Can CS:GO Overtake Dota 2?

Both Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have slowly expanded over time. CS:GO started off incredibly slow, but has exploded since the end of 2013. Dota 2 had a sizable boost coming out of beta, but has been very unreliable over time. Dota 2 likes to force an artificial peak, such as with the yearly International and 2015’s New Bloom event. Once these events are over, the player base dwindles, and takes a few months to get back on it’s feet. Whereas CS appears to have nicely spread out and well received Majors, which cause an influx of new players who stay around for months to come. Overall I will look at these two games since Jan 2013, splitting the periods into 9 quarters; the first quarter being 2013’s January, February and March. Note that I had to use a combined method of average players + peaks to create a model to calculate growth.

Dota 2

The New Bloom event had small 10ish minute windows that the event was active for, which meant there was a mass introdus and exodus before and after the event windows. This created a massive peak amount of players, giving a massive illusion of growth. However if you look closer, Dota 2 growth has been stalling for about three quarters now however. Dota 2 grew about 35% in the first two quarters of 2014, but for other half of the year it only grew ~2%. If we look at the quarter to quarter changes:

Quarter growth of Dota

You can see that 2013 was a massive year for Dota 2, growing massively over the year. But things really started to slow down towards the end, which continued ever since. The International in July 2014 was a peak, but the player base took a significant hit for months afterwards. Dota 2 is coming back on track, but the numbers are somewhat higher than they should be due to the sly way the previous event worked. Luckily for Dota however, that a 10% growth when your player base is hundreds of thousands of players still results in a solid increase in players. It’s just that the growth has definitely slowed down a notch, or rather, a jeb (hue hue).


Counter Strike has a few problems when competing and comparing with Dota 2. While CS was released in August 2012 – when Dota’s peak concurrent was only 100k – the game didn’t go anywhere for months. It wasn’t until an entire year had past before the masses started taking any notice of the game. This effectively gave Dota 2 more than whole years head start, which Dota used to sextuple its player base. Since then however, CS has been exploding faster than an adolescent, with solid growths each quarter.

Counter-Strike has this impressive feat of mostly keeping the players it gains from when the game explodes. CS grew by 50% in July/August 2014, and then held steady for two months, keeping the massive amount of players gained. Later on, we launched more than NASA with another 50% growth in December/January. Keep in mind with the way percentage based growth works, is that growth is technically better the more players you have. A 20% increase of 20k players is only 4k more players, whereas a 20% growth when you have 300k players is an additional 60k more players. Which results in 60k more players not only buying the game, but purchasing cosmetics.


If we look at the average amount of players each game has at one time, Dota 2 is still well ahead. But CS:GO has actually closed the gap non stop.

When we started, Dota had ten times more players than CS. Whereas this quarter (which technically still has two days to go), Dota is only two and a half times bigger. Even this month has reduced this once more. So Can CS:GO beat Dota 2? Well, it will very soon for a few hours each day. The players of each games live and/or play at different times. Dota peaks around six hours earlier than CS:GO, which means CS:GO will end up being the most game played on Steam for a few hours every day. In fact just yesterday, while the concurrent peaks were 400k players off, CS was within 20k players of having more players than Dota at a point in time. Overall CS:GO is on a really good trajectory to overtake Dota, but will take some hard work.

The Next Step Forward

Both games have big things on the horizon. Dota 2’s custom game modes come to mind. But even a ‘new Valve hero’ was something many of us have been hoping for, but Dota 1 hasn’t seen a new hero in 21 months and there are still two more heroes to port. With about four months until TI5 LAN, are Valve going to release all this before that time?

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive seems far more reasonable. Majors will continue to happen, and new players flow in without massive work on new heroes or game modes. Even most the new maps come in the form of Operations, where the maps are mostly created by the community – with another Operation due soon. Valve just seems to put very little effort into CS:GO; there’s many things lacking. There’s essentially no profiles, gaping holes in the system, and even DotaBuff utterly destroys any CS:GO stat sites, which suggest to me that there are massive flaws in the CS:GO API. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the global popularity of maps based on skill bracket? Or to see how sided a map is at will by bracket? Maybe scouts are ungodly good on Aztec, or a pub team with 3 Tec-9s in pistol round wins 90% of the time. Who knows?


How Player’s Lust for MMR Saps Enjoyment and Drops Diversity

For the past 5 weeks, ending last Sunday, I have been collecting data on hero popularity in Very High Ranked games, to see how much they change from week to week. Players tend to lust for MMR, and will do almost anything they can to try and increase it. This is especially so among the top 9% of players, aka Very High. With DAC running in the past few weeks, I’ve noticed dramatic changes in the hero pool from week to week. And all of it seems to result in far less enjoyable games.


Above are the 6 biggest gainers in popularity for the 5 week period, including their increase from week to week. Someone like Shadow Fiend was only in 15% of games at the start of the experiment, but as the weeks went on he skyrocketed (by 26 raw percent) to being in 42% of games. You’ll notice across the board that the heroes that become more popular, are the heroes that people believe to be the most OP right now. People want to gain MMR, and the easiest way to do that is to pick a strong hero. Unfortunately this results in utterly one dimensional games, where the same heroes appear constantly with little to no variety in hero picks. But how one dimensional are they?

One Dimensional

So 5 weeks ago, Juggernaut was in 56% of all Very High ranked games, and it fell off sharply to Axe in 38% and Slark in 32%. But as the weeks went by, you can see how one dimensional the hero picks become. There used to only be 1 hero with more than 40% pick rate, now there are 3. While there used to be 8 heroes above 20% pick rate, and now there is actually 11. What’s happening is that people are deserting heroes across the board, and picking more and more of the top heroes. Week by week, we lose massive amounts of hero diversity, as players prefer the top 20 heroes over the other 86. Note that this experiment was done prior to Winter Wyvern.


At the start of the year, the top 10 most picked heroes were picked the same amount as the bottom 63 heroes. In just 5 weeks, this has increased to 74. So the top 10 heroes are now picked as much as the bottom 74 heroes. The top 10 heroes now make up 33% of all picks, 22 heroes make up the middle 34%, and 74 heroes make up the bottom 33%. This means that you’re likely to see at least 3 of the top 10 heroes every game. Hero diversity is plummeting recently, and every week that went by made it worse. The actual heroes varied as people shifted to the new 6.83 meta, but as far as hero diversity goes on a daily basis, we are seeing an ungodly amount of the same stuff.

The most bizarre thing is that hero win rate is sometimes irrelevant to a hero’s popularity. Across the board, the heroes that aren’t played very often generally have terrible win rates, with the least played hero Enchantress boasting a terrible 36% winrate in Ranked Very High. Alchemist is closely ahead at 39%. However we still see popular heroes that also have bad or mediocre win rates. Doom was popular for weeks, even though he only had a 44% win rate. Slark is also similar, he is insanely popular, but only has a 47% win rate in Ranked Very High. What appears to be happening is that people felt that Slark and Doom were OP, even though their win rates have been mediocre for a while. They give into the circlejerk of OP/Dumpster heroes, without actually looking at their own games or pubs as a whole. Luna, Treant, and Night Stalker are almost never seen in these games, but all have over 50% win rates. Luna is a carry that fell off extremely hard in the pro scene post TI4, but in pubs she still wins about the same as Axe and Shadow Fiend, and wins more than the popular Slark, Storm Spirit, Void, Tidehunter, and Skywrath.

I averaged the pick rates for every group of 10 heroes, and compared the weeks (explained below)

Who’s Sapping my Fun?

With so many games of Dota 2 under my belt, I have found that the game is more enjoyable with variety. We all want to win, but we’re not playing for a million dollars. We are ultimately playing in our free time, and part of that is wanting to have fun. I personally don’t have much fun when one hero is in 60% of the games, and then another is in 56% of them. Having to play every second game with the same 2 heroes gets old really fast. Pudge was the most popular hero in Dota 2 for about 3 years straight, but he almost never was in more than 40% of games. Three heroes top that right now. In all Skill brackets Pudge has actually been bumped down to third by both Sniper and Juggernaut, as 6.83 swings into full force.

In the graph above, I averaged the win rate for the top 10 heroes, and then compared it to the average win rate of heroes 11-20, 21-30, etc You can see that the top 20 heroes gained in popularity, while the bottom 80 dropped. The 30-50th most popular heroes were hit hardest, really gutting the ‘often picked’ heroes.

How To Solve?

After looking at all the numbers for weeks on end, I think the BanPick game mode is honestly the best solution. That is a game mode where everyone gets ~20 seconds to ban 1 hero each, and after that we go to the normal picking phase. If you didn’t ban, then no one is banned. I think this would not only make the game more enjoyable, but make the pool more diverse. People are likely to either ban heroes that are played way too much, or have insanely high win rate. You could ban counters, but more often than not you’re just sick of the ‘spin-to-win trio’. Besides, if matchmaking does it’s job then similar size parties should be matched together, and thus will have the same advantage in any possible ‘counter-banning’. Besides, a hero counter will always slip through the cracks.

BanPick also has the distinct advantage of being similar enough to AllPick that people will actually play it. Matchmaking in CaptainsMode is generally far worse than in AllPick, especially on smaller servers like Australia, since there is a much smaller amount of people searching in that mode. BanPick being similar to AllPick works in its advantage, as people will actually queue for it, giving the gamemode a big enough player pool to get close MMRs quickly.

Closing Thoughts

This patch, 6.83, has resulted in many things to dislike. I think overall though, the plummeting hero diversity is what I dislike most. People are still shifting heroes from old meta to new meta, so we do see some changes in heroes week to week. The heroes are starting to stabilize though, as DAC ends, and overall the heroes picked are becoming increasingly one dimensional; creating some awfully repetitive games. People want to raise MMR, so they are picking what they think works (the same stuff), which I believe decreases the enjoyment of the game. This appears to be pushed to the extreme in 6.83, more so than in previous patches. Dota does have pretty good hero diversity, but every week of 6.83 that passes, is a week where we lose hero diversity. In week 1 there were only 3 heroes appearing in less than 2% of games, this increased to 9 heroes. Both high and low, we are seeing massive shifts towards more of the same. Don’t forget that the old Dota strategy is to stop the snowball, before it becomes too big to handle. At the moment, we seem to be ~20% less diverse than we were 60 days ago.

Mythbusters: Is the Hero Pool Really Getting More Diverse?

There’s an old theory with Dota heroes: every hero is viable in pubs, but far less are viable for pros. More recently casters and players have been noting how almost every hero is viable now, how every patch seems to expand the hero pool to make more and more heroes legitimate picks. But is this is all psychological? They’ve seen games come and go, but they’ve never sat down and compared the numbers. So I’m going to see whether the hero pool is statistically more viable now. Is the hero pool more diverse than years gone by? Or is it all in the mind?

The 40 percenters

Here on Zota I like to use the term “top picks”, that is a hero who has more than 40% ban/pick rate in the pro scene. I record them each month in an easy to find and search page, and like to consult it when curious as to the last time a hero was popular. So let’s start with this, I have 25 months of data here, dating back to December 2012.

What we see is that for the last 25 months of professional Dota, there has been about 15-20 top picks every month. At the moment Brew, Razor, and Lycan, whereas 12 months ago it was Visage, Lifestealer, and Dragon Knight. We see a constantly rotating roster of top picks, but the raw number of them doesn’t change much. They’ve gone down ever so slightly, but the trend is awfully mild from this metric.

Month to Month to Month

I want to compare December 2012 with December 2013 with December 2014. Three consecutive years of professional Dota could give us an insight into how the hero pool has evolved over the years. The difficulty with doing this exercise is that the hero pool has expanded over the years. In 2012 we had only 83 heroes, 2013 was 97, and 2014 is 106. This makes it a struggle to compare, but I think the best way to do split them into percentages of the hero pool based on their pick/bate rate. Top picks are 40% or more, Popular are 20-40%, Unpopular are 5-20%, and Outcasts are less than 5%.

In December 2012, we had 25.3% of the hero pool as top picks, but heroes fell off hard though, with only 13% being popular. We then ended up with 25% of the hero pool as unpopular, and an absurd 36% contested in less than 5% of games. You can see why I’ve got this ultra low outcast category, because in 2012 a third of the pool were very rarely seen. This is what I refer as a skewed hero pool: the top 25% of heroes are responsible for the 70% of all picks and bans. It’s like the Dota equivalent of wealth inequality, we have hero inequality where the chosen few are constantly favored while a third of the heroes live in the slums; outcast to the world. But let’s see how this compares to 2013 and 2014.

The top picks decrease over time. You see, while the raw number of top picks is staying similar as shown far above, since more heroes are being added to the pool it becomes a lower percentage of the pool. But all these new heroes aren’t changing the dynamic of the hero pool too much.

Looking at the raw data, you can see that the new heroes just end up padding out the bottom of the pool. The first tier of heroes are very similar, while we do see a big increase in second tier heroes, which is a big positive. But the majority of heroes seem to end up being rarely picked. In 2012 60% of the heroes are in the bottom two tiers, while in 2014 66% of the heroes are.

The Verdict

Are more heroes becoming more viable? Yes, but it’s very mild. We still have about a third of the pool rarely picked, and we still have around 18 heroes being top picks. It seems to me that the only thing about the hero pool that is more diverse, is that when someone is not picking a top hero, they have a bunch of heroes to choose from. In that regard you are seeing a lot more diversity, the problem is that we still are seeing a large amount of drafts central on the top 40 heroes. In 2012 we had the top 25% of heroes taking 70% of all picks and bans. In December 2014 we had the top 25% taking 66% of all picks and bans. The hero pool has expanded so you do get more heroes in the top 25%, which should be noted. It is more diverse than before, but it’s a very mild trend.

Basically you have chicken for dinner 10 nights a fortnight, on the other 4 nights you alternate between beef, pork, salmon, and kangaroo. You eat a wide variety of meats overall (moreso than the 11 chicken nights two years ago), but there’s no denying that you’re still primarily a chicken guy. That’s the Dota 2 hero picks in a nutshell, mostly the same stuff, but a lot of variety on the odd chance you do want to mix it up. The hero pool is 27% bigger than 2012, but that’s just 27% more stuff to choose from on the non-chicken nights. That’s a pretty solid analogy of what’s happening.

Percentage of the hero pool that is picked outside of even distribution, with 10% leeway each side of even distribution classified as ‘Just Right’.

Preconceived Notions?

I think the explanation as to why people feel that almost every hero is viable ultimately comes down to perception and psychology. Most people reading this know about those filthy Mirana pickers, but in December Mirana was only drafted 12% of the time. She fell off hard in the pro scene, but you still remember what she’s capable of. What I believe happens, is that because you remember when a hero was top stuff, you think better of the hero for months to come.

You’ve seen Miranas have massive game impact, so even when they fall off in popularity you still rate them highly. Given enough time watching pro Dota, the natural cycle of heroes will result in you seeing almost every hero have their day. When a Hero is incredibly popular, you see the hero’s strengths at work, and even when they fall off, you still remember their strengths. Rarely some heroes get nerfed into the ground like Alchemist, but many heroes like Sand King fall off massively without anything happening to them, or just very mild nerfs.

It’s about perception. You perceive a greater amount of heroes to be viable now than a year ago, because you’ve seen new heroes work in professional settings. In recent months, Zeus has come from 3 years of being ignored, to being contested 33% in December. Even if he falls off, you’ll remember his strengths. Mjolnir’s Static Charge had a similar fate, people ignored it for years, even though it had its moments. Suddenly it becomes top stuff with a buff, and even though it was nerfed later on, the Dota 2 community now has much more awareness about it. You becomes aware of strengths and potential when something is popular, and you remember this for years to come.

Previous Article: Juggernaut’s Fury, running the pub numbers of 6.83 Juggernaut


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Juggernaut’s Fury

Juggernaut is 6.83’s biggest problem. While patches in previous years have had issues with Spirit Breaker or Centaur Warrunner, 6.83 firmly belongs to Juggernaut. So let’s take a look at what’s going on.

Jugger0%, no Jugger100%

Juggernaut has been rising in popularity all year, and even in December 2012 he was the 10th most played hero in the game. He’s always been a top pick for pubbers, but in 6.83 he is the new Phantom Assassin. Already appearing in about 20% of games in 6.82, making him the 9th most popular hero, Juggernaut soared in pick rate with the new patch. Four days ago he overtook 4th place Sniper, three days ago he overtook Phantom Assassin, and just yesterday he overtook Pudge. Yesterday, Juggernaut was the most played hero for the day. It’s incredibly impressive to knock Pudge off his pedestal.

Most annoyingly however, he’s boasting a very strong 56% win rate. In Very High he becomes even more unstoppable with a 58% win rate; second to only Omniknight.

Perpetually Buffed

If you look back over the years, you’ll notice that Juggernaut hasn’t been very popular in the pro scene.

Pick/Ban % of Juggernaut for 2013 and 2014

Just two months ago in November, he was the 96th most contested hero for professionals. He was last popular as basically a flavor-of-the-month in May 2013, where he was the 16th most popular hero. 6.78 came soon after this however, and players moved onto other heroes.

This generally results in IceFrog doing one thing: buffing patch after patch. In fact, Juggernaut has almost never been directly nerfed. Juggernaut has been buffed since the first International in 2011, which was version 6.72. Even before that, the last nerf was over 7 years ago. This is an incredible time period to go without receiving a proper direct nerf. So if you’re sick and tired of the current Ebolanaut, you can feel better knowing it was at least 7 long years in the making. He’s so strong now, that his ultimate is basically Omniknightslash.


If you’re looking to counter him then you’re in trouble, he’s often a bit tricky to do so. Stats wise a good Meepo is your best bet, but if you can’t micro so well a Drow, Abaddon or Ursa performs well. The problem that normally arises however, is that the heroes who are good against Jugg generally aren’t laning against him. Someone like Drow will be in a pickle if Juggernaut was able to get constant early game kills with Blade Fury.

I feel that there’s two main strategies to beating a Juggernaut. Ideally you want to Silence him and then kill him before it ends. This works well for heroes like Clinkz, Riki and Drow, especially since most Juggernauts either don’t get a BKB, or get one really late as a 4th or 5th item. Sometimes however Blade Fury will silence himself, which is where a Drow, Clinkz, or Ursa can often do large amounts of physical damage before it ends. With Manta rising in popularity, Riki is sometimes more desirable. The other main strategy is to simply not die during Omnislash, such as with the likes of Abaddon or Omniknight.

Having extra creeps to tank up the slashes can work for this as well. It of course, also helps if you have a lane that won’t feed him kills when he uses Blade Fury. Sending a poor hero to solo offlane against him so you can have a jungler generally results in feeding. Duos generally work better, but you really have to play smart. Later on in the game, having a creep or illusion to kill the Healing Ward from afar is also useful, melee heroes can get kited by it during fights, while during pushing a safe option is desirable. Even something more creative like a Spirit Lance and then microing the illusion to kill the ward can be useful, while PL can also break the Omnislash with his new Doppelganger skill. Alternatively, Oracle’s Fate’s Edict is incredibly good at preventing kills during the laning phase as it gives 100% magical resistance.

His Spin and Omni make him incredibly difficult to gank past laning, perhaps even turning it back around on you, whereas in laning you’re likely to have problems. Even Juggernaut’s Base HP regen is higher than normal. Most heroes have 0.25 base HP regen, Juggernaut has 0.75.

Nerf Hammer

I agree that it’s definitely time that Juggernaut gets nerfed. He’s become a hero that is strong at every point in the game. His spin works well early on, while the ward is great for pushing and sustain, and the great crit + good farming + low BAT makes him formidable late game. He could get the Terrorblade treatment, where his early game is nerfed slightly. I think you should start off by removing the bonus HP regen and maybe 10 movespeed as well. Then consider slightly lowering the cast range of Omnislash.

On the bright side, Juggernaut is the 2nd most picked hero for the month in professional Dota. Even though it’s only 8 days into the month, he already has a 84% pick/ban rate, second only to Brewmaster. Perhaps 6.83b will have some minor nerfs to both heroes.


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6.83 Win Rate Changes

As I do every patch, I like to wait about a week before running the numbers on win rate changes for the patch. I feel like a few days are needed for things to stabilize, as the first days are often erratic. These extra days also allow me to spot trends, as sometimes it takes a while for players to adjust to changes; such as to the removal of Impale’s hero targeting a few patches ago.


Troll Warlord takes the top spot, although closely followed by Jugg. With Troll’s fast attack speed he’s impacted by the Maximum attack speed change to some extent. Although they were also changed, with the Fervor-fix being lovely, while Jugg’s increased base damage and a better critical strike early game massively increased his potency early game. Sniper’s change was also very strong, but I feel like it will take some getting used to as people adjust their builds to the new way. Previously people who maxed Shrapnel first had a better win rate. Everyone who didn’t have it maxed by level 7 or 8 had a better win rate getting stats over a late Shrapnel. I will run grab data next month to see how the changes to Shrapnel tie into skill build effectiveness. Bounty Hunter is not pictured, but is a few places lower with a 1.23% gain.

For placings, Juggernaut jumps up 17 places to have the 6th best pub win rate, right above a 7th place Crystal Maiden. Juggernaut has been a top 10 most played hero for a while now, and he has been consistently increasing in play rate this year, so I imagine him to be the next Tinker or PA. CM and Juggernaut have a very solid 64% win rate together. Abaddon also pops up to 2nd highest win rate, while Troll has 10th highest with 55%.



Ogre Magi is hardest hit, but it’s not as bad as you think since he still has a 52.7% win rate. Pro-Scene heroes like Death Prophet and Brewmaster dropped as expected, while Kunkka will take some adjusting to. His win rate is actually slightly dropping as the days go by; I imagine a lot of people don’t know what order to skill the hero anymore.Like with Sniper, I am watching Kunkka’s build to see how things changes.

Overall the losses seemed pretty mild, probably since there honestly weren’t that many nerfs to begin with. No hero has been put to dumpster tier, which can’t be to said to Alchemist a few patches ago. It’s nice to see IF taking more care with the nerfs this time round.

The Who Else

Some heroes that people expected to rise or fall did very little of the sort. Lone Druid had a massive change as his play rate shot up on Day 1, but afterwards it went back to normal and his win rate only dropped -0.15%. Which is basically nothing. Lifestealer had a similar treatment with -0.20%, and Faceless Void and Witch Doctor were both around a -0.90% change. Alchemist only increased 0.38%, and Slardar basically didn’t even move.

Diffusal Blade changes seem to have basically no impact on the game what so ever. People originally thought the Huskar and Ursa UAM removal would be crazy, but everything adjusted. I imagine in the future Caustic and Liquid Fire will be removed for simply being unnecessary, while Frost Arrows will be looked at as well.

Overall it was a rather mild patch, 6.82 was far more drastic. With gains as high as 7% and losses as big as -5% as can be viewed at the link below.

See Also: 6.82 Win Rate Changes – Previous Patch’s Changes
See Also: Dota in 2014 – Statistical Summary of the Year


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Dota in 2014

It has been 18 months since a hero was added to the game; a very odd feat. While 4 heroes have been ported, there hasn’t actually been an original hero added – which is very bizarre. And yet, I would still say 2014 was the biggest year for the game. So I decided to take a look at what 2014 did for Dota, from the important stats, to some interesting observations.


In 2012, IceFrog created Ember Spirit; adding his charged based Fire Remnants to the game. Eighteen months later in 2013, Earth Spirit came along with his charged based remnants as well. Then in 2014 he kicked it up a notch. In 6.81, Shadow Demon Aghs was added to the game, becoming charge based. A patch later in 6.82, Riki was retooled and gained blink-strike charges. In 6.83 Sniper received a similar treatment with Shrapnel. It may seem bizarre to start off a ‘2014 in Dota’ article talking about charges, but I thought I would start off with something less number based (there’s a lot of stats/data down below). For 3 full version-patches in a row he has added charges, while the two Spirits only hit Dota 2 at the end of 2013. So for most Dota 2 players, they’ve had 5 charged based abilities in only 13 months, for years previously only items had charges. I find IceFrog’s recent favoring of the charge system really interesting, but almost never talked about. I wonder which future abilities will receive the charge treatment, if any.

See Also: A basic timeline of Dota 2 versions with heroes added

By The Numbers

In 2014, Dota 2 has increased its playerbase by ~35%. In 2013 the highest concurrent peak was 700k in November, where as this year we peaked at 960k during the Manifold Paradox event. The average amount of players online at any point has also had a similar boost, with about a 35% increase in numbers.

While gathering data on viewers is tricky, since you need to add numbers from over 6 different sources and then there’s still the unknown number of people who have multiple platforms open at once (such as Twitch and DotaTV), Professional Dota excelled in 2014. As far as prizepools go, 65% of all Dota 2 prize money was in 2014 with over 16 million dollars awarded. Last year, The International was ~65% of all prize money for the year, which is about the same as 2014. This is pretty great considering TI4 raised an absurd 10.9 million dollars and still managed a similar percent. World Cyber Arena 2014 was the second biggest tournament with ~400k prizepool, while The Summit 2 and i-League were closely behind with ~300k prize pool. While this may seem like the professional scene is heavy carried by TI, I think people overlook the fact that teams can still earn good ‘Alpine Ursa’ money outside of TI.

Even this site – Zota – did well with over 200,000 page hits this year. I hope that all of you that have visited liked what you read!

See Also: BTS and DC Have The Best Parts of the $40 Million Dota 2 Ticket Industry Pie

Pub Heroes

I tend to find that people overlook how much pubs change over the course of many months; since it slowly changes over the weeks. I find it very similar to weight gain/loss; you don’t notice it if you see the person every day, but if you haven’t seen them in a few months you really notice the change. So how have pubs changed? I compared January pubs to the last few days.

Win rate Gains and Losses since January 2014

Troll is the biggest winner of the year by pub win rate, although about 40% of these gains are in the 6.83 patch, he still improved drastically over the year. Juggernaut has also been consistently buffed; he has a better BAT than a professional cricket player. For losses, Death Prophet and Alchemist take the cake. IF nerfed Alch into dumpster tier with the changes to stun/vision, while Death Prophet has been so popular in the pro-scene that she has received constant nerfs. Exorcism cooldown is 45% longer after 3 nerfs to it. Please note that win rate changes are shown in raw percent (50% winrate to 55% is a +5% gain).

Play rate changes for the year, in Actual %

As far as play rate of heroes go we also see a bunch of changes. Please note that the above table uses actual percent (5% play rate to 10% play rate is a +100(%) gain). Phantom Assassin and Void became the atypical pub carries of 2014, both more than doubling in popularity. Tinker also saw massive gains, with an extra 80% in playtime, and this is after the massive nerfs to the hero. Veno and Visage about halved in popularity, which is pretty interesting since Visage is already incredibly unpopular. Comparing play rate to win rate is interesting, Troll has silently become the biggest win rate gainer, but is only played 35% more (not pictured). Another interesting tidbit is that the omnipresent Pudge actually became more popular this year, with a ~25% increase in play.

Pro Dota

In professional Dota the game changes as always. In January the most popular heroes were: Alchemist, Outworld Devourer, Visage, Timbersaw, Venomancer, Clockwerk, Crystal Maiden, Nature’s Prophet, Nyx, Enchantress, Bristleback, Storm Spirit, Lifestealer, Invoker, Slark, Dragon Knight, and Luna.

If you compare that list to today, almost all of these heroes have dropped massively in popularity. The current popular heroes are 100% different heroes. The top pick/banned heroes for November 2014 were Brewmaster, Tidehunter, Skywrath Mage, Death Prophet, Ogre Magi, Razor, Faceless Void, Vengeful Spirit, Viper, Centaur, Lycan, Batrider, Puck, and Jakiro.

People like to complain about a stale meta-game, but we are seeing complete shifts in popular heroes. This is the first time Ogre Magi has been popular in the pro scene since he was added to Captain’s Mode in May 2012. Even Jakiro is popular currently, but was last popular in December 2012 after the 6.75 Ice Path rework. The pro scene is constantly changing, and while some heroes last for months at a time (such as Batrider and Lycan), the pool of heroes always sees massive changes when you zoom out enough.

See Also: My Dota 2 Pro Hero Lists – An easy-access representation of popular pro-scene heroes over time

The Year’s MMR End

This year was ultimately a massive leap for Dota 2. There has been Agh upgrades added for 10 heroes: Tinker, Abaddon, KotL, Shadow Demon, Earth Spirit, Elder Titan, Phoenix, Sven, Timbersaw and Treant. Not to mention the revamped and buffed upgrades for a many heroes, such as Puck and Jakiro. I focus a lot on stats and theory on Zota, but I’m amazed by the leaps forward the game has taken this year. Even with myself, I’ve learnt many things and have constantly improved. This year alone I have a 60% win rate with Lina from 80 games, even though people slur my Lina playstyle/builds constantly. I’ve managed to forge my own niche and playstyle with her, rising above the 45% pub win rate she has.

Looking back at the year is very thought provoking, and I want to emphasize that the entire goal should be to improve, and to keep an open mind. Since MMR was added at the end of last year, I’ve seen a shift away from getting better at the game, to how to win the most. Inflating your MMR with a hero with around 60% pub winrate doesn’t make you a better player, it just is an easy way to increase your MMR number. The focus should always be on becoming a better player, not inflating your number to a place where you gloat about in teamchat whenever someone points out a mistake you made, or when you have a bad game.

I’m in about the top 200 for number of Dota 2 games played, and yet I never play ranked. I find this recent addition has made people no longer focus on improving across the board, but instead on how hard -allpick counterpicking, language option exploits, and imba heroes can stack the odds in your favor. For me, one of the challenges this year was not only doing well with Lina when I lose, but winning constantly with a hero who has a pathetic 45% win rate in Very High. I find it far more skillful to be able to constantly perform well with heroes that many consider trash, than to win with a hero like Wraith King.


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Playing With and Against Phantom Assassin

With Phantom Assassin surging in popularity earlier this year, and her being in almost every game during/since the Manifold Paradox event, I thought it would be a good idea to put out some general tips and data.

Dodgem Cars

Since Phantom Assassin has 50% evasion, you’ll notice that when you attack her you end up with more misses than a Saudi king; and they have a lot of wives. I tend to find that most people have enough sense to get an MKB against PA, even on heroes who don’t like getting one. It’s usually one of their first 3 item pickups. But this doesn’t only impact the PA, this impacts her team as well. I see far too many people get Butterfly on someone like a Luna when they’re on team with a PA. I find this to be a poor item choice, since the enemy carries are already going for an MKB. 50% evasion on PA, and then 35% evasion on her teammate tends to be putting too much emphasis on evasion. Even sometimes Halberd can be a bad pickup alongside a PA. I say that it’s a generally a pretty bad idea to get Butterfly when you are playing with PA, no matter how good of an item you think it would be for you. It’s putting too many Phoenix eggs in one basket.

> Safelane Please

Carries tend to have one thing in common that’s not Princess Leia related: they lose more when they have a carry on their team . While Phantom Assassin has seen a massive shift in laning over the past year, many still safe lane. All of the atypical ‘safelane carries’ also utilize the jungle to be successful. This means that PA’s worst teammates tend to be the heroes that want the same as her. Void, Terrorblade, Anti-Mage, Juggernaut, Chaos Knight, Lifestealer and Terrorblade all statistically don’t match up well when on the same team as PA. Despite laning shifts (such as a recent surge in offlane Void, Mid PA, etc), I would call these heroes fairly similar in laning: historically they’ve wanted to safelane, and use the jungle a bit. Even when in a different lane, they have similar ambitions and fill the same place in team (in most pubs).

You actually end up doing yourself a disservice if you pick this sort of hero, PA doesn’t perform too well when she plays alongside them. It’s humorous that people slur low/mid tier Dota for having too many carries, and yet PA still manages a better win rate in these ‘carry centric’ brackets despite the disadvantage. If you want to make the most of a teammate’s PA pick, it’s probably a hero you wouldn’t initially think of: Techies.

Yeah, based on a reliable method (matchups of win rates), Mortred’s best team mate overall (since he was added to Dota 2) has been Techies. Techies happens to go incredibly well with all the heroes that PA does bad with: the ‘safelane carry’. It’s incredibly likely that a offlane duo Techies ends up having such an impact on the enemy carry, that it gives PA the ability to ‘out-carry’. Being able to carry isn’t just about getting farm, it’s about stopping the enemy farm as well. With early kills, making it risky for the carry to push, and constantly restricting enemy movements, Techies ends up putting the PA in pal.

For the Veiled Ones!

Phantom Assassin is likely to only be on your team half the time, which still leaves an ungodly amount of games when you have to play against her. Sand King is one of her top counters in the game. Before IceFrog decided to make PA a nightmare by removing/reducing evasion-disabling from Legion Commander and Doom, I often enjoyed using them. Other times it was a Faceless Void, of course, that was before he removed the evasion-removal Chronosphere had. Yeah…. IF really has been egging on PA in recent history. Regardless, Sand King and his Veil of Discord works well against the Sisters of the Veil.

An essentially instant blink-disable – including mass Magical burst damage – frequently nets the king of the desert a kill. Sand King also has a much easier time getting a blink than heroes of a similar role, which allows him to exploit PA’s early game weaknesses. Omniknight and Razor are also top counters, who both tend to do well against ‘in your face’ heroes like PA or Lifestealer.  Centaur Warrunner can sometimes be a “poor-man’s Sand King”; lots of magical burst while Stampede helps with kiting PA throughout the game.

Easy to Overlook

I don’t like the common trope of “play your own game”. I tend to find that Dota is a team game resulting in one player’s actions having a massive impact on the success and failure of another, and the team as a whole. Terrorblade has 7 base armor, so I believe it’s rather silly for a laning Terrorblade to get a stout shield. Physical damage is not a weakness that needs to be solved in his starting items. Extra stats are far better at boosting his survivability and early game impact. So I tell them. After all, a Stout Shield’s 250 cost is 40% of your starting gold, which is a lot to spend on a hero with 7 armor and less than 500HP (435 base). Sometimes this occurs for Phantom Assassin as well, although not to the same extent. With 4 base armor resulting in about 20% physical reduction, and then 20% evasion on top of that, she looks pretty good against physical damage early on. And yet the vast majority of PAs will get a stout shield (if not a PMS) unquestionably.

Stout shield is generally great on high HP heroes with low/average armor, such as Centaur, or most famously when tanking creeps (such as in jungle). But PA spends a lot of time daggering creeps from afar, and is likely to have her first death predominantly from magic (perhaps from a mid gank such as QoP). It’s 250 gold for a ~53% chance to block 20 damage. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get it, but I think it shouldn’t be anywhere near as set as stone as it is now (and TB should probably get it less too).

When you kill a PA early on in the game, how effective was her 250 gold spent against you? It’s a thought to consider on almost any carry, when you die in the early game (even if you think a support or lack of wards was the cause), how effectively did you utilize your gold to prevent that high-impact early death? And the better part of this exercise, is when you kill an enemy carry in the first 20 minutes of a game, what mistakes did they make that allowed you to kill them? Perhaps their lack of boots due to their Midas rush enabled you to kill them, which you should factor into your decision making process next time you’re the carry. Don’t just learn from your own mistakes, learn from other people’s mistakes as well.

I See You (Later)

PA is an interesting hero. She basically forces you to buy an MKB, which can become problematic if you also need a slot for detection, anti-kite, magic immunity or a dispel. But if we are going to see her as much as we are, I think it’s at least a good idea to attempt to improve your ability to play with and against her. I try to encourage my readers to follow the philosophical viewpoint of Freethought when dealing with Dota 2.  That is to reject dogma and tradition, instead using logic, empiricism, and reason to come to conclusions on heroes, strategy, itemization and all things Dota related. So I’ve laid out some data, some reasoning, and some ideas. Give it some thought and hopefully you weren’t distracted by my terrible Carrie Fisher joke.


See Also: Building Phantom Assassin Effectively – My article from May this year, laying down Key Concepts with the hero while encouraging people to take advantage of her unique timing window.

BTS and DC Have The Best Parts of the $40 Million Dota 2 Ticket Industry Pie

As Dota 2 rose in popularity, more and more people tried to start their own casting team and studio to get a piece of the pie. But in recent times, organizations like JoinDota have become increasingly archaic as Beyond The Summit and DotaCinema claim victory. While Dota 2 expands across the board with incredibly revenues.

If we go back to The International 2, you’ll find that a lot of the casters are no longer leading the charge in the scene. Ayesee is currently casting Dota 2 League Season 5, which has struggled to sell any tickets. While Luminous, Draskyl, and Tobiwan aren’t looking so hot right now either. While Slesh, well, I never really liked his casting anyway. But let me explain why I’m calling the win for BTS and DC.

How Big Is The Industry?

I’ve heard some people complain about there being too many tournaments, but I disagree. I think the problem is that as you get more tournaments, people have a choice, and they end up choosing the product they believe to be superior. AKA, the crappy and/or undesirable tournaments get left in the corner. This isn’t there being too many tournaments, this is simply consumer desires rejecting poor products. We end up with Amazon’s Fire Phones of the Dota world.

If we look at money spent on BTS and DC tournaments in November alone, we’re just shy of a million dollars with revenues of 900k (USD). In October, there was 700k of revenue, and for both of these months I’m only looking at these two tournaments. The Dota 2 ticket industry is on target to hit around 40 million dollars this year alone. That’s 40 million dollars being spent on tickets via the Dota 2 shop in 2014, with about 10 million of it going towards prize pools. While most of this 40 million is Valve’s International, a solid 3-4 million is still going elsewhere. Although primarily to BTS and DC, which is incredibly important. Note that if item sales were included, I can easily see Dota 2 earning over 80 million in revenue for this year, but item data is much harder to come by. But 80 million is a safe estimate.

Ticket competition heats up at The Summit

Beyond The Summit

BTS held the first The Summit in June this year, and it went well. Starting with a base prize pool of 80k, before being raised to 130k by the community via ticket sales. The tournament was enjoyable with a good take on production value. There were ‘In-booth’ cams akin at The International, while also having a friendly talkative atmosphere and couch with the players, and various other cameras and content throughout the tournament. Evil Geniuses took home first place, but BTS were the true winners.

Fast forward to November, and The Summit 2 is in full swing, with the LAN finals starting in a few days time. While the original Summit only raised 50k, which was not even double, The Summit 2 has already increased the base 100k to an incredible 300k. The prize pool has tripled, and is likely to go even higher as there is normally a boost in ticket sales as the LAN starts.

Dota Cinema

Dota Cinema managed to snag Synderyn in time for their first tournament; the Captain’s Draft Invitational around February this year. Synderyn was well received as a player-turned-caster at TI2, but it took a while for him to end up as a ‘full-time’ caster. He was paired with Fail’s of the Week familiar Sunsfan, and they ended up following a incredibly similar path that The Summit took. Starting with a base pool of 20k, it was raised to 38k by the community, just short of doubling. The tournament was unique, humorous, and very enjoyable.

Right now the sequel tournament is being played, also in the Captain’s Draft game-mode. Starting out with 50k, it has already over 250k. That’s a quintupled prize pool, and the same 200k raised by the community that The Summit 2 has achieved thus far. And of course, both these tournaments are still ongoing, and likely to increase in success.

I Choose You, Sunsfanflora

Everybody Else

If we look at the other tournaments, you’ll notice vastly different community response: they aren’t ‘Beyond the Cinema’. Dreamleague Season 2 increased the base 100k, to only 114k. D2L Season 5 has improved 50k to only 58k. Even Starladder S11 has done incredibly worse than S9 and S10, with 80k going to 110k. The Summit 2 earnt more in it’s first 2 days, than Starladder has in its current 16 day run. While DC did it in 12 hours. BTS and DotaCinema hit the ground running as soon as they went on sale, where as other tournaments trod along at a rate slower than Crystal Maiden.

But Why?

To keep things shorter, I will probably go more in depth about why in a future article. But the primary reason is that both BTS and DC are able to create a positive and aesthetic tournament, that are both unique and vastly enjoyable. Synd and Suns have a rapport that is hugely attractive to an English speaking consumer. Far more so than 5 guys talking over eachother and yelling ‘wow’, or consistently getting Rocket Barrage and Battery Assault confused. If Syn and Suns make a mistake, their rapport gets them through it and oddly enough, often adds to the cast. BTS as described a few paragraphs up, are able to create a more serious, but equally unique and enjoyable product. Every studio/company will always have some viewers by their side, loving the way they’ve set up shop, but shifts in the market alongside clever business practices have catapulted BTS and DC into the lead.

Both companies are able to deliver a product that stands out from the crowd. A tournament is no longer simply hosting the event, you have to own the day. Deliver with booth cams, tub interviews, interaction with players, humorous moments, alternative game-modes, in-game cosmetics, compendiums and then some. Tournaments are no longer about just the games, but a series of events and experiences that thrust them in front of the riffraff. Casters are just one piece of the puzzle, and ultimately it doesn’t matter if everyone knows your name, what matters is delivering a product that people are willing to buy.

At the end of the Dota day when Nightstalker comes out to play, I tend to find that the scene is thriving. Ticket Sales make tournaments happen, so using them to judge the success of tournament is far easier than adding viewer numbers from 5 different locations/websites over the course of 50 different games. You may get a few viewers on stream when no one else is playing, but if you fail to convert popularity and desire into a ticket purchase, then you are falling behind the frontrunners.

DotaCinema are likely to hold another two tournaments next year, and The Summit 3 and 4 are planned either side of The International during Feb-April and September-December respectively. With BTS and DC owning the night (like the fourth of July), it’s entirely possible for well known names and organizations to fall by the wayside. Who knows what the future holds, or where the meepos will fall.


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Data on Server Size and Dota Demographics

Dota 2 is a global game, but I wasn’t sure exactly how big it was in each region. I was determined to know, so I set off collecting data for an entire week in mid August 2014 in order to find out. My method for this article is to use the Waiting Queue to determine the Server Size. I can obtain data based on how many people are currently playing Dota, as well as data on how many people are waiting for a game of Dota per server. I can use this to extrapolate and create models to determine the size of player bases across the globe.

Server Range

Every day each server peaks and troughs at different time. Using this data, I can create a Server Range; the min and max range of players that are searching for a game at any point on each server. I have also taken samples from across the day, to determine the average amount of players searching per server. The average also helps determine the gradient; some servers have a very steep peak, others are much more gentle knolls.

The image is a tad small here. But Russia and EUW are the two biggest servers, they very consistently have a high numbers of players on them. Conversely, in Dubai, Korea, and South Africa there is an incredibly small amount of players. Elsewhere in Asia, both Chinese servers are big, but they tend to fall off really hard. Each day, Chinese Dota outclasses SEA Dota overall, but Chinese servers don’t last very long. In SEA the servers are busy for hours on end, where as in China the servers seem to rise and fall really fast. This causes SEA to have about the average amount of players playing as the two Chinese servers combined, even though SEA peaks lower.  In the Americas, all three servers are similar in size. Brazil has a hard fall off, but still manages to beat USW overall. USE is the biggest server in the region across the board.

My theory is that the bigger your server is, the better the matchmaking will be. Playing on Australia you will likely get rather large difference in people’s unranked MMR, as well as less precise MMR across the board. In EUW however, the pool of players is about eight times bigger, which should cause far better matchmaking. It’s thus better for Dota 2 pubbers to have big scenes in small locations, rather than have small scenes all over the world. Being good on a South African server is meaningless, since you will consistently be put with opponents and allies that are severely under your skill level. This not only makes it harder to get better at the game, but will heavily impact your playstyle; causing you to be much more of a ‘one many army’ dota player.

Player Demographics

Working with my data, I can start to work out the demographics of the Dota population. Some players aren’t very faithful to their servers due to internet pathing, so I’ve split them up into regions. Players are likely to play at least within their region, such as Arabs on either Dubai or an European server, and Peruvians on one of the 3 American servers. While people can play anywhere, the vast majority of players are likely to play at least near them for ping reasons, with a very insignificant amount of say Russians playing in Korea.


Over the course of a 24 hour day in each region, about 46% of the people searching for matches are from Europe, which includes the Middle East and Russia. A solid quarter of players are Chinese, although SEA is not too far behind. In the untitled part is other countries at 2.5%, with 1.9% being Australian.

This data however is susceptible to a couple of outside factors, causing some limitations. In Australia, a very rich county where people game at home, a Dota 2 player can generally play when he wants to. He doesn’t have to travel to a Net Cafe, nor wait for money to afford to use one. In SEA however, Net Cafes are incredibly popular, which also means that the SEA server base is limited by the amount of computers available in Net Cafes, as well as their culture and opening hours. I said earlier that SEA servers were busy for long periods of time, where as China has a much more sudden peak. I actually predict that SEA is probably bigger than what is represented. Overall this pie graph is a tricky one, especially when you consider time zones. Since more time zones will result in lower peaks and higher averages.

Predicting Player Bases and the Miscellaneous Stats

I also know how many people have the Dota 2 client running, which is publicly available information. Generally, there seems to be about 5% of people with the Dota 2 client running searching for a game. It appears that Dota 2 peaks at about 8% of the total monthly player base each day, and that 15-20% of the Dota community play each day.

Obviously the waiting queues get massive surges when a server fail, as people all rush to find a game. The odd thing however is that weekends don’t seem to increase the numbers of players playing. Both in total players online, and in players searching, weekends seem to have no to very little effect on Dota players. Restaurants get peaks on certain days, such as the weekends, whereas Dota doesn’t seem to have a weekly busy period.

This blog has over 200,000 views in the past 12 months, but is 60% USA/UK/AUS/Canada. It has a fair amount of western Europe and SEA;  both Vietnam and Poland are much higher than I would expect, and even have 28 views from Iraq. I imagine the Dota 2 Reddit would have a similar skew, being primarily the ‘five eyes’.


The Server search range is solid data, but other data becomes incredibly difficult to get exactly right. I’ve tried to create logical models and have reliable information, excluding less reliable results from the article.

Another article I am working on is how global events impact the Dota 2 player base. Primarily looking at the Ukraine-Russia crisis and the devastation it has caused to the Russian economy, as well as the Hong Kong democracy protests. My initial data suggests that they both have caused large declines in players. I also should mention that two new South American servers will be online shortly, and will keep my eye on how this impacts the player base. I am however very critical of this decision; the numbers tell me that to keep the player base the most sane, only one server should have been added. A server that caters to Spanish speaking South Americans.

6.82 Win Rate Changes

The new patch has been out for over a week now, which I feel is enough time to do a rundown in both win rate and play rate. I was picky in my data samples because of Techies. So I’ve chosen to compare all 6.82 data including 6.82b, with that of one week in September, a full week with Techies already in the game. Techies addition to Dota 2 should thus have much less of impact on this post. Note that all percents are raw percents, and show actual changes in the percent values.



A lot of increases seem to be due to longer games and the Tier 1s being up for longer. Spectre and Omni received minor changes, but skyrocketed to win rates over 60%. There has only been one other time in the past 2 years where a hero had a win rate over 60% in the last two years; when Centaur Warrunner was added in October 2012. Even Spirit Breaker and Drow Ranger at their worst couldn’t consistently break 60%, and I can’t ever recall a higher win rate. Medusa is another interesting gainer – as she now has a 53.55% win rate – which makes her one of the stronger carries in pub Dota. Lets see if the pros take any notice of her. Some of the hero rises are also a bit odd; Earthshaker and Phoenix are somewhat unexpected.

As for play rate, reworks and remodels take the top 3 spots, but Bloodseeker is entirely ignored. He only went up 0.5%, which is pretty negligible given the time frame. Axe went up, probably as people thought it was the best hero to try out Crimson Guard on. While Spectre was probably as people caught win of the win rate changes, although there’s been a lot of Crimson on her too. People were obsessed with Aghanim’s last major patch, but far less fuss for the new Aghs, with Bane, Phoenix and Puck’s changes mostly ignored, while Timbersaw and his foe Treant managed small gains off the back of their Aghs.



Nerfs to the forever annoying global Tinker and Nature’s Prophet caused some happy losses, while Bloodseeker’s rework will take some getting used to. Phantom Lancer didn’t drop anywhere near enough, off the chart above at only -1.17%. I find Clinkz’ fall rather interesting, I assume people’s experimentation with orbs has resulted in less wins for the hero. This is likely as he’s already improving in win rate as the days tick by. This list isn’t overwhelmed with “early game heroes” either, it’s primarily nerfed heroes. Chen and Bane are highlights, although they both happen to perform incredibly badly against Phantom Lancer, who did get a massive surge in picks post patch. Lone Druid also had a solid loss.

I removed Techies from the play rate, as he’s been decreasing as people move on from the original addition to the game. But apart from that it’s primarily the heroes who were nerfed. Tiny’s decrease is likely not to last; his win rate went up as seen in the first section. Although Tiny was not directly changed in the version, his win rate still shot up a remarkable 2.51%, which is notable.