Necrophos now tops the win rate charts for patch 7.01 at 57.64%. His rework, along with the nerfing of perennial pub-king, Omniknight, has rocketed him to be the biggest pub stomper of this patch. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s broken or he’s the best hero, but across most skill brackets, he’s winning a larger portion of his games than every other hero.
Where Necrophos falters is in the 4-5k+ MMR bracket, where his win rate drops by 2-4 points, but it’s still dominant. But he has yet to make his mark in the pro scene, where he was played only once at the recent ESL One Genting.
That’s where Necrophos shares some commonalities with top performers of previous patches, such as Omniknight, Wraith King, and Abaddon. He may be a meta hero in pubs, but he isn’t in pro games, and that’s most likely why he isn’t picked as often as his strength suggests. He ranks #1 in win rate and 20th in popularity. Then there’s Abaddon, who has the 2nd highest win rate and is 84th in popularity.
Popularity translates from pros to pubs, but rarely does success. Leshrac and Invoker were, at one point or another, the most picked hero of the patch for pubs, but not always the winningest. Pub players across the MMR board wouldn’t be able to maximize the potential those heroes had when they were imbalanced in their metas. So, the most successful heroes in pubs tend to have inherent strengths, making it difficult for an average player to blunder.
In the previous patch, Necrophos with Aghanim’s Scepter had the unique ability to "delete" a hero out of the game for two minutes, with no recourse of buying back. It added an interesting dynamic to the hero, but it felt like a gimmick, especially if his viability in the meta hinged on that skill.
The new upgrade drops the cooldown of lvl 3 Reaper's Scythe to 25 seconds (18.75 with Octarine). With a lower CD, Necrophos players no longer need to keep their trigger finger ready for that one crucial kill. It also matched thematically. Necrophos players want to extend fights for more ticks of Heartstopper Aura and Death Pulse casts, and now they’ll most likely be able to cast multiple Scythes at the same time.
The other change essentially integrated Sadist’s mechanic into Death Pulse, and gave Necrophos a new skill. Much like how Queen of Pain’s Blink jumps 1300 range versus Blink Dagger’s 1200, Ghost Shroud is Necrophos’ Ghost Scepter, but better. The duration is longer, the extra magic damage taken is lower, and to top it off, it slows enemies and increases your healing (both HP and mana). The new skill makes Mekansm a core first item, if it wasn’t before, when some pro carries would opt for Rod of Atos.
The different win rates for Necrophos’ talent builds
Sometimes talent trees are situational, but Necrophos has some choices that are better in most situations. The extra +120 hp is about a 10% HP gain for Necrophos, but the +40 damage is crucial for accelerating his farm in the early and mid game.
His level 15 talent is a bit trickier. Pubs are in favor of +6 stats, but the results so far don’t favor one or the other as far as win rate. One rationale is similar to why previously Necrophos players preferred Treads over Phase Boots. Necrophos needed some early HP, and his mobility later on could be compensated with a Blink Dagger or Force Staff.
Even with Dota’s change to buff spell damage based on intelligence, spellcasters have very few ways of buffing their damage, but many ways to increase their survivability. That’s why his level 20 talent not only favors +5% Spell Amplification, but it also has a significant win rate difference.
The case is the same for Necrophos level 25 talent. Octarine Core is the only item in the game that can reduce cooldown, while there are many items Necrophos players can look to for HP. One second may not sound like a lot, but it’s essentially a 20% reduction in cooldown for Death Pulse. Octarine Core brings this down to 3 seconds, close to the base attack time of a siege creep.
wings.blink’s build in his 12/0/14 performance against Newbee in ESL One Genting
Because Necrophos heals, he has to fight against the unfair image that he’s a support and not a carry. It doesn’t help that he used to have observer wards as part of his recommended items, or that he was tagged as Support under Valve’s directory.
But misjudging Necrophos and underrating him is part of what makes him strong. Even Newbee tried and failed to take down wings.blink’s Necrophos all game. It’s still too early to see if Necrophos will thrive in competitive play, but meanwhile he’ll continue dominating in pubs.