Kaolin, The Earth Spirit is one of the more difficult but satisfying heroes in Dota 2. He has a very strong presence on the the map in the early to mid game, and unmatched utility in the late game. If played properly he will grant you the early game advantage you need to snowball to victory, as well as create loads of space for your carry to farm.
Kaolin should be played as a mid due to his great ganking and killing potential at level 6, or as a solo offlane due to his high likelihood of being able to harass the enemy care, and in most cases score some solo kills.
I build ES the same Mid as well as Offlane, so this guide will apply to both roles.
-Your team has weak early/mid game
-Your team has a carry that requires a lot of space to farm
-Enemy team has squishy heroes without many good escape/purge options
-Enemy team doesn't have many silences
-Heavy magical damage in the early and mid game
-Relatively item independent
-Arguably the most utility of any hero in Dota 2
-Difficult to play
-Relatively squishy for a strength hero
-Countered by silences and magic immunity
-Falls off as a damage dealer in the late game
The skill progression I have here is pretty standard. Earth Spirit's abilities are pretty obvious in their prioritization. I take Boulder Smash at level 1 to possibly kick an opponent onto the cliff. It is also the highest damage spell at level 1. Take Geomagnetic Grip at levels 2&3 as it is the easiest ability to land on an opponent. Finally take Rolling Boulder at level 4 as you will need all 3 starting abilities to pull off your combos.
Prioritize maxing out Geomagnetic Grip first, followed by Boulder Smash then Rolling Boulder, while taking Magnetize whenever it's available.
Before I go into Items, it's important to look at how to actually play the Hero. Earth Spirit can fill almost any role on a team (Carry, Initiator, Nuker, Ganker, Carry, ect...), but the best way I have found to play him is as a carry in the early game, who transitions into a full support by the end. You want to be greedy in the first 20 minutes because that is when you will be able to make the greatest game impact. Get as much farm and XP as you can because once you hit level six you will become a killing machine, as well as a devastating ganker.
Rule Of Thumb: When you hit level 6 kill every enemy you see.
There are very few heroes that can survive an encounter with a level 6 Earth Spirit, but as the game goes on and the enemy carries get their BKB's your killing potential will fade away. No matter how much you solo wreck the enemy team at first, you will never win a solo fight against a real hard carry at 45min. This is where the transition comes into play.
Assuming you have done your job in the early and mid game, the enemy team will have spent all their time and energy trying to stop you that your carry will have plenty of space to free farm. You should spend your late game time and gold trying to save teammates who are in trouble, and stage team-fights that will favor your team. It may have been fun to rampage on the enemy team at the 16 minute mark, but your late game utility is what will win you the game.
That brings us to the items. Earth Spirit heavily relies on his spells to do everything. So that being said 1 set of tangos and a stout shield is just fine to start with if it leads to a faster Bottle.
The next item I like to build is Urn Of Shadows, as long as no other hero on your team will be making it. The amount of early kills you get will fill your urn very quickly and allow you to secure more kills after your opponents get Blink Daggers, and to heal your allies after you begin to take on a more supportive role. Urn is great on Kaolin.
If someone is already building urn, I like to go Tranquil Boots. I know most people make Arcane's on him, but with a bottle i don't find it necessary. Earth Spirits spells aren't that spamable due to the limited number of remnants so if you have a bottle and an urn you will be just fine. The added armor and regen from the Tranquil Boots will let you dive a bit deeper to secure early kills.
Poor Man's Shield is also a good pickup to help you dive a bit, and is just fine to pick up since you wont be building Vanguard.
Your mid game items can be very situational since Earth Spirit isn't reliant on his items to make the hero "whole"; so here are some things I like to pick up in various situations.
Blink Dagger- a good option for when you are up against a good team-fight lineup and need the extra mobility for positioning.
Force Staff- I build this almost every game, many time with blink as well. It can make you very hard to kill and lends itself well to your "position-altering" play style. All around this is the go-to item.
Ghost Scepter/Heaven's Halberd- These two are great against any team with an attack speed burst oriented carry such as Troll Warlord, Ursa, Phantom Assassin, ect... Pretty much any hero who needs to be auto attacking in order to be useful.
Veil Of Discord- Usually underwhelming, this is an item I buy when we are winning the game fast and I am still the main source of damage while pushing the high ground. It is usually a good idea to build your items around helping your carry and crippling theirs, but in a fast game you can buy this item for yourself. I don't recommend it as a standard though.
There are more items I could look at like BKB, MKB, AC, Heart ect... But in most cases those will be luxury Items. that should wait until the aforementioned are already in your inventory.
As you feel your damage impact start to fade around the 30min mark, it's fine to start buying wards,dust,smoke, ect.. This will take some pressure off of your hard supports and maybe let them get the items they've been scraping up for the whole game. It also seems to build a little solidarity amongst the team. I recommend embracing your late-game support role completely.
Lastly Aghanim's Scepter is absolutely core on Earth Spirit. The amount of utility the item brings to the table is incredible. Using the Enchant Remnant ability you can save teammates, disengage a gank, initiate a fight, and turn any 5v5 fight into a 5v4. Typically I focus on enchanting the most important member of the enemy team and kicking him far away as the fight starts. This will give you a 5v4 advantage until that hero walks all the way back. Kicking them up hills or into the jungle will buy you even more time.
In the beginning of the game 6 remnants is more than you will need so don't be too greedy. I typically waste all my mana during the first couple of creep waves being really aggressive. This usually scares your opponent off a bit and isn't a big deal because you will get your bottle around the 2 minute mark.
Later in the game 6 remnants doesn't seem like enough, so you shouldn't use them unless you are going to get a kill or avoid being killed.
Some combos you can use in game are as follows:
Drop Behind Enemy-->Pull-->Kick Rock
Drop Behind Enemy-->Roll-->Pull(during roll)-->Kick Enemy
Drop Behind Enemy-->Roll-->Pull(during roll)-->Drop-->Kick Rock
Drop In Front Of You-->Kick Through Enemy-->Roll-->Pull Back Through(during roll)-->Ulti
Drop Near Enemy-->Ulti A Creep Wave-->Kick A Creep Into The Refresh Radius Of The Rock (Magnetize will spread to the nearby enemy heroes)
These are just a few you can try, there are tons of combos you can pull off in the game. Just remember you can cast any abilities while you are rolling so use that time wisely.
I recommend playing lots of 1v1Mid games so that you can practice pulling off your combos with confidence.
In closing, Kaolin is one of the most powerful and flexible heroes in Dota 2, and how you play him can decide the outcome of the match. He is a great early/mid game damage dealer, and ganker, who transitions into an awesome late game support.
If you have any questions, corrections, suggestions, ect... please leave a comment.
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