used to clear creep waves quickly or to harass an enemy hero by forcing them to share damage with their creeps: but doing so will push the lane, and potentially steal farm from a core hero. In teamfights, Fatal Bonds should be used at the beginning to maximise its impact. It has a huge cast range, so you don't need to endanger yourself to get it off. If you know that a distant low-health enemy is under the effects of Fatal Bonds, hit any other affected unit to finish them off.

Shadow Word (W) is a single-target spell that heals friendlies and damages enemies over time. At max level it does 495 damage/healing over its full 11-second duration, which is significant if you choose to max it first. Most players will underestimate just how much it does, either not realising how much health you or an ally stand to regain or falling too low to stay in lane during the early game. In a teamfight, Shadow Word on a single enemy plus Fatal Bonds on the entire enemy team amounts to 990 distributed damage (before magic resistance) that can be guaranteed before the fight has properly begun.

Upheaval (E) is a channeled slow that affects a huge radius and can be cast from very far away. This is Warlock's hardest spell to use effectively, but potentially his most deadly. The slow increases the longer it is channeled, up to a massive 84%. At max level, it reaches that point after three and a half seconds. Warlock has a bunch of 'fire and forget' spells for a reason: once his other three abilities have been used at the start of a teamfight, you should be able to position yourself to channel Upheaval for as long as possible. The enemy team should find themselves bound together, ticking down, and stuck in a quagmire.

Chaotic Offering (R) is Warlock's ultimate and the final piece of the puzzle. His only hard disable, this is a huge AoE stun that spawns a Golem at the cast point. The Golem is a massive allied unit that Warlock controls himself. It has two deadly passives (see below) and is a natural tower-pusher. In teamfights, the Golem provides the damage output that Warlock himself lacks, but needs to be positioned correctly—it's relatively easy to kite around. Chaotic Offering has a hefty cooldown—165 seconds—but can be as game-changing as a Black Hole or Ravage, particularly if synchronised with Warlock's other abilities.

Flaming Fists is the Golem's first passive. This gives it a 40% chance to deal bonus pure damage in an AoE whenever it strikes. As pure damage, it isn't mitigated by most forms of damage resistance and as such it can quickly rip squishy heroes apart.

Permanent Immolation is the Golem's second passive. This means that it does a steady amount of magic damage to all units in a radius around it—a little like the item Radiance. This provides a reason to try to keep the Golem on top of the enemy team at all times. Good job you've got a massive slow, eh?

Why Warlock?

The main reason to play Warlock is the way he pronounces the word grimoire (warning: volume.) Nobody is prouder of anything than Warlock is of his grimoire. Back when I used to work on PC Gamer magazine, I could only dream of packing as many additional vowels into the word magazine as he gets into grimoire . Come for the teamfight impact; stay for the grrrrlllleamwhaaaaaaaooure.

He's unusual, which is a blessing and a curse

It takes time and effort to unpick how Warlock s abilities fit together, and their optimal usage will still be slightly different in every scenario. Enemy positioning and team composition, where a fight takes place, the relative advantage of your team—all of this matters. That s the downside. On the upside, with the exception of his ult his impact is relatively subtle. He s not firing off lasers like Lion or Lina: he s at the back, channelling the slow that is getting everybody killed. He s wearing down your offlaner with Fatal Bonds or Shadow Word. He s off behind a tree, micro-managing the Golem that s tearing down your middle lane. Played right, Warlock gets to slip into the shadows ignored: exactly where he wants to be.

His potential damage output is colossal

Despite his relatively subtlety, ignoring Warlock is a huge mistake. Good teams will kill or chain-silence him right at the start of a fight, because if he gets the opening he wants then his damage output will build and build. First comes Fatal Bonds, Chaotic Offering, and possibly Shadow Word. Then comes the reliable Pure damage nukes from the Golem, split between the enemy team, a threat that you ignore at your peril. And if you do manage to focus the Golem down, that provides time for Warlock s allies to land free hits—hits that, once again, will be spread through Fatal Bonds, and so on.

He determines the pace of teamfights

This makes Warlock a character that you have to control, and this in turn gives him a degree of power over the pace of a teamfight. This, I suspect, is the reason for his win-rate in pub games: like Silencer he needs to be played around, and can catch teams completely off-guard in they fail to account for him. The exception to this rule is his vulnerability when he s on his own: gankers like Nyx Assassin completely tear him apart, and he s terrible against current meta favourite Broodmother. Fatal Bonds can do work against Spiderlings, but Warlock's worst nightmare is a character he can't hide from.

Items to consider

As a support, expect to buy the Courier, Flying Courier, and lots of Observer and Sentry Wards. You'll be the one to get Smoke of Deceit and Dust of Appearance, too. You know the drill by now. Warlock can run into mana problems early, so Arcane Boots and a Magic Wand are both common early solutions to that problem. If there isn't anyone else on the team suited to it, Warlock makes a good Mekansm and ultimately Guardian Greaves carrier—his Golem can benefit from the aura and healing too. If playing Warlock as a core or you're pulling in plenty of gold, Aghanim's Scepter and Refresher Orb are natural item progressions for him. The former causes Chaotic Offering to summon two Golems instead of just one, and the latter allows you to potentially drop it twice. That's four Golems! This is called 'going full boyband' by nobody in particular.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

PC Gamer

Grenades are one of CS:GO's most unique elements. On the one hand, they're secondary equipment in a game that's very much about aim, angles, and scoring headshots. On the other hand, they're the closest thing to a hard counter in countless situations—knowing how to angle a flashbang or smoke off the wall can save your team from destruction in CS:GO's popular competitive mode.

Last week we featured 10 useful grenade throws on the maps Dust2, Mirage, and Cache. Knowing that all of these angles and arcs are a lot to take in at once, this week we complete that series with some recommended 'nade tosses on three more well-treaded CS maps: Nuke, Cobblestone, and Inferno.


Situation: Smoking off big garage as Terrorists

Situation: Flashing bombsite A from the roof overlooking Terrorist spawn

Situation: From lobby, flashing B ramp as Terrorists to initiate a push


Situation: Smoking off CT spawn in order to attack bombsite B

Situation: Defending B and banana as CT, deciding where to smoke

Situation: As a Terrorist, checking baby room (aka 'dark') near mid for a camping CT


Situation: As CT, smoking off B main from CT spawn

Situation: Dropping through skyfall as Terrorists to take bombsite B

Situation: Smoking off highway to initiate a B main push as the terrorists

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is a new channel dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

PC Gamer

There s only a week left to make sure the world knows your favourite personality in esports. Voting for the Golden Joysticks award for eSports Icon in association with Gfinity ends this Friday. PC fans have the pick of the litter as only one console game gets a look in on the nominee list, and there are players (and casters) from CS:GO, LoL, Dota 2 and Smite contending for the top spot. Head over to the site to cast your ballot, or read on below if you re undecided on who deserves the prize at the full award ceremony on October 30. Remember to vote! Not only will you enjoy the raw power of unfiltered democracy, but you ll also get a copy of BioShock Infinite for 1/$1/ 1.

Dota 2: Suma1L

Syed "Suma1L" Hassan wowed the world in August by capping off a truly remarkable debut year in Dota 2 with his hand in claiming the Aegis of Champions at TI5. The 15-year-old Pakistani national had a rough start at his first LAN in January, but whispers of stage fright soon faded to cries of savant. The Evil Geniuses mid player is best known for his Storm Spirit, a hero he was playing in the final game of TI5 as team-mates ppd and Universe pulled off the Six Million Dollar Echo Slam. Though his supports got the lasting glory, Suma1L often carried his team from behind on their way to the final. Here's an early example of his dominance from the TI5 group stages.

Smite: MlcSt3alth

Another reigning champion, Brett MlcSt3alth Felley was part of the Cognitive Prime team who won the Smite World Championships at the start of the year. Since then, not much has changed other than the team name as Cloud9 picked up the American rulers. MlcSt3alth still excels in the midlane, with an enviable synergy with his Jungler Andinster, and still puts his team in winning positions. In previous lives, St3alth could be found playing TF2, Tribes: Ascend and occasionally commentating on Call of Duty games. None of which proved as lucrative as literally playing god. Here's a roundup of his best moments from the first SWC:

Hearthstone: Forsen

Sebastian "Forsen" Fors has set himself apart from most Hearthstone players as a combination streaming and co-casting talent too. His multi-faceted approach to Blizzard s card game sees him turn up in almost as many places as his legion of faithful FORSENBOYS, the viewers of his chaotic streams. Despite being one of the best Miracle Rogue players in the world, he rarely places highly in Premier tournaments, a side-effect of his personal opinion of never being lucky. Perhaps your votes can change that outlook. Have a montage.

Hearthstone: Reynad

Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk is the owner of Tempo Storm, the Hearthstone team he also plays under. Among his contributions to the community are conceiving and hosting the first ever Arena-style tournament, and popularising decks such as ZooLock and Aggro Warrior. Like Forsen, Reynad has also found more luck casting than playing as he was on the talent list for last weekend s Americas Championship. That said, he was instrumental in proving just how broken Grim Patron is during the Last Call qualifier in September with this minute-long Armoursmith interaction.

CS:GO: Anders Blume

Anders is one of the most prolific casters in CS:GO, lending his knowledge and increasingly hyped reactions to every major tournament on the calendar. When he isn t excitedly proclaiming players reactions to be inhuman, he also helps break down the metagame and advanced strategies teams use on stream. Through this education, fans have been able to get an inside look into the reasons why teams might molotov the roof of a house or shoot blindly through a wall at a certain time. He also likes to shout "are you kidding me" a lot.

CoD: Advanced Warfare: Seth 'Scump' Abner

Seth Scump Abner is captain of Optic Gaming, one of the most notorious teams in pro Call of Duty. Though most would know more of former team-mate Nadeshot, Scump s consistency nets him far more in the way of accolades. He is so far the only player in esports to win back-to-back Gold medals at XGames and has helped restabilise the team after the departure of Nadeshot earlier this year, leading them to an 11-0 record in Season 3 of the MLG Pro League.


Christopher GeT_RiGhT Alesund has been voted Player of the Year for the past two years running by CS:GO s community on HLTV. The Ninjas in Pyjamas lurker is well-known for his cool-headed flanking and impossible-seeming clutch plays that emerge when the rest of the team hits the dirt. NiP s placing in 2015 has waned slightly, as some of the magic has worn off, but GeT_RiGhT s performance is as strong as ever.

League of Legends: xPeke

Spain s Enrique "xPeke" Cede o Mart nez is one of League of Legends most storied players, having played for two of Europe s strongest sides. Currently residing in the middle lane for Origen, the team he founded having left Fnatic, xPeke has led the team through an incredible debut season and are now sitting in this week s Quarter Finals for the LoL World Championships. Having been in the professional leagues since the start, winning the first Worlds with Fnatic, he is also considered a veteran of the scene.

League of Legends: Faker

Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok is possibly the most famous esports player in the world. His fame, inside and outside of his native South Korea, can be exemplified by the exclusive streaming deal he secured with broadcaster Azubu—the genesis of a bizarre legal rights battle as a fake Faker began rehosting his stream on rival Twitch. Currently playing for Korean team SK Telecom, who have also secured a Quarter Finals spot this week, he is widely considered one of the best at the game, being proclaimed the Lionel Messi of League by many commentators. Here's what happens if you're rude to him in-game.

Dota 2: Dendi

If Faker is the Lionel Messi of League, then Danil "Dendi" Ishutin is the Ronaldinho of Dota. Though remaining loyal to Natus Vincere, Dendi has not had much fortune in the past year with the team as their Gosu ranking dropped to 77th in the world this week. But Dendi is consistently one of the most entertaining players in the game. Best known for his Pudge, Dendi demonstrates his love for Dota through the way he plays. Attempting Hail Mary moves in any game he is in, his brinkmanship is always a joy to watch even if it doesn t always pay off. There's probably a Dendi montage vid for every other type of Dota video on YouTube, so here's an Invoker Rampage because why not.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

PC Gamer

Custom Games

Every Saturday, we ll highlight a Dota 2 custom game that is fun, playable, and relatively bug-free. To find a custom game, go to the Custom Games tab in Dota 2 and enter the name as we ve provided it in the search box in the top right—in this case, Grand Magus.

Ten Rubicks enter. One Rubick leaves. Grand Magus is a free-for-all competitive game mode built around Dota 2's weirdly unique and uniquely weird spell-stealer, Rubick, adopting the structure of the classic 'gun game' mod for Counter-Strike and applying it to Dota 2. It's brilliant, and I can't believe I didn't discover it sooner.

In broad terms, this is a deathmatch game where every player controls a modified version of Rubick on a large, circular map—one of the ones from Overthrow. You can't auto-attack, but start off with a set of existing Dota 2 spells, although they've been tweaked a little and there's no levelling up or items to buy. After certain conditions are met, a giant Rubick statue in the middle of the map will fire a new spell your way, replacing one of your existing ones and forcing you to switch up your strategy. Every player is given a Magic Wand, Force Staff, Eul's Scepter and Blink Dagger, and there are rune-style power ups that spawn on the fringes of the map.

A clever voting system is used at the start to determine the exact parameters of the match: you can set a time limit or kill limit to determine the length of the game, and change whether players earn new spells by scoring kills (and if so, how many) or simply have it be based on a timer. The most popular way to play seems to be with a high kill limit, with new spells issued every two kills. This most resembles gun game (Arms Race, nowadays)—but instead of climbing CS:GO's armory of guns, you're moving laterally around Dota 2's spellbook.

For example: I get a glimpse of an enemy weaving through the trees. I blink in and use Slithereen Crush to stun one of them before force staffing myself out of the way of Breathe Fire. I throw Crypt Swarm back the way I came, followed by Spawn Spiderlings, and Euls my opponent to give my skills time to cool down. As he lands he manages to Euls me and run: a chase ensues, I get lucky with a blind blink into the trees and take him down with a second Crush. The kill earns me my next spell, I pop my Magic Wand to regenerate a bit of mana, and wander off in search of another opponent.

If that last paragraph meant nothing to you, then you might have a tougher time with Grand Magus. Unlike a lot of custom games, it uses a lot of Dota 2's existing items and abilities. If you can't glance at an icon and understand which spell you've just received and what it does, things become a lot tougher. Similarly, if you're not used to using a lot of mobility items in concert with one another your options become a lot more limited. On the other hand, this allows Grand Magus to act as a training or warm-up tool: a way to learn how to use Eul's Scepter to set up combos, or to get better at managing Blink Dagger and Force Staff usage. It won't teach you much about using Rubick's regular abilities—you don't actually have them—but it does call upon your general game knowledge and requires a lot of the same in-the-moment decision making and micro skills.

The deathmatch format provides a welcome break from the strife that can result from team play. If there's a weakness, it's that not very many people are currently playing it—less than a hundred on a Friday afternoon in Europe. That said, you don't need a full complement of players to have fun. Unlike most team modes, it works perfectly well with anything from 3 to 10 players, and those configurable match parameters allow you to configure the game to suit the amount of people you can find. Beyond the limited playerbase, I didn't encounter any other impediments to play—no crashes or technical issues.

There's a lot going on in the Dota 2 custom game scene at the moment, but I admire Grand Magus because it's a simple but novel idea executed well. It makes the most out of tried and tested ideas from Dota 2 and places them in a fun, competitive new context. I don't just like it because Rubick is one of my favourite heroes—but it definitely helps.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

PC Gamer

Um, what's this, Valve? SteamDB noticed some interesting new files added to Dota 2, and we've downloaded them and verified that they exist. The files are: hl3.txt, rpg.txt, and ai_basenpc.txt.

Here's a line from hl3.txt: 

string m_HelpText = "Combine Pulse Ceiling Turret"

The files, which appear to be help text for a development tool, also refer to vehicles, NPC behaviors, squad behaviors, ziplines, and quests. Here's another example:

string m_HelpText = "NPCs that are in the same squad (i.e. have matching squad names) will share information about enemies, and will take turns attacking and covering each other."

Are these just some old files that were misplaced and have nothing to do with anything, or do they have to do with Dota 2? Or are they actual files related to the development of Half-Life 3? Here are the files so you can look for yourself: hl3.txtrpg.txtai_basenpc.txt.

Fox Mulder was unavailable to comment, but a spokesperson for the FBI tells us that he wants to believe.

PC Gamer
Photo credit: Riot Games.

This weekend is all about warm-ups. League of Legends ongoing group stages heat up in Paris; Blizzcon gets its latest pair of Hearthstone competitors; the Dota 2 Frankfurt Major begins its massive international qualifier process; the Smite Pro League rumbles on. Fancy something different? Try the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive World Championships 2015, a rare example of a competition featuring national teams rather than established orgs.

League of Legends: LCS Worlds Group Stages

This has been arguably the most dramatic group stage in the history of the League of Legends World Championship. The action continues this weekend, with matches between Team SoloMid, Origen, KT Rolster, LGD Gaming, Invictus Gaming, ahq e-Sports Club, Fnatic, and Cloud 9. Games run from approximately 10:00 BST/02:00 PDT on Saturday and from 08:00 BST/00:00 PDT on Sunday. Find a full schedule right here, and follow the action on the official livestream. Need to catch up on the teams? Check out our massive group stage preview.

2015 Hearthstone Americas Championship

Hot on the heels of last week's European Road to Blizzcon, the best Hearthstone players in the Americas head to San Francisco to compete for a prize pool of $25,000 and one of two spots at the World Championship at Blizzcon. Play is scheduled to occur all day on Pacific time, and you can follow it all on the official stream.

Dota 2: The Frankfurt Major 2015 Regional Qualifiers

The first Dota 2 Major will find its final set of teams this weekend as all four regional qualifiers happen at once. This includes teams that qualified through the open qualifiers, which have been running all week. There are big names mixed in with the newcomers - Invictus Gaming in China, Na'Vi, Alliance and Ninjas in Pyjamas in Europe, Fnatic and MVP Phoenix in South East Asia. It'll be difficult to follow the entire thing, so I recommend picking a region and sticking with it. Play starts on Saturday at the following times:

  • USA: 18:00 BST/10:00 PDT.
  • South East Asia: 03:00 BST/19:00 PDT (Friday night in the USA.)
  • Europe: 11:00 BST/03:00 PDT.

In China, the games start on Sunday at 03:00 BST/19:00 PDT (Friday night in the USA.)

Games can be spectated in the client, or check the official site for Stream info.

Counter-Strike: The World Championships 2015

They may well have called this 'Technically The World Championships 2015'. TWC is one of the few esports events to involve national teams rather than sponsored squads. As such, it's a bit of a novelty: a chance to see the USA face off against Singapore, Kyrgyzstan, Sweden and so on. Most players are drawn from multiple esports orgs, with a bunch of free agents in the mix to round things out. The winner takes home $50,000. The group stages are happening right now, with the main bracket to be played over the course of the weekend. Scheduling info isn't currently available that far ahead on the official site, but you can watch the stream here when the time comes.

Smite: SPL Fall Split Week 8

Smite's Super Regional draws closer as the Fall Split marches on. Play starts at 18:00 BST/10:00 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday, and all of the games will be streamed on the official Smite Twitch and available afterwards on YouTube. Look out for Cloud9 vs. COG on Sunday. C9 is made up of the players who won the first Smite World Championship under the COG Gaming label earlier in the year: they face off against the team brought in to replace them.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

PC Gamer

ESL One New York came and went this past weekend, bringing the world its first Dota 2 LAN on the 6.85 patch. Eight teams representing North America, China, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Russia came together for a prize pool over $280,000. ESL One New York isn t going to be the biggest tournament on this patch, but it marks a return from the summer break that started after The International 5. Dota 2 is back in session with both spectators and players learning what the new patch brings to the scene.

Early tournament confusion

Despite 6.85 not containing fundamental game changes, there was still anticipation that this patch could dramatically alter professional play - but no one was quite sure how, and early picks reflect this. Throughout the four quarter final series there was a random-seeming diversity of hero picks spanning multiple years of International metagames. By far the oddest combination of heroes was played by Team Archon, who chose Chaos Knight, Medusa, Winter Wyvern, Nyx Assassin, and Doom. Oddly enough, Chaos Knight was played as a semi-support in an effort utilize his stun and the new armor reduction on Chaos Strike. However, the Team Archon goof troop couldn t handle CDEC s somewhat more traditional lineup of Rubick, Clockwerk, Bounty Hunter, Queen of Pain, and Sniper.

The TI5 runner-ups delivered a reality check - the Chaos Knight and Medusa meta hasn t suddenly taken over Dota 2. The lack of dramatic changes in the 6.85 patch means that the meta is going to have a much slower pace compared to previous patches, and crazy team compositions need a basis in real principles. Still, CDEC did pick Sniper - a pick that was a lot less common in 6.84. By picking a long-range carry and multiple heroes with disengage potential, Sniper could either force Team Archon to dive him, or take pot-shots from a distance and carry his team to victory. Even if the zany composition from Team Archon didn t work, CDEC still utilized a non-traditional pick, indicating a willingness to try new ideas.

The queen of New York

These changes in thinking are fairly evident with some of 6.84 s top picks, like Leshrac and Storm Spirit. Leshrac has fallen from grace, with a scant three picks and no wins. There aren t even stats for Storm Spirit since he was never picked. In fact, the jolly man wasn t even banned. ESL One New York worked as a sieve for the top tier picks, separating the gold from the rest of the dirt. Queen of Pain was the most chosen hero, serving her standard role as a consistent laner with high potential to control a game. Lots of other heroes have retained their 6.84-era popularity. Gyrocopter, Shadow Fiend, Clockwerk, Dazzle: these picks aren t redefining the meta.

You can t measure which heroes are strongest entirely through picks, though, as they ll have been banned too frequently. The pros are truly scared of walruses and spiders, with Tusk and Broodmother receiving 13 and 10 bans respectively. In every game of ESL One, Tusk was either picked or banned. This follows the 6.84 trend of removing heroes that could reliably dominate an early game and snowball into the midgame (literally, in Tusk s case.) Broodmother, formerly a niche pick, can similarly control the laning phase and open up space for the rest of her team. Even if counters for Broodmother are locked in, she can still put enough pressure to cause heavy rotations and keep her team in-control. A third hero charted high in the ban rates as well, and for good reason.

A new hot pick

Alongside Broodmother, the new breakout hero seems to be Ember Spirit. He was picked fairly frequently at TI5, but nowhere near as much as Gyrocopter or Queen of Pain. Part of this is due to the patch nerfing many of the counters for the ridiculously low-armor hero, and the opportunity afforded for teams to lane him outside the middle lane. Additionally, Ember Spirit has a new popular build that involves purchasing an early Boots of Travel so he can constantly farm, heal, and join team fights. The only time Ember Spirit is inactive is when he s dead. This is a stark contrast to 6.84, where he would be chosen as a viable mid-game fighter but most teams focused on getting him farm and split-pushing. While this build does give him the option to split push and build for the late-game, his insanely high early game damage is being used to control games like former top bans. The counter to Ember Spirit s success was to start banning him or lose, as he won all five games he played.

The grand finale s grand choices

Game one of the finals between Vega Squadron and Team Secret showed that both finalists were willing to experiment. Team Secret drafted around stall tactics with Anti-Mage, Elder Titan, Dark Seer, Windranger, and Crystal Maiden. Vega Squadron drafted around pure unadulterated aggression with Io, Tiny, Clockwerk, Disruptor, and Slardar. Both teams had four common 6.84 picks, but their 6.85 choices played a pivotal role in the team. Optimally, Elder Titan would be able to constantly disrupt Vega Squadron s initiation with Echo Stomp and set up easy kills on Io. Meanwhile, Slardar proved to be a fine pick for the safe lane duo, and would fill the role of more aggressive follow-up to Vega s already offensive team.

After losing, Team Secret ran Meepo and Enchantress against a traditional team. In part this is because w33 is a fantastic Meepo player, but also because Meepo was a viable pick. They not only won game two, they crushed it. Aggression across the board led to a sub-30 minute victory, as Meepo netted and murdered Queen of Pain while Enchantress ran around the map providing ganks and lane support. Team Secret would eventually take the approach Team Archon did and go for an unconventional draft with Razor, Templar Assassin, Mirana, Naga Siren, and Crystal Maiden. Unfortunately this lineup contained no reliable crowd control, and Vega Squadron s Ember Spirit was able to do whatever he wanted. This mistake opened the door for Vega Squadron to claim the top spot.

What does this all mean?

One of the biggest surprises has been the how little time the pros actually spent playing. Average game length has been shorter than The International 5, and part of this shift can be ascribed to teams adapting to the new drafts and picking poorly. At the same time, only one game was longer than 50 minutes, and no game reached the hour mark, a rarity for Dota 2. It s possible that teams are becoming more aggressive in an attempt to hold onto early game leads, and game-defining moments are occurring around the 20 minute mark instead of during sustained pushes later on.

In the end, the Dota 2 of 6.85 isn t all that different from the Dota 2 of 6.84. In light of that, professional teams are showing a willingness to experiment and incorporate unsung heroes, and a major meta shift is still possible. Alchemist has become a viable choice, and even Elder Titan is seeing play. The question is: if this is the meta now, will Tusk, Broodmother, and Ember Spirit dominate the Frankfurt Major?

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

PC Gamer

In the latest of TF2's seemingly eternal supply of updates, the mercs are faced with their most outlandish threat yet. 

The update brings four new community created maps, some of them 'Invaded' versions of existing maps and others entirely new. The Watergate map introduces a new 'player destruction' mode, in which both teams have to collect beer from dead players and deliver it to a UFO in the middle of the map.

It's set up in much the same way as the Gun Mettle Update, with an 'Invasion Community Update Pass' available from the store which gives you a coin that tracks kills on invaded maps for the month that the event lasts. You don't need to buy it to access the maps, and all the money raised goes to the update's community creators.

Buying the pass also makes you eligible for random drops of 'Space Cases' that can contain anyone of a bunch of the new cosmetics that have also been added. When Valve have done similar things with CS:GO, I've often been able to make back the money by selling my first couple of crate drops—so long as it's in the first day or two before the price of them comes crashing down on the community market.

I still dip in to TF2 every now and then, and updates like this one are a great excuse for you to do the same. 

PC Gamer
Image: The Arrray of Tranquility set for Windranger.

Every two weeks, PC Gamer Pro takes your deepest, most personal Dota questions and delivers them to the personalities that can help. You can find last week's set right here. This week, PyrionFlax talks in-game voice, the removal of guilds, right clicking exactly one time, and why your MMR is probably right even though you don t want it to be.

If you'd like to send us a question for next week, email pcgamerpro@pcgamer.com with 'GAME IS HARD' in your subject line. It would be awesome if it was either (a) not a tech support query directed at Valve or (b) not about why your MMR is wrong.

Ted 'Pyrionflax' Forsyth

Pyrion s life as a Dotaman began with his expertly illustrated, pro-quality hero guides and continued through an announcer pack and subsequent appearances at pretty much every Dota event on the planet. We once played in a games industry Dota tournament together, which is notable for this moment, possibly shane s finest hour (warning: NSFW language.) Pyrion currently has a new Dota 2 series in the works, Lanin n Complainin with TotalBiscuit.

Twitter @pyrionflax Twitch pyrionflax

From Marina:

I've got a question regarding communication: I'm a girl and I'm completely terrified of using the in-game mic, as I've had a couple of matches completely ruined because of that. I usually just type in chat my intentions but I don't feel like that's enough. I just really, really want to win a match, but my teammates are busy throwing games and calling me names instead of cooperating. Do you have any advice for that?

PCG: I want to return to this topic when I ve been able to bring in the viewpoints of more female players, but I figured it was worth discussing here too.

PyrionFlax: I ve played Dota in solo queue when there s been a girl and it s been exactly as she described. I ve also played where it hasn t made a difference because we re in a five-stack and we re not dicks. The idea that she deserves to be called out because she s a woman is bullshit. I hope that for the most part it s kids doing it. I have no idea how to overcome it except to hope that those people mature into something a bit more decent. It s bullshit. You wouldn t do that in your day-to-day life. Just because you re on the internet, let s not turn into arseholes.

Sadly, she s just going to have to hope that eventually it stops happening. What s she going to do? Get a voice modulator and hope that she sounds like a dude? Perhaps she should do that—get some bass in her voice, like when people call up for a ransom. I AM GANKING TOP LANE , something like that. But the best thing I can suggest is to play with friends, not with strangers. There are good communities out there -  DotaNoobs is a good community. I point a lot of people at this community, a lot of people play in this community, a lot of women play in this community, you will be welcome.

PCG: If voice chat is a write-off because of the regular community, what are the most effective ways to use chat? I wrote something about this last week, but is there some other magic trick?

PFlax: Just use the chat wheel and if anybody complains, say you don t have a microphone. Most of the things people say in Dota don t need to be said—they re self-evident. If you ping to smoke, people get that. If you buy a smoke, people get that. You can convey what you need to. Loads of pro players manage to play without using in-game chat very much, so it is possible—I d just say that I m sorry that her experience in-game has been shitty, and good luck.

PCG: Very different tack, now. This person writes to us with a subject line that is just the word GUILDS?! I am not fully sure that he knows what is happening.

From Marian:

I don't understand why you have disabled guild from Dota 2. I was a member of one of the best guilds in the world at Dota 2. It was called Minimis created by Baumi. It had around 4000 members. There were discussions and many other things like creating new teams, new friendships, new strategies so on. It is a nice patch but I had a bug like seeing a Storm Spirit walking in his ulti. I wish to have guild on this patch. Thank you! Have a nice day!

PFlax: First of all, I apologise for removing guilds from the game. It was my call. I code Dota 2. Secretly, I m IceFrog and so on.

I actually spoke to Bruno about this and he said, and I quote, people aren t using it. I said that all of the streamers I know use it, and he said that we must be the only ones. Like, there are ten million people playing Dota and most of the guilds are based around a few community people whose viewers want a guild. There may be a few others but on the whole, guild chat was just not something that was being used according to Valve. Although your experience was different to theirs, I m sure they ve done the numbers on it. As far as I m aware they have no intention of adding guilds back in.

It s screwed me over because I used to do sub games a lot, I could add people from the guild and now I have to use Steam groups and it s a pain in the arse. So I apologise for removing them, but I assure you I wouldn t have done it if I had anything to do with it.

PCG: It feels like the weakness in saying nobody s using it, so let s cut it is when the 1% that are using it represent the most engaged players.

PFlax: I completely agree. I wish they hadn t—I used it every single day. You had all of these communities. It s almost like they want to minimise that part of it—you saw, when Reborn came out, that the friends bit was tiny! It was all about your feed , which is garbage. I ve got Twitter for that kind of shit. I m in London chat now. I don t want to be in London chat. I want guilds. I m in London 14, where all they do is talk about which area of London is the shittest.

PCG: You should see the Bristol chat, it s bouncing.

From Alexey:

My question is why Windranger's shackleshot doesn't count as assist??? I really like this hero, have about 400 games played as Windranger and I've faced this situation more than once: I stun enemy hero for 3.5 sec, my teammate solo kills him and gets all the gold. Its unfair you know, without my stun he never could have a chance to kill enemy, and I don't even get f*ckng assist gold!!!

PFlax: I m pretty sure you need to do damage to get an assist, so shoot him once. If he s shackled for 3.5 seconds, shoot him once. Problem solved. Boom.

PCG: Yeah. What was he doing all that time?

PFlax: Just help out! Shoot him!

PCG: Right click once is the answer to this question.

Okay, this is a long one.

From Ayan:

I've been into Dota since the DotA 1 days. Ever since the MMR thing came out  I've been grinding matches on my smurf to get myself on a 'decent' bracket. But the thing that worries me is when I hear my friends claiming that the MMR system is broken and it needs to be fixed.

Actually I didn't give it much thought until I started to realize this myself. I got calibrated at 4.4k in my smurf and every time I reach 4.7k I seem to get into a losing streak back to 4.2k and then again on a winning streak to 4.7 and back to 4.2 or even 4.1. Previously I had read an article where Valve claimed that there is no such thing as losing streak in the matchmaking algorithm and they DO NOT want us to be in a losing streak.

One of the few upsides of the Reborn client is that you can check others' match history. So recently when I happened to be on the losing streak (again) I started to check the match history of the other 9 players in the game. And to my great surprise, I found that most of the players on my team (including myself) were on a losing streak of 4-5 matches and on the other hand most of the opponents were on a winning streak. Thus most of the matches happen to be vigorously one-sided and there is a lot of negativity coming from the losing-streakers.

So my main question is, is there any criteria set into the matchmaking algorithm to take win/loss streak of players into account? If no, then how does 4-5 losing streakers get matched into the same team one match after the other?

PFlax: If you get into this kind of detail, it s all supposition. I lose because the MMR system is broken, matchmaking is rigged … why would they do that? What incentive is there for them to force you to win or lose matches? There s none! Somebody has to win or lose the game, but they don t care who—because it doesn t affect Dota either way. There is no benefit to holding you back from your true MMR with a clever piece of code. There s no reason for them to do it. You re making something out of meaningless numbers.

Maybe you played too many damn games in a row and you need to take a break. Maybe you won too many times in a row and settled into a comfort zone. People are so quick to associate their success or failure, even as a team, with some outside factor. It s very rarely that. It s always you who won or lost the game with your team, and that s it.

PCG: The thing I want to get printed on a giant rainbow banner is MMR is an average. Your MMR is not how good you are in total—if you re a 4.5k player, you sometimes will play like a 5k player and sometimes like a 3.5k player. You veer up and down all the time. The idea is that you average out where you should be. If this guy calibrated at 4.4 and veers between 4.7 and 4.2, then it kind of suggests that he was calibrated in the right place.

PFlax: Also, your MMR being two or three hundred points higher isn t a big deal compared to being in the higher brackets. The difference when you get to 6k-7k players is godlike: I ve seen this with Blitz. He ll queue into a game and be like oh, it s this guy and this guy. He knows them, because the community of players that they can be matched with is so small that they bump into each other again and again. That s how people get headhunted.

The chances of your MMR being wrong by a few hundred isn t going to matter, because you re in this huge pool of people that are actually pretty similar in skill level. It s only when you get up to the absolute top that you realise this huge gulf in class. Honestly, though, I just can t believe he s reading that much into it.

PCG: I suspect that we re going to get is my MMR wrong questions for as long as this column exists.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

PC Gamer

Last night, ESL and Valve announced the eight teams being invited to The Frankfurt Major—the first of Valve's new series of 'mini-Internationals' spanning the year-long gap between Dota 2's world championships. The European Major will be held in Frankfurt (if that wasn't obvious) from the 16th-21st of November. This is a world championship-level event, by anyone's standards, and if you're in the area then you can attend for free. Only the Saturday, when the finals take place, will require a ticket.

The invites are, for the most part, fairly predictable. International champions EG are a given, as are CDEC, LGD, Vici Gaming, EHOME and Virtus.Pro—in that order, these teams make up the top 6 places at TI5. Team Secret's new roster gets the next spot, followed by Vega Squadron—the surprise winners of last weekend's ESL One New York 2015 tournament.

Instinctively, it feels like the plan was always to invite the TI5 top six and then settle on the last two places based on ESL One New York: given how early Vega were eliminated from the International, it'd be an amazing act of foresight to invite them prior to this most recent result. Similarly, Secret's 2nd-place finish in New York proved the potential of their new lineup, something that wasn't guaranteed before.

The remaining eight places will be determined by four regional qualifiers—Americas, Southeast Asia, China, and Europe. There are open spots in each of these qualifiers, with anybody able to enter a massive bracket this week to compete for a space. The odds of a Cool Runnings-type result where a group of unknowns enters the open qualifier and goes on to sweep the entire thing are incredibly low, but if you're entering your team—good luck!

The prize pool is $3m and not, as the image above might suggest, some kind of giant golden bust of a peacock. That peacock is, in fact, supposed to be an eagle, and the thing that it's attached to is an item from Dota 2 called an Eaglesong. You may think that it looks like the top of a recurve bow, but it is, in fact, a horn—a horn that grants bonus agility, for some reason. This is confusing because, in DotA 1, Eaglesong was called Eaglehorn—a reference to, of all things, a bow from the Diablo series. That's right! The bow named after a horn became a horn that looks like a bow, and nobody in this process figured out what an eagle's neck looks like.

This is arguably the least confusing thing about Dota.


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