Perhaps more than any other offlane hero, Beastmaster rewards skill. While on the surface the hero seems rather straightforward, he embodies a variety of micro- and macro-elements which require mechanical skill, good map awareness and team coordination, all on a high level. The reward for these skills fits almost any global team strategy—vision, slows and a BKB-piercing stun provide benefits regardless of the stage of the game and team compositions.
Ever since the Shanghai Major the hero has been getting more and more attention from the professionals, especially in the deciding LAN stages of the tournaments. He was contested in 60% of the games in the Shanghai Major and the number has grown to 92% in SL | i-League, 79% in ESL One Manila and 83% in the Manila Major Qualifiers.
As mentioned previously, the hero, while being seemingly straightforward, offers high return on being played well—his win rate is steadily increasing over the MMR brackets. So does his pick rate, and the amount of Beastmasters almost doubles in each MMR bracket transition starting at 3k.
Primarily and most successfully played in the offlane, the hero also has notable presence as both midlaner and solo safelane hero. Neither of these options work particularly well, however—while the hero certainly needs some degree of farm, he doesn’t scale with extra gold as well as most other core heroes. His jungling presence can be almost fully attributed to the offlane role as well—equipped with an Iron Talon, Beastmaster can jungle somewhat effectively and catch up on some farm if things didn’t go too well in the offlane.
For the most part the item and skill-build on the hero are non-negotiable. By level 7 most professional and top pub players tend to max out the [missing skill: beastmaster-call-of-the-wild-hawk-5169], with value points in Wild Axes and Inner Beast. The Hawk and Boar from the Call of the Wild ability provide the highest return on investment in terms of utility. The Boar scales especially well with a 10% increase in slow for each level for an impressive 40% annoyance when maxed out. Since the 6.87c nerfs to the Boar, the ability has gotten significantly worse in later stages of the game, however in most cases it still allows for early- and mid-game kiting against most melee cores.
The value point in Wild Axes is not always present, with many players opting to fully ignore the ability. It isn't primarily used as a damage source in teamfights, but rather as an outpushing mechanism in the early game. Frequently it also doubles as a form of escape—cutting a new path through the woods can save Beastmaster’s life in ganks. It also allows the user to cancel clarities/salves in the early game.
The Inner Beast aura is deceptively simple, yet the benefits it provides are huge. Its effect is almost comparable to the Hyperstone, however it probably shines the brightest with the summons, since it is not always easy to increase their AS. It also works on lane creeps, offering high push potential, especially with a catapult in the vicinity.
There are scenarios in which the Necronomicon is kept at level 1 until the Blink Dagger is purchased, especially if your team lacks clean initiation.
Necronomicon synergises exceptionally well with the Inner Beast aura, since both the Warrior (red) and the Archer (blue) have very low BATs’ of 0.75 and 1 respectively. Increasing their AS, therefore, has a much stronger effect.
Later in the game, most Beastmaster players opt for either more auras in the form of Vladmir's Offering or even Assault Cuirass or double down on their initiation with Boots of Travel and Refresher Orb combo. BKB is also a frequent purchase, since the enemy team will usually focus Beastmaster to prevent him from using Primal Roar.
Dealing with Beastmaster is not an easy task. The hero does exceptionally well against heavy-hitting melee heroes--some of which are popular in this patch--since he allows his team to kite them effectively. A surprise Beastmaster pick, therefore, has the potential of destroying your lineup in the drafting stage. It is impossible to repick an already picked hero in a ranked games after all.
Having him in mind is necessary—much like with Broodmother he has the ability to punish weak lanes and can snowball out of control. Shutting him down will slow down his item and level progression, but with an option to jungle early on he will get into decent shape in time.
With that in mind, strong laning heroes and heroes with good mobility spells might have a priority in the current meta. Sven deals a lot more damage compared to Lycan, Phantom Assassin etc., however, his damage is effectively zero as long as he has no chance to hit the enemy. At the very least, providing some form of mobility to these hard-hitting carries in the form of Tusk or Dark Seer can be necessary.
Winter Wyvern is in a tier of her own when it comes to dealing with the Beastmaster. Her ultimate affects all units and it is often the case that the Beastmaster army is clumped up next to him, hence landing a game-turning Winter's Curse can be relatively easy. Moreover, since Beastmaster is often the initiator, it will also cut off the enemy heroes from focusing down your Roared teammate, while Cold Embrace can keep him even safer. To top it all off, her Splinter Blast works as an effective counter-push to Beastmaster's natural push potential.
Oracle, Abaddon and Legion Commander all have access to strong dispel abilities, however only the former has it on a long enough range to consistently make a difference. Oracle is also in a better spot meta- and balance-wise in the current patch. Additionally, Oracle deals relatively easy with the Boar—equipped with an Aether Lens he can kill the Boar in one cast of Purifying Flames and an auto-attack hit or two casts.
Finally, having ultimate vision in the form of Night Stalker can deal with the superior initiation of the enemy team—equipped with a gem and Aghanim's Scepter, Night Stalker can and will protect his team and will give an upper hand in most engagements. Beastmaster's inability to provide ridiculous map control and thus secure a strong initiation can force his team to play reactively and it is not the position the hero feels most comfortable in.
Despite receiving a series of nerfs in 6.87, the hero remains a priority pick and ban in the current EPICENTER: Moscow. He is an extremely reliable pick who can be of use in and against practically any lineup. This versatility, coupled with an extremely high power level at any stage of the game make for one of the strongest utility heroes who is also capable of dealing decent amounts of damage and even has solo kill potential.
In his current form, the hero will most likely remain a top priority even after the EPICENTER. Without more direct nerfs, the hero will not suddenly become less popular—he is quite meta-independent. However, his continuous presence does have an impact on the pick rate of many other heroes, with Abaddon and Legion Commander now becoming slightly more popular.
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