The current meta is unpredictable and ever-changing, but it doesn’t mean there are no clear winners in the support position. Both position four and position five support roles have been changed significantly at the start of the patch and while passive gold and XP gain has been tamed since, supports are still economically better off and have more responsibilities, compared to previous iterations of the game.
Today we would like to look at supports who perform the best in the higher level brackets and discuss the reasons why.
Vengeful Spirit is the hero of the patch, at least stats-wise. She has the second most impressive win rate in the game this week, while also boasting an almost 20% pick rate. Despite all the nerfs, she not only remains a competitive first pick support hero in pubs, but is also a priority ban in the professional scene.
There isn’t anything particularly new or interesting about the hero’s skill build: most high level players opt to max out Wave of Terror first, followed up by Vengeance Aura. Magic Missile is often kept as a value point until the later stages of the game, since the ability doesn’t scale amazingly well and the extra damage from additional armor reduction and additional stats for your team generally outweighs the “nuke” value from it.
Talent-wise the hero is also pretty straightforward: Vengeful Spirit has great strength growth, so taking extra 15% magic resistance adds a lot of EHP against the enemy burst. It is usually followed up by cooldown reduction for Magic Missile on supports, though +15 Agility shouldn’t be disregarded even when playing Venge as five—the extra armor alone could be worth it in some matchups. Extra attributes at level 20 should be self-explanatory and the ability to cast spells as an illusion at level 25 is similarly non-negotiable since BKBs are usually pretty short at this stage of the game anyway.
Since the release of the patch the hero’s been changed countless times and is now not as powerful as he was a week ago. However, Treant Protector still wins almost 52% of his games with a 19% pick rate and that certainly reserves him a slot in our top tier list.
One thing in common among the highest level players is that they’ve started to ignore Living Armor in favor of extra levels in Nature’s Grasp and Leech Seed. The former is typically maxed out first and that allows the hero to be played as a strong teamfight support, instead of his former reconnaissance and counter-initiation playstyle.
Talent-wise the hero is quite interesting: there are no clear choices at level 15 and 20. Nature’s Guise invisibility is generally better for supports and getting AoE Living Armor is a game-changer at level 25, but the rest is situation-dependent. Extra heal at level 15 is certainly more fitting for a support, but if the enemy has access to dispel effects or is already aiming to build a Spirit Vessel, the talent can be wasted. 15% cooldown reduction is similarly usually a better choice, but the extra damage and survivability from Leech Seed should not be underestimated even on supports—Treant Protector is a teamfight hero now so he needs all the extra help to sustain himself and deal damage.
Being able to deal damage into your own Winter’s Curse is a pretty sizeable buff, but we feel like the biggest reason the hero is now back in the meta is because physical damage cores are back in the meta as well. Cold Embrace is a hard counter to physical burst damage and Winter Wyvern is among the best heroes to deal with the likes of Ursa and Drow Ranger with her new Multishot.
Very little has changed about the hero otherwise. Her build still generally involves maxing out Splinter Blast with either value points in other skills, or an extra point in Arctic Burn for aggressive lanes. The talent selection has changed slightly and we believe it is now reasonable to take +60 attack at level 10, since it will typically allow Wyvern to finish off a cursed target. Though it has to be said, that this usually works best for core Wyvern, rather than support. With the +90 GPM talent you can potentially go for a Necronomicon on a support Wyvern for much higher potential DPS gains and some extra utility.
The dessert of our Top Tier supports, Snapfire is still among the strongest heroes in the highest level bracket, boasting close to 55% win rate with a 35%+ pick rate. We’ve previously talked about how we felt Snapfire was more CM-ready, compared to Void Spirit, but will now have to retract that statement: Void Spirit received generous nerfs and is now a decently balanced character, while Snapfire, it seems, is only getting started.
Lil’ Shredder is the biggest culprit. It is rarely maxed out first or even second, but having to eat ~200 unretaliatable damage every wave of creeps from level one is too painful for most heroes. This value point has one of the highest values across all support heroes and will hopefully get slightly adjusted, maybe not in terms of its effectiveness, but at least in terms of cooldown.
Scatterblast is usually the spell that is maxed out by high level players by level seven. This gives the hero a ton of burst as early as minute 10 and even allows her to go for solo kills: initiating with Cookie and following it up with Scatterblast and Kisses deals close to 1300 damage in a matter of seconds and that can be a big problem for most Agility cores currently popular in the meta.
Past early-midgame the hero can no longer be played in the same manner, since there are usually enough stat items on the enemy heroes, but she is still really effective as a backline support: healing Cookies is a great save or a follow-up initiation tool, while the range on her ultimate allows her to stay out of trouble for the most part. This aspect probably also needs further balancing and we hope that the hero gets some slight nerfs in the next patch.
Support players had a wild ride in this patch. They were overbuffed economy-wise and for a brief period of time became the de facto most important pieces of the draft. This rise of the Proletariat has been quelled since, but it is safe to say that supports now are considerably more impactful on the outcome of the game and that is definitely great.
The potentially not-so-great things include the blurring of the lines between position four and five supports, but the patch is still in its infancy, so natural meta development will probably correct that. There is also the case of Crystal Maiden, who initially got overbuffed and then completely gutted, so we hope that the next, inevitable Snapfire nerf patch will also bring some love to one of the most iconic Dota 2 supports.