Valve has incrementally buffed Monkey King over the past minor patches in 7.06, setting the stage for him to come back into the meta. What usually is predictable is a tipping point, where the hero isn’t just good enough to be in the meta, but also good enough to overturn a reputation of being underrated. The difference with Monkey King is that he’s a new hero, so he’s still writing his own story. He entered the scene strong, then got nerfed into irrelevancy, and so any wind that he might be viable again in the meta will be quickly picked up by the community.
In just over patch 7.06 to 7.06f, Monkey King’s pub win rate has increased from 40.99% (5th from the bottom) to 47.08%. It’s still low, but it’s a remarkable jump due to the buff he’s had in recent patches. Even at this win rate, he’s remained a community favorite (19th most popular, and the lowest win rate out of the top 35 most picked heroes), especially at higher skill brackets who may be able to extract more out of the hero. He’s the 6th most picked hero in the 5k+ bracket and 8th in the 4-5k MMR bracket.
Monkey King was forced to recede into a support role when Valve severely nerfed him from 7.01-7.03 in preparation for his entry in Captain’s Mode. He was a dominant laner who could no longer stay in lane once he had negative base armor and a nerfed Jingo Mastery. While still viable as a support or roaming hero, his skillset—a scaling passive and ultimate—naturally benefited from having more farm.
With Boundless Strike (140%/160%/180%/200% to 150%/175%/200%/225%) reworked, Wukong Command since buffed (attack rate from 2.0 to 1.7) and increases to his defensive stats (base health hp, buff to level 10 evasion talent, and overall strength gain increase 2.2 to 2.8 over patch 7.05 and 7.06), he’s still vunerable in the early game but now has an opportunity to scale well in the mid and late game as a core. Echo Sabre and Desolator is the most devastating item combo he has access to, more than any other he could pick up as a support. He only won 3 out of 12 games during the group stage and main event at TI, but we saw pros attempt to use him in different roles. Team IG favored Monkey King on support, while Liquid played him as a carry in the safelane.
The talent choice disparity in Monkey King’s builds
There really isn’t much of a question on how to choose Monkey King’s talents. Each tier has a survivability choice, and they are relatively subpar to the offensive counterparts. Even the tempting 20% magic resistance level 20 Talent is overshadowed by +40 damage, which has a significant +5.0% win rate difference. Now that Wukong’s Command grants up to 20 bonus armor at level 3, Monkey King can still deal out the majority of his damage with little concern from opting out of his survivability talents.
Monkey King isn’t necessarily invisible, but strong, elusive heroes have a tenuous relationship with the pub meta. Vision, map awareness, and space creating have been the core concepts for many of our past blog posts. This category of heroes naturally create space by their absence on the map, and being able to combat that requires quite a learning curve.
It’s why elusive heroes tend to dominate pubs at all tiers, and that they have to be severely disadvantaged for them to be balanced. As a support, Bounty Hunter does very little in lane, but as a roaming hero, he can pressure all lanes.
That’s part of the appeal of Monkey King as a support. A 2-1-2 build is a viable path. But his mobility is just as beneficial as a core. He can escape and gank, and if the rest of his skills are being slowly improved to make him stronger as a core, he has the potential to be in the tier of when Slark and Weaver were in their peaks.
Monkey King is a hero who feels like on the cusp of being too strong, a little too quick. He’s already rampant in the upper brackets. If his tweaks continue to trend the same in the new patch around the corner, it won’t be long before he’s everywhere else.