Every year after the International community gets into a weird state we will call post-TI blues. There is no more amazing Dota to watch, no more teams to root for and the only entertainment we get are the roster shuffle rumors. This state is further exacerbated by players catching up to the International meta and abusing the hell out of the most popular meta hero, making pubs all look and feel the same.
This year it is Alchemist’s turn. The hero is picked in every third high-level pub game, despite being a ban nominee in pretty much every single one. He farms fast, comes online before any other core and can take over the map in a matter of twenty minutes. He is annoying, doesn’t take much skill to play effectively and losing to him is soul-crushing. But is he really overpowered?
~56% win rate in the Immortal bracket is well above average—there is no denying the hero is strong. However there were heroes who at one point dwarfed this value, but didn’t provoke a major outcry from the community. So, the first advice is “don’t be scared and don’t give up until the game is over”.
Sure, the game is going to be annoying and it is going to be tough, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. In fact, the psychological factor is something that probably wins Alchemist at least some of his games, since every lost fight against this hero is incredibly tilt-inducing.
Stay calm, stay collected and think of how you can win the game, instead of trying to find someone to blame in the previous fight and how everything is really, really bad after it. It might be bad, someone might have messed up, but does this information really help you right now?
Alchemist doesn’t fall off in the current patch as he used to previously. Part of it is the new build, that focuses on dealing auto-attack damage, part of it is the reworked Aghanim’s Scepter, but in terms of DPS the hero can more or less scale indefinitely, or at least help his team scale. He is still a Net Worth pinata, though, and one or two kills on him can completely turn around the economic disadvantage.
Instead of concentrating on your past mistakes, try to look for mistakes from your opponent. There are games you can’t win, but there absolutely no games the enemy can’t lose.
The current Alchemist build is pretty much set in stone, at least in public matchmaking. Alchemists rush Radiance, get Black King Bar and/or Blink Dagger and then go for Assault Cuirass. The average timing for this “set” is around 22 minutes.
This set of items gives the hero armor, initiation, damage and magic immunity, making him a very hard target to deal with, while extra movement speed from his ultimate increases his chase potential. It is ill advised to try to fight this monster.
That said, he isn’t as scary without his ultimate and that has a fixed duration of 25 seconds. Black King Bar also gets shorter and shorter over time, while Octarine Core is pretty rare on the hero these days. Even when Alchemist hits his timings, there are 30 seconds after each ultimate usage, where he is slow, doesn’t have regeneration and can be a target.
If you get initiated on by Alchemist who already popped his ultimate and BKB, cut your losses and run. If BKB wasn’t used, try to force it and, once again, run. Your team will most likely lose at least one member, but it is better than trying to fight when you are not ready, and losing more.
Similarly, if you are the ones initiating and don’t have enough items and levels yet to kill Alchemist fast, force his BKB and ultimate usage and disengage as cleanly as possible. You don’t want to fight Alchemist or his team when he is at his peak. Your fights at this stage of the game should be mostly about stalling and surviving.
This applies to both macro and micro aspects of the game. It is reasonable to give up map control for some extra time. It is reasonable to let your teammates die, if you don’t have saves. It is reasonable to skip defending outer towers, if that means your team doesn’t get wiped.
You get thirty seconds every minute or so to fight back, which isn’t too bad. The most important part is the coordination and the precision of the attack. Discuss your plans with your team when the Alchemists ulti is still going, so that everyone understands what to do, once it is over.
The best solution, generally, is to hit the backlines, isolating a target and killing it off before the enemy gets to react. Alchemist is a strong hero, but given the charge-based nature of Unstable Concoction, it is really hard for him to save his teammates. If you can kill a target quickly enough, he is either going to be forced to use a low-value stun, or will have to sacrifice his teammate.
If timed correctly, your attack should start when Alchemists ultimate is over and that means he is a relatively slow target that can be kited and killed. Depending on whether his BKB was used previously and whether you have enough damage, it might be a good idea to try to focus him down. Otherwise, your goal is to safely hit the targets the furthest from Alchemist or to disengage.
There is a reason the word “disengage” has been repeated so many times. Alchemist scales decently well in terms of DPS, but his stats growth is still very low and his survivability doesn’t really improve with levels that much.
As long as Alchemist isn’t actively winning, he is slowly losing, despite his ability to gift Aghanim’s. If your team can prevent him from taking the highground for long enough, he will eventually stop being as much of a problem, even with his ultimate up.
In fact, the aforementioned 22 minute mark is possibly the hero’s biggest power spike. If you can survive it without throwing your lives away unnecessarily, while slowly building up your own strength and strategically killing his teammates for extra gold, experience, Spirit Vessel charges and, most importantly, extra game duration, your chances of winning start to increase.
Later on, all the rules of team fights against Alchemist still apply and it is still unnecessary to engage him with his ultimate up unless you are forced to, but sooner or later, you will have the tools to focus him down for a massive payoff. Repeat this process for as long as necessary to get a foothold in the game, use buybacks if your highground is threatened and go on the offensive only after the opponent’s mistake.
This is a rather generalized post about dealing with Alchemist aimed at situations where you didn’t manage to crush the Alchemist lane, invade his jungle, get a Spirit Vessel before Alchemist’s Black King Bar and don’t have Ancient Apparition on your team. It doesn’t discuss the best case scenarios, but rather outlines the best course of action in the worst case scenario.
For the most part, it should apply to most snowball heroes in the game. Dota rewards patience, but too often we see players engaging in unnecessary teamfights or trying to save dead teammates and Alchemist is simply the most punishing hero to make mistakes against.
Naturally, he forces a lot of mistakes from the enemy, since his timings allow him to go highground earlier than most heroes, but as long as you can coordinate with your team and use guerilla warfare tactics, you can stall the game and as long as you stall the game, you are not losing.