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It is very likely we are going to get a balance patch some time soon, but we expect it to have a minor impact on the support meta, concentrating on nerfing problematic heroes like Medusa, Underlord and Alchemist. With that in mind, we feel like it is time to look at supports who emerged victorious in the new patch and discuss the reasons behind it.
It is worth pointing out that distinguishing between position four and five supports in the current patch is a bit problematic, so instead we are going to separate them into two vague groups: utility and save supports and teamfight damage supports. Today we are concentrating on the former.
Oracle fits the current meta very well. A surprisingly nuke-heavy support with the strongest save in the game and good late-game scaling also got considerably easier to play. Fate’s Edict is possibly one of the most versatile and powerful support spells in the game right now.
Granting 100% magic resistance to an ally in a game where even BKB only gives 50% would be a big deal even in the previous patch, when the ability also disarmed friendly targets. Now, given how it is a full magic damage immunity with no downsides, it is busted.
The hero also received a minor buff to the Rain of Destiny ability. It used to be an Aghanims’ Scepter upgrade and for 4200 gold was not particularly viable. The ability was awesome, with good AoE Damage and Heal, but it just wasn’t something Oracle could afford.
Getting 66% of the effect for 33% of the price definitely changed the math behind it quite a bit, especially now that you can get it for free.
Undying’s power lies in the ability to tank from the fifth position, at least up until late midgame. Coupled with his laning prowess, it makes for a rather snowbally support who take over the earlier stages of the game, resulting in a very high amount of gold that can be spent on necessary auras.
In pubs it frequently allows Undying to make up for popular, greedier position three heroes on his team. You can’t really expect Legion Commander to build Pipe of Insight as the first item, but someone has to and Undying is a perfect candidate for that.
On top of it, the hero also received a very powerful Aghanim’s Shard with even more save for his team. The wide Tombstone looks a bit weird, but it can bail out teammates out of very bad positions, allowing them to wait out strong enemy debuffs. You can even force your teammates inside if they are stunned and can’t make that decision on their own.
All in all, it is once again a case of a relatively strong laning support who scales very well into the late game and can build the most powerful items of the patch.
It is a bit weird to place Lich in the Utility category, but we feel like it is Frost Shield that makes the hero so successful, not his other abilities. Frost Blast is a very powerful laning tool and it is good for early skirmishes when maxed out. Sinister Gaze is an ok crowd control, with 0.0 seconds of cast point, making it theoretically good against elusive targets. Chain Frost can do a lot, even against BKB, but it is also not the game changer.
Frost Shield is still amazing, though. It reduces a considerable portion of the incoming damage, frequently forcing the enemy to build Nullifier. It should be understood that it doesn’t block physical damage, it blocks attack damage and it means that it, for example, works very well against Muerta even during her ultimate.
At the same time it doesn’t help against attack modifiers like Glaives of Wisdom or Impetus, as they create a separate instance of damage. Similarly, it won’t help against Bloodseeker shard pure damage, but it does help against Ursa’s stacking Fury Swipes damage and against Clinkz Tar Bomb, which wasn’t the case with Searing Arrows.
Between Frost Shield and the very annoying Ice Spire Lich can stay relevant until later portions of midgame and perhaps even further, once he unlocks the ability to heal buildings.
The separation between utility and damage supports, as opposed to position four and position five, is mainly a result of an unstable support meta. There are good support heroes who can work regardless of their position and can rotate through Twin Gates for easy early game kills. And there are bad support heroes, who don’t particularly fit into the current realities of the game, lacking gank potential, lane presence or late game scaling.
Next time we are going to talk about even greedier and in our opinion, more fun supports to play in the current patch, so stay tuned.