For years there have been teasers and speculations about Wukong entering the DotA/Dota2 realm. When bananas dropped earlier this year, players got hyped even more about the arrival of the Monkey King and when it was announced during The International this year, players from around the world were ecstatic about the prospect of the first Dota 2 hero.
Monkey King is the first hero that has not been brought into DotA (1), but is rather a purely Dota 2 based hero. No Warcraft 3 engine limitations can hold him back and his design is arguably years ahead of that of other heroes. Surely, Dota 2 has received patches and tweaks, but hero designs such as those of Wraith King and Drow Ranger is still very much outdated in ARTS (or for the very daring “MOBA”) games.
And one could say that Wukong lives up to the hype and potential that people have seen in him, with new unique abilities and interactions that could pave the way for a more vivid and fluid map interaction. He is the continuation of a trend that has developed itself over the past years with more complex hero designs and ability interactions.
Monkey King has so far established himself as a carry and ganker that has high impact in the early midgame and can scale well into the later stages of the game, though also has high potential to fall off.
Through the mobility of Tree Dance, Monkey King can approach his targets quite easily and can avoid conventional scouting methods. Wards that aren’t placed on ward hills will not grant vision over the elusive ganker and even towers cannot spot him at the top of a tree. While he does become visible during his jumps, it can be difficult to keep track of him. Especially now that he’s a new hero with a new and unique design, people will have a difficult time adjusting to his unique way to approach targets.
To make use of his elusiveness, Monkey King can initiate from the top of a tree with the help of Primal Spring. It’s a great initiation tool with a strong slow–40% at level 1 is one of the better early game slows in the game, especially in an AoE.
Among his ten most picked up items, Shadow Blade fits the approach of a ganker quite well. Monkey King can turn invisible while on a tree and can walk off the tree without turning visible, allowing him to be stealthier and deadlier. The attack speed bonus is of course a huge benefit, as his passive ability Jingu Mastery requires 4 attacks on one hero to be effective.
As a result, Echo Sabre is the most important item in Monkey King’s current item builds. Not only does it basically guarantee 2 hits on a target for Jingu Mastery, it also synergizes incredibly well with his ultimate Wukong’s Command . His soldiers all apply the Echo Sabre attack slow to their targets, turning his ultimate into an even better crowd control ability than it already is. Of course, Echo Sabre isn’t the only whose buffs the soldier adapt. Desolator or Skull Basher both have effects that soldiers benefit from and that can turn Wukong’s Command into a deadly trap.
These items aren’t only good because of Wukong’s ultimate however. Boundless Strike is Monkey King’s most fearsome weapon and it allows the hero to be the ganker and carry he is. Not only does it act as an extended arm to Monkey King, meaning that it deals physical damage and applies all debuffs and item effects as well just like any right-click would, its guaranteed critical hit allows Monkey King to farm and kill efficiently. Boundless Strike hits also apply the Jingu Mastery counter on hit enemies or uses up the bonus attack of it. It can be used as a finishing move in combination with Jingu Mastery, but its up to 2 second stun also allows the ability to act as an initiation tool.
Mischief is a very unique ability. Allowing Monkey King to transform himself into items or trees is incredibly unique and seems very gimmicky at best at first. The skill has a large variety of use cases however. While the occasional courier bait seems to be the most obvious one–Monkey King can transform into the current state of your courier, duplicating even cosmetics–but there are several other things one should know about this spell.
Under disguise of Mischief, Monkey King is completely ignored by creeps and towers. He’s treated as the inanimate object that he is. Even as courier, no faction will acknowledge his existence and his hero indicator vanishes from the minimap. Juking potential aside, Mischief can be a really useful tool to move around the map with. While Monkey King has 200MS as most objects he turns into, he’ll have 350MS as courier. This can even be used to move around in the early game before he purchases Boots, as it is faster than his starting MS of 305. (Note: While Monkey King can turn into a flying courier, he cannot use its speedboost and also cannot fly over trees and cliffs.)
As the early 7.00 meta still establishes itself, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to lane Monkey King in any given lane. Midlane match-ups can be unfavorable for him, but his high attack damage and attack range should allow him to farm on par with any hero, much like a Juggernaut has so far. While Wukong doesn’t have an innate regeneration ability, the new shrine close to the midlane would allow him to reset if necessary.
Monkey King’s low mana pool makes Bottle a solid pick-up and the new rune positions encourage roaming and ganking quite heavily. He is a fearsome 1v1 opponent, as awakening Jingu Mastery can quickly turn lethal for any opponent. That said, the lack of trees makes Primal Spring quite weak which makes Wukong vulnerable to ganks.
It should be noted that a lot of people are theorizing whether or not the old safelane is now the new offlane and vice versa, due to various lane and terrain changes. Since pre-7.00 already saw more dual lanes, it’s not worth discussing offlane and safelane separately, as a defining, different playstyle between the two has yet to establish itself on the new patch
In either sidelane, Monkey King has a lot of trees to work with and with the assist of a support, he has a lot of kill potential. The up to 40% slow from Primal Spring is strong and with a setup can be ensured to hit. Even without a setup, the AoE and range of the ability is not to be underestimated.
If uncontested, Monkey King has the ability to farm stacks more reliably than a variety of other carries. Boundless Strike’s physical nature enables him to avoid the ever so annoying magic resistance on neutral creeps and the guaranteed crit boosts his reliable damage output.
As secondary carry of the team, it’s not unreasonable to pick up a Bottle for the very same reason as mentioned above. Item choices in general don’t depend on Monkey King’s lane, but rather his purpose in the game. Popular item builds can be found here.
A new era
Monkey King’s hero design fits him very well. In modern gaming, and this is especially true for multiplayer games, the concept of a Monkey King (or Wukong) is nothing new. You’ll find various multiplayer games with a hero or boss dedicated to the Chinese mythical creature.
Valve and Icefrog have done a good job at capturing the spirit of the Monkey King. He’s a playful and cunning character and most of his signature fighting styles and characteristics have made it into the game.
Climbing on top of trees, disguising as the Aegis of Immortal–the hero certainly has been designed with fun in mind and it does seem like something that could not have existed on the WC3 engine.
With this first barrier broken into, how long will it take for Valve to work on another, new hero? Before Underlord was released, it had been almost a year until a new hero was added to Dota2 and prior to Monkey King, it had been 3 years for a new hero to be added to the game (DotA/Dota2) in general, the last one being Earth Spirit in mid 2013.
While Monkey King does ring in a new era, an era full of new and Dota 2 “exclusive” heroes, the hero doesn’t seem to be the crazy and complex kind of hero that the likes of Earth Spirit and Oracle have been. But then again, who’s to say he needed to be?