We covered Ember Spirit last week, and as you might remember, I went on record as saying that Earth is the more viable hero of the two. Ember is in this place where he needs an early farm source but doesn’t have an obvious place to get it. He’s not an especially strong solo laner as a melee hero with a rather risky form of wave clear in Flame Guard and no potential escape mechanism until his ult. He also really doesn’t warrant an especially protected lane. He’s like Kunkka in that he has a form of right-click scaling in Sleight of Fist, but a 6-slotted Ember isn’t going to close the game the way an Anti-Mage or Spectre or Alchemist or even a Drow Ranger does. It’s an awkward place to be in.
Earth Spirit, on the other hand, has been the less obviously successful of the two, but a huge portion of that can be attributable to the high skill cap. Why do I say this?
A ~4% boost between Normal and Very High is pretty good historically. Back when I looked at win rate improvements in 6.77, a 4% boost would easily be a top 10 finish on a list largely populated by at least situational competitive pickups. This is also still very early into Earth Spirit’s release. Dotabuff still has the hero’s day-by-day win rate trending positively, so it’s reasonably likely that his VH performances are improving at an even faster rate.
But anyway, this post is ostensibly about skill builds, so let’s go over the skills:
Those were fun to summarize in limited space. Anyway, here’s what the usage rates look like:
Unsurprisingly, Boulder Smash first is the most common build at all skill levels, but are Boulder Smash builds the most successful?
Well, yes and no. Broadly speaking, Boulder Smash builds are the most successful in Very High, but the margin isn’t huge. The most successful primary-secondary combo is Geomagnetic Grip(E) -> Rolling Boulder(W), but this is also the rarest build, so the win rate is likely just the product of a very small sample size. The most reliable builds in the bracket appear to be Boulder Smash(Q) -> Geomagnetic Grip(E) and Rolling Boulder(W) -> Boulder Smash(Q).
But where it gets interesting is that Normal and High appear to operate on a very separate set of rules where Geomagnetic Grip(E) is king. To see what’s going on here, let’s look at another chart where we look at Earth Spirit’s win rate by how many points he has invested in each skill by level 8.
Very High behaves as expected. Maxing any of the skills appears fairly viable, and it appears that having at least 2 points in Geomagnetic Grip (E) by 8 is a significant boost over treating it as a one point wonder. But in Normal and High, maxing Grip is almost indisputably the way to go. What gives?
My suspicion is that Grip first is the best ‘training wheels’ build. If you’re not confident with the hero, E->Q->W is the way to go. Once you feel more competent, Q->E and W->Q will likely outpace Grip builds in many situations. That being said, I had heard mumblings of 2 points in Grip early for the extra stun duration being important for certain combos, and the findings appear to support that.
Items aren’t surprising. Think of Earth Spirit as a dislocation specialist along the lines of Batrider, but with Blink and Force staff being less absolutely necessary. Some fashion of mana regen on Earth Spirit is common in all brackets, with Arcane Boots being the dominant source. Bottle and Urn are also popular options. Aside from that, he can pick up whatever utility items the team needs, with possibly an extra emphasis on survivability items like Mek and Shiva’s if you’ll likely be needed for 5v5 initiations.
Finally, I had received some questions about Earth Spirit’s farm priority, and I did a little looking into it but don’t feel ready to release anything. The XPM tests are still experimental, and they don’t really mean a lot without other heroes to compare it to. What I will say is that so far, Earth Spirit looks surprisingly level dependent, in the vein of a 2 or 3 position in comp Dota terms. I don’t think that this proves that Earth Spirit cannot function as a support, but it might be sketchy to run in your average pub compared to other more versatile support options. Mid or Offlane are likely the most reliable options for Earth Spirit in a low coordination environment, which is again similar to Batrider.