Don’t let her small size fool you: Hoodwink, with one of the highest pick rates in competitive play, is a terror in just about every position. Here’s how you can take advantage of her current popularity.
The small furball of terror
One of the best things about Dota 2 is the versatile ways you can play its many heroes. Compared to other MOBAs that are more restricted and rigorous in the roles you play your characters, Dota 2 and its many intricacies mean that you can sometimes play a hero in more than one lane, depending on your team’s lineup and how well it can play against an enemy team.
For the past couple of months, a certain hero in Dota 2 that has managed to fit such a description. Hoodwink, the small forest critter known for her superb disables and nuking capabilities, have seen an extraordinary amount of play in most of the recently finished regional qualifiers as well as other tournaments earlier this year. This is thanks to her kit, which makes her versatile in a lot of roles, and the ease with which she can fit easily into a lot of team compositions.
While not exactly the winningest, learning to play Hoodwink in different positions can give you an advantage in your pub games, as you can use her to fill different quotas if you’re stuck playing in a role you do not want, so long that she’s not banned or already picked.
Positions 4 and 5 – support Hoodwink
This is the role you’ll most often see Hoodwink in, although it’s still debatable whether it is the best one for her. Hoodwink is great at supporting both the safe lane and the off lane thanks to a disable and a poke that’s relatively easy to dish out.
Bushwhack, an AoE stun that’s reliant on nearby trees, is the pinnacle of her versatility. She can pretty much bully her enemies with it into staying near the creep wave at all times, lest you stick too near to the trees and get stunned for a minimum of 1.5 seconds.
She also has a decent low-cooldown poke in the form of Acorn Shot, an attack ability that bounces from enemy to enemy, dealing bonus damage and slowing them down. What makes this ability shine, though, is that it plants a tree when it targets the ground instead of an enemy. This makes Bushwhack viable even in the middle of the lane where there are no trees, as you can use Acorn Shot to plant that instead.
Her role as support in the lane is controlling the enemy support, as most of them will either pull their creep waves towards neutral camps or deny creeps and harass the core. Since Hoodwink’s real power comes from the trees, it’s possible to zone out enemy supports with Bushwhack alone, as the looming threat of a long-ranged and long-lasting stun is enough for the enemy lane to play passively.
Favored laning partners
Hoodwink’s kit allows her to be played quite aggressively, and she shines when paired with cores that can set up for devastating chain stuns. She is a monster in the off lane with some powerful single-target stunners like Chaos Knight, as his Chaos Bolt is quite long even at a single level (1.25 to 2.2 seconds at level one).
Mars, who is quite favored in the metagame at this point in time, is also a fantastic partner to Hoodwink if someone in your team gets it. His stun, the Spear of Mars, impales units to a tree; it does not matter who lands their stun first, as the result will almost always be a chain stun that can easily whittle away enemy health.
Playing with cores in the safe lane is also easy for Hoodwink, but she’s a bit more reliant on aggression here as some off lane heroes are absolutely terrible for her matchups. In terms of cores for this lane, Hoodwink can work with either kiting heroes and heroes with slows or stuns.
Though not picked as much as her, Drow Ranger is excellent when paired with Hoodwink in the safe lane thanks to her Frost Arrows. Their squishiness, however, is something to keep in mind, especially in an absolute enemy kill lane that may include Timbersaw. Ursa can also play quite well with Hoodwink, as the Earthshock slow is enough to set up a possible Acorn Shot to Bushwhack stun.
One of the benefits of playing Hoodwink as a support is the variation with which you can build your core items. You’ll want to stick to anything that will give your team utility for the most part, like picking up the early Arcane Boots which can then be disassembled into an Aether Lens down the line. Rod of Atos or Eul’s Scepter can help set you and your team up with easy kills, as it efficiently sets up the “Acorn Shot into Bushwhack” combo.
Later down the line, you will use most of your gold to provide vision for your team using wards. Hoodwink is an amazing scouting hero thanks to Scurry, which provides her both with treewalking and additional movement speed while in the trees. This allows her to secure important and highly contested ward locations, like the jungles surrounding the outpost and the rune spots in the river.
If you find yourself farmed in the mid-to-late game, an Aghanim’s Scepter always works wonders due to how it scales for Hoodwink against farmed enemy cores. This purchase gives Hoodwink the Hunter’s Boomerang ability, which amplifies incoming spells against enemies and reduces their status resistance by a huge margin. The 25% status resistance reduction is enough to nullify the effects of Sange completely (16% status resistance), and you can expect that most enemy cores will pick it up as a core item in most cases. If you and your team manage to snag the Ceremonial Robe neutral item, you will gain another 10% status resistance reduction, meaning longer and more devastating stuns for your Bushwhacks.
Position 3 – off-lane Hoodwink
Off-lane Hoodwink is the rarest one you’ll see, although it’s very viable under certain strict circumstances. It’s a very matchup-dependent pick, and if you’re planning on playing the off lane, it’s very important to know that there are certain enemy safe lane combos that can mess you up big time. However, given the right circumstances, off-lane Hoodwink can shine thanks to her reliability at all stages of the game and her ability to stay in a dead lane for longer than other off-laners.
The Scurry ability is invaluable here, as Hoodwink can rely on this to set up kills under the cover of trees. Last hitting is also a breeze thanks to the Acorn Shot, and you can reliably use Bushwhack to deny creeps by stunning enemy cores right as they go for their own last hits.
Winning your lane as an off-laner is key here, as Hoodwink will have a harder time if she loses her lane. As mentioned, while she can stay in a dead lane for far longer, these are not ideal circumstances. Losing your lane means more time spent jungling to catch up in net worth, and Hoodwink is better at staying and pushing out lanes in order to free up map control for your team. That’s something that can’t be done if you’re hitting neutral creeps after losing a lane and letting the enemy position 1 start jungling for himself.
Favored laning partners
Unlike other off-laners, Hoodwink thrives in a situation where the soft support can transition back-and-forth from a core position as well. Lina, who offers excellent utility thanks to Light Strike Array while still dealing respectable damage through Laguna Blade and Dragon Slave, is a perfect off-lane partner for Hoodwink.
It’s also a good lane if you’re facing a melee core with a squishy, passive support, as you can deal endless harass and come away on top. Earth Spirit is another good hero to pick with Hoodwink, as he has everything in his kit to elevate everything she has in terms of damage and utility.
Surprisingly, Pudge in the soft support role can also work quite well with an off-laner Hoodwink. The roaming nature of Pudge can give Hoodwink invaluable solo experience, and if he lands a good hook in the trees, a Bushwhack will always land perfectly after. The usual soft supports like Lion, Dark Willow, Mirana and Nyx Assassin can all be good picks, but Hoodwink needs to farm well in order to scale properly as a core for them to be successful.
Items for off-lane Hoodwink require a bit of farm, and the earlier she gets it, the better it is for your team. Going into lane, you should be preparing yourself for a Wraith Band or two, depending on the enemy lane matchup. Alternatively, you can also skip those and go straight for a Falcon Blade, which provides a chunk of HP, damage and mana regeneration. The item has fallen out of style of late, as the meta right now is to rush the core items and use the jungle to achieve that, but the Falcon Blade is still good especially if you found yourself staying in lane for longer than what you were expecting.
Besides Power Treads, the first big pick-up you should go for is the Maelstrom. It provides Hoodwink with a decent damage boost and the Chain Lightning passive, which allows her to clear waves with ease. Since Acorn Shot is considered a normal attack, it can proc Chain Lightning, giving Hoodwink one of the better wave-clearing abilities once she has it online.
Your next purchase after that should be dependent on the enemy lineup, but not too expensive that it will possibly delay the position 1’s big items. The Urn of Shadows into Spirit Vessel is decent if there’s nobody in your team that wants to carry it and you’re looking for something to keep a Dragon Knight or Templar Assassin at bay. Dragon Lance provides Hoodwink with decent stats and enhances her attack range, making it great for poking enemies at a distance. This can also transition later into a Hurricane Pike, which provides you and your team a utility for either setting up kills or escaping from them.
Getting a Boots of Travel early is something to think about as well, as it can allow you to stop or start split-pushes yourself. The only caveat to this item is its price, and you will most likely need to skip the Falcon Blade and stick with just a Wraith Band and Magic Wand to give you stats. Like the support Hoodwink, an Aghanim’s Scepter is a must during the later stages of the game to give your overall damage a big boost. For protection, Linken’s Sphere does a good job at blocking single-targeted spells for you or an ally, if you can farm for it with ease.
Position 2 – mid-lane Hoodwink
There is only one professional player in the world who has tried to play Hoodwink in this position competitively and saw amazing results: Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen, the mid-laner for EU-based OG, has played the hero and won with it during ESL One Summer 2021. What’s even more impressive is Topson winning that lane against one of the best mid-laners in the world, Team Nigma’s Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi, who himself was playing one of his best heroes, Invoker.
Understanding how Topson made the Hoodwink mid-lane work begins with her ultimate ability, Sharpshooter. This ability can be charged up for a max of 3 seconds to deal up to 550 to 1250 damage, depending on the level. This damage is no joke, especially at earlier levels, and the fact that it’s set at a 45-second cooldown makes it semi-spammable in the lane. The ability also breaks, meaning that it can temporarily disable passive abilities, a rare mechanic in Dota 2 and one that can easily turn the tides of battle.
Mid-lane Hoodwink is farm-dependent, but the most crucial factor here is timing and positioning. Hoodwink’s sole purpose in this is to quickly eliminate any squishy target – it could be the enemy position 1 or the two supports – using the “Acorn Shot into Bushwhack and Sharpshooter” combo before any of the rest of the enemy team can even react.
Favored ally heroes
Mid-lane Hoodwink fits in well with a lot of lineups, but the best are those with heroes that can properly set up for a fully-charged Sharpshooter. Heroes with stuns like Lion, Centaur Warchief and Nyx Assassin can help you land your ultimate properly. Axe, who is currently hot in the meta right now as both a position 1 and off-laner, is good to have once he gets his Blink Dagger; the Berserker’s Call sets up both Sharpshooter and the “Acorn Shot to Bushwhack” combo.
Since Aghanim’s Scepter is a core item for mid-lane Hoodwink, heroes that can take advantage of the 25% spell damage amplification of the Hunter’s Boomerang are amazing when teamed with her. Position 1 Luna is one such hero, as her Lunar Beams and Eclipse deal amazing magic nuke damage. Interestingly enough, Moon Glaives also count as magic damage, meaning that its output is also significantly amped by the skill.
Like the off-lane Hoodwink, a Maelstrom should always be at the top of your list when it comes to core items. Rushing Aghanim’s Scepter on her is always encouraged, as the Hunter’s Boomerang is such an amazing skill to not have during team fights. Boots of Travel is also much preferred here over Power Treads, as that increases her overall roaming potential to gank the side lanes.
Depending on how the match is going, Hoodwink can either go for a Gleipnir or a Linken’s Sphere next. The latter allows you to sense danger early before someone can interrupt your combo thanks to the spell block, while the former gives you an amazing catch thanks to the AoE root it provides. Gleipnir is quite expensive and there are some who would argue against it due to its cost, but the root mechanic built into it has a low cooldown and can interrupt teleports, making it a worthwhile investment.
Hoodwink can then branch into either more nuke damage via an Ethereal Blade or into a right-clicker build by building the Maelstrom towards a Mjollnir instead. The nuke damage with the Ethereal Blade is probably one of the more surprising one-shot combos in the game, and that should be kept in mind, especially if you’re up against a mostly physical-dealing damage team.
Picking Hoodwink into this hero is a death sentence
While there are exceptions, it’s inadvisable to pick Hoodwink into a Timbersaw. Hoodwink relies a lot on trees for both the Bushwhack and Scurry, and since Timbersaw has very reliable and low-cooldown tree-cutting spells, the latter nullifies two of her abilities outright. Timbersaw also has a ton of mobility thanks to Timber Chain, which can spell death for Hoodwink since she always wants to be near trees for her passive evasion in Scurry to kick in.