[Skill Build Analysis] Venomancer

November 18, 2013

Venomancer has seen one of the biggest improvements in public win rate in 6.79 and is quickly becoming one of the most dominant supports in competitive Dota with a 58% win rate and the 5th highest pick rate.  Given all the attention he’s receiving, I felt he was an ideal subject for the latest SBA, especially considering how much his skills have changed in the last year.  Between 6.74 and now, the damage on level 4 Poison Sting has increased from 140 to 300, and the scaling on Venomous Gale has changed from 100/170/270/350 to 25/200/375/550.  Those are pretty big damage swings, so how have players adapted to the changes?

First, here’s a quick rundown of the abilities we’ll be examining:


The 6.79 changes:

– Poison Nova no longer ignores invis/fogged units
– Venomous Gale no longer ignores invis units
– Venomous Gale damage over time rebalanced from 15/30/45/60 to 0/30/60/90
– Poison Sting duration increased from 6/8/10/12 to 6/9/12/15
– Poison Sting dps no longer dispels healing or disables dagger
– Plague Wards now have Poison Sting for 50% of the damage at the current skilled level (When both Venomancer and a Plague Ward affect a target, only the highest dps is applied)
– Plague Wards XP bounty increased from 12/12/25/25 to 20/25/30/35

And finally, as a reminder, Skill Build Analysis generalizes hero builds into a primary and secondary skill.  For Venomancer, a Q->W build would be a build that maxes Venomous Gale first (like 4/1/1/1 by 7) and then maxes Poison Sting next (So 4/4/1/2 by 11).

When it comes to builds, Veno players are all over the place:


There’s no clear consensus at any skill level, though Poisonous Gale -> Plague Wards and Plague Wards -> Poisonous Gale are the least popular builds at all skill levels.  Also interesting is that the overall distribution hasn’t changed that much compared to 6.78 with the largest gain going to Ward builds in VH despite Ward being the only skill that didn’t receive stronger scaling in the patch.


So after all the changes, what is Veno’s strongest skill?  Well, all indicators point to Poison Sting.


Note all the top performing builds in VH.  Poison Sting (W) is the strongest primary by over 3%, and in the other two trees the Poison Sting is the dominant secondary (Q->W and E->W).  (And for what it’s worth, this appears to have also been the case in 6.78


Based off this, I suspect that the strongest Veno build is 1 point in Gale early for gank attempts, then max Poisonous Sting followed by Plague Ward (such as 1/4/1/1 by 7, then 1/4/4/2).  This build has the highest overall win rate in both High and Very High, and it gives Venomancer a lot of neutral killing potential in an environment where supports are often starved of XP due to the 6.79 nerf to the pull camp.  Venomous Gale builds aren’t bad though and can likely sync well with certain playstyles, but Gale builds should still max Sting relatively early.

I guess that’s pretty brief, but there’s not much more to say.  Hopefully you all find it satisfying enough after the hiatus.  Keep a lookout for something big coming later this week, and maybe something on Earth and Ember Spirit soon, API permitting.


[Skill Build Analysis] Spectre

October 11, 2013

It’s been a while since I’ve done a SBA, so I thought I’d take a look at one of the more unusual cases from Dota 2 Hero Winrates by Game Duration.  Spectre stood out as the only hero with an extremely favorable late-game profile in the top 15 heroes in VH win percentage (5th in late-game skew; 12th in overall win percentage) while also boosting the single highest win percentage in the sample in games with a duration lasting longer than 42 minutes.  For all the negativity I’ve seen thrown her way, Spectre has actually been a rather solid carry in pub games since the 6.75 buff to desolate.  This success hasn’t quite translated to the competitive scene, her win rate there in 6.78 has only been 43%, but she’s still an actually viable hard carry option for standard matchmaking games.

Let’s start by looking at her skill builds.  First for reference:

Q: Spectral Dagger— Nuke that slows target while speeding up Spectre and allies.  Allows Spectre to pass through impassable terrain.

Scaling: Damage, Move Speed, and Mana Cost go up.

W: Desolate — Spectre (and illusions) do bonus pure damage every time they attack an enemy hero with no nearby allied units.

Scaling: Damage goes up.

E: Dispersion — Reflects a portion of incoming damage to her enemies.  This damage is not taken by Spectre.

Scaling: Percentage of damage reflected goes up.

So first the build breakdown.


As an experiment, I also made a chart detailing the raw number of games observed of each build in the sample (Normal is slightly inaccurate in raw numbers, but is proportionately accurate).


The big trend here as you move up out of Normal towards Very High is a trend away from Dispersion builds and towards either Spectral Dagger or Desolate builds.  As usual Split builds also become less common.  Now let’s add in win rates.


And unsurprisingly, those two builds (Q->W and W->Q) are also the two best performing builds in High and Very High.  They’re close enough that I’d leave it up to personal preference on which to max first.  Dispersion is definitely a huge portion of Spectre’s late game presence, but Spectral Dagger and Desolate combined with smart ult usage is what gets you to the late game.  You can add a point in Dispersion somewhere between levels 2 and 4, but past that you’re really better off skilling for aggression.  Incidentally though, builds that entirely skip Dispersion in the first 8 levels don’t actually do so bad, so full on Dagger+Desolate appears to be a relatively viable option as well.

Incidentally, 75% of VH Spectres skill Spectral Dagger first compared to only 50% of Normal Spectres.  Probably the right call there VH players.

Moving on to items, we have what will probably be a pretty unsurprising set of findings for many of you.


Let’s start with the boots.  Spectre’s Desolate benefits from attack speed, so Power Treads seem like the obvious choice, but Phase Boots are actually the hot pickup in Very High and are actually more successful overall (56.86% vs 53.54%).  Like Lifestealer, players are often emphasizing mobility over raw DPS.

As far as core damage items go, we see Manta Style, Radiance, and Diffusual Blade as the standouts in Very High.  My impression from the stats is that the two most prominent build paths for Spectre are Radiance into Manta or Diffusual into Manta, with the Diffusual build being slightly more likely to sidetrack to Drums of Endurance.  Meanwhile, on the Normal end of things we have Crystalus (Daedalus came with only a -3.9% decrease) and Sange and Yasha.  Daedalus can be passable as a late-game luxury here, but it appears to be outclassed by Heart and Butterfly given the way they synergize with Dispersion and Desolate respectively.

I’m actually a bit skeptical on Drums.  The observed win rate for that item in Very High is 56.03%, while the observed win rate for Vanguard is 57.79%.  It could be that Spectre is just highly likely to sell them off in winning games, but a similarly priced item getting outperformed by Vanguard is troubling, and I’d honestly prefer to look at what’s going on here more in depth sometime in the future when mass parsing is a possibility.

So to sum it everything up.

1.  Spectral Dagger -> Desolate and Desolate -> Spectral Dagger look like strongest builds overall.

2. An early point in Dispersion is fine, but it should not be maxed before your other two skills.

3. At least two of Radiance, Diffusal, and Manta should be considered core.  Heart is the standout luxury purchase.

6.78’s Huskar Rework Might Be a Bit Overpowered

July 22, 2013

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:

  1. 0/4/2/1 into 0/4/4/1 is the safest build, and only relatively minor variations appear competitive.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The Shadow Blade Surge

May 15, 2013

A couple of you noticed a conspicuous absence in Dota 2 Item Trends in 6.77.  In truth it was intentional, because the shift in Shadow Blade usage since the large changes the item received in 6.75 deserved a post all to itself.  Let’s go straight to the top 6.74->6.77 item usage shifts in Very High.


We already covered how Dagon and Diffusal were covered by the rise of Nyx and Phantom Lancer respectively, and Refresher is likely attributable to a combination of Magnus and Warlock.  Tranquil Boots and Rod of Atos were recently introduced items that have seen increases acceptance as people have become more accustomed to them.  But at the top of the list is the Shadow Blade everyone was expecting to see.  Truth is, the only reason Shadow Blade didn’t show up in my previous post was that I chose to look exclusively at the shift between Normal->Very High.  Shadow Blade didn’t show up there because it’s increased usage was relatively uniform across all three skill brackets.

I’ve mentioned how often a shift in item usage can be attributable to underlying hero shifts, but with Shadow Blade this is not the case.  I isolated 32 heroes with what I consider a significant amount of Shadow Blade usage (a >3.8% usage rate in any bracket in either patch).  Three of these heroes were not in the game in 6.74.  All of the remaining 29 saw their Shadow Blade usage increase between 6.74 and 6.77 in both the Normal and the Very High brackets.

(Click for Usage by Hero in Very High Bracket)


(Click for Usage by Hero in Normal Bracket)


Focusing exclusively on 6.77, let’s look at the trends in usage between Normal and Very High:


The distinct trend here is that Very High is much more likely to build Shadow Blade on melee heroes for the speed boost and initiation, with Alchemist being the poster boy for this trend.  Normal is more likely to build Shadow Blade on ranged carries, but this gap has lessened significantly since 6.74.  Normal also sees a much higher presence of supports buying Shadow Blade.  Aside from both these trends we have Nature’s Prophet as a much more common carrier in Very High and Death Prophet as a more common carrier in Normal.

Of course the question on everyone’s mind is whether the post-6.75 Shadow Blade is better, and unfortunately I don’t have a good answer for you.  Win rate comparisons on items through the API is a messy and often misleading endeavor.  I have some ideas about new ways to approach it, but they’re not ready yet.

You might be tempted to just look at the base win rate of Shadow Blade alone, but this is a bad way to go about it because of compositional issues.  To illustrate this, let’s look at the 6.77 item data.  As you can see at the bottom of the chart, Shadow Blade has a 61.6% win rate in Normal and a 59.02% win rate in Very High.  Must mean something right?

Not so fast.  Remember that while we’ve already looked at the usage rates of Shadow Blade on the most popular heroes, the usage rates of the heroes themselves vary significantly from bracket-to-bracket.  To show what’s going on, I counted up the total observed carriers of Shadow Blades in the two brackets (i.e. of all the Shadow Blades built in Normal, Drow Ranger is the carrier for slightly over 1 out of 5).



The composition between the two brackets looks completely different, largely due to how less often ranged carries like Drow, Sniper, and Viper get picked in Very High.  Drow in particular is a big deal because her win rate in 6.77 was quite high and her increased influence on the Normal win rate of Shadow Blade could easily account for its better performance in the bracket.

To really look at item performance, we need to look at each hero in isolation while controlling for factors like GPM and (in an ideal world) purchase time.  In the meanwhile, let me say that while I believe Shadow Blade is definitely a stronger item now, I suspect it’s not strong enough to justify all of the extra purchases it’s receiving in 6.77.  Just because it’s a decent purchase now doesn’t mean that there aren’t times and situations where you have more pressing needs, and it’s probably still a bit dumb to build 2 or 3 on a single team.

6.77c’s Treant Protector is Secretly Really Good

May 4, 2013

Technically this is another Skill Build Analysis, but on one hand I wanted a title that was a bit more inflammatory, and on the other, there’s not a lot to analyze.

Ever since the 6.75 nerf to Treant, people have been really down on him.  In 6.74, he was quietly a pubstomper extraordinaire at the lower levels of the skill bracket, thanks in a large part to his completely passive global aura.  6.75 revamped Living Armor into an active global ability with the potential to make him more viable at higher skill levels, but for various reasons it never really worked out, and couldn’t offset the removal of all ultimate damage that he received in the same patch.  Every patch since has come with a litany of minor buffs for Treant to the point where anticipating Treant buffs in every new patch is a running gag.  But 6.77c’s buff was different in that it finally plugged the final weakness of Living Armor.  Relatively speaking, Living Armor is a silent contributor, but it’s also one of the most potent abilities in the game right now and I have the stats to prove it.

Let’s start by looking at how players adjusted their skill builds in light of the new patch.  If you need a refresher on the methodology I’m using to generate these charts, you can find it at the top of my Silencer Skill Build Analysis.  And for a quick reminder:

Q: Nature’s Guise — single target tree stealth.

W: Leech Seed — single target DoT and AoE lifesteal

E: Living Armor — global single target HoT and damage block


Pre-patch Leech Seed and Living Armor builds were neck and neck at all skill levels.  Post-patch, we see an unsurprising surge in Living Armor builds that gets stronger the further up in the brackets we go, likely reflecting that a higher percentage of Very High players are aware of patch notes.  You’ll also note that the vast majority builds are either W->E or E->W.  Having looked through the stats, I don’t feel any other build has a statistically significant representation, so we’re basically going to be doing a head-to-head comparison.

And for those of you who like this kind of thing, that .08% of Q builds in Very High 6.77c represents 4 games.  They were not very successful.

Moving on to win rates, I mentioned a few weeks ago that Dotabuff was showing a 6.5% surge in his win rates between patches, but if we wait a bit and break things down it turns out that 6.5% was actually quite an understatement.


That’s an 8.4% bump in Normal and a rather amazing 12.3% bump in Very High.  Living Armor builds outperform its nearest competitor by a minimum of 4.5%, a gap not seen in any SBA I’ve done before.  Treant’s aggregate performance now scales greatly with skill level, capping out at a startling 62% win rate for Living Armor builds in Very High (out of a sub-sample of ~2700 games).  For reference, if we were including these stats in The Heroes With the Greatest Improvement in High Skill Games, Treant would now come in very close to Nyx Assassin who placed 4th.

To be fair, we only get 62% after we filter out his less performing builds, which could also have the side effect of filtering out less informed players.  For reference, Crystal Maiden’s top performing builds in her second SBA came in at around 63%, but they were minority builds and all of them combined didn’t have close to the 50% representation that the Living Armor -> Leech Seed build has.

It’s also the case that there’s no guarantee that any of this means Treant is competitively viable.  There have been plenty of heroes with high public win rates that don’t translate to competitive success for whatever reason.  That being said, he’s being tried more often, and I’m not convinced that the teams trying him out have him completely figured out.  There’s still a lot of room for team comp improvements, and it could be that the first team to put him in the right place and surround him with the right heroes will surprise a lot of people.

But for the average pub-player the message here is simple.  4 ranks of Living Armor by 7.  No exceptions.  0-2-4-1 appears to be the strongest performing level 7 build, but maybe a relatively early point in Nature’s Guise is ok situationally.  You exist to cast Living Armor on things.  Is someone possibly in a fight?  Cast Living Armor on them.  Is your carry missing HP in lane?  Cast Living Armor on him.  Are you going in for CS?  Cast Living Armor on yourself.  Has a tower taken damage?  Cast Living Armor on it over and over.  Your initial item goal is to find enough mana that you can cast Living Armor essentially on cooldown while also being able to Leech Seed and Ult.

And maybe you hate this playstyle; that’s fine and totally understandable.  But if you do, I advise avoiding the character entirely.  His kit is balanced around the idea that Living Armor is insanely good for the first 20 to 30 minutes, and you absolutely have to take advantage of that if you want consistent success out of him.

Dota 2 Item Trends in 6.77

April 30, 2013

We’re going to take a break from the all the meta-hero analysis and switch our focus to item trends, particularly usage trends between Normal and Very High matchmaking.  And for those of you who are more visually oriented, we have a handy infographic from xdv

677 Items

First we have the items that see the largest usage increase in very high level play (leaving off the lower levels of upgrade items, i.e. Dagon 4, Necro 2).


The trends are pretty standard.  Ghost Scepter is, once again, one of the most underrated items in low level play.  Mobility items like Force Staff and Blink Dagger see a big surge in use.  CC items are also more popular, with only Orchid barely missing this list at 44.80% (and Abyssal Blade at 25.44% if we’re counting that).  Cheap health and restoration items are quite popular in the upper bracket with Magic Wand, Soul Ring, and Tranquil Boots all making the list.  Once again, Manta Style and BKB see by far the biggest surge of all the carry items.


On the other end of the spectrum, we once again have Sange and Yasha as the item that sees the biggest decrease in usage between Normal and Very High.  Vanguard’s top end popularity has decreased even more since 6.74, which is hardly surprising given popular opinion on Vanguard’s cost effectiveness.  Lifesteal items also place quite high, which is less of a criticism of lifesteal items in general and more of a reflection of how many normal level players will rush an early lifesteal item regardless of the game situation.  Power Treads is another example of an item normal players will build almost reflexively on any hero.  At higher levels of play, much of the Power Treads usage gets converted to either Tranquil Boots or Arcane Boots.

One potentially misleading inclusion is the Poor Man’s Shield.  On one hand this reflects a stronger tendency of teams in the higher brackets to protect their carries from harass.  On the other hand, part of this decrease is driven by players in the higher brackets having better farm and therefore being more likely to get to the point in the game where they sell off their cheaper items for more expensive items or inventory space for TP scrolls or Aegis.

I’ve done this item breakdown in both 6.74 and 6.77 samples which allows us to look at how the trends themselves have shifted over several patches.  The way I’ve decided to look at this is to just take the difference between the 6.77 and 6.74 trends.  It’s a bit crude, but it’s simple and quick.


What stands out to me here is that this list features many of the new item additions from 6.73, specifically Rod of Atos, Tranquil Boots, Heaven’s Halberd, and Abyssal Blade.  These items have gained a greater acceptance over the past few months as players have grown more accustomed to them.  Besides that, the two entries I find most curious in this list are Dagon5 and Diffusal2, and we’ll be getting back to those.

As for the bottom end, we have only 3 distinctly negative trends, so I’m not going to bother creating an image.  They are

Medallion of Courage with a -63.11% difference

Brown Boots with a -48.98% difference

Veil of Discord with a -44.03% difference

Brown Boots is likely due to the surge in Tranquil usage among VH players.  Veil of Discord is interesting in that unlike the 6.73 items it has never really reached a level of popular acceptance.  Medallion, well, we’ll get back to that as well.

A curious difference between 6.74 and 6.77 is that there are far less items with a negative popularity trend in 6.77.  A possible driver for this change is that average ending gold in the Normal bracket between 6.74 and 6.77  has decreased by ~600 while in the Very High the average ending gold has increased by ~500.  The cause for this is likely that the average match duration for Normal games is 4 minutes shorter in my 6.77 sample while the average duration in Very High remained relatively constant in both samples.

I mentioned earlier that both Dagon and Diffusal Blade have seen a somewhat bizarre surge in popularity in the 6.77 Very High bracket.  To see what’s going on here we have to look at individual hero usage.

In Very High 6.74, 4 heroes were responsible for 60% of Dagon5 use.  In 6.77 those same 4 heroes were responsible for 71%.  But within those 4 heroes, one went from being the carrier of 24.73% of all purchased Dagon5s in 6.74 to 45.88% in 6.77.  That hero?  Nyx Assassin.

A similar story plays out with the Diffusal Blade.  The ever popular Phantom Lancer was the carrier of 17.04% Diffusal2’s in 6.74 Very High.  In 6.77, he’s responsible for 50.35% of the Diffusal2 purchases.

I also mentioned that we’d be getting back to Medallion of Courage’s massively negative trend between 6.74 and 6.77.  Well Pop Quiz: what popular MoC user received a major nerf in 6.75?  As it turns out, this particular hero was responsible for 25.64% of the MoC purchases in 6.74 VH, and only 14.15% in 6.77.

So what I’m getting at here is that it’s important to keep in mind that underlying hero trends can have a major effect on item trends.  In the next couple of weeks we’ll be looking at some other items on a more detailed, hero-by-hero basis.  In the meanwhile, here’s the raw data.


6.77 Google Drive Spreadsheet

6.74 Google Drive Spreadsheet

Hero Farm Dependency

April 16, 2013

Sorry for the deadspace there.  Went down for over a week with flu-like symptoms.  It’s also why my personal contacts have gone so long without responses, so if you messaged me in the past two weeks, rest assured I’m not ignoring you.

Anyway, here’s the chart for the day.


This is a recreation of a test I did several months ago with 6.74 data.  There are some adjustments I’m considering for the future, but for now it’s a straight replication because I wanted to see how it would behave across two different samples.

1. How the Test Works

The basic idea of the test is to try to determine which heroes see the biggest win rate increases through getting more farm.  To accomplish this I one-by-one take each hero’s games and sort them by the ending CS/min.  I create five groups representing 20% slices of the hero’s performances, and I find the win percentage of each slice.  I then express each slice by the difference between its win percentage and the hero’s base win percentage in the sample.  For example, Chen’s results for this test were

51.50% -21.42% -11.78% 3.56% 8.22% 21.65%

This means that his overall win rate was 51.5%, his bottom 20% win rate was 30.08% (51.5 – 21.42), and his top 20% win rate was 73.15% (51.5 + 21.65).

Every hero follows this kind of pattern where the better CS performances have a better win rate.  It’s very likely that the underlying causation works in both directions.  That is to say that having a higher CS can put you in a winning position just as much as being in a winning position makes it easier to get a higher CS.  However, the assumption I’m making is that the latter effect is much less hero dependent than the former, so that if we examine the strengths of the pattern on every hero the heroes with the highest discrepancies between the worst and best CS performances are likely the heroes who are most dependent upon farm in order to have a good game.  In other words, it’s a measurement of “carry-ness,” which should be considered quite distinct from semi-carries who tend to be more dependent upon exp advantages.

Why use CS/min instead of the easily available GPM?  My belief is that CS/min is a better pure measurement for gold dependency.  If you have a hero that regularly has games with low CS, their best GPM performances will be the ones where they got the most kill bounty.  But in these cases they would be winning because they terrorized their opponents into submission, and the high GPM was just an incidental residue from their early K/D/A prowess.  There’s also the consideration that the GPM of the winning team is inflated by the building gold they accumulate prior to the destruction of the ancient, and that the value of these building kills in GPM is very much dependent on the duration of the game.

It should be mentioned that CS/min isn’t perfect.  It could be that certain are better at sweeping up CS at the end of winning games which inflates their results.  That being said, two examples of heroes that might be well positioned to inflate their CS totals are Luna and Gyrocopter, but the two also end up on completely different ends of the CS dependency spectrum for traditional carries, so perhaps this effect isn’t as pervasive as some might fear.

Finally, I’ve decided in making this chart that I would use Very High data exclusively.  It’s my opinion that Very High play is the closest to the true potential of a given hero, and that the results from the lower bracket more often represent the idiosyncrasies of that level of play.  I did collect lower skill level data and will talk a bit about the interesting patterns.  I’ll also include links to the data at the bottom of the post.

2. Basic Analysis

The way I interpret the results, the top 40 spots are almost entirely what I would consider carries.  Carries are almost exclusively heroes with kits built around getting significant right-click scaling.  The only exception is Doombringer 19, whose continued presence in the top 20 admittedly confounds me.

At the very top end we have heroes like Anti-Mage at 1 and Faceless Void at 2 who are the traditional hard carries.  As we move down we move into heroes who are still carry threats but often ones with weaker scaling and a stronger early game.  Juggernaut at 23 is a classic example.  These heroes are still very much farm dependent, but they often have certain strong abilities that can turn a game even when their farm to that point has been less than impressive.  A team built around Juggernaut is certainly valid, but they will want to push for an earlier victory if up against an Anti-Mage team.

One interesting point is the presence of Huskar at 4.  I feel it’s a mistake to classify Huskar as a ganker.  This is something that works at lower levels of play where people position poorly and don’t understand the strength of his passive, but for Huskar to win consistently against higher caliber competition he really needs to farm in the early game to have the survivability to withstand enemy focus fire and the damage to be a threat even without his passive ramped up.

While I still classify the 30s as carries, the benefit from farm is much weaker here.  I feel that it’s often a mistake to build a 4 protect 1 team around these heroes unless you have a specific plan for early game dominance.  Chaos Knight at 37 is an example of a hero who could work as a 1 in a team built around fighting early and often, but for heroes like Gyrocopter at 35 and Naga Siren at 36, they often benefit heavily from being the secondary carry in a two carry lineup.

It should be noted that the top end is mostly agility heroes (hopefully I didn’t miscolor a hero, but I’m sure I will eventually).  In fact, there are only 6 agility heroes outside of the top 40: Razor(46), Bounty Hunter(49), Mirana(52), and surprisingly Venomancer(53) come in as being relatively farm dependent but not true carry threats.  Vengeful Spirit (71) and Nyx Assassin (90) are the only agility heroes I would classify as being not farm dependent at all.

By contrast, only two intelligence heroes qualify as outright carries: Storm Spirit at 24 and Outworld Devourer at 26.  Both heroes have fairly unique forms of right click scaling.  Storm Spirit can convert excess mana regen into Overload procs through short zips with his ult.  Outworld converts intelligence into damage directly through the mana scaling on his orb and through the damage multiplier on his ult.  Interestingly, neither qualifies as a hard carry, likely in a large part because of how much of their damage you can ignore through intelligent BKB use.  Also noteworthy is the absence of Silencer, who possesses an orb similar to Outworld’s.

40 through ~60 represents heroes that usually qualify as item dependent semi-carries, though the sorting is much more nebulous at this point.  It features a lot of popular intelligence semi-carries with strong right click potential such as Queen of Pain(42), Nature’s Prophet(44), Invoker(48) and Silencer(58).  It also includes some of the more item dependent int semi-carries like Necrolyte(45), Death Prophet(50), Leshrac(56), and Tinker(57).

One hero with interestingly low scores once again is Slardar at 59.  Valve lists him as a carry and I’m increasingly of the opinion that this is an egregious mislabeling.  He appears to only have a mild farm dependency, and really has more in common with Centaur Warrunner in role and Bounty Hunter via similar ults.  Slardar should be seen more as an initiator and damage amp than an actual carry.

There are many strong semicarries who fall into the bottom 40 or so spots, like Zeus at 72, Magnus at 81, and Nyx Assassin at 90.  One of the big things to take from this is to not think of yourself as a farm priority even if you happen to be solo mid.  The lower your hero is on this list, the more you need to prioritize ganking, and the less you should prioritize your own personal item build.  Certainly farm long enough to get the levels you need, make sure to build your essential items (Blink + Mana source on Magnus), and have a plan for making the most impact from the gold that you do acquire.  But still keep in mind that your ability to win the game hinges on your ability use and not your items.  If you’re playing Nyx Assassin and it’s 15 minutes in, consider buying a bunch of wards to take the load off of your supports.  Chances are, getting an earlier Mek on your Visage(64) will do more for your team’s chances of victory than upgrading your Dagon ASAP.

One last fact of note.  In every single skill bracket in both samples, the lowest farm dependency has always been Keeper of the Light.  I personally believe this to be driven by KotL being one of the easiest supports to wrack up a significant amount of CS using Illuminate.  What you should take from this is that it’s very likely that KotL can hinder his team by using Illuminate to take farm from higher priority teammates.

3.  The New Additions

8 new heroes have been added since my first test, and there were a couple e-mails wondering where they fell.  For the most part the results are unsurprising.

Medusa at 9 and Meepo at 11 definitely fall in the hard carry range.  Troll Warlord is a tad softer at 16, and can probably be considered comparable to post-6.74 Ursa who falls in at 18.

Slark comes in at 31.  I consider his farm profile pretty similar to Riki at 34.

Timbersaw at 41 puts him among the most gold dependent of the heroes with no significant right click scaling.  Unsurprising for a hero so dependent upon fixing his mana problems.

Centaur Warrunner comes in at 51.  This puts him in pretty similar company to other strength heroes like Spiritbreaker(47), Beastmaster(55), and Slardar(59).

Tusk at 63 I feel is most similar to Brewmaster one spot earlier at 62.  Other similar strength heroes are Pudge and Axe at 65 and 66 respectively.

Finally, we have Magnus at 81, which is surprisingly low.  My suspicion is that Magnus’ success hinges far more around proper ability use than it does his personal farm.  There’s probably a significant number of people who play him and can last hit well enough with an early Bottle and Shockwave but do not use Reverse Polarity and Impale well enough to convert that farm into victories.  Conversely, a good Magnus with just a Blink Dagger and some cheap mana is a huge initiation threat regardless of whether he gets any more CS in the game.

4. Changes from 6.74

The changes were actually relatively subdued, which I guess speaks well for the consistency of the system.  Ursa sees a small spike, which reflects perhaps a greater dependency on buying mobility now that Overpower has a significant cast time.  Alchemist actually sees one of the largest spikes.  Not terribly surprising given his significant improvements since 6.74.  Another example of recent buffs reflected in farm dependency is Clockwerk, though his improvements were much more modest than Alchemist due to Alchemist being a relatively hard carry.  Interestingly, the effect did not work in reverse for Morphling who maintained a similar farm profile despite the post-TI2 gutting.  Sven also saw a rather significant boost in ranking, moving up 27 spots.  Spiritbreaker saw one of the most significant declines in farm dependency, which actually drives home the point that being farm dependent is a double-edged sword.  Spiritbreakers recent patch changes made him less effective as a carry, but in exchange he received a significantly improved early game.  The net effect has been a huge boost to his public win rate because he’s much more capable now of winning games before farm even becomes a factor.

Overall though, it’s difficult to say much here with any degree of certainty.  The 6.74 sample is much smaller, so it’s also noisier.  I feel more confident in the fidelity of the 6.77b sample, but it’s not clearcut whether the differences between the two samples are due to performance shifts or just sample noise from the smaller sample.

5. Changes between skill levels

Some of the Normal results in particular are rather bizarre.  I don’t think they’re a valid representation of hero capabilities, but separately they are an interesting look into the behavior shifts that occur as you move through the brackets.

For starters, farm dependency is much weaker in Normal.  This shouldn’t be surprising because CS/min is significantly lower in the lowest bracket, but it’s worth noting.

On one end of the spectrum, we have Broodmother.  In Very High and High her farm dependency ranking is 27 and 39 respectively.  In Normal, it jumps to an astounding 91.  Despite this, her win rate does not actually fluctuate much between the brackets.   This exact pattern is repeated in the 6.74 sample, so it doesn’t appear to be a fluke.

Necrolyte is an equally interesting case, and one that’s much easier to explain.  Is Necrolyte an effective support?  The answer appears to depend on the skill level you’re playing at.  Necrolyte’s Very High farm dependency is ranked 45; in Normal, it is ranked 84.  This is despite the fact that Necrolyte’s overall win rate in Normal is the 2nd highest in the sample.  My belief is that Necrolyte has an extremely effective kit against lower level players.  On top of this, he’s a high priority target that needs to be focused down early.  In lower level games this doesn’t happen, so farming up tanky items like a Mek or a Shiva’s isn’t really all that necessary.  Stronger teams will put you through a much more intense survivability check in teamfights, and consequentially Necrolyte’s farm dependency shoots up in higher level games.  That being said, he’s still not a true carry, so when someone asks whether he’s a support or a carry, the answer is simply “no.”

Tinker follows a similar pattern to Necrolyte for what appears to be very different reasons.  My suspicion is that Tinker is only farm dependent if you know how to use Rearm effectively.  Lower level Tinker players simply do not, and as a result his Normal farm dependency is 97, second only to KotL in his eternal 98th spot.

Finally we have Enigma, who goes from 92 -> 54.  What happens here is, I think, somewhat similar to Tinker.  Enigma’s farm exists to enable Black Hole, and if you can’t hit your Black Holes, none of the farm in the world will do you any good.  At the same time, Enigma has one of the most superficially productive jungles, so Normal players are tempted to waste way too much time using Eidolons to farm instead of ganking or pushing.

Meanwhile, 3 interesting cases on the other end of the spectrum.

Bounty Hunter goes from 49 in Very High to 18 in Normal.  To some extent I feel that extremely high Normal farm dependency performances are to some extent a competency check.  Normal teams will not regularly shut down Bounty Hunter’s farm in lane, and the successful Bounty Hunter’s will be the ones capable of taking advantage of that, even if his actual carry scaling is relatively weak.

Templar Assassin is another striking example of this phenomena.  Her Very High farm dependency comes in at 30, but in High it shoots up to 13 and Normal to 7.  She doesn’t have especially high power growth, but she is definitely dependent upon momentum and nearly worthless if not given an early farm priority.  Her inflated farm dependency in High and Normal simply reflects an incredibly high failure rate in games where teams use her incorrectly.

This effect gets repeated in a lot of middling carries, but one particularly telling example is Bloodseeker.  Let’s first point out that Bloodseeker actually has a rather high farm dependency in Very High at 17.  He often gets compared (unfavorably) to Nightstalker(39), but I think that this is a mistake.  Despite their superficial similarities, Bloodseeker appears to be the much stronger carry of the two, which is both a blessing and a curse.

But while a ranking of 17 is relatively high, Bloodseeker’s rank in High and Normal is 3 and 2 respectively.  Again, what I feel is happening here is a competence check.  Bloodseeker’s early strength is his ability to heal himself off last hits.  Last-hitting is not an especially developed skill in these brackets, so being able to last hit at all becomes an important check to whether or not Bloodseeker will have a strong early game.  Interestingly, Necrolyte has a similar mechanic in Sadist, but his farm dependency skyrockets in the other direction.  I believe it’s safe to say that Bloodseeker is much more dependent on Blood Bath than Necrolyte is on Sadist.

6. Links

All the data for the 6.77b sample can be found here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AoNi7mtSTYNzdHhYQW1rVVpNbFBUaFZFeTdzc2xnVWc#gid=0

It’s a bit outdated, but if you want to look at the 6.74 data you can go here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AoNi7mtSTYNzdGJKelk5b1c5Sk54WEFtVU85YUZrYUE#gid=8