Winter Wyvern was one of the strongest heroes ever released in Dota 2. Her ultimate used to combine the best parts of Reverse Polarity and Black Hole, without channeling, but still having an ability to disable targets who would get into the AoE after the initial cast. More than three years later, this once overpowered hero is virtually non-existent in the professional scene and is not doing too well in pubs either.
The big problem lies in how specific this hero is. A very long set of conditions has to be met for the hero to be the best option for your team and even then she has to be played quite well to outdo the other, simpler options. Knowing the hero very well and playing her almost perfectly is hard and doesn’t necessarily pay off consistently, at least not in the current meta.
But let’s assume that you have to play the hero. Maybe she is a daily hero challenge, maybe she is blocking you progress path towards the next Cavern Crawl room, or is simply a part of your All Hero Challenge. Regardless of why you would want to play the hero, here is a quick guideline on how to play her at least somewhat decently.
The hero is in a much better state currently, compared to how she was before patch 7.10 hit. Since then the hero has received a series of buffs, making her a more reliable lane support and increasing her gank potential. With manacost on two of her ganking and harassing abilities reduced, she does feel quite potent, especially in 2v2 lane scenarios.
There are two main ways to level the hero up: roughly half the players opt to max out Arctic Burn first, while the other half prefers Splinter Blast. Given that Splinter Blast now has a static 30% MS slow, while the one on Arctic Burn scales up to 40%, the former option is almost always superior.
Arctic Burn is more reliable, will likely deal more damage and has higher utility. Moreover, its cooldown gets reduced significantly with extra levels and it does not suffer from increased manacost of extra levels, as Splinter Blast does. The latter is a much better farming and outpushing tool and is generally more needed at later levels.
Regardless of what path you choose, however, getting a point of Cold Embrace by level four is almost mandatory: it is a great lane stabilizer, it can allow for very clutch saves on teammates and can be quite helpful during pushes, extending the lifespan of your catapult by forcing more attacks on a regular creep.
The first two abilities the hero has are quite effective against most opponents. Movement speed slow and some nuke damage — it doesn’t get much simpler than that. The hero’s ultimate and Cold Embrace, however, are only good in some very specific scenarios.
When it comes to Cold Embrace, the spell is in a really bad spot right now. Given how good and popular Maelstrom is, the amount of Magic damage in the meta is very high, even in right-click oriented lineups. Couple it with the popularity of Leshrac, Gyrocopter and Luna, all of which deal a considerable amount of magic damage, and Cold Embrace becomes a lot less of a saving spell and becomes an in-between fights sustain ability.
Recent buffs to Winter’s Curse, however, have made it into something your opponents will have to keep in mind. It is primarily a disengage tool, or a setup one, but late into the game it can easily wipe out an enemy support. Actively seek a way to use Winter’s Curse as an instant kill on an enemy support, but do not hesitate to use it as a setup or a disengage.
The way Dota works at the highest level often involves good vision and positioning to quickly engage the enemy and kill one or two targets, before getting into the scrappy teamfight. This is the reason vision is key and it also why heroes like Night Stalker are constantly at the top of the popularity in the current meta.
If you can force an engagement with a quick kill as a support, while setting up for a follow-up AoE disable, you are doing a lot of work as Winter Wyvern. Same goes for when your team is getting initiated on and you can provide several seconds of breathing room for your teammates to regroup and figure out whether they want to continue the engagement.
In a sense, think of Winter’s Curse as a more aggressive Song of the Siren with a much smaller AoE. Be careful when using it, but make sure you don’t wait too long before allowing your teammate’s escape, if they got initiated on.
Winter Wyvern needs two items to be very effective: Glimmer Cape and Blink Dagger. The former more or less ensures your teammate’s survival, since with it you can prevent almost all incoming damage against them. The latter greatly extends your range of initiation and, perhaps more importantly, allows you to position yourself very far back and counter-initiate without being scared of being the primary target of enemy initiation.
There are numerous situational items, of course and they include but not restricted to Force Staff against melee carries who can be kited, Eul’s, for when you need to deal with silences or other harmful debuffs, or even Lotus Orb or Linken’s Sphere, if you can afford one.
Recent changes to manacost of hero’s abilities also made Soul Ring not as necessary as it was previously. For the most part, especially if you are not maxing out Splinter Blast, Winter Wyvern should have enough mana to harass the enemy in lane and still have enough for a potential gank or a teamfight. Waiting for Arcane Boots is a reality on the hero.
We often end our posts with some words of praise for how a certain hero is a good way to climb MMR or generally win more games and unfortunately we can’t say the same about Winter Wyvern. The hero is not bad by any means and she has her place in the game: she deal exceptionally well with Lycan and Beastmaster summons, she can work wonders against Void initiations and can generally be a pain for the enemy team. But most of it is highly unreliable and apart from her ultimate she doesn’t offer any hard disable.
Lion, Shadow Shaman, Witch Doctor, Bane, Disruptor and many other supports all offer more straightforward ways to play the game. You throw a stun, deal some damage, disable a crucial target, allow for initiation etc. and most of it isn’t reliant on the enemy being positioned in a certain way or having a massive right-clicking carry that can easily kill his own support.
Winter Wyvern’s kit makes her a silver bullet, a hyper-specific hero that can do incredible things in every 10 games she is played in. And with pub meta currently being in a full agreement that supports should be picked first, there is no place for a hero who isn’t at her best in the majority of games.