Who is Undying? A skill overview.
So, Undying. What is he? Undying is a Strength hero that excels at staying alive, supporting teamfights, and pushing lanes. In this sense, he is the king of assists; his abilities don't outright do a ton of damage, but they all have various ill effects that make it that much easier for your teammates to eliminate enemy heroes. Anyways, he has 4 very unique, complimentary abilities:
Decay: A moderately mana-intensive spell with a short cooldown. Steals 4 Strength temporarily (21-30 seconds) from the target, then does 40-160 damage after the strength loss is factored into their health. this means they essentially lose 40-160 + 76 health every time you cast it. They will eventually get their strength back when the duration runs out, but Decay is on a 4 second CD, and stacks until you reduce the target to 1 Strength.
When to use: While laning, if the 2-3 you're laning against group up, hit them with a quick Decay. You can steal up to 20 Strength per cast (split among 5 enemy heroes, of course). That results in a whopping 380 extra health for Undying for 21-30 seconds, which is nothing to joke about. Decay is also very good against heroes with low starting strength, as it further reduces their health. When in a teamfight, try to initiate from a distance with this spell before closing the distance, as it makes you that much tougher while somewhat weakening your enemies.
Soul Rip: Again, a moderately mana-intensive spell with a decently long cooldown. This ability is very useful; it allows you to pull 25 health from each surrounding enemy, creep, OR ally, then transfer it as damage to an enemy or health to yourself or an ally. This ability can target 5, 10, 15, or 20 units, making it capable of dealing or healing 500 damage at max level. The 25 health drained from a target cannot be fatal, only being targeted by the actual Rip can kill.
When to use: This is Undying's nuke. Use it when enemies are near a creep wave, or surrounded by zombies. Don't be afraid to use it on a friend or yourself, however; a well-timed Soul Rip can make the difference between escaping and dying. Be wary in your usage, however, as you really don't want to be caught out with this spell on cooldown.
Tombstone: This is arguably the most essential skill you have. When you spawn a Tombstone, it creates an entity for 15-30 seconds in the world that destroys trees. This entity has 200-800 health. When created, it will instantly spawn uncontrollable Zombies on any enemy, creep or hero, within a 400-1000 unit radius, and continue to spawn Zombies in the same fashion every 3 seconds until it is destroyed/times out. Zombies are magic-immune units with low health. They have an ability called Deathlust. When they attack a hero, Zombies reduce movement speed by 7% for 2.5 seconds. This stacks as more Zombies hit the same target, and is refreshed every time the same Zombie lands a hit. If the enemy hero falls below a certain threshold of health (100-400 HP), Zombies gain 50% increased movement speed and attack speed on that target. This forces the target to either quickly eliminate the Zombies, or essentially get poked to death.
When to use: This is a great way to initiate a fight in lane, especially against melee heroes who have to wade into the thick of the wave to get a few last hits. Positioning is key; you need to make sure the Tombstone spawns within range of the enemy creeps to create Zombies, but it also needs to be far enough away from enemies that they can't immediately focus it down. One of my favorite techniques is to lurk in the jungle along a lane, then position a Tombstone directly behind a hero, still kind of in the tree line. This causes a couple things to happen; one, a bunch of Zombies spawn in front of the hero. Two, you now have a clear path through the brush into their face, with the Tombstone blocking their escape. The enemy really only has a couple choices: stay and fight, hoping to kill you before the Zombies do enough chip damage to Deathlust; destroy the tower, which takes too long at higher levels, or just run. The latter option is fairly easy to counter, since you will be positioned directly behind them with that strategy.
In a teamfight, unless you're up against something like Earthshaker (because of Echo Slam), you usually want to drop the Tombstone off to the side somewhere, close enough to spawn Zombies, but not so close that it can be easily focused down before the fighting truly begins.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Tombstone CAN be healed by Soul Rip! It is the only building in the game that can be. Use it if the enemy starts focusing TS down, forcing him to spend even more time fighting it while you and your Zombies gnaw on him.
Flesh Golem: Undying's ultimate ability transforms him into a hulking zombie with a few neat abilities. First of all is the Plague Aura; enemies within the aura will take increased damage and be slowed by 9% in a 750 AoE around Undying. On the outside of this AoE, enemies will take 5-15% increased damage, while up close, enemies will take 20-30% extra damage. This applies to your teammates as well, so getting close to someone and keeping them in your Aura makes it that much easier for your teammates to land the kill. In addition, every time an enemy creep dies in your vicinity, you regain 2% of your maximum health whether you killed it or not. For every hero that dies, you regain 6% of your maximum health.
When to use: Teamfights, usually right after you drop your Tombstone. Your aura will help your teammates nuke down the opposition quickly, while your health and regen capabilities will allow you to hang in the fight longer. Also quite good for chasing down 1-2 stragglers, as the Aura usually will slow them just enough to be caught by you or your teammates.
What to buy and when:
Items: Undying benefits not only from "tank" items, but also from items that boost Intelligence or offer increased mana regeneration, simply because he has a lot of abilities, and they burn through mana quick. Here's a quick list of whan I generally run:
Ideal start: 3x Iron Branch, 1x Tango, 1x Healing Salve, 1x Ring of Protection
Why: The reasoning behind it is quite simple. The 3 Branches to start boost your stats, making it slightly easier to land last hits in lane, plus it builds into a Magic Wand very quickly. The Tango and Salve will give you some health regen without having to burn Soul Rip on yourself (hopefully). The RoP will easily build into a Ring of Basilius, thanks to the Side Lane Shop.
Now, for the less-than-ideal situations:
Courier start: Animal Courier, 1x Tango, 1x Ring of Protection, (3x Iron Branch OR 1x Iron Branch + 1x Healing Salve)
This is for when your feel like being a team player and actually helping out. Ideally, you want to give up your Salve for the Courier. But, if you feel you'll need more HP regen than that (even with Soul Rip), sub out 2 Branches for the Salve. It'll result in a slightly weaker start from you, as it'll take longer to put together a Wand and you'll do slightly less damage, but it's not the end of the world.
Ward start: Observer Ward, 1x Tango, 1x Ring of Protection, 2x Iron Branch
If you have to do this, tell your actual support to go **** him/herself, then take the safe lane. With decreased health regen options, you don't want to put yourself into a bad position by taking the suicide lane.
Now, you'll notice a common theme: in every build, I try to start with a Ring of Protection. Why? Because very early on, you can build it into a Ring of Basilius, which gives you and your teammates some extra stats, as well as a bit of extra mana regen. The slightly increased armor to start also helps you tank a bit of ranged harass. If you find yourself being harassed a lot, you can lane for a minute or two and then pick up a Stout Shield from the Side Lane Shop; that will also help, plus you can build it into other things later.
Ok, so, you've got your Branches, your Ring, whatever. It's time to go out laning. You're pullin' all the last hits, getting tons of denies, basically owning face. What to build next?
Early Game: Ring of Basilius, Boots of Speed, Magic Stick
This should be fairly obvious. Basilius gives you some nice buffs for practically nothing, Boots are standard, Stick gives you great regen when you're getting harassed. Note that you can build Basilius and pick up boots at the Side Lane Shop, meaning you should not have to go back to base unless you get very low on health/mana. Magic Stick can be purchased at the SL Shop as well, but the recipe for Magic Wand must be transferred to you. If you really, really need the Wand ASAP (getting harassed hard), just TP back to base for it. Early on, it's more important that the courier be available for the carry, or the hero soloing mid.
Note: UNLESS YOU ARE ACTIVELY PUSHING A LANE, TOGGLE RING OF BASILIUS OFF! The armor bonus affects creeps AND heroes unless you turn it off. Once off, the bonuses affect only you and your allies, making it easier to maintain creep equilibrium.
Slightly Later: Magic Wand, Arcane Boots, Ring of Health, Stout Shield
The reasoning here should also be fairly obvious. Magic Wand is the natural progression from Magic Stick. You want to build your Boots into Arcane Boots 95% of the time for a couple reasons. First of all, the extra mana is very important in teamfights early on, as your abilities drain your mana extremely quickly. Also, since the mana boost is given to everyone in an area, it's a great way to support your team in pushes, especially if your damage dealers are primarily magic users. Unless you're alone and at full mana, try to use it every cooldown, just to get maximum use out of it. Note that everything listed here can be picked up at the Side Lane Shop; ideally, you should get all of this stuff before the laning phase ends, just to save yourself a headache. The RoH and Shield pickups should be fairly obvious buys, but if not, we come to the next part of this guide.
Early Core: Vanguard
This is the last point in the build that's fairly set in stone. Vanguard is a wonderful, wonderful item to have on Undying, especially early in the game. It provides a great health boost, great HP regen, and the blocking ability is great for pushing lanes. Now, I know what you're thinking: if Vanguard is this awesome, why not get it early on? Well, the problem with Vanguard, compared to everything else listed so far, is that it absolutely requires the Secret Shop to be built. During the laning phase, you really don't want to be abandoning your lane unless you absolutely have to. Plus, it's more important to get the basic things (Basilius, Boots, Wand) before jumping into your core.
So, at this point you should have Ring of Basilius, Arcane Boots, Magic Wand, and Vanguard. This is your fairly standard early line-up on Undying; plenty of health, plenty of HP and mana regen.
Possible substitutions: Ring of Basilius is a must, to start. If, however, you reach a point where you have over 33 base intelligence, you can probably either sell it and get a Void Stone (for later use), or disassemble it and keep the Sage's Mask. Usually, it'll be the first option. You see, the thing about Basilius is, it adds a flat 0.65 mana regeneration no matter what your Intelligence level is. This is why it's so effective very early in the game, and is most often the first or second item you build. As the game wears on, however, it becomes less and less effective as everyone's base Intelligence continues to increase. That, plus the armor and damage buffs become laughable over time, as everyone starts hitting like a mack truck while you tend to not build any other +damage items. Of course, if you think that slight increase helping everyone is worth more than having that slot open for much better items on yourself, feel free to keep it. It truly isn't that big of a deal, just something to consider over the course of the game. Another possibility, if your team has a lot of melee damage dealers, is to eventually build Basilius into a Vladimir's Offering, but that's a really situational thing that I'm not going to get too in-depth about because it's really not worth it the vast majority of the time. I mean, Vlad's gives some great advantages, but at the point in the game you'd be building it, your money could be put to better use elsewhere.
Arcane Boots are a must 95% of the time. The only reason you would ever want to pass on them is if you have 2-3 other players on your team with them already, one of which is your lane partner. In that rare case, you could opt for either Phase Boots, to help with chasing down enemies, or Power Treads, for either the Strength or Intelligence gain. If you went for Treads, the best option would be Intelligence, just for the extra mana it would provide, but you can always toggle it as needed.
Wand... if you really wanted to, you could forsake the Wand entirely and get something like a Bottle instead. It relies on numerous things: is your solo mid terrible at rune control? Do you find yourself back and forth between the fountain and the lanes a lot? Is your support keeping the river well-warded? If so, feel free to try taking a Bottle instead. A possible starting build, with this strategy in mind, could vary greatly. You would at least want to take a Ring of Protection to build Basilius and some Tangoes for regen, but beyond that, how much gold you spend/save is entirely up to you. Only buying RoP and Tangoes, for example, would leave you with 338 gold, over half of what you need to build a Bottle. To be perfectly honest though, I have never tried something like this, and prefer the slow, continuous use of the Wand (compared to the 3-charge system of the Bottle). Don't be afraid to experiment! Undying's pretty beefy and can take some early harass in stride. Another possible Wand replacement would be a Soul Ring, though it's pretty costly to be buying that early on and doesn't actually provide any health. It's a great substitute if you always find yourself hurting for mana, however, and even a level 1 Soul Rip can cover nearly all the damage you take with ease.
Nothing replaces Vanguard. Always get it as early as you possibly can, after grabbing the rest of your early items of choice. If you're still laning and get enough money for the Vitality Booster, you can always send your courier to the Secret Shop to ferry it your way. I suck at controlling the courier though, so I usually just wait until the heavy pushing starts to nab one.
Late Core: Here's where things get tricky. If you're still laning strong by the time you pick up the Ring of Health and Stout Shield for Vanguard, you can actually do a couple different things. At this point, your inventory consists of Basilius, Wand, Boots, RoH, and SS. If you want to continue laning, the next item in the general build after Vanguard is Hood of Defiance. The Hood also requires a Ring of Health. So, alternately, instead of either breaking rank to go to the Secret Shop or sending your courier as a middleman, at this point you could simply choose to pick up another Ring of Health. Do NOT, however, push to complete the Hood before Vanguard, even if you can do so with only items from the Side Lane Shop. They are both great items, but Vanguard is a higher priority item and should be finished first. By the time you finish the Hood, you should be in the pushing phase, unless you were like, uncontested in your lane or got a ****load of kills. At this point, you can quickly build the Hood into Pipe of Insight, just for the magic block ability. It is INSANELY useful against a team of casters, as it can soak up a good amount of initial damage. So, around mid-game, your true core line-up is: Ring of Basilius, Arcane Boots, Magic Wand, Vanguard, Pipe of Insight. With it, your get good damage block, good magic resist, good health and mana regen, plus a bit of armor, mana regen, and damage block for your teammates.
From there, your goal is usually to make yourself tankier in some way, or help boost your mana regen to have some sustaining power in long teamfights. A great start is Perseverance; it adds a bit of damage, but more importantly, gives you some great HP and mana regen. Best of all, it builds into 3 other great options: Linken's Sphere, Bloodstone, or Refresher Orb. What you pick will depend on a number of things. First of all, the easiest pick is Linken's Sphere; it is the easiest to acquire, requiring only 2 other ingredients, both of which can be bought from the regular shop. Linken's is basically everything you've ever wanted, rolled up into one complete package: you get Strength, Intelligence, HP AND mana regen, extra damage, and it can block one targeted spell, big or small, every 20 seconds. That's HUGE. Linken's is great against a team with many high-damage casters, such as Lina (Laguna Blade), Lion (Finger of Death), or Sniper (Assassinate).
The next option is if you're completely dominating, and don't see yourself dying much, if at all. Bloodstone is the cheapest of the items, but also the most useful if you can stay in the game. I mean, where do I even start with this thing? It gives you 500 health and 400 mana to work with, plus crazy HP regen, PLUS insane mana regen. To top it all off, you get a flat bonus to your mana regen depending on how many charges it has. And, since you start with 6 charges, that's a huge boon. The gold loss prevention , reduced respawn time, and other various effects are just icing on the cake. This item, however, is quite complicated to make. Assuming you followed the regular build, creating the Soul Booster needed for Bloodstone takes a bit of inventory ****ery to make work properly. The easiest thing to do, if you're going for a Bloodstone, is to just sell your Basilius and Wand at the Secret Shop when buying everything for Bloodstone. You really won't need them once you have it. From there, it's as simple as staying alive and being around in teamfights to soak up charges.
The final option, lodged firmly in the "just for ***** and giggles" category, is Refresher Orb. Now, I know what you're thinking. "But Henry, why the hell would Undying benefit from Refresher Orb?" But before I answer that, answer this: are you ballin'? Have you ever wanted to create LOL 2 TOMBSTONE? Have you ever wanted to saturate the map so hard with zombies that it lags the game? Well, look no further! Refresher Orb has everything you need to be a complete douche to everyone on low-end hardware, just like those ******* Necromancers in Diablo 2 that spec'd into nothing but summoning. I was one of those *******s. Anyways, to get into serious mode, Refresher Orb gives you great regen, some extra mana and damage, and the ability to completely swarm your enemies with Zombies, or extend the lifetime of the Flesh Golem to a full minute. You will never die.
Extreme Endgame: So, let's say you have your Boots, Vanguard, Pipe, and Linken's/Bloodstone/Refresher. Maybe you still have Basilius and Wand, who knows? The game still hasn't ended, for some god-awful reason. Where to go from here? The next best thing to get, after all is said and done, is Heart of Terrasque. This item makes you INSANELY tanky; 40 extra strength and 300 HP, plus if you stay outside of battle for 4 seconds, you start regaining 2% of your maximum HP every second. If the battle lasts any longer than that, begin questioning your sanity or the competence of the two teams.
Alternate recommendations: Now, if you're up against 2-3 heroes that rely on their autoattack to do a ****load of damage (Ursa, Lycan, Chaos Knight, Sniper, Sven, Juggernaut, etc.), Pipe of Insight's not gonna do **** to help your team. In this case, there are a couple good options. The much cheaper, but harder to use method is to pick up Blade Mail, especially if you're getting focused down quickly. Blade Mail won't actually prevent any of the damage, but if you wade into battle first and the entire enemy team decides to ult on you and take you out of the fight first, they're going to seriously regret it. Especially someone still relatively squishy, like Lina or Sniper. The other,far more expensive option, is to pick up Shiva's Guard; it allows you passively slow the attack speed of enemies, or slow their movement speed down even more, completely preventing them from escaping. The stat buffs it gives, however, are kind lackluster compared to how much it costs, so it's usually not that great of a pick. Other great picks for a more supportive role are Drums of Endurance and Mekanism, though those kind of items aren't really ideal unless your actual support(s) suck(s) and won't buy either. Scythe of Vyse is a great, but costly, weapon that allows you to prevent enemies from fleeing effectively. It also does wonders against heroes that like to summon a lot of illusions (Naga, Phantom Lancer, Chaos Knight, agi carries w/ Manta Style), as it kills illusions instantly. Another decent, but expensive, pick is Eye of Skadi; the movespeed slow works wonders when lumbering after someone in Golem form.
To be honest, as long as something gives you Strength, Intelligence, or armor/regen, you can probably make it work. Just don't spend your money foolishly.
Things not to buy: Agility-boosting items, pure damage items, items that increase your attack speed. Like I've said numerous times in this so far, Undying is a tank. He is not meant to wade into battle and start wailing on people super-fast for hundreds of damage a hit. Could you do it? Yeah, maybe against a team of ****lords, but with competent teammates, there are much better heroes for doing insane damage with.
A note on Aghanim's Scepter: Yes, it upgrades Undying's ult, but I've never found it to be a particularly good upgrade. The only significant increase is the amount of health gained from hero deaths, but even then, your money could be better spent working on Heart of Tarrasque.
Anyways, a tl;dr of my personal build:
Start: 1x Tango, 1x Salve, 1x Ring of Protection, 3x Iron Branch
Laning: Ring of Basilius, Boots of Speed, Magic Stick into Wand
Early Core: Arcane Boots, Vanguard
Late Core: Hood of Defiance into Pipe of Insight, Perseverance
End-Game: Linken's Sphere OR Bloodstone OR Refresher Orb
"Holy ****, why has nobody won yet?": Heart of Tarrasque
How to skill Undying:
It's fairly easy. You always want to take Decay first, then put at least a point in Soul Rip, then spend the next few levels after that maxing your Tombstone. There are multiple ways to do it, however. My usual build, to level 7:
Decay > Soul Rip > Soul Rip > Tombstone > Tombstone > Flesh Golem > Tombstone
I do this for many reasons. First of all, having a point in Decay makes you very, very good at harassing squishy heroes from afar during the first few levels. It doesn't do much damage (it never does), but the lost Strength is HUGE, especially when you start stacking it up. A great early combo is to lane with someone who has a guaranteed stun, then use Decay to sap their strength while you partner stuns, then go in for the kill. I've managed many, many kills at level 1 with such a combo, usually on squishy supports or casters (Crystal Maiden, Sniper, and Lina are decent initial targets). I then choose to pick up 2 levels in Soul Rip, because being able to deal or heal 250 damage at level 3 is really damn good, especially if you manage to stack multiple instances of Decay on a single target. Finally, at level 4, I pick up a level in Tombstone and start actively ganking.
The ganking set-up is fairly simple. Lane with someone carrying a guaranteed stun/disable. Let the enemy push your lane away from their tower, then slip into the jungle along the lane. Position yourself right behind them, hidden from view by the trees, then drop your Tombstone in the tree line, slightly behind them when the two creep waves meet in battle. For added effect, have your lane partner nail them with a stun. What does this mean for them? Either they can stay and fight off the Zombies slowing them down, they can turn and fight the Tombstone, or they can run. The first two options are terrible ideas, as the Tombstone clears trees around it, giving you the ability to get behind them and attack. Also, Tombstone can be healed by Soul Rip, which makes attacking it rather futile. Against heroes without an escape or a reliable stun, this is usually a kill. Just make sure your lane partner is in on it, having a guaranteed stun is a great way to make sure the enemy doesn't escape.
Note: GET BOOTS BEFORE DOING THIS. If they have boots and you don't, good luck catching them. If you have boots and they don't, they're so ****ed.
Anyways, from there, I continue to level Tombstone, stopping to grab my ult at level 6. At level 7, you should have 1 point in Decay, 2 points in Soul Rip, 3 points in Tombstone, and a point in Flesh Golem. When ganking past level 6, the same strategy generally applies, but you can also pop Flesh Golem as an added layer of kill security. From there, it's really up to you where to go. Generally, from level 8, I go:
Soul Rip > Tombstone > Soul Rip > Flesh Golem > Decay > Decay > Decay > Stats > Flesh Golem
Sometimes I will swap around the last level of Tombstone and Soul Rip. It really depends; do you need more healing/damage capabilities in larger teamfights? Soul Rip is the way to go. Otherwise, just max out Tombstone; at max level, it has an insane 1000 AoE, lasts 30 seconds, and the zombies hit Deathlust if the enemy falls below 400 HP. at level 8/9, most casters will only have about double that, meaning a good Decay + Soul Rip, plus a couple hits from the Zombies, could be enough to trigger Deathlust. I always level Decay last because it doesn't scale very well into the later game; the damage increases by 40 every level, and the duration increases by 3 seconds. It never steals more than 4 Strength, so once you have one point in it, you might as well forget about it until your other, more useful abilities are maxed out.
In teamfights, initiate with Tombstone. Place it far enough out of the way that enemies would have to expose themselves to kill it, but close enough that it can spawn Zombies. From there, if it's a serious fight, pop Flesh Golem and wade in, focusing on the squishiest targets first. Hit them with Decay, then either hit them with Soul Rip for extra damage, or use it to heal yourself. If your target gets below the Deathlust threshold, switch focus and let the Zombies take care of that target.
I've seen builds where people say, get Tombstone before Soul Rip and max it right away. I find that concept dumb; with a competent lane partner, you don't need Tombstone to gank before level 4, and by passing up Soul Rip, you're ignoring a key source of damage/healing.
So again, a tl;dr:
Decay: 1, 12, 13, 14
Soul Rip: 2, 3, 8/9, 10
Tombstone: 4, 5, 7, 8/9
Flesh Golem: 6, 11, 16
Stats: 15, 17-25