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    Dota 2 – Meta Analysis: Lifestealer & The Newbee Draft

    Lifestealer has had a rocky relationship with the professional scene. He’s seen and been it all, from first-pick material, over to occasional combo or niche pick to no love whatsoever. It certainly doesn’t help that the hero has been nerfed and buffed wildly and that he is heavily dependent on the meta and other favorable heroes.

    At the Frankfurt and Shanghai Major, Lifestealer has been picked a total of 4 times, all of which were losses. Then, the meta changed just enough to make him viable again and he was the 4th most picked hero at the Manila Major. Now in 7.xx, he’s been among the top picks at both major LANs (ESL One Genting & Dota Pit). As a result, it feels only appropriate to talk about his strengths, and why especially the Chinese teams value him so much.

    What allows Lifestealer to be in the meta right now?

    6.85 introduced a significant buff to Infest, which allows Lifestealer to infest ancient creeps. That change alone brought the hero back into the pool of potential picks and even after the admittedly gimmicky interaction was nerfed, Lifestealer has stayed relevant.

    A further buff to Infest in 6.86 decreased the spell’s cooldown quite significantly. 50 seconds at level 3 allow Lifestealer to remain a constant threat around the map, together with a teammate of course.

    The new talents certainly help Lifestealer as well. Together with the in 6.86 increased Rage attack speed, Lifestealer is not as reliant anymore to build items for attack speed. He can itemize more flexible and isn’t punished by for building an early Abyssal Blade. Alternatively, he can also choose more damage at level 15 and 15 armor at level 25 will drastically improve his tankiness.

    The professional meta right now looks towards fighting a lot. Lifestealer fits perfectly well into such a meta, especially with the currently popular heroes. Heroes like Slardar, Centaur Warrunner or Weaver are perfect heroes to infest and gank with, and they don’t even need to be played as a core, at least not Slardar or Weaver.

    This used to be an issue for old line-ups, where Lifestealer was dependant on a Storm Spirit or a Queen of Pain to move and gank around the map. Now he can choose from a variety of heroes and often teams will run line-ups with multiple, potential infest targets. Ember Spirit or Queen of Pain are popular choices as well.

    There is one more reason though for Lifestealer’s popularity, and this seems to be especially favored by Chinese teams.

    Solo Pressure

    Lifestealer is an incredibly self-sufficient hero. His skills allow him to stay in lane without needing to build into regeneration items and ganking or killing him is pretty difficult in most scenarios, certainly not with only one hero. He wins most 1v1 match-ups and cannot be easily pressured. In fact, he himself can apply a lot of pressure onto the opposing offlaner, even if he’s by himself. Especially against currently popular offlaners, Lifestealer can keep up the pressure and is able to dominate the lane.

    This independence frees up the supports to do whatever it is they wish to do. They can be aggressive around the map, both in the mid and offlane, or they can farm up themselves in the jungle.

    In comparison to other popular carries/cores, like Luna or Shadow Fiend, Lifestealer has no innate flashfarm potential. While constantly looking for fights and ganks may be possible for him, it can leave him underfarmed, especially if those ganks backfire.

    Leaving the Lifestealer out of early engagements allows him to be ahead in farm and when he’s ahead in farm, he can take on most opponents with ease–it makes any Infest gank that much more threatening in later stages of the game.

    Of course, Dota is a game with many variables, so sometimes Lifestealer will need to be part of fights early on. But it is this flexibility that makes him such a strong pick. He, unlike traditional hardcarries, can be part of early fights and still be effective.

    The Newbee Draft

    The Newbee Draft refers to a specific draft that perfectly showcases the strength of Lifestealer in the current meta. His ability to be self sustainable enables other lanes to be more aggressive and effective.

    In their game vs. Team NP at ESL One Genting, Newbee drafted the following line-up:

    In this line-up, Lifestealer will remain solo for most of the time, while the other four apply pressure on the other two lanes. The following video shows how well the Newbee supports move around the map early. They don’t give away their positions and create a pressure situation for NP. NP is unsure of where the supports are–they could have rotated mid, they could be behind the Centaur, waiting for an opportunity to fight. As a result, both NP supports are bound to the safelane and Luna does not feel safe farming.

    Because of how long NP doesn’t have vision on Mirana, but now they see Shadow Demon, the team feels confident in advancing. Unfortunately for them, Mirana had snuck behind the lines already and is sitting in the treelines, waiting for an Arrow opportunity.

    The draft very much relies on early aggression like this and provides a lot of flexibility. Depending on the enemy line-up, SD+Mirana can rotate freely between all three lanes and have a huge amount of kill potential. Most of the time, it’s not even necessary for both of them to rotate, creating more pressure for the enemy. If Mirana is off the map, she could be farming her own jungle, or sit in any of the three lanes, waiting for an opportuntiy.

    Now, this strategy isn’t necessarily a strategy that relies much on Lifestealer. Several other teams have already drafted the same line-up, replacing Lifestealer for other, self-sufficient heroes such as Ursa or Sven. These heroes may tick similar boxes as Lifestealer, but it doesn’t quite match up. Sven lacks the aggressive solo-kill potential and Ursa has no sustain without a Morbid Mask and self-sustain is incredibly important in the current meta, as the enemy offlaner has a shrine to fall back to; the safelaner does not.

    At the same time, QoP seems much more replacable. While her midgame burst and mobility are close to unmatched (aside from Ember Spirit), it is not something that is absolutely vital to this line-ups success. What is vital, is the insurance that your own safelaner doesn’t need help, so that the rest of the team can unfold its strength. Teams could normally counter such early aggression by applying pressure on the safelane carry, forcing a support back to help him. A Lifestealer rarely needs such help, certainly not in the current meta.

    Massive Flexibility

    Lifestealer is an incredibly strong hero right now. He offers a lot of flexibility in how to approach him and the entire teamplay. China has already recognized his talent–he’s the most picked carry in all of the Chinese online qualifiers and even the CDEC Masters (inhouse league).

    As the DAC qualifiers commence this week, it will be interesting to see how Lifestealer will fare and if there will be a solution against it. For now, as heroes like Lone Druid and Ember Spirit remain, there is little room in the first ban phase for Lifestealer, which means there will be a lot of Infest-bombs in the next few weeks.

    Headline Image by bounchfx, Andrew_Helenek & Puffin

    As seen on Dotabuff

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