A Look Back on Ember Spirit
Once upon a time Ember Spirit had a win rate close to 40%. He debuted in the "Repick Tier" of our first Pub Tier List. He was featured on the front page of r/Dota2, under the title "Why is Ember Spirit So Bad?". Ember Spirit was bad because we were bad. Like Earth Spirit, Ember is a high skill cap hero with great versatility, provided you knew what to do with him. It's safe to say we didn't know then.
Today, he's climbed close to a 45% win rate. With zero changes to the hero since then, it seems like we've learned to play him a little bit better, but there's still more to know, especially due to his rising popularity in the professional scene. He's been called for nerfs by Cloud 9, a team that exclusively picked him throughout the Monster Energy Invitational. Take a look at Arteezy's Dotabuff and you'll also see he's been diligently practicing his Ember. Other pro players, such as Dendi, Ferrari_430, TC, and Scandal have also showcased their Ember Spirit skills in recent games in Starladder and JD Leagues.
Abilities and Trends
Here's one of our graphs from our new ability builds page. By far the the most popular and successful early builds for ES is maxing Flame Guard first. If you're going with max Flame Guard, it's important to note that the 1st point is fairly worthless. It may be common sense that a 50 damage shield is trivial compared to the value of Sleight of Fists or Searing Chains, but first point in Flame Guard is seen in 46% of Ember games.
One of Ember's greatest strengths is his versatility. He can be played offensively, defensively, and in any lane. His flexibility can be seen in how all top Ember Spirit players skill. Though pros like Ferrari_430 and Scandal usually opt to max Flame Guard, you also have players like SingSing and Dendi who eschew it for early points in Searing Chains.
Most players will stop with three points in Searing Chains then max out other skills. The third point adds one second to its duration, a 50% increase in lockdown and damage.
The competitive circuit has seen a lot of Ember play, but we're also seeing this in pubs as well, with a recent spike in the pick rate of Ember Spirit. In the last 30 days, his popularity has risen by nearly 40%, reaching the 32nd most picked of all heroes, from 8.85% to 12.56% of all games.
It makes me a little sad that Drum of Endurance nor Ring of Aquila isn't seen as commonly picked in pubs. Drums I have to admit is one of my favorite items for most heroes. It enables early game aggression, sustainability, which fits well with Ember's strengths. He can be played as a passive safe lane farmer (damage items scale very well on Ember), but where's the fun in that?
Battlefury is a given for Ember because of how Sleight of Fists can cleave each unit. However, an early Desolator is also a nice pick up for a team looking for mid-game ganks and push. You'll have to make your decisions early. Are you going to contribute now or later?
For a small period of time, Arcane Boots was a hot item. To be fair it does fix his mana issues, but let your supports build it, and abuse your Fire Remnants to TP to base to heal and return to your lane. Phase Boots gives Ember some chase, as well as adding some damage for Sleight of Fists.
Sleight of Fists has a 0 second cast point, which you can think of it as a Phase Shift that can also harass and kill. It also has absurd range and AoE. Use it to harass from long range, dodge when being initiated, or even reveal units in trees.
Ember is quite squishy. He has naturally low armor and can explode very quickly to opposing carries. Abuse the low CD and high range of Sleight of Fists. In team fights you'll rarely want to jump in the middle.
Fire Remnants can help you escape, chase, and nuke heroes, but they also let you heal and return to your lane. In my opinion this is fairly underused. Always carry a TP. Place a Remnant, TP back to base to heal and fill your bottle, then pop back into the lane. It's this zero downtime in his farming that makes him especially powerful in competitive play. Sometimes a failed gank on carries can disrupt their tempo--they have to heal. But with Ember, he's able to move on like nothing happened.
You can use Searing Chains during Sleight of Fists. Today this is commonly known, but it needs to be abused more. With the low cd of both spells, you can spam it casually to harass supports out of lane. One Sleight/Chain combo in the mid-game can knock a support down to 50-75% HP.
I believe Ember Spirit is especially powerful, in the right hands. Even though he has a high skill cap, he can still be effective in the hands of an average player. You don't have to squeeze the most potential out of him to be effective. Sleight of Fists is nearly a no risk skill. He definitely deserves a higher win rate than 45%. Lately we've been seeing a lot of success with him in competitive play, and hopefully we'll see the same in our pubs soon!