Hero Analysis: Phantom Assassin - It is an honor to be chosen for death
Today we are going to discuss the situation with Phantom Assassin and the reasons behind her lack of popularity. Firstly some stats. Regarding her pub situation in v6.85, according to DotaMax she has a 46% win rate in Very High Ranked games and a 49.9% win rate in the total opposite skill level, in Normal, not-Ranked games. Her success decreases with the increase of the players’ abilities. Very High includes any game from approximately 3500 Rank so the difference could be even more marked if we had access to the data of the games with more than 4500 or 5000 Rank - we could speculate even a possible 40% win rate in this skill area. Meanwhile in pro games she has been picked only 13 times during this patch with a 38% win rate, 26 times with the same win rate in the previous patch, 142 times in v6.83 with a 46% win rate and finally 199 times with 52% in v6.82.
What happened in v6.84? New items were introduced and the gameplay has changed considerably. In v6.85 the situation is almost the same; in fact we can consider it as a continuation of the previous patch but with a better balancing. Overall, we don’t think that there are major flaws in the hero, she simply doesn’t fit the current meta. To explain this statement we are going to take a look at her weakness.
Artwork by taopaint.deviantart.com
In the most drafted heroes of this patch we find gankers, nukers, solid supports and capable laners. In the top 15 there are five carries (Doom, Shadow Fiend, Ember Spirit, Alchemist and Gyrocopter) and they all have in common a great faming capacity. Phantom Assassin doesn’t require a lot of gold to be effective (a Black King Bar and a Skull Basher are enough), but she is a considerable slower farmer without AoE abilities - a Battle Fury is almost mandatory.
Looking at the top 20, we can find different heroes specialized in ganks and some top nukers: Queen of Pain, Tusk, Spirit Breaker, Night Stalker, Clockwerk, Lina. Compared to the past, hard carries now have less space in the early-game, so if they lack farming abilities it won’t be easy to buy their core items after a difficult lane phase. Note that PA isn’t a horrible laner, and she can use Stifling Dagger when under pressure, but having no escapes and a small HP pool, she can just rely on her support when snowballed/charged and nuked down by the enemy team. As a side note, we would also like to draw your attention to the most drafted supports in this patch: Winter Wyvern (74%) and Dazzle (68%). In this combative meta we find two defensive support that shine in keeping their teammates alive.
Over the last patches, the Dota 2 meta has shifted from more individual-play to more team-play. Phantom Assassin is a single target dps that of course excels when focusing one hero or just a small group, but increasing the number of enemies makes it easier for her to get disabled or kited. She is perfect to punish greedy and uncoordinated teams that are an usual circumstance in the average pub games, but in competitive and high ranked games, players aren’t alone most of the time and they know how to behave and react against her.
Artwork by arcan-anzas.deviantart.com
She can hardly join a fight without the BKB and since v6.82, once the charges are lost it is not possible to buy a new one (of course this problem affects many carries but mostly those susceptible to disables and nukes like PA). The Basher also received a small nerf in v6.84, increasing the proc cooldown from 2 to 2.3 and decreasing the attack damage bonus from 40 to 25 (the extra damage when proccing partially balance it, but overall it was better before).
The v6.84 patch introduced three new items that are good counters against almost any physical dps. The Glimmer Cape proivdes cheap invisibility: now the supports can save themselves and the team in many situations. The Silver Edge has a special ability named Shadow Walk: the attack that breaks the invisibility inflicts 225 extra damage, can’t be dodged, disables any enemy passive for 5 seconds and reduces the target’s damage output by 40%. It affects many heroes, but it’s particularly good against Phantom Assassin, who won’t be able to crit or dodge, and so every member of the team (even without MKB) will be able to freely attack her. Finally the Solar Crest removes 10 armor and applies a 30% miss debuff for 7 seconds, reducing the damage output and making her easier to kill.
Phantom Assassin, as any hero that only relies on the auto-attack damage, is really susceptible against the Ghost Scepter and any items that prevent her from attacking the target - she will lose precious time and be forced to swap target, but any second is really important and will deplete her Black King Bar duration. The same rule applies for any hero and item able to disable her. Finally the Monkey King Bar is her late game killer because with a 5 second BKB and no evasion she will become one of the easier targets in the team. Even with a great teamwork, it won’t be easy to keep her alive during the teamfights.
There are numerous small things that when considered together make her a bit weak when compared to other heroes. The question shouldn’t be “what’s wrong with PA?”, but “why pick PA if there are better options?” We can choose carries able to farm faster, with fewer counters, a better late-game and also split-push abilities. The PA concept just doesn’t fit in this meta, and we think that only a radical change will make her viable again.