Dota Underlords Big Update: Preview

Valve just posted the first teaser (part one, presumably there would be more) about the Dota Underlords Big Update! They revealed a couple of very interesting new additions to the game:

  • Two new Alliances: Healers and Insects
  • Four new heroes: Dazzle, Broodmother, Weaver, and Nyx Assassin

Duos & Freestyle Mode

Underlrods Duos

Duos is one of the most awaited features in the game (for people that have friends K ).

The way it works was pretty close to our expectations. You get separate boards, but you have the same level and HP and can share heroes and gold. At first glance, it sounds like in Duos it will be easier to find upgrades (with both players searching for the units). This might mean that the power-level of the boards in Duos should be higher – i.e. you should reach the late game quicker.

Underlords Freestyle Mode

Freestyle mode, on the other hand, was pretty unexpected, but it’s an awesome feature for all content creators (like ourselves) – it will allow all of us to test hypothetical scenarios and the power-level of certain strategies.

Jail System in Underlords

Underlords Jail System

Without a doubt, this is the most meta-defining feature out of all the new things coming to the game (disregarding the actual Underlords, who haven’t been revealed yet).

At first glance, this is an ingenious change because:

  1. It will keep the hero pool a constant size, making sure upgrading units doesn’t become more and more difficult when new heroes get introduced.
  2. It will refresh the metagame every time the hero pool rotates in and out of the Jail and solve to a degree one of the biggest problems of Auto Battlers – that they get figured out and grows old quickly.

From the wording in the image we Assume 8-12 heroes to get jailed at random, making sure that each Alliance has at least the minimum amount of heroes to reach the maximum Alliance bonus. In other words, you can never have less than 6 Warriors, etc.

That said, I must admit that I’m a bit worried about the practical implications of the jail system for the meta. The Jail will make some strategies quite a lot stronger than others in an obvious way.

If one Alliance is untouched while another misses two key heroes, it’s pretty clear the first will be more powerful in this rotation than the second. An Alliance is not just about the number of heroes in it, as some characters are certainly more important than others. Moreover, there are hero costs to consider: e.g. losing the early-game heroes in an Alliance will make it harder to open with it, etc.

A simplified example: if Phantom Assassin, Slark, and Keeper are in jail, this will cripple significantly Assassins, Mages, and to a degree Elusive. In such a hero rotation, the meta is very likely to revolve around Warriors, Scrappy, and Knights.

This means it might be pretty clear which strategies are better and which worse in certain hero rotations. If the process happens at random, we might see some fairly imbalanced days in which most (high-level) players are going for the same strategies during the day.

(Disclaimer: this doesn’t mean we don’t like the Jail system, we think something like it is necessary with an expanding hero pool. It just might need refinement if our worries turn out to be true.)

Io & Void

In in Underlords:
Underlords Io

The Beep Update, Boop Soon. The Underlords team certainly has a few comedians.

IO is a bit of a surprise because he was the “wildcard” unit in Auto Chess (can be used as an update component for any other hero). The fact that he’s a unique character of his own in Dota Underlords might mean that Valve doesn’t intend to put a wildcard in the game and probably believe the Jail system is enough to mitigate the “difficult to find upgrades” problem.

Io is also one of the few heroes in Underlords getting two skills. Tether buffs the nearest allied unit while Relocate acts as a “resurrect” mechanic. Both skills sound pretty powerful, which leads us to believe that Io himself will have pretty terrible stats.

That said, the fact that they are going in the direction of more support/utility characters is more than welcome.

Void in Underlords:
Underlords Faceless Void

Assassins have an Ace hero as well, which means lvl9 or even lvl10 Assassin builds will be viable in the new version. The mechanic he gives Assassins (Backtrack) is a defensive one, which is more than welcome in full (6) Assassin drafts and might make them much stronger in the late game.

His own skill (Chronocube, was Chronosphere in Dota 2 but a Sphere obviously doesn’t fit the Underlords board tiles), should be a powerful disable. That said, in Dota Chronosphere affects allies as well, which makes it fairly likely that it’ll also work like that in Underlords.

This has two implications:

  • First, bad casts of the skill could lose you rounds if it catches more of your own heroes than enemies.
  • Second, the skill doesn’t have good synergy with other melee heroes (because they cannot reach the disabled targets without getting stuck in the disable themselves), and needless to say, all Assassins are melee.

All of this might make Void’s Chrono a double-edged sword at best.

Shadow Demon, Bristle, Sven

Shadow Demon in Underlords:
Underlords Shadow Demon

The most interesting thing about Shadow Demon is that he’s another low-cost Heartless hero. This makes it much easier to get the (4) Heartless bonus without Fall from Grace (which some people are speculating might get removed) especially with the addition of Lifestealer, who is another cheap Heartless. The fact that he’s a Demon, however, clashes with Doom and CK in Warriors and Knights (two strategies which often go for Heartless), which means he might be most viable in a Hunters/Heartless draft (and will simply get replaced in Warriors/Knights in the late game).

Bristle in Underlords:
Underlords Bristleback

Bristle might be the “carry” that Savage is missing right now to become a viable late-game draft. The scaling nature of Quill Spray means he might work best with a lot of sustain – coming from the new Healer Alliance, or the Warlock bonus if it doesn’t get reworked.

The fact that he’s Brawny means that a Brawny/Warrior/Savage build with some source of sustain could work for him best.

Moreover, if the Quills deal physical damage as in Dota, Heartless would also be very valuable with Bristle.

Sven in Underlords:
Underlords Sven

Svan gets both Cleave and God’s Strength from Dota, which makes sense since the two skills work synergistically.

The most interesting aspect about him is that he is an Ace unit which totally changes the nature of a strategy. He turns Knights from tanks to damage-dealers.

The fact that it happens when he casts God’s Strength is interesting and might allow you to play around it. For example, you can place him further back to make sure he casts his skill later into the fight.

This way you will have the protective bonus when enemies are casting their crowd control and nukes, and the offensive bonus afterward when the enemy disables are on cooldown and your Knights are free to auto-attack.

Champion Alliance

Underlords Champion Alliance

The champions Alliance is unique in the sense that there is only one Champion hero in the game and more might not come (in rotation) because of balance reasons: the Champion (i.e. Legion Commander) inherits all active Alliance bonuses and more than one such “super carry” might be too much.

This makes it an extremely interesting hero strategically for obvious reasons – e.g. imagine a high-damage three-star LC with both the (3) Hunters and (3) Assassins bonus.

With this in mind, the optimal way to use her would probably be with a combination of an offensive/defensive Alliance:
e.g. a build consisting of Legion + (3) Hunters + (3) Warriors + (2) Warlocks + (2) Trolls + (2) Humans + (2) Heartless, etc.

Legion in Underlords:
Underlords Legion Commander

The interesting thing about Legion disregarding her Alliance is that she has the potential to scale infinitely. If you get a high-star Legion from early on (which is possible because she is a 3-cost hero) you might start accumulating bonus damage on her that simply becomes too much by the late game (similar to how Brawny heroes work, but with damage instead of HP).

Brute Alliance

Underlords Brute Alliance

This is the new Alliance with the most unclear Alliance bonus based on the wording in the picture. “Damage debuff” might mean a couple of different things, most likely one of the following:

  • An unstackable damage over time (bleed effect)
  • Or an unstackable damage amplification debuff

We speculate that it doesn’t stack because they prefer to attack enemies without the debuff, which would be more efficient. The bad side of this aggro behavior is that these units might be inherently bad at focusing down the right (i.e. low HP) enemies.

All of this is interesting because the Brute heroes are mostly Tanks (STR heroes in Dota) and the Alliance effect seems to be offensive.

Underlords Lifestealer

Lifestealer is a Heartless/Brute with an in-built sustain mechanism. This is interesting because:

  1. It allows you to go for an early (4) Heartless build.
  2. Upgrading him to three stars might be worth it if he has good stats because with Feast (and the Brute agro mechanic) he might become a good carry despite of his low cost.

Magnus in Underlords:
Underlords magnus

Unlike Lifestealer, Magnus is another unit that mostly provides utility – the Cleave sounds extremely powerful on any high-star-level melee carry. The key piece of information missing here is how he chooses his Empower target.

If he targets the highest star-level melee hero on your side of the board, he might be a great addition to any strat with a melee carry. If he chooses the target randomly (like Doom), however, he might be too inconsistent to include in most strategies.

Underlords Healer Alliance

The first new Alliance focuses, as apparent from the name, on healing! The bonus is supposed to amplify healing effects, although it's unclear in what way exactly (a flat bonus, a percentage-based increase, or a more unique interaction as e.g. the current Warlock bonus).

Underlords Healer Alliance

This raises a couple of very interesting questions.

First, the fact that Enchantress, Warlock, Omni, and Necro are now healers, makes us believe that they would be dropping their current "profession" Alliance (a hero might preserve his old Alliances as well, but we heavily doubt this would happen in more than one or two distinct cases for the sake of balance). Its fairly likely Mr. Warlock himself would not be a Warlock anymore.

This would be most impactful for the Warlock Alliance because:

  1. We would be losing two Warlocks, making the total number of Warlocks exactly six with the new Warlock hero - Brood.
  2. The bonuses from the Warlocks and Healers Alliances overlap at least conceptually. Would the Healer Alliance amplify the Warlock bonus life-steal, or would Warlocks be reworked entirely to avoid this clash? Either of these options might be meta-defining!

Underlords Dazzle

The new Healer hero, Dazzle, is also a Troll (as we predicted in our Underlords Big Update Speculations). This is also very impactful, because this means there are now five Trolls in the game, making the (4) Trolls bonus much more accessible.

This is great news for Knights and most importantly - Savages. Remember that currently the Savage bonus amplifies the hero's damage with each attack. The huge attack speed bonus from the (4) Trolls means that a (4) Savage (4) Troll build could be very scary. In fact, we speculated that this (the accessibility of (4) Trolls with Dazzle) might be the reason why Valve stated they felt Savage are balanced with the older, lower numbers on their in-house build (i.e. the Big Update version).

Underlords Insects Alliance

The second new Alliance sounds even more interesting:

Underlords Insects Alliance

The text about the Alliance bonus leads us to a couple of questions:

First, the fact that Spiderlings spawn from the edge of the board makes us believe they are designed to counter corner positioning. Does "edge" mean they will come from a predetermined side of the map, however, or does it mean all sides?

Moreover, the text mentions only that the Spiderlings make their targets miss. A nightmare for Hunter comps for sure, but does this mean they don't deal damage? If they don't, a Mage corner strategy might not care about them that much thanks to relying on CM for mana-gain and spells for dealing damage rather than attacks.

In terms of heroes, there are three new Insects in Underlrods. The only old hero is Sand King, and we assume he'll lose his Savage Alliance (meaning Savage lose two heroes in total together with Ench) and keep Assassin because Insects sounds like a "race/species" Alliance.

Underlords Weaver

Weaver is an Insect Hunter in Dota Underlords. Moreover, he inherits his Shukuchi skill from Dota, which is very interesting in a Hunters strategy. Most Hunters prefer standing on the backline and auto-attacking to deal DPS. Weaver, however, will behave very differently, as he will walk over the enemy army to deal damage. This makes us wonder how much he'll use his auto-attacks and the Hunters bonus if he spends most of his time in Shukuchi.

Nyx Assassin:
Underlords Nyx

The second new Insect hero in Underlords is Nyx - an Insect/Assassin. If Sand King keeps his Assassin Alliance, this means Assassins will have (2) Insects in their lineup.

This means it will be fairly easy to get at least a minor (2) Insect bonus (if there is such a thing, but we assume there is with four Insect heroes in total) in any Assassin lineup.

Moreover, Spiked Carapace sounds like a great ability to have on a frontline hero (because of the disable). This means that the two Insects will likely work as the Frontline heroes in an Assassin build, while their Alliance bonus helps Assassins deal with corner strats.

All in all, we expect a (6) Assassin build to be better in the Big Update compared to the current meta.

Underlords Broodmother

Brood is the last new Insect hero, and she is a Warlock with a utility skill that allows her to slow-down enemies (we assume in an AoE).

The interesting bit of info is that Brood's ult doesn't seem to deal any damage. This means that Brood won't be synergistic at all with the current Warlock bonus. This makes us think that it's very likely that the whole Warlocks bonus gets reworked completely.

Keeping in mind how central Warlocks are in the current Underlords meta, reworking them would pretty much turn everything on its head!

What more to expect:

According to Valve's previous blog posts, the Big Update will come with three new Alliances and six new heroes in total, which means in the next teaser we'll get info about one additional Alliance and two more new heroes! More importantly, we're still waiting for information about the most important new aspect of the game: the two new playable Underlords!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed the content make sure to check out the rest of the website - we cover Underlords extensively. If you're excited about the Big Update you might want to take a look at our Dota Underlords Big Update Speculations article!