If you’re a Dota 2 fan, you’ve probably already run into players with the International 2019 Battle Pass. They’re easy enough to spot: spamming something like Ursas or Sven, dying to jungle creeps, either with the new skins or desperately trying to grind for them.
But annoyingly, on top of shiny new cosmetics and bizarre missions objectives, you might notice that the Battle Pass players are doing just ever so slightly better in their games than you. More wins, easier games, and even when they lose their matchup is going better. What gives?
Well, there’s a simple reason why. This year’s pass gave everyone who bought access to the Plus Assistant, an in-game guide that tells you what items to buy, and the best choices to make as you play the game.
The Plus Assistant was previously an exclusive part of Dota Plus, Valve’s $3.99 a month premium subscription version of Dota 2. Its inclusion in the Battle Pass has made it much more accessible, with the price of the pass working out cheaper than the several month’s subscription you’d pay for Dota Plus. What’s more, the Battle Pass version has a few added extras, including improved damage breakdowns, and matchup analysis.
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And yet there’s more. Battle Pass players also get access to “Avoid Player,” a system that blocks players you don’t want to play with anymore. While marketed as a device to help improve “team chemistry,” it’s clear that this feature is a way of removing toxic players from your games.
Both features combined give pass players an unprecedented advantage over their opponents (unless they also have the pass). What’s more, Valve is clearly cribbing notes from other games and then charging for the results. Blocking trolls and griefers, damage breakdowns, and even the bonus game modes will all be familiar for anyone who’s played some of Dota’s contemporaries.
Ideally, the Battle Pass will act as Valve’s testing ground for incorporating both these systems into the wider game. If it doesn’t though, Valve has created a very affordable pay-to-win path for its game.