Image by Eleonora “Noura” Abdrakhmanova
When one of your friends tells you they want to play Vengeful Spirit mid, you might load into the game and prepare yourself for a loss. Not anymore. Recently, streamers and some professional teams like OG and Nigma have been running the hero in core positions such as 1, 2 and even 3. So why are some professional players running Vengeful Spirit mid? How can you play this hero mid?
Deceptively strong base hero
To start, Vengeful Spirit has great base stats level 1, and has one of the highest agility gains per level in the game with 3.8, third highest among all heroes, which allows her to scale really well. However, she can be a midgame powerhouse through matching her with Zoo heroes of the previous meta. Although some of the items in the zoo meta have been nerfed, it is by no means a non-viable strategy. There are still heroes such as Luna, Beastmaster, Enchantress that can build items like Vladimir’s Offering, which can be considered the best pushing aura item in patch 7.27 and the new Helm of the Dominator, which we think is still viable. Venge is the perfect hero to pair with them as the armor she gets from her agility gain makes her deceptively tanky. Not to mention, her passive aura gives her a flat +13 primary attribute bonus to all the heroes around her, which further exemplifies her as a tanky and hard hitting core hero.
Vengeful Spirit can be played in a variety of roles. If she is able to get levels and a decent amount of farm, she will be able to provide utility/damage for you into the late game. For the purposes of this article, I will assume that she has the highest priority of levels on the map, which is why we will be discussing her in the mid position. We choose mid as the place to put Vengeful Spirit because she takes very good advantage of the levels and farm that you are able to get mid. Not to mention your Wave of Terror is incredibly good at farming the small camp next to the middle lane, allowing you to gain an advantage over your enemy which can carry you through the mid game. As we have mentioned before, the tankiness of Vengeful Spirit also allows you to survive most bad matchups mid and come out even.
In order to play Vengeful Spirit mid, your priority is maxing Wave of Terror and Vengeance Aura first. A level 1 Wave of terror provides -3 armor in an AOE, which means that you are able to trade better with the enemy laner. More importantly, this makes it easier to secure the enemy ranged creep by weaving in an auto attack with a 60 magic damage spell. You could do the same with Magic Missile, but it is more worthwhile to max Wave of Terror due to the lower manacost,and chance at lowering your opponent’s armor. You’re also able to use it as a farming tool for jungle creeps.
Another reason to play her mid is that she works very well with levels. At level 2 you have a 60 damage nuke and -3 armor in an AOE in addition to the +4 agility gained from her Vengeance Aura making her right clicks much stronger than the enemy. In most cases, you will always have the damage advantage when playing Vengeful Spirit by matching the amount of stat farming items the enemy laner buys in addition to the innate stats you get from your abilities.
For example, these are the stats of a Vengeful Spirit at level 8 with 3 wraith Bands and Boots. Pay attention to the 102 damage, which is not amplified by the minus armor of Wave of Terror and the 12 armor, which makes her tanky beyond belief.
Why does it work?
Vengeful Spirit works the best with heroes that are able to push her mid-game timing to the fullest. Before 7.27 she would be matched up with the zoo” heroes such as Lycan, Chen and luna. With the changes to pushing items, we can still see this style of play but it might not be as prominent. However, Vengeful spirit can still be a powerful pick depending on how you decide to skill her, vengeful spirit is an incredibly powerful right clicker that is able to initiate/follow up fights with her team by stunning/swapping a target. No other hero currently has as much utility as she does being a ranged hero. After laning and getting your levels, you can put pressure onto other lanes with these commonly picked Zoo heroes such as Beastmaster, Luna or Lycan to convert small ganks into objectives and map control.
Vengeful Spirit works especially well by snowballing her lead mid with another ranged carry in the safelane, primarily heroes like Luna or Windranger as her aura gives +125 ranged increase. With patch 7.27 seeming to go in the direction of slowing down the game, it seems Vengeful Spirit’s role is to create space for a carry with the rest of the team while the main hard carry farms. She can still be paired with heroes like Chen, Lycan, Queen of Pain and Centaur Warrunner to create space, find picks and take towers. Good carries that can pair with her are able to farm and take advantage of Vengeful Spirit’s auras are Terrorblade, Luna and Drow Ranger.
Another reason why Vengeful Spirit can be a great mid-game carry is the strength of her talents. At level 10, she either gets more armor loss on Wave of Terror or +12% magic resistance. Both can be taken depending on how the game is going. If you need more tankiness and effective health, you take the increased magic resistance, which makes her tankier with her high armor. According to Dotabuff, the 12% magic resistance increases win probability by +0.2% and if you need more damage, -1 armor is a huge boost when you and your team do a lot of right-click damage. Vengeful Spirit’s talent at level 20, which gives +6 Vengeance Aura attribute gain, increases her winrate by 3.4% and will provide your team a much needed boost on their midgame timing.
Why might it not work?
Just like any strategy, there are obvious limitations to the hero.
The first limitation could be that your team doesn’t have other heroes that can support your mid-game timing. For example, drafting a Vengeful mid when you have heroes like Keeper of the Light or Silencer would not be ideal. Their job is to support large-scale teamfights, and they do not provide the utility or disable needed to take advantage of Vengeful Spirit’s mid-game timing.
Vengeful Spirit also might not work if the enemy has picked the heroes that have ways of suppressing a push. Good examples are heroes with good wave clear like Underlord or Keeper of the Light. Vengeful spirit has a 1.74% and 0.75% disadvantage versus each of them, respectively.
In addition to the new patch 7.27, and zoo getting nerfed, it seems that the game will be taking a slower pace. This means that illusion carries who used to be susceptible to early push lineups are now more viable. Examples of these heroes are Phantom Lancer, Medusa, and Terrorblade. According to Dotabuff statistics, Vengeful Spirit has a disadvantage of 3.31%, 2.13 % and 1.85% respectively against these heroes. All three of these heroes can turtle well, and two of them (Phantom Lancer and Terrorblade) take advantage of Vengeful Spirit’s largest weakness, which is her lack of AOE damage. In the previous patch, 7.26, you could cover this weakness with a stronger push lineup and overwhelming the opposing team with mid-game timing. However, with the new patch 7.27, this might be harder.
A final aspect to consider is that with any mid-game timed push, it depends heavily on your team snowballing and getting an early lead, which means that you have to win your lane. If you are winning mid but your other lanes are losing and are unable to hit the push timing with you, the game becomes a lot more difficult. There exist several mid-game counter-picks against Vengeful that could put her behind enough that she cannot take advantage of her power spikes. Prime examples of this are Meepo, who overwhelms her with clones and farms faster; Dragon Knight, who can shrug off her harass and match her timing; and Broodmother, since she cannot kill the spiders easily.
I think Vengeful Spirit can be a powerful and underrated pick in the meta. If the situations described above in the “Why does it work” section arise then Vengeful Spirit can be a powerful pocket pick that your enemies do not know how to deal with yet.
Even in the 7.27 meta, where the games are slower, we think core Vengeful Spirit can still be done. It brings up new combinations of items to build on her. Since status resistance has been nerfed overall could we see people building Meteor Hammer on her to help farm and push faster? Can she still use the new Helm of the Dominator to provide extra utility and aura with a good jungle creep? Vengeful Spirit’s place in the meta will change even further as time goes by. Or maybe she’ll just fall off due to the game being at a slower pace now. It will take time to find out.