Up until The International 2012, Luna has been a rare pick in the competitive Dota 2 scene since her introduction to the game. Even at The International, she was only picked eight times including the group stages, and five of those picks she was played by Chen “Zhou” Yao from Invictus Gaming. He was very successful with the hero winning four of the five matches he played with her, whereas Xu “DK.BurNIng” Zhilei, Daryl “Zenith|iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang and Rasmus “CLG|MiSeRy” Felipsen all lost when they picked her. She was played with one role in mind, a hard carry who required the most amount of gold on the team in order to dish out damage to creep waves, enemy heroes and buildings with her Moon Glaives. The success Zhou found with the hero was due to the build he designed for her, which made clever use of her strengths and differed greatly from her previous builds. iceiceice’s build pushed the hero in a another direction using Hand of Midas to boost her gold and experience gain. He hoped to sacrifice the early game for the late game. Taking a look at these two builds can compare and contrast the two different playstyles.
Image courtesy of BigBen3000
Before continuing with this article it would be most beneficial if you are not familiar with the specifics of the hero to look up the details of her base stats and skills. There are a few pieces of information I would like to highlight. Firstly, she has a very high base movement speed, which gives her the ability to be highly mobile across the map. This couples well with her Moon Glaives which can bounce up to 4 times at a radius of 500 with a damage reduction of 30% after each bounce. Combining these two factors, she has the ability to farm and split-push effectively. Also, this allows her, once outside of a tier 3 tower, to damage heroes and buildings at potential range of 2000 with right-clicks. Effectively, however, this range drops as there are only a few situations where buildings or heroes are spread apart a distance of 500 and the glaives bounce appropriately. Couple her Eclipse area of effect with Moon Glaives and a large area of effect spell from another hero such as Tidehunter’s Ravage, which was used in both of the matches I am going to examine in detail, she can be a powerful addition to a teamfight.
The two matches I will examine are Team Zenith vs. LGD-Gaming where iceiceice played Luna.
The second match is Invictus Gaming vs. Evil Geniuses where Zhou picked her up.
Both of these games have a few similar components. Most notably both games progressed to past the 40 minute mark where hard carries should have their big items, paired Luna with Tidehunter, and faced her against Morphling. These two games were decided by the relevance of the hard carry late into the match, which means that Luna’s item build played an important role in the outcome. The skill build was very similar between Zhou and iceiceice, so it would be difficult to draw conclusions from the skill order. The only major difference is that iceiceice put two points into stats rather than Lunar Blessing earlier into the match. For these reasons, these two matches are a strong ground to analyze the effectiveness of Zhou’s build versus iceiceice’s.
Early Game (0-10 minutes)
Line-up: Team Zenith vs. LGD-Gaming
Line-up: Invictus Gaming vs. Evil Geniuses
Both matches began with Luna having the freedom to farm as she pleases. Zenith ran a defensive trilane in the safe lane against a solo Nature’s Prophet and iG ran a dual hard lane with Rubick and Luna versus Bounty Hunter. The item builds differed from the beginning. The Singaporean superstar decided to start with some tangoes and a Ring of Basilius in the first few minutes of the match whereas Zhou picked up branches and a set of Tranquil Boots by 4 minutes. Since both Lunas had free farm and weren’t under harassment from the enemy, neither of these items provided either of them with too much utility in the early part of the match, however, the decision to pick up Tranquil Boots by Zhou made Luna the guaranteed fastest hero on the map with her own source of healing. This provided her with a means to escape from an oncoming gank, something that the hero lacks as compared to Anti-Mage or Morphling, and a means to deal with the short attack range. Her range is the shortest of all ranged heroes. Luna is extremely vulnerable with the lowest number of hit points (435) at level 1 in the entire pool of agility heroes. Clinkz, Weaver, and Shadow Fiend also share the same number of starting hit points. Clinkz and Weaver can account for this by having a reliable escape via invisibility, but Luna and Shadow Fiend must rely on other means to stay alive. Shadow Fiend is capable of dishing out an incredible amount of damage early on, which helps protect him, but the only thing that can save Luna is her movement speed.
Basilius, which was picked up by Zhou next, is almost a required early game item due to a combination of the power of Lucent Beam as a means to harass the enemy out of lane and Luna’s small mana pool. At 9 minutes Zhou built it into a Ring of Aquila and purchased a Bracer giving him a comfortable cushion of HP and additional damage from the items' stats.
On the other hand, iceiceice picked up a Hand of Midas and Power Treads first, then a Helm of the Dominator as his third item, but he did not have it as part of the early game. This left him with little recourse to sustain harassment in lane, which could have been a risk. Even if he picked up Helm of the Dominator earlier, it would not have provided him much benefit since his aim in the early game was to only pick up last hits, thereby limiting the benefit of lifesteal. Moving into the jungle with lifesteal was also not an option at this stage of the match because the supports were using the creeps in the jungle to gain both gold and experience. As it turns out the defensive trilane they decided on during the drafting phase succeeded and iceiceice was uncontested, so in this particular situation Zenith did not need to put survivability-based items on Luna because they devoted two heroes to protecting iceiceice from taking harassment in the early game.
If we take a closer look at Tranquil Boots and Power Treads we can see how each item plays a role in the build strategy of each player. Tranquil Boots (1025 gold) offers +3 HP Regeneration, +3 Armor, +80 Movement speed and an active ability with a 40 second cooldown which replenishes 170HP over 10 seconds. The item is geared absolutely for mobility and survivability in the earlier parts of the game, but can become less useful in the later stages. Fortunately they can be disassembled and built into either Power Treads or Boots of Travel in the latter parts of the match with a loss of only 262 gold if the components are sold. Power Treads (1450 gold) provide +8 Selected Attribute, +25 Attack Speed, and +60 Movement Speed which makes them the best boots for a build focused around stats, right-click attacks, or jungling. Mixed with Helm of the Dominator (1850 gold) and Midas (1900 gold) in the middle part of the game iceiceice had a stronger potential to farm lanes and the jungle if left alone.
Taking a look at the benefits of each build at the end of the 10 minute mark, Zhou had +3 HP regeneration, +4 Armor, +80 Movement Speed, +9 Strength, +9 Agility, +6 Intelligence, +12 Damage, and iceiceice had +55 attack speed, +60 Movement Speed, and +8 for selected attribute. While iceiceice was able to attack at a faster rate, he did not nearly have the mobility, survivability, or potential damage output that Zhou possessed. Although Hand of Midas is an investment, the risk was that iceiceice would have to be more careful in choosing engagements. This may be part of the reason why iceiceice decided to put points into stats.
Mid Game (10-30 minutes)
As the mid game hit Zenith managed to be able to wipe the entire LGD team. This, however, was not so much a product of their build on Luna, but poor decision making from LGD. Zenith were grouped as five and were able to catch out one hero at a time as LGD arrived to the fight, a classic mistake in communication. While this does give them a much needed boost in gold and experience, and iceiceice picks up a Helm of the Dominator, the advantage is short lived. As soon as LGD respawn they march down the middle lane and take a tier 2 tower nearly uncontested.
Losing Tier 2 Tower:
Conversely, Zhou was able to run with his team and push down towers at the 10 minute mark, and he immediately finished a Drum of Endurance which gave him more survivability in teamfights as well as made him and his teammates 5% faster. The two auras, one from the Drum and the other from Lunar Blessing, coupled well with Nightstalker who needs all of the movement speed and right click damage he can get in order to chase down enemies. At 14 minutes iG was able to take a teamfight coupling Ravage and Eclipse.
The trend in playstyle at The International, especially with Morphling, was to use the carry in the mid game to gain the upper hand in teamfights. iceiceice’s build at this point does not allow him to stand in teamfights since the lifesteal that came from Helm of the Dominator did not provide him with enough protection to withstand a focused attack, nor was he able to deal enough damage to make effective use of lifesteal.
Zhou, on the other hand, had taken part in teamfights and gained a significant amount of gold and experience from kills and subsequent tower pushes. His build allowed him to grow at a more even rate as compared to iceiceice who planned on growing slowly at the start with an accelerated growth towards the end of the mid-game moving into the late game. Unfortunately for Zenith, this slow early growth caused them to lose too much map control, thereby limiting the number of locations iceiceice had available to farm.
As the mid-game progressed it became apparent that Zenith was afraid to initiate on LGD. Unfortunately, their hesitation became engagement opportunities for LGD. It was at this point where iceiceice had trouble continuing to farm the larger items he needed to roll through LGD. Even with a Black King Bar and Aegis of the Immortal at 23 minutes, Zenith still lose a teamfight and their middle melee barracks at 35 minutes. iceiceice had little offensive power or survivability and relied solely on the stat growth of the hero and her abilities in order to deal damage, which was not sufficient against both Morphling and Chaos Knight.
For Zhou at an earlier time in-game, around the 20 minute mark, he is able to withstand damage in a teamfight while dishing it out himself. He grabs a double kill, and shortly after at 23 minutes both Morphling and Luna have a Black King Bar and iG is able to finish off Morphling without losing Luna, however it was mostly due to poor positioning.
Luna Double Kill
Luna Kills Morphling
At the end of the mid game at 35 minutes the items on Luna for iceiceice were: Helm of the Dominator, Power Treads, Hand of Midas, Black King Bar, but no Aegis of the Immortal as it was burned in a lost teamfight just before the 35 minute mark. This build provided +55 attack speed, +60 Movement Speed, and +8 for selected attribute, 15% lifesteal, +44 Damage, +5 Armor, and +10 Strength and cost 9100 gold (+250 for the cost of the Basilius).
As for Zhou, his build was: Ring of Aquila, Tranquil Boots, Black King Bar, Manta Style, Drum of Endurance, and Aegis of the Immortal. This provided +32 Strength, +46 Agility, +22 Intelligence, +42 Damage, +4 Armor, +3 HP regeneration, +80 and +10% Movement Speed and +15 Attack Speed and cost 12535 gold. Suffice to say that at this point in the game the advantage Zhou had during the early game and mid game due to his build allotted him more gold than iceiceice despite the investment in the Hand of Midas. Perhaps if the progression of the match allowed either player to free farm until the 30 minute mark the amount of gold each player had might have leveled out. However, in competitive matches and especially with regard to the specific trends seen at The International 2012, it was highly unlikely that a carry would have the ability to farm freely for that length of time.
Late Game (35 minutes - End of Match)
By now a direct comparison between iceiceice’s and Zhou’s Luna build isn’t possible due to the discrepancies in the match. Zhou with a Manta Style and full map control was much more powerful than iceiceice. iceiceice was able to finish his Manta Style and a Butterfly by the end of the match, but Chaos Knight with a Heart of Tarrasque and a successful Morphling was too much to handle. iceiceice could not deal enough damage to push Chaos Knight away from their final tier 3 tower. Zenith lose to LGD shortly after that engagement.
By 40 minutes Zhou is able to finish a Butterfly and with a successful push has enough money to purchase a Satanic outright. The Satanic with a whopping 175% lifesteal active ability can be an effective item for Luna due to her Moon Glaives, but she has to have both the armor and damage from a Butterfly before it can be truly effective. Due to the extremely high cost of the item (6150 gold) it is not an item that should be expected before the very late parts of the game. Also, since the +25 strength does not provide much benefit to Luna as an agility carry, the choice of a Butterfly with +30 agility (and 35% evasion) makes much more sense for the first big late game item purchase. For this reason picking up Helm of the Dominator (1850 gold) early with the expectation of building it into a Satanic is not a good choice over the Drum of Endurance (1725 gold). With both a Butterfly and a Satanic there wasn’t anything that could stop Zhou’s Luna and iG are able to win the match against EG.
Written by Justin Blau