While the Necronomicon removal was widely celebrated, it is impossible to deny that a sizable strategic layer was removed from the game. The current patch rarely allows for an immediate translation of a lane advantage into tight map control and the absence or low popularity of pushing tools is one of the big reasons. But can heavy push make a comeback without Necronomicon being reintroduced to the game?
Too much counterpush
One of the big reasons pushing strategies don’t work is the prevalence of counter-pushing heroes in the current meta. Many of them are not simply great at outpushing — they can do it very safely.
Heroes like Hoodwink and Winter Wyvern have very strong waveclear, that won’t usually kill a wave, but will still significantly change the momentum in lane. The former can then run away through the trees, making for a pretty annoying target to chase. The latter can fly away in any direction and is generally far enough anyways.
Similarly, Lina, Templar Assassin, and Puck are among the most popular mid heroes and all have ways to quickly kill a creep wave and run away. Lina is definitely the riskiest, but even she should be fine, as long as she doesn’t show on the map for too long.
Basically, it is very likely that at least three enemy heroes will have ways of dealing with creep push. That isn’t necessarily true in all metas and all patches, but it is one of the reasons it is close to impossible to rely on summons or converted creeps when sieging.
In this regard, we believe it is a point in favor of Zoo resurrection. A different patch without Luna in every game could allow creep pushes to feel more comfortable and viable.
Zoo heroes are not at their best
Another interesting question to ask is whether push is not working because pushing heroes are weak, or the other way around: pushing heroes not working, because early pushing as a concept doesn’t work right now. Let’s have a look at the latest changes to the most iconic pushing heroes.
Axemaster was nerfed to the ground and there are attempts to bring the actual Beastmaster back, but so far they look half-hearted. Beastmaster in his current form can no longer dominate his lane and his teamfight contribution is limited, compared to other offlane heroes. What he used to offer as a split-pushing menace is similarly diminished, though with Tinker on the rise and buffed Beastmaster’s Shard being underexplored, there might be ways and reasons to make the hero work.
Lycan is not so lucky. For the longest time, the hero relied on Necronomicon to have an actual teamfight impact. He needed True Sight and Purge to deal with Glimmer Capes and Ghost Scepters in the limited window of his ultimate. The hero is also slower in Shapeshift and no longer outruns hasted targets. He did get some small stat buffs, but it is definitely not enough for the hero to be viable. We believe it is going to take a major rework for the hero to make a comeback without Necronomicon reintroduction.
Chen actually doesn’t feel too weak right now. He has a situationally strong aura that can win lanes and can have a huge impact when paired with heroes who heavily rely on lifesteal. His Penitence is pretty much Bloodlust+Ignite from Ogre Magi, at least in terms of fighting prowess. Massive AS boost coupled with MS decrease on an enemy works wonders with slow, but hard-hitting heroes. Finally, healing 600+ HP to your allies in a meta where every hero has a stupid amount of armor can’t be bad. We think that Chen does work even in the current patch and doesn’t need Necronomicon himself or his allies to push early timings. He might no longer be a pure Zoo hero, but at least he is a viable pick.
Nature’s Prophet isn’t so lucky. Probably the worst hero in Dota right now with a 43% win rate in Divine+ games. We honestly don’t know what the hero is even supposed to do. He has no disables, no reliable nukes, and almost no pushing presence, courtesy of overnerfed treants. He can’t even teleport that often in the early game. The game plan for Nature’s Prophet was always in taking an early gold advantage and pushing it to the maximum through global presence. Currently, the hero can’t reliably get that advantage, because he doesn’t do enough in lane and doesn’t always gank successfully. And when he does manage to get a good start, he can’t translate it into anything past taking Tier 1 towers, since Tier 2 towers are too strong and his treants are too weak. At this point, Nature’s Prophet starts rapidly losing his relevance to the game, becoming close to obsolete by the 30-minute mark. Similar to Lycan, we don’t think Furion can make a comeback without either a heavy rework, some massive buffs or the reintroduction of the Necronomicon.
Overall, we see that at least half of typical Zoo heroes were too reliant on Necronomicon to do work. Even if the meta changes and the pace of the game gets faster, some of these heroes won’t find a place in the game without some massive buffs.
There were good reasons Necronomicon was removed: it was simply too efficient. It was a very strong farming tool, a good scouting tool, had extra techy uses with Purge, gave a strong aura, and sometimes punished heroes with a lot of uncontrollable damage. All while providing decent stats on top.
As we can see, though, its removal wasn’t necessarily the most elegant solution. Stacked on top of an already slower-paced meta, it resulted in very long games where playing too aggressively could lead to a disaster while playing conservatively can quickly become boring. The gist of it is that it is hard to translate any kind of advantage into something tangible. Only slightly more advantage and then slightly more advantage to gain some extra advantage while attempting to get critical advantage and finish the game.
This isn’t a big problem for pubs. Mistakes are common in pubs and this slower-paced comeback-oriented meta without frustrating heavy push can be fun, especially if it is the enemy team with an advantage trying to push it too early. For the professional scene, however, and for TI10 specifically, it can be a problem, as better teams make fewer mistakes and don’t take unnecessary risks. In a sense, it could be the opposite of TI4 in style, but similar in spirit.
We believe that overall, the Zoo or heavy push can be resurrected without Necronomicon and, more importantly, it should be resurrected as soon as possible either through heavy buffs to Zoo heroes or some changes to the rules of the game. It must not and should not be the dominant strategy, but it should be a viable one.
We believe that the game needs tools for pushing an early advantage, we believe that Zoo is one of such tools and it needs buffs and we believe that the frequently frustrating Necronomicon was a strong addition to the concept of early pushing, but it can be substituted and doesn’t need a reintroduction to the game. Do you agree with our assessment or do you think the problems we discussed today are superficial? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.