A Closer Look at Neutrals
The value Helm of the Dominator brings to the table as an independent item should be obvious for everyone who reads our blog. It looks even better, when the additional utility it brings to the table is considered; neutral creeps, when boosted to a flat 1400 HP and 425 MS, are a force to be reckoned with until the very late stages of the game. They are not necessarily “tanks” of the team, or a major source of damage, but they certainly provide support in ganks and teamfights through powerful auras and active abilities.
The focus today is not going to be on the Helm of the Dominator, as the item has been discussed previously, but rather on neutral creeps as a whole. They can be a part of a Chen army, or a target for Devour. And whenever you get a chance to use some of their abilities, it is better to be prepared.
Creeps are sorted from the least to most complicated, from the multi-unit control perspective.
The big bad wolf of the jungle. Packleader's Aura is a very strong argument in every engagement and is more or less an equivalent of Vengeful Spirit’s Vengeance Aura. There isn’t really a lot to say about this neutral creep—he is easy to use and very efficient. It can help in teamfights, during pushes or even just to farm the jungle with and all you have to do is issue a “move” command (M-click) on yourself or an ally.
Another M-click neutral, this time a lot more specific. Utilizing him is very easy, understanding when you actually need him, however, is much harder. Most of the times he is the best buddy of melee cores, who don’t have a mobility spell or haven’t reached their Blink Dagger yet. Sven, Lifestealer, Ursa etc. can all benefit from having a 12% speed aura—it is much harder to kite an enemy who runs significantly faster than you. Do not rely on him too much though, since once you have a way to start or follow up on an initiation, having extra movement speed might become redundant.
With this creep, M-click+autocast enabled will leave your mind open for serious Dota, not multi-unit control meddling. However, do not underestimate Ice Armor. On-attack MS and AS slow on top of +8 armor can make physical DPS cores’ lives a misery. This creep saves lives and can be a direct counter to much more expensive items, such as Desolator. And the buff duration coupled with a very low cooldown can keep your whole team protected, as long as the creep survives.
Hill Troll Priest
Another creep with an autocast ability, who is low maintenance and high utility. Hill Troll Priest is probably one of the most undervalued creeps in the earlier stages of the game. +3 Mana regen is absolutely massive in a landscape, where heroes have low manapools. On top of it, he can provide a 30 HP regen per second through Heal. When the ability is on autocast, he selects a random target each time, making it a lot less reliable. And casting it manually on a 0.5s cooldown is not something you should generally be focused on in a game of Dota. But in a 1v1 scenario, +30 HP/sec can be absolutely massive.
Valve obviously didn’t bother naming some of their neutrals, which was already evident, consdering that Hill Troll Priest's healing ability is called “Heal” and his mana regeneration aura “Mana Aura”. Ghost may have a boring name, but is not a boring creep to control by any means. Her slow can make a massive difference at any stage of the game, allowing you to use her offensively, to chase fleeing target, or defensively, to slow down pursuers--her 20% MS slow is equivalent to that of a Sange after all. She doesn’t have any active abilities or auras, so her impact is restricted to slowing right-clicks, but sometimes it might just be the difference you need. And unlike other disabling creeps, her slow can be applied continuously.
The “can’t touch this” approach to early game, Satyr Tormentor is decent when controlled by Chen or devoured by Doom, but he is exceptional when dominated by HotD. A total of 14 HP regen from HotD+ Unholy Aura is almost impossible to deal with in the early game—it provides a lot of sustain to the heroes in lane, makes creeps extremely tough during the pushes and can even turn the tides in a teamfight. The added benefit of Shockwave should not be underestimated either. It has a low cooldown of 8 seconds and can be cast four times, without mana regenerating items or abilities. 160 magic damage translates to roughly 120 on a typical hero, which is often at least 10-15% of their total HP pool in the early game.
One of the weakest auras in the selection is not compensated enough by the Tornado. This creep can be a great harassing tool during early pushes, and can save you some HP through the Toughness Aura, but his utility now and before is probably restricted to Chen flash-farming, if it is even still possible.
Dark Troll Summoner
A creep for when your teammates don’t have long-range disables and the enemy you are trying to gank has good awareness. The absence of cast point or projectile as well as relatively good range of Ensnare, allow you to catch someone off-guard with this ability, but the low duration of the root effect means it is primarily a setup spell. The other spell can be marginally useful during pushes, or provide bodies for body-blocking, but is otherwise almost irrelevant.
A very similar deal to Dark Troll Summoner, but with the added benefit of damage and longer cast range. It pays dearly for it, however, since the stun duration is only 0.6s. Timing the death of this creep is crucial to unlocking his full potential, since with two “shards” you can deal up to 375 magic damage and stun a target for a total of 1.8s. With HotD, you can dominate a different creep, to force the Mud Golem to split, making it a very powerful combo. Dropping the item, however, no longer works, since creeps are now bound to heroes, rather than to the HotD item itself.
One of the two “melee range ability” creeps is surprisingly good, when considering the Swiftness Aura. Once again, the creep is better with HotD because of the MS gain, he can still be an integral part of a Chen army or a good Doom meal. As a part of an army without the additional MS, he will require a setup to be consistent with his Thunder Clap, but the ability's effectiveness is often enough to net a successful kill during a gank.
A simple, yet effective 2-second stun on this creep makes it a good companion in the majority of cases. Yes, War Stomp will probably require a setup, unless you are using HotD, but it is generally worth it—a disable is a disable, after all. It should be noted though, that the ability has a massive 20s cooldown, relatively long cast point and can be only cast two times, without additional mana sources. A lack of any auras on the creep also make it a better one-time gank companion, rather than a loyal friend for the duration of the game.
The best lane bully with a massive cast range nuke on a low cooldown. You need to win a lane? Chain Lightning can do it for you, if she is acquired through an early dominate ability. You need to constantly apply pressure or outpush a lane you currently don’t want to bother with? Harpy can do it. This creep is an early game powerhouse, which will require a decent amount of micro, but will pay for it big time. However, come midgame, her role will probably get restricted to Linken’s popping or Blink Dagger disables. As such, it is usually not worth it to dominate this creep with HotD.
Half a Diffusal Blade, which can still be cast on allies or yourself—Satyr Banisher will require timely micro, but can be a lifesaver in certain scenarios. Dispelling silences, roots and hexes? Check. Slowing down fleeing or pursuing enemies? Check. Dispelling positive buffs from the enemy? Check. His mana pool will only allow for 4 casts of the ability, but they can result in a massive change in a teamfight or gank momentum, especially considering Purge is on a 3-second cooldown. And despite the nerfs to the cast range of the ability, it is still one of the better offensive and defensive tools, especially with 425 MS from HotD.