Image by ChiZ
Silencer was the only hero that was completely ignored in the Upper Divisions of all DPC regions. The hero who received several notable buffs in the last several patches is still largely considered unplayable in the professional scene and we wanted to figure out why, while also discussing whether the hero should also be ignored in pubs.
What makes Silencer unique?
Most heroes, Silencer included, are defined by their ultimate. Global Silence is a pretty powerful skill on paper. It theoretically nullifies many powerful abilities, especially channeling ones and the way it counters things like Black Hole or Mortimer Kisses should not be underestimated.
It also used to be very annoying for the enemy supports to play against. While core heroes usually have Eul’s, Manta, BKB, Satanic, Lotus, or Greaves to deal with debuffs, supports, once again, should theoretically suffer from the ability: most of them are casters who rely on their crowd control to have an impact in a teamfight.
While it is still true, there are several problems. One of them is the game’s economy: even a position five hero should be able to build Eul’s or Lotus if deemed necessary. That’s not a huge problem, as it is an option and it has an associated opportunity cost, of not having Glimmer Cape, Force Staff, or some other support item.
The second problem is neutral items. Specifically, Tier 4 neutral items, that make Silencer irrelevant after the 37-minute mark. Flicker, Minotaur Horn, and Stormcrafter all apply a basic dispel when used. Your team will most likely have at least one of those. By this point your cores should definitely have a dispel on demand, therefore these neutral items can go to your supports, making Silencer close to useless, except for channeling spell interruption.
The other two basic abilities the hero has suffer from the same exact problem. They are low impact dispellable effects. Moreover, Arcane Curse even got nerfed in the last patch in terms of damage output, so not only do most heroes have an ability to dispel it, half of the meta heroes will simply outregen it.
Perhaps we are looking at the hero wrong? Perhaps the hero should not be thought of as a utility character, but rather as a DPS one and it is Glaives of Wisdom that define Silencer, not his other abilities.
Does the game support DPS Silencer?
Looking at the guides for Silencer, we can see that most dedicated players now typically play Silencer as a core, with Safelane Carry being the most popular archetype. Pub players are also decently successful in making Silencer work: the hero wins more than 50% of his games across all skill brackets. Does it mean DPS Silencer is good? We don’t think so.
Silencer can’t out-DPS or at least be an equal to most Agility Carries, given equal Net Worth. BKB hard-counters the hero’s DPS. Moreover, his Agility growth, while decent, is not even on the level of QoP or Puck. On a non-spell immune target the damage can be massive, being Pure it ignores all armor, but that will require initiating on and probably chain-stunning an enemy core, which needs quite a bit of coordination.
The other problem is the “given equal Net Worth” part. Silencer can’t farm and he can’t even build items to farm much faster. His Aghanim’s Shard does turn him into a poor man’s Luna, but why be a cheap Luna knock-off, when you can be an actual Luna. Or a hero that counters Luna, if the enemy team picked her. The Shard becomes available at minute 20, and by this point, a well-played Luna, or any flash farming hero for that matter, will have a one-and-a-half item advantage over Silencer.
So how does Silencer work?
There are only two options to make DPS Silencer work. One is to rely on the enemy team being incompetent: something you can’t do in the professional scene and something ill-advised for anyone playing at or above Legend. Enemy players will have BKBs. They will have dispels. They will know that focusing Silencer, regardless of whether he’s being played as a support or a core, is a good idea. And Silencer is far from being tanky.
The other option is dominating the lane and it is something Silencer can actually do pretty well. Glaives of Wisdom are really hard to trade into for one simple reason: Silencer won’t aggro creeps when attacking with Glaives through a separate command. Moreover, the intelligence steal, especially once the duration gets long enough, can make the lane very one-sided: you get access to your abilities, while the enemy doesn’t.
Is this ability to dominate the lane enough, though? Certainly not in the professional scene. Relying on a position one Silencer is an all-in tactic: to work, it assumes you win or break even in all three lanes and then you also need a pushing hero to translate this strong laning stage into an early map control or possibly a victory. We are not saying it is impossible to pull off, but why take the risk, when there are so many different equal or even better options.
In pubs, where a game can be “solo carried” by a single strong player with good decision-making Silencer can be more appealing. Silencer can be this lane dominating menace that snowballs completely out of control, though Clinkz is a far better option for this “lane dominance into map dominance” playstyle, both logically and statistically.
That said, in certain matchups it might not be wise to completely disregard Silencer: there are many heroes who suffer from Silencer in lane due to having high armor, but low HP pool. Moreover, as discussed previously, there are heroes who won’t be able to fully realize their potential because of the constant Global Silence threat. Finally, there is a pretty powerful 30% cooldown reduction talent, and a 14-second cooldown Scythe and a 53-second cooldown BKB both sound very nice.
Do you think Silencer is currently the least playable hero in Dota? Are there other reasons professionals players completely ignore him we forgot to mention, or some other redeeming qualities to play him in pubs? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.