Thursday, June 13, 2013

Let's Play (Part 2) - Crystal Maiden


Every week or two I generally try to play a new hero to discover what it’s like playing it, and in this series of blogs I will make a post on my experiences with it.

Release artwork for the Snowdrop Crystal Maiden set created by Anuxi

Crystal Maiden

The Crystal Maiden is based off the character Jaina Proudmoore in Warcraft 3, a talented ice sorceress and the de-facto leader of the Human Alliance. Jaina was instrumental in leading the survivors of Lordaeron across the sea to Kalimdor, founding the new city of Theramore and eventually helping defeat the Burning Legion.

In DOTA2, the Crystal Maiden has a variety of devastating frost magic spells with long range and crippling effects. However, her slow movement speed and low health pool make her vulnerable in fights, making her a high risk / high reward type hero.

Crystal Maiden recently got her Arcane Aura and Freezing Field buffed and has a decently good win rate (20th out of 101 heroes at present) but only about middle of the pack in pick rates. Many players dislike her because of her slow move speed, despite her strengths.


Longest ranged snare in the game - Crystal Nova can hit enemies 1100 range away.

Quintessential hard support - she can contribute to the team with a minimum of farm and levels, and even boost the power of heroes across the map with her global aura.


Slowest movement speed in the game and nearly lowest hit points.

Her entire skill set focuses on crippling physical damage dealers, but they typically buy a Black King Bar or Manta Style by midgame, which allows them to completely shrug off her spells and kill her outright. She has a limited window of time to make an impact on the game, as the game goes past 30 minutes her presence becomes minimal.


Maxing Frostbite first is the preferred build, as this is her hardest disable. 3 seconds of disabled movement and attack will shut down most physical damage dealers, forcing them to buy a Black King Bar as their first item. In addition, it is a very useful jungling skill - this ability lasts 10 seconds on creeps, effectively stunning them for 10 seconds and dealing 700 damage to them - even at level 1. This is an important source of gold and experience for the Crystal Maiden who is often played with lowest farm priority, yet needs to farm a Force Staff as soon as possible. There is a slight quirk in the damage progression - the damage goes from 140 / 210 / 210 / 280, so you don't actually gain any damage going from level 2 to level 3.

Freezing Field

This is a controversial skill. The Freezing Field slow and damage is centered on her, which means she needs to be in the middle of the enemy team. But as a hard support, she will be low level and have almost no items, and will likely be killed in seconds. Also the channeling can be interrupted by stuns, so logically she needs a Linkens or BKB but she will almost never achieve the farm required: even if she does, by that time the enemies can also get a BKB and be immune to the Freezing Field.

Using this skill therefore requires good judgement, and is what separates the average Crystal Maiden player from the truly good ones.

1) It can be used defensively in conjunction with tree juking - if you're fighting in the forest, using the trees to block vision of yourself to gain 2-3 seconds of uninterrupted channel on Freezing Field can win the fight outright - without vision of you, the enemies have limited ways to interrupt your channel or damage you.

2) It can be used defensively in a counter-initiation role - if the enemy team initiates onto yours, you can immediately move up and use Freezing Field. You will force them to switch targets and attack or stun you instead, buying your injured teammates some time to survive and retaliate. If they have unwisely used up all their stuns, you may actually get your full channel off, turning the fight around.

3) It can be used offensively to "mop up" a fight - you will need a mobility item (Force Staff or Blink Dagger) to do this, though. At the moment the enemy realises the battle is lost and they try to retreat, this is when you jump forward and activate Freezing Field. This is a low risk play for you, because at this point they will have expended most of their offensive abilities, and their mindset is focused on retreating, not fighting. Using Freezing Field in this way can turn a bloodless retreat into a team wipe.

This skill is an example of deliberate "Pattern Mismatch" in the game - a slight derail into design principles, which I will cover in a later design post. Basically a hero seems designed to work one way, and then is given a skill which seems to go against their original design concept. In this case, Crystal Maiden's skillset seems to indicate she is a support hero who gets minimal farm and levels, yet is given an ultimate that requires her to be right in the thick of battle. In the case of Lina, a spellcaster hero is given a passive (Burning Soul) that dramatically boosts her auto-attack damage as if she were a physical damage carry.


Crystal Maiden's global mana regeneration aura can be a good complement to ganker heroes which apply early aggression and are mana limited, for example Mirana, Tiny and Spiritbreaker.


As Crystal Maiden lacks a true disable or escape mechanism, she is particularly vulnerable to heroes such as Naix or Slark, who can shrug off her spells. Heroes with a Black King Bar as their first purchase such as Lycan or Spiritbreaker will also be able to kill her effortlessly.

Heroes with orb attacks (Drow Ranger, Huskar, Viper, to name a few) can manually cast their orbs and autoattack through her Frostbite, rendering her helpless against them.

Item build

As a hard support, you shouldn't be expecting to pick up much farm, and you will be spending money on the courier and wards. I do want to talk about a few notable items.

1) Magic Wand - I cannot overstate how useful this item is. The extra burst heal is extremely cost efficient, especially when you will be buying iron wood branches for early stats anyway. A fully charged wand will instantly heal you for 225hp and 225mp. You would ordinarily need to get 12 strength or a vitality booster to get that large of a hp buffer, and it only needs to save your life once in the entire game to be worth it.

Magic Stick saves my life with its 150hp heal (I survive with 100hp)

2) Force Staff - This is a core item on the Crystal Maiden. It allows her to use Freezing Field with the extra mana pool and mobility it provides - it also gives her a much needed escape mechanism (which can also be used to save allies) and extends the already long reach of her Crystal Nova. Force Staff + Crystal Nova means she can land her slow on enemies 1700 distance away.

Force Staff escape against an Anti-Mage and Razor

3) Luxury - if you have extra cash, you'll be spending it on team survivability items, since you badly need the survivability yourself. If there's no Mekansm or Drums on your team you may as well build one for the added stats and team benefits. If the enemy is primarily physical damage you can get a Shiva's Guard, if the enemy is primarily magic damage based you can get a Pipe of Insight. Shiva's Guard particularly deserves mention, as it synergizes perfectly with her skillset - the activation doesn't interrupt her Freezing Field. Her main foes towards the end game would be physical damage dealers with BKB, and the 15 armor combined with the 40% attack speed reduction will help her survive against them. It's a better buy than a Sheepstick, which can't help her survive against a BKB-ed carry anyway, and the mana regeneration goes to waste too. Ghost Scepter also deserves a mention, as a somewhat risky counter against physical damage dealers.