Despite receiving a strength gain nerf in 6.88b, Timbersaw still remains as one of the top picks of the meta. At TI6, he was among the top 10 of most contested heroes, and was the priority target for first round picks and bans against team DC. In pubs, he is the 16th most popular hero overall, and in this past month, the 9th most picked hero in the 5k+ MMR bracket.
As an offlaner, what he lacks in utility he makes up in damage, Pure damage. This distinction is what makes the hero especially stronger in pubs, where dealing damage is often more reliable than hitting stuns. With Reactive Armor, he’s robust in the lane, and the low cooldown of Timber Chain puts a greater burden on his opponents to lock him down. The strength of his skills puts less requirements on his item progression, where Bloodstone is perhaps his only core item. With the exception of Aghanim’s Scepter, the rest of his items surround mobility and survivability—Shiva’s Guard, Pipe, Eul’s Scepter, Black King Bar. This makes Timbersaw flexible in many lineups, as he can adjust his build according to the game’s flow and the opponent’s draft, and it makes it far more difficult to counter him in pubs.
Most supports will have a difficult time zoning a Timbersaw with Reactive Armor. There are a few that work better than others, but the key is to have a hero that can limit Timbersaw’s growth in the early game as well as the late game.
In matchups this month, Skywrath Mage is also the 2nd most successful hero against Timbersaw. He is one of the best supports to hinder Timbersaw at all stages of the game. If Timbersaw has a Poor Man’s Shield and level 2 Reactive Armor, you’re essentially healing him by hitting him. Skywrath Mage’s damage doesn’t depend on physical damage. And though Concussive Shot has a slow projectile speed, Ancient Seal is instant, and it exploits Timbersaw’s weakness against magic damage.
Keeper of the Light
KOTL is a counter for only one skill: [missing skill: keeper-of-the-light-mana-leak-5472]. The mana loss is percentage based, and constant from lvl 1, so it’s effective through all stages of the game. Usually, blinking heroes can avoid the mana loss by moving over 300 units in less than 0.1 seconds, but Timber Chain doesn’t qualify here. The issue with picking KOTL to counter Timbersaw is now that you also have KOTL, and his purpose should have a greater function in your lineup than Mana Leak.
It was a surprise not to see Lion more frequently during TI6. But Lion exploits Timbersaw in similar ways as KOTL and Skywrath Mage. Lion has the magic damage to assist in taking down Timbersaw, but he can also zone with Earth Spike and Mana Drain.
These are not the only heroes that are good against Timbersaw. Ancient Apparition can be effective for his amplify damage and his ability to negate Timbersaw’s regen, while Oracle’s root and high burst are also effective counters. Disruptor is a fair mid to late game counter, but can not contribute much with low levels. And Shadow Demon might seem like a counter-intuitive pick—because Timbersaw can just Timber Chain away from Demonic Purge—but SD also provides an amplify damage for more burst, and a well-timed Disruption can be enough to stop the chain and coordinate more damage. The most effective supports are ones that can tamp down his laning, exploit his magic damage weakness, and hamstring his mobility.
Timbersaw’s least favorable matchups this month
The difference with some of these core heroes is that they won’t necessarily face Timbersaw in the lane. Most cores do poorly against Timbersaw in a 1v1 matchup, but that doesn’t mean they are also poor counters.
This can actually go both ways, as Timbersaw’s Pure damage can pressure Anti-Mage in the mid game. But Timbersaw is as much a mana dependent hero as another common Anti-Mage matchup, in Storm Spirit. In these matchups, both heroes have a ticking clock against each other, but the burden is on Timbersaw to create that pressure. In a one on one matchup, Timbersaw can do fairly well even in the face of Mana Break, but it’s still a sensitive situation if AM’s supports decide to rotate. And late-game, he’ll need a Linkens or a BKB to avoid detonating his own team.
Chronosphere is probably the best disable in the game. It’s Time Dilation, however, that creates the most problems with Timbersaw. Because Timbersaw is constantly spamming all his spells, Time Dilation is essentially a 6-12 second silence. His bash is magical damage, and there’s also opportunity for Void players to fit Silver Edge in their item progression, to nullify Timbersaw’s Reactive Armor.
Invoker is known for his spells and his magic damage, but his physical damage output is often underrated. Decent levels in Exort and two Forged Spirits is the cornerstone of his pushing strength, but it also gives him a mixed, physical and magical, damage output that can take burst Timbersaw. The other key spell here is Cold Snap. Its continuous, mini-stun is enough to stop even Anti-Mage from completing his blink animation, and it’s enough to stop Timber Chain’s animation, or stop it if it’s already in motion.
Sometimes, there are hero picks that are “spite picks,” heroes that don’t fit in a lineup, so they’re only purpose was to intentionally counter another hero. Bloodseeker vs. Slark. Pugna vs. Skywrath Mage. Heroes picked against Timbersaw do need to fit overall strategy, and on occasion, countering him can be part of it.