Image by motenai
Death Prophet has dominated the metas of recent tourneys, including the GESC Minor where she was the second most picked hero overall and the most picked in the first phase. During the Bucharest Major before that, she was the second most contested mid hero, right behind Razor, who was then nerfed in 7.10. Her rise in the meta is compounded by both a series of direct buffs since patch 7.00 and general changes to the meta, which has sparked a return of strong midlaners and the death ball, a strategy that dominated TI4, nearly four years ago.
Exorcism used to be 100 seconds back in 6.80, and then TI4 happened and by 6.82c it increased by 45% to 145 seconds. This was just one of many changes to the meta that began to hamstring Death Prophet’s power. T1 towers gained the ability to refresh Fortification when they toppled. Towers not only give an armor aura to heroes but Fortification also protects lane creeps. The map grew stronger, while Death Prophet’s nearly two and a half minute cooldown for her ultimate became less impactful.
While Exorcism couldn’t be used at the same frequency to snowball down lanes, it became stronger—ghosts dealt more damage and the spell’s duration increased from 30 to 35 seconds—along with Death Prophet’s other stats and skills. She lost Witchcraft but gained Spirit Siphon. While Death Prophet could no longer be naturally hasted with just a few items, she gained valuable lane presence, a skill that became even more crucial in patch 7.07 when it reduced the XP by denied creeps given to the enemy from 70% to 25%.
The change to creep XP ushered a return of dominant mid laners. Heroes like Death Prophet and Razor have the ability to zone lane opponents with their link skills and widen the lane advantage with the new weight on denies. She can pressure towers without Exorcism, a spell that is now less of a crutch. With Spirit Siphon, Death Prophet is a threat between her ultimate cooldowns, so much that Blink Dagger is sometimes part of her item build.
Freeze’s Blink Dagger build in VGJ.Thunder vs Infamous at GESC:Indonesia
Death Prophet also became more resilient over time. From 7.05 to 7.06 her Strength gain went from 1.9 to 2.6. Then, in 7.07, her base health regeneration increased from 0.5 to 2.0 and her level 15 and 20 talents were reworked with +1% Spirit Siphon max health drain per second and +500 health. Death Prophet doesn’t need many toughness items, especially for a hero that is at the frontline pushing down towers.
The competitive meta today is focused on the laning phase and the momentum that comes out of it. Not only is Death Prophet dominant in the lane, she provides teamfight presence and a battering ram to push high ground. This skillset should also be transferrable to the pub meta, but this month she has been resting at a 48% win rate, paltry compared to GESC: Indoensia (66%) and Bucharest (62%).
Lane dominance should transition just as well in pubs as in the pro meta, but a coordinated death ball may be more difficult to manage. Death Prophet is no longer a "press R to win" hero in pubs. And the game today may not be the 10-minute deathball of TI4, but it does carry some of its nostalgia. With the way that the ongoing Dreamleague Minor is shaping up, it seems like Death Prophet is here to stay.