Clinkz is in an interesting spot right now: despite being one of the most successful heroes in high level pubs, he is still completely ignored in the competitive scene. Recent EPICENTER XL only had seven heroes that were neither picked nor banned and Clinkz was one of them.
In high level pubs the hero currently wins more than 54% of his games. Interestingly, there is almost no fluctuation in his winrate between 3k to 5k bracket, meaning that once players have a general idea of what Dota is, they are decently equipped to win as this hero. While the hero is primarily played in the safelane, his offlane and mid appearances are almost as frequent. Moreover, mid Clinkz has the highest chance of success.
7.07 significantly reworked the hero, changing Strafe to a defensive and offensive hybrid. Many players still consider this change to be a nerf to the hero and they aren’t necessarily incorrect, despite Clinkz now being the 7th most successful hero in Divine-level pubs.
Current version of Strafe is weird, it is highly inconsistent and can be rendered completely useless very fast. At the same time, under right circumstances it can be incredibly potent, potentially turning the tide of battle.
The amount of attack speed it provides is quite similar to what Windranger gets from Focus Fire, but on a much shorter cooldown and with a much shorter duration. The offensive aspect of this ability gives Clinkz an opportunity to kill almost any target in the game in a matter of seconds with relative ease, especially under the effects of Death Pact and with Searing Arrows turned on.
The defensive part of the spell, however, doesn’t really do much: there aren’t that many high-impact projectiles in the game and most disables do not fall into that category. Evading four auto-attacks from the enemy also rarely has any impact on the outcome of the fight.
As such, for the most part this ability should be thought of as a damage boost for three and a half seconds for when you are actually trying to deal damage. It can occasionally save you from a Venge stun or the last flying auto-attack of the enemy, but don’t rely on it as much as, for example, Templar Assassin can rely on her Refraction or Windranger can rely on Windrun.
Aui_2000 — one of the few pro-players who tries to make the hero work
The biggest common change to the way the hero is played right now is that Strafe is currently maxed second, rather than last. If previously most Clinkz players generally opted for higher levels of Skeleton Walk to have a massive 44% movement speed boost, currently it is hard to afford: Strafe should be maxed out as soon as possible.
In fact, in many cases going for Strafe after a couple of levels of Searing arrows can prove more beneficial: shorter cooldown and much higher attack speed more than makes up for the marginal increase in damage.
Ultimate should obviously be taken as soon as it is available and Skeleton Walk is more or less a value point until later levels.
When it comes to talent choices, there really isn’t much deviation, with level 15 to 25 talents being more or less set in stone. Interestingly, Clinkz is one of few heroes who generally skips level 10 talent in favor of extra points into his abilities: level 10 gives you a choice between two defensive options and neither of them should realistically come into play if the hero is played correctly.
For level 15 getting extra damage for Searing Arrows is more or less a must, level 20 with 20 extra regen makes a much bigger impact on the outcome of the game while at level 25 extra 4 seconds and 4 extra stacks on Strafe make it a much stronger defensive and pushing ability.
Finally, there is itemization and the community is evenly split in this regard between Scythe of Vyse and Orchid/Bloodthorn+Nullifier combo. Almost all successful Clinkz go for Medallion of Courage and Power Treads and some opt to build Desolator, but when it comes to late game the choice between these two options has to be made.
On one hand the early Nullifier+Orchid combo will yield much higher damage output and solo kill potential. On the other hand, Scythe of Vyse is roughly 3000 gold cheaper and gives the hero all the mana pool and sustain he needs, while providing a situationally superior disable.
Overall, while both approaches are viable, the Scythe way is a lot more reliable for teamfights, since hex can’t be dispelled, while Orchid+Nullifier combo is better for solo hunting. Depending on the game and how available dispel effects are to the enemy team, going for either is a safe bet, but keep in mind that the combo can be ultimately dealt with in the later stages of the game once Lotus Orbs start appearing.
Finally, we come back to our initial question. The hero is quite flexible, does a decent amount of damage and has high impact on the game early enough to be an ok fit for the meta. He doesn’t really have any hard counters, while being a good counter to the most popular item of the pro-circuit, Helm of the Dominator. He can also be played as a split-pusher if needed, with one of the highest potentials for tower burst.
Perhaps the problem lies in his inconsistency: Clinkz can be easily ignored if he doesn’t get a decent enough start and while it is easy enough for him to last hit enemy creeps in the mid lane, actually denying the enemy gold and XP can prove problematic.
Perhaps it is the abundance of alternatives to the hero: ranged carry sounds quite similar to true and tested Gyrocopter and Shadow Fiend, both of which can provide a lot more utility without items and have an easier time farming and coming back into the game if necessary.
Perhaps it is some of the worst level 10 talents in the game. Neither of them gives Clinkz anything extra to work with. He also uses invisibility as initiation or disengaging tool, which is quite unreliable with higher levels of play.
All of these things combined, coupled with potential lack of experience from the professional players, make the hero potentially weak in the pro-circuit and it is understandable why teams might want to avoid him. But while it did hold true for 7.14, 7.15 is likely to bring some small tweaks to the game and Clinkz has all the qualities of a hero who is one buff away from running rampant through both pub and professional scenes.