The recent Dota 2 patch 7.34e brought slight but meaningful changes to staple items Helm of the Overlord and Vladmir’s Offering, sparking discussions around the return of the infamous “zoo meta” in time for the ESL One Kuala Lumpur tournament. But what exactly constitutes this zoo playstyle and should players expect an uprising of beastly lineups?
Understanding Dota’s Zoo Meta
During the TI11 battle pass season, IceFrog implemented massive buffs to jungle creeps and summoning-based heroes like Beastmaster, Lycan and Broodmother. This allowed teams to focus on PvE gameplay, farming jungle camps at exceedingly fast rates thanks to auras from Helm of the Overlord and Vladmir’s Offering.
By accumulating gold and experience advantages via jungle domination, zoo-style drafts could then group up to siege towers with dominated creeps and Bailey the demolition team mule. It often felt impossible to defend against without strong wave clear.
Though the zoo meta was ultimately reigned in before The International main event, the 7.34e changes indicate IceFrog may allow it to resurge. But to what extent?
Helm of the Overlord: Pushing the Limits of PvE
Helm of the Overlord received a subtle +1 armor buff in 7.34e. This item allows heroes like Beastmaster, Lycan and Chen to dominate ancient creeps, using their powerful abilities to pressure lanes.
That extra armor translates to increased durability for ancients when sending them down lanes to chip away at towers. It also bolsters their strength in pack-based lineups.
Heroes known for their summons can escort crept waves with the dominate effect. If attempting to breach high ground, an Ancient Thunderhide’s Frenzy or Hellbear Smasher’s Swiftness Aura make breaking base significantly easier.
The armor buff pushes Helm of the Overlord’s potential in zoo strategies past acceptable levels for the competitive meta. Though not quite as oppressive as its TI11 iteration, the item remains a focal point.
Impact on Hero Archetypes
Certain hero archetypes synergize especially well with Helm of the Overlord to unleash the full zoo treatment:
- Pushing heroes like Lycan, Nature’s Prophet and Beastmaster use dominated creeps to pressure multiple lanes simultaneously and accelerate siege potential. Lycan with Shapeshift and Necronomicon is a formidable high ground breacher.
- Teamfight specialists like Enigma and Chen benefit from ancients with damage spells and attack modifiers. Enigma’s Demonic Conversion, Midnight Pulse and Black Hole combo remains as deadly as ever alongside creep packs.
- Greedy supports like Marci make excellent Helm carriers too. With her Attack Speed talent, she farms quickly then coordinates ancients to enable cores with crowd control and repositioning.
Vladmir’s Offering: Double Down on Domination
Vladmir’s Offering is the quintessential zoo meta item thanks to its versatility. The armor and mana regeneration provide sustainability for cores and creeps alike, while the bonus damage and lifesteal accelerate farming.
Patch 7.34e gave Vladmir’s Offering a similar +1 armor improvement, doubling down on survivability. Certain heroes can capitalize on this greatly.
Io, the iconic zoo meta pick, loves stats across the board due to its tether ability and tendency to group up. That extra armor gets amplified by Overcharge, making a death ball even harder to crack.
Meanwhile, Beastmaster appreciates the mana regeneration to continuously spam axes along with his necronomicon summons and dominated ancient creep. With vision from birds and Hawk, he applies pressure across the map.
Make Way for the Zoo Train
So with these minor but meaningful item changes, Dota 2 appears poised for the revival of an animalistic playstyle. Teams at the ESL One Kuala Lumpur tournament should prepare strategies to deal with endless creep waves and siege tactics.
But will the zoo meta persist moving forward? The upcoming hero releases provide reason to believe so. Ringmaster looks to empower allies with auras and pack advantages. Further creep updates could completely derail the competitive balance once again.
Between Helm of the Overlord and Vladmir’s Offering, though, on top of heroes like Beastmaster remaining ever-prevalent, the zoo playstyle has all the tools needed for domination. Players hoping to grind MMR would do well to embrace the beast within. Just beware the Frog’s nerf hammer, as he looks to maintain an equilibrium between PvP and PvE.