Why is Io so prevalent in Dota 2 esports but not in pubs?

At the hundredth place for the most popular hero in pubs, Io certainly isn’t a favorite among average players. On average, Io’s pick rate is approximately four-percent but has a higher popularity of ten percent in the Divine and Immortal bracket.

Hence, it’s evident that the pro players in competitive play know some tricks up their sleeves when picking Io as a staple in their drafts.

Io Dota2

Io in Dota 2 Esports

In the DPC (2021-22) Western Europe Tour 1 alone, Io had a 96.9% combined pick and ban rate out of sixty-four matches. Even after the Dota 2 Patch 7.31, the DPC WEU Tour 2 still saw a convincing 83.3% in pick and ban rate out of forty-two matches. This may seem like a downhill trend, but considering the variety in drafts that the patch puts on the table. Io still outperforms many heroes in terms of relevancy on the playing field.

TI Grand Finals with Io

Anathan “ana” Pham at TI9

Still not convinced that this omniscient glow ball is this accomplished? Well, Io has had defining moments in two Internationals (TI) grand finals, notably Alliance in TI3 and OG in TI8. The Swedish champion, Jerry “EGM” Lundkvist’s Io contributed to Alliance’s victory by relocating his ally to the enemy base in a nail-biting base race. The incident immortalized Io as the best support hero in competitive play of its era.

While Io’s popularity slowly picked up after Alliance’s TI3 victory, the hero’s popularity blew up once more during TI8. Anathan “ana” Pham from OG, popularized Io as a viable carry pick by winning all six matches he played. Then, during TI9 grand finals versus Team Liquid, ana’s Io played a vital role in countering the opponent’s Bristleback. By Tethering (skill Q) with his ally Gyrocopter, who has Diffusal Blade, the extra auto-attacks with mana burn increased exponentially.

Bristleback had no mana to spam his skills, ultimately rendering him useless and unable to put out his full potential. As of today, both iterations of Io Dota 2 builds have their fans, but support Io remains the competitive choice.

Io Dota 2 Gameplay

There is to core Io builds that are quite mainstream in pro play. Both builds have their pros and cons, and neither is really played outside pro play. As stated at the start of the article, Io is a misnomer when it comes to casual and pro play.

Before we discuss what Valve can do the tweak this Hero so it is played in both casual and esports environments, lets dig into the main build paths for it.

Dota 2 Io support build

Support Io Build

Speaking of Io builds, the typical Io guide will tell you to purchase healing-related items to maximize your healing capabilities. Items such as a Bottle, Mekansm, and Holy Locket are common items for good reasons. When Io tethers to an ally and uses healing items, the healing effectiveness improved drastically.

Coupled with its Overcharge (skill E) which grants attack speed buff, health regen, and spell damage amplification. These ultimately strengthen your carry. Due to Tether’s mechanics, many players even play Io as a position 4 support by rushing Heart of Tarrasque. Heart already provides increased health regen, which stacks on top of Tether’s health regen bonus.

Lastly, Io’s ultimate, Relocate (skill R) is arguably the factor that makes Io an absurdly powerful support. The applications for Relocate are not limited to saving a dying ally, but also provides global presence. Whether it’s an unexpected team fight breaking out or assisting in an ambush on a single opponent.

Ana’s carry Io build

While the standard support Io build is sufficient to outwit most opponents with sheer sustainability and presence, the carry Io guide kicks it up a notch. On the carry Io build, rushing the Helm of Dominator will remove your dependability on your teammates. Instead, Io can tether to its own dominated creep to play as a single entity.

This works incredibly due to HoD’s ability to grant health to dominated creep, alongside Io’s level 10 talent which further increases the tethered unit’s health. With that, the dominated creep can often be more durable than most heroes during early-midgame.

HoD is relatively affordable to purchase, making it quicker for Io carry players to immediately start building more luxury items. For instance, Heart is still a great option due to its health and healing properties, but Desolator is synonymous with big damage. Maximizing Io’s raw damage output will be crucial since its Overcharge ability increases attack speed tremendously.

In hindsight, the difference when using carry Io build is to play greedier and use your skills offensively.

Valve, tweak Io please!

With such versatility and skill variety, Io is the swiss army knife of Dota 2 heroes. This, of course, begs the question of whether Icefrog intends on nerfing or tweaking Io. After all, since Techies finally got his much-needed skill rework last patch, it’s not unreasonable to predict Valve could be planning on changing Io’s gameplay altogether.

In the grand scheme of Dota 2 meta, Io is not overpowered and does have its caveats. Io has an approximately 52% win rate, which isn’t too far off from the average win rate for most heroes. Furthermore, Valve have always kept a close watch on Io, often dishing out minor but balanced updates for Io. Most notably, Io’s Relocate ability has undergone back-and-forth changes on what’s the requirements to pull off a successful Relocate.

Other quantitative updates include adjusting its skill cooldowns and scaling have kept Io a considerable option in both pubs and competitive play. Similar to other high-difficulty heroes, such as Chen and Meepo, Io requires just as immense skill to master. Anyhow, we know how much Dota 2 players love their cosmetics, but Io only has one Arcana-grade skin to-date, which is the Benevolent Companion. Unfortunately, this Arcana skin is only obtainable from TI7 Battle Pass, not tradeble, marketable or giftable.

A potential Io rework, paired with a skin or two and a spell set that would make it playable in both pro play and casual is definitely needed.