Just when you thought he had exhausted every trick up his sleeve, Sun Wukong brings one out from the most unexpected of places.
A Change of Course
Day two of the Dota 2 Asia Championships main event has concluded. The tournament has produced some epic matches so far, and is already looking to be on par with its predecessor — if not even better. Out of all the story lines developing so far, though, the one that really stands out is Monkey King being played not as a farming core, but rather as a roaming support that takes advantage of long range stuns and incredible mobility from the outset.
After being enabled in Captains Mode in patch 7.03, Monkey King has gone from the top of his perch as one of the most powerful skillshot carries in the game, to his current flavor-of-the-month playstyle as a position four support. Despite being well below the top 15 heroes in terms of the number of picks, he currently boasts a mind-boggling 60% win rate (give or take) at DAC 2017, the second highest among heroes that have been seen in at least 30 games so far (tied with Terrorblade).
So it’s pretty clear that the hero’s current incarnation is highly effective. What exactly is it about him that makes him so good as an early roamer? Two of his abilities, namely Boundless Strike and Tree Dance, go hand-in-hand in this regard.
From On High, the King Sees All
Tree Dance allows Monkey King to perch on top of any tree within the 1000 unit cast radius, giving him the cover of high ground fog of war and 800 flying vision. He can leap from tree to tree as long as he isn’t taking any damage; the skill goes on cooldown like Blink Dagger does upon detecting attacks that connect successfully. When perched, Tree Dance allows Monkey King to use Primal Spring, a channeled AoE slow that becomes more potent in both damage and movespeed slow the longer it’s wound up.
The skill’s use in the first 10 minutes of the game is obvious: constantly pressure the lane by being a threat that can come down on enemy heroes at almost any given moment. The ability to bypass terrain that would otherwise force you to take the long way around also helps out a lot. 100 damage coupled with a 30% slow isn’t anything to scoff at in the early game, by any means, and works best when used in conjunction with other good early game nukes.
Jumping onto trees also costs zero mana. That’s right — it’s totally free. This means that Monkey King can constantly re-position himself in the shadows without ever having to worry about having to come down due to a lack of mana. Nothing more that a support hero could ask for early on.
Tree Dance’s utility in the early game can be seen in this highlight reel from Invictus Gaming’s BoBoKa, hailed as the best Monkey King player at DAC so far:
Boundless Strike: Wukong’s signature skill and the bane of squishy ranged heroes. Monkey King extends his mystical staff forward, dealing critical strike damage and stunning enemy units for 2 seconds at max level. With a cast range of 1200 and an effective length of the same amount, it is one of the furthest-reaching ground target stuns in the game.
This is what lets Monkey King act like a ranged support in teamfights and small skirmishes alike. Having a fairly reliable stun that reaches this far out at level 1 used to be something only heroes like Earthshaker could brag about — and we all know that hero is in a sorry place in the metagame these days. Add 140% critical strike damage on top and you’ve got a great early game ganking package.
The crit also means that it scales nicely into the mid and late game. In fact, despite being commonly played in the 4 slot, Monkey King is built as a secondary or even tertiary carry. Items like Desolator are used to supplement Boundless Strike’s damage past the first 20 minutes of the game, making it so that the hero doesn’t simply fall off and become nothing but a disabler that can only play the part every 25 seconds (Boundless Strike’s cooldown). We mentioned Earthshaker as a comparable hero in terms of having long range stuns, but the key difference is that Fissure deals a fixed amount of damage whereas Boundless Strike does not.
Most importantly, though, the range on the ability gives Monkey King the reach he needs to lock heroes down in teamfights and dish out a heap of burst damage. This is good for a melee hero playing the 4 support, and in that sense he becomes kind of like Earth Spirit but less about disrupting the enemy’s formation through forced positioning. Once his core items are online, Monkey King can even delete supports from 1200 range out.
The Finishing Touch
The two aforementioned abilities help Monkey King become a mobile, aggressive force in the early game, but special attention should be directed to his ultimate, Wukong’s Command. Perhaps one of the best zoning ultimates in the game right now, Wukong’s Command carries secondary attack effects over to the Monkey King clones. Apart from the damage dealing and zoning capabilities of the skill, the fact that it applies secondary effects means that Basher becomes incredibly useful in Monkey King’s hands. It seems like a small thing on paper, but in practice, it becomes very, very annoying. Let EG’s zai show you the way
To sum things up, Monkey King has transformed into a very effective, almost infuriating greedy support that is actually worth banning against certain teams. His role is no longer that of a damage-focused one or two position hero, but rather a disruptive, frustrating early to mid game threat that scales very well in games that go 50 minutes or longer. He’s got plenty going for him: mobility, respectable damage that can be improved with items alone, and best of all, the ability to outrange actual ranged heroes in teamfights with his amazing space control over long distances.
All of this combined forms a perfect example of players adapting a hero’s playstyle to something far removed from what it was originally designed to be — a factor that sets Dota apart from the rest of the MOBA genre. The average Dota player might look at Monkey King’s kit and think that he was meant to be a mid or even a carry, but put in some innovative thinking (with some nerfs added in) and suddenly he looks quite different. Truly, Sun Wukong was born for mischief, and we’re seeing it on full display in this tournament.