Dota is a flexible game with many heroes capable of filling several roles. While for the majority of heroes there is usually a single lane and position that works best for them, it doesn’t mean there can’t be situations where going out of the box would be more beneficial for the team.
One of the recent examples of such “out of the box” thinking was the introduction of offlane Winter Wyvern to professional scene. When the hero was just released, the community theorycrafted how that hero might work in the offlane, but in all honesty, the old Winter Wyvern would be able to take any position and still win the game — the hero was that overpowered.
Now, after all the nerfs and all the changes to the game, how exactly does offlane Winter Wyvern work and is it a good idea to try and play her in such a manner in pubs?
Picking right heroes for right situations is at least 30% of Dota skill. Winter Wyvern, being a very unique and specific offlaner, should not be picked carelessly.
Winter Wyvern is a squishy hero with a single long-cooldown “escape” and an immobilizing heal, which at best can give you some time for allied teleports to come, at worst will simply waste several seconds of enemy time while they wait to finish you off. Unlike many currently popular offlaners, she can’t guarantee herself farm, can’t jungle well, has no ways of stopping or delaying her own wave and can quickly become irrelevant damage-wise, if not given an opportunity to snowball.
At the same time, the hero is incredibly strong against weaker lanes — while most offlaners are good at ensuring at least a draw during the laning stage, with some ways to hedge their experience and gold income, Winter Wyvern is an all-in type of offlaner, who either completely dominates the lane, or outright loses it.
On top of it, the standard rules of when to pick Winter Wyvern still apply — she is still at her best versus heavy physical lineups, preferably melee, so that she can maximize the utility and damage of Winter's Curse, while allowing for Cold Embrace to have meaningful impact.
Moreover, your own team composition should be taken into consideration — Winter Wyvern is not an exceptionally greedy hero, but she does need some farm in the third position. She also fills the role of backline damage dealer, rather than a utility support, so if your team lacks disables, she might not be the best pick.
It should be pretty clear by now that the hero should be picked in very specific scenarios, against specific enemies and lane compositions. But how does one make it work, even in ideal scenarios?
Winter Wyvern outharasses most heroes in the game at level 1. Arctic Burn deals a lot of damage on fresh targets and should be used continuously to beat the regeneration out of the enemy as soon as possible. Given the range of the ability, this should remain unpunished, unless the enemy has long-range disable, but even then it will take them some time to catch up to you, under the slowing effects of Arctic Burn.
This constant harassment does two things: it ensures your own safety, by making the enemy more reluctant to engage with low HP. And it opens up killing potential on the lane, so that any misplay by the enemy or allied rotation can net you a kill.
There is a downside to it, however — since Arctic Burn is your main early game harassment tool and your only escape, after every use you become vulnerable to enemy attacks and rotations. Be wary of enemy positioning and their potential roamer, when using your skills.
Your build should also reflect the commitment to constant harassment — it is true for both your skill and item builds.Typical offlane Winter Wyvern will prioritize Arctic Burn and Splinter Blast over everything else, often forgoing level 6 ultimate and completely ignoring Cold Embrace until much later into the game.
iceiceice offlane Winter Wyvern
An early Soul Ring is also a must, as it allows you to keep the constant lane pressure, while providing some necessary passive regeneration. Phase Boots are the footwear of choice, with the highest early-to-mid game DPS gains.
Early items should be focused on accelerating your farm, hence Hand of Midas and Maelstrom are both good choices. They also substantially increase your DPS through higher attack speed — something that is often disregarded in Hand of Midas discussions. And since the hero should generally attack from far away, stopping the enemy with her ultimate, if they try to engage, the opportunity cost of lost survivability and stats from Midas purchase is less of an issue.
Hurricane Pike should be the last stepping stone before Maelstrom upgrade and Aghanim’s Scepter. The active from the item is excellent on virtually every hero in almost any scenario, while the increased attack range further facilitates the backline damage dealer playstyle.
Finally, the talents should obviously prioritize damage. The level 10 talent is up for debate and there are games where extra HP will outweigh +8 intelligence, but the level 15 one is non-negotiable and is pretty much what allows the whole idea to work well: +75 damage is a superior choice, often leading to at least 30% increase in attack damage of the hero. This talent is also the reason rushing Hand of Midas and Maelstrom is a necessity — the sooner you get to it, the sooner you can fully come online and become a fearsome damage dealer.
Offlane Winter Wyvern is a very risky move that can either pay off greatly, or lead to a crushing defeat. It is often a “win more” type of strategy, in a sense that it doesn’t win you more games, but rather win you the games you would win regardless much harder. However it is not always the case.
The hero is decent against some of the “green meta” heroes — she can deal a significant amount of damage to Pugna, Necrophos and Venomancer, never fully getting into their effective range. She is also great at destroying the wards, be it plague or nether ones, while her long-range outpush can delay the game long enough for her other cores to come online.
A week before the patch, it is unclear how the hero is going to develop and whether this playstyle will stay relevant or even become dominant. However, when the situation arises, the concept is almost definitely worth trying — if not for the decisive victory, but for the fun of it.