Hi, my friend has spammed Necrophos for the past year, raising from 2.2k to 3.7k. Because of this, I have a decent amount of experience with the hero. I think he is very strong, and his 56% winrate on Dotabuff reflects this to a degree.
However, although I don't watch many progames, I don't seem to see him picked much. I am wondering why this is?
Necrophos is devastating in low MMR games, where people are unfamiliar with how ungankable he is early game (due to his double regen from wand when used with his w skill). They are also unfamiliar with his w (ghost shroud), and so make MANY mistakes when trying to harrass him or go on him, because they forget that he will suddenly become physical immune for several seconds. Heroes like Jugger (with omnislash) or PA (jumping on him) get overexcited and make mistakes, for example. Even better, in mid lane, the other mid will make the mistake of trying to harass you or counter-harrass you, and you will just pop w, q, and nuke them whilst taking no damage. Often they will walk off in a random direction by accident because they forgot you had it!!
The hero is reliant on positioning, and many new players will find themselves feeding by playing too confidently/aggressively. It's also pretty tricky to use his ulti without experience, but when you have that experience, being able to suddenly snipe any unsuspecting or over-extended player (notably, the other mid) is out-of-this-world overpowered at times. Thirdly, he is a nightmare to last hit with without a lot of practice and patience (and a null talisman). My friend always goes null, wand, null, and builds into a veil first item. The double null and stats from wand make last hitting quickly become much easier, and the armour from veil is exactly what you are missing early game.
The wand, with its double healing on you, hard-counters spammy heroes like bristle and zeus, who are not unpopular in low MMR, and I often see two people feed kills to my friend under his tower when they think they can get him in a three-man gank!
Necrophos lacks mobility, so my friend makes phase boots very early. With a point in your e (aura) and chip damage from your long-ranged, double null, phase rightclick, and from your nuke, by the time you hit level 6, a well-timed phase boots into the other mid often can land you a kill. (Again, this is talking from low MMR where some players will make more mistakes than others).
Another bonus to Necrophos is the latest change to shrines which makes them unavailable before 5 minutes. Although not obvious, this benefits Necro because he has his inbuilt regen and might not need the shrine (or gold for regen) as much as the opposing mid might need it.
After veil, my friend always makes atos. The build-up is pretty decent, because at this point you can choose to tank up with the gauntlets or just get the +10 damage from the pole. The main disadvantage is, of course, the fact that you will need the courier a lot if you want to ship these small components.
Atos is a very, very strong item, in my opinion. I'm a huge fan of force staff, myself, but I'm sure that any of those pudges out there who have tried atos lately will testify just how easy an atos is to use effectively, how powerful it's range is, how good the cooldown is, and how versatile its uses are from the moment you get it until the game ends. In some situations, effectively, using atos on an enemy hero is akin to force staffing your entire team towards him! This is something force staff can't do. Similarly, in backing off from a fight, you can save your entire team from a chasing hero that might catch one of them. Again, force staff might have only saved one of your guys in that situation. Notably, atos works on mobility heroes such as Storm Spirit, Void, Antimage and QoP. They can't move at all when you use it on them. It's basically a 2 second hex, but with an extra 350 range!!! This is really nasty and will make you look forward to playing against heroes like AM instead of loathing it.
After atos, my friend gets blink and then aghs. Late-game, aghs gives you a retardedly low cooldown on your ulti. In almost any semi-prolonged lategame teamfight, notably those where you are defending your rax/highground, you will be able to ulti twice. I have won games myself where we were megaed and the enemy team just couldn't end because I was standing there with my ulti on a freaking 25 second cooldown.
Level 10 on Necrophos is vital. The +40 damage talent really synergises with your desire to nuke creep waves and jungle creeps once. Do everything you can to hit that level 10 and get your farming rate really skyrockets towards your next item. A big mistake newbies will make is farming one item and then slowing down their farm without realising it because they think they're 'ready to go.' Well, you might be ready to go, but if the rest of your team isn't then don't waste a moment waiting for them. Move onto your blink/aghs ASAP, because you will be kicking yourself if you don't have it by the time lategame rolls around (my friend always fails on this point. He is only 3k, remember).
It's worth mentioning that Necro doesn't mind too much if he's against a 4000 HP tanky hero. So long as they don't have BKB up (and you will have to get used to clicking on them to watch their BKB buff timer go down), as soon as they hit 50% HP they are dead men walking. Opponent picks Sven or something annoying like that? That Sven aint gonna be getting a rampage and living on 400hp if you're standing around baiting him with ghost shroud, or keeping your distance with your blink dagger and waiting for your chance to snipe.
Necrophos is good at pushing with his team due to his AOE heal sustain, which I have neglected to mention so far. If you're the kind of person who likes to say, 'Okay guys, I'm ready, let's push as five,' (or you just want to TP to a tower and push down a lane) you might find this hero to work well for you. Make sure you bring a clarity, just in case you waste your ulti by mistake or end up with no mana from spamming your heal (which will mean you won't have mana for ulti when the time comes). And, like I said, you won't get frustrated if your team refuses to push with you because your farming speed is really high at this point, so you can just keep on scaling into your next item without getting annoyed with them.
Don't forget to backpack your stat items before using a shrine, and then hit w (ghost shroud), so you get a huuuge boost in health and mana regen from the shrine! (Seriously, OP much?)
Well, those are some of the reasons that come to mind at this late hour about why I think Necrophos is a strong hero at 2-3k MMR.
So, what are his weaknesses?
He is damn slow without phase boots and his force/atos/blink. People will say you should get treads on the hero, because he benefits from tread switching so much, so this is a consideration. Do people go treads on Juggernaut, though, or do they just make use of their wand? Feel free to ask your support at the start of the game to build into arcanes, if this is a concern for you. Treads are great, don't get me wrong, but your hero does depend on mobility to operate - to land his nuke/heal, to kite in and out of fights and to sneak in that ulti at just the right time. Wind lace is always an option, and it's an item I buy as core on many of my supports that I play.
Necro is very tough to play without practice due to his weak level 1 laning and due to the difficulty of knowing when to ulti without wasting it. You also need to get accustomed to the range of your q (nuke) when laning against their mid. It's pretty shameful to miss your nuke on the opponent mid (that's a lot of mana down the drain!), and it will happen to you to begin with. Remembering to use your veil during your spellcasting is also going to be something that comes with time. Lastly, like I mentioned early, do not overestimate your tankyness. You are invulnerable with good positioning, but shroud only lasts so long, so don't make the mistakes I was making and think the enemy team don't want to take any opportunity to shove that scythe of yours where the sun doesn't shine.
Necromorph pushes his lane (mid) pretty hard, due to his aura and due to his AOE nuke that you will be trying to land on the enemy mid whilst harrassing him with rightclicks and backing off/tricking him with shroud. This means you might find yourself getting a fair bit of chip damage on his tower, or you might be able to pick up runes. Heroes that push back harder than you are going to take that strength away from you, however. Heroes like Lina, SF and TA are capable of pushing your lane back into you, and they then will take the runes, take their jungle stacks and then go off to kill your sidelanes.
You aren't much of a ganking hero due to your lack of mobility and also due to your very slow build-up into veil and atos. This means it's vital to carry an early tp, glance over to see how your sidelanes are doing, and of course call missing and save your sidelanes when possible (or take out the mid tower instead!). If you think about it, SF or Lina will be building into a shadowblade or bloodstone, and Tinker will be finishing his BoTs, by the time you are dicking around with half an atos. You have a responsibility to make sure the game doesn't get out of hand before you come online, and this means taking care of your teammates. Buy your own sentry for mid if they have a Riki or BH, and keep an eye on that jungle legion and either phase out or hit that W to make yourself physical-immune and slow them down, ping like mad for a counter-gank, pop the good old wand and hope they dive you under the tower because that's a free two kills coming your way
Glimmer cape is an easy counter. Glimmer is so cheap and easy to use that, especially in higher MMR games, slapping it on a Necro-ultied target really isn't difficult to do. How effectively, in practice, does it counter Necrophos? This is something that my limited personal experience can't answer, but I can tell you that in low MMR games my friend hasn't struggled with it to date. Not helpful information if you're 4k+, I know, so perhaps someone could shed more light on this?
Another crucial fact to consider is that diffusal blade removes ghost shroud, and is a reasonable pick up on several heroes such as Riki and Jug.
One comment that has come up against Necrophos mid is that he is vulnerable to ganks. However, with stats from null talisman(s), stats from wand, physical immunity from ghost shroud, a 20% AOE slow with 750 range for 3.5 seconds, double healing from stick/wand, a ~180hp burst heal, AND movement speed from phase boots, I do feel like this hero builds quickly towards being very strong against ganks. Throw in the fact that he has disgusting turn-around potential if being dived at level 6 (ignoring the fact that his ulti throws out a 2 second stun), in my limited experience Necrophos is one of the heroes that you think twice about trying to gank. It is worth remembering, though, that he can be out of position a lot of the time due to naturally pushing the creep wave but not pushing it as fast as heroes like Lina or SF do. As as aside, one possible build that is being experimented with is triple bracer into drums -> atos. This option would make you pretty tanky hp-wise (18 dmg, 360 hp for 1500 gold) and can also give you an early wind lace (which builds into the drums). Pretty cool idea, though it might mean that your tp would often be backpacked.
What about the dagon build, or mek build? I've spoken about the strengths of veil (the essential armour bonus, and damage for last-hitting before level 10) and atos. I think dagon is a risk. It doesn't help you farm, it makes you a bit of a glass canon, but, crucially, if you screw up your dagon gank then that's a good ten minutes of the game completely wasted, and you're gimped from then on. It's just not my playstyle on a hero that has so much going for it scaling in other ways. It doesn't necessarily synergise with your team or your team's gameplan, and isn't necessarily strong against your opponents, so, if anything, it is situational and you will have to keep a close eye on your other lanes to see if it is an option you're going to be able to exploit. Walking around with a dagon while you wait another 10 minutes to farm a mobility item just to be able to use it is pretty sad to say the least. As for mek? I just never found it to be a good item in low MMR bracket. It costs a crazy amount of mana - 225 - and you WILL have mana issues on Necro early to mid game as it stands (always have a clarity in preparation for this moment!). At the end of the day, in my limited experience, I never saw myself using mek to heal more than one or two people for that small amount, and to little effect. I get the impression that shrines make it even more lacklustre.
Well, as you can see, I don't have many negative things to say about Necrophos at the moment, and that is a reason for me making this thread. I would like to know how Necrophos is being played at higher MMR, and if he is being picked much in pro teams (I haven't watched much of TI). I would like to know what heroes he is weak against, and why I am not seeing you chumps at my 2-3k MMR spamming him like my dear, soul-less, addicted friend has been for the past whole goddamn year.
To any high MMR guys or progamers out there who haven't really been considering this hero - give him a solid go and let us know how you get on. In the words of the eternal Terry Pratchett - 'Death comes to us all. When he came to Mort he offered him free MMR in the 2-3k bracket and, potentially, above.'
Thanks for reading.
Added paragraph "I do feel like this hero builds quickly towards being very strong against ganks".