DOTA 2: Tidehunter

tideTanks. What can we say about them? They’re big, they’re intimidating, and they do a lot of important work on a battlefield (not so much everywhere else. Like, who wants a tank in the kitchen? Seriously). Tanks, though, come in all different shapes and sizes. It’s no different in DOTA 2.

Sometimes though, battles just call for something really simple: an impenetrable wall.

Enter: Tidehunter.

OVERVIEW

Tidehunter is a Tank. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a professional, which means for every tip he does give you there were just 10 that he didn’t, or an idiot who thinks that Tidehunter just sounds real cool, man. His Kraken Shell skill is basically a free Vanguard, which is a tier 3 tank survivability item, and his Anchor Smash skill does awesomely terrifying things to enemy Attack Damage.  Combined with his Ravage skill, a good Tidehunter can be a complete nightmare for a team that likes/has to get in close.

There are a lot of opinions floating around about Tidehunter (and every other hero in this game, so…yeah), but this guide is going to focus on making a Tidehunter that is the tankiest, initiating-iest diamondillium bulldozer this side of New New York. To that end you might see some unconventional item/skill choices. The assumption is that you know how to play a standard tank role, which leaves me room to talk about minutiae. Yay!

·        Attack animation vs. Attack Speed – Attack animations are something that Valve seems to love to play with, but they seem to have totally overlooked Tidehunter in this case. His attack animation is slow. Slow, slow, slow. What this means is that in the time the animation starts to when the hit actually occurs , there is a nice long GAP. This makes farming (more specifically Creep Scoring) more difficult than it is for most other heroes. That being said, he can soak damage more easily than your average hero so it balances out mathematically. What it means for play though is that you have to start your attack earlier than you think to score that money. What it also means is that when attacking a hero, don’t get gun-shy: if they run and Tidehunter has already started the animation, let it finish. The hit will register! As his attack speed increases, this becomes less of an issue, so keep it in mind during itemization.

·        Damage Mitigation – Tidehunter is a case study in what I like to call “DOTA Maths”. His Anchor Smash skill reduces enemy attack by a flat 40%! Which means it scales magnificently. Combined with Kraken Shell which negates a flat -28HP (max skill) for auto-attacks and you can see that Tidehunter begins to reduce the damage he takes both immensely and quickly. The second part is key because that means the pure quantity of HP you have is not a true indicator of the damage you can take. You should know this, you should exploit this, and then you should continually surprise your opponent with this, because it’s likely that unless he knows Tidehunter really well, he’s going to always be overestimating the amount of damage he can do to you.

·        Teamfighting – Tidehunter is a team player. He’s not the fastest hero in the world, even if Gush is a great nuke/slow. Combine this with his wonky attack animation and long (and I mean LONG) cooldown on Ravage and you’ll see that he can’t do much killing on his own. That means you have to fight in groups. When you do, Tidehunter just…shines.

Okay! ON TO THE GUIDE

EARLY GAME

SKILL BUILD

1. Gush

2. Kraken Shell

3. Gush

4. Kraken Shell

5. Anchor Smash

6. Ravage

 In early game, Tidehunter is the shoulder-high cover to your lane’s Marcus Fenix (except he can move and maybe smack some fools). Support your lane’s nuke/disabler by physically interfering with the opposing team’s melee heroes/creeps while harassing with the occasional fish slap to the face. Get farmed up if you have a support in your lane, otherwise help your damage dealer farm up. Look for opportunities for a quick gank, as Tidehunter’s Gush is a great slow, a decent nuke, and has excellent range. Combined with bigger nukes, it can easily make short work of careless opponents.

Item priority should focus on health and mana regeneration. Having Clarities in your pocket is a nice way to always be prepared for a quick kill, while having higher health should prevent you from needing to make fountain trips too often. Kraken Shell should be enough to mitigate any moderate pathing mistakes you might make while laning, but don’t get cocky as he lacks any real escapes (except maybe Gush, but you want kills, don’t you?).

Save using Anchor Smash for opponents that try to tower dive; it’ll negate their attack almost entirely. Using it on creeps early on might net you money here and there, but overall it’ll push you towards the tower too quickly (since your creeps will have a significant advantage while the enemy is debuffed), and that can get you into some trouble. Play defensive. You’re a tank, remember?

COUNTERS: Magic nukes will make short work of Tidehunter at almost any stage, but they are especially dangerous early on. Compared to other tanks, Tidehunter’s starting HP is pretty low, which makes him an easy target for heroes like Lina, Lion, and even Viper, who’s poison will completely bypass Kraken Shell. Against these characters (and similar) Gush them at range, keep their HP down, and make it expensive for them to stay in the lane. Don’t attempt chases or ganks if they play defensively; it probably isn’t worth it. Tidehunter’s potential really comes out in mid-game, but only if you make it there in a reasonable amount of time.

ITEMS TO GET

1. Tango, Healing Salve, Circlet

2. Clarity (x2 or x3)

3. Boots of Speed

4. Upgrade to Bracer

MID GAME

SKILL BUILD

7. Kraken Shell

8. Gush

9. Anchor Smash

10. Kraken Shell

11. Ravage

12. Gush

13. Anchor Smash

14. Anchor Smash

15. Stat Up

16. Ravage

 “Team team team team team team team…you may think that’s a picture of my family on my desk. It’s not. It’s The A-Team.”

Denholm Reynholm

 Success with Tidehunter is all about teamwork. That being said, it’s also about timing, distancing, and having lots of teleport scrolls to make sure you’re always where you need to be.  Tidehunter’s biggest asset is his ability to soak up damage better than any hero in DOTA 2 ( in return for the mana he expends doing it), but that means he has to be where the damage is to soak it up! This means that in mid game, Tidehunter is all about being in the thickest of frays at all times.

Once you’re in there, the key to winning engagements is distancing. Ravage has a whopping range of 1025 which means that your average hero (with a speed of 350) will need at least 3 seconds before they can escape its range if they were standing right next to you. This also means that you can roughly distance whether or not you’ll catch a hero in the spell with the same kind of estimation. But seriously, you shouldn’t have to be making distance estimations too often as Tidehunter because what you really should be doing is constantly getting up in other people’s business. Get right in their faces.

Once you pop Ravage, be prepared to throw out your Anchor Smash as soon as you see them waking up. If you did your job and you surrounded yourself as best as possible with enemy heroes, you’ve just negated 40% of the auto-attack ability, which means that their AD Carry is going to have a hell of a time downing you. Your supports/nukes may still be vulnerable though, so be sure to run interference with Gush and spam Anchor Smash.

Using Ravage as an initiator is great, but it does kill your effectiveness until it refreshes. In early mid game, use this downtime to push towers, since your Kraken Shell should give you more damage mitigation than any other tank might have at this stage without Vanguard. By pushing towers, get money and finish your Arcane Boots and start building a Refresher Orb.  Don’t worry about much else right now since Tidehunter’s natural HP Growth is enough to keep him competitive until you get Perseverance to buff your HP Regen.

If you get into tussles without Ravage the tactic remains the same. Open with a Gush on the squishiest hero and immediately start running interference against opposing tanks and carries while spamming Anchor Smash. If the engage goes poorly, you may even want to consider sacrificing yourself by staying in the damage center longer while continuing to spam Anchor Smash, which may give your stragglers a chance to survive and escape. Hopefully you’ve spent most of the cash you’ve accumulated before you die!

As a general rule, there is an ebb and flow to any team centered around Tidehunter (and other team comps focused around powerful splash-type ultimates with long CDs), so pay attention to the momentum. Don’t get caught trying to keep up a pace your team can’t maintain, but also don’t give up moments that you can absolutely capitalize on. Either way, the primary focus should be downing towers and keeping your team alive.

COUNTERS: Tidehunter is great, but only if he’s part of the fight! This means that stuns/disables/silence all drastically reduce his effectiveness. Kraken Shell can’t be debuffed, but it only works really well in conjunction with his other skills. That means heroes like Lion, Shadow Shaman (Rasta), and even Abbadon can neutralize Tidehunter effectively for almost an entire engagement. Against these heroes (and the like) you may have to forgo an item like Refresher for a Black King Bar instead, helping you maintain the upper hand in the beginning of most fights. I’ve seen a Linken’s Sphere used in this way as well, but as a STR hero he’ll benefit more overall from a BKB.

NOTE: your priority for item is Arcane Boots. Tidehunter is a relatively mana heavy tank.

ITEMS TO GET

1. Arcane Boots

2. Oblivion Staff/Perseverance (get one based on your weakest area. Staff for damage, Ring for regen)

3. Refresher Orb

4. Wards (if necessary)

 LATE GAME

There isn’t much to say about late game. Tidehunter’s utility here can get crushed by so many things that you primary goal should be getting in, doing an Anchor Smash, and getting out. The way most engages should be approached in this case is by ambushing the opposing team. Gush works great here because of its range and damage at max skill. Ravage is still good because of its range, but can be neutralized if the opposing team stacks BKB/Linken’s or they have a very good disabler.

In general, move around the map as a team, be surgical with Gush and Anchor Smash, and abuse the Ravage/Refresher Orb combo as much as you can. Ravager does not pierce BKB! Don’t rely on it for long-term engagements. Use Anchor Smash to increase survivability and maybe force opportunities to use Ravage instead.

Overall, don’t get killed, push as a team, and play the same role as before: keep your team alive. Get Boots of Travel if you need to. Be in every fight!

COUNTERS: Tidehunter remains one of the tankiest characters at equal level compared to other tanks. The Kraken Shell/Anchor Smash combo means that you can push fast and hard and with little downtime. However, it also means that Magic damage will wreck you. Lina, Disruptor, and Skywrath Mage are excellent at keeping Tidehunter either low on health, out of the fight, or both. Laguna Blade does 1200dmg at level 16 with an Aghanim’s, while Thunder Strike/Kinetic Field makes maneuvering difficult. Skywrath Mage’s  spell combo just spells danger all around for Tidehunter. The worst of these offenders is Outworld Devourer, who’s INT-differential based Sanity’s Eclipse can eat a nice chunk of his health in one shot, while his Arcane Orb-buffed attack can negate the benefit of Kraken Shell through added damage. In general, get the jump on these guys as they most likely will have much less health than you.

ITEMS TO BUY

1. Arcane Boots -> Boots of Travel

2. Eul’s Scepter of Divinity

3. Heart of Tarrasque

4. Orchid Malevolence

CLOSING THOUGHTS: Tidehunter is far from perfect or easy to master. In fact, I’d easily lump him into the class of “high skill/low return” heroes that speckle DOTA 2’s roster. That being said, mastering Tidehunter is immensely satisfying and his utility throughout the game is relatively consistent. He’s the epitome of “easy to learn, hard to master” and for that, I love the bloody ass off ‘im.

That’s it for Tidehunter. Next week we’re going to hop over the fence and take a look at my favorite spooky support: Witch Doctor.