Tuesday, December 25, 2012

metagame is hard

This installment is dedicated to all things 'metagame'. It is not about 'the current metagame' but rather I will focus on metagame as a concept and how we ought to interact with and make use of it. I intend to begin by debunking various common misconceptions about what metagame is and what sort of things are relevant to say about it - this will show what metagame isn't. In the second section I explore a more positive notion of metagame, making use of analysis of the metagames of other non-DotA games as a reference point. Finally, I will discuss in more detail the relationship between playing a game [particularly DotA] and playing its metagame and offer my own personal advice on how to play a metagame and to what extent to prioritize it relative to its game.

What metagame isn't

I think a natural starting point is to distinguish between 'game' and 'metagame'. While it is trivially true that a game can never be identical to its metagame, this is a truth that is often under-appreciated, misunderstood or entirely ignored. In other words, some analyses of DotA are game analyses and others are metagame analyses. Analysis which is appropriate for the one will, although related, hardly ever be directly appropriate for the other. Unfortunately, within the DotA community, common usage involves an almost systematic conflation of the two terms. You see people saying that

"Lion's ultimate is good in the current meta." 

Under a generous interpretation, this statement might not be problematic, so I find myself enquiring further as to WHY it is that this is allegedly the case.

In response, the following kind of reason is usually given:

"Oh come on, it does such insane damage at level 1",

"40 second cooldown at level 16 - it's like a free dagon 5!"

Unfortunately, these are reasons which one might use to justify the claim that Lion's ultimate is good in the current GAME. Calling this 'metagame analysis' would be incorrect and misleading. The metagame is NOT the game. The metagame is, in a matter of speaking, the 'game of the game'. The problem with the above analysis being used as metagame analysis is not that it lacks context. It would not become metagame analysis if, for example, we added the claim that many heroes in the current version of DotA all have very low hitpoints. This part is a bit less clear because it's almost right. I've used this example deliberately though, to emphasize that for your analysis to be metagame analysis, it requires a level of abstraction which is beyond the level of the game itself. What one could say about a given metagame is that Lion's ultimate is very good in that metagame because it deals a lot of damage at level 1 and people tend to pick heroes with low hitpoints early on, leaving themselves prone to being picked off by big nukes. What's changed? Well, I added a premise which refers to the habits of players. And that, in essence, is where metagame and game come apart. Metagame refers to how the decisions others are likely to make affect the decisions that you plan to make. In what ways do your expectations about your opponents' picks affect your picks? That is metagame. Technically speaking, every single DotA game has its own metagame but zoomed in to this extent we will rarely be able to derive any useful or successfully predictive conclusions. Thus, when people talk about metagame, what is being referred to is normally a more general category of games. The 'current' metagame, then, refers to what decisions teams are expected to most commonly make, in a given context, at a given time. Before I move on I want to clarify one more thing. Many people might infer from the previous few lines that the metagame is something very vague and intangible and thus we can only say very vague and general things about it. While this is partially true, given the level of abstraction that a metagame exists at, it is a mistake to go from this premise to the conclusion that one can readily attach 'in the current metagame' to any piece of analysis about the game. And yet, time and time again, people do this. In fact, I think the reason people do it is because they believe that appending 'in the current meta' to a statement somehow gives the statement more authority - it really doesn't; usually it just makes you look like an idiot. Either you are talking about the metagame and we probably already know that or you're not talking about it and it's incoherent to assert that you are.

What metagame is

Having discussed what metagame isn't and how not to refer to it, it is now time to try to better understand what 
it does consist of. To start with we'll look at a very simple and familiar game: Rock Paper Scissors. In Rock Paper Scissors, there are two players. Each player has one choice to make and both players must make their choices simultaneously. There are three options to choose from, each capable of beating one other option. Is there an ultimate strategy for a single game of Rock Paper Scissors? Is there an argument that can be made for why one ought to pick Paper as opposed to Rock or Scissors, for example? Clearly not. Given zero information about your opponent's choice, you have a 1/3 chance of winning, a 1/3 chance of drawing and a 1/3 chance of losing. What then, does the Rock Paper Scissors metagame look like? Well, lets ask the question - how might our decisions be affected by the decisions we expect our opponents to make? Naturally, if you expect your opponent to choose Rock, you will choose Paper, if you expect her to choose Paper, you will choose Scissors - and so on. But what reason might you have for expecting your opponent to choose one option over the others? As discussed above, there is no reason that the game itself advances in favour of either of them. Perhaps, however, you are familiar with your opponent, and are aware that she has a strong preference for, say, Paper. Well, if that is the case, you have a good reason to expect that Scissors will have a higher chance of winning than usual against this opponent. Of course if your opponent is wise and knows you have information about her preference, she might use her knowledge of your knowledge to affect her decision and actually choose Rock instead to pre-empt your Scissors. This kind of psychological analysis is recursive in this case and if you are playing Rock Paper Scissors you will simply have to choose an arbitrary line to draw at which you stop expecting your opponent to modify their choice based on what they expect your choice to be [This is part of why Pros normally have the power to redefine metagames at will, given the right kind of subsequent success]. So the Metagame of Rock Paper Scissors is a simple case of finding out what your opponents like and trying to counter that - because both players choose at the same time and because both players using this analysis will lead to the winner being decided on an arbitrary basis, this is not a very exciting or useful metagame to think about. Why then, did I bother using this example? Simple - we need to contrast between two ways in which metagame can change. The first way that metagame can change is if the game itself changes, thereby changing which choices are best to make. The second way in which metagame can change is by players changing their preferences. Note, of course, that even in the first case, players will have to change their preferences for actual metagame change to occur - and because of this, the first type of change is actually a subset of the second type. Many would contest that this second type of change is true metagame change, wanting to distinguish between a choice being popular and a choice being expected in a given metagame. However, once you see that the first type is a subset of the second type, it is difficult to understand how we could say that the role of one's raw preferences in influencing one's choices should be excluded from metagame analysis, given that this role is a necessary one in the case of any and all metagame changes - all metagame changes could be accurately framed as changes in preferences.  So, while I would deny the claims that 'whimsical' preference changes aren't relevant to metagame, I will come back to this distinction in the next section as it is a very important distinction [just the wrong type of distinction here] to understand in determining how one interacts with a given metagame.

Click here for a more detailed introduction
 to the concept of metagame in MTG.
Before moving on, I'd like to briefly talk about the metagame of a game whose metagame and analysis thereof is very well established: Magic: The Gathering. MTG is a card-based strategy game. There are different formats of MTG and each develops it's own metagame, naturally. However, the kinds whose metagames are talked about most are those that fall into what are known as 'Constructed' formats. These are formats where players construct their decks in advance of a tournament and then enter with that deck and only have access to the cards in it for the duration of the given tournament. The metagame for MTG, then, is a question of figuring out which decks are likely to be played at a given tournament and then choosing and tweaking your deck accordingly. Similar to DotA, because there are so many different ways for a strategy to be good, the metagame is used to narrow down which types of good are more relevant to a given context. Unlike Rock Paper Scissors, though, MTG's metagame is probably only negligibly affected by baseless or arbitrary preferences. MTG metagame involves things such as 'skews', where a given community might have a regularly 'skewed' or distorted metagame in one or another direction, preferring certain general types of strategies in certain types of competitions. But aside from this, it is a metagame which is ultimately grounded very closely in the game. New sets of cards are released every 3 months and with each new set there is usually some degree of metagame change. Of course the metagame also changes without the game changing, but this is normally because players take a while to fully understand the game and because metagame changes almost inevitably lead to further metagame changes, except in formats where one type of strategy is overpowered and thus unchallengeable [these are normally called mistakes]. What this is meant to emphasize is the relation between game and metagame - in a well designed, well balanced, competitive game, superior understanding of the game will just about guarantee a superior understanding of its metagame.

How to play the DotA 2 metagame

Before offering any kind of prescriptive advice about how to approach DotA metagames, it is important to return to our earlier distinction. We saw that metagames can change either where game changes result in preference changes or when something else results in preference changes. I will call the first type hard metagame changes and the second type soft metagame changes. My normative evaluation, then, is that hard changes should be taken more seriously than soft ones, though soft changes must not be denied their status in the metagame. The latter part of my position has already been explained above but I will briefly motivate the former part here. Metagames cannot be won. Only games can be won. Playing a metagame is always a part of playing a game. Thus, if there are facts about a metagame which are necessary for being successful in the game, those are important to know. However, there are plenty of metagame facts in any given metagame that a very successful team could be entirely ignorant of. A drafter doesn't need to know that his opponent likes to pick X if he is able to deal with the pick in the given draft. A drafter also does not need to know what the most popular picks are if, in fact, the most popular picks are not really the best ones. Soft metagame facts are often of this type - statements of popularity or preference. While soft metagame facts certainly can help a drafter to outpick her opponent, they will often not be necessary for that purpose. A drafter who is ignorant of hard metagame facts, though, will not have to wait long before being punished for it. And what's more, knowing the game well and thus having a good understanding of the 'hard metagame' will allow you to exploit areas of picking which are still very open to definition. If you can find reasons in the game why one pick ought to work better than some other pick which is popularly utilized, you should be testing your idea out - and either finding out what your mistake was, or turning your insight into a competitive edge. My position is actually quite straightforward if you realize that knowing hard metagame facts is mostly reducible to understanding the game. If you don't know your game well, you're not going to pick well. If you don't know what reverse polarity does, or that skewer has been buffed [or now, nerfed], you might misjudge the value of Mag as a pick, for example. Whereas, if you do know your game well and can apply the appropriate analytical tools, a good grasp of hard metagame will automatically follow. Yet, because all metagame changes must be filtered through our subjective preferences, it is very easy and exceptionally common for people to conflate these two types of metagame facts. And, as a result, it is usually only the very best teams who are confident enough to be creative with their picks, recognizing that a given metagame might be partially fixed in only the soft sense.  Let me illustrate the distinction one last time by means of a recent example. 

A few nights ago I'm sitting at my pc watching EternalEnvy co-cast Na'Vi vs Fnatic with Sheever for Starladder. Nearing the midgame, I hear EternalEnvy literally facepalming at the unfortunate reality that Trixi has bought vanguard on Antimage.

"That's not how you play Antimage these days," he remarks, "You buy battlefury to split push and annoy the hell out of your enemies, you aren't meant to go anywhere near them." Now EE has captured very succinctly the way in which AM play evolved in recent years. However, imagine you were Trixi and you heard EE say that the way you are playing the hero is simply "not how you play it". You might be a bit confused and reply, "It is how I play it - can't you see!". Of course, the comment here really means that it's not how one should play Antimage these days. Now, as such, the point probably holds easily for the game that was being casted at the time, given that the Vanguard did look a lot like a desperation buy and not at all the original plan. However, what EE actually did was make a comment about the general case. And yet, we aren't given a reason why people SHOULD play AM in a certain way at the moment. Of course this was in the middle of a cast and it would be unreasonable to expect every comment casters make to include exhaustive and sound justifications. Still, it is important to reflect on the way casters, and players, tend to talk about these things. In this case, are left assuming that the justification is merely a reference to the way in which people popularly do play the hero or have played it recently. But if we want to answer the question of how people should play the hero, we need to do more analysis than this. And in fact, as it happens, people hardly play AM at all at the moment. I would hazard a guess that the main reason it has fallen out of favour is precisely because it evolved into a battlefury-rushing hero and battlefury-rushing, itself, has become a difficult thing to do of late. So picking a hero that needs to rush battlefury is a very risky thing to do in a climate of aggression and stressful lane phases. Ironically, I would say, this might suggest that if you are going to run an AM at the moment, it is probably best that you plan to run a vanguard AM . Now I can't say for sure here whether there is a realisitc place in current picking trends to fit this - both due to lack of space, and because this sort of thing likely needs to be tested -  but there certainly isn't any prima facie reason to expect there not to be. In fact, a carry that can be robust in the early game seems like quite a good thing at the moment. Meanwhile, the battlefury-rushing AM appears to be a very difficult strategy to pull off right now, given the pressures teams tend to face in the early-to-mid game. The point in this example is not to try undermine EE - a player who i have tremendous respect for, especially in terms of the depth of his understanding of the game - but merely to show that even our common ways of talking about metagame-related things are unclear and ambiguous. There is a big difference between facts about metagame that derive directly from the game and those that exist more indirectly, as a product of potentially whimsical preferences - this is essentially the distinction I have made between 'hard' and 'soft' metagame changes. What's more, metagame facts can easily change between the two types. And indeed, in this case, the way the game [and metagame] was at the time that AM was most popular in DotA 2 made it a fact that "AM is currently played by rushing battlefury". However, that was then and this is now. It is difficult to find a game-based reason now for why this would be the case. [Meanwhile, there seems to be a very powerful metagame reason which motivates to the contrary.] And so, if the AM-BFURY relation is still a metagame fact, it's of the soft type. But if this is the case, its entire status as a fact is more dubious and if one can find evidence in the game to argue against it, one can replace or update it with a more suitable metagame fact. Maybe it is still the best way to play AM and AM is just unplayable but, either way, there is no real certainty to be had here. And it is that lack of certainty which makes soft metagame facts less significant and less reliable than hard ones. The distinction is not one of types, but one of intensities. As such, I must reiterate here how foolish it would be to make the distinction, only to wholly dismiss soft metagame facts - it won't remove your chance to win but it will severely reduce it. After all, at the end of the day, most of the time you spend thinking about metagame will probably be in order to prepare counter-picks and if this is your sole focus, it doesn't seem to matter much why your opponents pick the way they do - just that they do. 

So then, what's my advice? The ideal DotA player, I think, would not need to spend any time thinking about metagame. If you understand the game perfectly, you should be able to make the best game decisions without needing to ever abstract your analysis to the level of metagame. What's more, because most of DotA's metagaming occurs during the drafting stage, and the drafting stage is turn based, you actually don't need to predict all that much about your opponents' strategies. You are given insight into their picks while you still have time to make yours. This not only greatly reduces the amount of guesswork involved, but it totally eliminates the possibility of recursive 'Rock Paper Scissors' analyses occurring. Of course, significantly, there is serious time pressure during a draft but the fact remains that the ideal drafter will be able to perfect 3-4 of their picks purely based on information given to them during the draft. But there is no ideal DotA player, no ideal drafter. And because of this it would be absurd to advise any real DotA players to ignore the metagame. Rather, I would encourage players to spend most of their reflection thinking about the game, and thus, the hard metagame. The soft metagame should be considered as well but should be analysed much more critically, with a very open mind. Innovation on this front is one of the more likely places for a team to gain an advantage over a stronger opponent.

Above, when I used the word 'most', I alluded to the fact that not all metagaming in DotA occurs during the drafting stage. This might actually be seen as an understatement if we go back to our original definition of 'metagame'. If metagame is the way in which decisions you expect your opponents to make affects the decisions you plan to make, surely DotA players make most of their decisions after the drafting phase? But this is a trap. Precisely what makes a pick a good pick is what you expect that pick to do in the game - which decisions you expect it to enable you to make and, thus, which you expect you will make. However, DotA is an extremely complex game and, as such, it is not always possible to accurately predict the shape that a game will progress into. Because of this, it is important to use metagaming as a shortcut in balancing out the strengths of your strategy. By this I mean simply that over and above looking at your picks themselves, you ought to be thinking about what sorts of things you might expect your opponents to do in the given game. Probably the hardest metagame fact about DotA 2 at the moment is that teams will make several attempts at shifting the balance of the game by using Smoke of Deceit. Softer metagame facts of this kind include prima facie rules about which types of heroes can solo the off-lane, how likely it is for teams to use dual lanes, etc. Because the game is very difficult and because there are no drafters who are even near to flawless, it is important to condense these sorts of metagame observations into something of a framework to evaluate your picks against. You never want to be thinking about the metagame so much that it reduces your ability to think about the game but inasmuch as they can be complimentary, this is a good thing.

A final caveat

Much has been said about the distinction between two types of metagame facts. But a perceptive reader might remark that both soft metagame facts and hard metagame facts can be ignored by anyone at anytime, rendering them ultimately equivalent in status. After all, game dominates metagame, doesn't it? The difference between the two, in light of this line of thinking, is that ignoring hard metagame facts will likely lead to poor results whereas ignoring soft metagame facts need not do so, assuming that your strategy in a given game is a sufficiently competent one. However, the final caveat that I'd like to add here is that it is often extremely difficult to tell these two types of facts apart. While in practice, many theory-crafters easily distinguish between what they call 'trends' and 'actual metagame', there are also plenty of hard cases to consider. Notice, for example, that Nyx and Kotl are both staple picks in the current DotA 2 metagame. Nyx has recently been described as the best pick there is at the moment by xiao8 while Kotl is picked or banned in almost every Chinese tournament game right now. Meanwhile, Visage has started to rear its head as a potentially lethal tri-laner. What do these three heroes have in common? These are the three that were added just before TI2. To what extent did these three heroes affect TI2? Negligibly. Kotl is the only one that was picked often and camp-stacking was not yet as popular as it is now, meaning the hero was doing a lot less than it could. Nyx had a small cameo in the grand finals, but was probably more of a cost than a benefit in that game. Have any significant changes been made to any of these heroes since TI2? Not really. We have seen minor tweaks here and there - largely buffs, but none I would say make the difference between "totally unpickable" and "first pickable"
. So how do we account for this? On the surface it would appear that their rise in popularity is owed mostly to soft metagame changes. But concluding this would be a mistake, I think. For example, Nyx's carapace is the reason the hero is so potent at the moment - several professional players have attested to this fact in recent weeks as well. But if game changes are not to blame, and preference changes are not to blame either, what is going on? Here we have a hybrid of the two, I think, and one which is very common in the DotA world. Icefrog brings new changes to DotA, and there is a delay before those changes are properly received by the players. There are several reasons for this to happen. For one, players sometimes need time to adapt their thinking and their picks to fit new changes. Meanwhile, some game changes only become relevant when combined with other, later, game changes. And then there are simply changes which players undervalue, or catch onto very slowly. Darkseer, for example, was an insanely strong pick in competitive DotA for several years now. However, it only became very popular when its Scepter was buffed to create images of allies. This buff was clearly over the top and was quick to be reversed. But when the buff got reversed, the hero kept being picked. Why? Because it was a very strong hero in the first place. We have subsequently several nerfs to Vacuum, which was likely the culprit in the first place, and the hero is still seeing plenty of popularity. Sometimes, it seems, a hero has to go over the top in order to be recognized for its already exceptional power.

What do we take out of this? Well, serious DotA players are continuously getting better at DotA. Sometimes it is difficult to notice because a lot of this improvement takes place in the form of masses of new content being internalized, re-arranged, and analysed. But we must not mistake metagame changes resulting from players' improvement for soft metagame changes. These are merely hard metagame changes whose game changes do not appear immediately before them. This does not affect the type of change they are - indeed, if the game is such that something works then the game is such that something works. The time at which it is discovered to work is entirely arbitrary. This should hopefully make us even more sensitive to the metagame type distinction, and thus even more careful in analyzing this complex and slippery beast.

So here's the TL:DR version of it:

1. Spending time thinking about the game is more important than spending time thinking about the metagame.
2. However, because we are merely lowly humans, to think only about the game would require too much of us. So thinking about the metagame is also important, albeit less important.
3. Metagame analysis should be especially sensitive to the distinction between 'soft' and 'hard' metagame changes and facts. Make sure not to confuse the two with one another - it can be very difficult at times.
4. Hard metagame facts, by their very nature, should not be ignored. They must form the foundation for your thinking when deciding how to strategize and play. Soft metagame facts are flexible and must be approached critically.
5. Only think about metagame inasmuch as it does not reduce your ability to think about the game itself. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why we’re going to continue to see more and more of Disruptor

So last entry was about Rubick. Though I spent a lot of time discussing the narrative which led to the genesis of my inspiration to write the entry itself. What a mouthful. I know, right. Thankfully, the exact point I’m making here is that feedback has been well received and I’ve decided to cut down on that stuff this time and jump straight into an analysis of Disruptor on a skill-by-skill basis. 

My underlying sentiment is that even though we saw an awesome [read: perfect] Disruptor from iG.Faith at TI2 and have since seen it variously picked by mostly CIS teams [mostly unsuccessfully, sadly], I expect us to see even more of it in the days to come, given certain particular disruptive functions which it can serve.

Thunder Strike

source: dota 2 wiki
There isn’t an awful lot to stay about Thunder Strike by way of comparison to other nukes. As a nuking skill, it is well balanced in terms of damage, mana cost and cooldown. It’ll help you control a lane, push a lane, or make a kill. But what makes this skill really fantastic is its ability to be disruptive of enemy movements, in addition to being a nuke. This is most obviously the case in two ways. First, a hero with a blink dagger will be unable to make use of it for 4 seconds [7 really, given the delay before the dagger becomes active again. Thanks AvgJoeSchmoe] even if the only source of damage to that hero is Thunder Strike. This is because Thunder Strike deals its damage in 3 parts instead of one. While a once-off nuke is sometimes neater for making kills and in order to avoid unnecessary trade-offs or heals, in this instance the nuke has a Enigma’s-Malefice feeling to it and is very frustrating, even for enemies who merely wish to use a Salve, Urn, or Bottle in order to quickly recover and retaliate.

The second and perhaps more subtle way in which Thunder Strike is disruptive is owing to its small, but relevant, AOE. It effectively adds an ultimatum to each cast: “Either you keep a reasonable distance from your allies for the next 4 seconds, or they’re going to take some gratuitous damage.” In any cases where the damage from Thunder Strike is shared over multiple enemies, it will be dealing a lot more than it’s mana cost and cooldown justify and will be success enough just for that. Meanwhile, if it manages to redirect enemy movements even slightly, it is functioning above and beyond the regular duty of a nuking ability, outputting damage AND influencing positioning. While it is often a good thing for heroes to keep a small distance from their allies to avoid being caught in AOE, in the heat of battle spending time to correct one’s position can result in a small delay in pursuing one’s original course of action - which can be lethal. Also, if both relevant heroes try to correct their positions, this effect can be amplified.

Kinetic Field

source: dota 2 wiki
Kinetic Field is without a doubt Disruptor’s weakest skill. That said, it does have the potential to be used in various different ways, making it at least a theoretically versatile ability. It can be used to keep people out of a key area or to keep people inside a desired location for a short time. This makes it useful in terms of preventing enemies from chasing, pushing or initiating as well as in order to disrupt enemy heroes’ ability to escape or move – where used aggressively.  Forcing one or several heroes to stay within a given AOE for 4 seconds [at level 4] can obviously be a skirmish-defining manoeuvre. 

And yet, the skill just generally seems quite underwhelming. One reason for this is that it has a 1.2 second form time, making it difficult to execute as desired, especially when lacking the luxury of time to premeditate a play. A further reason is that this skill does not actually disable enemies – this is a drawback in a few ways. Most obviously, units can actually move around inside the Kinetic Field which means that it is possible to trap someone inside the Field but not actually hinder their desired movement for the full duration that the Field lasts. In the case of a level one Kinetic Field which lasts 2.5 seconds, about half of that time could be used walking from one side of the Field to the other – this places an emphasis on casting it even more precisely, which is already difficult given the requirement that you compensate for its formation time. Another problem associated with Kinetic Field not being a proper disable is that heroes can still cast their spells and use items, most notably those which might help them escape the Field itself. Crucially, at the time that I began to write this entry, I intended to make the point that the ever-present Force Staff was an instant counter to any successful Kinetic Fields – however, the latest patch changes have edited this and Kinetic Field comes out significantly buffed now that Force Staffs can no longer push units out of it. Regardless, the ability still feels underwhelming . . . when looked at in isolation, at least.

It turns out, though, that the primary appeals of Kinetic Field are its interactions with the other 3 spells Disruptor has. That is to say, Glimpse allows for one to guarantee a well-placed field. Static Storm gives Kinetic Field a much greater sense of purpose, since the two together function as a serious lockdown for just about everything with an added bonus of some decent damage over time. And the often subtle AOE of Thunder Strike is emphasized a lot more where multiple enemies are caught inside a Kinetic Field, normally all edging towards the same border of the Field and thus all receiving damage from a single instance of Thunder Strike.


source: dota 2 wiki
Glimpse is likely to require no introduction as it is quite definitively the signature skill of Disruptor. From extremely far away, Disruptor can pull you back to where you were 4 seconds ago. This is a very powerful ability and, although it does require reasonably good play to optimize, it requires even better play from enemies to avoid its optimization. A good Disruptor player merely needs to learn where to position himself efficiently and how to judge 4 second periods intuitively yet accurately. In the meantime, anybody playing against a Disruptor must [especially once Glimpse is maxed out with a 30 second cooldown and 1800 cast range] be extremely diligent avoiding being caught out and isolated by a successful Glimpse. For example, any time that an entire team is retreating from their pursuing enemies, one of those fleeing is prone to being pulled back into a more-than-likely guaranteed death. In the meantime, as is popularly enjoyed, any time one teleports to any location, one must be vigilant in order to avoid immediately being Glimpsed back to the original location – which can ultimately be devastating for a teamfight or Skirmish. So this ability requires players to give a lot of attention to the way they execute what are normally very ordinary tasks in DotA. When there's a Disruptor around, you have to use TP scrolls nervously, walk carefully and fight with more awareness than usual. 

However, beyond all these generalized appeals of Glimpse, I believe there are some very specific things that it empowers a team to do which are, for me, what forces this hero to be a relevant pick in just about any metagame. Firstly, Glimpse offers a counter to heroes which are very fragile but counteract their weak state with natural escape mechanisms. This includes heroes like QoP, Mirana, Antimage and anything else which takes for granted its ability to detect a gank and jump away before being caught. The reason Glimpse counters this kind of hero is obvious: after they've used their escape, if you can still see the hero, you can merely return it to its original position. This means that for these sorts of heroes to avoid ganks when there is a Disruptor in the game, they need to try especially hard to aim their escape moves appropriately, hoping to land somewhere where the enemy team hasn't got vision. Incidently, this is one of many reasons that I believe Disruptor to function very well in a team with Bounty Hunter – constant Tracking filling the missing gap in a strategy which almost guarantees kills on these sorts of heroes [with any sort of disable and/or damage to back it up]. But of course, even without a BH, good warding or well-placed allies can achieve the same sort of goal. Not to mention the fact that a hero using a natural escape is often under pressure to act fast and unable to consider which direction to go in order to avoid being Glimpsed back. A final bonus here for Glimpse is that the accomplished Disruptor player will be able to sometimes cast Glimpse on a hero at the same instant as it casts its escape and, since Glimpse does not transport the unit immediately, this will counter the escape regardless of which direction it was aimed. A similar trick can be performed with Glimpse to counter Chen sending allies to base – here it is a lot easier because one can know just when the hero is about to disappear and thus have something to go on in terms of timing the Glimpse just before.

The second specialized purpose Glimpse commonly offers is an implicit threat against any 4:1 strategy – that is, any strategy which at any point makes use of 1 hero to farm while the other 4 engage in the game via skirmishes, pushing, ganking or defending. Why? Well, because an underlying principle presupposed by any 4:1 tactic is that the isolated 1 has a way to get to the other 4 at relatively short notice. Perhaps a tower is being pushed and the farming hero plans to teleport in at the last minute to aid in defending or counter-engaging. Perhaps the farmer is the one doing the defending and plans to teleport in to strengthen a push. Maybe it’s a Spectre that assumes it can haunt into any battle or a Nature’s Prophet or Wisp [and Wisp-sidekick] who assume they can TP in at short notice to gank. The point is that the idea of splitting 4:1 is very common in professional DotA. It allows a team to exert control over the map but also gain gold at the same time, thus not compromising efficiency ever. But if your opposing team has a Disruptor on it, there is a serious risk involved in this type of play because if he is alert enough, well positioned enough and aided by the appropriate vision, he will most often be able to directly counter any attempt for the isolated 1 to join the other 4, with devastating effects on whatever is about to, or has just started to, happen. For an excellent example of this sort of thing, check out this VOD, particularly from 49:10 until 51:03. [For a direct link to the relevant time, use http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQJ8jeVf_zI&t=49m10s]

The VOD is of a game between Empire and VP from the first day of the current Starseries. In this case, it’s not a strict case of a 4:1 manoeuvre because all 5 Empire players are pushing a tower together, intending to all subsequently teleport to the opposite lane to defend. Normally this would be a problematic plan, given the way in which TPs to the same location at the same time become delayed. However, because they have a Naga Siren, they expect that her Song of the Siren will nicely counteract the delays on the TPs with some time to spare, offering a good entry point for their excellent AOE combo. This makes a lot of sense. However, as you see in the video, the Disruptor – played by NS here – expertly Glimpses the Naga just before coming into range of its Sleep. I say ‘expertly’ because even a half a second fumble would have meant he’d be asleep and by the time he woke up a Glimpse would no longer have had the desired effect. So Naga is sent back to the other side of the map. Despite this, Empire manage to land a good Blackhole, catching three heroes, followed by an even better Ravage, hitting 4. And yet Empire get massacred anyway. It’s simple to see why – Luna got her BKB off before the Blackhole and Ravage [arguably also because of the failed Sleep initiation] and Naga isn’t present to dish out the equivalent kind of beating for her side. This series of events starts with Empire leading 14-8 on kills and ends with the scores level at 15-15 and Empire minus 2 towers and 1 set of Raxes. This, I would say, all a direct result of a single instance of Glimpse. [Incidently, the game is far from over at this point and those who have not yet watched the VOD are encouraged to take a look at this action-packed match – though full of mistakes, it’s never short of drama.]

So Glimpse is a very potent skill, useful in many obvious ways, enabling several fun gimmicky functions [cancelling TPs, pulling spawning heroes from fountain to their place of death etc.]. But what makes it truly superb is that unlike the other skills discussed so far,  which are ‘merely’ disruptive in the general sense, this skill disrupts enemies in some particular ways which are both likely to occur regularly and likely to have dramatic consequences – this is something I believe the hero will be picked more specifically for in the near future of competitive DotA2.

Static Storm

source: dota 2 wiki
After the previous discussion, it’s strange to think that Disruptor still has an ultimate to talk about. That said, there is significantly less to say about Static Storm than there is to say about Glimpse. AT 85 seconds, its cooldown is just long enough to feel awkward as a tool to control the early laning stage but definitely short enough to be a reliable skirmish-controlling asset moving into midgame. Of course, the success of most Static Storms is largely dependent on which other abilities they are used in combination with [whether Disruptor's or those of an ally]. Effective use of Glimpse and Kinetic Field can reliably catch at least one enemy in most of the duration of Static Storm. In such cases, the normally quite low damage it outputs [for an ultimate, certainly] becomes very relevant. This is an added bonus, though, the primary function of Static Storm being – unsurprisingly, now, I hope! – to disrupt enemies by silencing them for an extended period of time or briefly but at a key moment. I imagine that most people are readily aware of the potency of catching multiple heroes in Static Storm for several seconds – even without the damage, a few seconds of silence on multiple enemies can easily turn a battle. Indeed, as previously mentioned, the potential for such interactions is one of the main things which mitigates the many weaknesses of Kinetic Field. Perhaps less obvious though is the ability of Static Storm to immediately silence an enemy at a key point in a battle. With a quicker cast time than, say, Drow Ranger or Death Prophet’s Silences [and the added bonus of having your utility skill appropriately attached to your utility hero], Static Storm is uniquely placed as one of very few skills which is able to react very effectively to a perceived engagement from a hero like Tidehunter or Pandaren Brewmaster [Faceless Void, Enigma and many others could be added here but for the sake of convenience I’ll only discuss the two in detail]. The importance of this can be understood in stages. Firstly, Tidehunter and Panda are both heroes who, for most of the midgame can single-handedly have a dramatic impact on a battle merely by using their ultimates – they needn’t even use them very well, merely standardly. Secondly, these are also both heroes who are very difficult to stop from using their ultimates. Panda can ulti from far away, or blink in and immediately ulti. Tidehunter has Kraken Shell which makes it near impossible to disable him before he manages to Ravage. These two facts put together suggest an onus on any team playing against these sorts of heroes to have a specific plan in advance for how to handle these sorts of ultimates. Before Disruptor, the only viable ways to guarantee an enemy Tidehunter failed to ulti during an engagement were by using  Black Hole or Chronosphere. Other forms of disable or silence would need to be perfectly timed to be re-added to Tidehunter immediately as Kraken Shell procs and this is a very unreliable tactic. The same applies to Panda, though to a lesser extent, since sufficient chain-disabling or silencing can sometimes do the trick here. Now you can’t always and – often don’t want to – pick a Void or Enigma merely because the other team gets a Tidehunter or Panda. But you’d also do well to empower yourself to have a reliable plan for dealing with these ultimates in the midgame. Well, fear not, Disruptor, which is an easy pick to justify in almost any line-up, happens to have a built in answer to them too. Why? Because the silence casts almost immediately, and will normally last at least a second before the unit escapes it, assuming no further slow or disable. This is particularly relevant to the case of Tidehunter, because even if Kraken Shell procs, the silence will immediately re-apply itself.

Beyond these sorts of applications, it is also worth reiterating how potent the combination of Static Storm, Glimpse and Kinetic Field is. In most cases you are able to set up a Kinetic Field and Static Storm during the short duration of Glimpse and then once the hero lands it is taking damage, restricted in movement and unable to cast spells [and thanks to the patch, unable to force staff out either]. This means that Static Storm is a useful ingredient in any attempt to pick off one enemy by locking it down quickly. So it turns out that similarly to the case of Glimpse, while Static Storm is a generally useful disruptive skill, it’s the particular types of disruption it is capable of which really make it shine.


Concluding Remarks

It remains to be seen just where Disruptor is most suited to laning and what role it is most suited to playing in terms of gold priority. Its most common usage as of yet has been as a hard supporter but it does have the ability to solo mid - and early levels in Glimpse might be enough to justify this decision. Meanwhile we've also already seen one interesting cameo of DKPhobos soloing the long lane with Disruptor as a sub for Na'Vi. Regardless of where you put it though, the utility of this hero is undeniable and its name is more than earned by its ability to disrupt enemies in several different ways. Of course with the enormous recent update, I wouldn't be the first to suggest a potential large scale shift in metagame coming soon. Most speculation expects a more aggressive gank-orientated DotA2 - which I think goes without saying is a place Disruptor would feel more than comfortable. I am confident, however, that this hero can and will fit into any metagame.

Thanks for all the feedback so far and please continue to submit ideas, criticisms, or suggestions either by emailing me at scantzor@gmail.com or by commenting below.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What makes Rubick such a strong hero?

WARNING: This post is very long. In an effort to
help lazy readers, I've tried to highlight the key
points in each paragraph in red.

You might be wondering why it is that I think this is a question that needs answering. Maybe you think it’s self-evident – there is no need for explanation – Rubieq iz IMBA LOLOL! Maybe you’ve observed its dominance in professional DotA 2 for the past few months and are satisfied with the mere conclusion that the hero is extremely powerful. Perhaps you saw an interview with Puppey just before TI2 where he expressed the concern that the hero was uniquely difficult to manage – that is, that it wasn’t at all clear what to do against it. For me, the source of Rubick’s power has been very difficult to neatly capture or identify, despite having grappled with this question for several months now. I have assumed, therefore, that at least some of the more reflective members of the DotA2 community are similarly unable to pinpoint exactly what makes the hero tick. Thus, this post seeks to closely analyse the hero in order to uncover just what it is that makes it so effective in the professional DotA 2 scene

I should begin by admitting that I did not foresee Rubick’s rise to power. On the contrary, when the hero was added to the DotA 2 hero pool and the hype about it immediately began to build in the community, I spent a lot of time telling friends, teammates and forums that the hype was unfounded. I had played the hero several times back in DotA 1 after its initial design and had found it to be very much a sentimental hero , enjoying the Medivh model and the chaotic ultimate concept more than anything else but feeling that the spells were not well balanced for or appropriately fitted to competitive play. The hero went through various minor modifications, as most new heroes do, and while DotA players began to move into DotA 2, those that continued to play were quickly able to test out Rubick competitively, as it was added to the CM hero pool. While Rubick was available in CM, but not in DotA 2, it was picked primarily by Southeast Asian teams, relatively infrequently, and normally as a support hero. To me, it seemed interesting but experimental and thus I didn’t give it a lot of thought at this point. Several months later, Rubick was added to the DotA 2 hero pool, and subsequently the DotA 2 CM pool. Almost immediately we began to see Dendi, and then some other stars, playing the hero – especially in the solo mid role. This was a different sort of Rubick – often making very flashy plays and being commended for ‘doing lots of really cool stuff’ during games. This description might sound strange but, really, at first, and even now, this is close to the best explanation that has been available as to what is so scary about the hero. I found myself asking whether a player like Dendi couldn’t do ‘really cool stuff’ with a Tinker or an Invoker. What was unique to this hero? I was ready to accept at this point that the hero was being picked because it was new and novel and it had an exciting and dynamic ultimate which was very fun to play around with. 

Perhaps he's just great at collecting telephones
Rubick, I argued, did not scale well enough with items in order to justify the gold priority it was given as a solo mid hero but would also not cope well as a support hero given that its nuke and its disable were separate skills, both costing quite a lot of mana relative to an early game, low level mana pool. Yet, Visage (in DotA 1) had long since overcome the latter concern and proven itself as a very serious pick in the right lane and metagame. And not so long ago heroes like Lion had flourished in the solo mid role, despite not having skills which naturally scaled with gold. However, the mere existence of counter-examples was not enough to allay my fears about Rubick in particular. The hero has an ultimate that, except when used to counter specific picks, seemed to me to be highly circumstancial and thus potentially very unreliable. Its nuke has long casting range but deals a lot less damage than most serious early game nukes at its mana cost are expected to deal [compare level 1 Lina’s dragon slave dealing 100 damage for 90 mana with an 8.5 second cooldown with level 1 Rubick’s fade bolt being 150 mana for 75 damage with a 16 second cooldown]. Meanwhile, its disable doesn’t deal damage and both the air time and the stun time scale with levels [compare to level 1 sven or leshrac’s stun which have a 2 second duration, 100+ damage, AND disable aoe]. Lastly, the aura appears to offer only a minor consolation and only does so moving into mid-to-late game, presumably once the other two skills are maxed out [at which point it may already be too late to rescue the hero’s relevance]. Perhaps these comparisons are unfair or maybe Rubick’s strength comes from the sum of all his skills rather than any of them in isolation. In any event, today I am ready to say that my concerns were misguided and that I had grossly underestimated the hero. We know now that it is a very potent pick – the question is why?

It might be useful at this point to provide a few statistics related to the hero in order to contextualise the nature of the beast.

source: dota academy

source: dota buff

While the graphic to the left indicates that the hero is extremely popular amongst all those playing DotA 2, the information represented above shows clearly that Rubick is making waves in the competitive scene, seeing plenty of picks and bans - and of course wins. Something immediately interesting to note is the contrast between win rates displayed by these two representations. The former parses info only from competitive games while the latter parses info from all games. Perhaps the difference in win rate speaks to the fact that the hero is difficult to play or maybe it suggests that its strengths are inextricably linked to good teamplay. 

But statistics can never tell the full story – especially in this case, where the statistics merely serve to confirm our expectations. The key question as to why Rubick is such an excellent hero still remains. This leads me to the most important section of this post where I will now proceed to do a thorough analysis of each of Rubick’s skills in an attempt to highlight where the hero’s strengths truly lie. In each case I will begin with my previously mentioned concerns and then work towards what the contrasting virtues are. 


source: dota 2 wiki
For a disabling skill to be considered a major asset to the early game it normally requires that the skill deals significant damage, disables the enemy for a sizable duration or affects an AOE. While Telekinesis can sometimes provide an AOE stun, it can never be stunning the primary target as well as the secondary targets at the same time. This means that it is unlikely to be able to single-handedly disable all relevant threats in any given situation. Given that it also deals no damage, one would expect that the primary strength of the skill in the early game is the disabling of the primary target. Ok, fair enough, it starts at 1.5 seconds. This is a reasonable length for a disable. But it’s certainly not superior to standard disables like Crystal Maiden’s freeze or Lina or Sven’s stuns, all of which deal damage and 2 of which are AOE and have a longer stun duration at level 1. Granted, CM’s doesn’t disable all spells, Lina’s can miss and Sven is a melee hero. But the point here is that Rubick’s disable is not clearly better than other common disables in the early game. 

But here’s the flipside: what Telekinesis does do is move the primary target. This could be understood as additional duration disabled or can be used in combination with other abilities in order to help time or aim them. And even though the disabling time of Telekinesis has to scale with levels, if you manage to make use of the secondary stun component, even on one hero, the skill is effectively being responsible for 2.6 seconds of disable, at level 1. While I do have reservations about viewing this disable duration additively, one point is made clear here – a player who is better at executing Telekinesis well will do much more work to justify picking the hero. On that note, the skill does also allow for nifty tricks such as placing enemies on cliffs, trapping them or strategically destroying trees. However, ultimately, in the general case, we are looking at an average length single-target disable which doesn’t deal any damage.

Fade Bolt

source: dota 2 wiki
Fade Bolt, as alluded to earlier, can deal significant damage but mostly after it is levelled up and initially at a very high cost. At 150 mana, I feel hard done by with 75 damage at level 1, especially with a 16 second cooldown. This time the positives are a lot easier to spot, though. Firstly, Fade Bolt bounces from the primary target to multiple other targets. While each jump does deal less damage, the reduction is only 4% per jump, meaning that a level 4 Fade Bolt that is cast on one hero and bounces immediately to another two heroes will deal 864 damage in total to those heroes, more than a level 3 Finger of Death. Of course there is much to be said for damage that is split up being compared to single target burst damage, but the sheer amount of damage that Fade Bolt can output is worthy of recognition. Perhaps a more suitable comparison would be to Shadow Shaman’s Ether Shock which can deal 960 damage in the same situation, but would require all 3 enemies to be standing in a fairly neat cone shape relative to the Shadow Shaman. In contrast, Rubick’s Fade Bolt bounces to all enemies within 500 range of its most recent target. But this is not a cut-and-dry advantage since Ether Shock can deal the full 320 damage to up to seven targets. Either way, the fact that the potential damage output is even close to Shadow Shaman’s is very impressive, given that Ether Shock is considered to be an extremely powerful nuke. 

But wait, there’s more. Rubick’s Fade Bolt doesn’t just deal damage. It has a secondary effect: it reduces enemy units’ damage. Enemy heroes hit by a level 1 Fade Bolt will have their damage reduced by 14 and by level 4 Fade Bolt this reduction has more than doubled to a whopping 32. This reduction can single-handedly win a Rubick a solo lane - considering the fact that Rubick and his enemy will normally be hitting for roughly 50 damage per hit at the start, a 14 damage reduction is more than quarter of that amount -  and can dramatically affect team-fights in mid or even late game where multiple enemies are hit by Fade Bolt and all have their damage reduced for 10 seconds. Given the 10 second cooldown that the skill has at level 4, it is quite possible for a well-played Rubick to consistently keep an enemy hero or multiple heroes dealing 32 less damage. This begins to echo a point made about Telekinesis: although perhaps less so, it would seem that a good Rubick player will be able to make significantly more use of Fade Bolt than a weak one. In the late game, deciding who to target and when to cast Fade Bolt will be important and in the early game managing one’s mana and not letting this extremely powerful harassing spell go to waste will be vital. In addition to offering the beginning of a good explanation for Rubick’s strength as a hero, this section has also uncovered one possible reason for a preference to solo the hero – it ought to be very difficult to solo against.

Null Field

source: dota 2 wiki
There isn’t really that much to say about Null Field. As stated earlier, the percentage of spell resistance that it grants you and your teammates seems reasonably low and it is most likely that you will max this skill last. Speaking to its benefit, however, is the fact that the aura has a very big radius at 900 – having a small aoe would be a bit self-defeating as it would encourage bunching which would render Rubick’s team open to huge spell damage in team fights anyway. But this sounds more like an apology than an advert for the skill. 

In reality, the main strength of Null Field came as a bit of a surprise to me and is the kind of discovery that I really welcome because it reminds one to give serious and precise thought to the numbers involved in DotA. At level 4, Null Field provides a 20% spell reduction to all nearby allies. What this means is that any incoming AOE spell damage which hits your entire team is dealing 20% less to EACH hero, the equivalent [in terms of total damage reduced] of one of those 5 heroes not being damaged at all. Of course, this analogy is a little bit contrived. But it is merely designed to draw out initial intuitions about just how much damage the ability is responsible for reducing. A more concrete example, which will hopefully end this discussion right here, involves a comparison between the relative effects of Null Field and Mekansm in 5v5 fights. Given the game that DotA2 is at the moment, it is reasonable to expect 5v5 clashes to occur fairly often – in fact, recently we've even seen a large number of cases in which most or all of one team is caught by a Black Hole or Vacuum followed by a big AOE combo. At level 3, Sandking’s ultimate deals 1110 in total. Qop ulti deals 600. Adding these numbers to the damage from a Vacuum or Black Hole you begin to approach a very important number: 1250 [in the case of Qop not quite but in the case of SK you’ll probably exceed it…these kind of details don’t seem vital here]. See, 250 is 20% of 1250. That means that any time that Rubick’s aura is on you and you would take 1250 damage, 250 of that damage is reduced. But 250 is also the amount of health healed by Mekansm – an item whose popularity will surely speak for itself. So the bottom line here is that in big fights where you might encounter scary AOE, it could often be the case that Null Field provides as much as a Mek heal. Of course, this depends on Rubick being near enough to his allies when the time comes and also on the team being caught by huge AOE spell damage not being enough to tip the battle with or without the reduction. But again, a good player on Rubick will know to be within 900 range of the relevant allies at the relevant times and at these times will PASSIVELY be contributing very significantly to the fight [following which he will no doubt steal half the aoe and recast it on the enemy team!].

Spell Steal

source: dota 2 wiki
Unfortunately, I will have to disappoint those readers who were expecting this to be some kind of climax. While it might intuitively seem like the ultimate has the most to say about it – I’ve found analysis to go in the opposite direction. It’s obvious why Spell Steal can be a really great Skill. In the early game you can steal whichever nuke or disable is most useful to maintain control of your lane. In the mid game, there is normally a Morphling or AM or Qop on the other team to borrow blink or wave form from, providing really good mobility and optimizing the use of Rubick’s other skills. In the late game [though not only the late game, obviously], big gamebreaking ultimates can be stolen from enemies during clutch situations to turn the tide of battle. 

What I want to say about Spell Steal is mostly an echoing of sentiments which have run throughout my praises for all of Rubick’s other skills. The skill’s significance is very closely related to the ability of the person playing the Rubick. There are so many ways to play this hero badly, and even more ways to use its ultimate badly. If you are looking for new spells too often your team might struggle to keep track of what you have, your impact might be too inconsistent in battles and, most plainly and importantly, you’re not likely to usually have the most appropriate skill you could have at the time. You could also end up putting yourself in danger if you become to obsessed with stealing spells. On the other hand, if you Spell Steal very rarely, the enemy team will have time to see what you have stolen and adapt accordingly and, again, you’re also less likely to have the right things at the right times. Lastly, because you will gain new skills throughout the game, the hero is unlike any other. Depending on the heroes on the enemy team, your game could vary dramatically one game to the next. So you need to be able to learn and adapt very fast and work out what is appropriate where if you want to make proper use of this ultimate. 

So maybe not 'collecting' as much as stealing telephones, then.
Concluding comments

So Rubick is capable of reducing incoming damage of both types, is a badass in a solo lane, has a very versatile disable and an ultimate which can be both unpredictable and gamechanging. Having recognized that the hero's skills can all actually be quite devastating, there are few final comments I’d like to make. Most important is the fact that my initial concerns about this hero are still concerns which I see as being entirely legitimate. This wasn’t a case of me being wrong about the hero having certain disadvantages but rather a case of me overlooking various advantages that it also had. When analysing competitive DotA 2, it is incredible how much perspective can inform the content of your conclusions. To demonstrate this point by example: earlier on I mentioned that I had reservations about Rubick in the early game because his nuke and his disable were separate skills. From another perspective this could be an advantage - since it allows one to nuke what needs nuking and disable what needs disabling in cases where those things are not one and the same.

Beyond having to shift my perspective a bit in order to learn the true strengths of the hero, I’ve also realised that Rubick is the kind of hero that will perform a lot better in the hands of a more capable player. While this is trivially true at a basic level for all heroes, it deserves particular mention here alongside heroes such as Invoker or perhaps [more controversially] Nature’s Prophet. Rubick has a lot of skills to master, some of which change every game and most of which require technical execution to maximize his impact. His positioning is also key in battles and proper positioning is something that is normally learnt only very late in a pro DotA player’s development. Lastly, despite my earlier mockery of the notion that Rubick is good simply because it 'can do lots of cool things', this way of looking at the hero actually seems quite appropriate. That is to say, it is worth highlighting the fact that all of the above virtues of Rubick result in the hero being extremely versatile, able to fill many different roles - and this is further amplified by the most popular item builds for the hero at the moment which utilize items like force staff and blink dagger to make the hero even more versatile within whichever role it is playing in a given game. 

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this post - even those who only read the highlighted bits. I would appreciate any constructive criticism or feedback that you have, especially since this is the first post I am making and the manner in which it is received will probably determine the amount of time and effort I put into future posts.

* * *

As a special bonus for all those who have read this far [or happened to scroll their page to this area] I managed to get hold of a few prominent members of the community for brief comment addressing the question posed in the header of this post. Here is what they had to say.

durka: "Rubick is an amazing all round hero, he fills most major roles in the current meta-game, posing a strong threat to natural solo mid heroes due to his fade bolt ability which allows him to lane control. On top of this, he can fit into a multitude of support roles and is an incredible skirmisher, which is largely what the current game of Dota 2 is about (skirmish to gain an advantage through towers or kills). With his telekenesis ability, he can gain control of team fights with smart positional moves and of course his passive is almost a free hood in aura form. All of this without even mentioning his ultimate. What an ultimate. Regardless of the composition of the enemy team, Rubick will always find a useful spell to steal, whether it be a big ravage from Tidehunter or a timely blink from Anti-mage, Rubick is definitely a force to be reckoned with."

Dendi: "[The] hero can be used in any possible way. That makes him strong."

Wagamama: "I believe that Rubick is so strong because of several reasons. He can steal any big ultimate and have huge impact in teamfights, but he also has superior laning with Fade bolt, easy ganks with tele, and the aura also blends in very nicely. This makes him reduce both magical AND physical damage output, which is quite unique."