New(ish) Player's Guide to Death Prophet
June 20, 2012
This guide is based on my experience in low to mid level pub games as well as many hours spent watching competitive play. It is intended as a resource for beginning to intermediate players as well as a way to collect my thoughts and solicit feedback from the DotA community.
Death Prophet is an intelligence hero with a spammable nuke, silence, and an ulti that deals aoe physical damage, including to towers. She is a strong laner and pusher and is capable of semi-carrying if she has a strong early game. With this build we aim to maximize her effectiveness in the midgame while keeping her effective as long as possible into the endgame. Honestly, if we are being properly aggressive and pushing with her ulti, most games should not get past the 45 minute mark.
DP really shines in a lineup with disablers like Lina, Shadow Shaman, Sand King, Tidehunter, and others who are capable of dealing AoE burst damage and/or disables. Ideally your teammates initiate with a stun, you run in, and sit there laughing while everything dies, throwing out a silence or two to make sure nobody escapes or tries to be a hero. She is vulnerable against burst damage, especially fragile in the early game, and weak against high armor (e.g. farmed agility carries). You probably want at least one physical damage carry on your team in case the game drags on.
DP is a strong solo mid but can easily be played in a dual side lane. As she is somewhat farm dependent you should try to avoid laning with a hard carry such as Anti-Mage. She is relatively simple to play and thus beginner friendly.
Skill Summary and Build
Locust Swarm is our AoE nuke and flies outward from DP in a cone, damaging all in its path. Like many int heroes our nuke is most effective in the early game when enemies' hp is low, so we max this ASAP. Swarm is an excellent last hit and harassing tool in lane- you should try to get at least 1-2 last hits each time you use it (toss an autoattack or two on the ranged creep and wait till one or mor melee creeps gets low) as well as hitting the enemy heroes. Crypt Swarm becomes spammable after acquiring Bloodstone, making Death Prophet a good pusher and helping her keep up with farm.
Swarm can be cast either on a unit or a point on the ground. Swarm comes out with an approximately half second delay, so it is easy to miss if you ground cast. If cast on a unit, DP will compensate for movement during the delay and swarm will always always hit. The tradeoff is that the cast range is *slightly* shorter than the area of effect, so ground casting is sometimes necessary to catch a fleeing target.
Silence is our often underestimated disable. Try to throw it out as a follow up to a teammate's initiation (such as Ravage) as it prevents enemy heroes from disabling and/or focusing your teammates. The skill sequence above calls for silence at level 8--really the idea is you want to have a level of silence by the 10-12 minute mark when teamfights begin happening. If you are ahead in levels you can postpone silence and take another level or two of Witchcraft to help take down towers.
Witchcraft is our passive, and has incredibly powerful synergy with the rest of our abilities. It reduces the mana cost and cooldown on Swarm and Silence, increases movement speed, and powers up our ultimate. It is our second priority after Swarm. The movement speed bonus is percentage based and stacks with items such as phase boots, allowing prophet to chase down opponents with her ulti or flee from attackers while her damages them down.
Exorcism is our ultimate and signature move, creating a swarm of spirits around DP that deal physical damage in a radius. When the spell ends, the spirits return to Death Prophet, healing her in proportion to the damage they have caused. The spell damages towers, making it an excellent pushing tool. Be aware that activating this spell will often make Prophet the target of choice for enemy heroes, as killing Prophet causes the spell to end (unfortunately, this is true even with Aegis of the Immortal). Survivability is thus a key concern and will be the focus of our item build.
Like many heroes, knowing when to activate DP's ultimate will make or break your game. In the early game, Exorcism is incredibly powerful for pushing as it (coupled with swarm) can both clear enemy creep waves and damage the tower. In teamfights, ideally a teammate will initiate with a stun such as Ravage, you activate your ultimate, run in and follow up with silence. Death Prophet should generally NOT be the initiator--it is too easy for enemies to focus her down or simply fall back when they see that big green swarm of death coming. In all cases, try to have relatively high mana when you activate your ulti. Particularly in low to mid level games, opponents will often panic after suffering burst damage from crypt swarm and seeing your ulti up.
Particularly early game, good positioning is vital in using Exorcism. Try to be behind teammates or even in trees, i.e. places enemies will have a hard time reaching DP. The spirits will NOT target invisible enemies but are able to target fleeing enemies who break LoS. The spirits tend to concentrate on an enemy or building DP has targeted, but otherwise attack hostile heroes, creeps, and structures at random.
Also note that our ultimate does physical damage, not magical. This is important: while Death Prophet can dominate the midgame, she will eventually become weak against carries with high armor (e.g. agility carries like Anti-Mage or Morphling).
Our starting build is the standard game recommended. Death Prophet needs both stats and regen and should generally not buy wards or courier.
A Bottle is recommended ONLY if DP is solo mid and expects to control runes. Otherwise DP's early mana issues are best handled by getting Arcane Boots as quickly as possible.
The goal of this build is to reach Bloodstone as quickly as possible, ideally before the twenty minute mark. In most games you will pick up Boots of Speed and Magic Wand for survivability, as well as a Null Talisman to assist in last hitting. If doing well in the laning phase, feel free to skip the wand and talisman and buy an Energy Booster from the side shop to finish your Arcane Boots. If doing poorly or being severely harassed, pick up a Ring of Health from the side shop as a last resort.
Next we acquire Point Booster and Vitality Booster from the secret shop and disassemble our Arcane Boots to form Soul Booster. Note the bonus HP and mana regen, which is why we complete Soul Booster before acquiring Perseverance to finish our Bloodstone. With stone in hand, we re-upgrade to Phase Boots for the extra mobility. Starting at 12-15 minutes we *always* carry a Town Portal Scroll as our presence is particularly important in team fights and pushes. Don't be afraid to farm hard for a bit to get Bloodstone earlier--it makes a huge difference in teamfights.
There is no one correct choice for our next item (indeed, when we are doing well in farm, we will often skip this stage of items entirely). Remember, our priority is survivability. Hood of Defiance is a strong option against spell damage-heavy lineups, and can be upgraded to Pipe of Insight to greatly help your team. Though not the best choice, if no one on our team is getting Mekansm we should at least consider getting one. Blade Mail] is an interesting choice against high damage, low hp enemies, and can serve as a surprisingly effective deterrent against [[Rikimaru, Bounty Hunter, or Clinkz. Ghost Scepter is an item of last resort--it is a powerful counter to fast, high physical damage heroes like Lycanthrope whose low cost makes it ideal if your team is behind. Black King Bar is a solid choice, particularly if several disablers are on the enemy team.
Three items are generally considered DP's "extended core", enabling her to remain effective later into the game. Heart of Tarrasque is simply an excellent all around choice for tankability. Shiva's Guard is fantastic on DP, providing armor, intelligence (which also boosts our damage) and a powerful AoE slow which synergizes perfectly with our ultimate. If farming is going particularly well, consider rushing one of these two items (purchase a Platemail or Reaver immediately after Bloodstone). Scythe of Vyse deserves mention here as well, as it enables us to lock down that troublesome opposing carry while our ulti and our team do their work. We generally want to boost survivability a bit first, but rushing scythe can be very strong against enemy lineups with one carry and four low hp dps/supports.
Playing Death Prophet well boils mostly down to one thing: once we reach level 6, we are constantly putting pressure on the enemy team. We do this either by taking towers or dealing massive AoE damage in teamfights, and preferably both. Our goal is usually to have taken down the tier 1 tower in our lane by the 8-12 minute mark. From there we are looking to either force a teamfight or rotate to another lane and repeat the process (the second often accomplishes the first). Our goal is obtaining map control as quickly as possible, making it safe for our team to farm and easy to set up ganks.
In the early to midgame the idea is to force enemies to choose between losing a tower and fighting DP while her ulti is up. Once a tower is taken, DP should usually back off and farm while her ulti is on cooldown. Before level 10 and/or bloodstone, DP is simply not much good in teamfights without her ultimate. Unless you have other strong pushers like Broodmother, Leshrac, or Shadow Shaman, it is too easy for protracted pushes to stall. Too often the enemy team will be able to defend with fewer heroes than the attackers, allowing their remaining heroes to freefarm or counterpush.
Either of Locust Swarm or Witchcraft are good choices to skill at level 1. Level 1 Swarm is very mana inefficient and should generally only be used if you attempt an early first blood. The move speed boost from level 1 Witchcraft is small but still useful as DP's base movement is very low.
Starting at level 3, begin using Swarm to guarantee multiple last hits and harass enemy heroes. Avoid overusing this, as Swarm is much more efficient at level 5+ and we want to have mana for our ultimate starting at level 6.
Death Prophet is not the best early ganker as she lacks a stun or slow. Staying lane is also important to reach level 6 as quickly as possible. That said, don't be afraid to call for (or go to) a gank just as you reach level 6. With one or more disables from your teammates, your ulti and Swarm can easily net a kill and do damage to the tower afterward.
DP's ulti is useful when attempting Roshan, but she is not the ideal Aegis carrier: her ultimate ends when she reaches 0 hp even with Aegis active. She IS a very strong Cheese carrier as she will generally be very tanky by that point.
It bears repeating that, while Death Prophet can dominate games, she is NOT a hard carry. Her ultimate does not scale past level 16--late game she will lose to an equally farmed Anti-Mage, Faceless Void, Spectre, etc. every time. Having disablers on her team is very nearly a must, as otherwise opponents can too easily focus her down or simply run away until her ultimate ends.