A series of straight buffs from Patch 6.8 (there were nerfs too, but they were way too negligible) made the hero stronger which prompted developers to nerf Bristleback in the biggest way possible. They introduced an item which would cripple him for a long time, Silver Edge. To the uninitiated, Silver Edge has a passive called Break which disables the target’s passive abilities and reduces their damage output for five seconds. That was when Bristleback truly died.
No amount of buffs or nerfs saw Bristleback picked again in professional games and since then it has always been a ride down the popularity table for the hero. Since 6.86, Bristleback has received nothing but buffs, but it wasn’t enough to see his pick rate or win rate rise again. Everyone thought Bristleback was a lost cause. He became a niche pick and gradually disappeared from the professional scene. But it wasn’t Silver Edge alone that caused Bristleback’s decline. Let us look at some of the reasons.
No late game potential
Bristleback may be a great early game hero, but when it comes to the late game, he is nothing but a sitting duck, switching on his blademail and standing in the middle of the fight, waiting for his quill sprays to stack and feeling useless for the rest of the game. This is not something the pros would want to do. He may be a tank, but there are heroes like Centaur and Slardar who do a better job in his position. At this point, it seems like nothing will bring Bristleback to the professional scene.
Relying on snowballing strategies
Bristleback is a hero who highly relies on snowballing strategies. If he’s out-farming his opponents, he can really turn dangerous, but this doesn’t give hope for Bristleback to make a comeback to the pro scene. The hero also relies on his opposite laner to be weaker than him. Besides that, he only works on cheese strategies like Io-Bristleback or Dazzle-Bristleback.
Bristleback since 7.00
The 7.00 patch saw Dota take a different direction, introducing talent trees and many other major changes. In the midst of all that, Bristleback again received nothing but buffs. His talent tree was changed two times, but that still meant nothing to the professional scene. The latest 7.05 patch saw his talents buffed again. This doesn’t guarantee that he will be picked in the upcoming tournaments as there is still the matter of Silver Edge, Bristleback’s biggest nerf.
Since 7.00, Bristleback’s win rate gradually increased touching the 50% mark in patch 7.03. The latest 7.05 patch saw Bristleback’s win rate shoot up by almost 3% taking it to 53%. This is probably the highest win rate recorded on Bristleback in recent memory.
Bristleback's talent tree
No amount of buffs will change the fact that Bristleback isn't taking part in professional Dota games unless IceFrog changes his mind and makes Bristleback a viable offlaner. These ridiculous amounts of buffs are just going to help players win in pubs by just snowballing.
Bristleback's winrate in the last 30 days
In the end, it means Bristleback isn't going to be picked in the pro scene unless IceFrog comes up with a major change for the hero. That change would need to make Break dispellable, which gives Bristleback a small edge and a tiny ray of hope to all Bristleback lovers. Let's hope that he won't be forgotten.