Welcome to the Artillery Bird guide for Skywrath Mage, a hero that has gained a huge amount of popularity since this year's International. Skywrath is second only to Tinker in nuke power, and comes online 30 minutes earlier. With this in mind, we seek to emphasize sustainability rather than damage, as his skills provide enough.
This is my first guide, so please be gentle :c
This guide assumes you know what Skywrath's skills are. However, threre are a few special rules that apply to them:
Both Arcane Bolt and Concussive Shot are not disjointable, which means nothing short of invulnerability will stop them from connecting. This can be useful against opponents such as Queen of Pain or Weaver, who can normally use blink or invisibility to avoid harassment. Once either skill is used, almost nothing can stop it from doing damage.
All of Skywrath's skills have no cast time, which means that his spells can be combo'ed off as fast as you can press the buttons. Use this to quickly fire off skills when either chasing or being chased. Skywrath can essentially orb walk his skills to send a barrage of fire downrange at either a fleeing enemy or a chasing aggressor.
Skywrath is fairly new to the spotlight, and has rarely been played as a mid in pro matches. This guide describes a mid ganking role, and our items will reflect our position as a semicarry. Since Skywrath is an abysmal farmer, play aggressive and set up ganks early. This will help you keep up to grab expensive items that will transform you into a snowball hero.
Laning Stage: Grab two sets of tangoes and a Mantle of Intelligence as your starting items. Buy your Bottle and the rest of a Null Talisman as soon as you can, then go straight to Arcane Boots. You may need to farm in the lane for a bit longer than other mids to get these items, but they are essential to roam effectively at Lvl 6.
Mid Game (Tier 1 towers down): By this time you should have quite a few kills, and be ahead of the game in levels. A Bloodstone is an obvious pickup, as it allows you to spam arcane bolt constantly and lets you disassemble arcane boots into a more useful item. While it gives no stats, the added health and mana pool as well as unrivaled regen make it a perfect fit for Skywrath. Due to your insane damage output and near instant delivery, many teams will target you first. Bloodstone makes Skywrath surprisingly tanky, especially paired with our next item Rod of Atos. With the amount of HP provided by these items you should be able to keep up with tankier heroes, and even become the team's main initiator if you have enough of an advantage. If your team has a significant amount of magic damage besides yourself, consider turning your null talisman into a Veil of Discord. If not, feel free to sell it for space.
Late-Game Situational: Late game is where Skywrath's options open up. Remember, the whole game has been spent racking up as many kills as possible, so the enemy is forced to recognize you and your physical DPS carry as equal threats. If you are losing, invest in EITHER a BKB or Ghost Scepter. Going for both isn't realistic with Skywrath's dependance on offensive power, so only get one or the other and only if you have no choice. However, if you have the upper hand, Scythe of Vyse is hands-down the best choice for someone like Skywrath. He has no stuns or other disables, which means targets can easily pop BKBs to render you useless for quite a while. Other heroes that are countered by BKB, such as Shadow Shaman and Lion, can prevent the enemy from popping it with a stunlock combo. Skywrath has no such luxury, but Sheepstick plugs the last hole in our armor (I don't know the analogy I'm sorry please don't hurt me). It puts Skywrath in a position where he can easily snipe anyone on the enemy team. As a fourth item, upgrade your Ghost Scepter into Ethreal Blade if you have one, to provide insane armor and even more nuke power, or if not an Aghanim's Scepter is the best choice. At this point you should have more than enough mana to harness its upgrade, and it provides more damage for Skywrath than any other item in the game. Aghanim's is a very delicate item on Skywrath, in that it may tempt you into blowing all of your mana on an overkill triple Mystic Flare. Remember that two is enough to kill all but the tankiest heroes, so save your last one for another combo.
Overall, this is possibly the most selfish Skywrath build of all time, but it has won me over 100 games at a solid 70% ratio. However, this is not a hero you should pick every game by any means. A few heroes hard counter the **** out of you, and will make your life miserable if you are forced into them.
Few heroes can withstand the might of Birdman, but a handful can truly make you hate life.
Huskar is arguably the hardest counter to Skywrath Mage in the game. It is impossible to burst him down due to ridiculous magic resistance, and his autoattacks tear through your abysmal health pool. Stay away from Huskar at all costs.
Pugna is an infamous counter, able to completely prevent you from fighting in an area. While squishy enough to die quickly to your combo if you get the jump on him, you can easily kill yourself if you don't keep a constant watch for the Nether Ward debuff. However, as long as you don't lane against Pugna, you can usually avoid having to fight in ward range. I still pick Skywrath into him but only if a different mid is guaranteed.
Pudge is easily beaten in the laning stage with good positioning and rune control, but late game magic resistance and overall tankiness make him a ***** to kill. If you are unlucky enough to face a snowballed Pudge, he can not only take your punishment but dish out his own with a good hook. If you must play against a Pudge (which is very often the case), roam early to try and outpace him. Set up ganks before Pudge gets Flesh Heap stacks to put him on the backfoot, where it gets very difficult for a Pudge to make things happen.
Leave any feedback you think would be helpful and rate! I will definitely add to this guide, as it is my first and only guide so it is far from perfect. Hope this was helpful, and that it wasn't too crazy and meta-breaking. Thanks!
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