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Tusk has been one of the most popular heroes in the professional scene. His versatility and consistency make him one of the priority picks in the current meta. Despite his popularity and relative success at the highest level of competition, his presence in pubs isn’t as dominant. Today we would like to discuss what exactly makes Tusk strong in the competitive matches and how pub players can incorporate lessons from the professional scene in their own matches.
Pretty much all his abilities provide utility and can have multiple different uses. Ice Shards can block the escape path or can be used to allow your team to escape or disengage. Snowball is an initiation tool that doubles as an escape and a save. Both these abilities already provide the majority of their benefits with a single skill point.
It means that maxing out Tag Team often becomes a priority. It is the only skill the hero has that has a single purpose, but not only does it do its job incredibly well, it also scales very decently.
Both professional players and high level pub players prioritize this ability. Low cooldown, low manacost, 33% uptime and a lot of extra damage and slow make this skill dominant in lane and during midgame ganks.
For that to work effectively the usage of the first two skills of the hero should be near-perfect, however. You need a value point in each skill to be at maximum effectiveness. That means typical Tusks will either try to get a 1-1-1 build by level three or 1-1-2 build by level four, with a second point into Tag Team at level three.
It might seem inconsequential, but the level three skillpoint is a crucial decision. As a support, getting levels can be pretty hard and the second point in Tag Team at level three is generally better only if it immediately translates into a kill without the help of the Ice Shards.
Being stuck at level three with no access to one of your abilities even for an extra minute or two can make or break the early game for Tusk, and the hero needs to have a decent enough start to be actually competitive, when compared to other position four utility initiators and supports.
Tusk should generally be able to secure the lane for his carry or offlaner. With Snowball and Tag Team, he and his teammate should have a way to initiate on one of the enemies on their lane and deal a decent amount of damage. Once Tusk’s lane partner feels confident in his lane, however, it is time for Tusk to leave and apply his talents across the map and that is where his third level skill point becomes incredibly important. Ganking with both Ice Shards and Snowball utility is much easier, than with Snowball alone.
Tusk needs his items and he needs them relatively early. Being in the center of a teamfight is pretty much guaranteed for the hero so extra armor and HP can go a long way. Alternatively, an early Blink Dagger purchase can be justified, but most high level players still opt for either Vladmir's Offering or Urn of Shadows into Spirit Vessel.
With either of these items the hero starts providing even more utility to his team, while increasing his own survivability. The last factor is very important for a position four support who wants to eventually have some items and be a major factor in terms of utility.
To afford these items, heavy early game rotations are generally required. Naturally, you can stay in lane and continue applying pressure to a single enemy, but sooner or later it is going to start getting less effective. Killing or zoning out a level three enemy continuously isn’t going to be as impactful as getting a crucial kill on the enemy mid.
Realizing Tusk’s full potential beyond midgame is probably less straightforward, compared to heroes like Magnus, Earth Spirit, Tiny or other popular and situational position four heroes. Tusk doesn’t have much of a solo kill potential or an easy way to initiate with a multi-hero disable. He also doesn’t offer much in terms of teamfight damage, mostly dealing damage to a single target.
With that in mind, the most success we have seen from Tusk in the later stages of the game is when he counter-initiates with a Snowball save. It baits out some spells from the enemy, leaves them more exposed, if they were attempting to deal damage on their initiation target, and gives a better line for multi-hero Snowball.
His job then becomes very similar to what Clockwerk does—separating the fight in such a way, that there is an advantage for your team on one side and you aren’t going to die too fast on the other. Ideally, against a multi-core lineup, you want the cores separated, with Tusk trying to have the second core occupied for as long as possible.
Tusk’s popularity in the Chongqing Major is definitely not as high as it was during the Bucharest Minor, but he is still in the top 5 most contested heroes in the game. With his versatility and game impact at all stages of the game, he is a great first phase pick material for both pubs and the professional scene.
We will closely monitor further developments of the meta during the Major and will be on a lookout for other heroes definitely worth practicing on for your everyday pubs.