Ancient Apparition is a support hero with a selection of extremely potent spells, including one of the best global ultimates in the game. Like a sniper, a good Ancient Apparition can pick off weak and fleeing enemies even as they are about to reach the safety of the fountain.
All of his abilities require a certain amount of skill and teamwork to make the best out of however, and the bar for playing him well is quite high. This guide will look at how to use him as effectively as possible...
+ Fantastic Global Ultimate
+ Can stop the other team from healing for up to 18 seconds
+ Great stun/nuke when used correctly
+ Fairly good tri-lane hero
+ Good agility growth gives you a reasonable right click
- Skills don't work well without extra items and/or allies
- Skills are not easy to use optimally
- Spell mana costs are pretty high
- Very squishy
- Stun is unreliable
Cold Feet is your combined nuke/stun, capable of inflicting up to 300 damage and 3.5 seconds of stun time. This makes it potentially one of the best in the game, with even the level 1 version weighing in at 150 damage and 1.25 seconds of stun.
You can probably already sense the "however" coming though...while the damage starts as soon as you cast the spell, it will only continue as long as the enemy hero stays within the radius of the initial cast area. They still have to be in this area after 4 seconds in order to be stunned.
This makes the spell extremely unreliable - while you'll always inflict at least a little bit of damage, your opponent would have to be very bad to actually get stunned unless you have allies or items to help you.
This makes Ancient Apparition an extremely situational choice, you need the right allies and the right enemies if you're going to do very much early game. Allies with good early stuns and slows will combine well with you to secure kills, enemies with good escapes can make this extremely difficult.
Eul's Scepter of Divinity is a very popular item for the cyclone ability. You can cast Cold Feet, cyclone them for 2.5 seconds, and nearly always land the stun (they're still in the area after 4 seconds) - you lose some damage, but it's usually worth it.
Ice Vortex is a multi-purpose skill which is primarily used to slow enemies and amplify the magic damage they take. It has a small radius but can effect several enemies if they get grouped up, and also works against creeps.
It does work quite well in combination with Cold Feet, increasing the damage and making them take longer to get out of the area - however it's still not enough to latch the stun without more help.
It has a long duration and reasonably short cooldown time, so you can often have two ice patches placed - especially useful during team fights when enemies may have to move over them for position.
Vortex is also very useful as a scouting spell, granting you a small area of vision for 12 seconds - handy for checking warding places, uphill and other areas in the fog.
Chilling Touch is an unusual spell, granting extra damage to you and other nearby allied heroes for a number of attacks, at the cost of a slight loss of attack speed. Early-mid game this loss of attack speed is very minor compared to the damage gained, although it's slightly more of an issue late game.
Be aware that the bonus damage from Chilling Touch is a separate instance from the user's normal attack, and is also magical rather than physical. This means it is reduced by magic resistance rather than armour, and that it won't stack with crits or skills like Walrus Punch.
The number of allies around you when you cast this is usually the deciding factor in whether it's useful or not. For example, if you cast it before initiating a fight in a tri-lane then it's an extremely cost effective way of grabbing a big slice of extra damage (approx 150/240/350/480 per hero). On you're own it's pretty meh, or a very expensive way of getting some last hits.
While all of your other spells are useful and potentially destructive, the real reason you play Ancient Apparition is to get your hands on this. Once you hit level 6, you can hit any part of the map with a big AOE nuke which can shatter enemies on low health.
When first cast, a marker (visible only to your team) will fly out in a straight line between you and the target point, travelling at a constant speed. You press again once it arrives where you want to fire. The main projectile is now launched, hitting any enemy units in it's direct path, or in the area of effect. The longer it travels, the bigger the AOE.
It inflicts an initial nuke of 250/350/450, and then adds "frostbite" damage over time equal to 100/180/320, for a total of 350/530/770 (994 with [[Aghanim's Scepter). Added to this, any enemies who's health drops below 10/11/12% of their total health will shatter and die instantly.
This % based damage makes it still relevent later in the game, but even more importantly, while under the effect of frostbite, enemies cannot heal or regenerate health - Mekansm, Magic Wand and Shadow Wave are all completely ineffective.
Aside from the global targeting, this is what really makes Ice Blast so deadly - heroes who rely on regenerating rapidly while in combat are in big trouble unless they manage to become magic immune before Ice Blast hits, or they can purge themselves somehow. With an Aghanim's Scepter this could be for up to 17 seconds - more than enough time for most ganks and team fights to conclude.
To make the most of this spell takes some practice, and good map awareness. Look for areas where you could land a good Ice Blast - slow a push, help a gank, setup a team fight or pick off a fleeing hero.
Ancient Apparition has some flexibility in role, able to play as a 3, 4 or 5. 3 usually means playing mid to get levels as quickly as possible - maximising the potential impact of his nukes. With some farm you can potentially even look at a few luxury items to boost up your right click damage.
More usual is to play as a 4 - an Aghanim's Scepter really boosts your potential impact on the game, so while you can help out with Observer Ward and other utility items, you want to try and get hold of it relatively soon.
You can also play a more conventional 4 or 5 role, getting a Mekansm, warding and supporting. However, the amount of equipment you get will impact on how involved you are in the game outside of Ice Blasts.
You'll really struggle to gank on your own unless the enemy is injured or underlevelled, at least until you get a Eul's Scepter of Divinity. Cast Chilling Touch on yourself/allies before you're in sight, then Cold Feet them, cyclone them and cast Ice Vortex on the spot where they will land. You could even fire off a short range Ice Blast too - the damage isn't reduced, only the AOE.
This combination is pretty mana heavy, but usually enough to take out most squishy heroes early-mid game. If you don't have a Eul's Scepter of Divinity you must gank with other heroes who have stuns or slows. Cold Feet is a natural chain stun due to it's delay, so cast it as soon as an enemy is stunned or slowed.
Your most important contribution to any team fight is often delivered from a fair distance away - a good Ice Blast just before the two sides engage can make all the difference. Usually you'll move with your team, cast Chilling Touch on them as a group, and then drop back behind them to try and land as big an Ice Blast as possible.
It's vital that you do this when the fight is pretty much committed to by both sides - if you fire too early it's possible the enemy might be able to retreat and wait out your damage before re-engaging.
Once you've landed Ice Blast join the fight as fast as possible, throwing out your other spells as appropritate to try and help out. Your right click is ok, so use it whenever waiting on cooldowns.
When combined with certain other heroes that can group enemies, e.g. Magnus, Enigma or Dark Seer, you may well be able to stay closer to the fight to land a good Ice Blast after they setup for you.
A pretty standard set of starting support items - plenty of regen for laning, plus basic stats and utility. Nothing particularly fancy here, I'd probably swap out the Animal Courier and a Clarity for a Ring of Protection if going mid. Get an early Ring of Basilius for the extra armour and damage.
While you can cause problems for many heroes, and can potentially kill anyone on low health, you are particularly effective against those that rely on regeneration and healing because of Ice Blast.
For example, Alchemist's Chemical Rage gives him 100 health regeneration per second at level 3, and lasts for 25 seconds. Level 3 Ice Blast with an Aghanim's Scepter not only knocks off 450 + 994 damage, it also stops him from regenerating for 17 seconds - another ~1700 "lost hitpoints".
This is similarly effective against other heroes who rely on delivering heals - Enchantress is in big trouble without Nature's Attendants and Chen's effectiveness is severely dented if you can temporarily block Hand of God. Slark may well be completely invisible with his ult on, but Ice Blast will still hurt him and stop him regenerating. It can't be purged either, only temporarily blocked by magic immunity.
Spent all that cash on a Heart of Tarrasque? Oh dear, it doesn't seem to be working. Even the ever reliable Mekansm suffers against you.
Anyone who can help you keep an enemy hero in a particular area for long enough for Cold Feet to latch is going to help you. Multiple team mates with reasonable slows or stuns can also do the job.
Ranged team mates generally benefit more than melee ones when using Chilling Touch in lane.
Global Nukes or Spotters:
Your combined long range nuking power timed to hit together can frequently be enough to finish off weakened enemies, or snipe careless ones. Their nuke can often be sufficient to push them into the "instant fatality" zone of frostbite if they're not quite there. Other heroes can't necessarily add much damage but can give you vision of fleeing heroes, making them much easier to pick off.
This is the very abridged version of your enemies - basically you need to worry about most enemy heroes to some degree - you're damned squishy with no escape, slow movement speed and a stun that takes several seconds to work. I.e. easy meat for any number of aggressive/burst damage heroes.
Also most annoying for you are heroes who can remove debuffs like Slark, Abaddon and Legion Commander - ok they can't get rid of frostbite, but they can shrug off Cold Feet easily. Heroes like Omniknight and Dazzle can also potentially save team mates about to die from Ice Blast with Repel and Shallow Grave.
Ancient Apparition is an interesting hero with a unique ultimate that's a lot of fun to use, making you into the team's walking artillery piece :). His other spells can also be incredibly potent, but do require the right co-ordination and setup to do so.
This unusual set of requirements means that you should only consider him a SITUATIONAL pickup. Run him with a good trilane, roamer or long stunning carry, or fill in at mid if there's nobody more appropriate available. Avoid picking him when your team can't provide setup, or enemies can easily avoid it. Grab him to counter the heroes that rely heavily on regen and healing spells to be effective.
You can develop a reasonably good right click compared to most similar heroes, but a lack of scaling/passives will always limit your damage output compared to "proper carries". You have some strong abilities and should definitely consider an Aghanim's Scepter wherever possible.
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