Riki is a torment for low ranked players and recently became successful even at higher medals. Learn how to play against him and the best items to use.
Starting from 7.12, Riki’s win rate increased from 50% to 57%, and his pick rate tripled from 10% to almost 30%. The win rate is stellar up to 4k rank; afterward it drops, but remains positive even at Divine.
7.12 reworked his ultimate: Tricks of the Trade.
Now hits a random enemy unit within the area, instead of hitting all at once on each interval.
Now also hits enemy non-hero unit, instead of heroes only.
Reduced attack interval from 1 on each level to 0.5/0.45/0.4.
Increased duration from 3/4/5 to 4/5/6.
The new ability makes him a better killer and helps his snowballing potential. Now, Riki is able to inflicts lots more damage versus a single target, and due to the very low cooldown of the skill (30 seconds once maxed out) he can spam it during any assassination attempt.
The reduced attack interval also serves to trigger on-hit effects such as the Skull Basher. During the ultimate's duration, a stun is pretty much guaranteed.
The lane stage
As a support and a roamer, you must buy Sentry Wards and Dust of Appearance for the entire game in order to help the team and counter Riki.
This is one of the main issues when dealing against invisibility heroes: sacrificing your hard-earned money for extra consumables makes you very poor. In specific, a support might not have the chance to buy a survivability item until the mid game.
If Riki plays as a laner, you must pressure him as much as possible during the early game. Be sure to have a Sentry in the lane at all times, carry Dust, do not let him farm, and try to zone him out so he won’t get free experience. The hero is extremely weak in the early game, so killing him is rather easy if you have vision and a disable.
When facing a roaming Riki (used by the great majority of players) vision is even more crucial. The position 4 and 5 must place a Sentry Ward in each lane to prevent ganks.
Unfortunately, this is one reason behind the effectiveness of the roaming Riki: not everyone is ready to sacrifice too much money for the team. Most support players just protect their own lane, and occasionally spare a second Sentry at the start of the match, but they rarely keep all their teammates safe during the early game.
Note that you can actually save money not warding some lanes: those in which Riki can certainly do nothing as he can just stick around to leech experience. But, understanding which lane can be neglected is very difficult even for seasoned players.
Overall, remember that he can contribute only with his Smoke and physical damage, so heroes with lots of armor and mobility can usually survive against his gank attempts.
If you are solo-supporting, do not waste time rotating the lanes just to place all Sentries. I know that often people won’t plant them even if you buy/drop them in your base and alert in chat, so you must also deliver them.
While performing your duties, micro the Courier and bring Sentry Wards directly in the hands of your teammates. It is isn’t fair, but there is a reason if the “good guys” play support.
Timings - Differences between low and high ranks
Riki has about three power spikes during the match: when he hits the level 6, when he buys the Diffusal Blade, and finally when he gets the Aghanim’s Scepter. The latter extends the duration of Tricks of the Trade to 10 seconds. Once he has enough items and damage, almost no hero is able to survive for so long under his ultimate.
At lower ranks the laning stage generally lasts more time, even 15-20+ minutes, which is of great help for Riki as he has all the time to build the Diffusal Blade and start his reign of terror.
At higher ranks, people group up and push earlier, so he has less chances to kill a wandering solo target.
Due to the reasoning above, even when you are able to shut down Riki in the early game, at low ranks he has the time to come back and turn into a nuisance. Still, try your best to give him a hard time or things will become even more difficult.
Smoke Screen silences the targets affected, but doesn’t prevent the use of items, so there are multiple ways to counter it.
Only beware of the Nullifier as it mutes the effects of your active items. Fortunately, it isn’t a popular item and only a tiny percentage of the Riki players will ever buy it. “Niche” items are the least used as many just rely on standardized builds.
Let’s start with the basic Town Portal Scroll. The teleport is one of the best counters during the early and mid game. Similarly to Bloodseeker’s Rupture, when hunting alone, Riki doesn’t have yet enough damage to kill you in a few seconds, and he can’t stop the channelling without the Skull Basher.
The Force Staff is your first priority when playing against Riki, particularly if you are a support as it allows you to save both your life and your teammates. Often, this item alone is enough to survive and fight back, or just disable him and escape.
Thanks to the Ghost Scepter, you can’t be attacked for 4 seconds. It is more than enough to teleport away, and can be used in combination with the Force Staff to exit from the Smoke Screen and nuke Riki. In the past, this item was kinda pointless as all Riki players buy the Diffusal Blade, but from 7.07 its active ability no longer applies a basic dispel.
The Glimmer Cape is another useful tool as it grants invisibility for yourself or a friendly hero. Riki will be forced to carry Dust to gank you successfully - many players may not do it, especially at lower ranks.
As a carry, you might want the Monkey King Bar to negate the miss chance of Smoke Screen. Note that the Black King Bar is a perfect counter if activated before Riki uses his ability, in fact all effects persist if the debuff was placed before spell immunity.
A Gem of True Sight and a level 3 Necronomicon are of great help later in the game so you won’t have to rely solely on Dust and Sentry Wards to detect him.
Tips and heroes
Never be alone. You should always stick with a teammate, especially as a support or a squishy caster, otherwise Riki will easily kill you. Smoke Screen can disable multiple heroes, but overall he excels at assassinating one at a time.
Not only the supports can carry Dust. Gankers, roamers, and supports must always have it, but even a carry should not neglect this consumable item, especially now that we have access to extra inventory slots.
Root prevents his ultimate. While rooted, Riki can’t blink away or utilize Tricks of the Trade. All heroes with such abilities can counter him, and usually all Root-based disables have a long duration.
Weak against silence. Heroes with silencing skills of that buy the Orchid of Malevolence are likewise excellent. At all stages of the game, Riki needs his abilities to disable and assassinate the target. His damage alone isn’t enough to survive and claim victory unless very fed.
True Sight via skills. Bounty Hunter, Zeus, and Slardar have abilities to detect invisible heroes. Honestly, their impact is greater at lower ranks where players are not willing to sacrifice too much gold on consumables.
Burst damage. Of course, Riki is very squishy, so any hero with burst damage (both physical or magical) can obliterate him from the fight in no time. If the assault is well-coordinated with a disable, he may not even have the chance to use his ultimate.
Bristleback doesn’t fear Riki
This hero isn’t the solution to all your problems, but he is also a perfect tank against Riki.
If affected by Smoke Screen, he can’t use Quill Spray, but the ability can still be triggered by Bristleback.
Due to this passive, Riki can’t even exploit the extra damage of Cloak and Dagger if he wants to survive.
As a tanky hero, he is one of the best options to carry safely the Gem of True Sight.
In the end, Riki can’t focus Bristleback, but ignoring him will also cause lots of damage to the entire team as he will keep stacking Quill Spray.
If you are wondering about how to counter Bristleback, I have already published an article with the best heroes, items, and strategies.
Header image: Covert Saboteur loading screen for Riki - Valve