Dota 2 is an evolving game. As new patches come and go, certain heroes fade in and out of relevance owing to the meta changes. Some heroes inevitably become more powerful than others and it looks like that hero in this patch is Medusa. This hero rose from relative obscurity and is now a first-phase ban/pick for any team. She is considered so strong that only three heroes seem to be able to counter her in this current meta.
Medusa’s changes in April 20’s Patch 7.33 make it so her starting Strength is zero. In exchange, her Mana Shield is now passive and absorbs 98 percent of all incoming damage in exchange for absorbing 3.2 damage per point of mana. This number is further increased by 1.3 damage per point of mana once she hits level 25 and selects the appropriate talent, making her extremely tanky and difficult to take down without the appropriate hero counters.
Currently, Medusa is what Lina used to be in Patch 7.32; she is considered to be completely broken and hard to counter. So much so that only three heroes seem to be able to stand toe-to-toe against her: Anti-Mage, Dark Seer, and Underlord. These three heroes inherently have skillsets that allow them to counter Medusa in the laning phase and at later stages of the game.
The straightforward counter to Medusa has historically always been Anti-Mage. This hero initially rose to prominence in the early days of Dota 2 because of how unstoppable Medusa used to be and it looks like everything has come full circle. Medusa’s low HP pool and massive mana make her an ideal target for Anti-Mage who can burn a percentage of her mana with each hit, leaving her open to a massive Mana Void.
Anti-Mage’s Mana Void itself has been buffed so that it now shares the damage it deals to the primary target as well as the stun duration. If Anti-Mage catches out Medusa with no mana, there is potential for a one-vs-five team wipe with a strategically placed Mana Void. Anti-Mage can also Blink out of Medusa’s Stone Gaze and kite out her Black King Bar duration, then Blink back in to finish her off if she somehow manages to survive his onslaught.
The next hero that counters Medusa is Dark Seer. This hero can keep lanes pushed in, making it hard for Medusa to farm early, especially if he has an aggressive lane support that can help him gank and kill her with double Ion Shells and Surge. Vacuum can leave her out of position and while that might not be the best against Medusa, it pairs well with Dark Seer’s ultimate ability, Wall of Replica.
Wall of Replica is the reason why Dark Seer counters Medusa, although not directly. The Replica illusion of Medusa possesses her Mana Shield and deals more damage than Medusa can. This makes it perfect for Dark Seer to use Medusa’s own power against her team, gaining an even more powerful version of Medusa for his team. In addition, Dark Seer’s Normal Punch can create another illusion of Medusa and keep her controlled for a short period of time.
The final hero that counters Medusa is the best aura carrier in this meta, Underlord. This hero is not as straightforward a counter to Medusa as Anti-Mage is because Underlord is a defensive counter to the hero. His Atrophy Aura reduces Medusa’s base damage by a flat 30 percent, which is devastating to a carry that relies on stats to deal damage. This number is further increased to 45 percent with Underlord’s level 20 Atrophy Aura talent.
In addition to that, Underlord builds auras like Crimson Guard and Shiva’s Guard, further negating Medusa’s damage. His Pit of Malice controls Medusa so that she can’t get the most out of her Stone Gaze while his Firestorm pushes creep waves in during the laning phase and gives him more damage to contest Medusa in lane. And finally, his Fiend’s Gate can catch Medusa off-guard while she’s farming, opening her to a global gank by his entire team.
According to the global stats from Dotabuff, Medusa is currently the fourth most popular hero in this meta and still boasts close to a 60 percent win rate, which is absurdly high for a hero being contested in the first phase. Even though these three heroes perform well against her, she counters most of the current meta carries and can snowball easily if left unchecked.
If you encounter Medusa in your pubs, there is a good chance she will be picked after these three heroes are either banned or already picked by her team. For whatever reason these heroes are unavailable, there are a few other heroes currently rising in the meta that seem to be able to at least make her less threatening so that your team can finish her off.
If Anti-Mage is unavailable, viable alternatives to choose from can be Slark and Phantom Lancer with Diffusal Blade. Phantom Lancer with Diffusal Blade allows him and his illusions to burn Medusa’s mana pool quickly. Phantom Lancer farms fast as well, making it difficult for Medusa to kill his illusions once they get tankier with items like Manta Style and Heart of Tarrasque.
Slark falls in the same bracket, with each hit stealing Medusa’s stats, reducing her HP pool, mana pool, and armor. With Diffusal Blade, Slark makes sure Medusa cannot escape his onslaught, and its new Harpoon upgrade allows Slark to stay on top of Medusa. In addition, Slark purchases Aghanim’s Scepter to ensure he can maintain his aggression or escape away from Stone Gaze.
Finally, Nyx Assassin’s newest changes allow him to burn 50 percent of Medusa’s max mana pool with his Vendetta strike. Combining that with Diffusal Blade carriers makes short work of Medusa. Pair him with support alternatives like Shadow Demon and Grimstroke (with Aghanim’s Scepter) to create more illusions of Medusa that can take on her own team solo.
As is with any new rising hero, counters will be found as the meta develops. We are still in the early stages of Patch 7.33 and it will be interesting to see if Medusa can maintain her dominant status leading up to the Bali Major on June 29, and eventually The International 12 on Oct. 14.