Not so long ago we discussed picks that are great at opening up the draft. Flexible, multi-purpose heroes can mislead the opponent and leave a greater amount of options for the team. One such hero is Vengeful Spirit.
Traditionally played as a support, the hero had a small resurgence in the core role around TI6. Naturally, she was a niche core pick for a handful of teams, but the playtime she got was enough to highlight her ability to be a strong tempo-controlling first position hero. Slightly over half-a-year later, she might be making a comeback into both professional and pub metas.
The original change that prompted the support-core transition for the hero was introduced in 6.85 with an increased Agility gain. That change has put her on par with several other, more conventional cores such as Clinkz and Luna.
After that, the hero was slightly rebalanced, receiving a situational Aghanim’s upgrade and getting a small nerf to Intelligence growth.
In 7.00, Vengeful Spirit received a peculiar talent tree that gave her clear and equally appealing alternatives for both core and support roles:
Most notable, however, was the scale of these talents—Vengeful Spirit has one of the best passive stat growths in the game, which coupled with the availability of an early +25 AS and +8 to all stats, can transform her into an above average right-clicker who can take a punch.
At level 20 the core build is further facilitated by +65 damage talent, which is among the highest for ranged heroes. Keeping in mind massive Agility growth and the potentially strongest base-damage increasing aura in the game, it was only natural for the hero to return.
The popularity resurgence is hard to solely attribute to the changes to the hero herself, however. While the hero can become one of the strongest right-clickers in the game, she lacks flash-farming capabilities, frequently leaving her with a single option—teamfights.
It so happens that the current meta heavily favors tempo. A smaller advantage is likely to lead to a bigger one and this cycle can be excruciatingly difficult to break. Unlike Vengeful Spirit’s typical competition of Luna and Drow Ranger, she excels at securing an early-game advantage, regardless of conditions.
Her stun and armor reduction have arguably higher utility in the skirmishes in the beginning of the game, while her stat growth secures her safety—despite being a ranged agility hero, she is surprisingly tanky.
Moreover, she is at least on par when it comes to securing early-game objectives. In the later stages of the game, Drow gets some global presence, while Luna simply melts barracks, but pre-level 15 Venge buffs her damage and damage of her allies enough to go toe-to-toe with competition. And these early objectives can be the most crucial ones, since the monetary gains can propel the whole team towards tempo control.
Our series of blog posts about core itemization has become slightly outdated with the changes to Helm of the Dominator, which, despite the nerfs, remains one of the best early-game purchases. To understand why this item is good and why it is good on Vengeful Spirit specifically, you can read through our previous blog post.
The later build for the hero remains extremely flexible and mostly depends on the opposition. The only core items the hero should generally always go for are HotD and Dragon Lance—everything else is optional.
The same flexibility is also seen in her ability builds. Traditionally, core Venge maxed out Magic Missile first, but with the addition of talents and increased importance of early-game skirmishes, it is no longer the only option.
There is no need to max out a single skill, before going for the next one, at least not on Venge. Depending on relationship between your item and level progression, going for early Vengeance Aura is an option. Alternatively, in a team with high physical burst potential and against a tanky enemy composition, getting extra levels into Wave of Terror can be equally beneficial.
It should be obvious by now, that the hero rightfully deserved a highlight. Her ability kit along with relatively straightforward playstyle made her one of the scariest heroes to face in pubs. While she is at her best in <2k bracket, sitting at 54.17% win rate, she is no pushover in higher skilled games—for 4k+ games her win rate is at roughly 53%. What is interesting, is the increase in popularity of the hero in the higher brackets. The hero is significantly more popular in the 5k+ games, than she is in <2k. Better players seem to have noticed the potential behind the hero and currently experiment with ability and item builds.
Vengeful Spirit is not a flashy hero. She doesn’t have a high skill ceiling or skill floor, but she is reliable and flexible. Her stat growth and her kit allow her to be the hero 7.02 truly needs—simple, yet effective and deadly.