The new patch changed quite a bit about the game with a multitude of hero changes on top of global economy reworks. This has sent ripples through the meta and while it will definitely take a while for it to settle down, some trends are starting to emerge. Today we are going to discuss the biggest winners of the patch and why they suddenly became so relevant.
Easily one of the most powerful carries in the game right now. The changes to the hero were seemingly tame, but they resulted in a massive ~3.5% win rate jump. There are several reasons for that.
One is a straight up buff to Phantom Strike. Getting free lifesteal is a big deal both during the laning stage and in midgame. While the global lifesteal from creeps nerf doesn’t prevent her from being perfectly self-sustainable in a lane, the hero still feels powerful with any kind of support.
More importantly, though, the changes to the global economy and experience resulted in a slightly slower game PA can thrive. She no longer feels completely outpaced by every other carry in the game. Her team will still most likely struggle until she gets her BKB and preferably level eighteen, but after that, she will become the strongest core on the map, at least for a while.
The way the hero is typically built is 3-1-1-1 during the laning stage, then Phantom Strike maxed out. The reason for three levels into the dagger is mostly cast range and slow duration. It is also one of the better tools for contesting Flagbearer creeps since it deals Physical damage “nuke”.
One common mistake players keep on making is going for the Phase Boots instead of Power Treads. The latter not only allow you to switch to Intelligence pre-jump or pre-dagger to conserve your limited mana pool, but also increase your DPS, compared to Phase Boots. Only consider the latter against heavy physical ability damage, e.g. Bristleback in the lane.
Another big winner of the patch, mostly off the back of some very considerable buffs. Undying received some very important changes that makes counterplay against him a lot less trivial.
Previously, better players laning against Undying would just get an earlier Magic Stick or even Wand and would be absolutely fine being Decayed. Once you get to 8-12 stacks, you can disengage, use your regen, wait out one or two debuff durations and basically get full HP in one tango. By being smart with which heroes you are showing and which heroes get decayed, you would almost always win the economic war.
Sometimes you could even go for very powerful punishment, if you saw Undying stacks timing out with him not being full HP. Not anymore, and every bit of Decay stolen strength is now, effectively, damage to the opponents and heal for Undying. This makes a world of difference for the hero’s laning stage, which has undergone some changes.
You no longer go 1-2-0-0 and then max Tombstone out. Most high level players do get the second point in Decay for a 2-1-0-0 at level three. This allows Undying to be even more aggressive, but more importantly it gives him literal damage on Decay, on top of damage from strength steal. Since it deals double to creeps it can even be considered a tool for when contesting the Flagbearer.
Later on maxing Tombstone for teamfights and concentrating on Soul Rip is still probably the play, with Holy Locket being one of the better purchases on the hero.
The biggest difference for the hero is this all-important first level of Essence Shift now being 20 seconds. It means that Slark is finally free to max out Dark Pact as soon as possible and that accelerates his farm tremendously.
Could it result in a ~3.5% win rate increase, however? Not independently, but with a higher focus on later stages of midgame we can see how Slark is now a very viable and powerful pick.
His itembuild has also undergone some changes: Shadow Blade became a lot less of a priority, giving way to Echo Saber, Aghanim’s Scepter, Aghanim’s Shard and sometimes even Mage Slayer. The latter is pretty straightforward, given how it is one of the Echo Saber components, but it also works wonders on a hero with so much healing potential. It makes a great deal of sense as a mana regeneration and magic resistance option.
Aghanim’s Upgrade and Shard are more or less non-negotiable. They are what allow Slark to play the in-and-out game: go in, get several hits in, force a reaction, get out. Slark is primarily a “long fight” type of hero: he dislikes burst on the opposing team and doesn’t have a lot of burst himself. Being smart and defensive on the character is a way to success.
These three heroes have been the biggest winners of the patch. Both their win rate and pick rate have skyrocketed, so do keep an eye out on them.
There is also another, very important and very annoying hero that is now trending up in higher level pubs, but instead of highlighting him we would rather wait a little bit and see how it goes: perhaps the problem is slightly smaller than we assume or perhaps we will need another “dealing with…” post in the near future.