Ever since Shackleshot became disjointable and its latch angle reduced, Windranger has struggled to stay relevant in the meta. But she’s been getting small buffs ever since 6.86, and on the main stage at the China Supermajor, we’re beginning to see the results.
Her pick rate has increased by 3% over the last two patches, to 23% today. At the Supermajor, she’s been trending as a viable flex pick, either in the offlane or support role. Windranger has been picked 14 times, with a 64% win rate, and teams have had a 90% win rate when banning her 11 times. She was a prioritized as a first round pick/ban in the Mineski vs. PSG.LGD series. PSG let Windranger through in game 2, and Mineski snatched her up in the only game they won. Jabz helped his team nab a first blood and then netted another kill in the offlane.
Windranger being featured at the biggest non-TI event of the year has had a corresponding impact in pubs. In the past week, our meta stats have her as the #1 picked hero in the Divine and Immortal bracket at a 32% pick rate and #2 in Ancient at a 30% pick rate (for reference, Pudge in 7.16 is in first place with a 40% and Sniper is in second at 24%).
Windranger’s latest changes came in 7.14, and that’s where her pick rate began to rise. The patch fixed some annoying bugs with Focus Fire, ever since it was buffed to allow Windranger to have it activate while moving. You just couldn’t stop attacking your target. Blademail became an easy counter, letting Windrangers detonate themselves, and cycloning yourself with Eul’s Scepter left Windrangers hitting air for the entire duration.
Patch 7.14 also introduced beneficial changes to MKB and Maelstrom. While the removal of Maelstrom’s attack speed might’ve hampered Windranger’s farming ability, it received a corresponding buff to its proc damage. Windranger was already a terrible farmer—Powershot is too mana intensive and its mechanics make it inefficient as a wave clearing spell—so the net result to Maelstrom was negligible. It does, however, end up being a buff to Focus Fire, which has no use for attack speed.
Monkey King Bar’s impact on Windranger is similar in that regard. It lost attack speed in exchange for higher proc damage. Patch 7.07 also changed its 100% True Strike component to a 75% chance Pierce (chance to ignore evasion and blind effects), which essentially nerfed the item against Windranger’s Windrun evasion.
Windranger’s play at the Supermajor has highlighted the buffs she’s received nearly every patch, since 6.88. Windrun, in that time, has had its mana halved from 100 to 50, its cooldown reduced from 15 to 12, its movespeed bonus from 50% to 60%, and enemy slow from 8%/16%/24%/32% to 15%/20%/25%/30%.
The net result is that the spell is incredibly strong at level one, making her a strong laner even in the supporting role. She’s among the top heroes in attack range and turn rate, and she has one of the best attack animations. It’s the foundation of what made her a decent mid hero and offlaner. But now, with a 50 mana Windrun, she can easily harass opposing laners at level one. Watch Zai bully Secret’s safelaner Ace out of the lane and sealing it off with a kill. Zai ended up transitioning over to a core role and ended the game 2nd in damage, just a hair behind CCnC’s Ember Spirit.
Windranger still isn’t without her counters. Windrun being dispellable makes a hero like Oracle a natural counter pick. And there are a few support heroes that can lane well against her such as Warlock, Disruptor, Vengeful Spirit, and Skywrath Mage. VGJ.Thunder dominated the lane matchup against Final Tribe’s Windranger/Underlord with a Naga and Luna duo. It also probably helped that VGJ.Thunder followed Final Tribe’s Slark+Windranger 2nd round pick with a Bloodseeker.
But it’s her viability as a support that has moved her away from the rarely picked and banned pool of heroes. Shackleshot is a powerful stun, no matter how much farm you have. Her level 10 (+1.75 mana regen) and 15 (+100 Powershot damage) talents also ameliorate some of her farming woes. Since she’s flexible in either core or support, it puts pressure on opponents to decide how many resources they want to spend to counter her.
Windranger is getting just the smallest piece of daylight to emerge into the meta. For pros, that’s just another chess piece they’ll have to play with in the drafting stage. And for pub players, it’s all we need to pick her every game.