Back in 6.78 Win Rate Shifts: First Impressions, one of the hot topics was how Huskar’s rework in the patch gave a significant boost to his public win rate. There have been numerous charges of the hero being overpowered, and at the time I pointed out that there wasn’t enough evidence to support it. He certainly saw a boost, but his overall win rate was still around 51%, which is entirely reasonable. I also made the point that this kind of aggregate analysis often hides the whole story, and that it’s mostly there to identify the big trends that are worth looking into. Now that I have a completed sample of Huskar matches, it’s looking pretty likely that the new Huskar is quite strong, but this strength is being concealed because most players have not adapted to the changes.
First as a quick reference, let’s look into how the patch changed Huskar’s skillset.
Q – Inner Vitality: Scaling Single Target Heal
W – Burning Spear: Magical DoT Orb Effect
Buffed from 4 DPS per level to 5 DPS per level
E – Berserker’s Blood: Stacking Magic Resistance and Attack Speed Passive per HP Missing
Previously, this ability gave Huskar damage and attack speed.
The patch removed the damage and gave him more attack speed per stack. It’s unclear whether this portion is a nerf or a buff.
The patch also gave him 4/5/6/7% Magic Resistance for every stack. This is a huge survivability buff independent of any changes to his damage scaling.
Huskar also received 3 base strength as part of the patch.
We know that these changes were in net a buff due to the sizable increase he saw in overall win rate. The question that remained was whether certain subsets of Huskar players were benefiting more than others. As it turns out, the aggregate data dramatically understated the win rate increase Huskar has seen in high level play.
Due to my reliance on sampling there is always the concern for natural sampling error. There is, however, no doubt that old Huskar was a hero who struggled in the higher skill brackets and that new Huskar is a hero that thrives in them. As a historical comparison, the +4% win rate shift from Normal to Very High in 6.78 would place Huskar well within the top 10 of The Heroes With the Greatest Improvement in High Skill Games that I did for 6.77 as a whole. The question then is what is it that Very High Huskar players are doing differently than Normal players? The first possibility is that Very High have been quicker to adapt their skill builds, and there’s some evidence for this.
Players in Very High have been much more likely to work Burning Spear into their builds in light of the buff and the loss of damage from Blood. For reference, only 10% of Very High players used Primary W builds in 6.77 and that is now up to 45%. Doing the same comparison for Normal we have 14%->28%. So how are these Spear heavy builds working out for Huskar?
As you can easily see, once we move up to Very High the dominant skill builds become W->E and E->W. Everything else either has a dismal performance or of too small of a population size to be noteworthy. Looking at it by point provides an even more stark illustration. 45% of Very High players put 0 points into Inner Vitality(Q) by level 8, and those players have a 61% win rate. 45% of Very High players also put 4 points into Burning Spear(W) by level 8, and those players have a 60% win rate. There is very little evidence in support of anything but a 0/4/4/1 build by level 9, and in all likelihood Burning Spear should be maxed by 7.
I’m unconvinced though that this is the whole story. One other avenue I’ve looked into is differences between item builds within the two brackets, and by far the biggest difference between the two brackets is that Very High loves Ghost Scepter. For those of you that are unaware, the new Huskar is in a unique position in that his kit cancels out the two big negatives of the Ghost Scepter. As before, he can manually cast Burning Spears to get around the prohibition against autoattacks while in ethereal form, and now in 6.78 his scaling Magic Resist cancels out much of the additional incoming magic damage during the active. As a result, Huskar is in the peculiar position of being the only carry for which this item is indisputably core. There are certainly other orb using carries like Outworld Destroyer and Drow Ranger, but for them the additional magical damage is a significant deterrent, and they usually have more pressing item demands on top of that.
The difference in Ghost Scepter adoption rates is quite stark. Only 2% of Normal players picked up the item compared to over 27% of Very High players. In Very High, Huskar players who picked up a Ghost Scepter had a 64% chance to win, which is ~8% higher than Huskar’s native win rate in the bracket and actually quite a sizeable return on investment for an item that only costs 1600 gold. As a point of comparison, Drum of Endurance costs 1750 gold and only has an observed win rate of 63%. Black King Bar, a (possibly former) staple of Huskar, costs 3900 gold and yet it’s observed win rate is only 64.5%.
On a side note, one other noteworthy usage shift from Normal to Very High is that Very High players are now much more likely to build Phase Boots. Phase Boots appear to be a very viable alternative to Power Treads now that Huskar’s passive is purely attack speed.
Another angle we can take is to look at the change of item usage in Very High between 6.77 and 6.78
Most of the big usage shifts are unsurprising. Ghost Scepter and Phase Boots we’ve already talked about. HotD is significantly less popular given how important Burning Spears is to 6.78 Huskar’s DPS. Black King Bar also appears to be much less essential given Huskar’s innate magic resist scaling.
But what’s really noteworthy to me is that the items with the biggest win rate surges are the cheap ones. Ghost Scepter is a bit of an exception here, but that’s only because its 76% win rate in 6.77 was due to it being a gimmick pickup in 1% of all games. It appears that the new Huskar is much more oriented towards picking up a few cheap items for early aggression and much less of a hard carry. This is supported by the makeshift Farm Dependency test I ran on his 6.78 data. In 6.77 Huskar came in 4th. Using his 6.78 data in the same list he would now come in at 27th.
So to sum up 6.78 Huskar:
- 0/4/2/1 into 0/4/4/1 is the safest build, and only relatively minor variations appear competitive.
- Cheap items are the way to go. Ghost Scepter is really strong. Drum appears solid. Phase Boots are at the very least competitive with Treads.
- Farm/Aggression profile is now much closer to someone like a Viper. This means an emphasis on early ganking that transitions into map control over a more passive farm-oriented strategy.