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4 Votes

Picking up Skywrath

April 4, 2016 by apaz
Comments: 2    |    Views: 59245    |   

Build 1
Build 2


DotA2 Hero: Skywrath Mage

Hero Skills

Ruin and Restoration (Innate)

Arcane Bolt

1 3 5 7

Concussive Shot

2 12 13 14

Ancient Seal

4 8 9 10

Mystic Flare

6 11 16


15 17 18

Picking up Skywrath (Intro)

Skywrath is one of the higher skill cap heroes in the game, but I find that a few tips can go a very long way. Playing Skywrath Mage is difficult for a little, but will become substantially easier after 5 or so games, and all the kinks are worked out in about 20 games. I think he is worth learning.

This entire guide will be based upon the assumption that you have never played Skywrath Mage before, but want to learn as quickly as possible. I also assume that you have at least 200 games under your belt, and know all of the effects of all the abilities in the game.

This guide will teach you how to play Skywrath Mage, even if you have never played him before, but you have to actually practice too. Reading is good in the beginning, and I'll try and impart as much knowledge as I can, but it takes practice.

If you don't know all the effects of all the abilities, than keep reading anyway, and hover over the tooltips/pictures of items/heroes/abilities. I'll explain how the skills interact as well.

Probably the biggest thing to learn is actually what to be doing when. It takes a lot of games to get this down, but watching some pro games will speed this process way along. Being skilled at dota isn't about rampages, but is instead about being efficient with your time. Not feeding goes a long way too, of course, as with player mechanics.

You may notice me doing it already, but I am highlighting all the stuff that you need to read in light blue. Other colors also mean other things, as designated by this key.


Minor Emphasis
Aghanim's Scepter ability changes
Emphasis for formatting purposes

General thoughts about the hero

Skywrath Mage is a Intelligence burst hero, who much like Storm Spirit can turn mana into damage. He is also perhaps the squishiest hero in the game, up there with Lina and Pugna. He has NEGATIVE armor at level one, and one of the ****piest STR and AGI growths in the game. At level 25, he has 2.62 armor, the lowest in the game. The average is about 10. It also can't really be fixed, since it would be inefficient to do so, and you would really like to expand your mana pool. Depending on the role, there may also be support items to buy.

Extreme squishiness aside, Skywrath is one of the best zoning supports in the game, and is also very good at ganking squishy heroes, although his only disable is Concussive Shot. You just blow them up instead. Because of this innate potential to blow people up, Skywrath Mage is actually excellent at snowballing, especially in the mid role. You may often find yourself at 20 minutes with five kills wondering what just happened.

You may notice that your skills all get better as you get more max mana and more Intelligence. Luckily for you, Int gives max mana. Also luckily for you, you have the 3rd highest starting Intellegence in the game and the 2nd highest Int growth. Because of this, you aren't really very dependant on items to be useful to the team. However, you may need a few items so you don't fall dead and you have some utility, mana regen, and a bigger mana pool. XP is just really good on him, possibly more than any other hero.

Skill Cap

Skywrath Mage is, I feel, difficult to play because of a few reasons.
  1. Positioning your squish
  2. Chaining your nukes and spells
  3. He feels weird to play, so players will already feel out of their comfort zone
  4. Quick trigger finger required on Ancient Seal

Being out of your comfort zone on a hero made of Jell-O is not good. To get better at the hero, you must get into your comfort zone. Until then, you will be making weird mistakes that you maybe wouldn't on other heroes.

Dotabuff Stats (Screenshot taken May 12, 2015)


As you can see, Skywrath Mage is a hero mostly played as a safe lane support. This is because he is so great at zoning and harassing back the offlaner with Arcane Bolt and his impressive 600 attack range. To put it into perspective, Sniper has 550 base attack range(with no levels in Take Aim).

The more difficult a hero is, the lower their winrate will be. This is why heroes like Meepo, Chen and Tinker have a low win rate compared to the actual strength of the hero. Although Skywrath Mage isn't wuite as hard as the heroes previously mentioned, the same logic applies. Skywrath is hard when you aren't experienced at playing him. Winrate becomes more representative of the truth the lower the hero's skill cap is. Therefore, heroes like Wraith King and Warlock have a higher winrate than the hero's actual strength.

As you can see, the general consensus for boots is Arcane Boots. There isn't much to say about the other items, as they are both correct and rather standard.

You may notice that Skywrath Mage is **** against Huskar, who he has nothing against. He just jumps on and eats you. You also just can't do any damage to him whatsoever. Magic damage doesn't work against him, and that is all Skywrath Mage has.

As you look down the list, you may see that he really doesn't like being eaten. Or accidentally killing himself on a Nether Ward. That isn't fun either.

However, he is VERY good against Timbersaw. Timbersaw's survivability comes from his ability to pull out of a fight and regen, and his armor. He doesn't actually have much HP. Because of this, he doesn't like silences and magic damage. Ancient Seal + Mystic Flare messes him up. He can't leave, he just dies.

He is also very good against those with long channeling ultimates. Sitting still for Mystic Flare is not a good idea. Glimmer Cape's introduction into the game may slightly change this, but we'll see.

You may also notice that nobody really picks him and his pick rate is low. This is partially because of the fact that people think that you have to be a Skywrath player to pick him, and partially because people think that he isn't very good because of his winrate. His winrate being low is because he takes a lot of time to get comfortable to, and because picking him up isn't easy.

Hero Stats

As you can see, he is ALL INT. He has one of the lowest base Strengths in the game, as well as one of the lowest growths. He also has one of the lowest base Agilities in the game, and another of the lowest growths, even though he is a bird. His starting armor also, somehow, manages to go into the negatives.

The upshot of all of this is that it is inefficient to build survivable, because if you buy raw HP it is inefficient because you have no armor, and if you buy armor, it is inefficient because you have no HP. There are no items in the game that give you a good mix of all of this, so it is better to build more manapool through INT, or more damage, or into utility, or to just spend it all on wards and smoke to try and support your team to get them the advantage.

Other than that, his base damage isn't really anything to shake a stick at, and his base movement speed is really really good, coming in 3rd of all heroes at 325. It doesn't say it here, but his attack range and attack point(Attack Animation) are also very good.


Roles (read all of it)

As I said before, Skywrath Mage is only played support or mid. The hero is strong in those roles for different reasons.


In Support, Skywrath Mage is good because he is not reliant on gold to do a lot of damage. He also has a slow with a very long range, allowing you to catch up to people and get kills that wouldn't normally be possible. Mystic Flare, if you or your team has sufficient lockdown, can decimate teamfights. Good examples of "sufficient lockdown" are Fiend's Grip, Reaper's Scythe, Chronosphere, and Shackles. Beyond that, Skywrath Mage is either one of the best or the best hero at zoning out an offlaner, and he isn't bad at ganking once you have your ult and Rod of Atos.


As a mid, Skywrath Mage is good because of his innate potential to snowball and blow people up. Unfortunately, Skywrath mid is countered very heavily by Black King Bar. Because you are playing a core, you can also stack Int and Mana until you have enough to ult several times with Aghanim's Scepter. Several Mystic Flares is more than enough to kill someone. Its low cooldown means that you can go on ganking sprees, racking up large amounts of money. It's long cast range, along with the cast ranges of Concussive Shot and Rod of Atos makes you a master of pickoffs and securing kill that you didn't believe were possible. Aghanim's Scepter is late game, though. A snowballing Skywrath can singlehandedly take control of a game, and put an immense ammount of pressure on the map, creating space for your hard carry to come online. By the time that you start to fall off, your carry will be online. Then, once you have 3000 max mana and an Aghanim's, even though you should be falling off, you're still extremely strong, and capable of blowing up whoever comes within 1000 range of you.

Items by Role

Starting Items

Mid Starting Items

An early Bottle isn't as important on Skywrath Mage, because of his high base INT. Instead, I go for a little lane sustainability and maximum damage for last hitting.

Support Starting Items

Someone is going to have to buy Animal Courier and Observer Wards. Since you are a support, this falls to you. Since you are going to be using a lot of mana spamming Arcane Bolt to harass and zone their offlaner, I included a Clarity. For when you are going for a kill, the burst mana regen from Enchanted Mango can go really far in terms of damage. Depending on if you are or are not the only zoning support in the lane, Smoke of Deceit may or may not be good. The idea is that you gank the enemy mid at about 6-8 minutes with the smoke. Basically, at level 4-5. Just come from behind and try and blow them up. However, this isn't a good idea if it means that the offlaner will get free experience. You should buy a smoke if there is another support that can zone the offlaner in your absence. Lion Lich, and Oracle are good examples.

Early Game

Mid Early Game

The dust and the smoke are in there situationaly, and the rest is kind of standard. Dust is for if you are want to kill an invis hero, and smoke is on there for when you gank. When you gank with Smoke of Deceit you can sneak under wards and blow up their squishy carry. For example, if you kill a Naga Siren before they finish a Radiance, you now have a large advantage. The Bottle is in there because you are a mid and probably want a little regen, and the Arcane Boots are in there because you need a bigger mana pool for your ult. A Mystic Flare while you are level 6 will take up about 80% of your mana pool. That means to do a combo, you need about 110% of your mana pool, which obviously isn't going to happen. Thus, we build Arcane Boots because it gives very cost efficient max mana. ALWAYS CARRY A Town Portal Scroll!

Support Early Game

As a support, it is up to you to buy support items like Flying Courier, Observer and Sentry Wards, and perhaps some Smoke of Deceit. What little gold you have left can be spent on Boots of Speed and a Magic Wand for some efficient... everything. You should still always carry a Town Portal Scroll.


Mid Midgame

Rod of Atos is probably the most insanely good item possible on Skywrath Mage. It gives INT, which is manapool, and it gives survivability that, while inefficient, you still would like a little more of. The important thing, however, is the active. I explained it earlier, but 40% + 60% = 100% slow. It lets you snowball in a way that is kind of bonkers. That snowball can run over the entire game. Many people don't know how to play against Skywrath, so their stupidity is your gain. The void stone is just there because you need some sort of percentage based mana regen, and why not pick it up now, because you can build it into something later.

Support Midgame (One boot and one stick)

As a support, you don't have to worry about scaling into the late game or getting pickoffs. Therefore, you can invest into utility, survivability, and more support items. Eul's Is very useful for removing silences, and is just a really good item in general right now. The mana cost doesn't even matter, and you can combo the abilities of other heroes with the active. As dumb as it sounds, Eul's Scepter of Divinity into Split Earth into Mystic Flare. Atos is good for survivability, and It lets you kite certain carries. A certain ability to gank also comes with it. It might as well give damage like a Dagon, because it lets you get damage out of your ultimate. Force Staff is good to save people and for mobility, but It may also be good if there is someone like a Clockwerk in the game. Wards are, of course, the responsibility of the support. The choice between boots is yours. If you feel like you need a bigger manapool this game, get arcanes. If you need armor, get tranqs. The closer to zero the ammount of armor you have is, the the more one point of armor will do for you. Since Skywrath basically has zero armor at most stages of the game, you need this if they have ANY armor reduction whatsoever if you don't want to get two-shotted.

Late Game

Mid Late Game

With Scythe of Vyse, Mana regen is no longer an issue. Make it out of the void stone from earlier. The extra lockdown comes in handy too. Landing your ult has never been easier, and I's already good for locking down their carry, the conventional reason you get it. It also makes your manapool really big, so that you can land 3-5 ults on someone with Aghanim's Scepter. 1400 damage * 3-5 = 4200-7000 magic damage before reductions, not even factoring in Ancient Seal. Nobody can live through that. Simply blow up their carry before the teamfight begins.

Support Late Game

Scythe of Vyse is good because you can lock down their carry, and help chain stun them and blow them up before they can even BKB. Or, if their carry is snacking on the faces of you or your friends, you can hex them. Ghost Scpter simply is there to keep YOU from getting snacked on. Skywrath has poop armor, so if someone starts right-clicking you, especially if they reduce it further, it'll hurt. With a Ghost though, you're safe to keep doing what you do unless you get silenced, in which case you should have bought or you should buy a Black King Bar or Eul's Scepter.

Situational/Luxury Items

Mid Situational/Luxury Items


Aegis of the Immortals- If you can get one, Aegis is good for the same reason on Skywrath Mage as it is on Storm Spirit. They blow through large protions of their manapool to do things. They are also cores that don't want to die in a fight anyway, because they are likely a significant portion of their team's damage. Blow all your mana instagibbing a couple people, come back, do it again, and hopefully live to tell the tale.

Black King Bar- Dispels silences and stops AoE spells like Echo Slam. Getting killed before you use all your mana might make you lose the teamfight. This keeps you from getting focused down before you can use all of your spells and stick around DPSing with Arcane Bolt for a while.

Blink Dagger- Blink can help you snowball after you get Atos. If they show up in lane, you can slow from the normal 1600 range, blink next to them, Atos, and blow 'em up. With a blink, you can also blink silence them from 1900 range away and blow them up like that. You have really big kill potential with a Blink, and the usual utility that comes with a blink purchase is good too.

Dagon- I know what you're thinking. Dagon? Really? However, It is actually a very efficient item. Ancient Seal amplifies Dagon damage, sort of like Decrepify. Dagon also gives ok manapool for it's cost. So, it works.

Ethereal Blade- EBlade Dagon is legit. The 40% bonus magic damage stacks with the 45% from the ancient seal. Additively, I might add. Base magic resist also stacks additively. So, on a normal hero, you have -60% magic damage. Let's do some math. Let's assume that all you have is Null Talisman, Dagon lvl5, and Ethereal Blade You're also level 16. This gets you up to 118.6 INT, but let's say 118. Ethereal Blade amplifies it's own damage. After all this math, Eblade does 497.6 damage(let's round down again), and Dagon does 1280 damage. This adds up to 1777 damage at level 16. It gets bigger.

Ghost Scepter- If you don't want to get killed by minus armor heroes or gankers, get one. It'll save your life and let you get off your spells in teamfights.

Eul's Scepter of Divinity- Purges silences, and can set up combos. You can also Eul's and run away, because hey, movespeed.

Force Staff- A mobility item, and you need one if a Clockwerk is in the game on either side. You can also break Linken's Sphere with it, which can let you Ancient Seal them.

Linken's Sphere- Doom sucks. Like, really really sucks.

Boots of Travel- Once it is the late game and everyone else has them, why not follow suit?

Bloodstone- Bloodstone should always be rushed before 20 minutes if you chose to go this route. Believe it or not, Bloodstone is a farming item until later. It basically just gives you infinite use of Arcane Bolt. This lets you farm really fast, because you can just use it every two seconds. The thing is, until you get a Rod of Atos on top of this, your ability to kill someone on your own is kind of low. The good news is that it isn't that far off, especially now that you have a farming item. Once you have an Atos on top of your Bloodstone, you can start racking up charges and farm somehow even faster.

Shadow Blade- Shadow Blade is a ganking Item. I'm not one of those people who says "escape." SB is a nearly 3000 gold item directly countered by an item that is two for 180 if used as "escape." SB can be good after Atos if you want to put a lot of pressure on the map. Which, of course, is what Skywrath mid is made to do. It can also be made into a Silver Edge later if you need more HP and want keep ganking.

Shiva's Guard- Shiva's is for if you need a bigger manapool and more armor. The good thing about having **** armor is that the worse your armor is, the better armor Items are. That makes Shiva's Guard a VERY efficient Item. It also has the conventional use of being an anti-carry Item.

Gem of True Sight- Just about any ranged hero can make good use of a gem. While you're roaming and ganking, if you find wards, you can kill 'em. If they have invis heroes, that's just a bonus.

Support Situational/Luxury Items

Aghanim's Scepter- Although it isn't seen all too often, If your team needs the damage, you can itemize like a core and get an Agh's. As long as you still have a big manapool it's just as good.

Black King Bar- Dying early on in a teamfight isn't really an option, because even as a support you are probably a large percentage of your team's damage. A BKB Is useful if you keep getting silenced, chain stunned, or blown up.

Blink Dagger- A blink is a really strong item in general, and situational on most all heroes, especially supports. Help save your carry from longer distances.

Cheese- If you have an Agh's, a cheese is the same as about 2000 damage. The mana can be used to

Hand of Midas- If you can get a midas on most any support by 20 minutes, the GPM it gives greatly accelerates the farm of the hero it's bought on, especially if they have no way to farm and enjoy extra XP. The XP usually translates into GPM just because it lets you farm faster if you have more INT, and it is easier to get kills if you are a higher level. This is perfect on Skywrath Mage without a Bloodstone. You can spend this on wards, towards your next big item, or use it to become some sort of core going into the late game. Dota is, at it's core, a game where you try to get your team's GPM and XPM higher than the opponent's team. Midas is an item that does that. Also, Midasing Chen or Enchantress creeps is hilarious. If you don't agree with this item, don't rage about it in the comments. That has happened on other guides. Instead, check out this link:

Linken's Sphere- Again, you can't get Doomed, or you'll probably lose the teamfight. Other spells are useful to block too, like Primal Roar, Fiend's Grip, or even Amplify Damage.

Shiva's Guard- If they have any sort of high physical damage or any armor reduction, even if it is just a Viscous Nasal Goo, you're going to need at least a casual Plate Mail. His armor is actually that bad. Upgrading into Shiva's is a logical progression, as the active is very good against carries, and the INT is manapool and Arcane Bolt damage, which is awesome too.

Shadow Blade- This is, again, a ganking item that is useful if you want to continue your reign of terror after you have a Rod of Atos. Sneak up and blow up. It is important to mention, however, that usually by the time that you get a Shadow Blade and a Rod of Atos on a support Skywrath it's usually the 45 min mark and their team is moving as five. So, usually only get this if you're snowballing hard enough.

Boots of Travel- If everyone else has one, why be left out?

Glimmer Cape-If you keep getting blown up by gankers with a lot of magic damage, like a Lina, a Puck or a Queen of Pain, you might want a glimmer. Lina and Queen of Pain have a pure damage component too, but that isn't really the point. Anyway, the mana cost isn't really that big a problem with Skywrath. You might want to get another HP and/or INT Item with this, like that Rod of Atos, because glimmer makes all that HP more efficient and the INT serves to mitigate the high mana cost.

Guardian Greaves- As a support who wants HP and Armor but doesn't have to worry about not having the mana, what Item could be more perfect then a Mekanism? If you want the mek, you don't need Tranquil Boots because it does the same regen and armor type of thing. That leaves you free to go Arcane Boots, and into the obvious extension. I don't suggest upgrading to Guardian Greaves until you have another item though, one of the sticks. The recipe costs a lot, and although it gets rid of the mana cost for the Mekanism, you'll need some sort of of HP or Utility (one of the sticks) before you blow that much on a recipe that doesn't give any stats.

Necronomicon- It gives HP, it gives INT, and the necro warriors are really good. Buy against heroes that dislike summoned units like Juggernaut and Shadow Demon, and buy it against those who are countered by truesight and for when you need to push.

Gem of True Sight- Usually, buying gems falls to ranged supports. As a hero who'll be getting around the map a lot, and a ranged support, a gem is really useful for the map control you can get from it. About two minutes before you take roshan, you can send in the skywrath to deward everything and make sure they don't have vision. That way, not only might hey be unaware that you are taking roshe, but if they chose to contest it they will be at a vision disadvantage.

Tips/Tricks (read all of it)

Skywrath can get kills that you don't think are possible if you don't have enough experience playing him. Anyone who strays within 800 range of you runs the risk of being blown up if you have the mana for it. If you don't, run away from them.

You're REALLY squishy, and you have lots of mana. Remember that when you get ripped to shreds by Blade Mail, Nether Ward, Mana Burn, and Mana Void.

Arcane Bolt can almost substitute for right clicks, because it has such a low cooldown and is so spammable. It is an excellent harassing and last hitting tool, in the early to mid game, and scales to late game too, doing a sizable amount of damage/second as the game goes later.

Concussive Shot homes in on the closest hero. It ignores Illusions. It also has a small AoE. If you are within range of a hero, you use the spell, and it fizzles, that hero is an illusion. If there are a whole bunch of illusions with a hero in them, it homes in on the real one. It's great for chasing too.

Ancient Seal screws up spell dependent heroes and escape heroes like Storm Spirit, Queen of Pain, and Weaver. These heroes, without their spells, are very easy to blow up. It also amplifies magic damage more than any other spell but Decrepify. The cast range is gigantic, and the cast point is tiny, so you can silence people on a whim and blow them up. Keep in mind as well that not only does it amplify the damage of Mystic Flare, but it also keeps them from using abilities to escape it. Note as well that all the previously mentioned heroes will rip you to shreds as well. A vision advantage, a quick trigger finger, and gamesense will go a long way.

Mystic Flare's damage is gigantic but unreliable unless you have a Sheepstick or an Atos. Use it only in conjunction with Ancient Seal. Remember that Force Staff is a hard counter to it. You can kill most any hero in the game with your full combo. If somebody tries to kill you, you can sometimes kill them first.

Friends/Foes in a nice little video

(I reccomend using Fullscreen for all of the videos below.)

That was a general list of what he is counters and is countered by, however I believe this deserves a special mention: Pugna, Destroyer of Skywraths.

In any case, You should Itemize around what counters you. If they have a Silencer, you need a Eul's Secpter of Divinity or a Black King Bar. If they have a Slardar, you need a Ghost Scepter ASAP. Then, later, you might want a Shiva's Guard

Gameplay to Learn From



Special Mention (Baumi)

Baumi has a good video too, but it's one of the ones people post to show off.

Basically, he just stomps. Don't expect to do that every game. It is, however, a good example of how a Skywrath Mage can take over a game, due to his high kill ceiling. His commentary, although a bit weird at times, also adds some insight about how to play the hero. I would call him about as good a Sky player as I am. His player skill is up there, and probably better than mine. Where he fell down, however, is his item build. He should have bought a Eul's Scepter of Divinity after the Rod of Atos, not a Bloodstone. Other than the mana regen, which for his purposes could have also been solved by Eul's, It didn't really do a whole lot. A Eul's would have let him dispell the silence from Death Prophet, stop Spirit Breaker's Charge of Darkness, and helped him get kills on most of their lineup. It also could have stopped the Spirit Breaker from right clicking people. I think that the Shiva's Guard was good, as well as the Aghanim's Scepter. I would say that a Blink Dagger or Shadow Blade would come a bit too late after the Eul's Scepter to be effective, so I wouldn't get it here.


Although you might just say TL,DR I've enjoyed writing this guide. If you feel one way or the other about it, leave a rating. I noticed that there weren't really any good Skywrath guides out there, so I set out to make the best one ever.

Many things have probably changed since I started making this guide. It's been 3+ months, after all. If there are things you think I should update, or you have questions, PM me or leave a comment. Even If you don't agree with item or skill builds, you can leave a comment too, but please be constructive.

Overall, have fun blowing fools up and babysitting that carry. It'll take some time to learn, but Skywrath is a great hero to add to your arsenal and a whole boatload of fun in general. Just hope you don't fall from starry heights.

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