Art by TrungTH
Necrophos is among the top 3 heroes in pub win rate, even after the nerfs to Ghost Shroud and Reaper’s Scythe in patch 7.06f. But even at 3rd place, he still remains as the 6th most popular hero in the game (21.85% pick rate). He wins more games than every other top hero in the pub meta, and that means players are losing just as much, especially in the 2-3k MMR bracket, where he’s posting an astounding 59.36% win rate.
Necrophos had his spotlight at TI, but the truth is that he has long been strong in the pub meta. He has easy-to-use skills, an impactful aura, and a defensive skill that turns a Magic Wand into Cheese. That’s not to mention Reaper’s Scythe, which has an underrated benefit with its shrieking animation of aligning teammates to focus on one goal of killing that target. While his imbalances remain, there are a few things pub players can do to mitigate his impact in the game.
Is the offlane really the best lane for Necrophos?
Necrophos can draw his lane, but he won’t necessarily win it. He has no way of killing a solo lane opponent. And he has a poor attack animation and movespeed; it’s the reason why he’s typically played in the safelane in competitive games. That isn’t the pub meta, which rarely endorses an Intelligence hero as a carry in the safelane.
In pubs, Necrophos is played mostly in the offlane (45.38%). It’s not the best fit for him. He can’t resort to the jungle, and Ghost Shroud just isn’t enough to escape. But it’s a sign of how innately effective Necrophos is, and the inability of pubs to capitalize on early game weaknesses, when that’s the lane where he’s also posting his highest win rate.
Pub players stand to benefit by being more aggressive against passive lanes. Newbee tried this against Liquid in the Grand Finals by pairing a strong offlane duo of Lich and Legion Commander in Necrophos’ lane (they won the lane but lost the game).
This seems like exacerbating the issue, but one of the best ways to understand how to counter a hero is to just play it. If there’s ever a hero that seems impossible to counter, playing it a few times will reveal that’s not always the case.
As it stands, many pub players don’t grasp the mechanics of Necrophos’ skills, that Heartstopper Aura is underrated in its impact, Ghost Shroud not only means you can’t attack him, but that its magic damage vulnerability means he can be incinerated with a Laguna Blade.
Necrophos isn’t the creeping tank of death that he feels like when playing against him. Not every opponent will sit in the lane and let Hearstopper Aura tick away and zone them out. Getting a better grasp of how a hero works, not only just his skills, but in context of stages of the game, with and against different heroes, is essential to getting better.
Glimmer Cape has lost a bit of its luster since its introduction (nerfs to magic resistance and cooldown), but when it came into Dota it was Necrophos’ worst nightmare. The item is more situational these days, but this is exactly the perfect time to consider it again. It does require a reaction that’s quicker than 1.5 seconds—the stun time for Reaper’s Scythe. The active is enough to save a teammate and make enemy Necrophos players second guess their Scythe timing.
Another way to save your teammate
Ghost Shroud is one of the more annoying spells to deal with against Necrophos. He has a natural Ghost Scepter, and its regenerative bonus makes him that much tankier when he has even just a handful of charges on a Magic Wand. It's worth it for many cores to pick the item up even if it's not in their usual core items.
Because Necrophos’ ultimate is based off % HP, it scales well in the late-game. That doesn’t matter to Anti-Mage. Spell Shield’s 50% magic resistance at level 4 is enough protection to shrug off Necrophos’ presence in the game (Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade might be worth it in this case). And since Necrophos’ skills are mana intensive, he leaves himself vulnerable to a Mana Void when he’s forced to target his ultimate on a better target.
The hero was again Newbee’s counterpick against Team Liquid. It worked well against the hero, just not against everything else.
There’s a group of magic-damage heroes that can work well against Necrophos—Lina, Lion, Skywrath—but Zeus is the easiest to use. Zeus is the only hero that Necrophos has a <50% win rate against, even if he’s not necessarily the strongest against him on paper. It’s just what happens to work in the practical context of pubs.
Pugna does surprisingly well against unwitting opponents, which isn’t uncommon in pubs. Life Drain and Nether Blast are strong spells with low cooldowns, making Necrophos players question whether they want to essentially Decrepify themselves for the heal. Nether Ward kills are some of the most satisfying ones in Dota. They both capitalize on opponents mistakes and reward the player for its placement. Skywrath Mage players know what it’s like to be counterpicked by Pugna. Necrophos players need to feel it more often. This month, our matchup stats show that Necrophos has the largest disadvantage (-5.14%) against Pugna.
AA is the go-to counter for healing and regenerating heroes. At TI, Team Liquid would often ban the hero or pick it in preparation for their own Necrophos pickup. Whereas core picks like Pugna and Anti-Mage can force your team into a strategy, an AA pickup is still flexible.
There are a multitude of other heroes and strategies that can help against Necrophos, but these are a few principles of what to do. He's more difficult to counter than he is to play, and so the burden is on his opponents to find a way,