In this guide i will describe 2 different ways of playing Warlock. First, the funnier but harder way to play in my opinion, focusing on his more underestimated skill, upheaval, while the other one is more of a common playstyle, using his skills in the traditional way. Of course, everybody will feel more comfortable playing on its way, and this is just a personal idea of the possibilities this hero offers. So, before saying "BUUUH NOOOB, to play warlock u must do THIS and then THIS, so u must do THAT" just read this and if u get some new idea, i´d be happy for it. Also, each game is different, every team is different, and each player has its own limitations and advantages. Adapting to particular circumstances is vital on DOTA, so dont take this as a rigid guide, everything is open to modifications and improvement.
Warlock is a quite versatile hero, and his natural high HP offers the possibility to choose amongst a lot of items for his build from the casters list, including forcestaff, eul´s scepter or veil of discord. Of course, those are not core items, but u can find yourself in a game where they can be strong choices, and u wont suffer too much thanks to his high natural stats.
This is an extremely OP skill, so i will dedicate a whole chapter to describe it, for its mechanics are a bit complex compared to other skills (like throwing a hammer that stuns a target :/)
It consists in linking a number of units to a target (target + 2,3,4 or 5, depending on the level), who can be relatively far from the first one (about 400 range), but, important, not necessarily on sight.
Those units will harm each others with the damage they take, so if ANY of them receives damage, the others will suffer a 20% of that damage. In addition, a line will appear showing the location of the hero when a linked unit receives damage. It is useful in case he is hidden or out of sight (very useful near sentinel bottom tower, for example, because u can see if they are hidding in bottom woods, behind the tower).
The way to use this skill differs from early to late game, as we will see.
USE ON EARLY
Thi skill is totally imbalanced in early game, and if used properly, makes warlock capable to counter a double lane, and sending both heroes home at 4th wave. The key is to link heroes to full HP creeps, specially melee ones, so its very important to use it when these 3 conditions are accomplished:
target must be the hero
creeps must be full HP and in range, and there are no weak creeps near
creeps will take damage and die in the next 20 seconds
There is a trick on the first condition; when sb gets tired of getting spammed with bonds, they learn to keep their distance. So, imagine u have level 2 linked bonds (which allow 4 linked units), u can wait for the first melee creep to die and then cast bonds on the ranged one. If the unlucky hero is close enough, it will probably affect him, because there are no more units near.
Well, spamming this spell in early will make your foes run out of tangos easy and fast, with no risky harassing. U will not kill with this, but their farming will most probably be wasted, while u or your lane mate can farm freely.
USE ON MID-LATE
The use of this spell on late game, apart from adding a poor (very poor indeed) farming income, is mainly for team battles. It is useful also for ganks, because you can add up to 400 damage if properly casted, but thats not the reason why this is OP; It is essential to cast it asap in a team battles, because while it passes unnoticed, it can be the most devastator spell, doubling total damage. Now i will explain why and how it works.
It is important to point that the damage value is taken after the armours and magic resistance reductions, but the damage shared is a life reduction. What does it means? if u damage a hero or a creep with no armour, shared damage will be a precise 20% of that damage. For example, to deal 20 damage to a heavy armoured hero, u must hit him with 50 or more attack, and that can be blocked by vanguard or stout shield. Or, u can hit pudge or a creep for 100 damage, so the armoured hero takes 20 raw damage. Easier, isn´t it? and pudge is an easier target than riki or magina.
Imagine a teambattle with linked pudge, doom bringer, huskar (high HP, low armour) and drow ranger and riki (high armour, low HP). U could kill traxex and rikimaru with no direct damage on them, just hitting the big fat guys. O.O
If properly used, it makes really worthy to focus on tanks, because u can set all their team at half HP.
Besides, AOE spells can do double damage. A 100 damage AOE spell, let´s say, call infernal, will finally deal 100 to each one of the 6 targets, and an additional 5 x 20, which makes 200 damage. That applies to all area spells, and hopefully u are not alone in your team, so shaker, tiny, zeus.. can join the party. AOE buffers and damage dealer items are recommended to max this, like shivas guard and veil of discord. We will discuss those items later, because they are not the core build for Warlock, but using both of them would make 500 damage in area. Nice, isn´t it?
Basic heal or damage over 9 seconds to a target for relatively low mana. Nothing to say about it, just to mention it can be most useful on first stage of the game for babysitting, to spam on enemy heroes or to finish escaping heroes. Overestimated spell, but can give some unexpected kills and helps harassing with a good mana management. And its one of the few healing spells, which can give you and your allies persistence on laning-pushing.
THIS is the spell that makes warlock the despair bringer. Hard to cast, channeling, high cooldown.. but overpowered though. Huge area speed reduced to 16%, stackable with other multiple slows, is one of the most annoying area disable. It has a hard weakness, it can be stopped by a stun or silence, but even when it´s canceled, its slow effects remains for 3 more seconds. In case they want to cancel it, and trust me they will, they will focus you with their skills, giving free way to your carry to feast on them.
When i first played Warlock, I had no interest in such a skill, that makes u an inmobile vulnerable target, but eventually i discovered its potential. It was fun to see a lonely hero with no stuns or silences, trying to move at 16%speed, changing his direction, having no idea of what to do or where to run.. Patethic. He even had time to write something, i dont remember what, that made of him an even more patethic hero. I then started to use it for ganks, and last of all, as initiator, in a way i will explain after and i would like to share.
Lets see its mechanics, so i can explain how to use it properly.
Basically, it is an area slow, whose slow depends on the time casting it, while the max slow and the area are the same at every level. The only difference between levels is the speed at which the slow grows. At first level, it grows at 7%, so in 8 seconds it is maxed at 56% slow. In the second level, it grows at 14% slow per second, so in 5 seconds u reach 80% slow. The big deal is at level 4, when the slow grows at 28% each seconds, so in 3 seconds u have the max slow, and it lasts 7 more seconds. The channeling time is 8 seconds, and after it the effect remains 3 more seconds. Also, it is to be mentioned that the slow only depends on the casting time, not in the time the hero has been inside, so a hero that enters the area when it has been channeled for 3 seconds, gets instantly slowed at 84% for at least another 3 seconds. Most heroes rely on speed for survival, so running into the muddy ground of upheaval will be their doom.
UPHEAVAL FOR GANKING
The most evident use, the idea is to slow the enemy while a dps deals the damage. The idea is like hex or Rhasta´s web, but it is a bit more difficult to cast. However, it can be more effective than a single hex if the enemy has not any disable, because he will be stucked for 10 seconds in a small area, and that is enough time to be killed several times. The idea is either to cast it directly over the target hero, or cast it in his retreat direction. Also, its huge area of effect let u cast it on the river from elders, on Roshan from shop or in radiant woods from the river (or viceversa), so u can safely slow any wandering hero from distance, while your team goes chasing him. Not to mention how dagger fits for this, because you can position in the appropiate point to slow a escaping hero.
*TIP: When ganking, remember to hit at least once the victim, because upheaval does NOT count for assists. I hope they change it soon, but right now, u must hit or cast Fatal Bonds to get the assist reward.
UPHEAVAL FOR TEAMBATTLES
This can be, if your team does his duty, and the enemy can´t silence or stun u on time, the key of a teambattle. If u are sure u will not get stunned nor killed (thus i recommend BKB or ghost scepter, depending on the situation, or simply wait their stuns to be wasted), casting this on the teambattle ground will radically change your enemies behaviour. Their only option is to kill u, or to flee with a blink, abandoning their teammates. Even if they get invisible, they may don´t do it through upheaval, because their windwalk (9 seconds) may expire before they can leave the slow. The fact is, u get confusion, disorder and their heroes are moving extremely slow, so they can´t absolutely fight in that ground.
My advice for this is to use dagger, to place u properly, behind the enemy lines. This way, they must either cross the slowing area, or face your team with no retreat way. It´s a risky move, and dagger is a high investment, but the possibility to place yourself behind them, even out of range of stuns like Tiny´s or Sven´s (only shaker has range enough to reach u from the other side of upheaval), is priceless. Also, u can blink to find a position out of their sight, so they cant target you while channeling.
Without dagger, there are several ways too to use Upheaval, altough less surprisigly. An intermediate option is to use your speed to get advanced position and try to catch any enemy into Upheaval when his team retreats, when they are moving onwards and backwards. Another option, when none of the teams wants to start the fight is to prevent them from entering a zone (for example, their last tower) while your team and creeps attacks it safely and they dont dare entering the muddy ground. Or, alternatively, wait the battle to begin to place upheaval on the ground. This last is the most typical way of using it, but that does not mean less effective. They have no way to retreat, they are getting hit by your teammates and they will probably use their stuns agains the dps heros, so u are safe.
And here we are, the ultimate skill that makes him the summoner. High cooldown, but stun and damage in huge AOE. And a powerful golem, in addition. Although most people consider the golem as the key of the ulti, actually it is not. The real key of the ulti is the stun and the damage, and its synergies with the other skills. The golem is also very helpful, but not as battle-breaking as it is the area stun. Obviously, this skill is meant to be cast in teambattles, pushing or counterpushing, combining with Fatal Bonds and Upheaval as we possibly could, and hitting as many heroes as possible.
If u manage to control your golem after summoning him, you can try to block the enemy heroes, so they keep taking fire damage while they cant move. It helps a lot on the final result if you manage to do it, it may mean a kill, and it is very frustrating for the victim.
As we saw before, we have two options, but both include spamming fatal bonds. That is key in early, breaking your foes farming and making them go fountain or waste all their tangos while they cant farm.
-If u are skilling Shadow Word, u can try to get a kill with it, when they are relatively low life, at level 5 (level 3 of skill), but u will probably lack of mana if u are spamming fatal bonds.
-If you are skilling Upheaval, u can try the following on level 6; Once u have BOTH enemies at half or 2/3 HP (considering u are facing 2), get sure u have already phase boots and full mana. When there are only 2 of their creeps left, u can aim for a double kill, if u cast fatal bonds (2 heroes and 2 creeps linked), call infernal (100 + 50 damage to each one), activate phase boots and run to them if they are trying to flee (they usually do). 4 seconds later (when phase expires), cast upheaval level 3 in front of you. They wont escape the slow if they dont have stun or silence, and your golem is burning and hitting them. And they are receiving extra damage from Fatal Bonds. Hopefully, u get first blood and unexpected double kill.
As a versatile hero, your role will fit to circumstances. Don´t play as a predictable hero, but adapt to the particular game. However, usually it will be worty pushing, and your golem is good at it. If there are enemies defending the tower, gather your team and try to repeat the move explained before when u can: Fatal bonds, phase boots towards them, golem and upheaval. If your team is not asleep, they can easily get some kills, and after battle u will have creeps advantage on towers, so u will probably break a tower with each battle, apart from eventual kills. One thing is clear, your enemies wont be eager to stay on the upheaval ground.
If u don´t see it appropiate to push towers, for example in a gank dependant team, u can choose to help in ganks. This way, your duty would be to ward their woods and go with gankers. You can use your speed (remember, phase boots) to gain position and cast upheaval, and let your teammates deal the damage. Trax, viper or venom slows stack with yours, so they are good gank mates, but almost every hero can do it.
In other way, if u are playing a more supportive role and u skill Shadow Word, spam it on enemy heroes farming, heal your mates or try to kill enemies on battles. A less imaginative skill, but quite powerful though.
Here, your ultimate becomes the core of pushing timing. Either if u play more supportive or not, your ultimate will be determinant in team battles, the same way it is Tidehunter´s or Enigma´s. Thus, having such an important role, once u have it casted, your life is not that worthy as your carries life, so u can do stupid-looking things. Not that stupid, actually, as i will explain.
As I said before, i really like Upheaval skill. And i also like jumping behind the enemy lines, casting it and becoming the primary target. I also consider that my life as a caster with 20 seconds cooldown on all my skills is not very important for the team, once i have already casted everything. Why not becoming the bait? It´s not a selfish playstyle, it would be better for some people to hide after casting, but u can act as an annoying distraction that will probably decide the teambattle on your favour.
So, here it come the disjunctive. Either you want to take an active part on the battle (hitting, waiting cd to finish and using mekansm), or u can choose to blink behind them, casting Upheaval, and creating chaos, with your infernal and your team coming from the other side. The probabilities of receiving all their stuns are high, but it is better for your team if those stuns are put on you than in your carries and dps heroes.
Now i will discuss some Items, because they will sometimes fit, but not always:
Drums of endurance: I Consider this item core, because of the low price-rentability in stats, area effect for team and easy to farm. Also, the speed boost can help u, since u dont have other survivability than your HP and phase boots.
Phase boots: You depend on speed to place properly Upheaval and to help in ganks, and it is your only survival item. You dont need attack speed, so I don´t recommend going for PT. If you want more HP, go for Necronomicon or Drums, dont waste coin in an attack speed item.
Ghost Scepter: Against DPS heroes (Magina, Ursa, Huskar or Void, for example) having this item will help a lot. It will add survivability, and the possibility to cast Upheaval and stay alive for 4 seconds. You can stop channeling at 3 seconds and flee, leaving behind a pack of slow moving heroes. Just one thing to say, care is advised, it can turn against you.
Shivas Guard: Together with Fatal Bonds, it is a nice combo. In AOE heroes like Warlock, it is always a sure choice. However, it is quite expensive, and u will probably find it hard to farm it. The way to use it, if u are planning to go dagger and upheaval tactic, is to cast it just after jump, before casting upheaval. This way, enemies will freeze when going towards u. Excellent combo, but hard to land and risky.
Veil of Discord: I like this item, and in this version they upped it, so its stats are really nice. It fits particulary good when u don´t skill heal, because of the HP regen it gives. As I pointed before, Fatal Bonds Synergies with it, giving a potential 150% additional magic damage in area. the total area damage of Rain of Chaos and Shivas, applying this buff and Fatal Bonds would be of (100+200) x 2 x 1,25 = 750. In area. Then multiply any area spell by 2,5.
Mekansm: It is always a strong choice and if you buy it you will find it helpful, but there is a big problem on it. You can´t cast it before the battle begins, and u would interrupt Upheaval if you activate it. As I told before, Upheaval is a key skill to create chaos and disorder on their team, so if you decide to use it, you will need to find a way to combine it; Either you use Upheaval after the battle begins, and you activate Mekansm just before, or you direcly cast Upheaval and wait a proper time. In any of the cases, you are losing effectivity of Upheaval, so you must consider it.
Aghanims Scepter: Definitely not. This item is only recommended when the ulti improves drastically, since it is quite expensive for what it gives. The stronger part of Warlock´s ulti is, in my opinion, the area stun and damage, and the golem is not that determinant. It is cool, of course, but not that important to have another one, when u hardly manage to control 1, and the stun, damage and cd remains the same.
Refresher Orb: A strong choice. If you can afford it, go for it. Just take care to have enough mana to cast twice your ulti, and team battles will turn to your favour with ease.
Black King Bar: You could consider it, but once your job is done, your life is not that worthy. This item is useful for heroes whose channeling is dealing damage or who focus exclusively on their channeling. Once you have casted all your spells into a teambattle, it is even good for your team if the enemies focus on you. So, save money, make more teamplay items, and consider sacrificing for your team instead of trying to own the battleground.
Blink Dagger: That depends on the way you are playing; If u are going only supportive, dont think about it. But if you are going to play as initiator-ganker, it is the right choice. The possibility it gives to cast Upheaval behind the enemy lines, and to blink into the right place for casting and blocking escaping routes is priceless.
Dagon: Completely no, no need to discuss i guess.
Guinsoo Scythe: Ocasionally, if team needs it for some reason, as int-support hero it would be your task to build it. However, Warlock is more focused on group fights and AOE, so this item should be made only under some circumstances.
Eul´s Scepter: Speed and mana regen as pros, also nice for ganking and synergies with Upheaval. Slow depends on casting time, so u can lift sb, cast it under him and when he is back, he will be totally slowed. Apart from that, very situational item.
Necronomicon: Core item. It synergies with Upheaval, you can deal great damage with your minions and you will even have time to do some micro. Also nice for survivability and true vision, very useful in most games.
Pipe of Insight: A protection spell casted before battle; Since u are the guy launching the massive stun, u can activate it when the battle begins. It gives survivability and HP regen, which is good for the way I like to play it, but it is bad if u plan going for healer warlock.
Force staff: Very situational, not recommended. However, depends on the way the player uses it, it can be a very dangerous item in expert hands. FS + Upheaval (again) can be deadly.
Orchid Malevolence: Very situational, not recommended.
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