What the Viper explosion taught me
Viper’s winrate and pick/ban exploded in the last few weeks, even leading to a very quick patch tweak that addressed his (ridiculous) aoe-nuke-break-silence. But why did this hero get so popular so fast?
Dota was played at a breakneck pace for months. Safe lane cores were grabbing three wraith bands and running at objectives. Offlane cores farm out game-ending sustain and rosh items like vlads, crimson, pipe, and greaves. The removal of ancients took a significant chunk of experience out of the map — pushing again towards fighting heroes.
And then — what’d ya know — patched. The meta shifts to something slower. Midas gets popular. Games go a bit later.
Why was Viper winning?
Was it because of his explosively fast farming speed? His laning? His scaling with some very strong talents? Well, yeah. But it also was his popular build — tuned and dialed in to skip Midas for atos, taking all that advantage and snowballing when enemy cores were weak.
So what about my boy — Lone Druid?
LD has had a host of reworks, buffs, more buffs, and more reworks. But the core of the hero is the same (when ranged Druid isn’t a thing — and it’s not, wraith nerfs killed it dead, sorry) — dominate lane, farm item, kill buildings.
If “power spike” had a dictionary entry, Lone Druid would be in there. He is the definitive timing push hero. Everyone has been on the receiving end of it — the 20 minute radiance-ac push that ends with 2 dead lanes of rax and your team flaming each other.
That power spike is very strong again. Right now, while slower timing cores are still popular, like jug, pa, morph, naix, terrorblade. They need time to come online, and just like Viper, LD can exploit that timing. But unlike Viper, LD ends the game. This blog is about doing that — ending games quickly and collecting MMR.
It’s pretty simple. Hold the pick for as long as your team permits to avoid counter picks. Lane wherever you will cause the most disruption. Choose the right build. End the game in your window.
LD is a very strong laner and will win — or crush — almost any 1v1 matchup. You can easily win mid, safe lane, or offlane, you just need to be given the best matchup you can get. For example — if they pick antimage, you want to offlane and shut down the AM. If they pick invoker, you can outlane an invoker and delay his Midas timing. It’s important that you win the laning stage hard to snowball your timings.
Items and timings
Understand your end-game item builds:
Phase-(mom/midas)-radiance-ac-vlads + pipe when needed.
20-30 minutes is your time to end the game and your itemization should reflect that.
Orb of venom, blight stone, quelling blade, and phase boots are all great depending on the matchup.
Mask of madness or Midas — both of these are optional. MOM is underused on LD —it lets you mow down objectives in the mid game like crazy, and it helps you end the game in one push. It also severely punishes teams trying to fight in to you. Midas is still good on LD because of the attack speed and faster lvl 20, but it messes with your timings a bit — generally Midas means you will be ending closer to 26+ minutes, while skipping Midas means you will be ending closer to 22 minutes.
Avoid trap items:
So these might seem cool but they take away from your goal of ending the game fast: maelstrom, aghs, basher, deso.
A special note about BKB:
You generally cannot afford to skip BKB when playing against certain heroes. For example, ending the game against an invoker who has midas/aghs at a reasonable time is very difficult without BKB. Yes, LD has a potential talent at 25, but it’s awkward to use defensively and it takes 30+ minutes to get there, when you’ve likely already lost.
Talents and skill points:
So there is some nuance here, actually. You want to get to level 5 as fast as possible because you then have kill potential. You often want to use your second point in fear to disrupt ranged creep last hits (and it keeps you alive in dual lane scenarios). You want to max spirit link by the time your phase/mom is going.
Keep your bear at level 3 (with root), and when it procs a root, level it to 4. This resets the PRNG because it is a new unit and it gets you (very likely) a second root. It also tilts your lane opponent out of the game.
Talents — 250 HP, bear armor, ult CD, bear attack speed. All of these help you do what your hero wants to do: kill buildings as fast as possible. Savage roar CD is the one I could see being the best (as that skill is bonkers good) but I don’t think you should deviate from the others. Entangle seems like a trap since ult CD is enormously powerful at that window. 25 talent — if you need bkb, this talent doesn’t replace it because of the awkward cast time, so just get the base attack speed and mow them down.
Some notes on playing LD:
- Don’t lose your lane
- Don’t die — seriously, this one is important. You need to stay alive and collect XP and gold so you can end the game. It’s really important to know your limits on LD. If you die early it’s not so bad, but mid game deaths are very hard to recover from. A good LD stat line is like 4-0-20 with 15-20k hero damage and 28k building damage.
- Take dangerous farm and force enemy movements, but again, don’t die. You are hard to kill with fear and generally the enemy will need to commit 2-3 heroes to kill you. This is LD’s biggest strength — he opens the map up like crazy.
- He also excels at killing 2v1 in the mid game. Spirit link/ult is way stronger than people realize.
- Don’t take fights when you are close to radiance. There’s nothing more important than finishing that item with very few exceptions.
- Prioritize lane creeps. Shoved lanes keeps your vision up, forces cores to TP and collect farm, and keeps you safe.
The MMR climbing aspect
This part is a bit more simple. I have a 71% win rate with LD in the last month over 15-20 games. My LD games last on average 30 minutes. Win fast, lost fast — but you can play a few more games to average it out. If you win 6 or 7 out of 10 games, you are grinding, and probably around half the time it takes others.
Same kind of thought could work for heroes like Lycan, or meepo.
Mindset — some games you are going to lose. Maybe you get trounced in lane. Maybe you take some bad fights. Maybe they unleashed the omega counterpicks like slardar, necrophos, witch doctor, etc. But the game length is short enough that it doesn’t matter so much.
All right. Big blog out.