With the first DPC season coming to a close, 7.28's meta has really started to take shape. We are seeing competitive teams construct line-ups revolved around early aggression and team-fighting, with many of the carry heroes being picked for their ability to fit into varied line-ups and deal with a mix of different matchups in the lane. Being sustainable and creating space rather than taking it up are key elements in this patch, and all of the best Dota 2 carries in 7.28 encapsulate those sentiments.
Wraith King would likely be considered the carry of the patch, with a win-rate of 53% in public matches and 57% (in 270 games) in competitive Dota. These win-rates show that he has been a consistently strong core since the Mistwoods Update in mid-December of last year. With incredible self-sustainability, early team-fighting prowess, and a new Aghanim’s Shard that mitigates huge weaknesses in his kit, Wraith King is easily one of the best Dota 2 carries in 7.28.
A Sustainable Future for Your Team
Sustainability is, perhaps, the main buzzword with regards to Dota 2 carries in 7.28. The ability for a core to look after themselves and maintain good farm is always useful, as it allows the best supports in 7.28 to leave you alone to perform their role in more productive ways, such as ganking and warding. It also allows the team’s other cores to gain farm from the map and pressure other objectives, as they don’t have to worry as much about creating space for their hard carry.
Wraith King’s Mortal Strike allows him to sustain himself in the jungle from very early on, meaning he can farm independently, while also freeing up the lane for a support to gain important early levels. It also allows him to be at high enough health that he can both survive ganks and respond to team-fights or tower pushes around the map. His skeletons also allow him to both farm efficiently and push enemy towers if left alone in a lane.
Wraith King’s ultimate has always been incredibly strong. The chance to come back with a second life, along with all of your mana and health returned, is something that nearly every hero could benefit from. The ability has always had one main caveat, however, which is that the mana cost was high enough that a strength hero such as Wraith King often struggled to have the ability ready for use. This was often compounded by counter-picks, such as Nyx or Antimage with their mana burning abilities, or a core hero simply picking up a Diffusal Blade.
With his level 20 talent in previous patches, Wraith King could finally remove the pesky mana cost and fight without worry about his mana pool causing him an impromptu death. In 7.28, with the Mistwoods Update, this talent has been altered to give him 30 extra movement speed, and the newly added Aghanim’s Shard now grants him the ability of a zero-mana-cost Reincarnation. That’s 1400 gold, to remove Wraith King’s single biggest weakness.
Suffice it to say, this change has been a huge buff to the hero, with the ability to now get bonus move-speed at level 20 also being a nice way to mitigate the hero’s other big weakness of being kited in the late-game. The Aghanim’s Shard alone could have been enough to make Wraith King one of the best Dota 2 carries in 7.28, and yet, there’s more.
Without the drawback of mana cost, his ultimate is incredibly strong in the late-game. Most carry heroes have to worry about their position a great deal in late-game scenarios, but Wraith King can actually start fights himself because his ultimate makes him a solid initiator.
Because he is tanky and difficult to deal with, teams will want to ignore him and focus on the other heroes in the team-fight, however, with any mobility items like a blink, or ways to stop enemy heroes from blinking with a radiance, he is hard to kite. The AOE slow when his ultimate pops also means that teams are often punished for focusing down a Wraith King at the beginning of a fight, because clumping up after initiating on him can put your team in prime position to be counter-initiated on.
The addition of overwhelming blink, while not a major contributing factor to the hero’s win-rate, is also a big boon for Wraith King, as it makes his late-game initiation even stronger. There are two ways you generally want to initiate as Wraith King. The first is to jump onto a hero (usually a support) and blow them up. Overwhelming blink gives you a nuke of 200 damage + 100% of your current strength. This means you get an initial nuke, followed by your stun and then right click damage after that; if you crit, this will often result in an instantly dead support hero.
The second way to initiate as Wraith King is to challenge the enemy carry to fight you. Overwhelming blink helps here again, because when you blink, anyone in an 800 AOE of where you land will receive a 50% movement and attack speed slow. This makes it much harder for the carry you jump on to both kite you and fight you one on one. If they do manage to kill you, they will be activating your ultimate and causing yet another AOE slow and have to kill you again.
Take A Knee Peasant
Wraith King has been one of the most ubiquitous heroes of 7.28, with a high pick-rate in both public matches and competitive Dota 2. The hero encapsulates the main focus of the patch, which revolves around mid-game aggression, team-fighting, and cores that can participate in early skirmishes and pushes. Wraith King’s Aghanim’s Shard has seen him become a much more viable core, even against counter-picks, and the simple execution of the hero has allowed competitive teams to slot him into a variety of drafts.
Wraith King might not just be one of the best carries in 7.28, he may in fact be the best hero in the patch, period.
Riki has always been a strong hero in lower brackets. His permanent invisibility makes him the bane of players who aren’t familiar with the power of true sight, and his strong agility gain gives him quick bursts of damage that support heroes struggle to deal with. In higher brackets however, the hero has often been overlooked. Invisibility is easily countered when people carry Dust of Appearance and know where to place Sentry Wards, and his low health pool make him easy to take down in the late-game compared to other cores.
Silent Like Smoke
So, what’s changed for Riki Maru? The most glaring changes to the hero in the Mistwoods Update revolved around large buffs to his first ability, Smoke Screen. The cast radius has been increased at all levels, with an overall buff to the miss rate it produces and a mana reduction on top of that. You can also cast it while you are using Tricks of the Trade, helping you escape unfortunate situations more easily.
Silences are also strong in general in this patch, with some of the best spell-heavy mid heroes in 7.28 such as Puck, Ember Spirit, and Void Spirit being popular picks. The miss chance on top of the silence is also fantastic as a counter to heavy-hitting carries that like to get on top of heroes and burst them, such as Wraith King and Troll, making Riki a solid counter-pick when considering a core. This may be one of the main reasons for Riki being one of the best Dota 2 carries in 7.28.
Cloaked and Daggered
Riki doesn’t operate like a lot of other late-game cores. He isn’t a hero that necessarily wants to sit in a lane and farm constantly, instead favouring a playstyle of ganking isolated heroes and involvement in early skirmishes. With his permanent invisibility, Riki is always a threat on the map as well. Much like when a hero such as Pudge or Nyx Assassin are missing from the mini-map, the enemy team has to be wary of potential ganks. This kind of psychological impact can slow down enemy farm, by making them think certain areas are unsafe, and potentially force them into bad engagements, due to thinking there are less heroes in the vicinity of a fight than there actually are.
Riki’s ability to scout for information, gank, and impact the enemy’s map movement is certainly one of his major strengths.
Competitive vs Public
It should be noted that while Riki’s win-rate in public matches has trended upward, from 49% in late February to over 50% in March, his win-rate in competitive Dota has seen the opposite occur. At the beginning of the DPC season, Riki was sitting at a 55% win-rate (from 66 total games), while he now sits at 109 games played with only a 44% win-rate. Competitive Dota is obviously a different ballgame in many regards. Teams rely on team composition and draft much more, with heroes and strategies being figured out and their weaknesses exploited through a competitive season.
Rikimaru Comes for You
Riki has always been a pub game terror, especially in the lower brackets. This means that while we are seeing a downward trend in the hero’s win-rate in competitive Dota 2, this isn’t necessarily indicative of the hero’s strength in actual public games. Considering the large number of benefits to picking this hero in 7.28 and the way the patch’s meta has unfolded, Riki should still be considered a top pick, especially against other popular cores.
Troll Warlord has been dominant in many patches in the past, perhaps most notably the fateful 6.83, in which he and Sniper made Dota 2 a hellish landscape of perma-bashes and mini-stuns. In 7.28 the hero is in an interesting place, where there are a number of specific reasons why he is being picked up in professional games that can translate well to pub matches, none of which are the necessarily the result of over-buffing.
Having said that, the slight increase in movement speed to Berserker’s Rage has made the hero stronger in the early stages of the game, and allowed him to avoid getting kited in the later portions of matches as well. On top of this, the introduction of his new Aghanim’s Sceptre, which gives him a self-dispel and a dispel on opponents, has allowed diversification of item builds in the late-game if needed.
Strength in the Lane
Troll Warlord, unlike a lot of other carry heroes, is self-sustaining in many ways. In the early laning stage the hero can hold his own against heroes that most cores struggle to deal with. This is mostly due to his ability to switch between melee and ranged form, allowing him to dish out decent harass against heroes that punish melee cores, such as Slardar and Clockwerk. The evasion he receives from Whirling Axes also helps him trade efficiently with melee heroes that attempt to harass him out of the lane.
Troll also has decent survivability. When in melee form, Whirling Axes gives him evasion and movement speed, allowing him to run from ganks and tank right-clicks from opponents, and when in ranged form, Troll gets a slow that he can use to stop opponents from landing close-ranged stuns and abilities.
Whirling Axes also allows Troll to be aggressive early in the laning stage. His slow means he can chase effectively and having two nukes instantly gives him a bit of burst damage, with the added evasion decreasing the chance of getting turned on.
Coming Online and Staying Online
One of Troll’s strengths is that he is effectively a strong hero at all stages of the game. He has a good laning phase, a decent amount of damage and sustain at level six, has a large spike in power when he gets his BKB in the mid-game and can generally take on most cores in late-game scenarios. The power of the hero is that, although he is often BKB dependent, his abilities are what make him a powerful core, rather than any specific item build.
While Troll used to fall behind in farm when pitted against other carry heroes with AOE clearing abilities, 7.28 has a focus on Battlefury as a core item on melee carries, which has allowed him to keep up. Unlike an Antimage though, Troll farming a Battlefury doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be AFK in the jungle for 10 minutes, as he is much more capable of early and mid-game fighting.
With Troll’s new ultimate giving him survivability as well as damage, he has become one of the scariest carries in the late-game. Even one of the best Dota 2 carries in 7.28, Wraith King, is going to struggle to take on a farmed Troll in the late-game, as his ability to perma-stun heroes once he has a Basher allows him to man-fight nearly any opposing carry during his ultimate.
While the item has given the hero some extra build options for the mid and late-game, it is not the main reason the hero is being picked. The self-dispel can be especially useful against heroes with powerful slows who are using them to kite you, while being able to dispel enemy heroes with defensive spells can mean getting kills you otherwise couldn’t.
However, the item is highly situational, shown by its relatively low pickup-rate in competitive matches. In 186 matches, the item has only been bought 27 times, usually around the 20-minute mark, and mostly by the same few players.
Ultimately, the Aghanim’s Sceptre is an item you are only likely to buy in very specific scenarios, or in situations where your hero is already six-slotted and you want to get the Aghanim’s Blessing as a bonus.
Fortune Favours the Troll
Overall, much like Wraith King, Troll Warlord’s biggest strength is his self-sustainable nature. While this has been a feature of the hero for a few patches now –really since his ultimate was changed to its current state–7.28’s heavy focus on mid-game pressure and team-fighting has made Troll’s toolkit highly valuable. His ability to challenge other carries, such as Wraith King, who perform a similar role, is also an asset to teams as a countermeasure.
Carrying in Dota 2 Patch 7.28
What 7.28 seems to show us, is that self-sustainability in cores is highly prized. Heroes like Wraith King and Troll Warlord don’t need to have a support constantly babysitting them during the laning phase and are able to create kill opportunities in the early and mid-game despite a lack of items. Riki Maru, while having a weaker laning phase than the other two, can create space in the mid-game by ganking isolated heroes and picking up farm that way.
This aggressive style of core not only allows for more stable laning phases, but it helps your supports by allowing them to move more freely around the map and create ganking opportunities. The best Dota 2 carries in 7.28, like Troll or Wraith King, can also teleport to early engagements to help secure kills and to turn skirmishes into claiming towers and other objectives.
While having an ultra-farmed core can be extremely beneficial, spreading the wealth out across your team means that team-fighting is more difficult for your enemy, as focusing high networth heroes becomes harder to execute. It also allows your offlane and mid hero to secure farm more quickly, making grouping and pushing an easier task in the mid and late-game.
If you want to win your pub games, choosing the correct core is always going to be a huge help. If you choose one of the three heroes listed here, you are likely to have one of the best carries in 7.28, and will increase your chances dramatically. Realistically though, you should probably just pick Wraith King.