Dota 2 7.34e: How to Deal with the Zoo Meta
Dota 2 Patch 7.34e has been out for a week now, and the “zoo” metagame is truly back rearing its ugly head in ranked matches. For the uninitiated, the zoo meta refers to mid-game focused, tempo based summons heroes like Beastmaster, Lycan, and Visage — whose primary goal is to crowd you and your team out of the map by taking all of your towers in a hurry.
These heroes are excellent at mowing down objectives without much risk, and force teams to react to them. They push the pace of the game and cause uncoordinated pub players to scramble all over the map just to protect their towers. It’s a rather cheesy style to play against, especially when your team’s draft contains no real counters to it.
But because most zoo heroes are offlaners, there is still a way to deal with this playstyle in public matchmaking. There are also some things outside of just picking the right heroes that you can do to help stave off this kind of play.
Having trouble with the zoo animals? Read on to find out how to put them back in their cages.
Support Players: Pick Crystal Maiden and/or Winter Wyvern
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: zoo heroes are completely useless without their summons. They need them to get anywhere in the laning phase, which they definitely depend upon to not be useless the rest of the way. Without a good start in the lane, zoo heroes will just end up getting their Helm of the Dominator at 20 minutes or so, which is practically the same thing as them not being in the game in the first place.
Thus, it stands to reason that Crystal Maiden is the perfect hero for shutting down summons hard. Her Frostbite (W) affects creeps (in this case, summoned units) much longer than it does enemy heroes, so it’s a trivial task to just cast it on one of Lycan’s wolves or Beastmaster’s boars in the lane to get rid of them easily.
Similarly, Winter Wyvern does just as well. You can nuke summons in lane with Splinter Blast (W), and escape into the trees with the flight buff from Arctic Burn if you’re being run down. For Wyvern, though, her late game utility against zoo heroes cannot be understated; Winter’s Curse (R) will hold heroes like Lycan in place and force his own summons to attack him.
Other really good support picks for when Crystal Maiden and Winter Wyvern are banned include Jakiro and Phoenix, who both have abilities that allow them to safely kill enemy summons and force zoo heroes to back off.
Core Players: Pick High Armor Heroes
Core heroes with high armor do particularly well against zoo strategies, as they can shrug off a lot of the physical damage that summons heroes rely on. Someone like Terrorblade, Night Stalker, or Naga Siren won’t really mind standing their ground in lane against controlled units, since almost all of their damage is from regular attacks.
As a bonus, the aforementioned heroes have tools to clear summons with. Terrorblade can simply send his illusions, Night Stalker can nuke them down with Void (Q) or kill them instantly with his Shard-upgraded Hunter in the Night (E), and Naga Siren’s Riptide can shred through them very easily.
Illusion heroes also work really well here. Most zoo heroes don’t have area of effect magic damage abilities, which severely limits their effectiveness against illusions. Not even Beastmaster is safe here despite his Wild Axes (Q) — as they don’t really dish out enough damage to kill illusions with.
Keep Track of Their Cooldowns
Zoo heroes have a glaring weakness in lane: their summon abilities tend to have long cooldowns. Beastmaster’s Call of the Wild Boar (W) has a 30 second cooldown at level 4, while Lycan’s Summon Wolves (Q) has the same cooldown at every level. If you manage to kill their summons early into each cooldown cycle, you’ll find it much easier dealing with these heroes in lane.
They likewise cannot push towers without their minions, which is tantamount to making them practically useless for a little while. 30 seconds may not sound like a lot in the mid game, but that’s 30 seconds of breathing space versus a hero that absolutely needs to push the tempo of the game at every opportunity.
Lycan is also a special case in this regard, as he is very, very weak in the mid to late game without Shapeshift (R). He runs awfully slowly without it, and cannot threaten to run down supports without the movement speed buff and slow resistance that comes with it. If you see an opportunity to gank Lycan while Shapeshift is down, make sure to communicate this to your teammates as soon as possible. Do this enough, and Lycan will eventually just fall further and further behind from dying so often.
Remember: heroes like these are dead weight to their team past a certain point in the game, so your goal is either to delay them from pushing for as long as possible, or punish them for using their cooldowns.
Avoid Teleporting to Towers to Farm
One thing to keep in mind in terms of general gameplay against zoo strats is to conserve your Town Portal Scrolls. We can’t stress this enough — do not teleport to towers to farm. You want to be saving your TP Scrolls so that you can quickly respond to zoo heroes trying to knock down your towers. Instead, you want to walk to your lanes manually if you need to farm.
Otherwise, you might find yourself unable to defend your towers when you really need to. The same goes for supports, even though they don’t farm all that much; you want to have your TP Scrolls locked and loaded in case someone like Lycan tries to dive past your tier 1 tower in order to kill your carry or mid.
And of course, remember to carry TP Scrolls in the first place! Never leave the base without at least one in your inventory — this is just a good overall practice in Dota 2. It isn’t limited to going up against zoo heroes, so get into the habit of buying them often.