We Don't Need No Stinkin' Patch Notes — Liquid Wins Winter Clash

December 11 2018

Miracle just played Meepo in a grand final. That's not a sentence we get to write very often, but such is the chaos since 7.20. As the first big LAN since the patch, MegaFon Winter Clash was bound to be interesting, and with the likes of Liquid, VP, PSG.LGD and Secret in attendance, there was no shortage of talent. The invitational in Moscow was a brief taste of life in this new patch, and after missing out on the KL Major, Liquid are back in the groove with another Russian trophy to add to the collection. Heck, Matu even got to play Viper again.

A return to form has been on the cards for Liquid since their extended break. The win at Winter Clash follows qualification for the Chongqing Major, and we've been seeing glimpses of the shifting meta and Liquid's evolving hero pool over the past few weeks. By the fourth series in The Chongqing Major Europe Qualifiers, our Dota 2 team was already experimenting — to put it nicely. After three successful previous matches, including a 2-0 victory against Vega Squadron, we had already qualified, once again proving that “no changes” was the best strategy going into this season.

But while we’ve never had any doubts with our roster, even our Dota 2 boys were a little unsure how qualifers would go thanks to Patch 7.20, released on Nov. 19. One of Dota 2’s largest patches to date, 7.20 changed the game entirely. Nothing new for Dota pros, but to say it was insanity going into the qualifiers is an understatement.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Lasse Aukusti "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen admitted a few days before the qualifiers began. “We figured it would be a shit show, in a way. Nobody knows what’s happening yet. We don’t know what the real broken stuff is.”

With over 40 re-worked abilities, there was a lot to figure out leading up to qualifiers and Winter Clash. While no new heroes were introduced, many existing heroes might as well be thanks to patch notes that changed their entire playstyle. Nobody really knew what the new meta would be.

But just like patches past, the Team Liquid guys have proven their adaptability.

Against Vega Squadron, Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi played Brewmaster, who is almost always an offlane hero. It seemed like a weird pick for KuroKy, who plays Support, but that would be one of the least surprising heroes he would play that day.

In a further display of post-patch mastery, KuroKy continued to blow everyone’s minds by picking Meepo, Broodmother and Templar Assassin, heroes that were never thought of as supports before. The versatility continued when KuroKy then selected a core Bristleback, swapping from his usual role while MC skipped around the map on Pudge. After this match, it was really no surprise as to how KuroKy became the first pro player in the history of Dota to have played every single hero in a professional match.

Then in the second game, Maroun "GH" Merhej brought back Magnus. A core position hero traditionally, it was yet another interesting pick for a Support. But this is post-7.20 shit right now, folks.

At the MegaFon Winter Clash, things looked a little more settled down, but still with a few surprises. In the first game of the tournament, MC played mid Kunkka, and GH followed in game 2 with a support Tide Hunter. Against PSG.LGD, Matu had the opportunity to play two old favorites, Lone Druid and Viper, to secure a place in the upper bracket. With a first post-TI title on the line, our team went back to familiar drafts to leap ahead of Na`Vi, but one surprise was left: Miracle's Meepo to earn the trophy.

This may all sound like insanity, bringing all these new heroes to tournaments after only a week or so of practice, but our Dota 2 team is well known for their ability to adapt after patches.

You may recall the 7.07 patch, when the boys brought back Venomancer, even though he was considered anti-meta at that point. Then there was the time Ivan Borislavov "MinD_ContRoL" Ivanov single-handedly caused a first phase Nature’s Prophet ban. And we were the only team to play Visage in the Supermajor, which turned out to work out pretty nicely.

In other words, seeing our Dota 2 team come out triumphant after such game-changing patch notes doesn’t come as a surprise. First, a spot at the Major, and now, another title. The more the game changes, the most things stay the same for our winning ways.

“It’s honestly just putting in hard work,” explained Matu. “Every one of us plays a lot of games. If you play a lot, you get to play against the heroes and see all their changes. You get that information, and see who has potential. Because you basically have to learn new heroes, since there are so many new abilities. They all function so differently now.”

Matu said the changes were so significant, in fact, that he felt like he was playing a custom game. The map has changed. The terrain changed. It didn’t even feel like Dota to him. Some patch notes actually felt more like League to him.

Said Matu: “I noticed the game design is now aimed towards faster paced games. The towers feel like they’re from LoL or something. They just die.”

Despite the mayhem that ensued leading up to the qualifiers, Matu admitted that he’s actually glad that 7.20 changed the game so much. Sometimes it just starts to feel boring when there’s nothing new happening for a while and everyone is playing the same, he said. Now there are questions to answer, like which heroes will be OP? Which popular heroes will still be good? What changes will we have to make to how we play the game?

If Winter Clash is any indication, the changes have only empowered Team Liquid. Sure, GH is still playing KotL and Miracle is still crushing face with Anti-Mage, but we're starting to see a new meta take shape. Maybe Matu starts playing only Violet heroes (like Timbersaw and Dazzle), maybe we see more Meepo (probably not). Even though we'll keep everyone guessing with our drafts, no one's going to be surprised to see our team up on that podium again and again throughout the new season.

Writer // Olivia Richman

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