Image by jawa
If Dota was a person, they would be 18 years old today. The first map of Dota was released on an unknown date in 2002. Over the long 18 years, a lot has changed, and today, Dota 2 is one of the premier esports titles backed by the supreme gaming organization Valve, and led by the fabled Icefrog.
How much have you changed in the last 18 years? I’m sure you’ve gone through some ups and downs, taking two steps forward, and one or three steps backward. A lot has changed but through it all, you’re still you.
Maybe then you can relate to Riki? Riki has been through identity crises like few heroes have. Is he a core? Is he a support? What is he? Even the designers at Dota don’t know.
In Riki’s liquipedia change logs, it starts off with a preview of things to come:
In patch 6.0 on March 1st, 2005, Riki begins his identity crises with a huge change that we’ve seen multiple times in recent memory. Permanent invisibility was turned into his ultimate.
Riki is unique in that he’s the only hero that has invisibility as a passive ability. Every other hero has to activate invisibility or buy an item to turn invisible for a duration.
This ability is a core element of Riki but as we all know, invisibility is powerful in pub games. So it makes sense that the game designers struggled with a hero whose unique characteristic is an innately powerful ability.
From patches 6.0 to 6.81b, there were minor changes to Riki. Some buffs, Some nerfs, but invisibility being his ultimate was the main thing that stayed the same.
Riki in Dota 1. Image from dotawc3.com
Then in patch 6.82 on September 24, 2014, everything changed.
This was the same patch that made the fountain on higher ground and added Bounty Runes.
What was Valve trying to accomplish with this change? Did they envision Riki players would start playing him as a support? Or did they think that this would help him become a stronger core?
What did happen was Riki became this hybrid core or support but mostly a weak support. He became a clear position 4 and was rarely picked as a core.
In subsequent patches, Riki saw minor changes, mostly buffs.
A new ultimate was added to Riki in patch 6.86 on December 16, 2015.
Tricks of the Trade became a staple of Riki’s gameplay. Being only invisible and having Blink Strike wasn’t enough for his survivability and having Backstab as an ability he had to level made his contributions on the map limited.
Now Riki had an area of effect ability where he could phase-out of the world and damage enemies on top of all his other skills.
At this point, Riki was clearly a support, but an awkward one. He was a greedy 4 and was rarely picked in pro games because of this. As a core, his upside was rarely worth the risk, and as a support, he didn’t offer enough for pro teams to want to pick him.
This was the state of Riki until 7.23.
Image from facebook.com/Dota2AllStars
7.23 was when all the changes came full circle and Riki found his role.
Released on November 26, 2019, Riki saw the following changes:
We’re back to 6.0 now.
This was the same patch where everyone got their own courier, free Observer Wards, Outposts were added, Neutral Items were added, and many other changes.
With invisibility now becoming his ultimate, Riki could no longer be played as a support. He was no longer in limbo between core and support, Valve said Riki is a core.
This change saw pro players beginning to pick Riki as a carry, a role he is now known as. We see players like Arteezy and dream playing Riki as their carry semi-regularly. In pub games, a Riki carry or core is now common.
Riki is now a core. The changes to reach this point took many years and it arrived at the destination with invisibility being his ultimate. Riki’s core characteristic is his invisibility so it makes sense to make Cloak and Dagger his ultimate.
Just like Enigma’s core ability is Black Hole, just like Beastmaster’s core ability is Roar, and just like Lion’s core ability is Finger of Death, Riki’s core ability is Cloak and Dagger, all ultimates. Not Blink Strike, not Tricks of the Trade, Cloak and Dagger is his defining characteristic, so it should be his ultimate.
From September 24, 2014, to November 26, 2019, Riki was stuck in hero limbo. Not quite a support and not a core, Riki was a quirky pick for mainly specialists. Now it’s clear, Riki is a core. Until the cycle of changes begins again.