This is Io – one of the most picked/banned heroes in top tier DotA 2 since it was released. According to this article by gosugamers, Io has been banned at TI3 81 times, and only slipped through 16 times.
To begin with, Io is a great lane support. Tether makes killing Io in the early stages of the game much more difficult, despite being very squishy. Any unit which Io is tethered to regenerates more health and mana, giving them much better lane sustain.
However, Io’s incredible power comes from its ultimate: Relocate
Relocate is a global teleport, and if you tether to a buddy, you can bring them along too. Running the tether over someone also stuns them – giving your buddy (who you’re probably powering up with overcharge) another few seconds of free hitting. The next best bit: after 12 seconds, you and whoever you are tethered to return to where you came from.
This ability to teleport anywhere on the map along with a buddy means that teams facing Io have to play very safe. You have to make the decision: farm well solo and risk being ganked, or stay with your team and farm poorly. If you farm poorly, then you run the risk of letting the other team get too far ahead. It’s a lose-lose situation, and that’s why no teams want to play against Io.
This is the space cow – Barathrum, the spirit breaker. Current stats for TI3: Picked once, never banned. Not a top tier hero… In professional games anyway. In public games, as of March 4th, was picked in just under 17% of public games at the normal skill bracket. Io is picked around 4% of the time in the normal skill bracket. The data I’m using is some months old, and doesn’t feature in his 6.78 change. The latest data I’ve found shows that as of 6.78 his winrate in pubs has gone up from 56% to 59%. This means that if you pick space cow in a pub game, you have a 60% chance to win. This is comparable to the 56% winrate Io has at the international at the moment.
So why is Spirit Breaker similar to Io?
First of all: Spirit Breaker’s first skill is a global charge – he sets off to a target at 600/650/700/750 speed, stunning all units he moves through on the way, and stunning the target when he reaches it. His 3rd skill, a passive, is a “greater bash”, which is a 17% chance to stun on attacking, doing 10%/20%/30%/40% of his current movement speed as bonus damage. If Spirit Breaker were to be moving at 400, that would be +160 damage, as well as a 1.6s stun. His ultimate is another stun: doing a fair bit of damage, being magic immune for a moment, and reappearing behind the target.
Put all these things together and you have what is similar to what Io does in pro games: global ganking. An infinite initiation range along with a guaranteed stun and damage. So why isn’t space cow picked up in professional games, or, why is Io better?
Well, here’s my thoughts:
Where does he lane? Mid? Nah, he’ll get smashed by the popular mids. Offlane? Maybe, but he doesn’t offer what someone like Lone Druid or Nature’s prophet can – nor can he sack the lane and go into the jungle. The best place it appears is a support in a trilane – with the best EHP in the game at level 1, he doesn’t really need early levels, and his long range initiation means he can stack and pull without the farmer being in too much danger.
Warding: In normal level pubs, wards are close to non-existant for the most part. You’ll be lucky if you get some on the runes, but nothing more. This means that he can charge at anyone from across the map, and you won’t notice him until he’s bashed you into the ground . This doesn’t trouble Io – while Relocate is visible to the enemy, you get there pretty much instantly. Couple that with a spell like Reality Rift, and nobody is going to be able to escape an Io gank. If you see Spirit Breaker coming, then you might just be able to tp back to base before he hits.
It’s a one way trip: Once the space cow is in the fight, he’s in it. The best you’ll get is him pulling out after the stun, but once he’s going, he hasn’t got much choice except trying to bash you before you kill him. If he takes it risky under a tower, then he has to tough it out. Io doesn’t have that issue, as Io goes home anyway after 12 seconds. Just long enough to kill the target and then get out, making Relocate ganks so much safer – make a mistake Relocating and the enemy are on a timer to kill you, but with Spirit Breaker, his only escape is going to be when his charge comes off cooldown in 30 seconds. Plenty of time to carve him up.
Thanks for reading, comments are appreciated, as is constructive criticism.
I plan on writing more of these sorts of things, such as “Why is Drow Ranger so good in pubs?”.