Help! I've played 1,000+ hours of DotA and still don't know how to play Earth Spirit! (6.81b)
October 8, 2014
On paper, Kaolin a.k.a. Earth Spirit has a lot of positive attributes: he stuns, he silences, he has a built in force staff that can save your allies from pick-offs, he has an escape, he has an initiation, he has a good amount of magic damage, he's not too farm dependent, and he rarely has mana problems. So why on earth (no pun intended) does he have the single worst pub win rate in 6.81b?
Because he's hard as balls. Duh.
Kaolin a.k.a. Earth Spirit might be the hardest hero in the game. Any idiot can click their way through an EMP/tornado/cold snap combo. And Pudge's hooks aren't THAT hard to hit; even still you probably won't die and instantly throw the game if you miss a hook. But Earth Spirit is on a completely different level.
To get anything out of Earth Spirit requires immaculate play; one small mistake can mean the difference between getting a triple kill that leads you to snowballing out of control, and essentially throwing the game. I am not exaggerating in the slightest: Earth Spirit punishes you HARD for small mistakes. Miss a hook with Pudge? No worries, just wait a few seconds and you'll have another hook. Miss your rolling boulder initiation? You keep rolling into the enemy's tower, feed the enemy's safe lane carry, and then your offlane buddy gets picked off and dies while you are dead. Now you have an irreparable level disadvantage. gg no re.
So Earth Spirit used to be imbalanced as all hell in 6.79, so he got nerfed to the ground in 6.80. Many pubs think he is currently weak and unplayable. And yet many pros dread the day Earth Spirit is introduced in CM/CD. Just so you get an idea: Ember Spirit has been in CM/CD for a long time and was released in All Pick at the same time as Earth Spirit. Earth Spirit also has a 42.61% win rate in "high level" games, comparable to other competitive heroes such as Wisp and Shadow Demon, so his competitive viability should not be entirely out of the question.
In this guide we'll look at all of the major tips and tricks to playing Earth Spirit so you can see why he's still strong as hell: why he's the single strongest early game hero in the game (provided he has level parity/advantage with respect to the enemies), and why one well-placed Geomagnetic Grip can completely change the course of a team fight.
All in-game screenshots in this guide are clickable and lead to short HTML5 videos of Earth Spirit in action!
6.82 UPDATE HYPE
This guide has not been fully updated for 6.82! Check back in the coming months for updates!
I have a confession to make: I don't play DotA much these days. Schoolwork this semester is inundating me and the little free time I do have I've been trying to spend on my social life and things far less stressful than DotA. This guide was written for 6.81b Earth Spriit, I don't know to what extent I can keep this guide updated for 6.82, but I'll try.
With that said, I have been paying attention to the DotA scene, and when 6.82 was announced, I was interested in seeing what IceFrog had in store for Earth Spirit. Honestly I was shocked because Earth Spirit is already a strong hero, and 6.82 is overall a net buff for Earth Spirit. In particular I've been watching Jeraxi stream on the test client. Holy hell, Earth Spirit is crazy now. What was IceFrog thinking????
I'll address everything in bullet points:
- Aghanim's Scepter is now core on Earth Spirit. This aghs buff is ridiculously broken. IceFrog was probably drunk when he came up with this. Just think about it: Earth Spirit is not a particularly item dependent hero. Now Earth Spirit has an incredible use for his gold: basically, every 45 seconds you can basically become a Batrider and shoot people up to 2,600 distance away. You can even pull an enemy Void out of Chronosphere. I don't even know where to begin on how absolutely broken the Aghs upgrade is.
- Arcane Boots -> Mekansm is now untenable on Earth Spirit. The mana cost is just too much for Earth Spirit, even with Arcane Boots. It's worth noting Earth Spirit is not alone here; in fact, the majority of offlane heroes who used to buy Mekansm in 6.81 will no longer be able to use Mek.
- Earth Spirit's skill floor has slightly decreased while his skill ceiling has increased. Boulder Smash on remnants is so much easier to aim now. Even if you are super good at Earth Spirit, the ability to be able to shoot remnants without facing the exact perfect direction will come in handy with the Aghs upgrade. Meanwhile Earth Spriit's skill ceiling has increased because the Aghs upgrade is just one more skill you need to be able to juggle in games.
- Earth Spirit's ability to save allies has been nerfed, thus making Earth Spirit a terrible position 5 hero now. Your allies will more slowly, and in my brief time playing I've noticed that it actually makes a pretty significant difference in your ability to be able to save allies. Thus I would say that Earth Spirit is no longer a reliable position 5 as he will need a little more farm to come online.
- Earth Spirit's laning phase has been nerfed. Geo Grip got hit pretty hard this patch, and one big way is the rescaling. The 0-1-2-0 skill build is most likely obsolete; instead you should consider 1-1-1-0. Geo Grip at level 1 is still good on the offlane for denying a creep at the start of the game, and because it's the only skill that Earth Spirit has whose damage scales you should still max it first.
I'm theorycrafting here, but now Brown Boots -> Blink Dagger/Force Staff -> Aghs should pretty much be the core build in 90% of games. Blink Dagger was already a worthy choice on Earth Spirit (not my favorite, but a lot of people loved it). Now that Kaolin is basically Batrider, getting into perfect position to completely remove enemies from team fights is imperative. After that, it would be situational: Crimson Guard, Halberd, Veil of Discord, BKB, and Pipe of Insight would all be great choices. The more DPS and farm orientated way of playing Kaolin hasn't been nerfed so much as the utility version just became so good from the Aghs upgrade that it's insane to skip Aghs for Treads + Veil + Mjollnir + Halberd.
Give me a Sparknotes version of his Pros and Cons.
- + Has stun, silence, AND slow!
- + Versatile in his role on the team!
- + Owns the early and mid games!
- + Is still useful even when he falls off later in the game!
- + Has 3 spells that deal with positioning!
- + Can save allies with Geo Grip and Boulder Smash!
- + Does not desperately need items!
- + A lot of his best items are < 4k gold!
- + Does not have major mana issues!
- + Very few people currently know how to play against him!
- - Can hardly do any damage in the late game.
- - Countered easily by BKB.
- - Has a pretty weak right click.
- - Mediocre pushing capabilities, especially early/mid game when remnants are too precious to use on creep waves.
- - Hard as **** to play.
- - Punishes you hard for small mistakes.
- - Depends on snowballing off the early game.
- - Level-dependent.
- - Cannot farm quickly and efficiently. (Luckily he doesn't need items.)
- - Severely limited by the cooldown and cap on his remnant charges.
- - Your allies will question your sanity for picking ES.
Stone Remnant (D)
These things are your babies. Use them wisely. If you waste them all in one shot, you'll be pretty useless for the next couple of minutes. You can carry a maximum of 6 at a time and you get one every 30 seconds. They provide absolutely no vision and have no collision.
Boulder Smash (Q)
Pushes things away from you. Can be used on allies, enemies, and stone remnants. It also deals a non-scaling 125 damage to both the target (if the target is an enemy) and all enemy units in the path (whether or not you smashed a unit or a remnant). And if you use a stone remnant, it stuns! (It does not stun anything if you do not use a remnant.) The stun scales: 0.75s/1.25s/1.75s/2.25s. The distance if you use a remnant is a non-scaling 2000, but the the distance for smashing units scales: 500/600/700/800. Last but not least, if you hit an ally or enemy, Boulder Smash does not stop channeling. (So for example if you want to stop someone from TPing with Boulder Smash, you need to use a remnant.)
Not much else to say about this ability. It's sort of like a force staff when used without a remnant, and a super-long-range stun when used with one. Below are a few examples of it in action. I tried to include more novel uses of this ability as the long-range stun/damage is pretty self-explanatory.
Smash your allies so they can land a kill!
Here I use it to save my ally Phoenix (who was stunned with Sacred Arrow) from a Sun Strike. Phoenix was having a heart attack on the mic, and Invoker got on all chat later to say Phoenix was "sooo lucky." Nope, no luck involved, just a really good play from yours truly.
Push away enemy melee heroes for a clean escape!
As of 6.80, Boulder Smash is blocked by Linkens. In some situations that might be annoying, but here I used that to my advantage to pop the Linkens with Boulder Smash, which set up Doom's ult. (Doom is out of frame.)
Rolling Boulder (W)
Not much to say about this ability either. It serves as both an initiation and an escape. It stops once it hits an enemy hero (and you'll land on the opposite side of them), which is both a blessing when initiating and a curse when escaping (and one of the main reasons why you might want to consider buying a Force Staff). Lastly, if you throw a stone remnant in front of the path you're rolling down, the roll goes faster, goes further, does slightly more damage and applies a very useful 2 second slow if it hits a hero.
During the 0.6s "charge" time and thereafter, you are vulnerable to being stunned or damaged or what-have-you. But once you cast Rolling Boulder, you can use items and cast other spells. Yes, you can even use a TP scroll; rolling won't stop the channel! You can get through half of the TP's channel while you are moving
. It's pretty sweet.
Surprise **********er! It's hard to tell, but I dropped a remnant and used Geo Grip during the roll just to make sure Mirana gets silenced and can't instantly escape.
You can see in this clip that I started my TP before I finished rolling. In some scenarios that split second of time saved can make a huge difference!
You can walk over impassable terrain. Most of the people you will be chasing down cannot walk over impassable terrain. This gives you an upper hand at chasing. Also if you land the Rolling Boulder, that slow is HUGE!
Geomagnetic Grip (E)
"I would like to see Geomagnetic Grip nerfed on Earth spirit before he gets released to CM."
- Xcalibur, professional DotA 2 player discussing balance changes he wants to see in the future. (Source
This is the without a doubt the single spell that makes Earth Spirit so damn strong. It does a pretty good amount of damage with a remnant (scaling 100/150/200/250). It silences (scaling 2s/3s/4s/5s). But most importantly, it saves your allies. It's like the exact opposite of Batrider's Lasso/Force Staff combo. Geomagnetic Grip is one of the single best and most game changing support spells in the game after Black Hole and Ravage.
(And those are ultimates with ridiculously long cooldowns!!) If you are not constantly using Geomagnetic Grip to reposition your allies, then you are not playing Earth Spirit correctly.
Compared to Force Staff and Boulder Smash, Geomagnetic Grip is unique in its interaction with other spells.
- While you can Boulder Smash someone in a Duel (friend or foe), you cannot grip your ally in a duel.
- You cannot grip anyone out of a Chronosphere or Black Hole, however remnants DO move through both Chronosphere and Black Hole.
- You cannot grip an ally out of a Flaming Lasso, although you can Grip a friendly Batrider who is doing the lassoing.
- If you waste your Geomagnetic Grip on someone who is in Duel, Chronosphere, Black Hole, or Flaming Lasso, you waste 75 mana and the ability goes on cooldown while it does nothing.
- Unlike Force Staff, you can grip people through a Kinetic Field and you can pull people out of a Pounce.
- Similar to Force Staff, you can grip people through Ice Shards and you can grip someone through a Fissure. (Generally speaking, Geo Grip can do everything that Force Staff can do, but not the reverse.)
- You can grip an ally under the effects of Fiend's Grip or Shackles, but it will not stop the effect of the spell (so in some cases it might simply be better to silence the hero channeling the spell).
- Technically the pull from Geo Grip by itself does not stop Dismember, but 99% of the time the silence resulting from the pull will silence Pudge, thus stopping the Dismember (I cannot recall a single time I gripped an ally caught by Pudge and didn't stop Dismember with Geo Grip's silence).
- You cannot grip an ally who is magic immune.
- Pulling an ally with Geo Grip does not break your ally's channeling.
Hell, I could write an entire guide just on this ability alone
and include about 50+ clips of me saving allies and changing team fights with good positioning. Instead I'll just opt for these 3 clips to demonstrate my point, with a spattering of similar clips later in the guide.
A good Earth Spirit is every Pudge's worst nightmare. In this clip I got the Geo Grip off before he even landed the hook, but even if Pudge landed the hook, I could still roll in and pull Medusa back.
There is nothing more frustrating to the enemy than blowing all their spells on one hero, just for an Earth Spirit to casually save them.
Repositioning a Sniper over impassable terrain is anathema to every melee hero. Note the impeccable timing of the Geo Grip: it's just early enough that Veno and Invoker couldn't converge on Sniper, but just late enough that Abbadon couldn't run away from those last few right clicks.
Of course Geomagnetic Grip can also be used as a nuke:
This is a classic push-and-pull combo: start with Boulder Smash, and then use Geo Grip to pull it back before it gets too far. The plus side is that it saves you a stone remnant, which is pretty important! There are two downsides, though: first of all, it's hard as hell and takes a lot of practice: you need to Geo Grip the remnant while it's moving!!! Second of all, at later levels of Boulder Smash, you'll be stacking the majority of the duration of the stun along with the silence, so you won't be maximizing the efficiency of the disables. (In this clip I'm level 7 with a 1-1-4-1 build, so the stun only lasts a mere 0.75 second and I get full efficiency out of it.)
You might be wondering: why push-and-pull, instead of pull-and-push? Because the stun from the push makes it possible to land the pull. Duh. It's also more efficient to stun first and silence later, so you get a couple extra nanoseconds of disable. And last but not least, if you REALLY want to maximize the efficiency of that one single remnant, you can use Rolling Boulder after the pull: in other words with a push-and-pull combo you can use all 3 abilities on one single remnant!
One more push-and-pull just for good measure.
This ability's description is almost as long and confusing as the last chapter of Ulysses, so let's work through this step by step.
You activate the ult within 300 range of any enemy unit/hero. This applies a damage-dealing debuff that lasts 6 seconds. The debuff does magic damage and scales: 50/75/100 dps.
Whenever a unit with that debuff is within 300 radius of a stone remnant, that stone "explodes" and the debuff is then reapplied
(in a 600 radius of the stone) and the clock is reset to 6 more seconds on those units. So yes, you can magnetize someone who was not initially magnetized, but if someone gets away from you, their magnetize debuff will eventually wear off, even if you keep reapplying it to other enemies.
Here's a very clear example of it in action:
Every time a stone remnant was dropped, the magnetize debuff was reapplied. The good news is I got first blood! The bad news is I screwed up here and dropped WAY too many remnants. I could have gotten that kill easily with two less remnants. This is not good
. In this particular game it took me about 7-8 minutes to get back up to 5-6 stone remnants again.
So when do you drop remnants during your ult? There are plenty of reasons.
- When the debuff is about to run out... Duh!
- When you want to apply it to more enemies that are currently not magnetized.
- When you want to use one of your other abilities in conjunction with Magnetize.
- Preemptively right before you get stunned/silenced.
- On an escaping hero so you can milk out another 6 seconds.
A lot of the remnants I dropped in this particular instance did not fit any of the above criteria; I just dropped them because I was in "HELP! I'M PANICKING! AHHHH!" mode. So don't do that.
(I actually have a pretty bad habit of dropping too many remnants during Magnetize, it's probably the worst habit I have with this hero by far. Don't do what I do, folks! Those remnants are too precious. Don't waste them. Do what I say, not what I do.)
Using Magnetize along with his other abilities:
If you silence (with Geo Grip) or slow (with Rolling Boulder) anyone who is magnetized, everyone who is magnetized is affected by the slow/silence. Two things to note here: first, this does NOT apply to the stun from Boulder Smash. And second, If any unit is magnetized AFTER you apply silence/slow, that unit will not be silenced.
The remnants that "explode" last another 5 seconds after the explosion (you can use this fact to help time remnant drops, but usually I prefer to just count in my head). So even if you use it to magnetize another unit, you can also interact with it after-the-fact with another ability within that 5 second time frame. In the following clip, I use all of my abilities in conjunction to land a triple kill. (There will be plenty more clips of me team-wiping later in the guide; this is just a little taste.)
- I made sure to initiate by silencing the Bloodseeker, who would have been the only one who could stop me from going HAM.
- I then use magnetize and then drop a remnant just to make sure everyone gets hit; the explosion radius of remnants is 600, but Magnetize itself only works in a 300 radius. Here I was trying to make sure Furion was in range; in hindsight it wasn't necessary, but it's good to be safe. I then immediately use Boulder Smash on that remnant for extra damage/stun.
- My second remnant was for two purposes: not only to reapply the debuff but I then use it in conjunction with Rolling Boulder to apply a slow. Note that because of Magnetize, the slow affects both KotL and BS, even though I only hit BS!
- Last but not least, once KotL is the only one alive, I place one final remnant on him just to make sure he dies before he can get away. This one was actually completely unnecessary, but hey, it was the heat of the moment.
It's an awful lot to think about in a mere 10 second time frame which might explain why Earth Spirit is so damn hard to play. But it's also why he's just so fun too!
Here's another clip. See what happens halfway through the clip when I drop a remnant and then kick it toward the magnetized Vengeful Spirit!
Be careful doing tricks like this though: stone remnants only explode once!!
So if I had dropped that remnant near a magnetized unit, it would have exploded before it was in range of Vengeful Spirit. Luckily none of the creeps were magnetized! Also note: two things I did poorly: first, I waited too long to use Veil of Discord (which I should have used way earlier), and second, I waited too long to drop that final remnant. Not good! If Vengeful Spirit had stunned me a mere second earlier, she might have gotten away! (For the sake of balance, notice one thing I did that was really
good: I saved Enchantress with Geo Grip a half second away from death! Pretty sick save huh?)
You pretty much always do a 1-1-2-0 build going into a 1-1-4-1 build. Geomagnetic Grip is the only spell whose damage scales with skill points (so you'll want to take advantage of that early game), and the difference between a 2s silence and a 5s silence is huge. After that, max Boulder Smash and then finally Rolling Boulder. There is very little room for flexibility here. This is the way you're going to skill up Kaolin in 99% of games.
There's only one choice you need to make, and it's pretty minor in the grand scheme of things: how you organize your points levels 1, 2, and 3. You'll always put your first point into Geomagnetic Grip if you're going offlane (for a "creep pull") and Rolling Boulder if you're going mid. No matter what lane you're on, by level 4, you should be 1-1-2-0. But levels 2-3, you have some flexibility. My rule of thumb is this: if I'm roaming or otherwise expect to get a kill before level 4, I go 1-1-1-0 by level 3. If I'm going to just sit in lane and soak up XP, I go 0-1-2-0. Why? The extra 50 damage in Geomagnetic Grip is better for harass. 1-1-1-0 will do more damage but it will waste a ton of mana. It's much better to cast two 150 damage Geo Grips for harass than one Boulder Smash and one 100 damage Geo Grip. You can also put a point into Boulder Smash at level 2 if needed (for example if you have a roaming Mirana), but that's pretty uncommon.
I don't recommend level 1 roaming with Earth Spirit; there are better heroes for that such as Wraith King. But if you really want to get hyper-aggressive and roam at level 1, the builds for that are either W -> Q -> E (for initiation) or Q -> W -> E (for follow-up). There are some serious disadvantages to this build: most notably you can't "creep pull" at the start of the game and that will affect the offlane equilibrium. You also can't save allies from chain stuns. So tread with caution!
But whatever you do, never ever ever put more than 1 point into Rolling Boulder before level 12! Late game that 4 second cooldown is very very useful; that cooldown lets you use Rolling Boulder both for fast initiations and fast escapes. But early game you should be tanky enough and scary enough that you'll only really need to either initiate with it (and then get the kill), or you'll be initiated on by the enemy in which case you use Rolling Boulder to escape. You won't need to do both in the same engagement unless you're playing him like a noob. (...but if you're reading this guide, you should be a pro with him in no time!)
If you ask 5 Earth Spirit players what items to get on him, you'll get 6 answers. But the thing is, none of those answers are wrong! Here I'll offer some insights on the many ways to build Earth Spirit and when you'll want to pick what items.
When talking item builds, there are four things you need to know about Kaolin:
- He is mostly item independent (i.e. he doesn't require any specific items to fulfill his role on the team).
- He benefits from but does not desperately need tankiness.
- His farming capabilities are pretty bad.
- He doesn't dish out a lot of damage late game.
Why is he item independent? None of his abilities require pumping up your stats, his right click is pretty bad, his mana pool is fairly forgiving especially with bottle/wand, and Rolling Boulder acts as both an initiation and an escape. His item independence both a blessing and a curse: it means you can build almost anything on him. But on the other hand it also means you need to have the game sense to know what to build and when to build it. So naturally this section is pretty long!
Why can't Kaolin farm well? Well his right click is ****, so you can really only farm a big wave of creeps or a neutral creep stack quickly if you both (a) have a Shiva's and/or a Veil, and (b) have a remnant to spare. So with a remnant cooldown of 30 seconds that puts a pretty low cap on his farming capabilities. Fortunately, as we'll soon see, some of the best items on Kaolin are fairly inexpensive.
Why does he suck late game? Because his right click sucks and he's countered by BKB. His damage output quickly plateaus at level 16 + Veil of Discord, and then drops tremendously once the enemy starts to buy BKBs.
There are two things Kaolin really really needs especially when you're going ham: durability and not getting silenced/stunned. If you roll in and use Magnetize and die 3 seconds later, well, you didn't really do much. If someone pops an Orchid on you 2 seconds after you drop a remnant during Magnetize, your ultimate is over and you have no escape mechanism.
Your starting items will depend on whether you plan on babysitting or roaming. Obviously if you are roaming, you'll want a Smoke of Deceit. If you're going to sit in lane, get a Stout Shield so you can take the harass.
But even if you go Roamin' Support Kaolin, eventually you are going to want a Stout Shield
. Why? Because you are Kaolin. You are one of the strongest early game heroes in all of DotA. You are going to be diving towers left and right and going HAM and #yoloing everyone on the enemy team. So let's say for example you gank the enemy mid's Invoker. You roll in and then the creeps start attacking you. And then you have to take a couple hits from the tower in order to finish that pesky Invoker. So how much damage did your Stout Shield block? Let's say you took 15 autoattacks from the creeps and 2 attacks from the tower. A Stout Shield will block 20 damage 60% of the time. That's about 204 damage on average blocked by a lousy 250 gold item. Now that's a pretty good investment!
You're also going to want to get some handy-dandy Boots of Speed
, also known as brown boots. Obviously if you are going to be chasing down heroes and getting some sick early game kills, this is a must. And want me to be honest? Some games I don't even worry about upgrading these unless I have a specific reason to.
Other items you'll want:
- Bottle: the third item I get early game; it's not always necessary but it helps you stay active on the map. In a really bad game or a game where I need to play hard support, I'll skip it and instead go for Urn of Shadows. If I'm mid with Kaolin, this is the first item I get. (Kaolin's rune control mid is incredible by the way; with Rolling Boulder he can beat pretty much any hero to the rune.) If I'm offlane, it depends on the game.
- Magic Wand: You can stick with a mere Magic Stick but I do suggest Wand if you have the money; your inventory is going to be packed all game and you'll want the stats.
- Dust of Appearance: DON'T MISS OUT ON A KILL BECAUSE YOUR STUPID *** DIDN'T HAVE DUST. BUY THIS WHEN MIRANA HITS LEVEL 5. BUY THIS WHEN FURION HAS BUT A MERE CLAYMORE. DON'T MISS A SINGLE. ****ING. KILL. BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T HAVE DUST.
- Teleport Scroll: DON'T MISS OUT ON A KILL (OR AN OPPORTUNITY TO ESCAPE) BECAUSE YOUR STUPID *** DIDN'T HAVE A TP SCROLL. THIS IS SO ******* IMPORTANT FOR A HERO THAT WRECKS THE EARLY GAME LIKE EARTH SPIRIT DOES.
And there you go! You're now six-slotted! Feels great, huh?
Mid Game Status: Ballin'
Are you completely annihilating the enemy team? Great job! (If not, skip to the next section.) You still need those slots for TP scroll, dust, and boots, but now you have a couple of other options.
I've found there are two general styles you can build Earth Spirit in the mid game if you're doing really well: you can either do Treads -> Veil of Discord, or Arcane Boots -> Mekansm.
Of course you can mix and match these four items, but at least when I play Kaolin I've found that it's not effective to do that. If you want Mek, you need mana for it so you'll want Arcanes. And if you go Veil of Discord, you are committing to a more aggressive build so you'll probably want Treads (and tread switching will give you enough mana to sustain this build). The Mek and Veil will end up replacing your Stout Shield as tank items.
Treads -> Veil of Discord
If you're playing an aggressive semi-carry Kaolin and you're doing great, Power Treads
will be a natural choice. Your right click is pretty ****ty overall, but this early in the game, rolling into someone and right clicking them can do a considerable amount of damage. Also Kaolin benefits a bit from tread switching as well as the stats (if you don't know how to tread switch or don't do it a lot, you should learn and make it a habit as it is very important if you buy Treads on Earth Spirit).
If you can justify it in absolutely any way possible, I HIGHLY
advise you to get Veil of Discord
. Invoker on your team? Get it. Sand King on your team? Get it (and tell him you're getting it so he doesn't build it). Luna on your team? Spectre with Radiance? **** IT, GOOD ENOUGH, JUST BUILD VEIL ALREADY. If you're literally
the only person who does any significant magic damage in a team fight, then and only then
would I not build Veil.
Veil is not cheap at 2670 gold, but boy is it worth it. The 6 armor (plus 6 AGI) along with the 6 STR gives you a ton of extra durability, so it naturally replaces your Stout Shield and lets you continue to dive into teamfights without getting pummeled to the ground. The Veil also keeps your ult relevant well into the late game and the length of Veil's debuff (25 seconds!) works naturally with Magnetize.
Arcanes -> Mekansm
Contrary to what many pubs believe, Mekansm
primarily a support item; it is a tank item that should usually be bought by position 3 heroes (and position 4 heroes in some cases), especially position 3 heroes without mana issues. Why is Mek a tank item? Including its active, it gives you 345 HP (5 STR + 250 HP from active), 7.7 armor (5 armor + 5 AGI + 2 from active), and passive HP regen. Oh, it also helps your team in team fights too, I guess that's pretty important. An early Mek is a good way to keep your team's early lead and push early, so if you do plan on getting Mek, grab it as fast as possible! The only issue with buying Mek on Earth Spirit is that Earth Spirit is usually an initiator, which means you will often be the first to die in which case your team won't fully enjoy the benefits of your Mek. So proceed with caution in buying the Mek! In order to utilize Mek, you're going to need to buy Arcane Boots
beforehand so you don't struggle with mana.
So when deciding between Veil and Mek, you need to ask: do we have other magic damage dealers? Does your team need more damage over more utility? Should you be in the front of fights? If so, lean toward Veil. Do you have other initiators who can take the brunt of the damage? Does your team need more utility over more damage? Should you be more in the back of fights? If so, lean toward Mek. If you have a Razor and an Earthshaker on your team, for example, it will often be better for Razor to carry Mek and you to go Veil. But if you have an Earthshaker and a Dazzle or something like that (and two harder carries than you that deal mostly physical damage), go Mek. Dazzle should be buying wards, a Force Staff and a Ghost Scepter, not Mek (please don't be that
noob in pubs who flames the hard support for not buying a Mek). Earthshaker should be initiating and spending all his mana on his spells, so he can't get Mek either. That basically leaves you to be the Mek carrier!
There's one more advantage to the Arcanes -> Mek build over the Treads -> Veil build and that's early game push. Part of the reason why Earth Spirit's early game push sucks is because it costs a lot
of mana to clear a wave that would better go toward hero kills. But the Arcane Boots solves that. In addition the fast Buckler will give your creeps a little extra armor to push a little longer.
Mid Game Status: Struggin'
Uh oh. You suck at Earth Spirit. Or you're good, but the enemy managed to shut you down. Or you're good and they didn't shut you down, but your allies are the biggest idiots in the world and didn't use the early game lead you created to secure the later game. Or you're good, but you're just playing him as a position 5 support. Whatever the case, yikes! I'll cover these situations more later in the guide, but when you start feeling the hurt, you need to play Kaolin completely differently. He goes from being a strong early/mid-game nuker into more of a glorified walking force staff, and your item choices should reflect that.
In most situations like this I'll end up buying a Blademail
. It's the single best way to do damage when you're getting eaten alive in a team fight in 3 seconds: at least when they eat you alive, anyone who isn't magic immune will go down with you! It also provides some armor, thus easily replacing your Stout Shield.
No Mek on your team? Not the primary focus of the enemy team's spells in every damn fight? Mekansm
is a great item on Kaolin! Buy it! It gives him 5 armor (so it replaces Stout Shield) and at this point in the game, Kaolin shouldn't really have mana problems.
Is magic damage wrecking your team? Already have a Mek? Do you have a good amount of gold? Then get Pipe of Insight
. It works great on Kaolin. Alternatively you might want to consider a Black King Bar
if you find yourself the target of spells/magic damage more than your teammates, and honestly truly think that you can still contribute a lot to team fights by diving in #yolo style and going HAM on the enemy. But don't buy BKB if the enemy team already has a BKB or two, even if you think you need it (spoiler alert: you don't in that scenario). Better off getting the similarly priced Pipe.
and Ghost Scepter
are two catch-all hard support items and are really really good items for when the team is just generally wrecking you and the enemy's melee damage hard carry is wrecking. You might be asking, why Force Staff when Geo Grip does essentially the same thing? Well first of all you can use a Force Staff even when you are silenced. Second of all you can save your other spells for silence, stun and damage. But most importantly, it lets you save yourself
from bad situations. Rolling Boulder isn't very reliable because people can just surround you and block it. For example one way to use Force Staff would be to roll in, ult immediately, and Force Staff yourself away.
One more note on Force Staff: it used to be considered core back in 6.79 because it worked well at the end of Earth Spirit's most overpowered combo: basically you stun, roll, use Boulder Smash to knock an enemy out of position, then at the end of that combo you could Force Staff yourself back with them! Without the reliability of that combo, though, Force Staff is definitely not core. Still, that sort of use of Force Staff is useful to keep in mind.
Last but not least if you're going to force yourself into the super hard support role, buy some Observer Wards
Holy @#$% I Made It To The Late Game! (Position 3-5)
Good job! you're one of the few and the proud who have ever played Earth Spirit for more than 30 minutes without their teammates saying in harmony "gg report es noob feeder." Let's look at your options, and when doing so we need to remember that Earth Spirit usually--but not always--falls off really hard in the late game.
Check the enemy's inventory's for a quick second. Do you see any BKBs? If not, that means they're stupid! Hoorah! Kaolin falls off late game mainly due to the prevalence of BKBs, as 99% of Kaolin's damage output is magic damage over time. But without BKBs on the enemy team, you're still relevant! Go buy yourself a Black King Bar
so you can keep doing damage.
Just a word to the wise, though: when playing Earth Spirit (especially as a position 3 or 4), never ever ever buy a BKB if the enemy team already has BKBs.
The point of you having a BKB is so that you can keep diving into team fights like a crazy **********er. But what's the point of doing that if they all have BKBs? You should be staying back and providing utility, not going for triple kills. Your allies should be doing the triple kills!
If you made it this far and actually have enough gold to buy these items, chances are you're really good with Earth Spirit and don't need my nuanced advice. So I'll keep this brief: other than BKB, my four favorite items on position 3-4 Earth Spirit for the late game are Heaven's Halberd
, Shiva's Guard
, Pipe of Insight
, and Blademail
. Here's why:
- They all give extra durability in some shape or form which is super important on Kaolin.
- The first three items provide general utility to your entire team, and it's important that your purchases benefit the whole team as you approach the late game.
- 3 out of 4 of these items cost less than 4,000 gold. Kaolin usually cannot farm fast at all, so items like Dagon 5 are simply out of the question.
- The Blademail is just there for when you inevitably fall off and become food to the enemy team's hard carry. At least when you go out you'll go out with a bang!
Admittedly over time I've grown less fond of Shiva's Guard on Earth Spirit: if you're building more right click, you'll need other items more. But if you're building more utility then you probably already have Arcane boots so the extra INT goes to waste. Regardless, I still think it's among the top 4 late game utility items for Kaolin.
(On that note, if you need the Halberd and still have brown boots, upgrade to Treads. Yes Halberd often pays for itself just with the evasion, hit points, and the active, but you are not getting full mileage out of the Halberd unless you beef up your right click a little.)
Obviously if your inventory is getting packed you'll want to upgrade to Boots of Travel
Last but not least, if you are super tanky, Earth Spirit's mobility makes him a great Gem of True Sight
carrier if necessary.
Holy @#$% I Made It To The Late Game! (Position 2, Carry Kaolin)
It's the late game! ... What's the matter? Why so reluctant? It's because you're a Carry Kaolin and you keep hearing so much (both from me and others) on how Kaolin sucks late game. Well, it's kinda true, he does usually suck late game. But you can
run him as a semi-carry. I won't tell you when you should do that, but I will tell you what you should build on him when you do.
Here's the Sparksnotes version:
If you are specifically playing Earth Spirit as a carry, this is your build 75% of the time: Treads -> Veil -> Maelstrom -> Halberd -> Mjollnir -> BKB -> Blademail/Heart. (With 500 GPM, minus TP scrolls and early game items, you should be able to get all these items except Blademail or Heart by ~43 minutes. It's a pretty ridiculous GPM for Earth Spirit and it requires really good CS and a strong early/mid game.... so good luck.)
Here's the long version:
If you are playing position 2 Carry Kaolin obviously you are going to have to approach the late game less with utility in mind and more with damage in mind. So you already have Treads and 99% chance you have Veil too.
What's your third item?
- First and foremost, whenever you need it, build Black King Bar pronto. That should go without say.
- Need to farm faster? Build a Maelstrom, which you'll upgrade later. I know this sounds like a weird item choice, but just trust me. We'll discuss it in a few seconds. Um, and by the way, don't try to outfarm a Void or a Medusa. But if you know the game is going late and you need to farm faster, then buy this first.
- Don't need help farming? Or maybe you need a little evasion and tankiness? Buy a Heaven's Halberd: the extra STR and damage is super strong with the attack damage from Treads.
Okay so now you're Treads -> Veil -> Maelstrom or Halberd or BKB. What now?
Bear with me here, but your next item should probably be Mjollnir
.... yes! I'm serious! Mjollnir is without a doubt the most underrated item on Kaolin.
According to Earth Spirit's Dotabuff page
, almost nobody builds it; it's near the bottom of the list. Well screw those people. To date I have experimented a LOT with Kaolin and Mjollnir is the most successful way I've found to run Carry Kaolin.
I know I rag on ES's right click a lot. It's not that Kaolin's STR/AGI gains are bad, they just aren't great
and more importantly none of his abilities actually improve or otherwise make use of his right click. But if you're really serious about Carry Kaolin you might already have Halberd and Treads by now. You'll probably notice what you're really
missing for your right click isn't damage but attack speed, in which case Mjollnir is great not just for the attack speed you so desperately lack but how well it works on STR-based carries in general and how well its active and passive utilize Veil (if you have it). Like many of the items on this list, these two items are impractical mainly because of price (but the Maelstrom does help you farm a lot faster, so there's that).
Here's a screenshot from a game where I ran a Carry Kaolin so you can see what Kaolin looks like when he approaches late game as a carry (click to enlarge
It should be pretty clear from this image why Kaolin isn't a good position 1: no matter how beefy you get the guy, he'll just never be as scary as 6-slotted Void or a Medusa with two Divine Rapiers. You won't survive in a fight as long as those heroes, you can't farm as fast as them, and you won't do as much damage as them. But don't tell me that isn't at least a little
scary! With a build like this, you can deal a LOT of magic damage (Veil + your ult + Mjollnir), you are tanky enough to survive long enough to really make use of your ult (with great HP, decent armor, and evasion), and you can punish people who try to deal damage to you (with Blademail and Mjollnir) which is kind of like indirect tankiness. With a build like this, you can go head-to-head with most heroes who don't have BKBs, or you can just wait for the BKBs to expire.
Of course most heroes are pretty freakin good when they're rolling in cash money, but some more than others. Look, there are many other heroes I'd rather have 4 or 5-slotted over an Earth Spirit; the only point of running Kaolin as a carry is because he also has a super strong early game that you can sort of transition into an OK late game if need be. So don't just AFK farm these items; farm heroes, and only farm the jungle/lanes when you can't immediately farm heroes.
Is There Anything Else I Can Buy?!?
Short answer: yes, but with lots and lots of caveats to each item. Generally speaking, the following items are ultra situational, so expensive that you will never realistically obtain them with your mediocre farming capabilities, or are generally outclassed by other items. I've listed them in approximate order of how much you should be building them.
Items To Avoid
- Linken's Sphere: This item would probably be core on Carry Kaolin if he could farm it in a reasonable time frame. I strongly prefer having a BKB for the big team fights; Linken's is more of an item for pick-off heroes, which Earth Spirit can do well in the early game, but you'll never get it in time to make use of it like that. This can be considered one way to counter Bloodseeker, Legion Commander, and Bane, if they tend to target you a lot.
- Vladmir's Offering: Every team with a couple melee heroes can make good use of a Vlads. I think Earth Spirit needs his item slots too desperately for Vlads early game. But if the game ends up going late and nobody has a Vlads and you really need one, go for it.
- Blink Dagger: It was pretty good in 6.80 when the stone remnant cooldown was longer than the average wait time at the DMV, but with the 6.81 buff, you can comfortably use your Rolling Boulder to initiate so blink is usually unnecessary. With that said, let's say you're playing against a well-coordinated team with a Bristleback, Wraith Knight and Sniper. WK and Bristle are protecting the **** out of Sniper and will not let you just roll into him. If you want to quickly initiate in a sort of "V" shape to get to the enemy's back line in a big team fight, blink is the best way to do it. Roll out a little at an angle, and then blink back in. A lot of ES players still build this almost every game and honestly I'm not sure why. It provides a fast initiation, but first of all it isn't worth saving Rolling Boulder as an escape because it's unreliable AND has a 4 sec cooldown, so it's not exactly worth saving. Second of all with a remnant your ult can hit everyone in a 600 radius, or can be applied later to people who are out of range. Because of the huge range, Magnetize not like Reverse Polarity where a split second's difference is worth the 2150 gold for blink. Therefore I think Blink Dagger is only good when the enemy won't let you initiate on the heroes you want to initiate on. With all of that said, I will openly acknowledge that most of the best Earth Spirit players (5-6k+ MMR) buy Blink Daggers. It's probably a lot more necessary in higher MMR games where teams will be smart about positioning. But I have yet to feel the need to make it core in my build in the 3k MMR range.
- Assault Curaiss: Is similar to a Mjollnir in that it is great on STR heroes and it solves your attack speed issues. I very strongly favor Mjollnir on Kaolin, but there are reasons why you'd want to buy AC over Mjollnir.
- Heart of Tarrasque: Makes you a beefcake, but there are better mid-game tank items. For late game the durability isn't usually important when your damage output is hampered by all the BKBs. Don't be tempted by the 1,060+ HP and the fact that Kaolin is a STR-based hero: you should only ever get this after Pipe (if magic/universal damage is a problem) or as a super ultra unobtainable luxury 6th slot item that you get after Mjollnir or AC (Heart + Mjollnir/AC are two peas in a pod). So according to Dotabuff, more people build this than either BKB or Shiva's. That's just awful--no wonder Earth Spirit has a <40% win rate!
- Quelling Blade: FOR OFFLANE USE ONLY. This is really situational but if you are a farming hero in a dual offlane struggling to last hit without getting harassed every time you approach the creeps, a Quelling Blade is a worthy investment. But you should know that I very very rarely ever buy this and neither should you. Out of over 100 games on Kaolin I've bought this 2 or 3 times total. It should not be used for mid (with proper rune control, you should never lose mid so hard that you can't even farm). It probably should not even be used for solo offlane. This item is so situational that I didn't even put it in the item build chart at the top of the guide. You've been warned. Seriously, don't buy this item. I feel terrible even mentioning it out of fear that people start doing a quelling stout tango starting item build on Kaolin. PLEASE don't do that you freakin noobs. Please. For me. Don't. Quelling Blade is a crutch, and if you feel like you need it every game there's a good possibility that Carry Kaolin isn't for you.
- Scythe of Vyse: It's a ****ing sheep stick, 'nuff said. I'd only ever consider this in a super-late game scenario where you have been basically irrelevant for the past 30 minutes but for some reason have a billion gold lying around. I feel like it's almost impossible to not only get this much gold as Kaolin but also feel so useless in a team fight that you'd rather just sit in the back. It's really either one or the other with Kaolin.
- Dagon and Ethereal Blade: The ultimate "**** you" to your opponent. It's your way of saying "hahaha, I'm so good with this hero that I'm 10-0-3 and it's only 13 minutes into the game." This should be considered a troll build, something you should only even consider doing when you are in every respect unstoppable. I should also mention that I've done this a few times but I've lost with it once because my idiot allies didn't use my early game dominance to push towers and get a fast GG. The game ended up going on for literally over an hour and we lost. Go figure. So do this at your own peril!
- Radiance: Again this should probably be considered a troll item. It's a slightly safer troll build but not nearly as fun as Dagon/Eblade.
- Shadow Blade: Another troll item that substitutes as a cruddier version of blink initiation. Please also be aware in your trolling that Shadow Blade is more of an initiation item, not really an escape item (unless you are 1.7k MMR, then invisibility = invulnerability).
- Vanguard: As if Earth Spirit wasn't already a hero who falls off hard late game, buying a Vanguard is a great way to guarantee you're absolutely 100% useless late game. See at least an Axe or a Bristleback can justify purchasing Vanguard because they can farm it fast; there's just no way as Kaolin you'll get this in under 9 minutes. And if you are ballin' that hard just get a Dagon or something.
- Drum of Endurance: I've always been iffy about this and I've recently come to the conclusion that it's not good. Yes this item is good on heroes who really benefit from cheap stats and have strong mid game presence. But the reason you get this on Doom or Quas Wex Invoker is precisely because its cheapness doesn't slow down your late game items. But Kaolin's late game sucks! And many of Kaolin's best items (Veil, Blademail, Force Staff) aren't much more expensive than Drum, so just go for those instead! He also doesn't really need the stats too badly: with a wand and bottle, you'll almost always feel more constrained by the remnant cooldown than your mana pool.
- Bloodstone: I'm not sure why anyone would ever build this, but apparently according to Dotabuff it's built significantly more than Scythe of Vyse and Linken's Sphere. If you made it this far through the guide I hope you have the common sense to know why Bloodstone is terrible on Earth Spirit.
Support? Carry? ...How does Kaolin fit into my team?!!
Earth Spirit is a really freakin' versatile hero, and the way you lane him and play him early game will make a huge impact on how he fits into your team and what role he fills. Earth Spirit can be run as a position 2, 3, 4 or 5. But if you ask me, he's best run as a 3 or a 4:
- Why not position 2?
- Short answer: He relies too much on snowballing, can't farm quickly, and gets countered by BKBs late game.
- Long answer: Compare him to other classic position 2 heroes such as Shadow Fiend. When SF is losing his lane, his supports can just stack camps and he can farm up the jungle in no time. This makes SF a safe pick. Earth Spirit, in contrast, farms like ****. Earth Spirit farms heroes, not creeps, meaning Earth Spirit carry needs to snowball off his early game performance. And even still he's risky! So let's say you're really good at Earth Spirit. You destroy the early and mid game, but you can't quite break high ground. It's now the late game and the enemy carries all have BKBs. Now what??!? Other magic damage dealing carries like Tinker and QoP can enter and exit fights over and over and deal burst damage, so they can deal all their damage either before or after the BKBs are popped. But once you commit to a Magnetize, the BKBs will be popped immediately after and you'll be completely useless.
- Why not position 5?
- Short answer: Buying courier/flying/wards wastes his early game potential.
- Long answer: Kaolin is one of the strongest early game heroes in the game. I don't always win with Earth Spirit (61% win rate over the past week as of writing), but I very, very, very rarely struggle to do well with him in the early game. Buying two sets of wards, a courier, and flying courier is 670 gold that could have gone toward a stout shield, brown boots, a magic wand, smokes, and TP scrolls, all of which are incredibly important if you want to wreck the early game.
Make no mistake, I've run him successfully as a pos 2 and as a pos 5. But there are better options for those positions.
Generally speaking, the higher Kaolin's farm priority, the more aggressively you need to play. A position 5 will sit back out of the action for most fights; a position 2 will have to be in the middle of fights non-stop from level 6 until the game ends.
Mid lane is good, but generally I don't recommend it. Earth Spirit makes great use of the levels but his early game lane control isn't great and he doesn't make super good use of the farm. I also think mid should generally be given to a farmer.
Never trilane with Earth Spirit. Ever. Even if you are going to be a roaming support, you need to get to level 3 as fast as possible.
The best ways to lane Earth Spirit are as a dual offlane support, dual offlane farmer, and solo offlane.
If you're going to be an offlane farmer, you should have a ranged hero with decent harass to back you up. The reason why Earth Spirit is such a good offlane support is because he can sit back, soak up XP, and Geo Grip an ally when he or she is in trouble/stunned/what-have-you. Basically, you counter the things that make for strong safe lanes. Obviously if you're farming the offlane, you're going to be up front right next to the creep wave so you'll need some good help; Kaolin can save allies a lot better than he can save himself.
Earth Spirit can support the safelane if you really need to, but it's generally not recommended. Offlanes rarely rely on stuns and the ability to isolate/trap heroes; strong offlaners usually have strong harass, durability, mobility, and easily farm under pressure. Earth Spirit excels at helping allies against the former kinds of lanes, not the latter. There are far better safelane supports than Earth Spirit who have stronger, more reliable stuns and better zoning abilities. I would only ever run a safelane support Earth Spirit if I planned on roaming at level 3 and the enemy's offlane is weak enough that my safelane carry can farm reliably without support.
Carry Kaolin, Position 2
You usually run Carry Kaolin when you want to win early against a greedy line-up.
Kaolin's early game is unparalleled.
Play ES mid, snowball off kills, push towers early and win. Shut down their farm. Kaolin has terrible push, so the other heroes on your team will need to compensate for that.
There are two reasons I don't mention Carry Kaolin a lot in this guide: first, because it's not how you'll play him in 90% of games. Second, because you don't play him much differently from a position 3 or 4 Kaolin. The main difference is the item build, which is discussed in the Items
section. Ironically, most of the items I list in that section you probably shouldn't be able to afford. Really you should be clearly winning by the time you get Halberd; in part what makes Halberd so good is that it prevents comebacks from the enemy's right-click carries (because presumably if you won the early game, their supports haven't been of much help). And if you haven't won by the time you get Mjollnir, then you're probably ****ed--the only reason you build Mjollnir instead of Scythe or Shiva's or whatever on Carry Kaolin is because if you built more supporty items, that "probably ****ed" then becomes a "definitely ****ed."
So your enemy has 4 really greedy heroes and a reluctant support player. You want to win the early game, and you want the enemy calling GG within 20-30 minutes. How do you do that? Well first of all you need some heroes who can push well early game (Lycan? Chen? Enchantress?). You need to remember that Earth Spirit has terrible pushing capabilities until the late game approaches--he's similar to Tinker in that while he can push lanes, he hardly ever touches towers
--so if your team lacks push and you want to win early, do not run Earth Spirit!
You obviously also want some heroes who are really strong in the early game, including your position 1 (consider Lycan, Lone Druid, Terrorblade, and Dragon Knight pos 1s for the early push).
In terms of play style, you just have to play both really aggressively and flawlessly--both of these ways of playing keep the snowball rolling. The moment you start playing like a little hard supporting wuss, you ****ing lost.
Also I should note that while position 2 is usually what we consider mid, you don't have to run ES mid to play/build with a position 2 mindset. Farming offlane is fine too so long as your offlane's harass is stronger than the enemy safelane's harass. Generally speaking a greedy lineup on the enemy's team will mean their safelane is gonna be weak, so you should
theoretically have an easier time farming the offlane in these sorts of situations! For example, one time
in order to punish a greedy lineup, my friends and I ran Ogre Magi mid and dual lanes with Kaolin farming offlane, but I essentially approached it as a position 2.
Ward ***** Spirit, Position 5
When you are playing high tier and/or coordinated DotA and want a ganking support, and when one of the enemy's strengths is the ability to isolate or pick-off your allies.
Stuns, silences, early ganks, and saves!
Buy wards, gank early, stay back in team fights, play a little more carefully early game.
More on how to play Earth Spirit as a hard position 5 support is covered in all the other sections: basically you are playing Earth Spirit from behind with a level and gold disadvantage, so every subsection that is subtitled "Struggin" is how you will basically play unless by some crazy divine intervention you get lucky. Usually when you play Earth Spirit you don't want to play with a level disadvantage (or a major early game gold disadvantage); playing Earth Spirit as a hard support is, in a sense, deliberately playing him at a disadvantage
because of the value he provides your team in other ways, especially as a roaming support
. Like seriously, you should rarely play Kaolin as a hard support if you don't plan on roaming at level 3. More about that in The Laning Phase: Roamin' Support Kaolin 201
Obviously you don't have to buy the support stuff in order to play Kaolin as a roaming support, and I strongly recommend not buying chicken/crow (and maybe even wards) if you can get away with it. But in some line-ups you'll have to. Just be aware that the early gold disadvantage is very very hard to come back from--early brown boots and stout shield are pretty important!
Drafting Kaolin In Pubs
Many of the least popular and lowest pub win rate heroes are such because of their inherent difficulty. But others are bad in pubs because the other 4 people on your team just don't know how to work around them: Shadow Demon, Chen, Enchantress, Io. You can be the best Io player in the world, but you're still going to lose constantly if you try playing Io in solo queue 2,200 MMR.
I think Earth Spirit falls mostly into the former category, but it is worth wrapping your head around the following: Earth Spirit excels in the early game, yet lacks push . This is a huge
gaping hole in any draft with ES that must be addressed. The most successful Earth Spirit drafts are extremely aggressive and try to win early, but also have the good early game tower destroying capabilities that Earth Spirit himself sorely lacks.
In more serious games, such a draft would include heroes like Enigma, Shadow Shaman, Lycan, Shadow Fiend, Lone Druid, and Nature's Prophet. In pub games you can also get away with having skillful aggressive players on Sniper, Drow Ranger, and Terrorblade.
The problem with pubs though is that most lower level pubs don't know how to push before the 25 minute mark and games are almost guaranteed to go 45+ minutes while most of the early game doesn't even matter. A couple times I've queued up with some lower MMR people and absolutely wrecked the first 20 minutes of these games, but nobody ******* used this advantage I created to actually push towers
and we ended up losing the game because the game went way too late.
Therefore if you're not quite at that level of play where your teammates ever seem to commit to early game pushes (sub 3k MMR, arguably even sub 4k MMR), I would advise against picking Earth Spirit unless you think you can get a lot of late game utility out of him. I can safely say that the majority of games I lose on Earth Spirit are simply because my team either refused to push early (in which case, they're noobs gg report team pls) or simply didn't have the sort of toolkit that would allow us to push early (in which case, I should not have picked ES).
The Laning Phase: Offlane
The Game Begins!
If you bought your items super duper quickly you can go place a ward on the pull camp and then run back; otherwise, if you have a laning buddy, tell them to go place a ward on the pull camp.
Once your first lane spawns and the game's clock hits 0:00, you need to get ready to do a creep pull. This is important first of all because it pulls the lane equilibrium toward your tower early. But it's also important psychologically: it convinces your allies that you know what the hell you are doing with Kaolin, so in their heads they're not constantly thinking "****, 34% win rate hero, gg."
Dire offlane pull video:
Radiant offlane pull video:
There are other pulls spot in Radiant offlane and Dire offlane. There are pull spots in every single lane. But this guide is already long enough, so I won't cover them. If you are curious about other pull spots then go find another guide.
Laning With Kaolin: The Basics
Kaolin doesn't have that great of lane harass to be honest. You cannot solo kill anyone before level 6.
End of story. You'd have to be playing against total morons to get solo kills before Magnetize. Kaolin is an all or nothing hero in the laning phase: you either go in to get a kill with all your spells at once, or you sit back and soak up XP. So why is there no middle ground? Because Kaolin's strengths during the laning phase are (1) his ability to knock people out of position, and (2) doing a lot of burst damage by casting all 3 of his spells in succession. But you don't knock people out of position for harass
because they can just walk back into position 2 seconds later... duh. Similarly wasting your entire mana pool in 3 seconds just for a little harass is stupid and ineffective. You do both of these things for kills.
Kaolin's super-early game kill potential is discussed in the Roamin' Support Kaolin 201
section. Here we'll talk about what you can do in the laning phase aside from killing.
If you are solo offlane, then just don't die. Soak up XP, play it safe, try to keep the creep equilibrium near your tower so you can get some last hits. Your time to shine will come at level 6. Patience you must have, my young Padawan.
If you are farming offlane, then just farm. Same deal, except with someone else in the lane you have the potential to leave the lane (thus the XP/farm in the lane won't ever go to waste). So carry a TP.
If you are the offlane babysitter, then you have a very important job: Keep your idiot ally alive at all costs
. If he feeds first blood it's your fault. Even if he's a total idiot, it's your fault.
Here is a clip on how you SHOULD play Earth Spirit in the offlane:
In this clip I was farming, but it doesn't mean you can't help your buddy out! It was pretty obvious they were going for a chain stun, so I made sure they couldn't do it by immediately walking back and pulling Earthshaker to safety. Could I have done better? Possibly! In hindsight I probably should have body-blocked and used Geomagnetic Grip instead as a nuke, thus silencing both of the aggressors (effectively ruining the possibility of a chain stun) and dealing damage to both of them. How I reacted in the clip did the job just fine, but I think I could have done better.
For the sake of balance, Here is a clip on how NOT to play Earth Spirit in the offlane:
There are so many things I did wrong here I don't even know where to begin... First of all I waited way too long to Geo Grip him. Once Rubick dropped him I should have pulled him back. I also should have stayed back instead of running in: what's the point of pulling your ally back like 10 units of distance??!? This clip is really
hard for me to watch. Overall I totally and completely 100% failed at my babysitting duty in this game
. That trilane should not have gotten first blood.
One last thing: you should carry a TP and maybe even a smoke when you're in offlane. Early game you are very useful at stopping tower dives and completely turning around fights in other lanes. If for whatever reason you can't roam (playing with brain-dead idiots, weak lanes that can't follow up on your plays, laning partner needs a lot of help, etc.), this is the next best thing.
The Laning Phase: Roamin' Support Kaolin 201
If you're at any MMR below 3,000, I strongly advise against playing Kaolin as a roaming support. Why? Well ask yourself: When was the last time you've even seen a roaming support in your game? Are your stupid teammates even smart enough to coordinate a successful gank <5 minutes into the game? At your MMR, are people more likely to complain that the mid Shadow Fiend isn't ganking the side lanes, or are people more likely to complain that the supports aren't ganking the mid Shadow Fiend's lane? If the former, skip this section entirely. Kaolin isn't a half bad babysitter on the offlane, so you should probably just stick to doing that. Stand back and save your idiot laning buddy with Geo Grip so he doesn't feed first blood to the safelane Faceless Void.
But all of you high skill players know how a couple of well-executed ganks pulled off by roaming supports can completely change the game. And with that said, Earth Spirit is one of the best roaming supports in the game, in the same league as Shadow Demon or Mirana.
So I'm not going to cover Roamin' Support 101. But I'll cover all the pros and cons of Earth Spirit as a roaming support.
As a roaming support, you do three things really really well: you can initiate or follow up on initiations from afar outside of smoke breaking range (Rolling Boulder), you knock people out of position (Boulder Smash), and you can silence people who might cast spells to save themselves (Geomagnetic Grip). With that said, you're going to need to get level 3 as fast as possible to roam with this guy (whereas a Mirana or Shadow Demon can roam effectively at level 1). But it's worth the wait: in addition to all of the utility you get from the spells, you do a whopping 360 magic damage total if you land all 3 spells right!
Notice I said you can follow up on initiations. I mean don't get me wrong, Earth Spirit can initiate with a successful hit with Rolling Boulder, but if you can get away with the lane hero initiating, then that's usually better. The slow from Rolling Boulder isn't usually enough to aim your Boulder Smash in the right direction; you're more likely to smash them diagonally when you're really trying to smash them straight back. Worse still, there's always a chance you'll miss your Rolling Boulder entirely, which would be disastrous!
And obviously in any case you're going to want to have some good follow-up when you're roaming. So let's consider some possible allies you might want to help out:
- Mid Ember Spirit with 2-0-3-1 build: GOOD! GANK HIS LANE! He can use Searing Chains to lock anyone you knock back (even if you don't knock them back perfectly), and follow up with heavy DPS from Flame Guard.
- Mid Ember Spirit with 0-3-2-1 build: BAD! DON'T GANK HIS LANE! He has no reliable way to follow up on your initiation. The enemy hero is just going to run away.
- Solo Offlane Clockwerk: GOOD! GANK HIS LANE! Knock the enemy back into Clockwerk for an easy kill with Cogs. Who needs Hookshot when you have Boulder Smash?
- Safelane Lich and Faceless Void: MAYBE. It depends on how well you can surround the enemy, how quickly you can burst them down, and how hard they can punish you for messing up. At level 4 with a 1-1-2-0 build, you'll have a 3 second silence and up to 410 magic damage. Ask yourself: is that enough to secure this kill?
Click on the thumbnails to see some short clips of Kaolin ganking mid during the laning phase:
Here we can see that the lane is pulled really far in, which lets us swoop in on the helpless Invoker. By the time Invoker realizes what's going on and starts backing out, it's too late because he's just so far away from his tower. (If needed, I could have finished Invoker off with remnant + Geo Grip.) Ember Spirit's 3-0-2-0 build was critical to the success of this gank; if he had 3 points in SoF instead, it would have been much harder to kill this Invoker. The proof is in the pudding: look at Invoker's HP in the beginning of the clip, and then compare that to how quickly it starts dropping once he's knocked out of position by Boulder Smash.
Ganking from behind wasn't even necessary here! The slow from hitting Rolling Boulder was enough for Tiny to walk up and land his stun on Invoker, and from there Invoker was easily burst down. The Geo Grip at the end wasn't even necessary as Invoker ended up dying from the toss. One small mistake on my part: I dropped the remnant for Rolling Boulder too quickly. You should usually drop the Remnant after you start rolling, not before. A better Invoker would have reacted to that and used that as a sign to get out of the way.
So are there disadvantages to Roamin' Support Kaolin? Of course! There's the inevitable level disadvantage, especially if you fail to get any kills. On a Shadow Demon or a Crystal Maiden this is a mere nuisance, but on Kaolin it's literally the worst thing. Kaolin is an extremely level dependent hero; you'll play him completely differently depending on whether you have a level parity/advantage or a level disadvantage. With a level advantage, Kaolin can #yolo just about anyone in the game (we'll see some of that in a later section). But with a level disadvantage, you turn into a glorified walking force staff. You'd still be useful mind you, but not nearly as scary. So play Roamin' Support Kaolin at your own peril. With a little bit of teamwork and a pinch of luck, you'll be able to make up for the level disadvantage by winning the other lanes so hard that it doesn't even matter.
The Laning Phase: Mid
Even when Earth Spirit is introduced to CM/CD, you'll probably never see him run mid in a serious game for a whole slew of reasons not worth listing out in this guide. But in the ganking mid pub meta, Earth Spirit is a solid choice.
I mean I honestly don't like ganking mids; I feel like its a huge waste of the safety of the middle lane. Ideally I'd rather not run Earth Spirit mid; not because it's bad, but because you can usually do better than to give the lane to a hero who only really needs brown boots and a stout shield. With that said, if you absolutely must have a ganking mid, I'd rather have a good Earth Spirit over a good Pudge any day of the week.
So what makes Kaolin a viable mid laner?
Rune control: Rolling Boulder gives Earth Spirit unparalleled rune control--you could even beat a QoP to a rune! The only way any enemy is getting a rune is if they sit on it just before it spawns. Just watch this clip and you'll see what I mean:
Okay okay, I'll be the first admit that beating a Pudge to a rune is amateur hour... How 'bout a Magnus who has a head start?
Lane control: Earth Spirit's mid lane control isn't great but it isn't terrible. I'd say its second tier. With a bottle and his incredible rune control, he actually has pretty good harass--compare this to the offlane presence where, for the most part, he's just a sitting duck.
This is the only real plus side to the non-scaling damage in half of his abilities: being non-scaling means that by design it does jack **** later on in the game, but they do a pretty hefty amount early game as long as you have the mana to use it! You can do 360 burst magic damage with a 1-1-1-0 build. In dual lane vs dual lane you can easily get punished for diving head-first into a hero like that, and even if you survive you'll have used up all your mana. But this is mid-lane, baby! Just take a few sips from your Bottle and you'll be fine.
Mind you, your mid lane control with Kaolin is purely conditional on you getting your runes. Against a bunch of unorganized players this should be easy, but an incredibly smart jungling support on the enemy team will probably help deny your runes. (This is just one of many, many reasons why ES mid will never be seen in competitive.)
In lane Kaolin gets completely destroyed by top tier mids like Templar Assassin and Outworld Devourer, but he can run circles around Dragon Knight and Pudge. He's pretty even with heroes like Shadow Fiend, Invoker, Kunkka, and Magnus; whether you win the mid-lane against those heroes will depend on your ability to maintain effective rune control.
Make sure you get your Stout Shield immediately after Bottle against a ranged mid. Generally speaking, ranged mids will beat melee mids, but Stout Shield evens the playing field a bit between melee and ranged heroes in the mid lane.
A couple more specific notes: your silence is great against Pudge and Puck. If Pudge decides to last hit with Rot, silence him and he'll take damage longer than he wants to. If Pudge is rotting you, you can Boulder Smash him and then silence, so that's 225 magic damage (with 1-1-1-0) from your abilities plus those 2 extra seconds of Rot. For Puck, bait out a Phase Shift with Boulder Smash + remnant (do the Boulder Smash in slow motion for extra bait sKiLLz). After that, roll in. When Puck tries to escape with Illusory Orb, use your silence. (If Puck decides to just get hit by the Boulder Smash instead, immediately Geo Grip the remnant back; if she's low on HP, follow up with a Rolling Boulder.) You should be fine doing this because almost all Pucks max Illusory Orb before Waning Rift. A mediocre mid Puck will probably beat a mediocre mid ES, but a great mid ES will stomp a great mid Puck.
Ganks: We covered what makes Kaolin a great roaming support in a previous section and all of that transfers over to his ability to follow up on ganks to the enemy mid. In this section I'm going to spend my time talking about when Kaolin gets ganked.
In short, Kaolin is a hard *** **********er to gank; the only mids harder to gank than Kaolin are QoP and Puck. He has silence (which can prevent follow-ups), he can knock people away, and he has a pretty good escape.
The one thing you need to remember when using Rolling Boulder as an escape is make sure you don't roll into whoever you're escaping from. Do not worry about trying to aim the Rolling Boulder toward your tower! The speed and distance is so awesome that it doesn't even matter; you could roll in the direction of the enemy's jungle for Christ's sake and you'd still more likely than not end up living.
What does Earth Spirit get out of it?
Well a couple of things: farm (which admittedly usually could go to better use), easy access to the side lanes, runes. But the main thing you get? Fast and safe levels!!!! The sooner Kaolin hits level 6 the better. The dude's just so nasty with Magnetize. In the next section (The Ganking Phase) we'll cover why and how Magnetize is basically a guaranteed kill on whoever you want early game.
Oh and don't forget, 98% of the time when you're mid, you'll always have your first Magnetize kill standing right in front of you... ;)
What does your team get out of it?
Earth Spirit is just way stronger in general than Pudge with a level advantage. Full stop. No contest. In addition, Earth Spirit's snowball potential is way higher than Pudge's and arguably many other ganking mids such as Skywrath and Zeus (albeit admittedly not as high as QoP's or Puck's).
The reason why Pudge is scary is because he can pull heroes away from their teammates even if they would otherwise be able to win a team fight. But who ****ing cares if they're clumped together or outnumber you when you're an Earth Spirit with an early game level advantage? You can **** **** up so hard that it doesn't even matter:
In the above clip I dive into 4 enemy heroes all by my lonesome--am I crazy for doing that??!?!?! Not with a mid-lane level advantage!!! I mean, just look at Pudge running like a little wuss! Early game Pudge ain't going to get an easy triple kill in a 2v4 situation the way an early game Earth Spirit can. (It would have been 4 kills if I was smart and placed a remnant on Pudge as he walked away. Oh well.) Earth Spirit mid > Pudge mid. End of story.
I would even go as far as saying Earth Spirit is the single best pure ganking mid. If the only reason you want X hero mid is for ganks, then X = Earth Spirit. He's just that ridiculously strong in the right hands.
Oh sorry, I'm getting a little ahead of myself! If I'm going to talk about ganking I should formally introduce the next section of this guide...
The Ganking Phase
The ganking phase starts at level 6-7, and it's the most important part of the game for you. I want to emphasize that with a level advantage, you can solo kill almost anyone in the game.
Why? Because your ult at level 6 does a total of 50 damage per second to multiple heroes for upwards of 42 seconds theoretically (that's 2,100 damage) and it only costs 100 mana. PLUS damage from your other three spells! PLUS a 4-5 second silence and slows and stuns. Very few heroes or pub teams can coordinate stunning/silencing you for 6 full seconds that early in the game to stop your remnants from dropping. And some people aren't even completely sure how your ult works in the first place.
There are only a small handful of heroes that will be hard to gank: any heroes who can silence or otherwise disable you for 4 or more seconds.
Bloodseeker, Faceless Void (with ult), Bane, Silencer, and Naga Siren (with ult) come to mind as particularly painful heroes to gank. The most reliable way to gank their lanes is to make sure you silence them immediately, and follow up by doing so much damage to them while they are silenced that they are guaranteed to die (bonus pro-tip: after silence ends, if you can, stay out of vision/range of their spells while they are on their last legs and let Magnetize kill them). You might even want to wait until level 7 for that 4th point in Geo Grip, just so you can get that 5 second silence. In the Skills
section of the guide, you may recall a triple kill that I get on a Bloodseeker, KotL and Nature's Prophet. The only reason I got that triple kill was because I initiated by silencing Bloodseeker!
Wraith King (with ult) is also annoying but for a different reason: when he reincarnates, he won't have Magnetize on him anymore. Bummer! You're going to want help taking down a Wraith King.
If you aren't already, during the ganking phase you should probably start carrying around any detection you'd need to land a kill and maybe even a Smoke of Deceit. Detection is pretty self-explanatory: even with your silence, ganking a Clinkz or a Bounty Hunter without dust is a great way to waste your time, your remnants, and your mana. And the smoke? Admittedly with your 1,000+ range initiation, it's not always necessary, but it does let you sometimes initiate from some spots you otherwise wouldn't be able to initiate from:
Heroes with escapes and blinks are not an issue; you can kill them easily.
Why? Because heroes with blink and escapes are typically frail heroes. And you have a five second silence. When they do finally blink away or escape, you have long-range abilities and a DPS-dealing debuff that lasts 6 seconds. Here's a clip of me killing a Weaver, just so you know I'm not ****ing around:
Timing that silence just right was critical to getting that kill so Weaver couldn't just Time Lapse during his final seconds. (Oh and by the way, Weaver's Time Lapse does not remove the Magnetize debuff!)
So you know all of those things that make the safe lane "safe?" The pull camp, the trees.... well, you're an Earth Spirit, so none of that **** matters. Think your team's KotL is safe in the trees against a good ES player? Think again!
In fact, Earth Spirit is so damn good at getting kills early game that you might be forced to blatantly tower dive just to get some kills. Do it! Don't be shy!
The above clip is one of my earlier attempts at playing Earth Spirit and I skipped buying a Stout Shield. Ah, I was such a noob back then. You won't make the same mistake I did in that clip, right? ;)
Well if you're going to be diving towers, it really helps to go over how tower aggro works
. Knowing how tower aggro works is sometimes the difference between a double kill and a double feed. You probably have a general idea of tower aggro, so let's just emphasize the important bits. If there are creeps under the tower taking tower damage, the tower aggro will only go on you if you right click an enemy hero.
Since the enemy heroes will be ****ting their pants as you dive into them, you probably won't get many opportunities to land successful autoattacks--so why tank tower damage for no good reason? Just use your abilities to get kills; Magnetize, Geo Grip, etc. won't redirect tower aggro onto you.
Let's say you're diving a tower with an ally and you have tower aggro. You're 100 HP from death, but your ally is still 90% HP. oh n0es! Just remember that tower aggro refreshes if you attack click another unit, even if that unit is a friendly hero or a friendly creep that isn't in deny range!!!!!!!!
Also one last thing about aggro: once you force the tower to refresh aggro, tower aggro has a 2 second cooldown, so if you immediately right click after you refresh the tower's aggro onto another unit, you can get a free right click in
Some of you already know this stuff, and others of you will think this is arcane confusing useless DotA trivia. But knowing how aggro works is so ******* important
when diving towers that it's worth reiterating to those who know and worth teaching to those who don't. Trust me, when you are just one less tower attack away from surviving a dive, you'll wish you remembered this stuff.
Last but not least, when you win a fight, make sure to make it worth your while by pushing and taking towers! Not taking objectives after team fights is one of the biggest mistakes pubs tend to make. So try your best to push and right click towers. I've said a couple times that Earth Spirit is a mediocre pusher, I should probably explain why: yes he can almost clear waves at level 7 (Q + E = 375 AoE damage), but it costs 175 mana and a remnant to do so. In the early game, that's expensive, especially when your remnants and spells are so good at killing heroes. In my opinion, pushing waves that aggressively isn't worth the cost unless the enemy's wave is huge and/or you are pretty confident you can get an objective off a push. With all of that said, don't be shy pushing waves with your remnants; sometimes securing a tower kill is way more important than having the mana or remnants to get one more kill. Also the better you get at Kaolin, the better you'll get at conserving remnants which means you'll actually have the remnants to use for pushing, so forcing yourself to use some remnants on early game pushes is a good way to get into the habit of saving remnants.
The Mid Game
Check Yo'self b4 u #rekt Yo'self
In transitioning from the early to mid game, Earth Spirit goes from being completely unfairly strong to being pretty scary, but not too bad. It's pretty easy to stomp the early game, but the mid game is what separates the weak from the strong.
The way you play Earth Spirit during the mid game is going to depend drastically on how much of an advantage you have created over your enemies in the early game. This is not true of every hero: no matter how good or bad the game is going, Sniper is always sniping and Axe is always axing. But Kaolin is a versatile hero! Part of that versatility means playing totally differently depending on how well you're playing.
Earth Spirit is a snowballing hero--why? Because (1) he can't farm well (so you can't ever "come back" with Kaolin unless you get super lucky) and (2) his #yolo nature depends critically on him being stronger than the enemy heroes. The best and most reliable way to do well with him in the mid game is simply to do so well with him in the early game that the mid game is a lock. Hence, ES is a prototypical snowballing hero.
So always check yo'self. The question you always need to be asking yourself is...
Mid Game Status: Ballin'
...Do I feel comfortable diving into their team and generally going crazy?
Answer: Yes, I can still wreck house with this hero.
Congratulations! Keep doing what you're doing. The main difference between the early game and the mid game is that the carries start getting scarier, and those 2v2s you've been doing for the first 10-15 minutes suddenly turn into 5v5s. Earth Spirit gets a bad rep from some people for his team fight, but quite honestly I'm not sure what those people are smoking. As long as you snowball off the early game, Kaolin completely wrecks team fights.
You need to remember that Kaolin needs to stay alive as long as possible in team fights in order to do tons of damage. You're not a Lich who just walks in, casts a couple spells and then leaves. You will be dropping remnants until everyone on the other team is dead (or until you run out of remnants). Remember that the reason you build tank items on Kaolin isn't to actually tank damage, but so you can still keep fighting if you catch a few stray bullets so to speak. Take the following clip for example:
I only entered that team fight when I knew I wouldn't get focused down. Gyrocoptor took most of the damage there, but that's fine: Gyro pops off all his spells, right clicks a few times with Flak Cannon, and that's the majority of his contribution contained within a small interval.
Alternatively, you can also just catch your enemies in a bad position and scare the bejeezus out of them so much that they can't do anything, even if you are totally exposed:
For one split second they were all grouped up and I was able to land a 4 man silence! The rest is history. Essentially this is a 2v4 fight (my team's Sniper just sat in the back and stole a kill), but without their disables they were powerless to do anything against me and Phoenix.
"But dude," you say. "Clearly those guys are noobs. They totally deserved that 4 man silence." Fair enough, but don't forget: if you silence one Magnetized unit, you silence them all! Here's another 4 man silence for ya, and these guys even have the common sense to spread out a little:
By the way, mad props to the Morphling in that clip who baited the Euls with his illusion of me and to the Bane who took a Magic Missile straight to the face! The last thing you want to do against a competent ES player is blow all your stuns on the other guys ;)
Mid Game Status: Struggin'
Do I feel comfortable diving into their team and generally going crazy?
Answer: No, I'm starting to feel less and less useful.
Once your diving starts failing (or if it never worked in the first place), you need to play a lot more carefully. Remember those clips earlier in the guide of me using Geo Grip to save allies? That just went from being your part-time job to your full-time job.
Honestly it happens to the best of us. There are some games where, after level 8 or 9, I can never risk getting close enough to the enemy to hit a successful Magnetize. Make no mistake: it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to lose or that your team is playing 4v5. It just means you're not ballin'.
Guess what? Sometimes I'll even play at a level disadvantage on purpose if I predict (1) my utility as a glorified force staff will be relevant all game, and (2) ganking lanes early (and losing XP as a result) is more important than going HAM in the mid game. So if your mid and safelane farmers needs a little help in their lanes (and they'll make use of the farm well), and you're against a team of heroes who excel at pick-offs, you're a fool not to go roaming at the expense of the XP disadvantage. Nobody wants to (roaming) support but everyone wants to win.
One of the nice things about Kaolin is that even if he falls off early, he still has long-range spells that provide tons of utility to your team. You have a 5 second silence with 1,100 range. You have a 2,000 unit stun that lasts 2.25 seconds. You can save your allies from terrible situations. And god forbid any enemy heroes get too close to comfort: you can use Magnetize and punish them for getting too close!
For more on what you can do at this stage of the game, go read the Late Game section. (The main difference between a bad mid game and a bad late game is that BKBs will be everywhere in a bad late game; in the mid game you should still be able to silence and stun reasonably well.)
The Late Game
My rule of thumb is that if the enemy carries can't kill you in 3 seconds or there aren't a gazillion BKBs being popped in every team fight, it's never truly late game. Keep playing Earth Spirit like it's the mid game! But if or when those things happen, you'll feel the sting, and boy does it hurt. Fear not, for while you're less useful, there are still a couple of things you can do:
- Rescue duty: Stay back and Geo Grip anyone who's getting pummeled or about to be pummeled. You should of course be doing this all game, but if you can't dive in, rescue duty will be your main role during a heated team fight.
- Cleanup duty: Once the BKBs are down, Kaolin's mobility lets him chase down any heroes who might want to escape.
- Push lanes: I rag on Earth Spirit's pushing abilities a lot. It's not that he can't push lanes early, it's just that remnants and mana are so precious in the early game that you usually want to save them for kills, not creeps. The late game is a different story though. Hopefully at this point you have a Veil and maybe even a Shiva's Guard. With Veil, Geo Grip and Boulder Smash, you should be able to take down all the ranged creeps and about 80% of the HP off the melee creeps in any given wave no matter how large. With Shiva's in the mix (if you so choose to get it) you can instantly kill any wave except the pesky siege creeps! Below is an example of me pushing a wave with Veil:
- Dewarding: Have a gem? Start dewarding. The 4 second cooldown on Rolling Boulder makes scaling cliffs a breeze: you don't even need vision to hit those pesky cliff wards! In the clip below, I didn't actually have vision; I just guessed that there might be a ward there so I rolled up to check--and I was right! There are VERY few other natural gem-carrying heroes that can do this without a blink dagger; I'd say that Batrider is the only hero who can deward more efficiently than Earth Spirit.
- Fight like a man (sort of): If you are REALLY REALLY REALLY good at Earth Spirit, with a little luck you will still be able to do tons of damage in late game team fights from a distance. Watch carefully in the following clip how I am able to cast Magnetize and get the debuff to apply to the entire team while staying far away from all the action--all without using a Force Staff or Blink Dagger!
Hopefully at this point in the game, your early game dominance gave enough room for your carries to farm up and out-carry the opponents' carries. Godspeed!
Hero Match-ups and Combos
Now that you know how to play Earth Spirit, let's go over the most and least favorable match-ups and combos!
The problem with looking at Dotabuff for match-ups with Earth Spirit is that 99% of people don't know how to play Earth Spirit, so none of the advantage/disadvantage stuff is accurate at all. You need to rely on
your my intuition and experience to let you know what the best and worst match-ups are. Most of the favorable match-ups revolve around Kaolin's ability to reposition allies, and most of the least favorable match-ups are such because of super long silences.
Heroes You Will Destroy!
Pudge - We've gone over this a million times already, but your Geo Grip can more or less make Pudge completely useless. Just save allies when they get hooked and Pudge can't do diddly squat.
Skywrath Mage - I'm hesitant to say that Skywrath is the most favorable match-up in the world because his 6 second silence will absolutely destroy you. But you can easily save your teammates from Skywrath's ultimate, which is his biggest source of damage, so I think that's a net benefit in favor of Earth Spirit. The following 1.5 second clip shows how ES counters not only Skywrath but Pudge as well:
Lifestealer - He's weak to Kaolin for the same reason he is weak to Force Staffs: this hero is one of the most easily kited heroes in the game. Make no mistake: you'll have trouble dealing damage to Lifestealer, but there's absolutely no reason why a Lifestealer should be able to deal damage to you or your allies. I have so many replays that feature moments where I dance around Lifestealer, using Boulder Smash to kick him away and Rolling Boulder to escape, but I think the following short clip sums up why Lifestealer gets wrecked by Kaolin. Worth noting about that clip is that I was watching Lifestealer very carefully that whole team fight, and I was in that spot for a considerable amount of time waiting to do that!
Phantom Assassin - Yet another hero who is also weak to defensive repositioning--starting to see a trend? I would definitely pick up a Ghost Scepter and a Force Staff against a PA for yourself because it's just so crucial to make sure that PA wastes her time every time she tries to blink onto someone that you need to have more repositioning tools than she does blinks. Boulder Smash her away when she blinks on you, Geo Grip and Force Staff allies when she blinks onto them. Oh, and one last thing that's really favorable for this matchup: early game you deal mostly magic damage, so her Evasion (her main source of survivability) means jack squat to you. Have fun ganking her!
Clockwerk - You can pull people out of Power Cogs! If you yourself get trapped in Cogs, you can Boulder Smash the Clockwerk to stop all the mini stuns, and then roll out yourself. DO NOT try to roll out without Boulder Smashing Clockwerk though!
Disruptor, Slark- One more way Geo Grip is better than Force Staff is that you can pull allies out from Kinetic Field and Pounce, making Earth Spirit the only thing aside from magic immunity that can save your allies if they get caught out by these spells.
Weaver, Storm Spirit, Queen of Pain, Morphling[/b] - Earth Spirit is one of four heroes in the game who has a silence that cannot be blocked by a Linken's Sphere, not to mention the 2.25 second stun which also cannot be blocked by Linken's Sphere.
Heroes Who Will Destroy You :(
Bloodseeker - Probably one of the worst heroes for Kaolin to deal with. A Pubseeker pick is a pretty good indication that I should not play Earth Spirit. Rupture destroys mobile heroes, and that silence is nasty too. You obviously also can't save allies with Geo Grip if they have been rampaged. Bloodseeker is basically in every way a certified Earth Spirit counter.
Huskar - Kaolin's main source of damage is magic. 'Nuff said. Also because Huskar can do damage over time even after he dies, your Geo Grip won't actually save your allies against a Huskar. The only way I've found so far to deal with Huskar is to kill everyone except Huskar during the early game, and once you have the money for it, buy Blademail immediately and then go for either a Heart or Halberd after. The Blademail deals pure damage that isn't reduced by Huskar's passive.
Faceless Void - This **********er will be IMPOSSIBLE to gank early game when his Chrono is off cooldown, and you also cannot pull people out of Chronosphere. Faceless Void isn't the worst match-up in the world especially if you get a silence off before he can stop you, but a really good Faceless Void player is going to make your life hell.
Bane - Magnetize needs you to be constantly dropping remnants, and while Bane isn't going to kill you himself, he will make all of your early game ganks a complete failure.
Silencer - Silences. 'Nuff said. He'll be a nightmare in big team fights, but with that said he's pretty squishy and if you get the jump on him before he jumps on you, he's not a problem during the ganking phase.
Wraith King - Most heroes in a 1v1 setting who can drop WK down to 0 and trigger Reincarnation can just go in for the second kill. Not Earth Spirit! Once Wraith King comes back up, he won't have the Magnetize debuff and you'll have no real way to actually kill him! So unless you know Reincarnation is on cooldown, you cannot actually gank this guy successfully.
Bristleback - Bristleback's Bristleback reduces damage from Magnetize so long as Bristleback is facing away from Earth Spirit, which is total ******** if you ask me. Volvo pls nerf?
WOMBO COMBO 360 NO SCOPE
Batrider - Geo Grip will make your Batrider VERY happy. There's not much else to this combo, sadly, and Earth Spirit and Batrider have sort of conflicting roles on teams (both being primarily offlaners and initiators), but if you do end up playing with a Batrider, be sure to exploit this combo frequently.
Crystal Maiden, Enigma, Witch Doctor - These heroes have big team fight ultimates, and your ability to reposition allies without stopping their channeling can be really helpful in letting them cast their spells. Just to be clear, moving a Crystal Maiden who is channeling Freezing Field does NOT move the location of the field itself.
Bloodseeker - Boulder Smash people who are Ruptured to deal up to 480 pure damage. Not bad.
Frequently Asked Questions About Kaolin
Not really "frequently" asked questions; this is more like me clearing up a lot of misconceptions to the contrary about ES, like when people question his competitive viability or say that he needs a buff. They're also questions you might have been wondering throughout reading this guide.
How do I get good at Earth Spirit? And how long does it take?
First you need to watch people who are really good play him. Then you just need to practice. Play with some bots and get used to his combos. Learn how to push-and-pull, learn how to kill people with Magnetize, learn how to get off 4-5 man silences with Magnetize + Geo Grip. Then take him for a spin in a couple unranked games.
Make no mistake, it takes a while to get good at Earth Spirit. According to my Dotabuff, my win rate with him over the past month is about 5% higher than my overall win rate--why? Because the first 20-30 games I played with him I was terrible.
Earth Spirit is ****py and needs a buff.
Wrong. He just isn't good in low level pubs. Earth Spirit is still a very popular and very successful hero in 5-6k MMR pub games. Check out some of those games and see for yourself!
You said Kaolin in competitive games will probably never be a mid and will usually be a roaming support. Why?
1. Roaming supports are strong in organized teams, and Kaolin is a freakin' awesome roaming support.
2. The mid role in competitive is for now and the foreseeable future used for farming mids, not ganking mids. That's why EG can get away with Arteezy going mid with PA. Two years you'd see Puppey Lycan and Dendi Rubick because ganking mids were competitively viable and the jungle wasn't nerfed until 6.78. But today you're more likely to see Dendi Lycan and Puppey Rubick!
3. Earth Spirit's carry potential is just too easily countered. You can get away with Carry Kaolin against pubs who make questionable choices a lot easier than against pros.
So if roaming support ES will be good in competitive, does that mean I should do it in pubs?
If you have to ask the answer is no. In addition to the overall difficulty of organizing early game ganks in pubs, most people don't even fully grasp what Kaolin does--good luck getting early game kills like that!
With that said if you're playing with friends or intelligent-as-far-as-you-can-tell players, go for it! The Tiny gank in the Roamin' Support Kaolin 201 section was with a friend, and the Ember Spirit gank was with a player who I could tell was really really good. (That same Ember Spirit is also featured in the subsequent Next Level Plays section where he cooperated with me to get an awesome kill.)
Why did people complain that Earth Spirit was overpowered in 6.79?
The main reason is because, in 6.79, Earth Spirit's stun and silence were flipped. This means could stun people (Geo Grip), roll into them, and knock them back (Boulder Smash). It was a guaranteed, no-fail way to knock people back in whatever direction you wanted. It was like having a Batrider with a Force Staff AND Blink, 3 minutes into the game with a ~12 second cooldown. Or like having a Vengeful Spirit with Aghs, 3 minutes into the game.
In 6.80 and beyond, the combo is far, far less reliable. As you can see in my above clips, the lack of stun means I very rarely get a full clean straight knock backwards with Boulder Smash; usually the knock back is at an angle.
There are a couple other reasons why he was overpowered but this was the main one.
What are the most annoying things about playing Kaolin?
When you are starting out:
1. Getting down the combos, obviously.
2. Aiming Boulder Smash is a nightmare! There's sort of an art to doing it and you're only going to learn by trial and error.
3. Learning how to be useful even in the late game. Make no mistake: Kaolin falls off hard late game, but he can still be incredibly useful! It just takes a lot of game sense and immaculate positioning to know how to use his abilities in a way that's changing the course of team fights against all those farmed enemy heroes with BKBs.
When you get good:
4. Allies usually don't know how your skills work, so they do dumb **** that messes you up (like Astral Imprisonment on a magnetized unit).
5. Valve really needs to fix this: sometimes I drop a remnant and want to grip or smash it, but it then grips or smashes a unit instead. You can see that in a couple of my clips actually. It can completely ruin plays.
6. Dealing with Kaolin's turn rate. His turn rate is 0.6, which is by no means bad, but the split second it takes to spawn and Geo Grip a remnant because of the turn rate will often lead you to miscalculate your chances at securing a kill. So far Kaolin's turn rate has cost me a couple dozen kills and has probably also lost me one or two games.
Next Level Plays
This is just a collection of completely random yet awesome plays that I couldn't fit elsewhere into the guide. I'm just posting them here so you can feel inspired playing Earth Spirit, and maybe you can try some of this stuff yourself.
Bait and Switch
Here I told Ember Spirit to bait a Mirana arrow and that I'd save him once he gets hit. He trusted me, and then this happened! One important thing to notice here with Magnetize is that remnants will still explode even on invisible units. I actually had no vision on that Tiny after the roll hit.
THE STEALS ARE REALLLLLLLLLLL!!!!
I'll be honest..... this was way more luck than skill. And we actually lost the subsequent team fight outside the Rosh pit. BUT THAT STEAL IS JUST SO ****ING AWESOME.
Two Hero Sneak Attack!
I'll be the first to admit this play was incredibly gimmicky, but hey we got mega creeps off it so whatever! It can also be reproduced with Blink Daggers and Force Staffs, so it's by no means exclusive to Earth Spirit. But still pretty fun and hilarious regardless, especially because you can pull your allies up onto the cliff without their permission (Ogre thought I was trolling when I did this). :)
Earth Spirit Level 1 Radiant Jungle! (MUST READ FOR EXPERT EARTH SPIRIT PLAYERS)
SEE HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLfYkVfPIcg VIDEO CREDIT DOES NOT GO TO ME. THIS VIDEO IS FROM 6.79a AND BOULDER SMASH WAS REWORKED SINCE THEN, SO PLEASE READ MY NOTES
The general idea is that you chop down some trees at the start of the game. Then around 0:58-1:00 Boulder Smash a large creep and it walks around. You're going to need to walk immediately to the left after you Boulder Smash it or the creep will not intercept the creep wave.
Note this video was recorded before 6.79c, which nerfed the kick distance of level 1 Boulder Smash. This trick still works even after the 6.79c Boulder Smash change, but it's a lot harder now. Because of the distance nerf, unlike in the video you cannot pull the lane by kicking the creep at 2:02!! This severely decreases the efficiency of this trick and means you cannot commit to jungling full-time during the early game or simply farm a Midas in 6 minutes. Instead of pulling the 2:00 wave, you have to wait to pull the 2:30 or 3:00 wave, and you won't be able to get a new neutral creep camp at 3:00. It's a good idea therefore to use some of this downtime to gank the mid lane. Make sure at level 2 to put a point into Rolling Boulder so you can do this.
The main advantage of doing this is that you get to pull the safe lane but also be really close to mid lane for early ganks. Make sure to practice this as much as possible in bot matches before trying it in a real game.
Earth Spirit Level 3 Dire Jungle! (MUST READ FOR EXPERT EARTH SPIRIT PLAYERS)
So I guess it's natural to then ask: is it possible to use cheap tricks to pull Dire side jungle? Yes, pulilng Dire mid is technically possible at level 3 but it's really really hard and requires an inefficient build. First of all, you need be level 3 with 2-1-0-0 build (or level 4 with 2-1-1-0). Second of all, it's freakin hard as hell to do. Basically first you clear all the trees to the west of the mid T2 tower. Then you approach the large camp from 10-11 'o clock at :05-06 or :35-36, and then immediately roll over the ledge toward the creep wave (use a stone when rolling). You CANNOT hit the creep with the roll, otherwise you will slow it and this trick will not work. If you do it right, you can juuuust about drag the creep into the creep wave and end up pulling the lane. The main issue with doing this is that by the time you hit level 3 (or 4), mid will probably be level 5 (or 6) so you won't actually be denying a whole lot of XP. But knowing that it's possible can be useful, especially if you want to enlist the help of creeps to farm a stack.
Neutral Creep Quasi-Perma-Block! (MUST READ FOR EXPERT EARTH SPIRIT PLAYERS)
SEE HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJwNHYxQcgI VIDEO CREDIT DOES NOT GO TO ME
This is a very unknown trick; I discovered it by myself not too long ago, and as far as I am concerned only a handful of Kaolin players are even aware of it. See, you can actually block the Dire's large camp (nearest the base), Dire's medium camp (nearest the mid lane), and Radiant's medium camp (nearest the mid lane) with Boulder Smash! I'm exaggerating a little with "perma-block"--the creep can obviously be killed. But most pub players will probably never check and they will have no idea why their creep camp is never spawning. In each case you should use a melee creep because a ranged creep will very easily reveal itself with aggro. Remember that the level of Boulder Smash matters, and it's generally easier to do with lower levels, so you'll want to do this early game while roaming if possible.
For Dire large camp: Hit a creep onto the cliff right below the large camp. What's nice is that it's impossible to ward up on that cliff, so most players probably won't even expect anything to be there. Also, this block is actually pretty easy to pull off. Some weird thing of note: in the clip below the centaur ended up being jittery all game, and ended up walking in and out of the trees and the camp eventually un-blocked itself! (It stayed on the cliff until the end of the game though, and ended up blocking the camp a mere 4 out of 8 possible times.) I think the large collision radius of the big centaur might have something to do with this because I haven't experienced this problem with other units on the Dire side during trial runs. IN ANY CASE, this is still a valid demonstration of the technique. Just don't use a big centaur on Dire side or else it will unblock itself eventually--you've been warned!
For Dire medium camp: Hit the creep sort of in a southeast direction; if you hit it straight down you will not get it. Once you get the angle down it's not too hard to get some sort of a block on this camp, but the biggest issue with this block by far is that it's possible to see the creep from the stairs until the trees respawn. If the enemy goes 5 minutes without noticing what's up, you're in the clear!
NO GIF FOR DIRE MEDIUM CAMP BLOCK; COMING SOON! PLEASE SEE YOUTUBE LINK IN THE MEANWHILE
For Radiant: The bad news is it's a medium camp instead of a large camp, and it's also a fairly well known sentry ward block spot. The good news is the creep aggro will never reveal itself if you use a melee creep! No matter how close you stand to the cliff, it's impossible for the knocked-back creep to show itself with aggro. To do this block, you just need to hit the creep juuuuuuust far enough back that it lands on the edge of the cliff, but not so far back that it destroys all the trees that are there to lock the creep in.
NO GIF FOR RADIANT BLOCK; COMING SOON! PLEASE SEE YOUTUBE LINK IN THE MEANWHILE