For most Dota 2 players, the mention of Tinker’s name usually brings memories of getting bursted by this annoying hero that could never be caught, as he blinks around and refreshes his cooldowns every second. However, the past year has seen Tinker decline in popularity and win rate. He is now at a 45% win rate on Dotabuff and has a pick rate of 5%, much worse than the average of 8% for most heroes. Despite getting buffs from the beginning of 7.00 all the way up to 7.25, the hero feels weaker than ever. It has been difficult for me to see the decline of one of my favorite heroes, and one of the most creative heroes in Dota being in such a state.
Several buffs over the course of 10 patches
Tinker’s weaknesses are an interesting case study into how factors other than the base hero itself can affect the overall strength of a hero. Dota 2 has changed so much over the last year or 2, and these changes in playstyle along with the release of new heroes and items essentially power-crept Tinker to the point where I would argue that Tinker as a hero is OUTDATED.
Tinker’s play style relies on him being slippery and being more mobile than his opponents, constantly blinking and pressing spells while being in a much safer position than most heroes can reach. Ever since Reborn, it has been harder to execute the strategy that makes Tinker unique: it feels like every major hero and item update since then works well against Tinker. Let’s take a look:
Hero releases since Reborn
- Monkey King: extremely mobile, can chase Tinker down in the trees and get close to him. Has a large AOE stun that prevents Tinker from blinking or TPing out.
- Dark Willow: probably the weakest counter on this list. Can Terrorize over the area that Tinker might have blinked to, has a defensive option in Shadow Realm.
- Pangolier: Rolling Thunder means Tinker literally cannot do anything to him, while Pangolier can break trees to find Tinker. Swashbuckle with Basher gives Pangolier the ability to cancel Tinker’s Blink, while being extremely mobile.
- Grimstroke: can scout Tinker with Stroke of Fate; has a point and click silence that gives vision; latched Soulbind removes Tinker’s mobility.
- Mars: Builds Blink Dagger as the first major item, can blink and Arena of Blood, breaking trees and potentially stunning with Spear.
- Snapfire: can Cookie someone into the trees to find you and Mortimer’s Kisses can completely invalidate Tinker’s mobility in any fight.
- Void Spirit: Has a disable in Aether remnant, Lots of AOE damage, and 2 Astral Step charges that can catch up with Tinker easily
This item really invalidates one of Tinker’s main defensive options which is constantly being able to ghost scepter and blink away. The main reason why this is important is that everyone has access to it. Although it costs a lot of money, the existence of the item makes it so that any core hero with a mobility item and a Nullifier is able to kill Tinker. Another small addition to consider is that Status resist is tacked on to items that are commonly bought by most carries.
As Dota 2 players have grown over time, they have realized that a proactive style of play usually beats a defensive style. In today’s day and age, a mid hero that can’t provide anything to early fights and provides no pressure is too weak to be played, and Tinker needs both Boots of Travel and Blink to properly take part in skirmishes. Usually, teams fall too far behind to compensate for the space that Tinker needs early game.
Even if Tinker gets ahead early game, Tinker only has a small window between when he is ahead and the enemy cores get their BKBs to essentially win the game. The reason for this is that Tinker cannot push towers. He can keep lanes pushed, but does no damage to towers. For most stages of the game, there are just better heroes to pick.
As you can see, there are several reasons as to why Tinker is a very weak hero right now, and they really have nothing to do with the base hero itself. It is very interesting to see several factors contribute to making a hero strong or weak. I think Tinker is an interesting case study because we get to see how changes in the game completely invalidated a playstyle. If Tinker cannot blink around trees and cast spells safely to annoy the enemy, he is essentially a very mobile range creep with some magical burst.