While screen-filling armies is what defines the current patch, there are still heroes who manage to win more than 50% of their games, but are underappreciated by the community. Many of them are also not the most skill-intensive heroes and can be learned with ease by most players. Today we are going to look at three such heroes, who are already doing quite well and might even get a buff or two in the next patch.
Winter Wyvern can be unreliable. She doesn’t do particularly well against solo targets and her laning presence is severely limited by long cooldown on Acrtic Burn and very low base damage. At the same time, there is no better hero than Wyvern to deal with constant summon-based push come midgame.
Splinter Blast is a very low commitment and high range waveclear spell that can protect your towers from afar. While it doesn’t kill the creepwave outright, leaving at least one enemy, it’s stalling utility only increases with the increase in the number of enemy units. It doesn’t actually win the games against Zoo drafts, but it does allow your team to get more resources across the map and be more prepared once the highground push starts coming.
Cold Embrace is also a pretty strong heal/defocus on one of your teammates, which does wonders against heroes like Lycan and Beastmaster. The effectiveness of this spell is generally quite limited in the current realities of Dota, since even medium-level pub players try to draft at least some mixed damage, but when used correctly it is literally a life-saver.
The biggest reason why the hero does so well, however, is her ultimate. Winter’s Curse can quickly turn around a fight and very few zoo heroes deal well with focus from their own army. It is at its best when playing against Lycan, who typically needs to be close and personal in the later stages of the game, but it can also punish Beastmaster or one of his allies with relative ease.
Winter Wyvern currently wins almost 52% of her games in the highest level bracket and is probably the strongest opening for a position five or position four support in your average pub. The enemy will either have to give up playing the annoying Zoo, or will have to face the consequences.
51% win rate and yet the hero is rarely seen in our everyday pubs. Vengeful Spirit might not be the flashiest of heroes, but she is quite effective. Despite not having any meaningful AoE lockdown, she is also a very strong asset in most teamfights, while being a pretty good hero to have in lane as well.
Current version of Magic Missile is bad, there are no two ways about it. It is bad for a support Vengeful Spirit at the very least. Yet a stun is a stun, and 1.4 seconds of hard disable will always at least do something. Still, best to leave it as a value point, rather than trying to max it out for an impressive, but ultimately unnecessary increase in damage.
Wave of Terror, on the other hand, might not look like much, but is actually the hero’s primary lane domination tool. With some practice, it becomes easy to snipe the range creep in lane, if the enemy is contesting it heavily, while also applying a pretty annoying armor debuff. The latter is what keeps the spell viable and powerful until the later stages of the game, since -6 armor is no joke.
Vengeance Aura is also definitely worth talking about. Extra range will come in handy in most games, but it is the extra stats that make the hero so appealing. Your tanky frontliners will be even tankier, your spellcasters will get at least one extra spell and your agility carries will get some extra DPS and a non-trivial amount of armor. Depending on the game and whether your carry is ranged or not, it is actually possible to justify maxing out the aura in some games.
However, once again, it is the ultimate that takes the cake. Nether Swap is one of the most versatile and powerful spells in the game: it can be used as a save, as an initiation tool, as a BKB-piercing TP-cancel and even as a makeshift gap-closer, and it also has two charges. Proper positioning is what many pub players struggle the most with and Vengeful Spirit can not only increase the punishment for bad positioning against opponents, but can also make up for positioning mistakes from her own team and even remains somewhat useful if she is killed out of position herself.
For some reason this hero appears in roughly 7% of all matches, despite being pretty strong in general and against zoo meta specifically. Dark Willow has great damage output, strong AoE control, self-save and in the later stages of the game, even a solo-kill potential on enemy cores. She should not be underestimated.
Bramble Maze might take a while to form and it doesn’t really provide a hard disable and can be played around, but when the enemy is controlling 4+ units at the same time, mistakes can and will happen. Leaving Lycan without a part of his army for some time can allow your teammates to survive a little bit longer and potentially live through the initiation, and that means they get to use their spells and be effective.
Similarly, Cursed Crown might not be the best of AoE stuns, considering how it is easily dispellable and takes a while to actually do something, but with a proper setup it can do wonders for a teamfight, while being something the enemy will have to play around in most other cases.
Shadow Realm is easily the best self-saving ability on a support. You can’t be targeted, so you will only have to worry about some strong AoE spells. You also get to make one pretty strong hit, that can be pretty painful to most supports and even some cores. Most importantly, it allows Dark Willow to enter the fray with impunity, dealing massive damage with Bedlam, while being safe.
Finally, there is Terrorize, and this skill doesn’t need an introduction. If it connects, it can send heroes like Lycan so far out of the fight, that by the time they return the fight is already over. Make sure it does connect, however, or cancel the long wind-up animation: the threat of Terrorize is often a lot more impactful than Terrorize itself: you can force the reaction from the enemy and make him do what you want him to do without spending any mana. Once you use it, however, and if it doesn’t connect, the enemy will feel a lot more confident.
The next patch should be coming soon, but given how Valve stated it is going to be focused on item changes first and foremost, we feel like the Zoo meta might not be completely gone. Sure, Necronomicon will get some very well-deserved nerfs, but Lycan and Beastmaster can take a pretty big hit to their effectiveness and still be the most dominant and annoying heroes in the game.
So for the time being, it might be a good idea to re-explore some of the forgotten heroes and adapt to the meta. Who knows, maybe with a proper preparation the Zoo masters aren’t as scary?