Dota roles can be very flexible and one of the recent trends is a showcase of that. A lot of professional teams are currently experimenting with somewhat unconventional position one heroes with great success. Today we want to have a look at how and why that works so well.
Lina used to be one of the most reliable mids in the game. As such, whenever she was in meta, there was little need to try and play her unconventionally: she doesn’t really have bad mid matchups. Lately, however, a safelane position one Lina became incredibly popular and there are a couple of reasons for that.
One of them is that no one really plays Aghanim’s Lina anymore. The DPS for right-clicking Lina is more than comparable in most cases and the burst damage Lina loses out on is more than made up for by the gained reliability. Auto-attacks are not cooldown dependent after all.
This requires Lina to have BKB and at least some DPS items, which naturally guides her towards early game farming, rather than early game space-making. Playing her mid is currently seen as a bit too greedy, but she doesn’t really need a lot of levels to be a flash-farming hero.
The second reason is that Lina is an exceptionally strong laner. With her lower than average BAT of 1.6, a built-in powerful stun, high attack range and strong right-clicks, she can survive and even excel in almost any 2v2. Very few heroes have a starting kit this strong and with the recent +1 armor buff she is even stronger when trading blows.
To truly excel as a position one Lina, some adjustments to her skill and item build should be made. The biggest game-changer is probably Maelstrom. Gleipnir was introduced quite a while ago, but only now do players start to realize its full potential. On a hero like Lina, who doesn’t really want to be hit and who doesn’t particularly care about extra Attack Speed, Gleipnir is one of the better Maelstrom progressions for later on in the game. So it is a very smooth transition from a good farming item into a good fighting item that also sets up for guaranteed stuns.
The skill build on Lina is also quite interesting. Her stat growth is already quite good, but by maxing out Light Strike Array and Fiery Soul, but leaving Dragon Slave as a value point, you can really push it to its limit. The extra stats provide even more survivability and damage for Lina, while keeping the Dragon Slave manacost low. The latter point is quite important in the early game, where you primarily use it to keep the Fiery Soul stacks up.
Otherwise the hero is pretty much the same. She still typically wants Boots of Travel relatively early, but can be fearsome with Maelstrom into BKB early game build. She can then transition to both Silver Edge or Daedalus, or just simply stat up with Satanic or Skadi. Because her build-in damage is overwhelming as it is, the only thing Lina usually needs is survivability.
The end result is a right-clicking core with 670+ attack range, 3.8 main stat growth and a potential 385 Attack Speed steroid. The hero more or less combines the unique and powerful traits of both Sniper and Troll Warlord, while having access to incredibly powerful nukes and stuns. Lina is very, very good — learn to play her, before the hero gets nerfed.
Position one SF isn’t new, but the approach is a little bit different this time around. It is still a primarily right-clicking carry, but all players now take early Shadowraze levels, because it is a very powerful laning stage tool that shouldn’t be ignored. Finally, the 0-4-4-0 Shadow Fiend build is fully gone from our pubs.
This new 4-4-0-1 build still goes for Mask of Madness to maximize farming speed and then usually gets either Dragon Lance or Yasha, depending on whether Manta Style or Hurricane Pike is a priority.
Going for BKB as one of your initial items is also possible. Shadow Fiend has a ridiculous amount of built-in damage: Shadowraze is among the most powerful nukes in the game, while Necromastery is a +175 Attack Damage steroid. So, once again, the only problem to solve is survivability and the ability to actually deal your damage.
One interesting trend, that we believe to be a direct result of SF already having all the damage he needs, is that many high level players now go for Arcane Blink as one of their midgame items. Once you solve survivability damage with BKB and Manta/Pike, you can go for some big plays with the Arcane Blink.
It reduces the cast animation of Requiem of Souls to around ~0.85 seconds, making it very hard to react to, especially in a frantic fight. It gives SF a Ravage equivalent and turns SF into a very strong glass cannon with very high teamfight impact. It also deals a very respectable amount of damage and with an Aghanim’s Scepter down the line you have access to it every 70 seconds, which is as ridiculous as it sounds.
Despite having Arcane Blink as a priority, SF is still very much a right-clicking core: he just gets to be both a magic damage initiator and a conventional hard carry. As such, his talents almost always involve getting right-click damage: taking Shadowraze talents might seem like a good idea, but it is usually a less reliable and a worse scaling way to play.
We feel like SF, much like Lina, will receive a lot of nerfs in the next patch, but for now he remains one of the better heroes for highly talented players to play. He requires a lot of skill to pilot effectively, but the payoff is more than worth it.
The meta keeps evolving, it seems. The process is incredibly slow, given the age of the patch, but there are still new, obscure things to discover and heroes to explore.
What are your hidden gem heroes? Or maybe you feel like some heroes are overrated? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.