I received some e-mail asking about Outworld Devourer’s performance during the International. It kinda fit an idea I had for examining the interaction between particular heroes and the overall metagame, so let’s have at it.
As was brought up in the e-mail, OD is a curious case. He was highly relevant in drafting, but he was also unsuccessful when it came down to wins and losses. He was the most banned hero of the event, with a 73% ban rate that edges out Batrider at 70% and Wisp at 67%. At the same time, he was 12-21 over 33 games for a .364 win rate. The only heroes less successful with at least 15 games played were Sand King (3-12, .200) and Enchantress (8-15, .348). So how do we explain what’s going on here?
Let’s start by talking about his strengths and weaknesses. What people like from him is that he is a significant carry threat when a tendency to dominate mid lane 1v1 matchups. Astral Imprisonment gives him a great degree of lane control and last hitting potential while simultaneously starving his opponent out of mana. The effect is amplified against popular Intelligence mids like Puck, Storm Spirit, and Queen of Pain because not only is he removing their ability to wave clear by starving them of mana, he’s also draining them of their intelligence-derived base damage.
The big strategic downside to all of this is that his carry potential is very snowball dependent. Unlike most carries, a huge portion of his damage comes from an orb affect, and is therefore completely shut down by BKB use. This also makes him one of the worst carries in the game when it comes to tower pushing. What OD really wants is to win early teamfights and skirmishes hard. This creates a level gap where it becomes impossible to stand up against him, thanks in part to the unique damage scaling on his ultimate. One hero you could compare him to is Clinkz in the way that both heroes are dependent on a strong early game that transitions to a completely dominant mid game presence. Another comparison is Ursa in that both heroes can put out absurd amounts of damage but are vulnerable to having that damage countered by eventual item purchases from the enemy team (BKB for OD, Force Staff and Ghost Scepter for Ursa).
With that out of the way, let’s move on to his International performance. One of the first things to look at when trying to figure out whether a tournament win rate is legitimate or not is the distribution of the teams using the hero. A hero’s win rate can be greatly influenced by a small handful of teams that simply run the hero more often than everyone else, but for OD I don’t suspect this is the case.
The three teams with the most OD games were iG, Fnatic, and Liquid, all of which had better than .500 records. Sure you have struggling teams like mouz and MUFC going 0-2 with the hero, but you also have DK and Orange going 0-2 with the hero. The only outstanding outlier here is iG’s 4-1 record, and it’s admittedly a relatively significant outlier that includes wins against DK and Orange.
The real culprit when it comes to Outworld Devourer’s win rate is counterpicking, and in particular Razor. OD’s win rate against Razor was 1-7 (.125). If you remove Razor games from OD’s overall W-L, you’re left with an 11-14 (.440) record, which isn’t amazing but also isn’t terribly significant given the sample size.
You can actually see the counter-picking dance around OD if you look at a lot of the drafts that he was selected in, particularly involving Na`Vi. For instance in Na`Vi vs Dignitas during the group stages, Dignitas picks OD with the 3rd overall selection, and Na`Vi responds with Razor in the fourth. Similar responses occur in Na`Vi vs MUFC and Na`Vi vs DK. Na`Vi vs Zenith has Zenith selecting Razor with their first pick in order to protect their second pick OD. Another example of this is Orange vs Liquid, in which Liquid covers an OD selection with Razor in an attempt to deny Orange OD (Orange received the most first round OD bans of any team during the prelims). In doing so, they gave up both Nature’s Prophet and Dark Seer to Orange and also ate a Clockwerk ban which forced their off-lane to run Tinker.
As you can see, OD can become a pretty expensive pick, and nowhere is this more apparent than Orange vs Alliance during the group stages. As I mentioned, Orange received the most first round OD bans during the prelims, but this is the only game during the prelims that Orange actually gets to use the hero. With the final pick of the first round, Orange takes OD. They spend their next two bans on Razor and Viper in an attempt to eliminate counterpicks. They then target their final ban at Beastmaster (3-0 against OD during the tournament), only to have Alliance take Kunkka. Certainly Kunkka isn’t Alliance’s mid of choice, but he does well enough, and in the process of trying to get OD a good matchup Orange let Alliance grab one of their preferred Wisp combos (Wisp+Gyro), Akke’s Chen, and Bulldog’s Prophet.
Basically, OD right now is a relatively hard counterpick against certain mids but is at the same time just as vulnerable to counterpicking. He struggles against strong laners with negligible mana cost (Razor, Viper, Kunkka, Lone Druid) and he often loses in the long run to utility mids that don’t need to contest the lane and can give him problems outside of laning (Beastmaster, Nyx somtimes). If you pick him early, a TI3-calibur team can draft around him. If you pick him late, a team can just spend one of their less valuable 2nd or 3rd round bans to protect their mid-laner. Given this dynamic he’s absolutely relevant to the metagame, but in your average game he’s almost more useful as a threat than he is an actual selection.