For the longest time in all of Dota, Ursa has been considered a pub hero through and through. His ability to be self sustainable and dominate a game is to be feared across multiple skill brackets. Yet, the hero has never really taken off in the pro meta and stayed a very, very niche pick for the longest time until recently. In the current meta, Ursa has found a place in the pro scene and has become very situational and we break down the hero, its viability and why you don’t want to mess with “Fuzzy Wuzzy” right now.
As always, there are multiple reasons why a hero is popular in the meta. The first and most simple one is the fact that he is a strong counter-pick against the currently popular Enchantress. Overpower allows Ursa to attack Enchantress reliably despite her Untouchable, making it more difficult for her to lane in the offlane or to stand her ground in teamfights.
Obviously, Ursa is much more reliable outside of that. He can take Roshan very quickly, he can push quickly and provides the much needed initiation in teamfights without putting himself too much at risk. The rework to his ultimate in 6.84 has made him much stronger, as it allows him to not be bursted down as easily without investing heavily into HP related items. In addition, you can now itemize in a more damage efficient way, as you can solely focus on increasing your agility, rather than your HP gain.
The final nail in the coffin that sealed the deal for Ursa was his Aghanim's Scepter bonus added in 6.86 and the fact that Enrage is no longer dispellable. With Agh’s, you can activate Enrage even while stunned.
There are even some more reasons as to why he is viable, some of which have always been beneficial factors for him: he can transition from the lane into the jungle seamlessly, creating space for your supports. Whenever he does jungle and thus vanishes off the map, it creates pressure onto the enemy team, as Ursa is a hero capable of picking off squishy supports by himself.
Ursa is amongst the most popular heroes in Dota 2 (16th this month), but is especially popular in the <2k MMR bracket. His pickrate decreases until the 4k bracket, where it rises again and in 5k MMR games he is still picked in 14.72% of the games, his second highest pickrate. Despite being so popular there though, his winrate in the 5k bracket is the lowest of all (47%) in contrast to his highest in the <2k bracket (58%).
It makes sense to see him both popular and successful in the lower brackets: Ursa is a classic “pubstomper” and his concept is easy enough to understand and play, but requires more coordination and especially map awareness to play against.
In the higher brackets, players are, as usual, more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of a hero. Strong counters to the hero are much more prevalent and successful there, but more on that later.
Ursa is versatile and can be played in the jungle, the safelane but even the midlane. His jungling is quite sufficient and there are ways to sneak an early Roshan. In fact, as mentioned above, it is beneficial for your team to spend a lot of time off the map. Even if you start out as a mid or safelaner, you want to farm a lot in the jungle to apply pressure to the enemies. Much like Clinkz, which we discussed earlier, he forces the opponents to stay closer together and to spend more gold on vision, or worst of all it forces vision in places specifically just for Ursa, such as the Roshan pit - a place you don’t always want to ward 10 minutes in.
“Guys, we need to do something about their Ursa, he’s farming” - admit it, how often have you heard or said that sentence? Ursa is a midgame dominator that still transitions well into the late game. You do not want to give him free farm, as he can be deadly with only a few items. As a jungler and midlaner, you want to play as safe as possible to secure early farm and levels. Especially as a jungler, life will be rough as supports will roam to keep you in check. Ideally ask your support to provide you with a ward at the entrance of the jungle to force the opponents to at least utilize a Smoke of Deceit for their ganks.
In the midgame, Ursas will want to look for pick-offs. Items at this point should include a mobility item that allows you to find kills or open up team fights. Ursa can and should transition kills into tower pushes with Overpower.
In teamfights, Ursa should initiate to create space for his team, while also focusing the supports and potentially bursting one down with Overpower and Fury Swipes, thus creating a favorable 5v4 situation.
If you looked at just pub games, the answer would be pretty straight forward. Max Fury Swipes, then Overpower and you’re good to go. In professional games, that answer looks a bit more complicated, rightfully so. A value point in Earthshock at level 3 is almost necessary when you have an offlaner to deal with. It makes killing them much easier.
There are cases where some pros would even skill up Earthshock further to at least level 2. It is a very situational upgrade though, although the damage and slow increase are not to be neglected. Maxing it first or second is viable in certain match-ups, especially in the midlane with a Bottle.
A jungling Ursa or a safelaner that does not expect to face any opponents anytime soon can and should of course maximize efficiency by leveling up Fury Swipes and Overpower first.
As previously mentioned, the new ultimate opens up new avenues for Ursa. Fury Swipes are also no longer a Unique Attack Modifier (since 6.81), allowing Ursa to build multiple items that still seem somewhat odd but make a lot of sense.
While Ursa could benefit from Tread Switching, he does not benefit as much from Attack Speed granting items like other carries, making Power Treads less efficient. Thus Phase Boots are the go-to Boots upgrade for Ursa. They provide him with the mobility to not get kited and chase supports even through creepwaves.
The next item is always dependant on the state of the game. Generally, acquiring a Morbid Mask into a Mask of Madness is the trend these days. It is an efficient item to farm with that increases the movements speed and allows you to deal much more damage for pick-offs as well and enables Ursa to take down Roshan early on.
Mobility is definitely the biggest issue Ursa needs to address early on, thus Blink Dagger and or Shadow Blade are must have items for the midgame. Buying both is generally too greedy though, but there are situations where it can be justified.
From here on out, everything is really situational. Generally you want to purchase items that either ensure a kill upon initiation or something that makes you more sustainable. Diffusal Blade and Abyssal Blade make it very easy to secure kills, especially against Ghost Scepters. Even a Scythe of Vyse is appropriate as it also addresses Ursa’s inherent need for mana.
If you want to be more sustainable, Black King Bar is the most obvious choice, to not get locked down. However, Aghanim's Scepter is definitely a strong pickup as described above that adds a lot of good stats and doesn’t lose value over time. Having both certainly will make you close to invincible.
While Ursa may have changed as a hero bit by bit, the way to counter him has not changed all too much. Locking him down or kiting him around is the way to deal with him. Strong, BKB piercing slows ( Venomancer’s Gale for example) or disables (Abyssal Blade, Beastmaster’s Primal Roar) are good, just not as good as they were before. His new Agh’s allows him to even sustain through those disables and slows, which is why it’s important to address Ursa early on to gain an item advantage.
Fighting Ursa when behind is an uphill battle and your supports will be snacks for him. Warding him early on, blocking camps or ganking him is vital in making sure your team stays ahead. Not allowing him to kill Roshan as he pleases is a must to not let him get out of control. If killing him once seems like a rough task, killing him twice will be nigh impossible.
It is good if the meta allows heroes such as Ursa to be viable. Ursa is a hero whose concept is easy to understand and the basics are easy to pick up. Dota has always had a steep learning curve and for players that are intrigued by the competitive scene and get into the game, it can be disheartening to not be able to play the same heroes as your idols do. Seeing Ursa succeed in pro games gives you a sense of accomplishment when you succeed with the hero yourself and it also makes it easier to improve your game when you see how the likes of Arteezy or MATUMBAMAN play him.