Riki hasn’t been a part of the meta for a very long time. For over a year he was heavily outclassed by most other roaming heroes and no one even thought of trying him in the core position. It wasn’t until patch 7.12 that people started exploring the hero once again.
The initial community reaction to the Tricks of the Trade changes was mostly negative. Many players assumed it was a nerf and a very unjustified one, but in our 7.12 Quick Review we highlighted how it actually could be an overall buff to the hero. Turns out we were right.
Riki is exceptionally good in lower level pubs, as was always the case. Invisibility is harder to deal with for newer players, who either ignore True Sight completely, or waste way too many resources on it, slowing down their progression. Either way, Riki players are happy about it, maintaining a ~55% win rate in <4k games.
The hero does fall off in the higher brackets, but he is still doing quite well for himself. Even in 5k+ games he maintains a 50%+ win rate, making him a solid pick. He is a drain on support resources, regardless of how effective they are at using revealing items, but lately he is also exceptionally good at ganking squishier solo targets, regardless of what position he is played in.
In our previous blog posts we highlighted how greedier position 4 supports are becoming the norm in the current meta. The likes of Slardar and Sand King are the prime picks, especially after 7.13 buffed Strength heroes.
One common theme with these greedier supports is that they are often left alone quite early in the game, while their team is creating space: early rotations by heroes like Gyrocopter and Lifestealer is what defines meta, even after the tower bounty reductions. Taking objectives still gives your team a significant advantage, opening up the map for further aggression.
This is where Riki comes into play: the hero is exceptional at ganking solo targets come level 6 and while he might have problems actually killing tanky targets like Sand King or Slardar, he can substantially slow down their farm. Moreover, while doing it, he provides very necessary vision and information for his team, potentially allowing them to deduce what the rest of the enemy team is doing and react accordingly.
Greedier support heroes need space and Riki is exceptional at making the enemy feel claustrophobic. Even the psychological impact should not be underestimated: sometimes you won’t farm a wave, because there might be Riki+1 hiding around.
There are other heroes in the game who fill the similar niche. For example, Bounty Hunter remains a superior roaming support for higher level games. He offers a lot less direct damage and direct utility, but his information and economy games are very strong: something stronger players are better at abusing.
What Riki offers, however, is teamfight presence. Bounty Hunter doesn’t deal a whole lot of damage and his utility boils down to a slow and a TP-cancel. Riki, on the other hand, has a massive AoE silence and slow, coupled with a rather damaging ultimate on a low cooldown.
Because of his higher teamfight presence, Riki also scales much better into the late game. Even from a support position, he will have no problem zoning out or killing enemy supports regardless of the stage of the game. That makes for a very organically-designed hero: he slows down the enemy progression earlier in the game and come late-game becomes an extra DPS core on his own, significantly tipping scales in favor of his team.
Unconventional item progression by - ah fu -
One thing almost all players universally agree on is that Riki should max Cloak and Dagger first. Not only does it increase his damage output by a significant margin, but also allows him to remain more elusive in lanes and during rotations.
Interestingly, while this build is generally the most agreed on for both support and offlane Riki, it is not the most successful one: maxing out Blink Strike results in a slightly above average chance of success, courtesy of a much shorter cooldown, which can be used both offensively and defensively. Cloak and Dagger scales with Agility and the real DPS potential of the ability is not tapped into until much later in the game, while Blink Strike gives player an advantage here and now, allowing for easier chases and escapes.
Regardless of role, unless it is hyper-specific position one Riki, all players get at least one point in Smoke Screen before level 6, which should be self explanatory: utility from an extra slow and silence far outweighs the marginal benefits of extra levels in other abilities.
When it comes to item builds, there is one thing almost all Riki players agree on: Phase Boots into Diffusal Blade with an optional Ring of Aquila is the most consistently successful item progression. Phase Boots might seem counterintuitive, given how the hero scales very well with extra Agility Power Treads might provide, but most of the damage the hero deals is done with his ultimate, so Attack Speed is not a factor. Maximizing actual attack damage of each attack is usually the best course of action for Riki. Moreover, the hero has one of the lowest movement speeds in the game, starting at 275 (excluding agility bonuses) and Phase Boots allow him to overcomes some of this issue.
Diffusal Blade shouldn’t be a surprise either. This item has one of the best damage to cost ratios in the game, while giving Riki and extra source of slow, that ensures no one gets out of the smoke screen.
Finally, there are talents. For practically every talent of the hero, there is a clear winner. Early Critical Strikes at level 15 do not theoretically increase the damage output of the hero by a lot, but they can often be the difference between killing a target and letting it escape, especially with Riki’s high natural damage output.
Interestingly, +900 Blink Strike cast range wins the 0.2 Backstab Multiplier talent at level 20. However after closer examination, it becomes clear that the latter increases the hero’s damage output by only roughly 10%, while the former more than doubles the cast range of Blink Strike allowing for initiations from a very long distance.
Finally, at level 25 there is an infamous +400 Tricks of the Trade AoE talent which many players were very vocal about after the ability was reworked. Many people felt that the ability was counterintuitive and would only nerf the hero further, but it isn’t the case. Larger AoE allow Riki to worry less about potential Force Staffs or other repositioning tools used by the enemy and continue dealing damage. This talent almost doubles the radius of Riki’s ultimate and apart from more reliable damage output, it also makes counter-initiations harder: it can potentially damage an enemy inside Fog of War, disabling their Blink Dagger.
Riki is a direct opposite of what Bounty Hunter is, despite having a very similar playstyle. While the latter specializes in accelerating his team item progression and generally doesn’t want the game to get into the very late stages, where the gold advantage becomes less relevant, the former is one of the greediest supports or offlane heroes.
Community currently points out Riki as one of the most annoying heroes to deal with and it is often confused with being one of the strongest heroes in the meta. There were many heroes in the history of Dota which at one point or another were considered completely overpowered, while statistics really didn’t support this claim and Riki is currently one of them. Losing against Riki often feels unfair and makes players feel powerless, but it really shouldn’t be the case.
Ensure early detection, even for laning stage. Try to press any advantage you have and do your best at gaining map control. Group up early and start taking objectives and Riki will not be that much of an issue. He is a greedy support, a comparatively low-utility offlane and doesn’t become a threat until the very late stages of the game. Play fast and smart, coordinate your team if required and take control over the game—this way you will not feel powerless against Riki and will have much higher chance of winning the game.