Finding a place for the misfit EarthshakerWed 3rd Apr 2013 - 5:30pm Category: DotA 2
Between looking like the awkward bastard child of Chewbacca and a gorilla, and sounding like James Earl Jones' rendition of a Captain Planet character, Raigor Stonehoof the Earthshaker seems to be a misfit by design. Like Magnus, Tidehunter, Clockwerk, and Enigma, he is a powerful initiator hero that heavily punishes poorly positioned enemies and can effectively disable foes in ganks and teamfights. So why has Earthshaker become a misfit in the current pro Dota 2 metagame, as well?
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Fissure is a 1200 range, 225 radius stun that creates an impassable wall that lasts for eight seconds at all levels. This ability is excellent for sealing escape paths during ganks, or for counter-initiation to save an ally from getting ganked. Fissure has a notably long cast animation and is mana intensive; you will only be able to use it once or twice with your horrible mana pool early on before needing to pop a Clarity or return to the fountain.
Enchant Totem gives Earthshaker a percentage of bonus damage on one auto-attack (buff lasts for 14 seconds).
Aftershock adds additional AOE damage and stun within 300 radius of Earthshaker whenever he uses Fissure, Enchant Totem and Echo Slam.
Echo Slam is Earthshaker's signature skill. This ability does a decent chunk of base damage (340 at max level) to all enemies in a 500 radius, with additional damage added for each enemy unit (creep, hero, illusion, summoned unit such as Broodmother's spiderlings or Undying's zombies, etc.) in 550 radius of Earthshaker. This ultimate is most effective when Earthshaker can blink in the middle of clustered enemy heroes and units for maximum damage output.
How does Earthshaker stack up against similar heroes?
Earthshaker is a far more situational pick than most of the commonly picked supports and initiators in pro games. You can't send him mid or solo offlane like a Magnus, Tidehunter, or Clockwerk, as he has no cheap spell to get last hits in difficult situations, isn't particularly tanky, and has no escape mechanism aside from a defensive Fissure. He also can't jungle like an Enigma or Dark Seer, two more popular heroes with big teamfight ultimates.
In the trilane vs. trilane set-up that is so popular in the current pro scene, Earthshaker also has little to offer, as he can't effectively harass with auto attacks being a melee hero, and his Fissure costs far too much mana to use as a frequent damage source. He can work in a defensive trilane by stacking and pulling for gold and experience, but is a risky pick for an aggressive trilane due to his mana issues.
Furthermore, his abilities lack utility when compared to a Magnus who can give any teammate bonus damage and cleave, a Tidehunter who can reduce enemy damage and armor, a Clockwerk who can provide map vision, and an Enigma who can push towers with Eidelons.
So where does he fit?
Earthshaker's problems finding his place in the laning phase prevent him from being a top pro pick when competing with much more flexible and therefore higher-tier initiators. Unlike Tidehunter or Magnus, he absolutely needs the farm for a Blink Dagger to initiate effectively with his ultimate, and for Arcane Boots or Soul Ring so he has mana to cast his abilities. Unfortunately, his only method for getting quick farm is Fissure, and he simply doesn't have the mana to use it to farm effectively.
In order to get what he needs for farm and levels to help his team, Earthshaker is probably best suited as a roaming support, smoking and wandering from lane to lane to trap out-of-position heroes and assist kills. The threat of a sudden Fissure from the fog can force enemies to play much more cautiously than they'd like, as it is a kiss of death for any enemy without a method to hop over the block to safety.
Teams such as Evil Geniuses have also tried to run Earthshaker in the Dire hard lane, blocking friendly creep waves with Fissure and pulling them to the ancient camp for experience and gold. However, this strategy proved unsuccessful, as it was easily countered by ganks on the Earthshaker.
Despite his limitations, Earthshaker can still be a strong pick when his team composition allows him to get the gold he needs for his core items. He is also good against teams with illusion heroes such as Naga Siren and the popular Phantom Lancer, or heroes with summoned units such as Nature's Prophet, Enigma, Undying, and Broodmother. He can be an excellent partner to initiators such as Dark Seer and Magnus for massive amounts of damage in team fights, as well as a threatening roamer in the laning stage.
Barring any major buffs or ability reworks, Earthshaker can no longer be a top-tier pick with so many similar yet more versatile heroes introduced to the pool, though he is far from worthless. Perhaps reworking his Enchant Totem to something that can buff his team as Magnus's Empower does, or giving him slightly more armor, strength gain, or move speed to make him more survivable would help make him more viable. For now, he simply isn't good enough to fit in the pro scene as more than a rare and very situational pick.