Should Dota’s illusion system be nerfed in some way next patch? During the tournament, a big part of matches was not having a counter for Luna and Shadow Demon (SD), unless one of them was banned. Many have since called for a nerf of illusions because the Luna-SD combo has proven integral to winning the game.
I want to go against the swarm and contend that these two heroes do not need a nerf and neither does illusions. There are other possible ways of countering Illusions, rather than nerfing SD or Luna, the combo of both of which is, admittedly, almost non-counterable.
The thing about this with Manta and SD you get up to four illusions with Glaives. Plus Luna herself, and you get 5 heroes with Glaives! (For those who are unfamiliar with DotA, Moon Glaives, or Glaives as I call it here, is a skill that renders attack projectiles to bounce between enemies. Also, it’s a passive ability unique to Luna. Any illusions created during the game also have the hero’s passive.) This perk allows for a strong pushing strategy, similar to Naga.
So how can we counter it while keeping the mechanic? For me, it is either with AoE-damage dealers such as Timbersaw, Earthshaker (ES) and Bristleback (BB), or, at the development level, with buffs to heroes and/or items to counter this threat.
Timbersaw to me is a huge counter to this team. Timbersaw is almost indestructible as of now – he has the kit to counter the SD-Luna combo. Tanky, check. AOE damage, check. Physical damage block, check. The only real weakness he has against them is merely Luna’s ultimate, which is not even a good counter to Timbersaw because her ultimate depends on how many enemies are surrounding her. With his own combo, he could easily dispose of the illusions whilst keeping himself alive and well by keeping himself at a distance away.
Other counters mentioned are ES and BB. BB’s main source of strength is through Quill Spray – he’s one of the few heroes who can spam a skill to deal a ton of AoE damage. Additionally, he gets reduced damage when hit from certain angles. So this solo hero is a good counter to the enemy setup.
A majority of ES’s arsenal is through AoE spells – Aftershock pretty much makes every spell deal AoE damage, but Echo Slam is the one deserving mention. Echo Slam preys on the enemies’ strength in numbers, and Luna’s 5-man-illusion team is pretty much his wet dream! Not to mention that when he gets Aghs – if he’s able to get one – illusions are regarded as heroes themselves, which means if ES blinks into Luna and her illusions, the damage from slamming is equivalent to the damage dealt from slamming the whole enemy team!
Generally, having abilities dealing AoE damage means that unlike a hero like Clinkz who can only attack one hero at a time, heroes such as ES and BB can attack multiple units at a time. This means they would be able to clear illusions at a faster rate.
At the game-development level, certain buffs can be implemented into certain heroes and items to specifically combat an illusion swarm. Speaking of swarm, I thought of one such buff that could be introduced, and that is Weaver’s ability: The Swarm. This ability could gain a buff in ticks or damage. Each tick could be made stronger against illusions in order to counter it. The downside to that is that this option is also a nerf to Blink Dagger. How so? Each tick of the poison disables blink dagger’s usage window. Meaning that it goes on cooldown whenever a player takes damage. And meaning that it is a nerf to other heroes who don’t really need a nerf (and pretty soon there would be calls to nerf Weaver because of this, and back to the vicious cycle we go).
A simpler change would be to strengthen items such as Shiva and Diffusal Blade. This will buff heroes that use these items like Timbersaw and Rikimaru. Whereas items like Battlefury and Mjollnir that have the ability to hit multiple units during a game, such as illusions, are also options against these pests, and should be strengthened to ease the countering of illusions. A simple method of strengthening would be to lower their costs.
If we really have to nerf Luna, what about this: Luna become a melee hero has her range lowered even more. This is massive – it makes her play more riskier early game. I mean this option already exists, Her already-short attack range – for a ranged hero that is – is only comparable to that of Templar Assassin (TA). When TA gets Psi-Blades level four, she surpasses Luna by 50 attack range. So then, the lowest range is shared by Templar and Luna at separate times during a match. This nerf will make her even weaker against Templar earlier in a match. This would also nerf the use and impact of Manta on Luna because it allows attacks from a longer range to deal more damage than melee attacks. So conversely, nerfing her attack range would reduce the damage output of her Manta illusions.
A final idea, which now involves the changing of the mechanics of illusion, revolves around a kind of bonus: that when an illusion is killed, the killer could gain something like additional mana, or life. This would help spell-intensive heroes to sustain their mana and break an illusion siege more easily. This idea would bring about a new theme. If illusions take additional damage from spells, and if additional mana is granted for removing an illusion from battle, it can be explained with an additional lore/theme that illusions are weak against spell casters.
These are just some of the ideas that I think can adjust the balancement of this aspect of the game and make countering illusions easier without changing SD and Luna or the general mechanics of illusions much. Until then, I guess the SD-Luna combo will still dominate matches left and right in the Majors.
Written by Wrooks and Void