After enduring a long period of obsolescence, Lifestealer is finally back in the meta and dominating both pub and professional games. He has benefited from direct and indirect buffs, ranging from item buffs to global changes to attributes. Some of his greatest foes drifted out of the meta. And with the game slowing down, the door was open for his return.
Agility heroes were completely dominant in the previous patch. The 25% attribute bonus benefited Agility heroes the most, who stood to gain armor, attack speed, and damage from one stat, allowing them to scale with items throughout all stages of the game. It’s not a coincidence that Wraith Band was tweaked in four consecutive patches in 7.20. It was still too good in the end.
While Strength heroes had their own bonuses, HP regen and health were just consolation prizes. It wasn’t enough to outscale the damage Agility heroes were dealing, and it wasn’t enough for them to be useful in the late game. Strength cores, in the previous meta, tended to dwell in the mid and offlane.
Now, with the stat bonuses gone, Agility heroes lost that bit of edge they had in scaling to the late game. That’s also compounded with a broad swath of nerfs to some of the previous meta’s strongest heroes. Top it off with the change to Power Treads, which was just a bit too good for Agility heroes—26 damage and 17.5 attack speed for 1450 gold.
Arteezy opts for a Midas and Radiance first build in EG’s Dreamleague qualifier match against Forward Gaming.
We were in the upside-down for a period of time when Treads gave damage and Phase Boots gave attack speed in patch 7.20. Everything is back to normal now in 7.21, and while Lifestealer does suffer from the loss of attack speed from Phase Boots, it did get buffed in the stat the matters most to Lifestealer: movespeed.
At +22% movespeed and his new base speed of 325 (the 2nd highest group), Lifestealer zooms at 445ms with just one item. That puts him faster than KoTL and Pugna with Boots of Travels. And with Agility heroes no longer getting attribute bonuses for movement speed, Lifestealer can’t be kited as easily across the board.
The real boon is to Lifestealer’s early game, where Open Wounds already made him a strong laner. The extra movement speed, coupled with a synergistic laning partner, poses a kill threat for opponents. With the game slowing down (more XP needed between levels 7-12), Lifestealer players can control the early game enough to aim for greedy items like Midas and/or Radiance, solving his issues in farming throughout the mid and late game.
Even in his current state, Lifestealer may not warrant a nerf just yet. He still has the same weaknesses with kiting and quite a few hard, hero counters—Morphling, for one, who also received a few stat gain buffs to offset the attribute bonus change. But his rise to the top of pubs—2nd in winrate—is a welcome sight for a hero that all but disappeared from Dota.