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Dota Underlords patch due to change flippin' everything this weekend

Time for some relearning

Oh, I'd missed doing this: combing through reams of arcane patch notes, jointly audibly reacting as you and your friends stumble across change after change that unravels your understanding of a game you're invested in. Valve are upending Dota Underlords this weekend. Neutrals will be nastier, spells will no longer target (most) summons, over half the heroes are due to be rejigged and - most interestingly of all - re-rolling the hero shop will never cough up a hero that was just on offer.

What does it all mean! Good things, mostly.

The full patch notes are here. Valve say they "hope to get this out to you in time for the weekend, and we'll keep you updated in case that plan changes."

I like the shop rework because it's a step towards giving me greater control over chance. My thoughts on that have only cemented in the hours I've played since my Dota Underlords review. I still think randomness plays too great a role once you start being matchmade against experienced players. I too often seem to make the right decisions and still lose, but this change potentially threads in another layer of consideration at every turn. (You can read the patch note two ways. If you buy a hero from the shop and then re-roll, will you have a chance of seeing it again, given that you just removed it from the shop? Or does it calculate based on what it initially offers? The first way seems cool, but the other seems to run counter to the point - if the point is indeed to give you more control. We'll see. Let's move on.)

At the moment, being defeated by the neutrals that spawn every five rounds often isn't that big a deal. They just limit your item choices, and you can often land something useful anyway. Once the patch lands, being defeated by neutrals will knock your rewards down a tier, which is potentially huge. The change incentivises you to spend more money early on, which upsets the current generally optimal strategy of saving as much money as you possible can for later rounds. A good change!

I'll be interested to see what happens to mages. They're currently a powerful alliance that vastly increases magic damage output, but one that's hard to build around as many of their heroes don't appear until late. The patch twiddles with that dynamic in all sorts of ways. Razor has been nerfed, but brought down to a tier-one hero, which might make building around mages early more viable. Spells no longer target low-key summoned units like Prophet's treants or Lycan's wolves, so they should fare better in those matchups. The main role of summons is to act as a distraction, and this means they no longer do that at ALL for spells. I don't know how often games hang on that, but I could say that about almost anything in Dunderlords.

The mages are also more affected than most by the Global Item changes, which now come in different tiers. So: Final Flash used to be a solely tier-three item that made mages cast their spell one more time when their health reached a 30% threshold. All of the items that buff alliances can now arrive in three separate tiers, so you might get an earlier but weaker version of Final Flash that only triggers once a mage's health drops down to 10%. It's a neat change, because the big problem with Global Items is that they commit you to a certain path early on. As guidesman Ollie (wisely) says in his Dota Underlords strategy guide, the best players are the most flexible ones. With the patch, you might be tempted to alter your plans if a powerful tier-three item drops into your lap.

There is much I haven't mentioned, but I'll leave the rest to Dota Cinema. I haven't had a chance to watch much of the video below, but I always found them a trustworthy source back in my Dota days.

Watch on YouTube

While I've still got mixed feelings about the game, it's great to see Valve making sweeping changes. It's been ages since I got a glimmer of the glee I used to feel during Dota patch note parties.

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