With the arrival of patch 6.86, solo queue has changed massively.
Not only is there the cancerous scourge of Arc Warden (to be discussed later), there’s a panoply of new hero abilities and a treasure trove of new items.
Who’s good to play this patch?
Who will allow you to carry the ragtag band of morons and misfits that are your teammates to easy victories?
Who is exciting and dynamic enough to play for game after game after game without tearing your hair out?
Read on to find out.
Tidehunter was, at one time, the most played offlaner in the game. When blink dagger no longer had a mana cost associated with it, he was king. Those days are long behind him, and while he no longer enjoys the professional success he once had, 6.86 has shown him a brighter future. Now, as a benefactor of the Aghanim’s Scepter buffs this patch, he again has a chance to rise to offlane
Tidehunter’s problem was twofold. One, his amazing teamfight-initiating ultimate, Ravage, became substantially weaker when the enemy team acquired 10-second Black King Bars. Two, when he used his ult, he didn’t have much to do thereafter. Anchor Smash, a powerful ability for farming ancients and lower the damage of melee-range opponents, is hard to utilize effectively in teamfights due to its small radius. His other active ability, Gush, was a single target slow/armor reducer, a very uninspiring ability in big teamfights. Now, by acquiring an Aghanim’s Scepter, Tide can assuage these deficiencies. With the purchase of said item, he turns Gush into a long-range wave on a greatly lowered cooldown. Now, with the ability to reduce the armor of and slow multiple targets, he has the capability to do much more for his team in an extended teamfight.
In terms of safety in the offlane, there are few who can match Tide. Even if he can’t secure the farm, he can generally stay well within experience range and recoup his farm losses by stacking and farming the ancients. By putting points only into Anchor Smash/Kraken Shell, you can start reliably farming a stacked ancient camp without taking too much damage. It won’t be the fastest thing in the world, but given a bit of time you can farm up Arcane Boots and Blink Dagger, the two items necessary for you to dominate the midgame. After that, picking up items like Aghanim’s, Shiva’s Guard, or Refresher Orb can really amp up your teamfight control going towards the lategame. No matter how bad your team is, even a monkey can follow up on a well done Ravage.
4- Skywrath Mage
We all run into it every now and again: sometimes, for the sake of winning the game, you have to play support. The other 4 people on your team all decided they wanted to play carries, and you, the poor, humble, last pick, will likely have to (read: be bullied into) picking a support to compliment the team. When it comes down to it, it’s a particularly thankless role to be forced into, and your team is, most likely, filled with morons, so you’re going to need to be able to carry without ever taking any farm (cause you’ll get yelled at).
Enter: Skywrath Mage, the “supportarry” (patent pending). This man is the king in lane and in solo kills, at least when it comes to supports. Zoning offlaners is his speciality. While his carry farms far behind him, Skywrath throws out Arcane Bolt after Arcane Bolt, whittling down his opponents health and keeping them well away from the potential gold/experience they could be getting. If there’s a second support (unlikely) who consistently gets good pulls (even more unlikely), you can almost completely lock the enemy offlaner out of the game for the first 5-10 minutes. When you hit level 4, it’s easy to roam around and get kills with your team. You have a powerful slow (Concussive Shot), a silence that amps magic damage (Ancient Seal) and two nuking abilities (Arcane Bolt, and, upon hitting level 6, Mystic Flare). Everyone on the map is killable at that point, if you play your cards right.
Skywrath is versatile: he can build a great many things and have it still be good. In general, you’ll pick up Arcane Boots so you can spam ever longer, and afterwards there’s plenty of great items to pick up to help your team. Rod of Atos is great in general but is particularly strong against a low mobility team, Eul’s is great both defensively and offensively, Aether Lens is perfect for when you’re doing well and want to snowball harder, Glimmer Cape is particularly great for protecting you and your teammates, and Force staff is good for much the same thing. In general, it’s important to remember a couple things; 1. Be careful when using your ultimate, it has a substantial manacost and it is easily dodged if you don’t set it up well. 2. Don’t forget to purchase wards, they’ll win you games even if nobody gives you credit for placing them.
Despite being the long-reigning popularity king, Pudge has suffered in the professional DOTA scene of late. Reduced to a pocket pick for certain teams (looking at you, Na’Vi.Dendi), the chin chopper was in the market for a tune-up. Patch 6.86 brought him exactly what he needed: a fresh new Aghanim’s Scepter (gives Meat Hook extra damage and a 4 second cooldown) and an upgraded ultimate (now deals damage based on a percentage of his strength and heals him).
These changes make Pudge a monster in late-game scenarios where he used to suffer. 450 pure damage on a 4 second cooldown is nothing to sneeze at any point of the game, on top of its ability to displace priority targets. This, combined with the new item Aether Lens, gives him massive initiation range and incredible damage. Where as pudge used to struggle to build useful items in the mid/late-game, he now has an unassailable arsenal. Pudge’s strength was always his ability to faceroll in the early game and let his team carry him later on. Now, with just a bit of roaming and the ability to land skillshots relatively consistently, he can win games ostensibly by himself.
If you’ve never touched Pudge (which would be a little odd, given how popular he is), he’s not too difficult to learn. The critical thing is learning the ins and outs of your hook, its range, speed, and the best angles to throw it from. He can win midlane, but the best way, generally, to play him is as a roamer, meaning he can also offlane or even support. Try to find small pockets in the trees where you can hide out for surprise jungle hooks and easy kills on enemy laners. These kills help you get your critical items (Aether Lens, Blink Dagger, Aghanim’s Scepter, Force Staff), and help your carries get the farm they need to help you carry the game.
Spectre has been a consistent force on the battlefield since 6.84, and while nothing changed for her in 6.86, that strength still persists. Right now, on dotabuff, she has the highest winrate of any carry in the game at 59.34 (which is the second highest overall, just behind Omniknight’s 60.93), and has the highest average KDA Ratio at 3.83. It’s hard to argue with stats like that, and, when playing against her in game, it’s easy to see how she was able to earn her substantial success rate. She’s tanky, safe, and deals high amounts of damage in the mid and late game.
Spectre thrives in games where the enemy team is unable to gank her. In general, she can hunker down in the safelane and quietly farm, where she’s usually not worth ganking because she can throw a Spectral Dagger and phase into the woods. She’ll farm up an early radiance and she’ll use it to dominate the midgame. Her ultimate, Haunt, gives her global presence that she can use to not only travel around the map for easy kills, but also harass enemy supports and get cheeky kills on fleeing, low-health targets (à la Zeus). Late game, she becomes a tanky, unstoppable menace; her passive, Dispersion, allows her to ignore 22% of all incoming damage, reflecting it back out to each enemy unit within a large radius. This makes her very nearly impossible to kill and a decidedly unpleasant prospect for a one-on-one fight.
The great part about Spectre is that she’s forgiving and adaptable. If the early game isn’t going particularly well; you’re getting ganked a lot, can’t farm safely enough to earn the 3,800 gold you need for a Sacred Relic, then you can always pick up some cheap tank stats (Vanguard, generally) and fight with your team till you can much more safely earn gold through farm. Radiance is always a must-grab, and after that you pick up stat items like Diffusal Blade, Manta Style, Heart of Tarrasque, or Butterfly. With each item you become harder and harder to kill, lessening the impact of mistakes you make. As long as you aren’t running into every fight 1 vs 5, the longer the game goes, the more likely it is that you become impossible to kill and take over the game. An idiot-proof hero through-and-through, these qualities make her an excellent solo-queue carry pick.
1- Outworld Devourer
The midlane dominator has returned, now even more oppressive than before. Outworld Devourer used to be considered the prime pick if you were a confident midlaner who thought you could snowball the game for your team. His problem was that if you didn’t win mid lane, you had a horrible chance at recovering. Your opponents have higher and higher intelligence scores as the game goes on, and poor OD not only had no way steal intelligence quickly enough to make his ult deal truly meaningful damage, he had no way to flash farm like other popular midlaners at the time, so he had a hard time getting farm outside of his lane.
6.86 made things a lot better for Outworld Devourer; the intelligence steal that used to be a part of his Astral Imprisonment ability got moved to his Arcane Orb (Astral Imprisonment now deals aoe damage). This makes him monstrous both in and out of lane. In lane, he can incessantly bully his opponents using his Arcane Orb, each strike lowering their Intelligence and giving it back to you, making each subsequent hit that much stronger. Out of lane, he can easily swipe chunks of intelligence from any enemy in his reach before dropping the hammer on them, likely annihilating them and any of their nearby allies. With attack speed items like Moon Shard, he can steal upwards of 20-30 intelligence in a matter of seconds. This makes him much more viable in the late game, where each of his autoattacks hit like trucks and make his Ultimate better every time they connect.
Winning midlane as Outworld Devourer is so easy a caveman could do it (remember those commercials? And the failed tv show based on those commercials? Damn I’m old). With early points into Arcane Orb and his passive, Essence Aura, you have essentially unlimited mana and can bully your opponents ad infinitum. There are no weak matchups for you. If you’re struggling, getting a value point in Astral Imprisonment can make laning much easier and make you much more resilient to ganks. Even if you get behind in lane (generally because of repeated ganks on you), it’s now much easier to keep up simply due to the nature of your Arcane Orb. Plus, with the changes to Astral Imprisonment, you can even take jungle camps. Sure, its janky and not nearly as good as when, say, Shadow Fiend goes to take jungle camps, but still, it’s an option. Late game, your goal is to have a few solid Intelligence items (Force Staff, Rod of Atos, Scythe of Vyse, etc), stand behind your team in teamfights, and whack away with your Arcane Orb, dropping your ult when you know it will get an important kill or at least deal heavy damage to most of the enemy team.
A huge benefactor of 6.86, Invoker is one of the best midlaners this patch. At level two with Alacrity invoked and 3 exort orbs up, Invoker can output significant autoattack damage that can easily bully an opponent out of lane. At level 3 with both Alacrity and Cold Snap invoked, you can easily get a solo kill on the enemy midlaner. He didn’t make it on the list because he requires a great deal of skill to play effectively in the mid/late game, and that can be a tall order if you haven’t gotten a good deal of practice on him.
While still disabled in Captain’s Mode, Arc Warden is still playable in ranked All Pick. He can dominate the midlane easily due to the very high damage attached to his abilities Flux and Spark Wraith, and when he gets his ult, Tempest Double, things get insane. Double Hand of Midas, double Necronomicon, double Manta Style, and so much more cheesy stuff. A skilled Arc Warden can win the game by himself(look up highlights of Vaxa’s Arc Warden on YouTube if you haven’t already). Didn’t make it on the list because he’s still disabled in Captain’s Mode and is also very micro-intensive (currently has the lowest winrate of any hero on Dotabuff, 39.31%).
Keep in mind, this isn’t an end-all be-all guide. These heroes are, in my opinion, the best to play because of their stability and their ability to carry independent of your teammates. There are plenty of great heroes out there, and a lot of these are likely to be banned or picked away from you. At the end of the day, the best heroes to grind solo queue with are the ones you feel most comfortable on and the ones you have the most fun playing.