+ Great starting strength and intelligence
+ Incredible early game power
+ Good base armour and movement
+ Great tank
+ Can heal team mates
+ Great pusher and teamfighter
+ Amplifies damage for the rest of the team
- Incredibly bad agility
- Mana issues
- Lacks any form of disable
- Relies on allies for damage output
- Stat gain is poor
- Can be difficult to find a lane for him
Decay is an interesting power, and a tremendously effective one at that. When used, any enemy heroes in it's AOE will first have 4 strength each stripped from them, and then a small amount of damage applied. Undying absorbs the strength ripped from enemies for the next 40 seconds, before reluctantly giving it back. The spell has a relatively short cooldown and can be stacked multiple times.
Now the science bit. Each point of strength is worth 19 HP (and 0.03 health regen but that's kinda irrelevent here) to it's owner. So transfering 4 strength between heroes means that you gain 4 x 19 = 76 HP, and they lose the same amount.
Lets scale it up:
1 hero = 76 HP
2 heroes = 152 HP
3 heroes = 228 HP
4 heroes = 304 HP
5 heroes = 380 HP
6 heroes; oh wait, and no you can't steal from Meepo clones!
Consider that many common intelligence support heroes have 16 starting strength, one Decay will temporarily remove approx 25% of their max health...for 70 mana. Stack this a few times...
The early multi-target utility of Decay makes it a phenomonal ability versus trilanes, growing you to almost unkillable size, while making them easy pick offs.
HOWEVER, the actual damage inflicted is very minimal, and you basically rely on your allies to go and finish the job, or at least inflict the harassment that will leave enemies on low health when their strength is returned. You are a strength hero, so the stolen strength improves your right click damage.
A little more maths - relative health/healing works on a % basis when you gain or lose maximum health. For example, if we have 500/1000 HP with our Power Treads set to Strength, we would set them to something else before using our Healing Salve.
When we disable our Strength, we lose 8 x 19 = 152 max HP, and half of that (76) from our current health (as we were on 50% HP). That means we now have 424/848 HP. Using the 400 heal from our Salve, we now have 824/848 HP. Switching our treads back to strength, we have 972/1000 HP, as we had restored 97% of our health. If we'd used the salve without switching, we would have had 900/1000 HP - so our salve is nearly 20% more effective.
Decay works like this, but in reverse - any damage inflicted while their strength is reduced will still count for more even once it has been returned.
The great thing about this ability is that tanky heroes and squishy ones alike will suffer. Many tanky heroes rely on that for their playstyle and damage - Centaur Warrunner ain't gonna enjoy Double Edge very much when you've sapped a bunch of health from him, just as Crystal Maiden will be even more paper-like than usual. Obviously strength heroes lose right click damage too.
Generally we leave Decay at level 1 as the increased damage isn't worthwhile compared to the increased mana cost, and we'll have enough difficulty spamming it after a while anyway. If you have a mana battery like Chakra Magic available, you would seriously consider levelling it more early on, but this is about the only time.
Soul Rip is a weird spell. It's basically a heal/nuke depending on whether you cast it on friend or foe, but it actually inflicts a small amount of damage to a number of units in the area in the process.
Depending on the spell's level - it counts a maximum number of units present (friend or foe) in a 1300 radius around Undying, and heals/nukes based on this number. For example:
5+ units present = 125
10+ units present = 250
15+ units present = 375
20+ units present = 500
Obviously, if less units are present than this maximum limit it will be less effective. For example, if you cast level 4 Soul Rip with only 2 units present, it will only do 50 heal/nuke.
It also deals a small amount (25) of HP Removal damage to each unit used - friend or foe - this cannot be fatal however. Yes...even Undying's heal can hurt his friends.
The difficulty early on in the game is actually having enough units present to make this effective - 500 damage for 125 mana can be pretty amazing. Unless there's a Broodmother or other minion heavy hero present, you're unlikely to be getting 20+ until quite late in the game when the creep waves get bigger.
However...this is where Tombstone comes in. Each zombie spawned counts as a unit, so dropping one near a team fight or enemy creep wave will usually give you the numbers you need more regularly.
Obviously use this to save/heal team-mates, or zap enemies. Just be aware that the cooldown is reasonably long at low levels.
Tombstone is Undying signature power - summoning a huge stone edifice that spawns waves of zombies that attack all enemy units in the area. The zombies may be individually weak, but their numbers and movement slow can bring down weakened heroes, especially if their health drops below a 20/25/30/35% threshold.
The Tombstone lasts between 15-30 seconds, and can be destroyed for a fairly large bounty of 75-150 gold. It's important to position it carefully - it needs to be close enough to spawn zombies (the radius is quite low at early levels), but also so that it can't be easily destroyed. This may be inside trees (it will destroy them the ones it directly placed on, but the rest can still block vision), on high ground, or just generally a bit further away from the centre of the fight.
Tombstone is brilliant for big pushes and fights, spawning more zombies the more units are present. However, it has a long cooldown so make sure it's available for these kinds of situations. Obviously it's also much more effective when fighting around creep waves.
It combines well with both Flesh Golem and Soul Rip. Obviously it provides additional units for Soul Rip, and the tomb itself can also be healed by it.
Flesh Golem is a little more complex, but it basically ensures that lots of units in the area are being attacked, and that enemies are also being slowed to allow Undying to get close enough for his plague aura to take hold.
Flesh Golem is your ultimate, and yet another power that will require a fair bit of explanation :). Once activated, you transform into an even more fearsome looking member of the undead, and gain a "plague aura" which has the following effects for nearby enemy units:
- Increased damage from all sources the closer they are to Undying (5-35% within 750 units, maximum effect at under 200 units).
- Undying will heal a % of HIS max HP if they die within range of him (2-10% depending on unit type/Aghs).
- All enemies slowed by 9%.
Hopefully this ability is starting to make a bit more sense now. You act as a damage amplifier for your team, and get healed when those enemies die. This fits well into your tanking playstyle - you engage at the front, weakening enemies and soakiing up damage for your team. Hopefully, your allies will be getting kills, and you'll be getting healed!
Obviously equipment does help here, with items that reduce the incoming damage you receive, and increase your health. Decay also helps by boosting your maximum HP - if you can land good ones you can easily be gaining several hundred extra HP every 6 seconds or so in the late game.
The cooldown is reasonable at 75 seconds, but this is still primarily a team/3v3 fight spell rather than a ganking one. It's also key to note that casting it doesn't make you instantly any tankier than you were before - it's totally reliant on enemies dying nearby. Don't waste it trying to use it as an escape.
Having read through all that (no TL:DR :)), Undying's skillset should start making more sense to you now. I've included the two most common builds for solos and supports. You'll notice there's a lot of similarity between them - 1 point immediately in Decay, followed by a few in Soul Rip, then maxing Tombstone.
The key difference is offlaners are more likely to have the mana to be able to rapidly spam Decay in fights, while supports try to keep the mana cost low and go for the increased effectiveness of Soul Rip instead.
You can skill Undying differently of course - but tend to run into the issue of "not enough mana for higher level Decay, not enough units to make Soul Rip work properly yet", hence the standard build. Flesh Golem can actually be delayed, but you'll want it for any large (3v3+) engagement, and it's not particularly expensive.
Obviously situations can change - if you have a mana battery available then hell yeah get more Decay on the go ASAP - make enemies run away from the lane terrified a light gust of wind will finish them. If there are minions everywhere early game then Soul Rip maxed first GG go next.
Things get a little bit trickier for our pet Zombie here, as he's not the easiest hero to fit into a roster. Generally his tank/utility role suits a #3, or at most a semi-support #4. He's not a hero who needs tons of equipment like a carry (and he lacks the right click to every really do that role), but he does need mana regeneration and tanking options to fulfil his potential.
The issue with picking him as a #3 is that would put him in the offlane role - and while tough and effective against enemy trilanes, with no escape you are running the risk of him being killed off and unable to cope. It's quite situational what lineups you can put him against, and he tends to do better with other heroes to follow up his Decays.
This leaves us with the #4 role. He can certainly soften up enemies and push hard, but he lacks an early slow or disable necessary for most defensive trilanes. Decay is also less effective with only a single target.
It makes far more sense in 3v3 lanes, and this would usually be as an aggressive rather than defensive trilane (but hell, as long as it's 3v3 we don't care). Suddenly his skillset makes sense - and the numbers present mean early Soul Rip is effective.
As the game progresses Undying fills multiple niches - tank, damage amplifier, healer, pusher, utility and possibly auras (depending on how tanky he is). This doesn't really change much between his offlane/support roles.
We're looking at a fairly standard set of melee offlane or semi-support items. You're likely to be soaking up some damage so plenty of health regeneration is a must, as well as some armour or damage block. A little mana regeneration can help too, although it can be tricky to use if you're competing for hits at all.
Remember to use your health consumables when you HAVEN'T got Decay stacks if at all possible.
Having a mana battery on the team can be extremely useful to allow you to continue spamming your abilities during the early and mid game where you may have mana problems. Both also have good, long-range nukes that can follow up your Decay stacks.
Aggressive trilane carries with good damage and lane control are a great follow up and compliment to your early aggression - they can take advantage of your Decay stacks and allow you to dominate lanes, and potentially get assists.
Strong early pushers with minions are an ideal compliment - you want to be effective and taking towers relatively early. Their extra bodies also make Soul Rip stronger, and allow you to put more early levels in it.
More aggressive early game heroes can work well with you, making you difficult to stop and combining to get kills.
Silence is a problem for you if badly timed, as you're just a big melee creep without your abilities. It's important to get Tombstone and Flesh Golem off early in fights without being silenced first. These heroes will all suffer against Decay if you can use it well.
Locking down ultra-mobile heroes is a problem for you due to your lack of crowd control, you'll at least need allies who can provide this, and give your powers time to work.
Strong DOT abilities can wear away at your defences and make it difficult for you to compete in lane - and it also means their damage is not greatly effected by losing strength stacks.
Anti-tanks don't care how many hitpoints you have, and scale their damage accordingly. This can be a problem when you're relying on Decay stacks and equipment to make you hard to kill.
Heroes with large area physical damage attacks can quickly whittle your zombie hordes down to size.
These heroes can positively thrive when more enemy units are present in an area, be very wary of using Tombstone in these situations.
Although you can tear him a new one with Decay and some backup, he can also cause you substantial problems. Freezing Touch is very strong against you, while Ice Blast completely negates your Flesh Golem heals and can shatter you instantly on low % health.
Hopefully all that info has given you a much better understanding of a frequently underused and confusing hero. Undying has a strange mixture of skills and strengths that tend to lend themselves to niche picks and particular scenarios.
He's an extremely strong early game hero, but can also scale effectively into the late game. His pushing and teamfighting skills can be extremely strong, but rely on good teamwork to be truly worthwhile.
His biggest issues are his lack of "standard" crowd control, the situational effectiveness of his skills and his lack of damage output when alone. Not having an effective escape skill means that you're reliant on playing around your team to get the job done, and can limit his solo offlaning options.
However, he's monstrously powerful when played correctly and in concert with your team, and is capable of causing severe problems for the opposition.
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