Skywrath Mage

Skywrath Mage returns

Dragonus, the Skywrath Mage has been through a turbulent couple of years in DotA 2. Though a favored support pick in TI4, he as since fallen out of favor due to some glaring weaknesses. However, the sweeping changes in 7.07 brought some needed buffs to the hero. These buffs increase his viability in a multitude of ways, and I believe he’ll see increased play in pubs and tournaments because of them.

Skywrath’s problems

Where can I even begin here. For starters, though a powerful nuker, all of his damage is magic based. As soon as teams buy BKB, most of his potential effectively disappears. Once the game hit this point, there wasn’t a whole lot a Skywrath Mage could do. His skill set is centered around picking off heroes, and he does this very well in the early game. Unfortunately this leaves him incapable of pushing lanes or taking objectives. The hero’s inflexible nature made him unappealing to teams who might need to pivot strategies mid match.

Until recently, Skywrath also had trouble getting solo pick offs without outside help. For a hero who was supposed to excel at this, this was a major problem. While concussive shot slowed enemies in order to set up his Mystic Flare ultimate, it was not often enough to keep the enemy within the spell’s effective radius on it’s own. In order to ensure full damage, an ally would need to open the engagement with a stun for Skywrath to achieve his full potential.

It’s all a thing of the past

Skywrath Mage

Image courtesy of Dotabuff.com

Skywrath Mage

Image courtesy of Dotabuff.com

IceFrog has graced the Skywrath Mage with a few choice buffs in the last few patches. These buffs both increase his kill potential and his late game options, effectively addressing both of his previous weaknesses.

We’ll start with the buff before 7.07, with the buff to Rod of Atos. Atos was already a fantastic item on Skywrath thanks to the slow stacking with Concussive Shot. While the stacking slow was akin to a full stun, there was still some wiggle room that allowed enemies to escape the Mystic Flare radius. In patch 7.00, Atos’ Cripple ability changed from a four second slow to a two second root. This change makes Skywrath mage a mid-game ganking fiend. Unless an enemy has an escape mechanism or a ton of health, they will find themselves dead if they get caught by this combo.

A talented bird-man

Skywrath Mage

Image courtesy of Dotabuff.com

With the old news out of the way lets move forward to the present. Skywrath received and entirely new series of talents. A couple of these are more noteworthy than others. For starters, the Ancient Seal cooldown talent changed from a level 25 talent to a level 15 talent. Not only that, but the cooldown reduction was increased from four seconds to six seconds. With the ability at level four, Ancient Seal becomes a six second targeted silence with an eight second cooldown. This amount of uptime for a disable is phenomenal, especially as early in the game as level 15. This dramatically improves Skywrath’s ability to participate in fights early by potentially silencing two heroes per fight.

More important is probably the talent sitting on the other side of the level 15 branch: +1 Arcane Bolt. What used to be an Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade in the late game is available for free at level 15. Better yet, the talent stacks with Aghanims, meaning Skywrath can cast 3 Arcane Bolt mini-nukes for just 70 mana. The ability to cast two arcane bolts give’s Skywrath an ability to push lanes that he didn’t have before. Of course other heroes still clear waves better, but now Skywrath has a way to help his team once the BKBs roll out. Naturally, they also drastically increase his damage in team fights.

A pub pick up

Skywrath is a versatile nuker that can disable key carries in team fights and melt supports with his early game pick off potential. While I believe he will remain a situational pick for professional DotA, he can really be an all-star in pub matches. Arcane Seal is a massive disruption for teams with poor communication, and Arcane Bolt remains a relevant low cost nuke late in the game thanks to his new talents. Most importantly though, hitting the Rod of Atos/Mystic Flare combo never gets old. In a matchmaking world where people seem hesitant to pick supports, it is hard to go wrong with a Skywrath Mage pick.


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Three of the most insane talents in DotA

Talent Trees have been the best addition to DotA

The addition of Talent Trees came with the Reborn patch along with a breath of fresh air into hero composition. Allowing for in-game adjustments to core aspects of your hero within each game. Simultaneously removing stat upgrades that were only useful on a handful of heroes. Talent Trees have also pushed the creativity of DotA players to new levels due to the nature of some of the upgrades.

Early, a few heroes became basically broken thanks to their talent trees. Most memorably was Lina’s first talent tree that allowed her a respawn timer reduction. A small oversight on a hero that can easily justify a Bloodstone to further reduce her time off the map. This would spell the end for respawn talents. All of which were patched out a couple months later. Talents have seen a lot of touch-ups since, but a few remain extremely impactful. Not just Puck’s ridiculous Level 25 talent of +420 Gold/Min.

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Puck being blessed by IceFrog

Crazy Coconuts and a Scorched Earth campaign

Witch Doctor’s talent choice at level 15 is between +90 Damage and +2 Paralyzing Cask Bounces. Too bad carry Witch Doctor isn’t a thing. But, support Witch Doctor is boosted with another 2 seconds of lockdown and damage. On the surface this may not seem so powerful. A level 4 Paralyzing Cask already bounces 8 times. Though adding another 2 bounces adds another second of stun in a teamfight. The value of this cannot be underestimated. Coupled with Maledict, a Death Ward, or both can provide devastating damage from a support.

Another hero who’s teamfight presence benefits from a Level 15 Talent is Doom. Scorched Earth is already a powerful ability:

doom, scorched earth, dota 2

(Dotabuff)

So let’s add another 15 Damage and Heal per second to that. Doom has largely fallen out of the meta as an offlaner and support. But, this talent turns him into a very tanky frontliner in any teamfight. Think about it in terms of HP alone. With this talent Scorched earth does 640 magic damage over 16 seconds before reductions. in a 600 range area. While also healing Doom for the same amount. If you were to catch two heroes in a gank for seven seconds; that’s an HP swing of 1155 in favor of your team. In the early-mid game this is incredibly annoying to fight into before even taking into account his ultimate.

How much regen is too much regen

The answer is a Timbersaw with max Reactive Armor stacks at Level 15. Because this is when he gains a passive +14 Health Regen. If you haven’t played against this yet, pray you never do. A Timbersaw with no items and max stacks of Reactive Armor at this point would have a cool 46 HP regen/second. Add in another 21 HP regen with a Bloodstone and you have a real problem chaining all over the place. Physical damage becomes almost useless with all Timbersaw’s armor and regen. You would need a ton of magic damage burst just to make a Timbersaw think about leaving a fight.

DotA has always been a game about talent. With MMR dividing up players into skill brackets. A pro scene rich with extremely skilled players who are always pushing the game’s limits. Talent Trees just provide a in-game nuance that further ensures no two DotA games are the same.

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