A wiry silhouette hitches forward uneven of feature and limb, bizarre of gait, relentlessly criss-crossing the battlefield in search of that vital weak point where his talents can do most good, and most harm. Whether broken or mismade it is not clear, but still, none can doubt the power carried in his twisted physique. A long staff thumps the earth as the Witch Doctor advances, deploying a terrifying arsenal of fetishes, hexes and spells. It is a body of magical knowledge learned over several lifetimes in the island highlands of Prefectura, now wielded with precise accuracy against his enemies. Witch Doctor is your best friend, or your worst enemy--healing allies and laying waste to all who oppose him.
Witch Doctor is a semi-versatile hero with a strong lean to support that scales well throughout the game.
My support build focuses on team contribution - amplifying the damage dealt to enemy heroes, and creating an early lead that will be difficult for the enemy team to recover from, without neglecting your support duties. With this build, my lane gets first blood in almost every game, and usually the next few kills for the team as well.
I don't recommend a carry build, however it is possible to adopt a carry playstyle in the mid lane, as a dual sidelane, or in a 1v1 sidelane.
Something that I think is really important to think about is optimization. If your team has a Bristleback and a Spectre, can the Bristleback go safelane, and the Spectre offlane? Of course they can, but is it optimal? No.
In the same vein, while Witch Doctor can carry, it usually isn't the best way the team could be setup.
So when should you play carry Witch Doctor? When your team has:
When playing a support role, I always favour reliable abilities - ones that don't involve an element of chance (such as Paralyzing Cask's bounce). Also, at level 1 Maledict is going to give your lane a much better kill potential than Paralyzing Cask.
If you're playing carry doctor, you should usually get Paralyzing Cask instead. You do this because you wouldn't normally have a high damage dealing teammate with you in lane if you are playing carry - something required to fully utilize Maledict. Paralyzing Cask's defensive, and disruptive, capabilities will be more useful to you.
A note on choosing Maledict at lvl 1: I wait to skill until I get to the lane - as should you. If when you get there you're worried about the enemy's lane setup (if they have an aggressive tri-lane for example), you may want to get Paralyzing Cask instead as a defensive precaution. Also, you need to be able to land Maledict. If it's something you have trouble with, this strategy won't be as effective for you as it should be.
My preferred starting items are: a Tango, 2 Iron Branch, 2 Clarity, the Animal Courier, and Observer Ward.
If the other support buys either the Animal Courier or Observer Ward, buy some Sentry Ward or Smoke of Deceit. You're a support, f*cking act like it. Only get 1 Clarity if you have to.
You'll notice that the core I have set out, in addition to supporting the team, also helps to solve Witch Doctor's survivability issues. You will have decent hp and mana regen, and between Mekansm, Medallion of Courage, and Veil of Discord, you're going to be getting +17 armour.
Note: Death Ward deals physical damage. Veil of Discord isn't going to affect it. You're using Veil of Discord for the benefit of your teammates, and on occasion as a deterrent (as with a paper march). Use Medallion of Courage and Veil of Discord as often as you can in fights to help your allies secure kills, and to throw off the enemy team. You can also use Medallion of Courage to help a carry farm more quickly.
Another note: Be sure to use your Urn of Shadows offensively when the opportunity presents itself. You will be amazed how often an enemy will think they have got away safely only to be killed some time later from the combined damage of an Urn of Shadows charge and your Maledict.
Another other note: You don't need Magic Wand or Drum of Endurance. They aren't worth the money. Don't get them. The only exception is if no one else on your team buys a Drum of Endurance - it's good to have one, but there usually will be a better carrier for it. Consider a Magic Stick if you are laning against a Bristleback - but there isn't generally a reason to upgrade it to a Magic Wand.
Arcane Boots should be your standard purchase. Get Phase Boots if your team has other heroes for which Arcane Boots are an essential item. Phase Boots will help you initiate or escape, and the additional damage will improve the effectiveness of Maledict.
Exceptions: If there is a Bloodseeker on the enemy team, Arcane Boots should still be your standard purchase, but consider Tranquil Boots as your alternate in place of Phase Boots. You might also consider Tranquil Boots when you are starved for gold.
I rarely buy any of these items. I see a lot of people rush for Aghanim's Scepter (or even Blink Dagger, or Shadow Blade). The problem with doing that is twofold. 1) You're hurting your survivability in the early game ( Witch Doctor's primary weakness) and 2) You probably aren't supporting your team sufficiently - if at all. If your team is stomping, go nuts. But in a standard match these are late game items if you get them at all.
I would generally favour Orchid Malevolence. The 25% amplified damage supports the overall concept of my build and my preferred Witch Doctor play style.
I'm not totally sold on Bloodstone, but it was suggested, so here are my thoughts on it. It is a very expensive item (4900g), almost as expensive as a Scythe of Vyse. It does allow you to become a walking fountain, meaning you should be able to leave Voodoo Restoration on perpetually. As with other luxury items, it comes down to the question of what does your team need? I really want to stress that point - especially in regards to luxury items. Particularly as a support, your job is to constantly be addressing that question.
Options are situational items. Use your discretion.
Note: Really 90% of the decisions you make about items and skills should be situational. What you do should change based on your team composition, the enemy team composition, how people are playing their heroes, your team's position in the game, etc. Don't take anything as gospel. This, like any other guide, may not work in every scenario. Do what works for the match you're in.
This is a pretty bare-bones guide right now. I'll try to update it with more skill info, graphics, fancy numbers, and what have you. It covers the general concept though of how I like to play Witch Doctor most of the time. If you try it out leave me feedback about what you think worked / didn't work.
1/20/15 - Adjusted item build in support guide.
1/17/15 - Added section explaining when to play carry doctor, and why I more often than not don't recommend it. Also, updated section on choosing your lvl 1 skill.
1/1/15 - Carry build added (under construction).
10/11/14 - Added options for playing against Bloodseeker, or laning against Bristleback.
10/6/14 - Small miscellaneous additions to item explanations.
8/15/14 - Added Bloodstone to luxury items, and some brief thoughts on it in the corresponding section.
7/28/14 - Cosmetic changes.
7/25/14 - Published guide.
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