Meta is always cyclical. New patch introduces something above the general power curve, teams and players start looking for answers and soon, these answers start demanding adjustments from players looking to win.
Today we would like to discuss two heroes, who are rarely contested in the professional scene and make infrequent appearances in pubs. Heroes, who might be worth giving a shot.
Visage is a peculiar beast. Once upon a time he was played as an aggressive trilane support with maxed out Soul Assumption that allowed him to dish out a lot of damage. This playstyle might be viable in certain scenarios, but it is far from being the most reliable.
Right now it is best to play the hero in the mid lane. According to our stats playing Visage as a mid core has an almost 10% win rate advantage over playing the hero in the side lanes. Changes to deny XP, overall creep XP distribution and the overall level of the game made it so that the hero really needs to get early levels and take over the map to stay powerful.
Visage can absolutely do all that, with relative ease as well. Soul Assumption was nerfed over the years and is no longer sustainable in trilanes in the early levels, but Grave Chill is a pretty powerful tool for 1v1 scenarios. Moreover, more often than not, layers of Gravekeeper's Cloak will keep the hero safe from ganks or will allow him to trade more efficiently than their opponent. This is the reason these two skills are generally maxed out first.
Latest patch also increased the health of Visage Familiars and while their damage is now significantly lower at level one of the ability than it was previously, their health pool has been increased to compensate for it. At level two they are now slightly tankier, while dealing almost as much damage as they used to deal previously.
Top it with the fact that the hero now has the default 25% magic resistance at the start and you get a very tanky hero with incredible versatility and good damage output. He might not be the flashiest of heroes or deal the most DPS, but he is pretty decent against both Templar Assassin and Ember Spirit, while matching and possibly even exceeding their tempo.
Almost half a year ago several Strength heroes got propelled into meta from a seemingly innocent buff: Lifestealer, Wraith King and Ursa were rampant for almost three month after receiving +15 MS. In the last patch Axe got +10 MS and we are already starting to see the consequences.
Naturally, the hero doesn’t do as much with the extra movement speed, since he is not a late-game right-clicking hero, but this buff is already making Axe somewhat successful in the professional scene. It solved a lot of the laning problems for the hero, since it made him an actual threat, rather than annoyance, while also increasing his safety and farming speed. Moreover, the hero also received extra armor and attack damage, while the meta shifted even further from lane dominance being the biggest prerequisite for a victory.
This buff also allowed the hero to play in the manner most tanky position three cores want to play—instead of rushing Blink Dagger, they go for tanky items and frontline for their team. Axe’s catch might not be as straightforward to use or as reliable as something like Burrowstrike, but in the later stages of the game it still has higher potential, since it pierces BKB.
The hero currently wins less than 50% of his games in the highest level bracket, but only by a small margin. And according to our stats most players still have a slightly outdated outlook on the hero. Successful Axe players generally max out Battle Hunger first, prioritize Counter Helix second and only get a value point in Berserker's Call or skip it altogether. They also generally take +40 AS at level 10.
This build, accompanied by an early Vanguard, allows for a very aggressive playstyle where Axe simply runs at people and forces them to use abilities. It has higher DPS and, indirectly, higher crowd-control power, where the threat of Berserker’s Call often incapacitates the enemy for longer, than the actual ability itself.
It is hard to predict whether these two heroes are going to actually become the new meta staples, but it is almost safe to say that they are at least an option in some games. Possibly very underrated or misplayed option as well.
With Epicenter still in progress, we are probably going to see other new heroes emerge as well and possibly some confirmation on how Axe and Visage will do in the professional scene. While Visage might look intimidating at first, he is not as micro-intensive as many other heroes as it might look and Axe, at least in his current form, is one of the most straightforward heroes to play, so we urge you to try both in your pubs.