A look at some of the draft picks that made games and sent teams to TI10, no matter how weird or off-meta they seemed.
Mid lane Winter Wyvern – Blue Eyes, White Dragon
2021 has been the year to flex this arctic flying beast, with the hero popping off as an incredibly reliable healer in the Dota 2 WePlay AniMajor and at ESL One Summer 2021. The teams in the other regional qualifiers seemed content in placing the Winter Wyvern as either a soft or hard support that’s there to try and disrupt fights and keep their cores healthy. However, Tundra Esports’ mid-laner Leon “Nine” Kirilin had different plans, and he and his team debuted a powerful new core that almost stopped OG’s quest for that third TI title before it could even begin.
Winter Wyvern mid should have been obvious from the very start, as its kit, while very suited as a support, also worked well in a solo lane that focuses on heroes that pop off to give their carries space. In the three games that Tundra Esports played it mid, Nine achieved a total KDA of 31-11-27, with most of the deaths only happening during their most crucial game when OG finally managed to counter his Wyvern draft with a Disruptor pick. Despite their heartbreaking loss in the grand final overall, Tundra Esports managed to create a strong metagame in Winter Wyvern mid, and that was proven when so many other professional and high-ranked players started using them in their pub games.
How it works
Winter Wyvern mid is a great pick against greedy teams that require a lot of space to be online, as the hero is one of the best at creating chaos while kiting from unreachable distances. Unlike hard support Wyvern, your role is to harass and farm efficiently with Splinter Blast in the early game, then transitioning into using Arctic Burn when you get some of the core items and you’ve hit higher levels.
Going mid, you should start with a Circlet or a Mantle to build into a Null Talisman plus some Tangoes, and aim to get your bottle as quickly as possible. Your core items should include an Aghanim’s Sceptre and the Witch Blade. The Sceptre turns your Arctic Burn into a toggle ability which constantly burns off the enemy’s current health percentage as damage per second.
This ability is what makes Winter Wyvern amazing in the mid lane, as it also allows her to fly over pathing and hit farther, allowing her to kite effortlessly. The Witch Blade is there to boost your overall damage, giving you DoT on a single attack every few seconds that’s classified as pure damage and slows the target as well.
Besides these two, investing in Boots of Travel if you’re going mid seems to be the metagame nowadays, as it allows you to splitpush very efficiently. Winter Wyvern is an excellent split pusher thanks to the wave clear from Splinter Blast, and having fast TPs can help turn the tide in certain skirmishes thanks to her Winter’s Curse.
Pangolier is a good counter to Winter Wyvern, especially if there are no other counterpicks to Pangolier himself. Rolling Thunder is a very good skill to get on top of Winter Wyvern even when she’s in Arctic Burn mode, as Pangolier can scale terrain with ease while stunning his enemies. Getting perma-stunned by Rolling Thunder is the biggest issue here, and if you’re playing Wyvern, you should reconsider picking it or ask someone on the team to counter Pangolier if possible.
Disruptor, a rarely-played hero that was used by OG specifically to counter Nine’s Wyvern, is also something to watch out for. Three of his four abilities render Winter Wyvern nearly useless; Static Storm silences and mutes a large area, Kinetic Field can keep her contained, and if she manages to escape using Arctic Burn, Glimpse is always there to bring her back. Any good Disruptor player can shut Winter Wyvern down efficiently, so if you’re playing as the latter, make sure to ban him out immediately.
Safe lane Templar Assassin – broken hypercarry
If there’s a hero right now that is in dire need of nerfs, it would have to be Lanaya, the Templar Assassin. The hero is too strong right now and can be an instant game-ender in the right hands, as proven by many teams during the Majors and the qualifiers.
It wasn’t long until her status as a broken core was essentially upgraded, and that happened when OG pulled her out as part of their pocket strat in the TI10 WEU Qualifiers grand final. In their last two winning games, Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan played the safe lane, position 1 Templar Assassin, and it posted very strong results that one wonders how it could’ve passed two drafts without being respect-banned.
The standard way to pick Templar Assassin is to play her in the mid lane, where she can abuse those early levels, side camps and Ancient stacks to rush Desolator and kill Roshan early, helping her team secure the map. The power of safe lane Templar Assassin, however, depends entirely on the space given her; instead of participating in the early kills, she needs to focus solely on her farm until she can get her core items.
Thanks to OG’s aggressive and incredibly self-sacrificing space-making strats, SumaiL’s Templar Assassin managed to completely dominate in the safe lane, and this success was soon copied and followed by other carry players who managed to realize how broken this hero is for position 1.
How it works
Playing Templar Assassin in the safe lane is a different beast from mid lane TA, even if the core items they are aiming for are essentially the same. For one thing, securing farm on safe lane TA is paramount, and it’s preferable to stay away from fights as much as possible since you’re not exactly playing as the space maker. In the laning phase, you should aim to keep your CS very high, as Templar Assassin’s jungling potential is very good thanks to Psi Blades and Refract protecting her and keeping her damage up.
Heading to the lane, going into a Wraith Band early to boost stats is a good start. However, there are some instances where you will end up just needing the Circlet, especially if you manage to own your lane. In those cases, rushing the Power Treads and the first Mithril Hammer for your Desolator is better. Clarity potions are also good at the early-to-mid stages of the game to keep your mana topped up, and they are very effective in-lane thanks to Refract blocking enemy damage. In a way, it’s also to compensate for not having the Bottle, as mid lane TA would almost always get one.
In some situations, it’s also worth getting a Dragon Lance completed before the Desolator, as the extra stats and attack range help give safe lane TA more farming power and protection against harass. After those two items, it’s time to decide if you will get either a Blink Dagger or an Aghanim’s Scepter next.
While Blink Dagger is core for mid lane Templar Assassin, your role in the safe lane should be a bit more conservative, and to try and hit safely from the backlines. Aghanim’s Scepter lets you reposition safely, and even acts as a free TP scroll to anywhere on the map as long as you have a Psionic Trap laid down. The Scepter was definitely a huge part of SumaiL’s success with the hero, and you should never skip it either.
If you find yourself losing earlier than expected, then Black King Bar would fit into your build anywhere you see it fit. It’s a core item for most position 1 heroes either way, so you would do well to try and itemize it once you see that the enemies start to pick up the pace.
The usual counterpicks for mid lane TA also apply for the safe lane, especially if they’re versatile heroes. Viper, who can play both mid and off lane, absolutely messes up Templar Assassin’s game thanks to his poison-based attacks. Slow ticks of damage would easily melt through Refraction, and that is why a Viper ban is always worthy if you’re planning to go TA, whatever lane you may choose.
Heroes with disables that go through Spell Immunity, like Magnus with his Reverse Polarity, Beastmaster with his Primal Roar or even Axe with his Berserker’s Call are good natural counters to TA safe lane. With no natural means of escape besides Refraction, locking her down is easy if you can disable her. Be mindful of these heroes if you’re planning to use this hero in your pubs.
Chen – secretly OP in the right hands
There are heroes in Dota 2 who will lie in wait, forgotten, for the perfect chance to come back. Most of the time, these heroes are thought to be garbage, with so many players asking for buffs before they bust it out again to flex.
As time and time again proved, Icefrog knows best, and that was made crystal clear when OG’s captain Johan “N0tail” Sundstein picked Chen and dominated with it in their games against Team Nigma. The hero was a big part of their initial success against the TI7 champions, with its surprising amount of healing and aura power surprising Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi’s men.
Chen is one of the weirdest heroes in Dota 2, as his power is extremely reliant on what creeps he can dominate. In the years since his release, though, he has fallen off in the metagame with the rise of other, more versatile supports like Enchantress, who can do what Chen does to a certain extent plus so much more.
However, N0tail showed that all that Chen needs is good micro skills, as it only takes a few creeps for him to stack several camps at once like an actual god. This is a good skill to have for a lot of professional teams, especially for drafts with cores that clear stacks fast like Axe and Templar Assassin.
How it works
Chen’s new metagame is dependent on how good you are at your micro skills; without it, you will eventually feed later on, especially if your cores fail to have a good early game. Paramount to this is proper multi-camp stacking, as doing so will give your position 1 great farm at all integral stages of the game. Chen does not need much in the way of items, although Mekansm is a very important core item as it greatly increases the healing power within his kit. Holy Locket is also a good luxury item to have, just to boost healing even more.
If you managed to make it past the early game with your cores fed thanks to your stacks, then you could consider your Chen a success. Unlike other supports, however, your life has a much higher value alive than dead. Lion can push all his spells and die, leaving the rest to his team, but most of Chen’s utility outside his healing is reliant on the auras he provides his team. If Chen dies, his creeps are much more vulnerable, so always be wary of your positioning throughout the fights.
Chen is also a great split pusher thanks to his neutral creeps, and he can easily use his small army to push unguarded towers. Once his net worth reaches a certain point, you can also invest in luxury items like Glimmer Cape or Force Staff, which is amazing for repositioning your cores to save them. Aghanim’s Shard is also a great item to have once you have the gold for it, as it allows you to cast Divine Favor to teleport chosen allied heroes back to base after six seconds.
There are certain situations where Chen is simply unpickable, despite his great performance in some games. Never try to pick Chen against an Enchantress: the latter is the perfect foil to Chen and his creep-dominating shenanigans, as she can easily dominate those already dominated by him. What’s more, her dominated creeps keep the health buff from Holy Persuasion, making it more beneficial for her team. Her heal, while weaker, is a bit more reliable than Chen’s, while Impetus can allow her to kill Chen from a distance without worrying too much about his creeps.
Safe lane Magnus – gigachad, tanky carry
In a span of a single game, SumaiL managed to verify a hero’s place as one of the most underrated and broken carries in Dota 2. Under the perfect circumstances, safe lane Magnus is a terror to behold, one that will absolutely dominate you in lane and team fights, all the while flexing his huge hulking muscles while doing so.
The hero is most popular in the mid lane and the off lane as a utility core, one which relies on casting Empower on the hard carries and setting up for team fights with Skewer and Reverse Polarity. However, there is also nothing stopping players from using Empower on themselves, taking all the farm, setting up the teamfights and winning them single-handedly like a true chad, all of which are aspects to the nature of safe lane Magnus.
Unlike his other roles in the off lane and mid lane, safe lane Magnus is much easier to play thanks to his farming steroid, Empower. This means that clearing jungle camps is a breeze even in the earlier stages of the game, and with stacks, he can get his core items very quickly and easily, a feat on par with some of the game’s hypercarries.
He also does not fall off after blowing Reverse Polarity, as he can dish damage decently with items and very good creep wave clears with Shockwave and Skewer.
How it works
Thanks to his fast farming speed, safe lane Magnus is not overly reliant on teammates to help him get his core items. Stacks would be nice to have, of course, as Empower grants cleave, but with Skewer, Magnus can quickly leap from camp to camp. The other rules for playing as a safe lane core applies, and you can easily fend off possible ganks in your lane with Reverse Polarity as soon as you have it.
The first items to try and build towards are the Echo Sabre and Power Treads, both of which strengthen Magnus’ farm game even more. Working towards a Blink Dagger next increases his mobility further, as well as making him a terrifying initiator.
Since you want to be able to deal damage even after using Reverse Polarity, a Black King Bar should always be in your core item list. Afterwards, anything else is luxury; Sange and Yasha or Heaven’s Halberd is great if you’re looking for status resist, Assault Cuirass is amazing if you want attack speed and armor, and Satanic is the go-to if you want a dispel with strength and lifesteal on top.
In terms of counters, Magnus can easily be disrupted through smart kiting. Picking heroes that can kite from a distance, like Luna, is always a bad idea, especially if she has a great lineup protecting her. Most of Magnus’ initial power comes from Reverse Polarity; if he cannot activate it and catch his supposed targets, he falls quite easily. Hypercarries that scale very well are also very troubling to face, especially if they live through Magnus’ initial burst.