Dota 2 fans can be forgiven for not noticing, but Riki has quietly become a viable carry at the professional level.
Earlier this year, names like Artour “Arteezy” Babaev and Du “Monet” Peng broke out the stealthy hero and used him to great effect as a carry. Time is showing that this wasn’t just a gimmicky pick that happened to take opponents by surprise, though. The ESL One Los Angeles regional leagues have seen Riki picked more than just a few times, with the hero standing as a potent late-game threat.
This is more than a little bit of a surprise to longtime Dota 2 fans. The hero has long stood almost exclusively as a low-MMR favorite. On the rare occasion where he appeared at the pro level, it was usually as a roaming support.
Seeing Riki used as a carry in pro games remains a surprise, and players are starting to put their own individual spins on the hero. Here are some of the ways top pros have approached the hero.
One of the most popular ways to approach Riki in pro games is the way Arteezy does. Riki has numerous peaks and valleys in terms of his strength in a game of Dota 2.
His squishiness in the early game is a major liability before Riki can level up his spells to the point where he becomes elusive. He spikes in power after he picks up Diffusal Blade, but he dips down from there against many team compositions. But if Riki has the time to become sufficiently farmed, there are few heroes that can match his physical damage output.
Pro players like Arteezy and Monet didn’t necessarily try to remedy this through itemization. Instead, they focused on being as rich as possible for the late game.
This calls for players to go from a Diffusal Blade to a Battlefury. This is otherwise unheard of, as Battlefury is traditionally an item that is meant to pay for itself through increased farming efficiency. Diffusal Blade remains too important for Riki, to the point where it absolutely needs to come in early.
That results in something of a dip for Riki, but a third item purchase with an appropriate neutrai item transforms Riki into a real force. Items like Black King Bar, Butterfly, and Aghanim’s Scepter all give him increased damage output from there, as well as stats that he can make great use of.
Picking the right item build is difficult, as it needs to be determined based on the strengths of the enemy team, the composition of Riki’s own team, and the overall state of the game. That said, Riki is panning out to be a far greater late game threat than anyone has given him credit for.
The core build for Riki that was used by Arteezy and Monet remains a strong option and appeared on a number of occasions during ESL One Los Angeles, with Fnatic’s Nuengnara “23savage” Teeramahanon using it as a go-to. Other players took a different approach, though.
Team Nigma’s Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi utilizes a build that starts the same, with early game items being followed with a quick Diffusal Blade. Instead of going for a Battlefury however, Miracle- went in a more conventional direction with a Manta Style. Manta offers Riki a lot, giving increased movement speed, good stats, a strong purge, and the ability to disjoint projectiles.
From there, Miracle- went for Black King Bar to improve Riki’s survivability while also adding a bit of extra damage and tankiness.
Miracle- was far from alone in this build choice. Though some players put their own spin on it, like going for Sange and Yasha over Manta Style or getting BKB before purchasing Yasha, this build path provides a boost that helps Riki avoid the mid-game slump that long made him a liability in most pro games.