Chen received one of the biggest reworks in patch 7.20, and the community is still debating how the hero should be played. He no longer has access to bigger creeps from the start of the game, but now he has tools for significant lane presence that make him pretty much a new hero.
Chen isn’t particularly impressive overall. On average, he wins 44% of his games and is one of the least popular heroes in pubs. That situation, however, drastically changes in the higher brackets.
Hero’s win rate in 4k games is solidly above 50%. Granted, his pick rate is still incredibly small, with him appearing in ~1.5% of games, but at least we know that in the hands of dedicated players he can be successful.
Having a maximum creep level restriction on Holy Persuasion means that Chen can longer start the game with a strong friend to bully the enemy in lane. Possibly the best you can do is Harpy Stormcrafter and while the Harpy does provide a decent amount of harass through Chain Lightning, it also pushes the lane.
Looking at our guides section we see that current Chen players generally favor maxing out Divine Favor first. The ability scales incredibly well, with each level doubling the attack damage bonus, while also increasing the regeneration of the target by 25 at max level, on top of a 25% heal and regeneration bonus.
With a 360 starting mana pool Chen gets three uses of this ability at level one, but given how it has a decent duration and a very helpful effect for contesting creeps early in the game, the effect should not be underestimated. It also boosts regeneration from consumables, such as Tango, and the overall healing effect is actually much closer to a comparable level of Warlock’s Shadow Word.
Reworked penitence with a 70 mana cost and a 5-second duration at level one is also pretty good in aggressive lanes. By boosting both attack damage and attack speed of your carry, you can get incredible results in the early laning stage. Naturally, it works best with more aggressive heroes that can capitalize on early bonuses to two DPS stats or who need some extra tankiness to engage safely.
With a carry who is capable of winning his lane or needs only a small push to do so, Chen can be a very powerful laning support, if he focuses on his first two abilities. You can also take control over the enemy catapult with a single point in Holy Persuasion, to push your advantage even harder early on.
Playing Chen in a traditional manner is much harder after the reworks. Having an extra beefy body with decent damage in lane was a major boost. It secured the lane, annoyed the opponent and made it so that your carry generally didn’t have to contest the creeps—played well Chen could zone out two opponents with relative ease.
Right now this playstyle is not supported too well—despite minimum base health of 1000, low-level neutral creeps simply don’t offer the required damage output or provide utility spells. Satyr Tormentor with his Shockwave and a regeneration aura could win a lane on his own, Centaur Conqueror could prolong the disables and secure easy kills, while Hellbear Smasher had a nice combination of utility and damage.
To play Chen traditionally, you will need to make sacrifices. You could come to lane with a level 1 Holy Persuasion and be a glorified creep, or you can delay the Holy Persuasion in favor of other abilities until level two and three. Creeps don’t spawn until the first minute anyways.
With level 2 you do have some relatively decent options: Ghost from Ghost camp can be very helpful in aggressive lanes. Harpy can be decent, especially if you are facing something like Enigma, who can shove in the waves and get chip damage on tower, while threatening tower dives. Hill Troll Priest is also a very underrated creep, who can provide 30 HP/sec regeneration and a very powerful 2.5 mana regen aura. Though micromanaging him can be very problematic, since his heal doesn’t prioritize heroes on auto-cast.
With level 3 and two points in Holy Persuasion you will get access to both Conqueror and Smasher and from it you can slowly transition into playing Chen traditionally. You still can’t get Tormentor or Dark Troll summoner at this point, but Conqueror and Smasher do their job relatively well.
It is hard to predict what the Chen meta is going to end up converging on—the hero became less specialized, but is a lot more flexible now and for better Chen players it will probably mean evaluating the matchup first and committing to build second.
Win rate above 50% in higher brackets means that the hero is playable, but probably either only in the hands of experienced players or in some very specific matchups. We will keep a close eye on one of the most iconic heroes in Dota who now feels like a very different character.