The shadow demon is an interesting hard support hero that seems to offer excellent early gank opportunities, plus some interesting late game scaling. According to Dotabuff he is one of the least played heroes (ranked 102 out of 108) and also the least successful (106 out of 108). Yet I see him all the time in pro games – what’s going on?
This was the game I played http://www.dotabuff.com/matches/960982210
I didn’t read a guide beforehand, but here is the hero’s wiki page http://dota2.gamepedia.com/Shadow_Demon
Summary of abilities
I think with SD it might be best to start by talking about his four skills, since these are quite unusual. There is a good guide to his abilities here
The spell, which defines him, is Disruption, which banishes any hero (friend or foe) for 2.5 seconds. During that time they are invulnerable except to some of SD’s abilities, and when they come back two illusions of that hero appear under your control. All of SD’s other skills are balanced around Disruption, and so understanding this and using it properly is key.
You can use it in a teamfight to protect one of your team (including yourself) who is being focussed by the opposition. They will have to switch targets, buying time for your team mate to run or blink away when they reappear.
You can use it to disjoint incoming nukes such as Sven’s hammer or the Spirit Breaker charge, for example.
You can use it on an enemy carry in a teamfight, taking them out of the game for a short period. Since the illusions have damage equal to a proportion of the Disrupted enemy hero, by Disrupting powerful carries you can put out carry-like levels of damage for 8 seconds at a time in the late game. I believe that the illusions gain most passive abilities, some item passives and some auras (so Disrupting Anti Mage will give you 2 manaburning illusions).
You could use it on Faceless Void during his chronosphere, for example, to mess up his initiation.
You could use it to break channelling (eg Enigma or Witch Doctor during their ults).
You can use it in the early game kills – if you get 2 stacks of shadow poison on the target then disrupt them (giving your allies 2.5 seconds to get into position) and cast shadow poison again. The next stack of shadow poison you cast will do 210 damage (this is with level 1 shadow poison! – the figure for level 2 shadow poison is 330!), plus you have your illusions, plus your teammate is in position.
Benefits of shadow demon
Unusually for a support, he scales really well into the end game. Disruption gains in power the more powerful the hero that you disrupt, meaning that it’s a really useful throughout the match. Soul Catcher also amplifies damage by a multiplier, meaning that as carry dps increases the benefit of the spell increases. Finally there is a strong AoE nuke for pushing, even if it does take a while to build up the charges.
He also doesn’t need many items and can function as a hard support (just brown boots and a wand), albeit that mana boots would be very nice to have.
As a downside he’s very squishy, his right click is pretty awful and he lacks any escape other than banishing himself.
An excellent hard support. +1. Would play again.
As for why he is so rarely played, I guess it’s because his abilities don’t seem obviously powerful. He doesn’t have a traditional “nuke” except for his ultimate (which scales poorly). Shadow poison doesn’t really hurt until you get 4 or 5 stacks going and Disruption is quite subtle in how powerful it is. Compare him to Lich, for example, and the latter is much more obviously powerful – with his array of strong nukes and armour increases.