Friday, October 30, 2015

Spotlight on Chaos Knight (6.85)

Chaos Knight is a powerful carry, with both mid-game and late-game strengths.  Unfortunately, he's not terribly strong in the early laning phase (no spammable nuke, no escape skill, not ranged), and can be countered by several currently-popular heroes, including Ember Spirit.  He also lacks the ability to flash-farm and get the lead that he needs to dominate.

However, he's been given small buffs lately, namely that his Chaos Strike passive now gives armor reduction when it crits, and a few patches ago, his Phantom Steed ability also has a 50% chance to give an extra illusion.

This doesn't change Chaos Knight all that much, however - he still needs to be itemized the same way, for the same reasons, and his skill build is also unlikely to change much.

Spell Combo:

Chaos Knight's spell combo is:

Phantom Steed + Rift + Chaos Bolt + Rift.  

Done correctly, this should net him a kill in the early and mid game.  The problem is that CK doesn't have enough mana from stat gain to cast this combo!  This often leads to people delaying skilling up his ultimate until he can be itemized for additional mana.
At L1 Ult = 125 + 50 + 140 + 50 = 365 mana (CK barely has enough mana if he has Treads on Int)
At L2 Ult = 200 + 50 + 140 + 50 = 440 mana ( "  " )
At L3 Ult = 275 + 50 + 140 + 50 = 515 mana ( "  " )


Chaos Knight suffers from a small mana pool and terrible Int growth.  This means that if he wants to cast his spell combo he needs some Int from items.  He ALSO needs teammates with Arcane Boots or Mekanism, if he wants any sustain - otherwise he's back to the fountain after each fight.

Early Items for consideration include:
  • Wand - some stats, but not a lot; wand charges accumulate usually AFTER the combo.
  • Bottle - replenishable regen, but no stats or mana pool gain.
  • Null Talisman - cheap early mana, but no upgrade path.
  • Power Treads - switch to Int before casting Phantom Steed, then switch to Str.
  • Drums - solid midgame item, also benefits illusions (stats).
Of all these items, I believe Power Treads should be your first go-to, although it's more expensive than Wand, Null, or Bottle.  Because of that, you should buy a Robe of the Magi after brown Boots, instead of a Belt of Strength - this will allow you to go for that early kill.

Big Items:

Items that CK really wants include:
  • Heart
  • AC
  • Manta
  • Skadi
  • (Boots of Travel)
Situational Items:
  • Armlet (really good early damage, but needs a "health recovery" item)
  • BKB (if lots of magic damage or stuns)
  • S&Y (good only if finished early - can be disassembled for Manta + Halberd) 
  • HoD (good for early lifesteal if no Vlad's on team, Alpha Wolf companion)


Because CK needs a good start, you should lane with a support that combos well with him, such as AA, CM, SS, Lion, Lina, Disruptor or Jakiro.  I feel that using defensive supports with him (such as Dazzle) are a mistake, because it reduces the chance that CK can get kills and the early boost in farm that he needs to dominate other carries and snowball.

Pro Scene

Roaming Support:
CK saw a little bit of play in October 2015 as a roaming support.  This choice is a high-risk, high-reward play that didn't pay off in the game I watched (link TBD), and leaves CK without any contribution in the mid and late game, and no catch-up mechanism.  I think the issue is that CK really needs at least level 2 before he even starts to roam, and level 7 before he becomes truly dangerous.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Team Creation by Item Preferences

Idea:  Build a balanced team by the type of items that are most beneficial for those heroes, such that the team-based item purchases are also balanced and optimized.

Hypothesis:  The value in this exercise is in DOING the exercise, not seeing the results.

QoP --> Scythe, Orchid
Dark Seer, Ogre Magi, Doom, and Phoenix --> Shiva's Guard
Necrophos, Viper, and DK --> early Mek
Axe and Slardar --> Vanguard into Crusader
Abaddon, Centaur & Phoenix --> Pipe of Insight

Team ideas:

DK mid
Centaur Offlane
Venge + Slardar roaming
QoP safelane solo
weakness:  few teamfight ults

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

6.86 Predictions

Okay, so I've watched a TON of pro games lately, and I'm getting good enough to predict wins fairly accurately based on drafts alone.

So.. I'm going out on a limb here, and giving my predictions for the future.

Last Edited:  December 9, 2015.

Deadly combinations of Note in 6.85:
- Shadowfiend + Ember or Beastmaster usually heralds a win.
- Wyvern + Bane support combo.

Nerf bat incoming:
- Shadowfiend (Raze damage will likely be decreased, possibly to something like 80/140/200/260), to reduce his flash-farming ability.  His win-rate at the pro level is too high right now.
- Ember spirit will receive a nerf (Flameguard damage absorption amount, probably.  May also get a slight nerf to remnant recharge time).
- Tusk will have some of his nuke damage reduced, or cooldowns increased.  His Ice Shard range may be decreased.
- Wind Ranger's Shackle Shot duration will be reduced slightly (currently rivals many ultimates).
- Winter Wyvern:  ultimate cast range decrease.  Cold Embrace will be nerfed.
- Slardar:  Ult's armor reduction may get reduced slightly, and will only give vision of the hero itself.

Popular but balanced:
- QoP will not be buffed or nerfed.  She's a strong laner, but very squishy and can be brought down.
- Broodmother:  popular, but balanced and can be countered.  Often countered by laning choices.
- Gyrocopter: will likely be untouched.  Suits some team line-ups but not others.

Still needs work (buffs or re-tooling):
- Legion Commander:  despite her recent buffs and popularity, picking her usually means a loss (in Pro games).  Needs slight re-tooling to balance pub vs. pro play.
- Crystal Maiden:  will receive a minor buff, probably to base strength or strength gain.

What you will see ( or see more of ):
- Armor reduction drafting strategies (also enables quick Roshan kills)
- Vengeful Spirit as a carry
- Keeper of the Light will be drafted more often in competitive games, especially for his Chakra magic and anti-push.
- More carries buying Desolator to gain an early fighting advantage.
- Pro teams picking Omniknight or Abaddon to protect against armor reduction and physical damage
- Elder Titan to counter Agility carries
- Huskar, because of trend towards early aggression (possibly dual-offlane or even dual-lane safelane until L6).  Huskar with Maelstrom may be a thing (so he can farm / wave clear / push).
- Luna, with support picks to compensate for her low hp (Abaddon, etc).
- Warlock, especially in low-tier team games.  His abilities, I feel, are underrated.

Trends that will continue:
- Early aggression and mid-game aggression
- Continued dependence on drafting heroes with "vision" abilities (at least in the pro scene), such as Nightstalker, Clockwerk, Beastmaster.
- Picking at least one "greedy" support, or a support that could transition to semi-carry
- Heroes such as Spiritbreaker and Beastmaster will still be strong picks
- Slardar will remain a "pocket pick" for many teams
- Dazzle & Witch Doctor will continue to be strong supports.

You'll see less of:
- Shadowfiend, after a nerf.
- Ember Spirit, after a nerf.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Team Ideas: Pub Winner Teams 6.85

Using Dotabuff's top heroes by winrate, I've once again put together some viable teams for pubs for patch 6.85.

#1: Top Tier, Balanced
Ursa, Abaddon, Lich
Undying (offlane)
Zeus (mid)

You get a bit of everything in this line-up; Roshan, Ganking, Healing, Teamfight.
This can be run as a 1-1-3 or 2-1-2.
Laning: I recommend Zeus mid, Undying (and Lich) offlane, and Ursa + Abaddon safelane.  You could also jungle Ursa and solo Undying, leaving Abaddon+Lich in safelane, and use Abaddon as a third core.

#2:  Ganking
Spectre + Omni + WraithKing
Zeus (mid)
Spiritbreaker (solo offlane)

This isn't a teamfight lineup - it's a gank lineup with Spectre as lategame carry. Send in SB, Haunt in Spectre, and use Zeus ult to soften up targets.  Omni can keep the tough melee heroes alive in teamfights, but you need to be ahead by this point, because your early teamfight ultimates are underwhelming.  You also might be able to get away with a jungling Wraithking if it's a low-level pub (he's not a bad jungler with Vampiric Aura).

#3:  Armor Reduction
Slardar, Venge, Witch Doctor
Elder Titan (offlane)
Medusa (mid)

This is an armor-reduction team, focusing on physical damage.  (Don't run this against Omniknight!).
Laning:  I would run dual lanes on this if you're low-tier (ET + WD).  You can also roam Venge from the safe tri-lane (also stacking for 'Dusa).  Medusa is actually quite a decent mid with the changes to Mystic Snake.
Itemization:  Slardar needs a Blink to initiate, to enable Earthsplitter, which sets up a really good Death Ward (enemies are slowed).  Medusa's Gaze, if she's in range, can also multiply the physical damage taken.

#4:  Teamfighting
Sven, Disruptor, Silencer
Undying (offlane)
Queen of Pain (mid)

This is a team-fighting lineup, with a fairly nasty tri-lane.  If you wanted to run dual-lanes, send Disruptor with Undying.  Tombstone + Kinetic Field is quite strong.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Spotlight on Doom - 6.85

With a recent buff to Doom's Scorched Earth, I expect to see him played quite a bit more in the 6.85 patch.  His increased base attack damage and survivability give him a much needed boost as an offlaner, and while he makes a terrible mid, he could still be run as a jungler or safe lane farmer.

Doom Build (Solo offlane)
Doom as a utility hero (offlaner) is mainly about removing a high-impact enemy hero from the fight, using Doom.  After the ultimate is cast, it doesn't even matter if Doom himself survives, although if he does well, he can easily move into a semi-carry role, or become even more annoying with a Refresher Orb and/or Agh's Sceptre.

Start:  Tango, Boots
Early:  Basilius or Stout Shield
Core: Power Treads, Halberd
Late:  Refresher

Skill Build:
Scorched Earth
Scorched Earth

Doom Build (Solo Safelane)
Start:  Tango, Health Potion, Branches
Early:  Boots, Midas
Core:  Phase Boots, Drums

Doom Build (Jungler)
Start:  Tango, Stout Shield
Early:  Quelling Blade, Basilius
Core:  Phase Boots,Vlad's, BKB