This past weekend saw Dota 2 descend on New York City’s Madison Square Garden theater for the eSports tournament ESL One. One thing that surprised a lot of Dota 2 fans was the return of Alchemist, a hero who hasn’t had a huge impact on the game’s pro scene for a while now.
Alchemist is a melee fighter in Dota 2 who was recently buffed in a curious way. The humongous 6.84 patch that was released back in April gave him a unique and very powerful method of using one specific item in the game known as “Aghanim’s Scepter.” Normally, the way Aghanim’s Scepter is it supercharges their abilities. It’s the same effect when Alchemist has and uses the scepter, the only difference that was introduced in 6.84 is that he can cast it on his allies as well as himself.
Alchemist is one of the best heroes in Dota 2 when it comes to farming gold, meaning he can accumulate a lot of currency in a (relatively) short amount of time if he wants to and then use it to buy himself bigger and better in-game items and equipment. The idea post-6.84, then, was that Alchemist players could potentially outfit their entire team with crazy aghanim’s buffs.
Or at the very least since Aghanim’s is relatively expensive (4200 gold), Alchemist could strategically apply it to his teammates that he knows would use it most effectively.
You can see how Team Secret used this exact technique to their benefit in one of their games against CDEC this week at Madison Square Garden, as captured in this highlight video by the YouTuber NoobFromUA:
The specific highlight comes very late in the game, when team Secret is chasing after a single hero named bristleback who looks sort of like an angry, anthropomorphized porcupine:
Notice how the commentators shout excitedly that the kill is proof of “the late game potential of the Reaper’s Scythe with the Aghanim’s upgrade.” The Scythe is a powerful stun move used by an undead hero named Necrophos that adds 30 seconds to an enemy’s death timer if they’re killed with it. Already a pretty killer move, right? But when it’s upgraded with Aghanim’s Scepter, it becomes bonkers: An opponent who’s killed by a Scythe can’t buy themselves back into the game, which makes the supercharged special ability absolutely devastating late in a game when everyone’s death timers are already super long and being a man down can make the difference between victory and defeat.
The tl;dr version of this that I had my Dota 2-playing friends explain to me in painstaking detail is: Alchemist’s upgrade for Necrophos let him take an opponent out of the fight for a whole two minutes late into the game, a play that the commentators described as basically sealing the deal for Team Secret’s victory.
It’s not like a single pro game or individual hero pick is going to change the course of the entire pro Dota 2 meta, so I’m not sure how much of an impact Alchemist will end up having. The other major game from this past weekend that featured Alchemist didn’t go as well for Invictus Gaming, the team doing the picking, as it did for Team Secret. They ended up losing the match to Vega Squadron, who emerged as the tournament’s champions at the end of the weekend.
Giving a MOBA hero an ability to essentially donate an ultra-powerful item to even one of his allies strikes me as a ludicrous thing to do, but I’m looking at this from the perspective of playing a whole lot more of League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm than I have Dota 2. Adding to an enemy’s death timer would also seem like an insane thing to introduce to League or HOTS as well, I’m sure. So if you’re a seasoned Dota 2 player and eSports fan, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what Alchemist’s performance this past weekend could mean.