Dota currently has 116 playable heroes in the game and as such a large majority of them seem viable, competitive and in meta. And while the likes of Grimstroke, Lich, PA and OD dominate the current meta, we take a look a look at heroes which have remained popular across the seasons, patches, years and months. What makes these heroes popular and why do they find so much playtime despite regular patch updates that always change up things and Valve’s constant attempt at balancing the game?
Number 5 on the list is Axe, a hero who sees an all-time pick rate of 18% and a win rate of 51%. The hero is mainly played as an initiator and a tank for the most part. However what makes the hero popular is his ability to solo kill enemy cores once his items are up. Laning wise the hero does well both in the offlane and as a 4 position and in addition to being a strong laner against melee heroes, Axe also finds it relatively easy to rotate into the jungle and find his core items. The hero is somewhat timing based in the sense that he needs his Blink Dagger before he can run around killing people. But overall, he is one of the easier to execute offlaners who can find his farm and then be effective. He also fits into the classic mentality of having a tanky initiator who can start the fights for you and absorb a few hits as well.
In the last month, however, the hero did receive a fair few nerfs in patch 7.20d making with the damage of Counter Helix being nerfed at the lower levels. Since then his pick rate has dropped from 25% to somewhere around 21% but his win rate is still above 50%.
In number 4, we have Juggernaut, a carry hero that wasn’t always the most popular hero back in Dota 1, but has seen a meteoric rise in popularity in Dota 2. A hero's ability to kill enemies right off the bat makes him a strong laner, especially when setup with a stun or slow. The hero is played as a ricer who has kill potential every time his ultimate is up. While the hero may not be able to go toe to toe with many of the traditional 6 slotted carries, his power spike in the mid-game combined with his ability to push towers with the Healing Ward, makes him a dangerous foe to go up against.
Juggernaut was reworked a fair amount in 7.20e and new meta of stacking early stats serves him well. Compared to the all time pick rate of 21% the hero has been climbing the charts slowly and sits at a near 27% pick rate as of yesterday. His average win rate is 50.48% while his win rate over the last week hovers just above the 53.5% mark.
A hero that has quite the high skill cap and needs multiple items before he truly shines, Invoker seems to be a surprise in the top 5 most popular list. But Dota 2, especially in the last 4 years has seen an increase in the number of ‘main’ players’. By this I mean, players who have an extremely low variation in the number of picked heroes and play less than 7 heroes in over 90% of their games. While having a ‘main’ is a thing in games like Overwatch and League of Legends, it wasn’t necessarily the case in Dota, where patches often required you to adapt and improvise. However, a lot of players in Dota have now adopted this mentality of playing only a handful of heroes and among them Invoker seems to be the hot favourite. Somehow there exists a notion that mastering the hero is mastering the game itself because it has one of the higher skill caps in Dota. However, as a result of all of this, you’ll often encounter a lot of bad or mediocre Invoker players which kind of attests to the fact that his all-time average win rate is just 47%.
The hero is quite greedy, not necessarily the best laner and doesn’t come online anywhere as fast as many other mid laners do. However, none of this seems to affect the player base’s love for the hero and he sees a sizeable 24% all-time pick rate. Even in the past month, the hero’s pick rate has been in the higher 20’s while his win rate after 7.20 was released never quite climbed above 50%.
When it comes to heroes with high pick rate a safe bet is Sniper, a hero that has been a popular mid laner since the dawn of time. Back from the days of Dota 1, the hero has always seen a lot of play in pubs even though his pick rate in competitive is abysmal. So why does a hero who is quite greedy, has bad tempo control, farms slowly and has no mobility have one of the highest pick rates in the pub scene? Well let me explain.
A large portion of the Dota player base plays in what we call the trench or the low tier mmr’s where believing in your team/teammates rarely does you any good. The understanding here is that winning your lane and getting your items is the best way to get a win. In this type of scenario the hero can be useful where everyone is focusing on their own hero and the Sniper can sneakily dish in some damage, from a safe distance. He is also relatively easy to play and up until 7.20 had just 2 active skills. As long as you can last hit, which isn’t that hard with the hero due to his animation, you rarely lose in the mid lane especially if the opponent is lower or equally skilled.
However, the hero does have some glaring weaknesses and a low HP pool and near non-existent mobility often do him in if the opponents choose to focus him first. Due to this, the hero’s win rate is 47% all time while his all-time pick rate is just above 24%.
As if PA dominating the current meta isn’t enough, the hero has also been dominating pubs for a long long time now and as it stands, she has been picked once in every 4 games of Dota 2 ever played. Unlike many carries, she holds her own in the laning phase being able to both trade and farm with her first skill. Level 6 onwards, her killing potential jumps massively and the hero snowballs hard if left unchecked. All in all, PA fits in the traditional carry role quite well and her ability to one-shot enemy heroes makes her a super popular pick in pubs. Her all-time win rate is just above the 50% mark as well. The hero is currently experiencing a massive surge in popularity in both pubs and competitive play and her place in the top two seems justified considering how many PA’s we encounter on a daily basis.
And the number 1 most picked hero of all-time in Dota 2 is Pudge, having been picked been picked over 653 million times with a whopping 34% pick rate. What’s more surprising is that the hero has a 51% win rate and considering the Pudges that I play have to play with, I can’t help but be shocked. Unfortunately, though, the heroes high pick rate isn’t a surprise as I’ve come to realize after years of playing the game and while I’m not a Pudge player myself the urge to pick the hero is understandable. While the hero provides very less if played badly and can often be a large cause of as to why your team loses, he also can just take over games and make the opponents rip their hair out especially when he starts landing the hooks.
But more than anything, the sheer satisfaction of landing a hook makes the hero highly rewarding to play. Having popularized the hero during TI3, Dendi’s name still stays synonymous with the hero and the chance to compare themselves to one of Dota’s favourite personalities is a big reason as to why people continue to pick the hero.
Uncredited image via Valve