First Look: Warlock

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The first of an occasional series of posts in which I will play new heroes for the first time and give some first impressions.

The warlock seems to me to be a very powerful support hero at all stages of the game, and one who scales extremely well. He’s also more difficult to play than the heroes I usually pick, not helped by my inability to find my unit bind keys on the fly.

This was the game I played http://www.dotabuff.com/matches/899393714

This is the guide I read beforehand http://www.dotafire.com/dota-2/guide/warlock-a-support-guide-6-81-1018

Summary

Warlock is very good in the laning phase, having a Shadow Word spell that functions either has a heal or a powerful DoT effect. You can use it to babysit your carry and help him with his regen, or as a strong harass on a squishy enemy support – even at level 1 it does 165 damage for only 90 mana. Most level 1 nukes are about 1 mana per point of damage inflicted, so this spell is almost twice as powerful as a typical level 1 nuke and even after magic resistance will take up to 25% of the health of an enemy hero. Once you hit level 3 and have the second rank of this spell then kills are definitely a possibility if you are paired with a stun hero.

The Fatal Bonds spell is a really good scaling laning ability that scales into a strong teamfight  nuke – even as Warlock’s dps falls away then your carry’s dps will come online, allowing this spell’s damage to scale with your carry. In lane you can bind an opposing hero to the lane creeps, meaning that any damage to those creeps will damage the opposing hero. It’s worth noting that this damage is HP removal, so if you are playing against Warlock and this spell is used on you it will not break bottle regen, salves or clarities. It should also be noted that this spell is cast on a unit – this confused me for a while, but you cast the spell on a unit and nearby random enemies are bonded to that target.

Warlock is unusual in that his third ability is on a long cooldown like an ultimate. It is a massive AoE slow – in the game I played I used it to get two kills early on by trapping opposing players next to our Juggernaught when he was spinning.  It is a great teamfight ability and combos really well with his ultimate – the golem summon! The downside is that it’s channelled – you really don’t want to be casting this in the middle of a team fight – ideally you’ll be at the back somewhere while the carnage goes on somewhere else.

And finally, his outrageous ultimate. The golem summon is an absolute bastard of a spell – it starts with a large AoE slow and stun, a bit like a mini version of Tidehunter’s Ravage, and then summons a large unpleasant creep.

Said summoned creep hits reasonably hard (with part of the damage being random) but also does a radiance-like burn damage effect in an area.

It’s also worth noting that the hero’s str gain is excellent for an int support – he never quite becomes tanky, but he’s less squishy than some such supports.

In a fight

The idea is that you cast Fatal Bonds, immediately cast the golem summon for the stun, and then cast the AoE slow. This does very significant AoE and makes the Warlock about to be a teamfight monster while standing back at a safe distance.

Controlling the golem effectively is difficult (at least for me) and I think will take some practice – he starts attacking the nearest unit to the centre of the summon, but if enemy heroes run away there is the risk that either Warlock or the golem will stand there like a lemon. It’s worth going into your keybinds and binding a key to “all units under your control except your hero”, but a certain amount of micro skills and multitasking are going to be needed here.

It’s this control requirement which makes me hesitant about the Warlock again. I do normally prefer simpler heroes.

After the teamfight, send the golem either into a lane or into a jungle camp – the burn damage makes it a great AoE farmer.

Items

I was the “ward bitch” in our game so didn’t get too far in my items. He is very mana hungry and so arcane boots are a must. He’s described in the guide as a natural Mek carrier and while I can see that, I can envision circumstances when you have to stop channelling your slow to cast the Mek.

I think Rod of Atos could be good on him, as it’s a cheap, gives great stats and the slow would be useful to chase someone down with your golem.

Force staff is amazing on all int supports as always.

The debate about Sceptre or Refresher is interesting but I never got that far in my game. I do note however that the burn effects from two golems stack, which makes me very keen to try a Sceptre build.

Overall

A really interesting new hero and one I’d like to play again. Now I’ve got my keybinds sorted, hopefully I’ll do a bit better too.

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