For the second year in a row, Naga Siren was a major player in the International metagame, but this year she shook things up as a support. Of the 43 games in which Naga Siren was picked, she was only played as a farming core in 6. Her record overall was 24-19 (.558); her record as a carry was 1-5 (.167).
You might also notice that unlike Outworld Devourer, Naga Siren’s usage came mostly out of two teams: Alliance and Orange who came in 1st and 3rd place respectively. Together they combined for just under half of her total usage. In addition to that, Na`Vi’s two uses of support Naga were, in part, an attempt to deny Orange the hero, and in the seven games Na`Vi played against Alliance, Naga was either selected by Alliance with their first pick or banned in the first round by Na`Vi in every single game.
So what has driven this shift from carry to support? In part it was the base damage nerf she received in 6.75. Even before that she was never especially great as a hard carry, but losing 12 damage at level one put even more of a damper on her carry potential. But what teams have realized is that carry potential was never what made Naga dominant in the first place; it was her abilities. These abilities are sufficiently potent from the support position, and they arguably fit better into an environment full of multi-core lineups built around mid-game carries.
Instead of looking at individual games, what I want to do with Naga is compare her ability set to the the former king of the teamfight ult supports, Tidehunter. It’s my opinion that in the current state of Dota, support Naga Siren straight up obsoletes support Tidehunter. She’s the safer pick during laning, and for the teams willing to practice with her and get creative, she blows Tidhunter away when it comes to controlling teamfights between multi-core lineups. But for now, let’s begin with lane viability.
Tidehunter’s contribution in lane revolves around Gush, a slow, armor debuff, and damaging nuke. Naga Siren basically brings largely the same toolset, just split between Riptide and Ensnare. There are some downsides to having it split between two skills, primarily that you have to choose which one to max and greater mana costs to perform the full combo, but Naga also sees some benefits. Because Naga’s debuffs are separate, the armor debuff on Riptide lasts longer and can affect multiple targets, potentially allowing her team the ability to swap targets while retaining the armor debuff in an early trilane vs trilane engagement. As for mana management, the benefit Naga sees is that while her complete combo is more expensive, if she only needs Ensnare for disengagement, she’s paying a fraction of the mana that Tidehunter would have to spend on a Gush (75 vs 120).
Moving on to base stats, you would think Tidehunter would be the tankier of the two, but a lot of his tanky reputation is tied up in his Kraken’s Shell passive that you won’t be able to max until very late in the game as a support. In terms of base HP, Tidehunter only has the advantage by 19 at level 1. This is more than offset by the fact that Naga is tied with Bounty Hunter for highest starting armor in the game at 5.94, nearly doubling Tidehunter’s 3.1. She also tied with Pugna for 3rd highest base movespeed in the game at 320. To be fair, Tidehunter’s no slouch at 310, but that tiny advantage could be a huge deal for a melee support in a trilane vs trilane situation.
Finally, we need to talk about movement impairment. Gush isn’t bad, but it’s only a slow. Heroes like Dark Seer or Anti-Mage are far more threatened by Ensnare’s complete shutdown of movement and blinks. Aside from that, Ensnare also breaks channeling, removes invisibility for the duration, scales up to 5 second in duration, and pierces magic immunity. Keep that last point in mind, because it will be coming up again.
Overall, support Naga’s laning is pretty good. It’s certainly not Visage good, but she absolutely holds her own, even in a trilane vs trilane. But laning is only half the story, and probably the less important half. Where Naga really begins to outpace Tidehunter is the mid to late game, and it mostly revolves around creative usage of her ultimate, Song of the Siren.
Tidehunter’s value to a team is extremely dependent on his ultimate, and like a lot of things in the game, this value diminishes as the opposing team builds more Black King Bars. Seeing three on a team in the environment of TI3 isn’t unheard of. Take for instance the Radiant lineup in iG vs Liquid. If you’re a Tidehunter on the Liquid side, you’re facing BKBs on the three most important members of iG. Their Keeper of the Light doesn’t have one, but he’s off in the back channeling horses. Meanwhile, their Nyx Assassin is using Vendetta to threaten your back lines on the opposite side of the teamfight. Hitting a meanginful Ravage is tough, and even tougher when you know that there’s a good chance that BKB Batrider will be targeting you in an effort to make sure Ravage never even goes off.
But Naga Siren does not care. She wants you to pop your BKB, because the moment you do her song will isolate you from your teammates for seven seconds, and on top of that she will ensnare you for five. She doesn’t care if your team splits up, because Song has a larger radius, is instantaneous, and cannot be interrupted. Forget Beastmaster and Bane, because Naga Siren is the biggest BKB counter in the hero pool. Well ok, that’s overstating things because Beastmaster and Bane both did quite well at TI3. But Naga requires less of a laning investment than Beastmaster and does not have the channeling vulnerability of Bane, and both of those are pretty significant downsides.
And the basic teamfight utility of Song of the Siren goes beyond punishing BKB usage; it’s also extremely good at outright canceling pesky initiation ults. If the enemy team is reliant on Beastmaster’s Roar or Batrider’s Lasso to win a teamfight around an important objective, like a Barracks or Roshan, Naga can simply wait in the back and completely nullify either ultimate. Spectre is another example of a hero whose ultimate initiation can be completely shut down by effective Song of the Siren use. And then of course there is Wisp. Alliance put a lot of stock in Naga as a Wisp counter, but we’ll be getting to that in a later article.
There’s more that could be said about the Tidehunter vs Naga comparison, but her total mastery of teamfights dwarfs everything else in importance. For a BKB-rushing Alchemist or a Haunt-dependent Spectre, Song of the Siren simply causes them problems in ways few other ultimates can match. Her perceived value on the parts of Alliance and Orange (and her perceived threat on the part of Na`Vi) was completely justified, so don’t be surprised to see more teams adopt her as a mainstay in the near future, provided of course that she doesn’t see major changes in the next patch.