Treant Protector currently sits at almost 56% win rate in the highest skill bracket, making him the most successful support after Io. The hero has been absent from competitive scene and high level pubs for a while now, but the return of dual lanes and some direct buffs made the hero a lot more viable.
Treant Protector is very good in 2v2 lane setups. He has almost 800 HP and 90+ damage at level 1, meaning that trading and harassing is something he excels at. He pays for it with excruciatingly slow movement speed, but with the help of Nature’s Guise you either force the enemy to spend gold on sentries or have a way of getting to your target undetected. Neither of these options are particularly great for the enemy.
The hero received some interesting buffs in the recent past: his level 10 talent was changed, now providing more instances of Living Armor damage block, he received an extra tick of Leech Seed and the regeneration of the later levels of Living Armor was also increased.
These buffs, while certainly nice, are unlikely to be the reason for the hero’s sudden resurgence: he is now picked in 7% of highest level pub games, ahead of heroes such as Visage and Lycan.
What made the hero gain a lot of attention is the dual lane status-quo. More equal XP spread between the heroes on a team ensure that Treant Protector can get his levels, even from a support position he is primarily played in.
Treant Protector is greedy. He needs levels, all of his abilities are relatively weak at the beginning, but once they are maxed out they have an immense impact on teamfights, ganks, map control and almost every other aspect of the game.
This greediness is also the reason the hero is better in a pub environment: there is more time for him to get online as a support. In China Supermajor the hero was picked three times, winning only one game.
There are two general builds for the hero: one focusing on maxing Living Armor and supporting your teammates across the map. On focuses on Nature’s Guise and attempts to win the lane as hard as possible.
During the China Supermajor, the first approach was favored by the Chinese team Vici Gaming, where VG.Fenrir would even skip Nature’s Guise altogether, instead concentrating on being a defensive support. This approach certainly didn’t work for Vici Gaming and they lost both games with Treant Protector.
VGJ.Storm.MSS took a different approach, focusing fully on Nature’s Guise and maxing it out by level 7. He also didn’t take any points into Living Armor before level 8, instead getting two points in Leech Seed for superior laning stage. This is the only game in the tournament where Treant Protector won and while the results are inconclusive, given the small sample size, this approach is probably also better for pub environment.
Winning lanes is important at levels of play, but for pub players it is also a motivation boost, a way to prevent early arguments within the team and a way for Support players to make more aggressive and impactful plays. As such, we highly recommend going 4-2-0-1 build by level 7, unless you absolutely know what you are doing.
VG.Fenrir didn’t get to get any items in his games, but given his position in the team it is very likely he would progress through the regular support items, such as Urn of Shadows, Force Staff etc. Relatively inexpensive items with high situational impact.
VGJ.MSS went in a different direction, rushing Meteor Hammer. It is an item that allows you to double down on the aggressive aspects of the hero: you become much better at ganking, almost guaranteeing a follow-up stun after the Nature’s Guise root, and become stronger in teamfights, where Overgrowth on several enemy heroes can allow for some easy extra disables.
Meteor Hammer also opens up some split-pushing capabilities for the hero, as well as a way to farm better. This build is good enough for the highest levels of play and should also work relatively well in pub games.
When it comes to talents, there isn’t really much information coming from the pro-scene. Given how level reliant the hero is and how much his abilities improve with levels, it is probably not uncommon to skip the talent selection at level 10: both 10% cooldown reduction and +2 Living Armor instances are not fully utilized until after all other abilities on the hero are of an appropriate level.
The tree growth talent at level 15 is a weird one, since it doesn’t really offer much in terms of damage, disable or other aspects Dota players should care about. That said, in certain matchups, against heroes like Timbersaw, Enigma or Beastmaster, it can be a worthwhile pick-up. +90 damage is probably a lot more potent and useful in all other situations.
There is very little difference between picking left or right talent at level 20, at least in terms of stats. On practice, root duration is probably better against mobile opponents, while extra heal/damage is superior when you don’t really need extra lockdown, but could use better teamfight presence.
Finally, if you do get to level 25, going for extra Eyes in the Forest and Overgrowth AoE is a safe bet: more vision and bigger AoE for your main teamfight disable make for a very potent combo. And at level 25 Treant Protector is almost guaranteed to have his Aghanim’s Scepter, since the hero doesn’t really need other items, apart from Blink Dagger and potential Meteor Hammer.
Treant Protector requires some degree of understanding to play well: what paths he can take without breaking invisibility at what level of Nature’s Guise is a very important skill that can only come from experience. But as it turns out, the hero is definitely worth exploring and playing: put him in a dual lane against enemy safelaner and watch his early game ruined. Just don’t push it too far.