Friday, April 13, 2012

Warlock in 6.74 - A Look at a "New" Skill Build

Warlock is a hero that has received nothing but buffs over the past several versions yet still goes largely unnoticed. He is extremely powerful and versatile with his ability to solo a lane or serve as a babysitter while not being particularly item dependent. He fills in the role of an initiator/counter initiator very nicely and fits great in push teams.
Historically, there have been two ways to play Warlock: either as a babysitter for a carry or as a solo semi-carry. It was standard for a lot of players to do a Word+Stats skill build since it gave him enormous lane staying and harassing ability. However, times have changed and players need to revise their mindset of standard Warlock play.

These days, passive babysitters have fallen out of favor for more threatening supports. As such, I have found that soloing enables Warlock to perform most effectively. This is the skill build I have been using for a solo lane with much success:

1 – Bonds
2 – Upheaval
3 – Bonds
4 – Upheaval
5 – Upheaval
6 – Ult
7 – Upheaval
8 – Bonds
9 – Bonds
Stats and Ult when possible till 21
22-25 – Word

One thing that may stand out to you is the lack of Shadow Word. I suspect that this may be a controversial issue for most people since maxing Word first seems like the logical choice. After all, shouldn’t you max your nukes first? And plus, the spell doubles as a heal so you can stay in lane. Pretty much everyone would be inclined to think this way after looking at his skillset.
Players are slowly starting to realize that Shadow Word isn’t as great as it was thought to be and have adopted newer builds that focus on maxing his far superior skills, Fatal Bonds and Upheaval, for the midgame. And with so many buffs to these skills, there’s even more reason to take them over Word.

What are the shortcomings of Shadow Word?

At max level, Word is 290 dmg over 9 seconds after applying resistance. The damage is about the same as other max level nukes but the fact that it is damage over time and doesn’t stun or slow makes the spell unattractive. Not to mention enemies can be denied when under the effect of Shadow Word.
It’s actually a very strong heal in the early stages but I feel it’s not worth delaying Bonds and/or Upheaval since they give you so much presence in the midgame.
You can get Tranquil Boots to cover your regen needs and Fatal Bonds actually does more damage to the enemy when you link them with multiple creeps at full hp.
If you’re not a fan of Tranquils, it’s not too bad to level up Word but I don’t recommend putting more than 2 points into it or it delays your more relevant skills too much.

Comparing with the standard Warlock

While Word+Stats or Word+Bonds are very solid builds for the laning stages, the game is much more fast paced now and midgame teamfights have more potential to be decisive. Upheaval completely outshines Shadow Word in team fights and gives Warlock something to do after casting Infernal and Bonds.

If I’m laning against a Warlock and he does a max word build, I’m probably not going to kill him and he’s probably not going to kill me but when the midgame comes I know that either Upheaval, Bonds, or both will not be high enough level to pose a real threat.
If the Warlock skips word and gets Tranquils or masses regen items, the same outcome occurs except now he has two devastating skills to wreck in teamfights later on.

Skill builds and playstyles for heroes should change as they receive buffs and nerfs. Sticking to things that have been considered standard in the past may not be as effective anymore. A good example of this is Axe. For a long time, Battle Hunger was considered garbage and never skilled. Now, it’s widely accepted that it should be maxed first.
If you’re still stuck with the max Shadow Word builds, give this new build a try and see how it works. I’ve used it a lot and seen others use it as well with great results.


  1. I think you made a typo. Shadow word isn't 290 damage/sec at max level. That would be really good lol.

    1. whoops lol

      fixed! thanks for catching that.

  2. I've been saying the exact same thing for awhile now. Still get shit from the carry cause I won't heal him.... Loved your break down. Couldn't have put it better myself!

  3. Where can i get full version of this game?

    Warlock 2

  4. Cool I just got a free Steam Wallet code at

  5. Yeah much better build progression, Could not be summed up more nicely, I have been trying this for a while now but people when you have so many carrys in pub dota 2 game you have to take heal sometimes.

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