Content of the article: "Dear Valve, from a Chen Spammer (In Defense of High-Skill Heroes)"
Why you gotta do my boy like that?
We’ve all known for a long time Valve doesn’t think about Chen very much. Despite being a major part of the competitive scene since the very earliest days of Dota 2, Chen has been in the bottom-3 least-picked heroes in public games for just as much of his history. I can understand why Valve neglects Chen; they have minimal incentive to work on a hero who will never get picked by 99% of players in 99% of games. But still; explain to me how a hero who has had a major impact on every TI, a hero whose name is synonymous with high-level tactical gameplay, still has zero immortal items after nearly 10 years. Hell, even Mars already has multiple immortal items, and he’s been around for a fifth as long as Chen. But that’s not the point of this post.
Valve, I know that not many people play Chen, but please consider the fact that the few of us who do play this hero absolutely love him. Chen is a hero who requires commitment, dedication, and energy to learn. When you spend that much time getting to know a hero, you become attached to the things that make them special. You feel good about yourself for being able to succeed with a hero that not many people can play. You feel good when the other players in postgame chat say “damn, I’ve never actually seen a good Chen player before”. It’s a rewarding experience to learn and play Chen and, let’s be real, no one wants to play Dota because it’s easy. Difficult and complex heroes are part of what makes Dota so special.
Now before you write me off as a whiner, please understand that I’m not here to complain about Chen being nerfed. Heroes get nerfed sometimes, and Chen has been very strong in the hands of good players for a very long time. It was probably time for him to be nerfed. What I’m upset about is that his nerfs show that Valve devs put absolutely no thought into the changes they were making, and removed the most high-skill ability Chen had, that rewarded players with good map awareness and game IQ, and replaced it with a brain-dead skill that has virtually no utility. Allow me to explain, for all the non-Chen-spammers out there:
Before patch 7.28, Chen’s third ability, Divine Favour, passively provided an increase to all allied healing/regen in an AOE, and had an active ability which allowed Chen to recall an allied hero from anywhere on the map to Chen’s current position after 6 seconds. This allowed your team to have massive advantage in terms of map movement; within seconds, you could go from having one or two allied heroes in an area to 3 or 4, and create a fight with a numbers advantage before the enemy team had time to react (kind of like Io’s Relocate). This made Chen, a hero often picked by team Captains and shotcallers, one of the best tactical supports in Dota, and rewarded high-skill players with good map awareness.
In patch 7.28, the active component of Divine Favour was removed. In its place, Chen received a “brand new” Aghanim’s Shard spell, which seemed mighty familiar. Now, after purchasing Shard, Chen has the ability to send an allied hero back to the fountain after a 3 second delay (EDIT: commenter below pointed out that is is actually 6 second delay, so even worse). Ring any bells? That’s right; this is the same spell Chen used to have back in the legendary days of the Chen/Pudge fountain hook combo, of Puppey/Dendi fame at TI3.
So why is this a bad thing? Isn’t it fun and cool to have that legendary spell back?
Well…no. It’s not fun. Or useful. Or really very good in any way. And it’s reflected in his winrate, which has dropped over 5-10% in high brackets, which are the only brackets where he gets picked with any regularity.
With the old Divine Favour, Chen could make tactical plays around the map from minute 1 through minute 90. It was a high impact spell at all levels, on all teams, as long as the Chen player knew how to use it effectively.
With the new Divine Favour, you lose your playmaking ability entirely. Now, you get what can be described as a “save” spell, which can send your teammate back to fountain, and only back to fountain. Allow me to list the reasons why this spell is completely ineffective:
- It costs 1400 gold. Chen has more farming ability than many other supports, but that gold needs to be funneled into extremely efficient team/utility items, like Greaves, Vessel, Solar Crest, and other items to enable your cores. It’s very hard to justify spending 1400 on Shard when that gold could buy arcane boots, or most of a Mek, or a Medallion plus 4 sentry wards, or most of a Glimmer Cape. You will barely ever be able to justify buying Shard over other items.
- You can’t even get the spell until 20 minutes into the game. Even in a world where you can actually afford the Shard and can ignore other items, by the 20 minute mark the spell you get has already lost 90% of it’s utility. What made this spell so good back in the day was how useful it was in the laning stage. You could send your lane partner home and have them TP back, minimizing gold/XP loss and also having them act as a courier to bring back items from base. It also had some midgame impact to send your carries back to base to pick up major item components, or for efficiency with certain heroes with mobility skills like Ember Spirit or Kunkka.
Now, in the post-7.28 world, there is almost no way to have impact with this skill. You lose all the early-game efficiency due to the 20-minute time barrier. By the time you can actually get the item, really the only way for it to have any impact is if you manage to send a teammate home when they are getting low on HP during a teamfight. But think about it; is that actually a good thing? I mean, yeah, you save your teammate’s gold bounty, and keep them on the map instead of dead for 60 seconds. But they’re still out of the fight. They’re still on their own, halfway across the map. Your team still has to try to finish the fight at a numbers disadvantage. Instead of innately having a spell that can surprise enemies and give your team the numbers advantage, you now have to pay 1400 gold to get a spell that does the opposite.
I’m not trying to claim that there will never be a situation in which this item is useful. But I think those situations are so rare, so unlikely, that I do not see myself spending 1400 gold on this item in 99% of my games; which means, in effect, that the only change to Chen in this patch is that Valve took away the very spell that made Chen such a high-impact hero in the competitive scene. And if he loses that…what is he? Just a mediocre version of Beastmaster?
For a long time, Chen was the definition of a hero that was underwhelming in the hands of a novice, but devastating in the hands of someone who dedicated their time and energy to learning his nuances. Now, I don’t know what he is. But I know one thing; as a person who spent the last years picking Chen every chance I got, I now don’t see myself picking him again until changes are made. There is just no reason to.
You took a hero who was only ever picked by die-hard fans, and you removed the thing that made him special.
And I am sad.
- Leshrac’s Aghanim’s Shard
- Item builds with machine learning
- More information on the New Upcoming “Mind Control” Hero.
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