A few months ago I posted an article on Phantom Assassin, and how I thought the majority of pub players were building her ineffectively. I explained a couple of Key Concepts, such as the Evasion Window and put forwards some general ideas on the direction she should be built. I have had over 190,000 views on this site the past year, and this article happens to be my most viewed. So I’m going to do the same with Medusa, because I strongly feel like there are some Key Concepts with the hero that people are failing to grasp.
The Late Gamer?
Medusa has traditionally built as a Hard Carry, and even to this day people love to do so. There are a couple of problems with this however. The first is that Hard Carries are increasingly becoming extinct. Due to the various changes in the game, people are shifting heroes across the board to different roles and building them in ways that make them have a higher impact earlier on. Faceless Void for example – a hero who for years was refereed to as one of the hardest carries in the game – is increasingly being ultra effective when played not as a Hard Carry. To the point where pro players chuck him in the offlane, and have someone else as their 1 position hero. He is still great with lots of position 1 farm and items; people are simply playing differently to make him better earlier as the space for Hard Carries dwindle.
The second problem is that Medusa has received a number of substantial buffs to her early game. Two years ago in 6.74 (TI2) Mana Shield started at an absorption rate of 0.75, and when maxed was increased to 2. Now however, this is an incredible 1.6 to 2.5. Just one level currently gives more than twice as much as an older level 1 of the skill, even giving more than the old level 3. Stone Gaze has also received incredible buffs. Reworked in 6.78, the new skill is now hugely effective in the early game. A previous level 6 Medusa would have a 140 second cooldown on Gaze, now it’s a very useful 90 seconds. Just those two skills alone are now ridiculously more potent earlier on. Her other skills are also equally stronger in the early game, more than they have ever been before.
Why Would I Pick Her?
The issue that arises is that people are building basically the same as they did 2 years ago, when her early game was criminally weak and Hard Carries were much more potent. With dwindling effectiveness of Hard Carries, and a considerably strong Early Game, it doesn’t make sense to me why everyone would still want to tunnel vision the late game. I’ve noticed people like to say things like “if I wanted an X, why wouldn’t I just pick a Y?”, such as “if I wanted a carry to fight early, why wouldn’t I just pick Lifestealer?” People use this X/Y reasoning every year, such as for Support Naga in 2013. In pubs, I tend to find that with no overall consensus on your draft, it often doesn’t matter what you could have picked. You should try your best to make whatever you end up with work well. The point is that Medusa builds are refusing to adapt to change. Everything is changing year after year, but Medusas remain stubborn, and lack any sort of viability innovation. If for whatever reason you want to play Medusa, it make sense to attempt to be the most effective Medusa you can be. And stubbornness is unlikely to let you be this. I mean, a few months ago it was odd to put a “Hard Carry Void” in the offlane, but at TI4 it’s all the rage. IG.YYF did an incredibly potent MoM+BKB rushing Void during this tournament.
I believe this is the most effective way to make Medusa fit into the current meta-game, by understanding that (like Void) she is great when 6 slotted, but very similarly building her in a way where she comes online earlier and is able to be potent with less. She won’t be changed the same as Void – they have different features – but a bit of fresh thinking would do her a universe of good.
Window: The Gaze Predicament
Now that I have explained how Medusa can do much better earlier now than ever before, I want to explain a Key Medusa Concept: The Gaze Predicament. When you use Stone Gaze, you put the enemy in a very precarious predicament. If they look at you, they turn to stone and take added Physical Damage (but less Magical) which also works on Magic Immune units. If they look away, they can’t cast a spell on you nor attack you for the entire 6 second duration of the ultimate. The ultimate also slows both movement and turning, making it harder to do something while you avert your eyes. This is honestly a “Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t” scenario.
This Gaze Predicament creates a very crucial timing window for Medusa; there is a 6 second window where the enemy is guaranteed to be ‘damned’ (The Gaze Window). My concept behind Medusa, is that she needs to make the most of these crucial 6 seconds. I don’t think you should only stack stats so you can just tickle them, you need to be able to substantially wound them during the Gaze Window. Which comes in the form of Damage. I generally find that going something along the lines of Linkens > MKB is the best way to go about things. Linkens gives you a good foundation to exist off, while MKB gives you a massive increase in damage to wound people during the Gaze Window. You don’t want a long drawn out fight where you very slowly widdle away at 5 heroes. You want to do substantial damage in that short Gaze Window, preferable killing someone in it. Void wants to kill someone in a Chronosphere, and I put forth that Medusa also wants to kill someone in a Stone Gaze. This is especially possible with early damage, and against teams lacking in the communication needed to effectively disengage.
How Hero Builds Become The Norm
I don’t think Medusa can follow the same path Void did, but I think she can become more and more like a Weaver. Linkens into Desolator is a very popular Weaver build, and it results in him starting with a good foundation of farm potential and survivability, before receiving a massive burst of damage. Before Desolator became the norm on Weaver, they used to opt for more late game oriented Radiance + tank item like Heart/Vanguard/Hood builds. Most hero trends are because a hero becomes popular in the pro scene, and the pros are building a hero differently than before, so the pubs start doing what the pros do. Pub players continue to play the hero the exact same way, until years later the hero becomes popular in the pro scene again, and pubbers change to this new way. This has happened with heroes such as Racecar Lifestealer and 1 position Gyrocopter among many others. The problem with Medusa is that she hasn’t had her surge in Dota 2 popularity yet, so we haven’t had an innovation shift for her for over 3 years.
But where does this leave us? We know that Medusa is stronger early on than she has ever been before. She no longer has a 140 second cooldown ultimate at level 6, but a much shorter 90 seconds that works a bit differently. While Mana Shield is incredibly stronger early on. I also tend to find that afk farming just doesn’t fit in too well in today’s Dota. Ultimately I hope this article just makes you think about her in a new way, and pushes you towards new way of thinking regarding Medusa. See what you think of a Midusa, or perhaps getting a Drums. She isn’t the same old only-lategame Medusa she was many years ago, so it makes no sense that you should try and build her in the same way. I think getting nice Early-Mid items will do you a world of good, especially since 5-manning when the enemy has to fight into Stone Gaze is incredibly strong.