Photo by Celths
Before bans came into All Pick, it was a race to who could click on Leshrac first. He reigned as one of the top mid heroes of TI5, banned more often than peak Gyrocopter and Lina combined. Then patch 6.85 arrived shortly after—nerfing Lightning Storm (80/140/200/260 to 50/100/150/200) and his base attack damage (45-49 to 41-45)—and consequently dropped the hero into obscurity.
His pub win rate dropped by nearly 10 points, from 56% to 47%. He disappeared from the competitive meta and has since floundered in limbo in the area between situational pick and completely non-viable. Then, over a series of patches since 7.00, Leshrac has been slowly tweaked and buffed, inching his way back in the meta.
Leshrac was the 2nd most contested hero and 3rd most banned at both GESC:Thailand and Epicenter XL. And though his popularity fell off at the recent MDL Changsha, he was still within the top 10 of contested picks.Newbee.sccc on Leshrac dishing out tons of damage for this ultra kill against OG at MDL Changsha
Since being hit with the nerf bat in 6.85, Leshrac has been getting buffs under the radar. Lightning Storm—the main target of 6.85’s major nerf—now has some of its potency back. Its damage increased in 7.12 (50/100/150/200 to 80/120/160/200), mana cost reduced (90/100/110/120 to 80/100/120/140), and cast time reduced (0.6 to 0.4) with the help of two patches.
These changes nudge Leshrac back as a decent laner, but nowhere near his original dominance. His base attack damage still got hit and Lightning Storm’s slow duration was nerfed at lower levels, making a Split Earth follow up all that more difficult to hit. What has helped Leshrac, however, are buffs to his resiliency that expands his viability in other positions.
EG.Cr1t opting for both +5 Armor and +15 Strength talents
In addition to buffs to base Strength (16 + 1.8 to 18 + 2.1) and base regeneration (0 to 1.5), patch 7.07 reworked his talents to offer additional toughness choices and reduced Leshrac’s reliability on items. At level 10, +5 Armor isn’t as significant, but +250 mana is a far better choice now than the +25 movement speed it replaced. At Level 15, the +15 Strength talent (also buffed from the Strength gain change in 7.13b) is a boon for support Leshracs.
Overall, the changes have unlocked Leshrac’s viability in roles outside the mid position, giving teams a new flex pick to disguise their lineups.
A flex pick is a hero that can fill multiple roles in a lineup. It has the advantage of obscuring a team’s strategy, disrupting opponent’s ban choices, and allowing flexibility if a team needs to pivot its team composition.
At GESC:Thailand against Keen, Evil Geniuses picked Leshrac early in the 2nd round. They’ve been prone to use Leshrac as a core in a farming offlane position. It’s a fitting hero for Sumail, who used to dominate the midlane, but has since moved to EG’s offlane. Keen responded with an Earthshaker ban, predicting both a support pick for Cr1t and protecting their final Phantom Lancer pick. But the flexbility of the Leshrac pick allowed EG to respond with an Ember Spirit for Sumail, shifting Leshrac over to Cr1t.
This is just a brief view in the many moves that happen in the chess match of the drafting phase. Though Leshrac is no longer the preeminent mid, he's viable flex pick that gives teams another piece to play with. He isn’t the only Dota hero that can fill multiple positions, but as the midlane returns to 1v1 old school matchups, his return to the meta carries a whiff of nostalgia.