What makes Dota 2 the game so many people love to play, watch and mull over?! It’s probably the fact that there are 113 heroes and there are innumerable combinations of picking 10 heroes from this plethora of heroes! This is what makes every game unique, until well, the professional meta gets stale and the same few heroes are picked over and over. Which is when IceFrog and Valve shake things up to ensure new heroes are seen in the new patch. Heroes like Venomancer, Bloodseeker and Necrophos were hardly seen before 7.06, but they pretty much dominated TI 7. Now they lie dormant again, but the point is, they did have their day(s)!
However, there are others who haven’t had their day in a long time and one of the most prominent that comes to mind is the Thundergod, Zeus! Zeus is a hero predominantly made for mid, one who has the potential to dominate the lane with early burst damage. On occasions, he is also deployed in the offlane, when he is usually picked for the vision advantage of Thundergod’s Wrath and Lightning Bolt (the latter gives momentary flying vision and true sight). Team Secret and Yapzor showed the community he can be a great position four as well, but Yapzor is a God of sorts, just like Zeus. Although on paper the hero seems to be versatile, the number of games he’s picked, his win rate and a lot of stats that define mid heroes are appalling. Let’s take a look:
The only patch where Zeus shows a respectable pick rate was in 6.86, where he was picked in 416 professional games. That was the meta Spectre was in hot demand and the pair of Zeus and Spectre made it a global strat. But after that, the number of games we see Zeus every patch has been around 50. 7.00 to 7.05 have been clubbed together as all those patches were short duration patches.
As if the pick rate wasn’t bad enough, his win rate is probably even worse. Even in the 6.86 meta where he was picked frequently, the win rate is 43.03%. It did improve in 7.06 and quite a bit but took the inevitable plunge in 7.07. Again, all this is for is for about 50 games (except 6.84 and 6.86).
The comparison of stats for 16 mid heroes going all the way back from 6.84 to the current day shows that Zeus is probably the worst mid hero out there right now, although Windranger makes a very compelling argument! In the column of every parameter, the marked cell shows the worst one from the lot. Of the eight shown here, Zeus is at the bottom for three of them: GPM, XPM and Last Hits. The yellow cells in the row of ‘average’ show the parameter for which Zeus is below average. Besides Assists and KDA, he is below average in all other walks of the game. He has the highest average assists of all the given heroes, but to be fair, that is only because of Thundergod’s Wrath.
What the table indicates is the main reason Zeus languishes in a game and because of that, the meta, is that he just cannot farm. The average last hits per game sit at 167 which is just not acceptable for a mid hero. The dearth of creep kills results in the low GPM and XPM and towards the end, Zeus feels more like a support even if started off as a mid. There are those games when he literally feels like a God, like when Ori played him in Vici Gaming’s 91 minute defense against Fnatic at ESL One Genting. He ended up with 996 last hits and nearly hit 700 GPM. But like I said, that was a one-off game. And VG ended up losing it!
What is the problem? The thing about Zeus is, only if you take a commanding lead in the early stages of the game can he make a big impact. If he has a bad early game, there is not much he can do to come back. Zeus’ spells may be good for hero hunting, but farm wise, they’re quite pathetic. What most mid heroes have is some way to clear out creeps quickly. Queen of pain has Scream of Pain, Puck has Illusionary Orb into Waning Rift, Templar Assasin can one or two shot the entire creep wave with Psy Blades. The best thing Zeus has is Arc Lightening and it takes four or five of those to clear out a creep wave. Neutrals are not even a possibility. When all is said and done, he doesn’t even have the mana pool to farm out too many waves with Arc Lightening. I agree that Zeus isn’t a hero who should be out there farming, but in some games, it just needs to be done. His right clicks are pretty much non-existent so that’s out of the question as well.
When 7.00 came out, Valve came up with a great way to buff or nerf heroes without tampering too much with their abilities, which was talents. I’m guessing they went alphabetically and by the time got to Zeus, the team was tired and gave him something to be done with it. Let’s look at the talents:
Level 10: The +6 Armor is a defensive talent in very selective situations. More useful if there is a physical damage hero running rampant early on. More importantly, it neither helps Zeus in fighting or farming. The 25% XP Gain isn’t too bad, but XP gain talents work much better with Midas builders and Zeus just isn’t one of them. LGD Gaming’s Maybe, who is amongst the top mid lane players out there, tried going the Midas way in a game but it didn’t really work.
Level 15: The Static Field Damage talent just brings it back to where it was before the nerf. Considering even the tankiest of heroes, let’s say a 4000 HP Pudge with full HP, the Static Field damage will increase from 400 to 440 at Level 4. That’s a 40 damage increase at level 15 on a full HP tank. No thank you! The +40 Movement Speed talent is a lot better and works in tandem with a Eul’s Scepter (if you go for it), but movement speed talents are more suited to heroes like Bristleback and Gyrocopter who will chase down and kill opposition heroes. An argument could be made that Zeus is in that category, but he’s more suited to staying back and letting loose his spells and not a hero who should be in the center of a fight.
Level 20: This is where his talents start getting better. Both talents at level 20 are quite useful. Having 3 usable spells, the 15% Cooldown Reduction is always welcome. Along with Octarine Core, it gives a total Cooldown Reduction of 36.25%! That’s quite a bit. The +0.5 s Lightening Bolt Ministun gives him a 0.7 second stun, which works best if going for an Aghanim’s Scepter which gives him the fifth ability of Nimbus. To be honest, Nimbus is Zeus’ only saving grace for the moment. It’s a great ability which can damage, give vision and stun! Not too easy to get rid of as well.
Level 25: +170 Arc Lightening Damage is a great ability, but it comes a bit too late for the Thundergod. A 315 damage nuke every 1.6 seconds sounds great, but by the time the game has gone that late, opposition teams usually build into items that mitigate magic damage. Arc lightening can be an important too for high ground defense, as Ori demonstrated as it clears out creep waves quite easily. The +200 Cast Range Talent, in my opinion, is not too useful. Of his four usable skills (including Nimbus), two are global. Using the talent for two skills which doesn’t even increase their damage output seems like a waste of talent. According to Dotabuff, the Arc Lightening damage talent has a 78.7% pick rate over the Cast Range talent (22.3%). This is for all Zeus games, not just professional.
Verdict and Possible Solution
Zeus is hero who has the most impact early on in the game. Once the opposition get’s BKBs and Pipes, his effect goes down. His talents on the other hand, are improve towards the end of the game. Here’s a couple of solutions that might help:
Better level 10 and 15 talents: Zeus’ first two branches on the talent tree offer him very little in terms of fighting or farming. Including a damage talent (like Necropos) at level 10 could go some way in helping out with his farming abilities. Shifting the Arc Lightening damage down to level 15 will help him scale better (not an extra 170 damage, but something like 80 or 90?). What would help a lot is a 90 GPM talent at level 10. Omniknight and Venomancer have the talent and according to Dotabuff, it’s picked up 78.4% and 66% of the times respectively. And why wouldn’t it?
Change in abilities: When IceFrog and Valve tried to boost Wraith King a bit before the Manila Major in 2016, they gave him better farming abilities by increasing the Mortal Strike critical hit for creeps only. Not that he got a picked a lot more after that, but it was an interesting change. If Zeus could get something similar, like increased ability damage against creeps, his GPM could see a bit of improvement. An average of 407 over the years is just not enough for your position 2 hero!
The upcoming biweekly patches have a lot of pros and cons to them, but if a major pro is that the community doesn’t have to wait for 6 months for a hero to get buffed or nerfed. Realizing that a certain hero is hardly being picked, the problem can literally be solved in 14 days. Hopefully, the biweekly patches will slowly show a helpful attitude towards Zeus. Like all heroes have their time on the big stage, it is high time it happened with the wielder of lightening and brought him back into minds of coaches and captains!