This guide is for organized game oriented players.
Principles can still be carried to the public domain.
The focus will be on hero optimization and mechanics discussion.
Druid is a very strong hero in the current push-oriented metagame.
Druid has a passive early laning phase where he is vulnerable to ganks, but quickly becomes a powerhouse mid-game with tankiness due to ultimate, pushing power due to demolish on Bear, and team-fight presence with high mobility and proc disable.
Druid drops off a little in the late game where enemy hard carries can catch up (especially illusion-based heroes), but due to his 12 max item slots, he will always be improving gradually through more items in the very late game.
Bear level 3 at level 5 is rushed for Entangle.
Note that levelling Spirit Bear only adds new abilities and more health; damage and movespeed depend on Synergy.
Syngery is superior to early rabid.
All of Bear's abilities have important uses depending on how aggressive or passive your laning is; you can aim to max Spirit Bear first or Synergy
One level of ult is gained after max synergy and Bear (bonus HP from Synergy plus ult is enormous).
Rabid can be either maxed next, or with a delay at level 11 for Ultimate, depending on whether you feel movespeed/attackspeed or armour/damage/hp is needed in your situation.
For items, jungling starts with Stout Shield and Quelling Blade on bear.
After reaching level 5 (level 3 bear), swap QB to Lone Druid as QB doesn't stack onto Entangle.
Rush boots for bear and Lone Druid: you can start harassing nearby enemy lanes from level 5 plus boots on bear onwards, or you can continue farming.
Strategy branches here:
1) If you're getting good farm, and lanes are in your favour and don't need help, proceed to rush Radiance. Only go for it if Radiance earlier than 20 minutes is reachable.
2) If team needs your help, don't rush radiance and go for Orb of Venom for bear, and Tranq boots for Druid.
One of Lone Druid's biggest assets is the 12 total item slots - this makes un-upgraded cheap items viable (Cloak, Orb of venom, Gloves of Haste, Ring of Basilius, Invisibility Detection).
Orb of Venom (OoV) is terrific on Spirit Bear which is a melee unit - 12% movespeed reduction is like denying a Boots of Speed on an enemy hero.
350g is far less farm intensive than going straight for 3800g relic, and often the extra kills and faster/cleaner kills make up for the investment.
Summon your Bear as soon as the game starts (before buying items) to get its 3 minute cooldown started.
Cycle between Small and Medium camps to begin with.
Stack the pull camps and deny creep waves when Bear is healing/buying from side shop.
Large camps can still be jungled early on but make sure Bear is close to cooldown to refresh health if its low.
Make shortcuts with Quelling Blade for faster jungling and juking.
Level 2 Synergy instead of level 2 Bear gives more damage, but the Return ability is more versatile, offers better rune control/scouting, and harassment purposes.
Druid has very interesting laning dynamics.
He can do well against most enemy solo laners, but will be driven back as soon as a second hero/roaming ganker is thrown into the mix.
Druid lanes poorly against dual lane high mobility/blink heroes and powerhouse laners like Broodmother.
Success in laning depends heavily on his ability to zone enemies with Spirit Bear, then being fast enough with micro to switch back to Druid for last-hits on creeps.
Passive farming to level 5 then aggressive Bear harass with proc chance is the general strategy.
Bind group 1 (Ctrl + 1) to Lone Druid
Bind group 2 (Ctrl + 2) to Bear
Bind group 3 (Ctrl + 3) to both selected together
Bind group 4 (Ctrl + 4) to courier
- Farm with Group 3 (both selected)
- Harass by getting (1) Druid into range and pressing hold (H) then controlling (2) Bear.
Keep Bear in position with Return (Q).
- Initiate and chase enemies heroes with Rabid on, and Bear phase boots activated to avoid blocking by creeps/yourself. Aim for killable low mobility/squishies/or most dangerous targets.
- During harassment, if Bear manages to entangle, use Battle Cry in ultimate form to boost its damage.
- After level 10, Rabid can be permanently on (very long duration due to Synergy)
- You can re-summon bear to refresh its health, or you can just send it to fountain to heal/buy items.
- Keep Druid in Bear form after level 9 unless changing to and back in order to refresh the bonuses gained from new levels of ultimate. Don't get caught by the enemy in Druid form.
- Druid is good Gem holder, due to tankiness obtained by ultimate, and ability to switch to ranged form for de-warding purposes. Use Bear to gain high-ground vision when de-warding.
When pushing towers with enemy team alive, hold Druid's position closer to teammates, and only attack the tower with Bear.
Dive in with Druid when team battles are initiated or when it's safe to push.
When the enemy starts pushing midgame, often it is a better idea to counter with your own push in another lane instead of attempting defence.
With demolish and relic, Bear's counterpushing is very fast and may force enemies to defend instead of continuing with their push.
As always, good supports/disablers/teamfight heroes make or break the game.
Early game disables from Crystal Maiden, VS, Veno etc. make a huge difference in success of ganks.
A pushing lineup works extremely well with Lone Druid.
e.g. Furion, Chen, Enchantress, Broodmother, Lycan.
While their summons tank, Bear demolishes towers.
Like Broodmother, the power of split push Druid often forces teleports back.
Unlike Broodmother, however, Lone Druid can safely chip away at towers in siege situations where both teams are reluctant to initiate. This is a huge advantage in close team-fight oriented competitive games.
Squishies will fall to Radiance burn.
Similarly, Blink initiators will hate Bear for putting their Blink Daggers on cooldown.
Enemy BKB-dependant heroes (Slardar, Lycan, and increasingly every other DPS hero in the competitive scene) can still get proc'd by Bear's entangle.
Single target disablers (Rhasta, VS etc) are disadvantaged against Lone Druid, since there's two damage dealers to contend with.
Teamwork and coordinated team battles will decide the outcome of the game no matter how farmed up Lone Druid is (or any other carry).
Multi-unit dependent heroes Lich, Witch Doctor, and especially Windrunner can make use of Druid's two units.
Watch out for AoE disables, anti-tank heroes (Naix, Necrolyte) and standard counters to melee physical damage dealers (force staff, blinks, ghost scepter).
Bear doesn't benefit from stats items.
Entangle is an orb effect.
Entangle does not stop Force Staff/Manta Style/Storm Spirit Ulti, but does stop Blink.
Do not rely on Spirit Bear as a hard disable for heroes like Windrunner, Storm Spirit, and Antimage with Manta.
Gem doesn't work when Bear is holding it, but it drops gem on death.
Spirit Bear does not reveal Smoke of Deceit.
When Druid dies with Aegis of the Immortal:
1. Spirit Bear remains alive
2. Druid respawns in True Form