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Warlock - A Support Guide (6.81)

May 27, 2014 by Sando
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Build 1
Build 2


DotA2 Hero: Warlock

Purchase Order


Core (1-2 from)

Extension Options


Teamfight Luxury


Hero Skills

Fatal Bonds

2 4 8 9

Shadow Word

1 3 5 7


10 12 13 14

Chaotic Offering

6 11 16


15 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25


Warlock is an unusual hero - with some unique skills. While a good support hero during the laning phase, his true potential can only be unlocked by fighting with his teammates.

He's very potent at early harassment, especially against evasive heroes like Weaver or Windranger who can avoid auto-attacks.

He suits players with good positioning and tactical sense, who enjoy co-ordinating with their team. Hes a poor choice if you like to farm and want a big number in your kills column.

Pros / Cons

+ Good starting strength and growth
+ Good starting intelligence and growth
+ Excellent team fight skills
+ Not farm dependent
+ Fast attack animation and projectile speed
+ Long range initiation
+ Good babysitter

- Poor starting agility and growth
- Long cooldown time on spells
- Abilities slow to take effect
- Very long cooldown on ultimate
- Ultimate is his only stun
- No escape mechanism

Fatal Bonds

Fatal Bonds is an excellent skill which holds its value throughout the course of the game. Every enemy linked by the bonds will take 20% of the damage suffered by the others, making it absolutely devastating when combined with big AOE nukes from your team.

During the laning phase, you can use this spell to harass enemy heroes, and to push the lane out where required. It inflicts good Damage Over Time harassment, but be aware that it will move the lane away from your tower.

During ganks you should attempt to bond together enemy heroes whenever possible, or just to creeps if necessary. This extra damage can make the difference between getting a kill or not, as the bond has no range limitation. It also makes it difficult for enemy heroes to juke, as the bond will show where they are.

During team fights you should always attempt to link the enemy heroes as quickly as possible, the damage boost is massive, and can also kill off enemy heroes who attempt to flee the fight on low health. Bonds is your main damage skill and scales extremely well.

Fatal Bonds is your only real farming spell - you receive the gold for any creep killed by the fatal bonds damage rather than a direct attack from another creep or player.

Bonds works by a rare form of damage known as "HP Removal" - this subtracts damage directly from a player and is extremely difficult to block or reduce, however it doesn't trigger an "attack effect" on the player, so does not stop abilities like Blink Dagger cooldown.

Shadow Word

Shadow Word is your Heal and Damage spell depending on whether you cast it on a friend or enemy. It's kind of a slow motion nuke, taking a long time to deliver it's damage. However, it does a LOT of damage - 165 at level 1, all the way up to nearly 500 at level 4. It's also pretty mana efficient. Be aware that the Damage is reduced by Magic Resistance, while the Heal isn't.

Shadow Word is useful early game for healing yourself or your lane partner, slowly building the HP back up. It can frequently let you survive close ganks, and can let you successfully bait enemy heroes into bad situations - the only issue is that the heal is slow acting, so it proves ineffective against big burst damage.

You can also use it to harass too, and can even get you kills if you cast it as an enemy is retreating on low health. The combination of Fatal Bonds and Shadow Word does a deceptively high amount of damage.

Later on in the game, you can use it to heal up your team and weaken enemies, but is a low priority compared to your other skills in a team fight.


A very powerful and highly under-rated spell that is practically a 2nd ultimate in terms of its AOE, cooldown (50 seconds!) and potential effect. It also has to be channelled, which means it should usually be cast 3rd after Fatal Bonds and Chaotic Offering in a team fight.

Upheaval has a very large area, but it takes time for it to really build up effectiveness. Depending on the level of the spell, every second you cast it increases the amount of slow by 7/14/21/28%, up to a maximum of 84%. Hence it takes 12/6/4/3 seconds to reach maximum effect. Enemy heroes are also slowed for 3 seconds after they leave the AOE of Upheaval, so you can channel it briefly and still get a pretty good effect at higher levels.

Upheaval can really mess up enemy teams who pick too many melee heroes, although heroes with either a blink ability or dagger are much less effected. You can also use it for early ganks and escapes - its a little impractical, but can be surprising effective - how many other skills offer the potential for a very long 84% multi-target slow?

Chaotic Offering

This is Warlock's showpiece skill, combining a massive AOE stun with added minion(s). This is a really great initiation spell, as you can cast it from long range, allowing you to stay out of trouble while opening the door for your team.

Chaotic Offering
has a 1 second stun that bypasses magic immunity. It will also summon an Infernal, one of the strongest minions in the game, packing a radiance-like effect, plus good damage and hit points. Be aware that enemy heroes can claim 100 gold for last hitting it.

The Infernal is great for attacking enemy heroes while youre busy channelling Upheaval, and can also be used for farming and tower pushing afterwards. Buying an Aghanim's Scepter will mean the spell summons 2 Infernals instead of one, but their hp and damage are reduced by 25%. With a Refresher Orb you could potentially have 4 Infernals at once :-)

On the downside, Chaotic Offering has a long cooldown time (nearly 3 minutes) and should not be wasted. Early game, the ideal time to use it would be to initiate on the enemy lane heroes, and then push straight on to their unguarded tower. Later on you should only really be using it for team fights, and the Gollum does lose some of his impact against strong carry heroes.

Be aware that the active purge from Diffusal Blades and Shadow Demon's Demonic Purge can insta-kill your gollum - this is bad.

Using your Skills in Teamfights

Your combo was made for team fights, usually you'll go with

1) Chaotic Offering
2) Fatal Bonds
3) Upheaval

Chaotic Offering gets you the initial stun, which should allow you to quickly follow up with Fatal Bonds. You can quickly cast Shadow Word if necessary, or go straight into Upheaval.

If you have a Refresher Orb, make sure to cast both your other spells again before launching in to Upheaval.

Getting your Chaotic Offering right is the most important thing - you need to hit multiple targets and give your team a window of opportunity. This can make a big difference whether you're initiating or counter-initiating. You don't need to worry about enemy magic immunity, it can even be better if they've activated it, as you've now wasted a second of their time.

In some games when against heroes with big team fight powers like Enigma, you can end up playing a game of cat and mouse about who initiates first - don't be afraid to keep out of trouble and with your ult in the bag to stop them from using theirs. This is a real strength of Warlock - even a Linken's Sphere or Black King Bar can't stop you from breaking channelling spells.


Warlocks biggest issue is mana - you can't afford to be too wasteful - remember his right click is good for last hitting/denying/harassing. Early game is about managing these costs until you can some additional regeneration, usually Arcane Boots and some levels will do the trick.

While you can be played as a mid/semi-carry, this guide is all about using him as a support hero. This means going relatively light on equipment, but you've generally got good sustain with some additional mana regeneration, and don't need any specialist initiating equipment due to the range of your spells.

You should always be prepared to help your team out by buying items such as a Animal Courier or Observer Ward, plus utility items later on. In most lane setups you should allow your partner to farm, concentrating on denial and harassment. You can grab some farm when you get the chance, but you should concentrate far more on teamfights and pushes.

Once you've solved your initial mana problems, you should concentrate next on utility items depending on who else is on your team. If there are heroes already doing this, you may be able to go straight for your luxury items.

Laning Positions

Warlock is reasonably flexible, able to play in any lane against most opponents. In the support role he's not farm dependent, but is still relatively level dependent. His skills work well at lower levels, but he benefits greatly from extra points, and really wants to get level 6 ASAP.

Generally on the side lanes this means that you want to be part of a dual lane - he's not particularly suited to trilanes (loses too many levels, lacks early slow/stun), and offlane solo is too much for him unless the enemy really lacks burst damage. Generally his spells work better with allies too.

Warlock is an attritional style support - he's very good at wearing down the opposition over time with Shadow Word and Fatal Bonds, once activated most heroes can't get rid of the effects and have to tank it up. This works especially well against squishy heroes who rely on their evasion skills to avoid damage.

Starting Items

Obviously everyone has their own favourites, but personally I like this:

Tango (125)
2 x Clarity (100)
2 x Iron Branches (100)
Animal Courier and Observer Ward (300)

As a ranged support with a good attack animation, you can generally stay out of harassment range, allowing you to heal yourself or your carry as necessary with Shadow Word. The branches provide a cheap boost to your stats, and can be used for your Mekansm later on.

Possible Core Items

Your priority when looking at your core is to boost your mana regeneration as quickly as possible - allowing you to make more use of your spells.

Arcane Boots give you an occasional boost of mana, and once you have some levels up, its usually enough on its own. They're also a useful item for the rest of your team. On the subject of boots, there are other choices available depending on your playstyle and team setup but you should always have at least boots of speed.

Ring of Basilius
is another team item, giving you and nearby players some extra mana regen and armour. However, I dont think its really enough on its own. Again, be aware how many other players on your team already have one, or will be getting a Vlads.

Magic Wand another item giving you some cheap stats boost and health/mana on tap. However, it probably wont cover your needs on its own unless youre laning against Zeus or Batrider.

Bracer - a basic stats item to improve your damage and survivability. Null Talisman is also an option, but you don't really need the extra intelligence or damage. Dagon and Veil of Discord don't particularly work on Warlock - Drum of Endurance is a much better utility item.

Urn of Shadows - a nice alternative to the Bracer, it boosts your mana regeneration as well as your health pool, while also giving you another heal and modest nuke. Avoid if somebody else on the team is building one.


Depending on the way the game plays out, and your slow farming speed you wont necessarily get the chance to buy all of these items, but here are some of the options.


Unless someone else on your team (e.g. Lich, Dazzle) has already got a Mek, or its too late in the game for it to be effective, you should be aiming to get one for your team. Its regen and auras are useful for you, and you should be at all the team fights when its needed.

Drum of Endurance:

Another good team item, it boosts speed and attack speed for you and nearby allies, plus providing some nice stats gains. Its a solid item choice if your team doesnt already have one.

Vladmir's Offering:

A useful enhancement to the Ring of Basilius, you should only really consider it if you have melee heroes on your team who will benefit from the lifesteal. However, the various auras are still useful, and will benefit your minions.

Eul's Scepter of Divinity:

At just over half the price of a Sheepstick it only provides boosts to movement speed and mana regen. The cyclone ability allows you to temporarily take one hero out of the game - very useful if you need a bit of escape and some extra disable.


Due to your support status, relatively poor farming speed, and that you might have been buying wards and dust all game, you may find expensive items difficult to acquire. If you can afford one, its important to get the choice right. There are a few different routes you can go down here:

- Teamfight ( Aghanim's Scepter, Refresher Orb)
- Utility ( Necronomicon, Scythe of Vyse)
- Aura ( Shiva's Guard, Drum of Endurance)

The most common choice is team fight, but occasionally you will want to consider the others depending on the situation.

Aghanim's Scepter:

A very solid item; gives you a lot of stats and further improves your Ultimate. This used to be a big no-no on Warlock due to some unknown bugs - this has now been fixed, and the Gollums now function as intended. A Refresher Orb is still preferred if you can afford one however.

Refresher Orb:

An extremely expensive item, but it adds a lot of intelligence/mana related stats, and gives you the ability to instantly cooldown your skills. This is very, very useful for Warlock, allowing you to use your ult twice in one fight, or to minimise it's cooldown.


Warlock benefits from the extra strength and intelligence provided, and can make good use of the minions. However, he may struggle to afford the upgrades that really benefit this item such as invisible hero detection - make this a priority if your team needs reliable detection.

Scythe of Vyse:

Or Sheepstick, this item is very powerful, but expensive. It adds a lot of power to your right-click, and gives you an extra Hex ability. However, neither of these can be used while channelling upheaval. Ideally there will be someone else on your team to carry this instead, but in specific situations (e.g. against the likes of Storm Spirit, Anti-Mage etc) it may be vital.

Any DPS or Orb items are not recommended due to your poor agility.

Sample Builds


Team Fight:

When to Pick Warlock

Warlock is a great hero when the opposition has gone for a melee heavy team, especially if they are not usually blink dagger users. Upheaval will really let your team dominate fights in this situation.

Warlock is a good support pick, and especially good at supporting carries who have a hard time in the lane at the start. He synergises well with DPS heroes and heroes with big AOE nukes - adding 20%+ damage amplification to the likes of Echo Slam or Poison Nova can be deadly. Each hero bonded will take extra 20% damage from each of the other ones hurt!

Special mentions go to Venomancer who's ulti can be lethal combined with bonds, as well as Witch Doctor who synergises extremely well with your skills. Sand King is another hero who really benefits, and is a dangerous laning partner. Generally any hero with big AOE damage will get on well with you.

Warlock is unusual in that he provides ranged support and initiation.

When not to Pick Warlock

Warlock doesn't really have a direct counter as such, but he's somewhat vulnerable to anyone who can get and stay close. He has no real escape mechanism and although reasonably tough for an intel support...he's still an intel support.

Characters with blink abilities (or likely dagger wearers) are much less affected by your upheaval, as its a slow rather than a stun, and they can just disappear out of it. Strong ranged carries like Gyrocopter are also less bothered as they can continue shooting, even if they find it difficult to escape.

Shadow Demon is worth a mention as his ultimate can insta-kill your gollum with it's purge - the same with the active purge on Diffusal Blade.

Although Warlock is reasonably sturdy, he's unlikely to have the items to turn him into a real tank, so gankers such as Pudge and Nyx Assassin can do serious damage - plus they have stuns that will stop Upheaval being channelled.

The likes of Slark, Legion Commander and Abaddon also have various ways of removing or minimising the effects of your abilities.

All of the above are manageable to a point, but the real reason not to pick Warlock is if your team is desperately in need of Stuns.

Skill Build / Justification

I'd keep an open mind when it comes to your skill build with Warlock - you should adjust your choices to the situation rather than stick religiously to one set build. All of your skills are useful, it's just a matter of deciding which ones you need to level most urgently. I wouldn't describe 'lock as a min/max hero, you can spread your points around a little depending on what you need.

As a general rule, you should always get Shadow Word to at least level 2 fairly early on - it gives you and your allies sustainability in lane, and allows you to harass without pushing the lane.

Fatal Bonds is no doubt your best skill, and the mana cost doesn't increase as you level it - however, it will push the lane. You can make this work for you with effective stacking/pulling, or if you want to try to take towers early. It's horrible for enemies to lane against as they can't avoid the reasonably substantial damage. You need to have it maxed by the time serious team fights break out.

Upheaval is more tricky - some 'locks don't level it at all, choosing stats instead, some players absolutely love it. How effective this spell is really depends on the opposition - if they don't have any way of easily escaping or avoiding it's effects, then it can be devastating, especially against melee heroes. Against teams who have skills that bypass it, then it's a low priority. If you're going to get it, commit at least 2 points to make it worthwhile.

Chaotic Offering - easy one, level it every chance you get - the mana increase is fairly negliable, and the gollum much more effective.

Guide Discussion
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Quote | PM | +Rep by SkyneT800 » May 18, 2012 8:24am | Report
Should try rushing Veil of Discord :)


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Quote | PM | +Rep by Sando » May 18, 2012 12:01pm | Report
I've not really tried using veil of discord with him (mainly for gold reasons) - I guess with a team of nukers it could be very helpful. Would you suggest it if you didn't have other spell based damage dealers on the team? And would get it ahead of Aghanims?


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Quote | PM | +Rep by Numeta » May 18, 2012 12:54pm | Report
Yes. Your rush veil of discord as it has a great regen component early on, and coupled with fatal bonds actually doubles the effect of the shared damage. It's not about having a lot of spell damage, it's used to buffer your fatal bonds.


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Quote | PM | +Rep by Sando » May 18, 2012 1:18pm | Report
Fair enough, I'll have a go with it the next time I play and update the guide as necessary. Are you guys happy with the rest of the info/advice in the guide?


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Quote | PM | +Rep by JeepLV » May 20, 2012 1:57am | Report
Good guide, I see you put a lot of effort. Nice explanations and justifications.
For me only problem is Urn of Shadows, i think this item isn't even worth be considered on him, because it's gankers item.


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Quote | PM | +Rep by Sando » May 20, 2012 2:53am | Report
Thanks for the feedback - glad you liked the guide. I'd argue quite strongly that Urn of Shadows is good on Warlock - as long as nobody else on your team has bought one (charges only go to 1 urn, etc). Gankers coming to your lane + upheaval means you can get early charges for it, and team fights will provide a lot of them. It adds more tankiness, mana regen, and mana-free healing that you can dish out quickly to your team.


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Quote | PM | +Rep by kirbyruled » June 11, 2012 3:03pm | Report

Good guide to one of the least played heroes in DotA.


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Quote | PM | +Rep by ownedbycreep » January 10, 2013 12:50pm | Report
Good guide man, I´m a warlock player as well and I like to see how other people play it, its versatility makes it a strong pick for teamplayers and I find it one of the funniest heroes.
Regarding your skillbuild, I think you must choose amongst 2 skills to max fast. Just one level of Bonds is not enough for a good harass, not to say for an early lane battle with golem. The same way, healing is too poor, and slow takes a long time to be effective. On first levels it is far more efficient to max 2 spells asap because they can be more effective.
I believe the key is to choose which gamestyle are you playing on each match, and to choose your skilling carefully. If you are babysitting or destroying enemy carry's farm, go for SW. If you want early ganks and a focus on teambattles, Upheaval first. Bonds always, at least at level 1 and 3 for laning and at 1,3,7,8 for battle focus.
Also, I would erradicate (as you do) aghanims from Warlock's core build, for almost the same price you have a refresher orb, which gives you, in addition to a second golem, a second area stun, and does not weaken your golems. Anyway, both are LUXURY items, and should never be a core build for this hero, specially when played as support. There are items far more suitable and synergetic, such as Drums, Meka or the OP Necronomicon 3 (which you didn´t add as core item, and I think it is the more synergetic and powerful item on him).
Good job with the guide, and thanks for feedbacking mine. I forgot about dotafire for a whole year, now I have just read your comment.


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Quote | PM | +Rep by Sando » February 11, 2013 9:19am | Report
Thanks for the feedback - I've just done a bit of work updating the guide as the game has changed, and my experience with Warlock improved.

Personally I still quite like to go with some variation on that build, Warlock is quite a versatile hero and you do need to alter your build to match. Fatal Bonds is no doubt your best spell, but I sometimes wonder if the extra harassment is worth the lane movement early on. I like having a few levels in Upheaval is it's a great slow and will sometimes net you kills you couldn't have got with your other skills.

Agree Necrobook is a great item on him - albeit expensive to get to level 3. The stats and the active are great though, and it's an easy choice versus a team with much invisibility.


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Quote | PM | +Rep by the_potato_ninja » March 3, 2013 2:47pm | Report
Personally, I tend to leave upheaval until I have the other two skills maxed, it is best used as a team fight and not usually needed until later. I often find myself buying a refreshers orb even when constantly buying wards, but tend to avoid Aghanims, as for only 1000 more you can have 2 stuns, much more useful in a team fight.

However I think your item build and justification is great, and this is the best warlock guide. +1


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