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We are going to finish the “core turned support” part of our Everything Can Work series with Ember Spirit — possibly the most controversial hero to appear on this list and certainly the most nuanced. To fully utilize the hero’s strengths without any farm priority the gameplay should be close to perfect and even then, we are not entirely sure it is worth it.
Ember Spirit has been falling out of favor in the professional scene: the hero is still quite popular, but success-wise, he is a far cry from what he was several patches ago. At the same time, his win rate in the highest level pub bracket is pretty decent: a little bit over 50% for the most popular hero in Divine+ games this month is a good and consistent result.
However, if we examine the hero more closely, he actually struggles in all lanes, except for mid. He doesn’t work too well as a position one carry or as an offlaner and, statistically and logically speaking, he doesn’t look like a good support.
Yet, some notable professional teams have tried the hero as a five and were partially successful in their execution. So today we aren’t talking about when Ember Spirit support is a good idea, we are looking for conditions, when the idea isn’t terrible and the reasons behind it.
The last couple of patches de-emphasized the laning stage slightly, but it is still incredibly important. As a melee hero, Ember Spirit can really struggle when put in a support position: he can’t boast the base stats of Ogre Magi or Nyx Assassin, he doesn’t have Pango’s or Earth Spirit’s mobility and he isn’t as much of a kill threat as early game Tusk.
What he can do, however, is continuously harass the enemy with relatively low manacost and fairly painful physical attacks, followed up by a potential setup. The buffs to the latter part, Searing Chains, is what initially allowed for the idea to emerge. They were nerfed since, but it can still work if and only if your position one carry is a proactive lane killer and not a hero who wants to farm as safely as he can.
Heroes like Bristleback are mostly fine staying in their lane solo, so having a weak laning support doesn’t bother them as much. They are also a kill threat from early on, and that allows Ember Spirit to truly shine with his long-range roots and constant poke damage. Repeat your simple combo enough times and eventually the enemy will either be forced to retreat or ferry more and more consumables, otherwise they will simply die.
While it does look ok on paper, the reality of it is much harsher: most offlaners in the current meta are more than capable of holding their ground and most position four supports have some tools for catching mobile heroes. So, in the absolute majority of games, expect to lose your lane. This means you will have to make up for it in the early mid game.
Midgame is when Ember Spirit truly shines and that is true for all roles. 160 extra damage on maxed out Sleight of Fist is no joke and it can kill enemy supports really, really fast. Couple it with a casual Blight Stone or Orb of Venom and suddenly you also have some added utility.
Again, it is pretty great in theory. Ember Spirit only needs levels to be a huge teamfight threat and with the help of Outposts and Tome of Knowledge he can get there, even if his laning stage was far from perfect. And if in any given team fight you manage to kill an enemy support, while setting up further kills through Root effects, your contribution is kind of adequate. Or is it?
The reason why Death Prophet works in a support position is that she can contribute all of the above, without losing the lane. Lost lanes frequently means lost towers and, quite probably, an underfarmed carry. As Ember Spirit, you can’t go for a one to one trade and call it a day: you will have to overperform to make up for the laning stage and it is not always possible.
It definitely isn’t impossible and we expect Ember Spirit players to create a ton of chaos and style on their opponents even with no net worth, but you must really know what you’re doing. Otherwise, you are definitely picking a hero to lose.
Support Ember Spirit is a hero we’ve seen played in the professional scene, but it doesn’t mean it is in any way a good idea for your pubs and definitely not for Solo Q. That said, there are some redeeming qualities for when you are playing in a five-stack, but you absolutely need an excellent Ember Spirit player who can land his combo 10/10 times and can always find a way to escape and go for a second wave of attack.
Some lucky neutral item drops are also a point in favor of support Ember Spirit: the ability to apply magic amp from Grove Bow, DoT effect through Dragon Scale or Armor and MS reduction through Orb of Destruction on multiple enemies with ease is a very compelling factor towards having Ember Spirit on any position in your team, but it is extremely unreliable. And when it comes to pubs, reliability is the name of the game.