Lone Druid: Now and then
The global update 7.00 and 7.01 changed Dota 2 dramatically. The meta is still being shaped: the top teams continue experimenting and surprising the rivals with unusual drafts, positionings and builds. Some heroes are picked on completely different roles than before. We've already seen some heated arguments on Lone Druid's place in the new meta. This article is an attempt to compare the past and present hero builds.
Traditional build of Lone Druid
Prior to new patch, Druid was often picked in pro games, but didn't have a consistent role. The hero was picked as a mid laner, hardlaner and even the main carry. Regardless the position Lone Druid did his job great. He was also a popular pick in pubs. Players liked the hero bacause of his late potential, others preferred him as a pusher, taking advantage of his controlled unit. Some would try Lone Druid as a tank, hoping for boosts from his ultimate True Form.
Regardless such quantity of roles in the game, the gameplay on the hero and the item build didn't differ much. As a rule, the players who picked the hero understood that the time is the main aspect in playing the hero. It is in the late stage that Lone Druid is extremely powerful and effective. That's why they tried to buy the items that increase the speed of farm as soon as possible and afterwards killed the neutral and lane сreeps as much as possible. The first items to buy were Hand of Midas and Radiance. With those items, Lone Druid could buy everything he needed very quickly. What's remarkable, it was his pet who put on all these items.
While Druid used cheap items like Boots of Speed, Vladmir's Offering or Ghost Scepter, his bear turned into a pushing and killing machine. The pet who had strong helth and the ability to deal much damage, turned into a real carry with such items like Assault Cuirass, Mjollnir, Abyssal Blade, Monkey King Bar and Moon Shard. He got almost unvulnerable with Black King Bar. It was very hard to withstand the two of them late in the game. Why would anyone try looking for new options for the play on Lone Druid, since everything is perfectly clear?
The new vision of the hero
In 7.00 Druid gained the talents. Now we can increase the attack range of the hero by 200 points on level 10 and +65 damage on level 15. This is a significant improvement in early and mid game. The hero attack and movement speed are increased by Rabid. When maxed, the ability grans + 40 to attack speed and his movement speed is increased by 25 %.
So the pro players decided an alternative hero build is at least worth trying. And we've seen the Lone Druid dealing physical damage in pro matches. Some fans compare the new Druid with Sniper, and they're partlially right. The gameplay on Lone Druid likens that on Sniper in 7.01: both heroes rely on the attack range and speed as well as damage. That's why the players try to build Dragon Lance (built into Hurricane Pike) as soon as possible and provide the maximal range for the hero.
Next is the maximal increase of the damage and there're so many options to achieve it. Maelstrom is believed to be the most effective purchase for the hero. It is later upgraded to Mjollnir. The hero gains attributes and hp from Eye of Skadi and Butterfly. However, the survivability of Druid is decreased without Black King Bar or Linken's Sphere.
As concerns the bear, it is an assisstant rather than the main core. The players learn Summon Spirit Bear first and use the advantages of the unit. Lone Druid can play more confidently on the lane with such protector and don't get hit trying to make last-hit the creeps. The bear is very useful when farming in the jungle, so many prefer spending little gold on Stout Shield, Quelling Blade and Blight Stone for his pet. Apart from that, he's still able to disable the rivals.
It's hard to judge what's more efficient. All the above listed options prove to be effective, so there's no need to stick to only one of them. We think it'd be more reasonable to analyse the hero build and to discuss the strategy with the team. As you might know, the Druid farming items with Radiance needs time and spece. His allies put much effort to secure them for their carry.
A more aggressive Druid needs constant save (for example, Shadow Demon), so you're unlikely to take full advantage of his potential without good initiators with long (and massive) disable ( Slardar, Enigma). As you decide to try the new playstyle of Lone Druid, don't take it as the first pick. Choose tactics wisely and try to analyze the situation. Good luck to you in matchmaking!