At ESL One Genting, Naga Siren was played a total 12 times—far from the most popular hero, but the tournament champions Newbee played her 9 of those times, ending with an 8-1 record. Naga is one of Dota’s earliest iconic heroes, infamously part of “The Play,” in an era where sleeping units could be moved (capitalized by Dark Seer’s vacuum). She was notably played as a carry—a split farmer who rushed Radiance and Boots of Travel, eventually snowballing into an embarrassment of riches. In the hands of capable players, she threatened to create so much space with her illusions and split push that she also cannibalized her own team’s farm.
But her role as a support hero, in position 4, is an interesting development. While many heroes are flexible in various core roles, there are few that can shift from position 1 to 4. She was initially popularized by EG, in the hands of Aui_2000, and quickly faded away after post-TI nerfs. Now, Naga is in the midst of a revival.
It’s been a tough time for illusion heroes, who have seen their images getting weaker. Illusions across the board have had their damage reduced and their HP lowered, but Naga Siren had a few changes that mitigated these nerfs.
Patch 6.87 buffed Mirror Image’s damage (from 20/25/30/35% to 25/30/35/40%), 7.06 rescaled its damage taken (600/500/400/300 to 550/500/450/400) and by 7.07c she had two talents that altered her illusions (Level 10, +10% image damage and Level 20, +1 illusion). In this same period, her other skills and stats gained buffs as well.
On some of the largest changes, from patch 7.06e to 7.07c her base regen went from 0.5 to 3.0. In 7.06, Rip Tide gained back some of the damage it lost in 6.85, and in 7.05, Ensnare had its mana cost rescaled from 100 to 70/80/90/100. After these changes—compounded with increases Agility gain, Strength gain, and base mana regeneration—Naga became a more durable hero in the lane and more effective at earlier levels.
isGG’s farmed support Naga opting for the mid-late game support build
Since patch 6.84, there have been a slew of changes that have given new life to old meta heroes. Talents offered avenues for support heroes to maintain relevance through the mid and late game. For Naga, it meant that she could maintain a support role without needing to pivot to a core, even if that was still an option. The introduction of an Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade, a buffed Urn in Spirit Vessel, and an easy setup with Meteor Hammer helped spark support Naga’s revival.
It’s not just that Naga is stronger on her own, but how she fits with the heroes of today’s meta. In the final match of Newbee vs. Liquid at ESL One Genting, we saw the detriments of picking Tinker into a Naga lineup. The same tournament we also saw how devastating a Disruptor-Sleep combo can be—the usual pairing favored by Newbee.
In another wrinkle, Naga is also being used in pushing lineups. She combos well with split pushers like Lycan or Terrorblade, by creating pressure on the different area of the map. A hero like Lycan warrants a stout response from the enemy team. If Naga has enough help pressuring the other side of the map, she can function like a decoy—using Sleep as a delay tactic while a split-pushing hero takes down towers.
Naga Siren picks used to illicit snores from the crowd. The hero signaled long games, passive farming, and delaying for the inevitable eight slotted hero to roll down the lane. In the ongoing DAC 2018 qualifiers, she's being picked across all regions (15th most contested), despite having a win rate close to 40%. Her increased usage today, as a support, adds an exciting dynamic to the game. The suspense of a Sleep combo is what creates moments like “The Play.” There's the countdown, the expectation of a well-executed combo, and the possibility that it could all go wrong.