There is a very distinct trend in Dota: the moment a hero gets more popular, their win rate usually plummets. Dota is a hard game and all heroes have a lot of nuance to them. The exception to this rule occurs when a hero was previously underexplored and underestimated and we feel like it is exactly what happened with Riki.
Riki’s rise in popularity is trivial to explain. The hero received a pretty awesome cosmetic set and is now picked almost twice as much. This effect is not isolated to the lower skill brackets either: even professional players training in their pubs are experiencing it.
Usually these trends weed themselves out in higher level brackets pretty quickly. Players try the hero out because they look cool, get frustrated from losing and drop the hero until the next patch. Riki is a bit different, though, because he is a very good hero to play right now.
Riki has been quite good for a while now. With decent starting movement speed, armor and attack damage, the only thing the hero suffers from is the lack of HP — a problem that solves itself quite quickly since Riki now has a respectable Strength growth per level.
Coupled with great mobility and some slow from two Blink Strike charges, and a way to disjoint some spells with Tricks of the Trade, Riki is a highly elusive and skill intensive hero who can win his lane with most aggressive supports. It is a very high risk, high reward endeavour, but come level four, Riki can be pretty daunting.
It is almost impossible to fight against Riki inside Smoke Screen, even at level one of the ability. The ability also got buffed in terms of level one Radius, making it big enough to cover both enemy heroes and get some free hits in.
Given how Smoke Screen can be used directly out of Tricks of the Trade, Riki can stay relatively safe in lane even against punishing foes. This is extremely important, since the hero has no farming tools and his laning stage can make or break his game: he needs to get his items in a very timely manner.
The Riki build didn’t change all that much. He is still the Diffusal Blade hero who wants to stack as much Agility as possible to deal a lot of damage. The most common and most successful progression is Power Treads into Diffusal Blade, Aghanim’s Shard, and Manta Style or Black King Bar.
There are some early game possibilities that need to be discussed as well. Some professional players enjoy having multiple Wraith Bands early on. It makes a lot of sense if you are facing a high physical damage lane. Come minute 25 Wraith Bands become extremely good in terms of DPS per gold spent, so having a couple early on if they help you win the lane is a good idea.
There is also Orb of Corrosion, which is surprisingly not that popular. This is an item you mostly get in a lane you get to dominate. We talked about how Riki can withstand most laning situations, but actually getting multiple kills is a rarity. With Orb of Corrosion it can be a little bit more probable, but it turns your lane into an even higher risk, higher reward type of situation. Build with care: it is a huge gold commitment in the early game.
For the later portions of the game, once you already have your starting items, most professional players agree that Riki needs an Aghanim’s Scepter. Extra hit, extra cast range, the ability to stay mobile inside a teammate are all nice, but we believe that the main purpose of this Agh’s is to give Riki some teamfight potential.
The problem the hero faces as a position one carry, is at some point he doesn’t contribute enough in a 5v5. Sure, he can quickly kill supports even in the later portions of the game, but his teamfight presence can’t be compared to most conventional carries. With Agh’s it becomes a lot less of a problem, as it turns Tricks of the Trade into something resembling an Omnislash. It gives you a total of ten hits on two targets and with a potential eight second cooldown it becomes very, very good.
It is also one of the reasons some Riki players opt for Octarine Core as their late game item. It gives Tricks of the Trade a 33% uptime and at this point dealing with Riki becomes extremely problematic: a third of the time the hero is hidden and invulnerable, while dealing a substantial amount of damage.
For the reasons above, most Riki players completely ignore the Blink Strike talents, focusing on survivability, utility and then damage. The first two talents taken are usually the Smoke Screen talents, making the ability have a ridiculous radius and an almost 100% uptime even without Octarine.
At level twenty and twenty five, taking extra backstab damage and lower Tricks cooldown is also a no-brainer. The dispel talent at level twenty five is a bit better than people might assume, as it allows Riki to get out of Roots and Leashes. Yet we would still strongly advise going for the cooldown one, even in games against multiple sources of Roots and Leashes.
What do you think of Riki in the current meta? Could he be the answer to heroes like Slark and Ursa, or is he going to get squeezed out of meta by the likes of Naga Siren? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.