Underlords Head to Head Patch Analysis

The latest balance patch hit Dota Underlords on the 1st of August and it’s a big one! There are many QoL changes like the new ranked system and facing players 1v1 rather than their clones.

In this article, however, we’ll give our in-depth analysis on how the new changes affect the metagame in order to give you an edge over other players and help you gain some sweet, sweet rank.

General Changes:

  • Round damage eliminated for rounds 4-9. Round Damage starts at round 11, at 2 damage, and proceeds as before from then on (3 starting at round 20, 4 at round 30, etc.).
  • Whenever a player loses a round against another player, the loser gains a free reroll the next round. This reroll is not stackable, so use it or lose it.

These two changes have a common purpose: they make it hard to snowball from the start of the game and win/lose mostly based on luck. (The Alliance item changes also make the game a bit less RNG reliant.) If you have bad luck with your rolls, you’re getting a lot of second chances to find the missing pieces in your draft.

Some people had worries that the free reroll combined with the low starting round damage will make intentional losing the optimal strategy again, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. The reason for this is that the 2nd reroll actually forces you to spend gold when you find good pieces, which makes it hard to save-up and play a pure economy game.

In that sense, even though the games last a little bit longer due to the lower starting damage, they are very fast-paced and playing a very greedy economy game is very hard to do (people find upgrades fast, which means they have strong lineups, which means if you’re too greedy you’ll get eliminated in the mid game).

What these changes mean, however, is that often the optimal strategy is to:

  • Try to find three-star upgrades. You have more rerolls for less gold in total, which makes getting three-stars much easier. If you don’t, you’ll get punished by the three-stars of other players. Greedy lineups that need 9-10 units and don’t benefit from three-stars are generally at a disadvantage (although it seems are not entirely impossible to make work).
  • Force a good build: You will rarely have to pull some unconventional build out of your hat just because you aren’t getting the pieces you want (not only units but also Alliance items). The fact that you have more rerolls over the duration of the game and you take less early-game damage means it’s a bit easier to commit to an exact lineup you want to go for and even force it if you have to.

WePlay three star meta

Above you can see the top-4 players in one of the games in the WePlay Open tournament. On round 32, there are 12 three-star units in the lobby. On average there were fewer three-stars in most other games, but you would very rarely see a late-game comp without at least some three-star upgrades. The three-star meta the started last patch seems to be even more prevalent now.

Alliance Items & Bonuses Rework:

Alliance items have been disabled. Many of these effects have been migrated to Alliances or Equipment. The rest went back into the Underlords Vault.

Alliance items have been disabled. Many of these effects have been migrated to Alliances or Equipment. The rest went back into the Underlords Vault.

We hope we had some contribution to this glorious change with our Alliance Items Rework Suggestions and community poll. We love it because it removes a very powerful RNG factor from the game. This has huge balance implications for most Alliances, so we’ll say a few words about each one below.

Before we talk about each one individually, we believe the top strategies in the game that you’ll see a lot of people force would be:

1. Knights:

Either (6) Knights or (4) Knights + Warlocks. Ideally with Heartless and Fall from Grace.

WePlay Knights Meta

The first match on the new patch in the WePlay tournament ended with three (6) Knight lineups in top three, all three being able to find three-star upgrades. This was an anomaly and in the other games the Knight players that couldn’t stabilize their lineup ended up losing (e.g. in game 2, out of three Knight players, two ended up in bottom 4). Overall, however, Knights as an Alliance did extremely well and was certainly one of the most popular and successful strategies in the tournament.

2. Demon Hunters + Warlocks:

Demon Hunters are much more consistent because you don’t have to hope for the Alliance item, it's easier to get TB to three-stars, and the Demon Hunters and Demons deal pure damage, which counters Knights.

Demons Meta Weplay

Notice the ridiculous damage numbers of all three 3-star Demons. All they need to be successful is a frontline that has good crowd control (stuns, silences). The heal coming from the Warlocks is another great addition because it keeps your damage-dealers alive for much longer.

3. Brawny + Hunters:

If you get Axe + Beast from early on it’s a big loss not to utilize the Brawny buff. And Hunters are simply the best damage Alliance for a (4) Brawny strat.

midgame new crop Brawny Hunter

You don’t lose a lot from buying Axe. If you don’t get Beast, you can simply use Axe as an early-game tank and later replace him with something else. If you do get him, however, you can start building a good kill-count on both of them (mostly Beast) and easily transition into an extremely solid early-mid game draft like the one above. This draft can transition into a game-winning Hunters strategy with an extremely beefy (4) Brawny (2) Warlocks frontline:

New Brawny Hunter Late Cropped

The core draft consists of 8 Units: (4) Brawny, (3) Hunters, (3) Warriors, (2) Warlocks, ideally (2) Heartless. The fact that you don't need more than lvl8 is great in this meta. The last two in this example (Medusa and Lich in this case) are just a luxury.


Knights: they didn’t lose a powerful Alliance item, and their favorite Global Item (Fall from Grace) is still in the game. They are great on three-stars, and they make use of both offensive and defensive equipable items very efficiently (unlike e.g. Mages). This makes them extremely consistent and likely the top strat right now.


Demon Hunters: they were always a powerful strategy with a high ceiling. Their problem was that they were the most inconsistent strategy in the game. This is not true anymore – you don’t have to hope for the Alliance item, and you have more rerolls to get your three-star Terrorblade + upgraded Demons. Moreover, with the latest patch change (they always get 50% bonus damage regardless of number of Demons) they are much more flexible: you can include AM + TB in various drafts.


Brawny: arguably they have a slightly lower ceiling than before (not possible to get the bonus twice from two Alliance items, and you need all (4) Brawny heroes in the lineup to get the maximum health amount). That said, they are much, much more consistent (you still need Beast from relatively early on for the strat to be worthwhile, but if you get him there are very few downsides for committing to it). 


Hunters: they lost a weak Alliance item and gained a higher chance to get equipable DPS items, which they use extremely efficiently, which is an indirect buff. They also have more consistent access to a tanky Brawny/Warrior frontline.


Warlocks: even after a direct nerf to both the Alliance bonus and to Shadow Fiend, two or four Warlocks in a strategy still provide incredible value (two Warlocks might even be mandatory). 


Savage: they are still very strong in the early game (and much more consistent), but they lost a lot of late game damage because of the removal of the flat damage bonus that the Alliance used to provide. This means that if you go for a Savage strat you’ll usually want to get all (6) Savage units and play on a winning streak in the early-mid game. You are unlikely to finish first, but you are very likely to make your way into top four. It’s worth noting that the bleed damage is pure, so it goes through the Knights damage reduction. That said, this is not a guarantee that you’ll win against Knights – a three-star Luna + a two-star DK have enough splash damage to demolish your summons, so your best chance is to eliminate a Knight player before the very late game. (Worth mentioning that three-star Veno got a significant nerf, so he is likely no longer your top three-star upgrade priority.)


Scrappy/Inventors: (4) Scrappy + Mage/Warlock drafts were extremely strong in the last patch. In our opinion, little has changed. Warlocks are slightly weaker, but it’s a bit easier to get the three-star upgrades that the (4) Scrappy draft loves, which makes it even more consistent. The lost regen from Inventors is bad, but the gained consistency of always having the Unstable Reactor explosions more than compensates.


Warriors: most likely little has changed for Warrior strats – the Alliance item wasn’t crucial. That said, they aren’t the best versus what we believe will be the top-tier strategies (Knights, Demons), which means (6) Warrior drafts might be a bit rarer in this meta.


Assassins: they are stronger on (9) Assassins, but it’s a bit hard to get there. (6) Assassins continue to benefit from the three-star meta, but if Knight strategies become prevalent, Assassins will suffer as a whole. A good option might be to go for the classic Auto Chess draft of (3) Assassins + (6) Elusive, but this would still likely lack the damage to beat Knights.


Mages: Mages are a late-game strategy that relies more on a full lvl10 lineup consisting of two-star units than an lvl8 lineup consisting of three-star upgrades. This puts them at a disadvantage – they can still win if you manage to get to that point, but getting to it is hard because the mature lvl8 enemy lineups with three-star upgrades will punish you hard. Maiden being more expensive doesn’t help. Because of this, we believe the most popular Mage draft will be (4) Scrappy (3) Mages, which is much more mid-game focused and fits the three-star meta better.


Elusive: (6) and mostly (9) Elusive are still pretty obnoxious and will likely be consistent (although not top-tier). The (9) Elusive buff is very minor, so it’s unlikely to change a lot as a whole. The loss of the Alliance item, however, makes (3) Elusive frontline much less useful. If you’re going for Elusive, you likely want to fully commit.


Primordial: before the patch, this was the weakest defensive Alliance in the game. Now, it's interesting but quite gimmicky. It could be strong early on with (2) Primordials, but later on, AoE damage will counter it, so you’re unlikely to go for a full (4) Primordials draft (at least not intentionally).


Shaman: a nice rework, making the Alliance bonus a bit less gimmicky. A (3) Shamans draft started gaining a lot of popularity just before the patch hit (in fact, I was in the middle of writing the guide). Now the draft lost some of its strength, but gained a bit more consistency and could still be the best way to successfully use Arc Warden, who is quite a powerful unit individually.


Trolls: the loss of the Alliance item actually hurts them. (2) Trolls are weaker than before because the Alliance item gave more attack speed than the actual (2) Trolls bonus. (4) Trolls are likely the same as before – potentially powerful, but very awkward to build because Troll is a legendary hero and you cannot rely on getting him in time.


Druids: another Alliance who misses their Alliance item dearly. Completing the Cycle was likely the only reason to go for (4) Druids. Now, you either get Ench + Lone for Savage drafts or Treant + NP for Elusive drafts.


Heartless: Fall from Grace is still in the game – their Alliance item was the one intended to counter heals, and now it is a normal equipable item. This means Heartless function the same as before in terms of their place in the meta (highly-valuable secondary Alliance bonus).


Humans: their Alliance item was rarely useful, so nothing major changes for them. They are most important in a (6) Mages draft, so they are highly unlikely to become more relevant than they were before.


Blood-Bound: a buff to the item and to Ogre, which makes the gimmicky Blood-Bound strat a bit better. Still pretty gimmicky, so probably not a top-tier strat.


Deadeye: some bug fixes, but same as before.

The New Items:

Helm of the Undying: Tier 2 Defensive Equipment: "+5 Armor. Equipped hero survives for an extra 4 seconds after receiving a killing blow."

Arguably the strongest and most versatile new item. It’s great on two kinds of heroes:

  • A weak frontline hero with an important spell. E.g. one-star Kunkka, Disruptor, etc.
  • A squishy damage-dealer who can kill multiple units in the 4 extra seconds: Bloodseeker, Lycan, Shadow Fiend, Terrorblade, Slark, etc.

Bracers of Desperation: Tier 3 Support Equipment: "Equipped hero resets their cooldown and gets full mana when below 30% health. Attack target's magic resistance is reduced by 30%."

They are most powerful on a tanky frontline unit with a powerful spell. You need to be sure the hero won’t lose its remaining 30% of HP before it casts the spell. Good examples are Kunkka, Tide, Disruptor with Brawny, Doom, Lone Druid, etc. Bad examples are heroes like Shadow Fiend – two Requiems sound great, but if he’s on 30% HP he’s likely getting focused down by enemy heroes and will almost certainly die before he’s able to get the 2nd Requiem off. He is squishy and the spell has a long casting time.

Poaching Knife: Tier 3 Offensive Equipment: "Equipped hero has a 30% chance of producing 1 gold when they kill an enemy. Attacks against units with less than 20% health crit for 200%."

Great in the mid-game on a damage-dealer that tends to get a lot of kills (e.g. Sniper in Hunters, etc.). Later on it falls off because you want to put real DPS items on your damage dealers. The guaranteed crits are great, but 20% is a very low HP threshold.

Dawning of Ristul: Tier 3 Global Item: "Healing for both crews is reduced by 50%."

An item that you really want if you are not running Warlocks.

Thanks for reading! If you like our content you can check out some of our other Dota Underlords guides and articles in our blog and Library.