Break The Dota 2 Meta

Whether we like it or not, the metagame influences how we play Dota. It defines how
games play out, and often forces you into a playstyle that you might not otherwise enjoy or
want to play. But the meta does not need to, and should not limit the way that you play.
Creativity goes a long way in DoTa, and it is creative builds and gameplay styles that end up
forging the new meta. To get started, there is a simple question to be asked.

“How am I helping my team to win”

You must ask yourself this constantly. Some players get so caught up in the way that
they're 'supposed' to be playing a hero, that they don't even notice that they are contributing
nothing, and having absolutely no impact on the game. While there certainly are roles that
each heroes fills most effectively, but they should not ever be exclusively locked into that role.
Get out of the mindset that any hero has a certain way that they're meant to be played.

For example, a favourite out-of-the-box tactic of mine is running Axe in the mid lane.
This can be a hit-or-miss strategy, as getting shut down by an effective enemy midlaner with
heavy magic damage like Shadow Fiend can really send the game in a bad direction.
However, against midlaners who are trying to farm, Axe is an unstoppable force that
dominates the lane. His Counter-Helix lets him consume waves absurdly fast, rapidly pushing
each wave into the T1 tower. The level advantage from midlane is especially effective on Axe,
scaling his damage output pretty far past heroes in the other lanes. With an early blink from
the mid farm, he snowballs hard for the next 20-30 minutes of the game, creating enormous
space for the team's carries to utilize.

For trying out crazy new stuff like that, I cannot emphasize enough that unranked
games are a perfect place. The grumbling from teammates is worth it. If a build or strategy
seems like it might work, you'll have to work to make it work. Mute toxic players, and don't
give up after just one or two failed attempts. At the end of an unranked game, the only thing
that sticks with you is what you learned. There's no consequences for losing, and one or two
salty flamers reporting you isn't going to get you punished. Keep at it. Dota players love to
see new, unique strategies. There is an indescribably satisfying feeling when even the enemy
team compliments you for doing something wild, something they've never seen before, and
running away with the game because of it.

Another build that's a lot of fun to try out is the Raid-Boss Morphling. Morph is
traditionally played as a carry. He has slim to no impact on the early game, and only comes
online in the mid to late game. However, Morphling can be built as an absurdly tanky initiator.
The combo of his waveform with a 4 second max stun deletes heroes from the fight early
game. With a full blown investment into Strength instead of Agility, Morphling can dive
headfirst into a 5 man team and walk out alive. This does require a reliable team to follow up
on his initiations, but it is absolutely devastating when a coordinated team initiates a battle
with a level 11 Morphling sporting nearly 3k health. The Morphling continues to scale with
absurd strength gain, ending up as a meat wall with upwards of 6K health in the end game.

A huge flaw with players who conform to the meta is that they have a hard time dealing
with anything outside the confines of meta and counter-meta strategies. E.G. a Tinker will be
able to play mid very well and split push very well. A good Tinker player has probably learned
to counter heroes like Spirit Break and Nature’s Prophet who traditionally counter or compete
with him. However, The standard Tinker will have no idea how to handle, say, a Clockwerk
counterpick. Clock is a highly effective solution to Tinker, capable of shutting him down at all
points of the game. Sometimes something as simple as an unexpected pick is enough to
completely throw off your enemy's game, an example that we see time and time again in

Okay, fine, so creativity is important. I get it. How do I be creative?

Ability Draft. AD is a game mode that is perfectly designed for getting into the mindset
of trying out crazy new stuff that just might work. The ever-changing nature of tactics, team
compositions, and combos that show up in that game mode are a tumultuous gauntlet perfect
for learning spontaneity, creativity, and adaptability. You find yourself forced to build absurd,
surprisingly effective itemizations. That resourcefulness in adapting your items is an incredibly
vital Dota skill that cannot be taught the way that mechanical skills can be. Having a flexible
mind and a flexible playstyle is the difference between 4K and 5K. Mechanical skills only get
you so far. There's a reason that one of the top player Miracle has entire hero builds and
playstyles named after them. He pioneers his own effectiveness, and everyone who follows is
simply imitating.

Mechanical skills are important. They are the bread and butter of your gameplay. But
without guidance, without direction, they don't get you far. It's like having a well-trained army
with no general. Or, even worse, a general who deploys utterly by-the-books. Completely
predictable, and childishly easy to counter. In order to be an effective general, you need to
combine the well-disciplined army with unpredictable tactics that the enemy is unprepared to
handle. You need to write new entries in the book on tactics, not just follow it.

The point is, don't let the meta define your gameplay. A careful blend of imagination
and objective oriented strategies will go a very long ways. Play differently. Keep your eyes on
the Ancient. And never be afraid to break the meta.

- Carrel Morgan -

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