Abaddon Is Not a Carry

Abaddon came out late last week, and so far he’s maintained a public win rate just a tad under 57%.  It’s still too early for me to have any actual data on him, but I thought I’d take some time to approach things from a more theoretical angle and examine his kit in the context of Farm Dependency.

The idea behind farm dependency is pretty simple.  Every hero in the game scales with items, but due to the nature of the hero (primarily their base stats and their kit) some heroes scale better than others.  On the flip end of the spectrum, some heroes can have no items and still be influential at all points in the game.  The most farm dependent heroes are those with with the strongest scaling and the weakest itemless contribution.  These heroes are almost exclusively what we call carries.  While it’s too early for me to have any stats on him, it’s extremely unlikely that Abaddon will turn out to be a farm dependent hero.

The reason for this is that Abaddon lacks the most essential feature of a farm dependent carry: the attack damage steroid.  The hallmark of Dota’s item system is that attack damage items provide the only real source of explosive scaling.  Magic damage can only be amplified by a tiny selection of relatively niche item pickups.  Many of the strongest defensive items are purchased primarily for the utility of their use effect and not for any kind of stat scaling (Force Staff, Ghost Scepter, Black King Bar, Scythe of Vyse…).  The remaining defensive items are primarily intended as complements to an otherwise aggressive carry-oriented item build.  You might be able to win disorganized pub games using a Vanguard/Blademail/Heart/Bloodstone build, but if the other team has a competent carry that’s keeping up with your farm you’re going to lose.  Dota as a rule just doesn’t have hero designs that can build purely defensively and still be a constant damage threat thirty minutes into the game.

If you look at the top 20 heroes on my farm dependency chart, you’ll notice that every single one of them has at least one ability that amplifies their right click damage.  Doom is the weirdest, but I guess wolf aura counts.  Of the heroes without an attack damage steroid, the highest placement goes to Timbersaw at 41, and Timbersaw is similar to Storm Spirit in that he’s very good at converting excess mana regen into extra damage.

These steroids are important because they amplify the contribution of the items that you pick up.  Suppose you give Drums, BKB, Manta Style, and Butterfly to both Luna and Nyx Assassin.  Luna’s going to get way more out of those items because she gets 38 free damage from Lunar Blessing and extra bounce damage from her Moon Glaive.  On top of this she has more attack range, receives more agility per level, and has a significantly higher move speed.

So what does Abaddon have going for him in terms of steroids?  Well, Curse of Avernus offers 40 bonus attack speed, but if that alone is sufficient carry potential we’d see a lot more carry Beastmasters, since his aura also offers 40 attack speed.  We could then go on to point out that Abaddon also has really low agility growth, offsetting this bonus attack speed and that the four most farm dependent strength heroes all have larger attack speed steroids (Lifestealer and Huskar) or abilities that temporarily lower their base attack time (Alchemist and Lycan), but let’s just leave it at the simple fact that Abaddon isn’t a right click prodigy.

You might then argue that this weakness can be made up by the sheer amount of survivability that Abaddon gains through Aphotic Shield and Borrowed Time.  Well, that’s great and all, and I’m sure in pub matches you can find plenty of opportunities to blow someone up 1v1 when they forget that Borrowed Time exists.  The problem is  that if we’re back in a scenario where you’ve had free-farm as Abaddon, and your opponent has had free farm as an actual carry, all the other team has to do is  a) ignore you, b) blow up your supports faster than you can blow of their supports, and c) focus you down once you’re alone, outnumbered, and no longer a threat.  This is the Skeleton King paradox where Reincarnation makes him a terror against low-level, disorganized pubs, but where nothing about his kit makes him threatening enough to not ignore when compared to more competitive carries.

If anything, Borrowed Time is most threatening as a support ability.  It’s like a free, souped-up version of Ghost Scepter.  Teams like to pick off the squishy supports first, but Abaddon makes an unappealing target.  So you target the other support, but Abaddon is free to spam low cooldown shields and heals on that target and use items like Force Staff to help peel for them.  Basically, Borrowed Time makes Abaddon really effective as an anti-initiation specialist because it forces the opposing team to make a much more difficult choice on how to start the fight.

This certainly doesn’t mean that Abaddon cannot win pub games as a farmer, in part because winning a pub game is a relatively low hurdle.  What you should keep in mind is that Abaddon isn’t going to win many games by strictly outfarming the opposing team.  Instead, he would behave much more like a semi-carry in that he wants to quickly get a couple of efficient damage items and his ult and then dominate the mid-game through constant aggression.  Is this a viable pub strategy?  Given his near 57% win rate, probably, but this doesn’t make him an actual carry.  Spiritbreaker can do the same thing, but it works for both heroes by leveraging their early game advantages to cut down on the length of the laning phase for both teams.

Could a 1 position Abaddon work reliably in professional games?  I have my doubts, but even if it does, this still wouldn’t make him a carry.  I would expect a team built around a 1 position Abaddon to be exclusively focused on winning the game in under thirty minutes, and their success would be much more hinged around disrupting their opponents early farm than it would be about maximizing Abaddon’s.  Like the pub strategy, they would grab quick, efficient damage items and use them and Borrowed Time to force early clashes while the opposing carry is still ramping up.  This still doesn’t make Abaddon a carry any more than the early farming trilane Treant strats made Treant a carry.  Instead, these teams are foregoing traditional carry potential in an attempt to utterly dominate the early game, which would make carry potential a non-factor.

16 Responses to Abaddon Is Not a Carry

  1. Billy Joel says:

    Reading your blog posts should be mandatory for new players.

  2. Ice Frog says:

    This post gave me Cancer :(

  3. ambient says:

    man nice article, just tried him a game as a support and worked really well.

  4. DeathBot says:

    I keep trying to tell you man, Devour is Doom’s steroid! It’s often more versatile than any other steroid will be, because it’s not “receive list of bonuses” it’s “pick item of your choice” which means you can decide to be Bizarro Naix and do Shadow Blade/BKB or be Aura Boss and get a Pipe and a Shiva’s and a Heart or go ALL IN and get Necro3/Manta.

    That said, definitely a super good breakdown. I won my fair share of Abaddon dota1 games with Vanguard/SnY but that doesn’t make it remotely close to a ~good build~ or anything.

    Come to IRC sometimes and chat about Doom w me :3

  5. ms says:

    Looks like someone just played a pub with a feeding carry Abbadon. Condolences.

  6. Marlow says:

    While Abaddon is certainly not a carry, it is very possible for him to carry games, but not in the traditional sense. Abaddon carries games by getting a little bit out of hand because someone feeds him a kill, then getting a mek before the other team can stop a push with any reliability. The problem with Abaddon is that he doesn’t really fit into the current meta. If you think about it, the most standard “look” is a 3-1-1 in which the safelane has a hard carry and 2 extremely early game supports, the offlane is someone who can gank in the midgame and afford some item that costs ~2500 gold (which is one of about 5 heros really). The mid lane is someone with a big teamfight ultimate that can 1v1 really well, which is a lot of heros but ends up being puck,qop, mag, clockwerk, kunkka, batrider just about every game. All of these heros do one thing really really well and they see the light of day almost every game (or get banned). There isn’t really any room in this strategy for someone like Abaddon who’s sort of OK at everything. Think about the hero that you probably see less than any other in competitive games: Necrolyte. He can mid, but it’s not great, he can also support, but has a really crummy level 1-3, he could offlane but you’d have to rush boots because he runs too slow. No one really knows what to do with him. I kind of see this same thing happening to Abaddon in the competitive scene. In the mean time Arcane boots, Mek, Pipe, vlads, and most of all WARDS.

    • DeathBot says:

      Running away with the game by getting an early, impacting support item is pretty standard across most supports. Even something like a quick mana boots on Rubick/Nyx can be enough to elevate them in ranks of usefulness.

      With Abbadon, however, a lot of it is going to be that he isn’t quite built for the current state of the game. He’s a very defensive hero, where even the most passive of teams currently are still looking to have some kind of advantage in the 15-20 minute range. Gone are the days of the 140 minute 6-slot without Aegis money for 3 buybacks Morphling pro games, instead replaced by Gyro and Rubick in a Trilane, which is pretty easily a level one kill on a carry who scales extremely well and quickly.

      [incoming tangent about video game etymology]

      I think the word “carry” needs a better definition. With regards to the action, it definitely makes sense to say that you’re carrying your team, but designating a specific role with that distinction opens up a couple of strange situations where it isn’t your capital-c Carry who carries you, or even your support being a carry when they’re not a Carry. This is muddled even further by characters like Storm or Tinker who want those piles of gold but aren’t really reliant on right-clicking, and is muddled yet further by characters like Furion or Doom who can be Carries depending on what items they buy, but can still be lowercase-c carries by buying Shiva’s and Manta and Vlad’s to play more like a beefy aura platform.

      The League of Legends community tries (somewhat sloppily) to solve this by designating them to Attack Damage/Ability Power Carry (ADC/AP [C usually removed I think?] for short) but I don’t really think that solves the problem. I think the word Carry needs to be separated from the role of right-clicking, but since it has entered common vernacular as “one who wins for their team” what we really need is a new word for “character who right-clicks” for better general clarity.

      • Puppe says:

        Actually carry comes from older days of DotA when you were able to give your items to other players. And so all the players would farm items and give them to the guy who scaled best with the items hence carry meaning the guy who carries items.

  7. Brandon says:

    Adding this article to my website… so true.

  8. This article doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the great stuff on your blog. I love Dotametrics so much because it uses hard numbers to back it’s theses. This is mostly theorycrafting, which you can find anywhere. It could have been worthwhile to run some numbers like EHP*DPS over a range of heroes to show that Abaddon’s is worse than the those of even the other “bad” strength carries. As it stands, all it would take is for one clever person to fit Abaddon into a carry position on a niche team, or for him to show up high in the Farm Dependency chart, and all this article would be left with is “Well he shouldn’t.”

    Totally agree with your analysis though :-p. The only thing is that I can’t imagine it convincing anyone who disagreed with you, or significantly enlightening anyone who already agreed.

  9. Sevaar says:

    Every time i played abbadoon carry i literally carried the game so i think he is a great carry

  10. David says:

    Abaddon is a carry >.> . I played abaddon with 2 people abandoned, and 2 fail carries and I solo wiped a 5 man team.

    • phantasmal says:

      ‘Carry’ has a very specific definition. It does not mean “Hero that can win a game,” because that would make virtually every hero in Dota a carry.

  11. Mlxo says:

    Abaddon is not a carry ,but he could be. I have played over a 100 maches (casual ,pub) and i only loose one ,most as a ‘carry’ . I had some wierd maches 5 suport(semi carry) vs 5 carrys and i won all of them with abadon.

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