Sknny's Guide to Skywrath Mage [6.82c]
October 26, 2014
Skywrath Mage, So Hot Right Now
Skywrath Mage is pretty strong right now and has been seeing an increase in pro play recently after a series of buffs in updates 6.81 and 6.81b, though his ultimate has been nerfed in 6.82. He can be played as a lane support to zone out offlaners, in an aggressive trilane, or as a solo mid. Skywrath is one of my favourite and most played heroes (not to sound like a hipster, but I played Skywrath before it was cool) and now is a great time to improve your play with him or pick him up if you're looking for a new hero to play.
"A highly placed mage in the court of the Ghastly Eyrie, Dragonus lives a troubled existence. Sworn by birth to protect whoever sits within the Nest of Thorns, he hates the current Skywrath queen with all his soul. As a youth, high-born, he was a friend and companion to the eldest Skywrath princess, Shendelzare, first in line for the Nest. He had loved her warmly and unshakably, but as his studies took hold, his mind turned to arcane learning and the mastery of Skywrath sorcery.
Obsessed with matters aetherial, he missed the mundane signs of courtly treachery that hinted at a plot against Shendelzare, and lost his chance to foil it. When the court was shaken by a swift and violent coup, he emerged from his studies to discover his oldest and dearest friend had been lost to him. The Nest of Thorns now belonged to Shendelzare's ruthless younger sister, and Dragonus could do nothing. The magic of the Skywrath Mage serves only the sworn protector of the Skywrath scion, so to act against the Nest would render him helpless. He clings to his post, believing it to be the best hope of one day restoring his true love to her rightful place. Meanwhile, his secret is known only to the goddess Scree'auk, whose magic it was transformed Shendelzare from a crippled physical creature into an embodiment of pure vengeful energy. While he dreams of restoring his beloved queen to the Ghastly Eyrie, he dreams even more desperately of restoring Shendelzare herself to a fully healed physical form. The duplicity of his role at court tortures him, for he is a noble and good-hearted creature; but the worst torture of all is imagining the hatred that Vengeful Spirit must hold in her heart for him."
TL;DR He fancies Vengeful Spirit, blames himself for her almost dying, doesn't shut up about it.
Skywrath is a 'glass cannon' hero, meaning he does a ton of burst damage but is very squishy. He has poor strength gain (1.5) and the worst agility gain in the game (0.8), giving him low health and low armour. He makes up for this with one of the highest intelligence gains in the game, as well as abilities that synergise well to burst enemies down.
You're low health and low armour mean that you're vulnerable, especially to physical damage dealers, but the huge damage from your ultimate, Mystic Flare
, means that you can kill enemies very quickly. They can't hurt you if they're dead, so kill them before they kill you.
Pros / Cons
+ Great burst damage
+ One of the highest INT gains in the game
+ Great at zoning out solo enemies in lane
+ 325 movement speed is the second highest in the game
+ Scales quite well into the lane game for a hero who relies on magical damage
+ Easily the best looking male hero in the game
- Lowest agility gain in the game (0.8)
- Terrible attack speed
- Low armour
- BKB makes him useless
- Bad at pushing and destroying towers
- Can't farm very quickly
- Nukes travel slowly
- Ultimate uses a lot of mana
- No stun or other way to cancel channelling spells
"Skywrath Mage launches a slow-moving bolt of arcane magic, dealing damage to an enemy unit based on Skywrath Mage's intelligence.
Great for nuking enemies in lane to zone them out. Just throw one out at them every time they come up for a last hit. Be aware that the nuke travels very slowly (500 movement speed), but it can not be disjointed by blinking or going invisible. Scales with Skywrath's intelligence so stays relevant into the late game, as Skywrath has high intelligence gain (3.6) and you'll be buying a lot of intelligence items.
Arcane Bolt has a very low cool down at just 2 seconds at level 4, so it's very spammable. It's possible to get over 200 INT late game with Skywrath, which will give you a 400-500 nuke every 2 seconds. When you have the mana to sustain it, it can be spammed to compliment your right click damage (which is pretty poor).
If you're playing mid, you can use Arcane Bolt to secure last hits.
Tip: Arcane Bolt can't be disjointed by blinking or going invisible, travels fairly slowly, and gives 325 vision around itself. This can be used when chasing enemies to keep track of them if you lose vision.
We'll be levelling Arcane Bolt second in this guide. This increases the damage slightly and, more importantly, lowers the cooldown (5/4/3/2) so it can be spammed.
- Zoning out enemies in lane
- Last hitting
- Complementing your right click damage
"Skywrath Mage sets off a long range shot that hits the closest hero within a long range. Upon impact, it deals damage and slows in an area of effect.
Decent slow, okay damage. Concussive Shot
has a huge range, so is good for chasing enemies, but it can't be targeted - you'll always hit the nearest non-magic immune enemy hero that you have vision of.
Tip: Concussive Shot won't target illusions. You can use this to detect the real enemy hero amongst a group of illusions. Just cast when you have vision of a group of illusions and which ever one it hits is the real hero. If it hits none of them (or targets a hero further away), then none of them are real.
You'll be using Concussive Shot
to set up your ultimate early on (see combo details below
). It becomes somewhat obsolete later on as you'll be picking up a Rod of Atos
(and, if you get the farm, an Ethereal Blade
) which will do the job of setting up Mystic Flare
, as it has a better slow ( Concussive Shot
, Rod of Atos
, and Ethereal Blade
have a 30-45%, 60% and 80% slow respectively). It'll still be useful when chasing or escaping or if you need some extra damage to burst an enemy down.
- Chasing/fleeing enemies
- Setting up Mystic Flare
- Some extra burst damage
- Identifying real enemies from illusions
"Skywrath Mage seals the targeted unit with an ancient rune, silencing it and causing it to take additional damage from spells.
was buffed in update 6.81b to provide greater magic damage amplification (30%/35%/40%/45%). Use this before hitting Mystic Flare
to increase the damage it delivers. The silence also helps to stop enemies escaping ganks or fighting back.
The extra second of silence at each level (3/4/5/6) is the main reason to max Ancient Seal
first. The extra second of silence beats the extra damage from Arcane Bolt
and Concussive Shot
- Silencing enemies to stop them escaping ganks
- Amplifying the damage you do with Mystic Flare and other skills
"Skywrath Mage uses his ultimate magical ability to conjure a precise and violent mystical field that lays waste to his adversaries. Deals massive damage distributed evenly among any Heroes in the area over 2.4 seconds.
does a ton of magic damage, especially once you take into account the magic amplification from Ancient Seal
, but it deals its damage over 2.4 seconds and in a small area (170), which is why slowing/immobilising your enemy before hitting them with it is so important. Also note that the damage is split between heroes in the area, so you usually want to ensure that only one enemy hero is caught in the area.
Tip: Creeps and illusions take no damage and are not counted when splitting the total damage from Mystic Flare, so don't worry about catching them in the AOE.
Keeping the enemy in the AOE for the whole 2.4 seconds can be difficult when relying on Concussive Shot
for the slow, but once you pick up a Rod of Atos
, and later an Ethereal Blade
, this becomes much easier.
has a fairly short cooldown (60/40/20), but uses a lot of mana (350/575/800), which will often be the limiting factor in how often you can use it.
is very good at solo killing enemies. Your combination for killing enemies is Concussive Shot
-> Ancient Seal
-> Mystic Flare
-> Arcane Bolt
& right click until dead.
Important note about the order you use these in: Usually you want to cast Concussive Shot first, but then cast Ancient Seal JUST BEFORE your Concussive Shot hits. This way, you get the bonus damage from Ancient Seal and you maximise the effectiveness of the Damage Amp and Slow.
In some situations, you might want to use Ancient Seal before Concussive Shot to avoid tipping enemies off that you're ganking them. This is usually important for heroes who have escape skills, such as Anti-Mage or Queen of Pain.
At some point you'll be picking up a Rod of Atos
, which will effectively replace Concussive Shot
as your set up for Mystic Flare
, as the slow is more effective (60% vs 30-45%). If you can get the farm for it you'll later pick up an Ethereal Blade
, which is an even better set up (80% slow) for Mystic Flare
and amplifies the magic damage the target takes.
Note: the damage amplification from an Ethereal Blade stacks multiplicatively with the damage amplification from Ancient Seal.
It's important to have an idea of how much damage you will do with this combo so that you can judge whether or not to go for kills. Below are the calculations for when you're at level 6, level 11 and level 16, as well as for when you have an Ethereal Blade; if you're not interested in where these numbers come from, you can safely skip this section and just look at the summary.
All of these calculations assume your target has 25% base magic resistance and that you hit all the damage of Mystic Flare (i.e. the target remains in the aoe of Mystic Flare for the whole 2.4 seconds).
At this point your combo ( Concussive Shot
+ Ancient Seal
+ Mystic Flare
) will cost a total of 550 mana
(110 + 100 + 350), plus an extra 70 mana
for each Arcane Bolt
. The damage output, if you hit the full damage of Mystic Flare and INCLUDING 25% base magic resistance and Ancient Seal
(600 + 60) * (1 0.25) * (1 + 0.4) = 693 damage
for full details of this calculation). Each extra Arcane Bolt
will do approximately 147 damage
(the exact damage will depend on your intelligence) and this, along a few right clicks, should be enough to kill most enemies on your own at this point.
The mana cost at level 11 increases to 795 mana
(110 + 110 + 575), plus 70 mana
per Arcane Bolt
, and the damage increases to
(1000 + 60) * (1 0.25) * (1 + 0.45) = 1163 damage
Plus approximately 305 damage
per Arcane Bolt
At level 16 the mana cost is 1020 mana
(110 + 110 + 800), plus 70 mana
per Arcane Bolt, and the damage increases to
(1400 + 240) * (1 0.25) * (1 + 0.45) = 1784 damage
Plus approximately 392 damage per Arcane Bolt.
With Ethereal Blade
Once you have an Ethereal Blade, the damage is amplified further, plus you get the extra damage from the Ethereal Blade
based on your intelligence (75 + 2 * INT). This gives you a total damage of approximately:
(1400 + 240) * (1 0.25) * (1 + 0.45) * (1 + 0.4) = 3068 damage
(the exact value will depend slightly on your intelligence)
You don't need to remember these calculations, but remember the results so you can judge if you have the damage output to get the kill on your own.
This is the damage output and mana cost of your combo at different levels. Note that this includes 25% magic resistance and assumes that you hit the full damage of Mystic Flare
You need the mana. You rely on magical damage to kill enemies. You're ultimate is one of the most expensive skills in the game and has a fairly short cooldown.
Rod of Atos
A ton of intelligence, as well as a great way to set up Mystic Flare. Extra intelligence is great for your mana pool as well as increasing the damage from Arcane Bolt. The active slow also better than Concussive Shot (60% vs 30-45%), so use the Rod of Atos slow instead of Concussive Shot to set up Mystic Flare. This makes hitting the full damage from Mystic Flare must easier. Rod of Atos can also be used on chasing enemies to escape.
Provides extra intelligence, which is great for increasing you damage output and your mana pool. Also give you a great way to get into position for a gank. This is especially important when ganking enemies with an escape, as you'll need to silence them before they have time to react.
The Ethereal Blade is like a Rod of Atos on steroids. The slow is even better than the Rod of Athos slow (80% vs 60%) AND it increase the magical damage the target takes (40%). Note that the magical damage amplification from Ethereal Blade and Ancient Seal stack multiplicatively, meaning that together they amplify magical damage on the target by ~2 times (1.4 x 1.45 = 2.03; taking into account 25% base magic resistance, this drop to 1.53 times). It's pretty much the perfect item for Skywrath Mage, as it sets up Mystic Flare perfectly.
Note: As of update 6.82, Etherial Blade now has a 1200 speed projectile.
It is quite expensive (4900 gold), so you probably won't be able to get it until late in the game. This is okay though, as the magical damage amplification lets your damage output stay relevant later into the game.
The extra AGI that an Ethereal Blade gives you will make your attack speed slightly less embarrassing (note: it still won't be good, you'll be attacking around once every 0.9 seconds at this point).
Pick up the Ghost Scepter first, as it keeps your squishy self safe from nasty right clickers. Be aware of who's on the enemy team though, as Ghost Form will increase the magical damage you take as well.
You need health and mana, a Bloodstone gives you both.
Removes the cooldown from Mystic Flare. While using Mystic Flare multiple times is great, it's very expensive, so you probably won't have the mana to take full advantage of this.
You'll be levelling Arcane Bolt
first to harass your lane opponent(s). This is true whether you are a solo mid or a lane support.
If you're supporting in lane, throw out some harass every time you're lane opponent comes up for a last hit; note that using skills does not draw creep aggro, so you might want to just use Arcane Bolt
and avoid right clicking to avoid taking damage from creeps and pushing the lane. Skywrath can very effectively zone out offlaners and allow your carry to farm.
If you're playing Skywrath mid, you'll want to get an early Bottle
to allow you to sustain you harass in lane. Every time your opponent comes up for a last hit, throw out an Arcane Bolt
at them. You can also use Arcane Bolt
for last hitting creeps. Be aware that you are squishy and don't have a good escape, so be aware of missing enemies who might be ganking you. You have one of the highest base movement speeds in the game and, along with your slow from Concussive Shot
, you should be able to beat opponents to runes if you're going for the same ruin (with the rune changes in 6.82, this is less of an advantage).
Once you hit level 6 you should be looking for kills. When mid, look for opportunities to drop your combo on your lane opponent. Remember the damage values from above
and make sure that you have enough mana to get all of your skills off.
The cool down on Mystic Flare
is fairly low (60/40/20), but you will be limited by the mana cost (350/575/800). If you have a Bottle
, good rune control (rune changes in 6.82 help with this) and/or bottle crowing can sustain your mana, but don't be afraid to return to your fountain to replenish your mana between ganks.
Skywrath isn't good at pushing or farming, so your focus in the mid game should be on killing isolated enemies. With Ancient Seal
and Concussive Shot
, you are very good at ganking the enemy carry who is farming, or getting the jump on split pushing enemies. Be aware of the damage and mana cost calculated above
so you know when you can get kills.
Obviously, if you're playing support you should be doing the usual support things: warding, stacking etc. Exactly how you should be doing these is more general support tips and is outside the scope of this guide, but there's plenty of support guides around if you want more on this.
Once enemies start picking up BKBs you'll become a lot less effective. You can't use any of your high damage abilities against them and your right clicks are terrible. In team fights, ignore anyone with a BKB and try to burst down squishy, high impact enemies before they can have an effect on the fight.
Friends and Enemies
Skywrath works well with anyone who can hold enemies in place for you to hit an easy Mystic Flare.
allows you to hit an easy Mystic Flare
. Obviously, avoid getting caught in the Chronosphere
holds enemies in place for Mystic Flare
. Note that Overgrowth disables blinking (abilities based blinks, such as Anti-Mage
's blink, and Blink Daggers).
Friends also include heroes who help keep your mana up.
Outworld DevourerOutworld Devourer
Essence Aura helps keep your mana up with your low cool down, spammable Arcane Bolt.
Maths: Arcane Bolt costs 70 mana, Essence Aura give you a 40% chance to restore 25% of your mana at level 4. This means that on average you will restore 25% of your mana every 2.5 times you use Archane Bolt (as 1/0.4 = 2.5). So you're effectively spending 175 mana to restore a quarter of you're mana. As long as you have at least 700 max mana (175 x 4), you're basically getting free mana, so spam away.
When you're near enough to OD to take advantage of level 4 Essence Aura (1000 radius), spam Arcane Bolt
non-stop to restore your mana.
CM's Arcane Aura
helps keep your mana up for spamming Arcane Bolt
Skywrath is good against heroes who rely on skills to escape ganks, examples include:
Queen of Pain
QoP's blink can help her escape ganks, so silence her with Ancient Seal
before she can use it.
Similar to QoP, silence AM before he can escape ganks.
Again, silence before he escapes for an easy kill.
As good as Skywrath is, there are some heroes who counter him pretty hard.
is a hard counter to Skywrath, as it does damage based on the mana you use. Mystic Flare
uses a ton of mana (350/575/800) and you have low health. Also note that Nether Ward
applies its damage BEFORE you actually use your skill, so if the damage from Nether Ward
is enough to kill you when casting Mystic Flare
(or any other skill), you'll die as soon as you cast it and won't actually use it.
Seriously, Nether Ward
will make Skywrath cry and smudge his eye-liner.
Nyx can burst you down fairly easily. He's good against any squishy hero, but especially Skywrath, as Mana Burn
does a LOT of damage to you. Mana burn's mana drain and damage are based on your INT (3.5x/4x/4.5x/5x) and you have one of highest INT gains in the game. Nyx can also easily Spiked Carapace
your slow moving projectiles, which makes harassing him difficult, which is especially annoying when you're 1v1 him mid.
Outworld DevourerOutworld Devourer
While OD was listed as a friend of Skywrath, the treacherous b*stard is now here as an enemy. Astral Imprisonment
owns you in lane (as it does any intelligence hero) and although you're fairly safe against his ultimate, Sanity's Eclipse
, because of your high intelligence, it will burn a lot of your mana, which you rely on.
Burns your mana with Mana Break
, has magic resistance from Spell Shield, and his ultimate Mana Void
can do a lot of damage (to you and your allies around you) if cast on you.
does damage base on your missing mana (0.6x/0.85x/1.1x), and it won't be uncommon for you to be missing over 1000 mana (level 3 Mystic Flare
alone costs 800 mana), which translates to over 1000 damage to you and your team in a 500 AOE around you.
is here as a counter to Skywrath, Skywrath also counters him, as Ancient Seal
can stop Anti-Mage
blinking away from ganks. Your priority should be ganking him early and shutting him down before he gets his farm.
Omniknight's Repel makes you useless against one target for 6/8/10/12 seconds. Note that unlike most other forms of spell immunity, Repel can be purged.
Silencer counters Skywrath (as he does all ability based heroes) with his ultimate Global Silence
. He can also permanently steal your intelligence with Intelligence Steal, which will lower your precious mana pool, as well as decreasing the damage you do with Arcane Bolt
Dropping a full Mystic Flare
on an enemy with an active Blade Mail
could do you more harm than good, as you're almost certainly squishier than a blade mailed enemy. Be aware of who has a Blade Mail
and if it's on cooldown. If it's the enemy carry who has the Blade Mail
, it may be worth Mystic Flaring them anyway, even if you sacrifice yourself for your team to get the kill.
Black King Bar
If you can't do magic damage to an enemy, you're fairly useless against them.
Skywrath is a great lane support or mid who relies on magic damage to bust down enemies. He has terrible right click damage due to his low agility gain, but scales well into the late game for a magic damage hero.
Thanks for reading my guide to Skywrath Mage. If you have any comments or suggestions, let me know below. Thanks to everyone who's commented with feedback and suggestions!
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