On the grand stage of premier tournaments is where the meta is proven. Even from one stellar performance on a hero, by a pro player, we can see the pick rate skyrocketing the next day in pub games. But it’s often in the ocean of pub games, where small trends in win rate can be predictors of shifting tides. A small buff to base armor here, a decrease in cooldown there—they can all compound. That was the case with heroes like Juggernaut, Windranger, and Lina, where incremental buffs patch over patch precipitated a rising change in pub win rates, until the point they broke free into the competitive meta.
Clinkz’s win rate has been percolating, ever since patch 7.06 brought the old neutral spawn rate back to every minute and thereby resuscitated the livelihoods of heroes who depended on the jungle. From patch 7.05 to 7.06d, Clinkz’s win rate rose by 2.2% (46.81% to 49.00% currently), a difference significant enough to vault him 25 places up the charts.
In 7.06, Clinkz got his jungle back, and at the same time his Death Pact underwent a rework that threatened his viability. It no longer had 100% uptime from level 3 onwards (86% uptime at level 2). This change is akin to the one to Lone Druid’s Rabid. Both skills are essential to the strength of its heroes, and the change nerfing Rabid’s 100% uptime was instrumental to bumping Lone Druid out of the meta.
In Clinkz’s scenario, Death Pact’s duration extended from 35 to 65 seconds (cooldown 85s). The original duration of 35 seconds was a little awkward. It was short enough such that Clinkz players had to rotate between the jungle in the lane to be able to maintain the Death Pact buff. Sometimes teams would draft Chen such that Clinkz would have a reliable way of maintaining Death Pact in mid to late game scenarios. There isn’t always a creep around when you need it, and you would be forced to settle for a weaker buff by consuming a weaker, lane creep, which can be as low as 1/5th of the buff when compared to consuming a Troll Warlord creep.
The change to Death Pact’s cooldown sacrifices uptime for reliability. There are differing interpretations for reliability here. On one hand, with the longer duration, but a 20 second cooldown, Clinkz players can Death Pact a large creep and have enough juice to push a lane for more than one wave. They just aren’t able to sustain it after that. On the other hand, Death Pact is part of Clinkz survivability as well as his damage, and when the clock ticks down, he has 20 seconds of downtime where he turns back into a pumpkin.
But the original Death Pact also had its moments of unreliability as well. Because the shorter duration often forces Clinkz players to consume lane creeps, 100% uptime isn’t really 100% uptime. It can be 50% uptime at 100% of the buff, and the other 50% at 20% of the buff.
Faceless.Black^’s standard Clinkz build in his match against Mineski
Clinkz has been buffed since the beginning of modern Dota time. The highlights include a net buff of attack range from 600 to 640 (6.83, 6.88), Searing Arrows no longer a Unique Attack Modifier (6.82), opening up item builds towards Desolator or Helm of the Dominator, and Strafe’s attack speed from 50/60/70/80 to 130 (6.63, 6.73, 6.75).
In patch 7.06c, Clinkz received more minor buffs, one to Skeleton Walk (movement speed bonus from 11%/22%/33%/44% to 15%/25%/35%/45%), and another to Death Pact (attack damage bonus from 5%/6.5%/8% to 5%/7%/9% and health bonus from 50%/65%/80% to 50%/70%/90%). For Skeleton Walk, the change is trivial at the upper levels, but it becomes significant at level 1, when the standard build for Clinkz players is to have only one point in Skeleton Walk by level 6 or 7. Clinkz doesn’t need many items to be effective on the map, and it’s usually around this time players can fish for a kill around the map.
As for Death Pact, it’s another small tweak to the rework, in the positive direction. The change here is towards the upper levels of the skills. It might not appear like much, but the difference with a level 3 Death Pact on a Troll Warlord before and after the minor change is +26 damage and +260 hp. These minor changes in the end boosted Clinkz’s win rate by +1.05% from 7.06b to 7.06c.
Before the introduction of Dragon Lance, heroes who could outrange towers used to be an exclusive club (Sniper). Now, everyone can snipe Towers, some faster than others. At 640 base attack range, Clinkz is 4th on the list, behind Techies (700), Ancient Apparition (675) and the only other real threat to towers, Lina (670).
Clinkz has the ability to go undercover and absolutely detonate Towers by his lonesome, an even rarer talent in the era where Towers gain more aura per hero in the vicinity. The inevitable Desolator pickup puts even more pressure on opposing teams to predict Clinkz’s movements and to have an on-call responder to any lane.
The tournaments leading up to TI7 and the qualifiers themselves will be ripe environments for experimental strategies. Clinkz is right there, prone to enter the meta as a niche pick, even if it requires one or two tweaks more.