In case you haven’t been extremely fortunate, there’s a chance you’ve seen at least a few Bounty Hunters in your pubs in the last 6 months. The hero combines a lot of popular features that players love in a hero. He can play aggressively, get kills and win games–what more could you want? The fact that as a roamer he is sort of a support, but at the same time really isn’t, makes him especially popular in pubs. It’s the cop out of playing support, the “I’ll buy a ward and be done with it” approach.
Pro or pub game, the hero is incredibly strong. However, with bans not only in Captain’s Mode, but also in ranked All Pick now as well, you see a little bit less of the hero–his pickrate dropped by almost 2% in 6.87. What to do, when your favorite roamer is banned? Go for a pseudo Bounty Hunter!
From Pubstar to Identity crisis
For the longest time, Riki has been a pubstar in the most traditional sense. A carry, that can snowball through solo kills and usually requires teamwork and coordination to deal with. He used to be that hero, but not only has support life been improved over the years–with cheaper vision and detection, but also cheaper mobility items–Riki himself has changed a lot. Invisibility used to be his ultimate (“Riki is level 6 now, look out!”) but it seems like forever since it has been this way.
The Rekindling Soul update (6.82, Sept 2014) swapped out his ultimate, Permanent Invisibility with the back then normal ability Blink Strike. It was the start of a long journey of finding Riki’s new destiny. The once designated safelaner was awkward to play in the safelane, as he couldn’t effectively harass the offlaner anymore. People tried running him in the offlane, and it worked. The added HP regen from his invisibility allowed him to be more survivable, but his transition into the midgame wasn’t what you were looking for in an offlaner.
Then 6.86 came along and it introduced an entirely new spell. Invisibility and backstab were united into one ability and Tricks of the Trade became his new ultimate. Riki had just seemed to found a new home in the offlane, but this change threw him into yet another identity crisis. The lack of extra regen made it basically impossible for him to go into the offlane, but the ultimate was also not nearly strong enough to actually make him a viable safelaner.
Role, playstyle & build
Enter roaming Riki. His permanent invisibility allows him to, similarly to Bounty Hunter, disrupt the opponent’s laning stage and force out early invis detection. Depending on the scenario, he is in fact even more effective with the 25% MS slow from Smoke Screen in addition to provide a silence against elusive heroes such as Puck.
The buffs in 6.87–triple the Blink Strike damage than before on level 1– have quite drastically increased his winrate by almost 4% to now 56% across all brackets. These changes however did not change the way you play Riki now, it just made it all the more stronger, especially because you will often find yourself with only one point in Blink Strike, but more on that later.
He is indeed like a Bounty Hunter–who you can read up on here–early on and even throughout the mid to lategame, you want your Riki to provide your team with information by going behind enemy lines and scouting out enemies.
Unlike Bounty Hunter however, Riki does not build into a utility support. You won’t see him pick up Guardian Greaves or a Force Staff. In fact, you want him to build into a 4th core, a damage dealer. His almost reliable damage output through his ultimate allows him to deal a lot of damage with only a few items.
Early on, you want to acquire cost effective items for yourself. An Orb of Venom is almost inevitable and the new Blight Stone is quite good on him too. Going for both Boots and Wind Lace works too, since his natural MS is rather low and he needs to catch up to people for a Blink Strike.
In the midgame, turning the Blight Stone into a Medallion of Courage is the natural next step. Unlike previous core orientated builds, the roaming Riki build even allows you to build Phase Boots on him.
Utility items such as Drum of Endurance or Ring of Aquila work on him too, although neither are game changing and could be skipped depending on the state of the game. An early Diffusal Blade can make a difference, but Team AD FINEM’s Maybe Next Time showed, that even an Armlet of Mordiggian works on the hero. For a support it’s an easy build up and it provides you with good stats, especially to tank up. Additionally, the HP loss after activation is stopped during Riki’s ultimate, as you enter a state of invincibility. It’s by no means a must purchase, but it’s a an option worth exploring.
Riki’s ultimate is in general a spell that sounded awkward on paper first – not a lot of damage and not as much utility as one might think. However, it is a spell that buys time, like a Phase Shift or an Astral Imprisonment, and works good as a zoning spell, similarly to a Macropyre or a Midnight Pulse. In fact, some Rikis even purchase a Blink Dagger to blink out of the ultimate and be more elusive. Nothing is more frustrating than spending dust or sentries on a support Riki, only for him to escape with low HP.
After these items, the sky’s the limit. As a support roamer, it’s generally never bad to purchase a team orientated item such as a Vladmir’s Offering, but increasing your damage output with a Sange and Yasha or a Skull Basher is also a viable option.
Picks and Counters
Since the hero is intended to be a Bounty Hunter 2.0, it’s best to pick him when you can afford to have a roamer, meaning you have a stable safelane, but also when there are holes to poke through in the opponent’s line-up. If there is a greedy jungler to punish, a weak midlaner to gank or a squishy support to bully, Riki is your pick. Of course he does not deal well with burst damage or lockdown, least of all in an AoE. Mobile heroes are a pain to deal with, because they can catch you out after your ultimate, but at the same time your silence is a good counter to them as well.
There aren’t many notable heroes that work well with or against Riki that aren’t already mentioned in discussions about Bounty Hunter, but Io deserves a special mention. A Blink Strike while tethered allows for an incredible slow, especially when combined with the smoke screen. The mobility on both just synergizes well and the global gank potential is strong. That said, it leaves you with zero disables on your support duo, so this is something that needs to be compensated by your cores.
Riki does a lot of things similar to Bounty Hunter, and if the goal was to have an aggressive laning stage and Bounty was banned, surely Riki would be the pick. That said, Bounty Hunter’s appeal goes far beyond the laning stage and Riki has yet to prove that his does too. Granted he’s supposed to be the replacement of the most popular and possibly most dangerous hero in the meta right now, he simply does not offer enough to be just that. He can however be a strong niche pick, the curveball in a draft that throws your enemy off.
You could argue that, while he may not have as much burst as Bounty, his overall damage output is generally greater. He can solo kill supports and poses a bigger threat in teamfights and his permanent invisibility–which doesn’t break when using items, which is useful for planting Wards–usually requires more invis detection to deal with.
Riki is a good hero, his currently 54% winrate in the 5k+MMR bracket shows thas well. He is also a good roamer, and if the meta shifts just a little bit, we may just see a little bit more of him. For now, he works just well enough to at least roam the pubs in the higher brackets.