Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Heading overseas with no internet for next 3 weeks. BRB.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Let's Play (Part 8) Venomancer


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.

Official Starcraft 2 Hydralisk art.


Venomancer (Lesale Deathbringer) was based off the Hydralisk from Starcraft. The Hydralisk is a Zerg creature that evolved to fire volleys of poisonous armour piercing spines with tremendous force, posing a deadly threat to infantry, tanks and aircraft alike. Swarms of Hydralisks can be found at the forefront of any Zerg invasion.

In DOTA2, the Venomancer is a support hero with incredible poison damage output. All his abilities are based on poison damage over time coupled with movement impairing effects. Even receiving a single attack from him will leave a lingering poison that will do severe damage - and if he manages to strike a hero with all his skills - certain death is sure to follow. A lane with a Venomancer is highly favoured to strike first blood. All this offensive power comes at a cost, however - the Venomancer has nearly no way to defend himself, and if he gets caught out of position he can be killed very quickly.


His potent slow and high damage allows him to dominate his lane, with a proper lane partner.

Plague Wards provide essential vision during all phases of the game, protecting him and his allies from ganks when placed into the jungle and key passage points, as well as serving as a powerful pushing / anti-push spell.


His poor range (450) and slow movement speed make him awkward to lane. While he is good at dominating his lane from a position of strength, he cannot salvage his lane from a position of weakness due to his lack of defensive and escape abilities.

With no good way to mitigate enemy damage done, and no mobility or protective skills, getting caught out alone means almost certain death. This can pose difficulties for finding farm in the mid-game. Once BKBs come online for key opponents they can ignore him completely.

Venomous Gale

All of Venomancer's skills have really bizarre scaling characteristics and this one is no exception. This skill applies a potent slow (50% move-speed reduction, scaling down to 0% over 15 seconds) making it a popular choice in a tri-lane seeking first blood, however at level 1 this skill does practically no damage. The damage scaling on Gale goes from 25-200-375-550 - so you definitely want at least level 2 of this as fast as possible, and the damage at level 4 is possibly the highest non-ultimate nuke damage in the game. It's a skill-shot that is reasonably difficult to land - it's got a 800 range and radius of 125, and travels at 1200 speed (which means it takes 2/3 of a second to reach its max distance) and has a longer than usual cooldown (22 seconds).

Poison Sting

This passive skill adds an additional poison damage over time and minor slow to your target. Like Gale, this skill starts out weak as well and then grows to ridiculous power by the end - the damage scaling goes from 30-90-180-300.

In mid-game team clashes it's important to at least try to hit every enemy hero with this ability once - combined with the large damage over time from Gale and Poison Nova, this can ensure kills on fleeing enemy heroes.

Plague Wards

This is the skill that makes up for Venomancer's lack of defensive abilities. The Plague Wards are an early-warning system of sorts - he can set them up on cliffs and in the forest, warning him and his allies of approaching ganks. You should always have several Plague Wards watching the river and jungle next to your lane at all times, particularly when trying to push their tower.

The physical damage that the Plague Wards do to heroes is nearly nonexistent - they do piercing damage, so their tooltip damage is cut in half against heroes. The main reason to upgrade them is their hit points - it scales from 75-200-325-400. At level 1 it survives only two auto-attacks from enemy heroes, but at level 2 it takes about four auto-attacks. In particular, at level 1, if the enemy attacks your ward once you can immediately deny it to stop them getting the gold for killing it. The level 2 upgrade is the most crucial in this case, same as Gale. Most of the DPS from the Plague Wards actually come from leveling the Poison Sting passive - the wards apply a toned down version of Poison Sting that does 50% of the original damage.

Skill Selection

It's not very obvious what order the skills should be taken in.

A single shot from a Level 1 Ward with Level 4 Sting does 155 total damage, while a single shot from a level 4 Ward with Level 1 Sting does 34 damage.

If you were comparing continuous damage, however - where the enemy stood there and let the ward attack them repeatedly until he died - the Level 1 Ward with Level 4 Sting does 13 damage per second, while the Level 4 Ward with Level 1 Sting does 15 damage per second. This would apply to team-fights where the enemies died before being able to run away, but the difference is really minor anyway.

In terms of maximizing damage against heroes, maxing Poison Sting first is always the best option, especially because it also boosts your auto-attacks. However, the HP bonus to bringing the wards to Level 2 is very significant. One might also argue that it doesn't matter, since the ward really only needs to fire once before it dies, but having at least Level 2 of it might be enough of a deterrent to the enemy that they back off rather than kill it.

The first rank of Poison Nova is also rather underwhelming. 432 damage in a wide area (830 radius) sounds good, but compared to a maxed Gale (550 damage) or maxed Poison Sting (300 damage) it starts to sound underwhelming, especially considering its heavy mana cost. One might argue at lower levels being able to cast Gale twice is better than being able to cast Gale + Poison Nova, but I'm really undecided on this as the Gale cooldown is really long anyway (22 seconds). At higher levels Poison Nova gets a lot better, going to 812 and then 1215 damage.

Another fact to note is that Poison Nova damage is non-lethal, so you will need another lethal source of DOT to back it up if you anticipate the enemy running away. Higher levels of Poison Sting will work as that extends the duration all the way out to 15 seconds, as well as landing a Gale on them (also 15 seconds). Realistically you can't always land Gale on the targets you want to, which is why maxing Poison Sting first is useful to ensure the lethal damage on targets with Poison Nova. Urn of Shadows damage (over 8 seconds) can be lethal as well.

At level 11 he can do potentially 812 damage from Nova, 550 damage from Gale and 300 damage from Poison Sting, hitting for 1662 damage on multiple targets.


Venomancer is best run in "kill lanes" with other powerful early game heroes to suppress the enemy and even score first blood.

The large amount of poison damage DOT applied is particularly crippling to heroes like Templar Assassin or Treant Protector which have charge based shields.


Venomancer is vulnerable to being ganked, so heroes like Bounty Hunter or Stealth Assassin can make life very difficult for him.

Heroes with large HP pools or healers can mitigate much of the poison effect.

Item build

Veil of Discord deserves special mention here, as Venomancer is primarily a magic damage based hero and can make good use of it.

Most of his items will focus on keeping him (and his teammates) alive, as you need to stay alive long enough to make sure the enemy team is affected by your spells and slowed down so they can't escape, so Mekansm and / or Force Staff make an appearance. Urn of Shadows is ideal for the small amount of mana regeneration and hp boost it provides, as well as the additional lethal DOT you can apply to fleeing enemies who have Poison Nova on them but not been hit by your other lethal DOTs.

Arcane Boots will probably be your boots of choice if you want to use your spells more frequently but Phase Boots are good as well, the choice is situational.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Basic weapon DPS theory


This is a "Playing Better" segment focusing on weapon choices.

Basic Math

The basic theme running through all games is that you need a balanced set of stats to maximize values that are determined multiplicatively. As an extreme example, assume damage multiplied by attack speed = damage per second, so A x B = C, and assume buying A is as costly as buying B. You get an optimal result (maximum C) when A = B, for example, if you could buy 6 units of "weapon power" you would get the best result when A =3 and B =3 so A x B = 9. An imbalanced scenario, for example A = 2 and B =4 would yield C =8 and even worse when A = 1 and B = 5 where C = 5.

Example: Mirana

Of course, reality isn't quite so simple, but the principle still holds in general. Let's pick Mirana, for example, at level 20 she has 106 damage and 1.07 attacks per second for a DPS of 113. Ignore her 16% attack speed buff from leap. Her basic set of early game items would maybe consist of Phase Boots, Drums of Endurance and Ring of Aquila, bringing her to a DPS of 186. By level 20, assume she wants to maximize her damage and she could buy two items. The four main items of note are Daedalus or MKB (attack damage) and Mjollnir or Butterfly (attack speed). Common wisdom says you need to pick one from each group. I've crunched some numbers and put them in a table below.

Daedalus MKB Mjollnir Butterfly
Daedalus 612
MKB 607 550
Mjollnir 653 601 585
Butterfly 620 554 565 525

Mirana DPS output of different weapon combinations.

I think the first thing to note is that the variance in DPS output between the choices isn't particularly great. This is because even without advanced items, her core and base stats give her a respectable amount of damage and attack speed already. This means that you should be picking items based on the utility they offer, rather than the raw potential DPS they can output.

Mjollnir and Daedalus seem to be the best combination - not only is it the highest DPS but also offers good AOE from chain lightning and even more DPS from static shield. Building its other counterpart - Butterfly and MKB - offers 20% less damage done and no AOE, but gives you mini-stun, true-strike and evasion. The necessity for utility like this has to be judged on a match to match basis. If you're facing an opponent with a Butterfly then the MKB is immediately better than the Daedalus.

Even some of the weirder combinations that sound terrible aren't really that bad when you think about it, because their damage penalty isn't that great.

Double Mjollnir seems to be in the category of "joke" builds with its 44% chance to proc chain lightning per attack, but you might use it against a team with a lot of summons or multiple Linkens holders (the chain lightning attack breaks the Spellblock, even on secondary bounces). It's not just the increased proc chance that's at work here, it's also the increased attack speed, so there's a synergistic effect - a single Mjollnir has a 61% chance of proccing a chain lightning in a 2 second attack window, while a double Mjollnir has a 91% of proccing a chain lightning in a 2 second attack window. Also note that in the last patch Mjollnir chain lightning got buffed to a 900 search radius, so you're going to be hitting everyone in a teamfight when it procs, dealing significant damage.

Double Daedalus is actually quite commonly seen on Kunkka, because of its interaction with Tidebringer (he only cares about raw damage, not attack speed, and the proc on MKB does not help him) and the damage output is pretty competitive with the other options, which I found surprising.

There is pretty much no reason to ever go double Butterfly or double MKB unless you're trolling the enemy. Maybe double MKB with its 58% chance to stun on hit against a Pugna who has an Aghanims. Double Butterfly is nice with the 51% dodge but don't be surprised if your enemies buy an MKB immediately to put an end to your trolling...

Other notable mentions

Special mention for Desolator and Cuirass if you felt like it would help your team. Taking an opponent's armor from 12 to 0 increases DPS by 71%. Mirana's own DPS with this combination however only sits at around 560, which is on the low side but still competitive with the rest of the item choices in the table. The big advantage of this combination is the fact that it affects towers and buildings making sieges a lot faster and safer, and of course the fact that all other heroes on your team will benefit from this, potentially making this far more powerful than the other options as long as you have at least one other physical DPS oriented ally.

In reality, maximizing DPS isn't the primary concern for heroes. With the amount of disable and escape effects in DOTA2 and the already high lethality of most heroes, most of the time you're better off purchasing utility items that allow you to shrug off disables, lock down opponents or get the jump on them. This means items like BKB, Force Staff / Blink Dagger, Scythe of Vyse or Orchid, etc. You will find that Ursa for example more commonly builds a Scythe of Vyse rather than a Daedalus. But it's good to know the theory anyway.

Appendix (mechanics)

Mjollnir overrides all other unique attack modifiers (UAMs) only when it procs, so it stacks diminishingly with itself.

Daedalus crits also overrides other weaker or equivalent crits when it procs, so it stacks diminishingly with itself.

MKB bash is not an UAM to begin with, so it has independent proc chance (fully stacks) and can double proc (applies two separate instances of +100 damage in a single attack). This 100 damage is magical in nature and thus does not interact with Daedalus. Magic immune targets ignore the stun and bonus damage.

Butterfly evasion stacks diminishingly with itself as of the latest patch.