Queen of Pain had been a forgotten hero for the last few patches. Most players have focused on the fact that she was not very strong in the mid lane. However, the most recent patch has seen her rise in tournament play, and not just in the mid lane, in EVERY lane.
In the most recent tournament, ESL One Birmingham 2020, Queen of Pain was a frequent first pick, especially for a lot of the European and CIS teams. Team Secret, OG, Alliance, and even Evil Geniuses have drafted and won games where they have first picked Queen of Pain. If you told someone a patch ago that this would be the trend, they would've been confused as to why you would lock in your mid laner as a first pick. However, we are finding Queen is picked because she is one of the most flexible laners in this metagame.
Why is Queen of Pain so flexible?
The meta we are currently in can be described as very laning-phase-centric. Teams will value lane dominators that can push very well, such as Chen, Beastmaster, Lycan, Pugna, and Underlord, to name a few. With the recent changes to comeback gold, it is more than likely that if your team gets a lead early and can grab towers, you will be able to snowball the game. Queen of Pain's place in the meta exists as a counter to these Heroes by being able to turn the laning phase on their heads. In lanes where specific heroes are supposed to win the lane and snowball, Queen doesn't allow them to do that. Instead, Queen wins the lane and puts these lane dominators behind.
Queen of Pain's strength in lane relies heavily on the new Sage's Mask. This item essentially doubles Queen of Pain's base mana regen of 1.6 to 2.6 and allows her to freely spam her Shadow Strike ability in the lane to harass enemies. Another reason this item is so good on Queen is the flexibility of what it can be built into.
Gustav "s4" Magnusson builds first item Necronomicon to increase his farm speed and pushing ability. Eul's Scepter can be built for survivability or even Orchid Malevolence to find pick-offs. The mana regen has allowed Martin "Saksa" Sazdov to play Queen of Pain in defensive tri-lanes because he can always take great trades against enemy supports and give his carry safe farm.
The second reason that Queen of Pain is so flexible right now is that she can even be played as an active carry who farms up early and roams around the map, creating space for her team. Artour "Arteezy" Babaev has had a lot of success building her with an early Blademail and fighting right after it. He then builds either BKB, Orchid, or even an Assault Cuirass to allow Queen to be deceptively tanky and virtually unkillable in mid-game engagements with her Blink and tanky build.
Speaking of making space for their team, Queen of Pain players are also not devoted to a specific skill build. While most Queen of Pain players focus on maxing Shadow Strike to dominate a lane, first-picking her doesn't always give her a lane to dominate since it provides the opponent ample opportunity to counter the pick. We have seen players like Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg secure farm in the offlane by maxing her Scream of Pain, trading farm with the enemy safe lane, and making better rotations to secure a lead.
Queen of Pain has emerged in a position she has never been in before: a common first pick core that is flexible and unpredictable. The recent meta changes that focus on lane domination and the prevalence of melee cores in our meta allows comfortable match-ups for her. In addition to how optimized her item build is, it is not surprising that she is so strong right now.
Until the next patch comes and she possibly gets nerfed, I predict that she will continue to be a menace that teams will have to deal with for the foreseeable future.