Image by WEi-Zi
Abaddon is one of the most popular offlane and support heroes in the highest level brackets and possibly the most successful one. Over the course of the last month his pick rate in Divine and Immortal has increased from 12.5% to almost 16%, while his winrate was on an upward trend, reaching 56% this week.
The hero is getting more popular and more successful in our pubs and we don’t believe it is going to change without patches, so today we would like to have a look on how to tap into Abaddon’s power.
The Meta Defining Flex Pick
Abaddon is currently one of the most popular flex picks in the professional scene. He can be played as both position three offlane and position five support, though the last changes made him a lot more appealing as a utility offlaner.
Interestingly, his playstyle doesn’t change much, depending on his role. The degree of effectiveness does change substantially, but even as a support he can afford to frontline for his team, gather information, bait spells and save teammates.
In pubs, this flexibility is considerably less pronounced: if there is a downside to role matchmaking, it is probably related to how problematic switching roles during the draft can be. Keep in mind, though, that the enemy doesn’t see the roles players on your team have selected, so there is still a bit of an added benefit to an early Abaddon pick.
The only way to play?
Despite his role flexibility, Abaddon has a pretty rigid skill build, at least until level seven. In the majority of games Aphotic Shield is maxed out first, as it combines both defensive and aggressive utility. Being a strong dispel, it helps a great deal against popular heroes like Mirana and is similarly effective against lesser disables.
Value points into both Mist Coil and Curse of Avernus are also close to non-negotiable. The former allows the hero to deal considerable damage in lane, which comes incredibly handy for a position five Abaddon who can simply deny himself over and over again, getting a “free” trip to base. The latter is a game-changer when it comes to trading in lane: the movement speed slow and the stacking effect are not as scary or as effective as Jingu Mastery stacks, but still serve their purpose as a deterrent and allow Abaddon and his lane partner to go for risky chases.
Depending on the role, the skill build after the first seven levels pivots to either maxing out Mist Coil or the Curse of Avernus. The first choice is ubiquitous on position five support Abaddon players, since it maximizes the utility the hero can provide. The second choice is a situational skill build for position three Abaddon, who wants to apply the maximum amount of pressure and play aggressively with his team and take down towers faster.
When it comes to talents, it is hard to argue against +25% XP gain at level 10. The alternative is considerably more popular and slightly more successful in pubs, but in well-coordinated matches, where enemies usually aren’t as split up as they are in pubs and generally react faster, +20 MS is unlikely to provide as much benefit as the faster access to later talents. It is also not the choice most Ancient and above players go for, unless they are absolutely dominating their lane.
At level 15 going for extra damage and heal on Mist Coil is usually done with the Aghanim’s upgrade down the road in mind. This talent with the Aghanim’s upgrade is amazing in teamfights, providing a lot of sustain to Abaddon’s team. However, Aghanim’s is not always conceivable, given how relatively slow Abaddon’s farm is. In games where your team really needs utility items and the enemy has a lot of physical damage, going for less greedy +8 Armor is preferable. It is also the default choice in games where the laning stage was less than ideal.
Finally, at level 20 and 25 the talents should be more or less self-explanatory. Being a utility hero, 20% cooldown reduction is generally more beneficial to Abaddon: 32 seconds of cooldown on ultimate might allow for an extra use during a teamfight, while sub-five seconds of cooldown on Aphotic Shield allows Abaddon to dispel the majority of negative effects during any fight, while providing a lot of extra health and damage to his team. 425 durability on the Shield is also generally a lot more potent than the AoE Mist Coil.
When it comes to item choices, position five Abaddon players rarely get to make any—the role is usually incredibly sacrificial and Abaddon doesn’t have any potent wave-clearing abilities or a GPM talent. The best one can hope for is a couple of Bracers or a Vladmir’s Offering.
Core Abaddon does farm in lane and is more likely to survive engagements, but still lacks flash-farming potential, so the first item choice is incredibly important—the second one can be delayed substantially and the third and fourth are not guaranteed, unless the game goes incredibly well.
There are several options when it comes to the first item on the hero. When facing a lot of magical damage, Pipe of Insight should be self-explanatory. Build-up from Hood of Defiance will protect Abaddon in the early fights, while the aura and the Barrier effect will come incredibly handy in the mid game, before Abaddon’s allied cores get their BKBs.
When facing a pushing lineup with a lot of summons, Crimson Guard similarly needs little to no explanation. It protects your teammates and, perhaps more importantly, it protects your towers from sieges, allowing your team to react or at least wasting the enemy’s time.
When facing a physical damage heavy lineup, Vladmir’s Offering can be a great aura to have. It is pretty cheap, provides a decent amount of starting armor, amps the damage of your team and allows Abaddon to sustain himself in-between fights. While it is hardly an acceleration item, it can allow for faster transitions towards the next thing.
Finally, there is a Medallion into Solar Crest route, which got considerably weaker in the last few patches but still deserves the attention. If your team is pick-off heavy and has cores and supports with gap closers, it can pay off reasonably fast. It is also pretty great if you are on the offensive with heroes who need the extra Attack Speed to push towers. That said, it is probably inferior to other choices in teamfights, so be extra careful with it—if the enemy decides to take the fight to you as five, Solar Crest might not be enough.
Abaddon is a pretty interesting hero. On one hand, he fits perfectly into the description of tanky frontline offlaners with utility, on the other—he doesn’t have any disables or reliable catch.
Heroes like that are by no means inferior to more conventional intiate-stun-focus down-kill offlaners, but they do require a different approach to Dota in a macro sense. Without the ability to reliably gank enemy heroes and provide lockdown, teams with Abaddon are generally required to force the enemy to commit to a fight through pressure and objective taking.
In less coordinated pubs, especially in pre-Ancient games, it can be hard to get this idea through and Abaddon’s tempo can be wasted. His only play is usually to knock on the enemy’s door and hope they respond, so that he can counter-initiate with his strong dispels. If your team doesn’t group up, the hero will eventually fall off in terms of his item and level progression and will look weak, compared to heroes like Axe, Sand King and Legion Commander.