Bring Down Their Sky - Pub Nuker Skywrath Mage
October 24, 2014
Hello and welcome to my guide to Skywrath Mage!! Before you go on reading, i'd like to write down some starting points for better understanding of this guide.
1- All the statements below here are MY HUMBLE and PERSONAL OPINION. Every build is situational, and every gamer may differ, so, i'm not saying that this is how this hero MUST be played STEP by STEP; just how a casual, pub gamer (me) with just a tiny bit of experience, want to share it's personal way to see Skywrath Mage and how he plays him. Your Mileage May Vary.
2- Since Skywrath Mage is not newbie gamer friendly, be sure to know how to play and all the basic concepts of the game like Laning, Farming, Ganking, etc. Do not think that you read a guide/build, go in the game and get gold and win. Others will beat you before the "get gold" part. So if you are a noob, please practice and read general gaming guides; a good example is "Welcome to DOTA, you suck" by Purge.
3- This guide refers to DOTA 2 version 6.82c; that's important because DOTA is always evolving; sometimes not only stats, mana costs, gold prices get tweaked, but abilities as well gets buffed, nerfed or completely reworked so if something like this happens this guide may not be updated to the latest gameplay changes. Keep that in mind.
My Skywrath Mage in a nutshell
Fly where you will, I will follow you there!
Skywrath Mage? In my opinion he's one of the best nuker of the game, a true magic killer. His skillset is a single-hero barrage of magical damage with the ability to really
scale up to very late game and bring the pain at all levels, but he is very fragile and careful play is needed.
are fast movement; both in speed and turning rate, very high Intelligence gain, pretty solid reach range of attacks and spells, skills extremely focused on magic damage with cheap mana cost and a low cooldown.
of this hero are that he's very fragile, no built in escape mechanism with almost no armor, no mass farming abilities relying only on last hits for farming.
of playing it is to get his core items ASAP to enable him a very powerful combo that just melts enemy heroes before your eyes, in a HIT-RUN-REGEN succession and then using the gold from kills to PUMP HIS INTELLIGENCE with late items, no distractions there, and let his Arcane Bolt
& Autoattack scale up damage; and his mana pool grow huge for his massive ultimate. Survivability is key tho, so more than careful positioning and a "paranoid" attitude towards enemy position and minimap awareness is somewhat required.
Bottom line, It is not an easy hero to play as a "pure nuker", because since he gets his gold and levels with kills, he should be played very aggressively but
his fragility needs you to be a decent player to keep him flying.
This is your main nuke though the whole game, it is your work hammer and will bring you a lot of kills from the very start to late game. What it does is basically spam magical damage related to your current Intelligence stat level every 2 seconds, which is impressive due also to the fixed low mana cost (70 MP). Since Skywrath Mage grows a huge manapool as a byproduct of your INT, you are almost firing them for free even in mid game; this skill is the main reason you want to get INT so high in order to dish out as much damage as possible. Combine it with your Attack, nicely scaling up with INT as well, and you can bring down heroes escaping from you in a short time. As an added bonus it grants a small vision radius around the projectile so you can also track where it goes if the target unit is escaping it, but since cannot be disjointed, can reveal the movements of opponents trying to escape it by blink, or invisibility, etc.
The downside of this skill is pretty much it's projectile speed. Since it moves so slowly, it is not impossible for certain enemy heroes to escape and avoid impact for quite a while. In the meantime a good enemy player may also find a way to heal himself in case of a killing blow.
Maxing it first is recommended to exploit the full potential of the low cooldown, with a little but nice base damage increase useful very early on.
This skill is an auto targeting slow, with some AoE damage added upon impact. While it sounds a bit weak compared to your Arcane Bolt
, it is far more useful as a tool other than just an early slow.
It is fast and has a very far cast range, it grants a small vision area arount the fired projectile like the Arcane Bolt, and targets the nearest hero only. So it can already be used also to recognize illusions, then you can safely mark the real hero with your Ancient Seal
and hurt him bad when he felt safe in the middle of his clones.
Another fine use of this skill is to negate, early on, the use Clarity
of laning opponents shooting them from big distance, or to cover your escape easily launching it in the face of your chaser in an instant (just press the button, it will auto fire and target, cancel animation by immediatly moving Skywrath Mage to safety).
While it is not so damaging, it can be used to secure far last hits on escaping heroes due to it's very far range - just remember that you need to have visual contact on the enemy; it does not work through the fog. Also unlike the Arcane Bolt, it can be disjointed (ver. 6.82C) so the last hit trick may not work everytime.
It is maxed last because it's primary use, slowing your opponent, it's good enough at level 1. While it scales both damage and the slow effect, your priority is your Arcane Bolt for damage and the Rod of Atos for the slow.
This is the skill responsible for your extremely dangerous magic damage output and kill potential - not only is a good Silence (up to 6 seconds), it is also cheap in mana cost, and has an incredible magical damage amplification up to 45%! That means that not only your nukes are amplified, but also damage from your teammate's magic skills will hurt way more. As an added bonus, the target is marked with a big rune with a circle under his/her feet, and it's like screaming " NUKE ME PLEASE ". Simply wonderful.
This skill is maxed second after Arcane Bolt
Welcome to the (IMHO) most powerful nuke in the game. What it does is to cast in a small area of effect an HUGE amount of magical damage distributed in 2.4 seconds time directed towards enemy heroes only; First things first: while it hits multiple heroes and heroes only (not illusions, creeps, etc), this ultimate is best served on a single target to use it at full potential. That's why Mystic Flare
is the centerpiece of your killing combo, because coupled with Ancient Seal
's damage amplification it just melts away your opponent HPs while he tries to move out (slowed, of course) from that white shower of magical damage. It is also an ultimate with a very fast cooldown on level 3 is just 20 seconds, BUT in this case you have a whoopy 800 mana cost at level 3.
Why? Obviously to balance it out since it has another interesting trait: an Aghanim's Scepter
will reduce the cooldown of this ultimate down to ZERO. Yes, Zero. If it was also cheap in mana cost, coupled to your damage amplification would make Skywrath Mage overpowered even for tank heroes already in mid game to late mid game.
Also note that has a very high cast range and may be even used to get down far heroes that are escaping away in a straight and (in their mind at least) safe direction.
This skill is leveled at 6, 11, and 16.
Items and Playstyle: Early Game
Starting items for Skywrath Mage are a TANGO, 2 x CLARITY, a CIRCLET and 3 x IRON BRANCH for having solid stats and regen for laning.
I usually try to get all this stats but, since pub games are unpredictable and often i also heve to buy courier leaving 2 Iron Branches behind.
If you go mid lane you may forfeit the 2 Clarity and the Circlet to have the gold for a Bottle rush.
As soon as you meet your opponents, start HARASSING them with your Arcane Bolt followed by an attack. At level 1 this mini combo does nice damage and since it's done in the distance, you are still fairily safe from harm.
If you are laning with a carry who needs farm, let him take the gold while doing this to your opponents. A satisfactory goal here is to keep them eating their Tangoes like candies.
Just know that you are also capable of draw first blood tho - as you hit level 2 and get your Concussive Shot option, you may try to bag the first kill IF one of your opponents is about at half of his/her health and is far enough from his tower to let you have room to use a sequence like Bolt - Concussive - Attack - Bolt - Attack.
It is possible and i've done it quite a few times, but DO NOT BE GREEDY and get killed by tower or another laning hero. Experience tells when do and when do not.
Start your shopping by finishing your Circlet
by taking a Null Talisman
, this item is great on early Skywrath Mage because the boost it gives makes everything smoother with stats and more mana. Somehow i forgot to buy it in a couple of games and yes my Skywrath Mage felt weaker than usual, so buy it.
Gold is difficult to farm for Skywrath Mage, so be sure to use the quick buy function and gather items one by one. DO NOT steal farm from your laning partner but keep an eye for last hits that your team mate can't take / he's away from creeps to make your tiny gold pieces.
Keep the HARASSING going because as you can see your Arcane Bolt is very cheap and you can do fairily good at this.
The other item in the early game you need to take are the Boots of course, and my choice are the Tranquil Boots
WTF MOMENT #1 - WHY NO Arcane Boots???
The Arcane Boots seems the straight choice for Skywrath Mage, BUT
let me explain why i put them in the situational items.
While it's true that they expand your mana pool by 250, and YES THAT'S GREAT but it would be just a short lived benefit since with levels and intelligence items your manapool will grow so big, and your skills are so cheap that these boots are really not crucial for my suggested gameplay. They also are more expensive than Tranquil Boots (that are also built by cheaper componets easier to farm). The qualities of Arcane Boots
are WAY more appreciated and useful if you play a support Skywrath Mage, and i usually don't. So, situational. If you really, REALLY want more mana, you may try to buy an early Point Booster
; at least it is used on a late item.
instead address some of the big weakness of this hero: first they give you an HUGE health regen, OK you must stay out of harm and attack for this to work but it goes well with the philosophy of STAYING AWAY FROM DANGER and since Skywrath Mage is no way a durable hero, your tactic will be a HIT HARD - ESCAPE - REGEN
Then, 4 armor points are a blessing early on since Mage starts with 0 armor and he just do not build it by itself, so you add protection from early attacks and may very well mean life or death when others gets aggressive.
Last but not least, Tranquil's speed boost is incredible as Skywrath Mage hits a full 415 movement speed allowing him to survive A LOT thanks to his mobility alone (and that's how I keep him alive in game) while easily changing lanes if needed. JUST carefully plan your route and do not be an easy FEED.
Another item useful if you are laning against players who rely a lot on skills from early on, like supports and casters in general, is Magic Wand
, a regen item that will take your 3 Iron Branches from the starting items and will let you have a better lane time. Another situational item as i usually go straight for Tranquil Boots for that; but it's a valid option if you are going good with gold.
Items and Playstyle: Middle Game
As soon as you hit Level 6 and get your Ultimate, your Arcane Bolt does about 140 damage to Heroes (every 3 seconds you can shoot one], have a 70+ attack damage and a manapool of already just shy of 700 MP. Not bad eh?
Now you may have the power to effectively kill heroes by yourself, performing a combo explained below, but you still have not full control of it until you get one of your core items, that is Rod of Atos.
BUT Before that item i always take the other core, that is Void Stone.
This item is vital because it boosts your mana regen by 100% and since your ultimate is not cheap, you need it to stay in game more and perform your killing combo without going back and forth from your fountain every time.
Also, since Skywrath Mage has such a big INTELLIGENCE growth, Void Stone will scale with you very well giving you a lot of mana from the moment you pick it to late game. It is also a component for Scythe of Vyse so it's a needed item. Work your way to this item first as a priority.
Once you have your Void Stone filling your gas tank costantly (about 4-5 MP/seconds already at level 6-8), the Tranquil Boots keeping you fast and in shape, you may move to what Mage is designed for: MELTING DOWN SINGLE HEROES.
This game stage is crucial is where you may FLY HIGH or CRASH DOWN.
The killing combo
is to approach enemy hero and cast Concussive Shot
followed by Ancient Seal
to slow and silence him, while making your nukes hurt a hell lot more. Given the mechanics of Concussive, you need to place yourself carefully to make this work. Once your target is ready, the main dish: Mystic Flare
Now quite some practice and accuracy is needed there. Usually opponents try to escape away from you when they are slow and silenced, and you need the experience and prediction to place your Ultimate's AoE directly IN FRONT OF THEM so they will walk inside your shower of white death. The goal here is to set up the Area of Effect of your ultimate in the best way possible so the opponent has to get the damage for longest possible, better if for the whole duration of the Flare.
NOW: DO NOT SIT
AND JUST WATCH their health bar melt down, quick!! Fire off an Arcane Bolt
since your silence and amplification is fading away!
Now if this is executed properly, you should bag a kill on squishy heroes and more durable ones are about to die. Finish the job with your usual Bolt - Attack - Bolt sequence since now your Arcane Bolt should have a mere 2 seconds cooldown.
Once you got the kill, GO AWAY FAST!!
usually others will rush to take you down because they may know that you have no mana and not in full health, so escape with a tactic of "HIT FAST, RUN FAST".
Just note that at this level you should have your manapool exhausted by the combo so get away fast and let your Void Stone and Tranquil boots do their job. Also, you may want to take advantage of your moving speed and go to the fountain if you want and/or expect action real soon and you can't wait your items to regen you.
While performing your combo, try to NOT FEED
and get killed often. Use your eyes, minimap, be paranoid and your speed will take you away from harm. Listen to "missing" calls and try to be sure that you are not in danger.
When Ganking begins, you may very well be targeted due to your fragility. Please do not get caught with your pants down.
Try to repeat the above tactic until you can afford your Rod of Atos
An item that is just TOO Good in Skywrath Mage's inventory to miss: BIG INT boost (25 points), a lot of HP (350) that are a blessing for Mage's fragility, and a hard slow that casts FAR AWAY, with no sound/visual projectile before cast, with 10 seconds cooldown. A must have, so you can initiate your killing combo better, with way more opponent control for getting the kills by forcing them to slowly crawl inside your Ultimate's AoE.
I suggest to build Rod of Atos by bringing in your inventory the required two Staff of Wizardry
(selling iron branches for inventory space) because the Intelligence boost makes everything easier since you are trying to get kills for gold; having more mana and damage is really a good hand meanwhile you get the full item. Still try not to get busted and survive thanks to your speed and the regen of your Tranquil Boots
WTF MOMENT #2 - WHY NO Force Staff???
Ok Force Staff is a really good item IF you can use it good (and I can't) and if i have to suggest a positional item, is on top of the list above Eul's Scepter and Blink Dagger. Anyway i do not like it because also the poor INT boost it gives (read my build title again) but i put it in the situational items - go for it if you can use it.
Keep doing your combo using now Rod of Atos
first. Due to it's long cast range and no effect until the slow, you may initiate your combo with the surprise advantage. Then as above, use Ancient Seal
, an precisely placed Mystic Flare
, drop an Arcane Bolt
and now you may even use the Concussive Shot
for added damage, since by now it lost much of it's slowing utility BUT should have the damage maxed; it still does a not inconsiderable damage of about 260 if it is used on an Ancient Sealed hero.
If the opponent survived, he should be trying to escape with his health fallen to pieces. Finish with Attack - Bolt - Attack and if he/she is very durable and is still up, your Rod of Atos
should be ready again in few moments now.
target and bring down squishy supports with your combo, keep spamming your Arcane Bolt
and deal finishing blows to escaping enemies, BE DANGEROUS but not get Ganked... Skywrath Mage is very powerful 1vs1 but weak when ganked with stuns and silences, he gets his wings clipped and he's toast in a matter of seconds. Use your superior speed and your Atos/Concussive Shot to cover your escape if needed.
Get away from danger and regen, do it again, gain levels and gold.
By level 16 you'll have your hard slow (Atos), HP 'n' MP Regen (9 MP/sec, 13 HP/sec), decent HP and a big Mana pool (about 1400 HP and 1500 MP), fast movement speed, a 2 second cooldown 220 damage nuke, 130 Attack and every 20 seconds you can fire a 1400 damage nuke on top of a 45% damage amplificated hero. So you are a killing machine indeed!
Items and Playstyle: Late Game
It is time to concentrate on boosting that INTELLIGENCE trough late game items. The problem is, that if until now the needed items were medium priced at best, like the Vitality Booster at 1100 gold for the Rod of Atos, now getting the late items will be far more difficult due to high cost components. Now it's a hit or miss depending on how good you can keep racking up kills without getting busted, or else you'll be stuck with your core items and little else.
If the game is quite tough and you can't seem to do well, you may consider of taking some little helpful items like a second Null Talisman or even upgrade your void stone into a Perseverance to not fall behind during late game transition.
That said, the first item you should build is Shiva's Guard.
Excellent item in --- WTF MOMENT #3 - WHY NO Bloodstone??? Ok ok let's set this straight: Bloodstone is an excellent item for survivability, yes people rush this in Skywrath Mage, and for good reason, but NO STAT INCREASE means that is not in my build plans, situational at best. If you keep doing the "hit fast, run fast" tactic, you should not need this item. I prefer another item instead of this, i will explain later.
Resuming with Shiva's Guard, it gives you a huge INT boost of 30, a much needed armor increase for preserving your little health pool, and adds a useful AoE teamfight/creep wave nuke with slow, with a big visual effect that can also be a deterrent in pub games when other players see that big white ball coming in their face. Really, is that useful you should buy it ASAP after your Rod of Atos starting by adding in your inventory the required Platemail so you have a durability boost while farming that 2700 gold Mystic Staff
Second late game item i go after Shiva's Guard is Eye of Skadi
In my opinion that's the true Bloodstone for Skywrath Mage. The reason behind it is, it gives a total benefit of 725HP, 575 mana, 25 damage, 25 attack speed, 1 mana regen/second, .75 HP regen/second, and 3.5 armor by value and those BIG stat increases. And then there is it's attack modifier that makes Skywrath's more dangerous even when not firing off his nukes. 'Nuff said.
Third late item you should buy is Scythe of Vyse
Reasons are pretty obvious; at this stage of game opponents now have clear the fact that you are very dangerous and they will try to stun and shut you down before you start your combo, and since by now they know how your Ancient Seal
works, chances are that they have built some items to counter you and someone else in your team. To build your Scythe you already start by owning the Void Stone from early game, so you're already 875 gold ahead. Since Scythe overlaps the functions of Rod of Atos
i sell the Rod for an added 1550 gold so the total expense you have to face is 3250 gold.
Anyway DO NOT SELL the Rod of Atos until you are ready to complete Scythe of Vyse or else you lose a key component of your killing combo.
Once you get the Scythe you have an even bigger INT boost and a tool that completely shuts down opponents by it's powerful hex, just keep in mind that it is nowhere near the cast range of your old Rod of Atos
so revise your tactics accordingly.
A side note:
If your enemies gets some annoying items against you early on, like Black King Bar
or Orchid Malevolence
you may consider to prioritize the Scythe of Vyse much earlier to counter these items.
Items on Very Late Game
Once you have your three big late items, Shiva's Guard, Eye of Skadi, and Scythe of Vyse you have by level 25 a mana pool of over 3200 and a INTELLIGENCE stat of about 220. Damage from your 2 seconds Arcane Bolt now is in excess of 360 and that's BEFORE the damage amplification of your ancient seal.
At this point given the power of your magical damage only carries/tanks should be the able to challenge you with big attack damage and health pools... what to do?
There's an item out there that majestically benefits from Skywrath Mage: Ethereal Blade. I Think that is simply the most ridiculous item for a late game Skywrath Mage, and here is why:
- Brings you and your target in Ethereal Form (cannot attack or be attacked), but with a + 40 % magical damage increase. YES: It stacks with your ancient seal!!
- Ether Blast: an active that bombs your target with a 75 + 2 x INTELLIGENCE Nuke, with also the Ethereal Form amplification... neat!
- 80% Slow for 3 seconds... it's nice to have a Rod of Atos back in the inventory!
- Stats: +10 Strength, +40 Agility, +10 Intelligence: more armor, HP and INT!
What does it mean? For example, ~220 INT Skywrath Mage's Arcane Bolt
fired at a Sealed, Ethereal blasted target, will do about 750 damage
. The Nuke itself from Etheral Blade does ~830 damage.
So this item itself is a dagon class nuke, a Decrepify
with better slow, and an Ultimate Orb
x Blade of Alacrity
worth of stats.
Simply absurd. The downside is that the Eaglesong
required for Ethereal Blade is a 3300 gold item, not easy to farm.
Other late game items you may consider building for making your Skywrath Mage even more dangerous that he should be at this point, are Linken's Sphere
for more stats, regen and that ability that works like a mini Black King Bar
Since now you'll want to be everywhere and fast because game should be in it's crucial moments now, take Boots of Travel
for added speed and teleport ability may be the solution you need.
Ver. 6.81b - This guide is created
Ver. 6.82c -
Concussive Shot movement slow rebalanced from 40% to 30/35/40/45%;
Concussive Shot is now disjointable
This is a light nerf on the slowing skill that Skywrath Mage has for the early nuking combo before the acquisition of Rod of Atos. This means that now placement of this skill must account the fact that some heroes can disjoint it by going invisible, blinking, etc. and that means that also, if disjointed you do not get the small vision bonus it gives when following and hitting an opponent (that was a plus that did reveal escaping routes and/or blinking directions). Also it now deals a lesser slow early on, not too much but can make a difference in the early levels allowing opponents to escape farther.
Ancient Seal cooldown increased from 11 seconds to 14 seconds
Another nerf that may not be relevant in the killing combo, but can be felt during teamfights where you will need the silence more than once
Mystic Flare damage is now dealt over 2.4 seconds instead of 2 seconds (2.2 ver 6.82)
IMHO That's the bigger nerf to date to the nuking potential of Skywrath Mage. In the killing combo now there is more time for the opponent to move out the small AoE of the most damaging skill of the sequence, that means - your combo now is more "survivable" to them. That require more accuracy in the ultimate's AoE placement and slowing the opponent before firing the ultimate is more crucial than before.