In all likelihood, the lifecycle of this patch is soon coming to an end. Despite that, new trends continue to emerge, driven by the changes in the meta. While it is natural for the initial meta changes to be led by core heroes, who are likely to have a larger impact on the outcome of the game, it is often soon followed by the supporting cast.
Supports are rarely trendy. Up until above average brackets, it is unlikely to find team compositions with two supports in them. Moreover, supports are generally highly specialized, with very focused utility aspects.
There are several heroes who are an exception to the rule. There is Lion who can easily fit almost any lineup. There is Shadow Demon, who got so buffed that currently he is a good addition to the majority of team compositions. And there is Kunkka, who got propelled into popularity off the success he had in the Chinese professional scene.
These heroes have been discussed heavily over the course of the patch. And while more and more players have been learning to play them, the very best concentrated on finding out ways of dealing with them.
Currently there are three heroes who stand out in the 5k+ MMR range. While their popularity is both rather low and shows no intentions of growing, their win rate is among the highest across all heroes in the bracket.
Source: Cersei Lannister and Jaime Lannister
Lich is often considered to be the Viper of the support role. He’s a very strong hero in lane who tends to become almost completely irrelevant in the mid-game and struggles to have a meaningful impact.
While partly true when it comes to actually dealing damage in teamfights, the strategic importance of Lich pick cannot be understated. In 6.81 his [missing skill: lich-ice-armor-5135] received a very significant buff, which was underlooked in the highly magic damage-heavy meta. Now, with Drow Ranger and illusion-based pushes dominant in the scene, this change has become a lot more relevant.
To understand the implications of the armor buff, Ice Armor, it’s best to refer to the armor mechanics blog post from last year. This skill provides your towers with extra tankiness against physical attacks and also substantially slows down the attack speed of the enemy pushers. The end result either gives your team more time to react to the push or take equal or even favorable trades.
The skill is also an excellent damage-mitigation tool in teamfights, though the bonus does not fully kick in until later in the game, where the base HP pool of the heroes is large enough for the EHP increase to be impactful.
Another thing newer players might not be aware of— Chain Frost can interrupt through spell immunity and against certain heroes, with strong channeling abilities, it is best to save it for the occasion.
A hero almost forgotten in the patch has the second highest win rate in 5k+ games this month. After receiving almost nothing but buffs for seven patches in a row the hero seems to be in a really good place and can be a good situational fit.
Once again, the hero provides bonuses to map control, with an ability to slightly stall incoming pushes and even repair objectives in-between clashes. While doing almost nothing against a dedicated pushing force, it can mitigate almost all chip damage, making certain illusion-based sieges less potent, at least until later in the game.
Moreover, Living Armor has global range. This does not only make for very strong counter-gank measures, especially early in the game, but also allows the hero to create a defensive opening against objective threats.
In the early game, the hero still boasts the highest base damage and a massive HP pool, which is counterweighted with low starting armor and average movement speed. Leech Seed is an excellent aggressive early-game ability, but the mana cost restrictions of the hero prevents it from being overpowered. Finally, high BAT does not allow the hero to jungle effectively, despite high attack damage, but should ensure last hits on pulled neutral creeps.
In the late-game, the hero becomes one of the strongest counter- or follow-up initiators. While Overgrowth can be dispelled by practically anything, when timed correctly it can completely turn around the battle, especially if the enemy cores have already used their regular dispelling abilities and items. If the game goes for long enough, the hero can also provide very crucial map vision and even be a decent counter to split-pushing strategies, since the damage from Overgrowth is often enough to take out creep waves and illusions.
Visage is one of the highest skill-cap heroes and is often ignored by the newer and veteran players alike. Playing him can be extremely tiring and requires a lot of focus as well as mental and even physical stamina, but it seems the rewards are finally worth it.
Despite or due to his very low popularity, mainly associated with the aforementioned reasons, the hero has an impressive 53.62% win rate in 5k+ games this month, making him the 8th most successful hero in the bracket.
This growth in winrate seems to be a direct result of the buffs the hero has received in the last four patches. The cooldown on the ability of Summon Familiars, Stone Form, has been reduced by almost 25%, while the effect delay has changed from 1 to 0.55 seconds.
Gravekeeper’s Cloak has also received numerous buffs, increasing both the recharge rate and effectiveness of the layers. Moreover, the layers are no longer removed if the damage dealt is less than 15, making it a very strong counter to DoT effects. Interestingly, for some DoTs removing a single or two layers from the max level Cloak will allow them to finish stripping Visage from his armor, since the reduced magic resistance will put their magic damage ticks above the 15 damage threshold.
Apart from receiving direct buffs, the hero’s success was also facilitated by the popularity of Drow Ranger, since they are a highly effective combination that stays relevant throughout the whole game.
During the laning stage, the hero does not shine especially bright, since he generally requires a teamfight environment to keep getting extra souls for Soul Assumption. However, the potency of Grave Chill should not be underestimated—it decreases the threat level and mobility of the target you want to harass, while simultaneously increasing your potential damage output. Unless you are in a constant skirmish mode in a trilane vs. trilane scenario, getting two points in Grave Chill is usually a good idea.
In the late game, Visage, depending on the results he and his teammates have achieved in the early to mid game, can become the most dominant support, with massive and consistent mix of physical and magical damage. He destroys squishier heroes, creates Boots of Travel targets and can split-push, making him godly both in terms of teamfight and macro-strategy impacts.
Visage currently is definitely last or second-to-last pick material—a lot of heroes in the meta either counter or can ignore him. He should also be only picked as a second support, preferably with a less greedy companion, since, while being relatively effective with levels alone, the hero only truly shines with some amount of farm and it can get tricky to squeeze in both his core items and the usual observers, sentries and smokes.
As stated previously, supports are never trendy. They are the least played role in Dota, since greedier players often substitute a second support for a jungler. This does not take one bit from the importance of the support heroes, frequently even increasing the amount of responsibility support players have to endure.
With high responsibility comes great power—while never particularly trendy, some supports can definitely be game-changing. The ones discussed today are among the strongest heroes in high MMR games.
Examining better, higher MMR players is a good way of improving at Dota. While the experience may vastly differ in pubs of different levels, there are general preferences both in terms of item and skill builds as well as overall meta that can be learned from. Compared to the professional scene, learning from high level pubs will also give you more realistic expectations—sometimes not everyone on your team will be on the same page.