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It is no secret that Zeus has been trending up in high level games. The addition and buffs to his mobility on top of the previous solution of simply increasing his attack damage made for a very powerful and borderline overpowered mid hero who can trade in lane, avoid ganks, farm up and help his team from the comfort of his lane.
There are very obvious reasons for why the default skill build on Zeus right now is 4-0-4-1 by level nine: maximum mobility and maximum farm potential at the cost of burst damage is a trade-off most pro-players are willing to go for.
There are a couple of old-school players who sometimes sacrifice extra levels in Heavenly Jump in favor of getting earlier Lightning Bolt, but in our opinion the extra manacost and reduction in Zeus survivability are too big of a drawback.
The build takes getting used to, it relies on mechanical skill and reaction speed to avoid incoming damage, doesn’t provide vision control and doesn’t have a strong early burst as the old school build does, but it is definitely the way to go in the current meta. Heavenly Jump is busted, if a bit too mana intensive, so abuse it while it lasts.
Very little in the previous paragraph is new info. Some of you might have had a revelatory moment, but 4-0-4 Zeus was a staple for over a couple of weeks now and has raised a very interesting question: is it an example of unnecessary mobility power creep or was it a necessary update to modernize the hero to how the game is played, not designed, in 2022.
The latter distinction is an important one. The level of play in Dota is ever-increasing. Manta dodge was a secret high-level technique when Dota 2 left beta, nowadays most Archon+ players are fully aware of it and are capable of replicating it. Half-pulls that were mind-blowing to most players less than a year ago are now common in Legend+ lobbies.
There are countless examples of how new knowledge quickly spread throughout the community and there are almost as many examples of how it resulted in changes to the game. It is game balance and design being changed in response to players breaking some aspects of it, not the other way around.
In many cases Valve are not the ones introducing Power Creep to the game, it is us, the players, who are Power Crept. What we want to argue is that the current state of Zeus was a necessary step not because Valve power-crept the rest of the game, but because his old design without early mobility couldn’t realistically compete against how the game is played by the players of the highest caliber.
The first attempts to make hero viable once again were pretty conservative: Zeus has been out of mid meta for a very long time and there were related changes to him as far back as patch 7.12, where his attack damage got a five point bump. Another five point bump came in patch 7.16, for a total of ten extra right-click damage over a three month period.
Since then, secondary stats like his base Armor, base regeneration and even the duration of Attack Animation were altered, to make sure the hero could not only last hit the enemy creeps with his abilities, but also contest some denies as well.
That was ultimately futile. The moment the enemy saw Zeus, they knew they had a way of getting easy kills in the middle lane on a high level target. He could contest creeps and last hit, getting great gold and XP in lane. Ultimately, that just mostly made him a juicier target to gank and unlike Storm Spirit, who is similarly susceptible to early rotations, the situation never changed for Zeus.
There were arguments to be made about building mobility or building save items like Eul’s on Zeus, to make up for his otherwise short lifespan. The problem with this line of thinking, though, was that by the time Zeus got to these items, he had already fed quite a bit of gold.
New heroes, who are often thought of as being too flexible and too mobile, were not even a part of the equation back then. Even something as old-school and iconic as Crystal Maiden could come mid at the five minute mark and gank Zeus successfully, since all you needed was a stun.
The introduction of Heavenly Jump as a base ability is not a result of power creep, even if there is actual power creep in Dota. It was a necessary step to make the hero playable at average and above level, though it came with several problems of its own.
Zeus is a problematically designed hero right now, at least in our opinion and according to most pro-level stats. However, Heavenly Jump, as discussed previously, isn’t the culprit. Heavenly Jump is the reason Zeus is a viable pick, but what makes the hero OP, in our opinion and what also causes frustration with the hero’s lost identity are his stats.
On the way to finally giving Zeus an escape mechanism Valve buffed his stats through the roof and right now Zeus is simply too good of a stat block. The reason he can mid so well isn’t Heavenly Jump — it is the reason he can mid at all, in the first place, the reason he can mid so well is his spammable waveclear on top of a very respectable auto-attack with good animation, range and attack projectile.
The latter were all part of the initial attempt to make the hero viable and, in our opinion, could be reverted or nerfed without making Zeus any less viable, just not as frustrating. Then his identity of a laner who can last hit well, but also can’t prevent the enemy from last hitting will return. It will also slow down the hero’s item and level progression and we believe it will be a good change for the hero that will satisfy old school Dota purists without making the hero lose all relevance once again.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think Zeus is too strong and do you think Zeus having mobility is a bad thing? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.