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Forum » Forum » Guides » In-depth guide on Dark Mage
In-depth guide on Dark Mage
CosmicBardFecha: Sunday, 2021-10-31, 11:32 PM | Mensaje # 1
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Hello there! Around two months ago, I've decided that I wanted to return to HotE with my brother after a few years of not playing it (cus of new heroes, new features, etc). We've played quite a few games, and I was using a random number generator before every game to decide which hero to play. And since it gave me Dark Mage quite frequently, I've decided to write up a guide here to maybe help some of you with figuring him out, especially since he is a pick that's great for beginners, who also have to figure out the game itself, so I hope that I can make the learning easier for said beginners.

This is my first guide, so feel free to point out anything important I've missed, or if there's something you might disagree with. Also, this guide is written for 1.26C, so I won't be accounting for any possible changes the Dark Mage (or HotE in general) might get in the future. Now without further ado, let's begin!

Who is Dark Mage, and why should I play him?

Dark Mage is - of course - a high intelligence mage. When it comes to mages in HotE, I like to split mages into two smaller categories: control and burst mages. Burst mages are the glass cannon mages that focus on quickly bursting down enemies with high damage spells, while control mages focus on summoning units to take care of the enemies instead. The Dark Mage fits into both of these categories (though he leans more into the burst group), making him a pretty ideal pick any time your team is lacking an offensive caster.

Now for his pros and cons:

Pros:
Very simple hero, making him ideal for newer players
All of his basic abilities have aoe effects, making him very strong at dealing with big early waves
Has a decent amount of CC and utility, allowing him to become a supportive hero later
Can kill basically every early game boss with little to no effort
Pretty good damage overall
Requires very low mana compared to other casters in HotE
Has a pretty forgiving playstyle, and you don't get punished as much for dying on him

If your team as a bunch of lategame focused heroes with lackluster early wave clear and burst, then Dark Mage will be a perfect pick, even if you're generally not into playing mages. With the help of your aoe damage, CC, and your water elemental, you can create a lot of space for your carry-like heroes, and your disarm spell will help them later on, when they have to go toe to toe against big bosses. Your water elemental having a bouncing attack and a global teleport allows you to have a huge presence on the map, and lets you defend multiple lanes when necessary, which not many heroes can do (without buying mercenaries or towers).

Cons:
Has a pretty slow moving attack projectile and not very high base damage, making farming without spells difficult
Decently high cooldowns on most of his spells
Low survivability, making good positioning very important
Not very strong in the late game (though he isn't the weakest int hero there)

Dark Mage is really not that amazing as a solo hero. He especially needs another tank, as the water elemental isn't all that amazing at soaking up damage. He is also pretty squishy himself, so you have to sit back and use your range to survive. His ult is ok, but it does have a long cast time, which makes it pretty hard to use sometimes. Another problem with him is that none of his abilities (outside of disarm to an extent) get their overall values increased after you max them out, no int scalings, no spell power scalings, no nothing (other than the increased ult damage against bosses above level 100, but I don't really count that). And you don't have any permanent stacking mechanics either.

Abilities

First Ability - Electric Field

Instantly deals damage to all enemy units within the target area.
Yeah, this ability is just a basic aoe nuke. It is your least useful skill in the late game, but it is also your best skill when it comes to dealing with big groups of enemies. I would only max this spell second if your team really lacks aoe, otherwise just save it for last. It does deal damage to towers though, so make sure to use this spell against them (if you took it).
When you level up this spell, the manacost, damage and cast range of the spell increases, while the cooldown gets reduced.

Second Ability - Ice Road

Freezes the target enemy, dealing damage to it, while dealing less damage to enemies around it and slowing all targets hit. Then the hero immediately shoots out a wave of ice towards the target, dealing damage and stunning all targets hit by the wave.
Basically, this ability is the Lich's Frost Nova and the Crypt Lord's Impale spells combined (those heroes and spells can be found in the campaigns and in melee maps). It is your main CC spell, and it's a pretty decent one. It also kinda makes Electric Field redundant, as it is also a strong aoe damage spell, but it also does other things (plus its damage at max rank is HIGHER than that of Electric Field). This is the spell I would max second in most of my games. Do keep in mind that the ice wave that stuns actually travels a bit further even after reaching your target, which lets you stun enemies from outside the range as long as you can line up the spell correctly. And just like with Impale, you cannot hit flying units with the stun (like Apparitions and Dragons), but the Frost Nova portion of the spell still works on them, so they can still be targeted.
When you level up this spell, the mana cost, the nova main target damage, the nova aoe damage and the stun wave damage increases, while the cooldown gets reduced.

Third Ability - Summon Water Elemental

Summons a timed ranged unit that you can control.
This ability seems extremely simplistic on the surface, but there's cool stuff going on with this water guy, mainly with the things it gains from level ups. This spell is your bread and butter, and should be maxed out first every game because it just gains waaay too much as you max it out.
So what does it gain then? Well first of all, the mana cost, the duration and the cooldown all get an increase with every level up. The cooldown increase is unusual, but it's there to compensate for the increased duration, so just try not to get your elemental killed when it gets to a high level.
But the more interesting upgrades come in the form of what the elemental gains. Naturally, it gains an increase to its stats like damage, health, armor, etc. But it also gains new effects. Here's a list from the in game description:
Level 1 - Have Water Property (a random chance to block a flat amount of damage)
Level 2 - More range
Level 3 - Bounce attack
Level 4 - High pressure (crit chance)
Level 5 - Better bounce attack
Level 6 - Better high pressure
Level 7 - Water Bolt (a high damage nuke that scales off of the maximum health of the elemental, while also slowing the target), Better bounce
Level 8 - Subsoil travel (a global teleport that lets your elemental appear anywhere on the map within a second)
Level 9 - All skills improved and don't have time limit (note - you can only have one elemental out at a time, so you can't make a horde of them)

Fourth Ability - Disarm

Applies a debuff to all enemies in an area around the Dark Mage. The debuff reduces armor by a flat amount, and damage by a percentage.
This ability is just a simple debuff and your main form of utility. I think it is a perfect ability to max third, since at that point, the damage and armor of bosses starts getting high, and your carries start getting strong. It's a very simple ability that you kinda just press, so that your allies and your water elemental will have an easier time fighting. Its radius is actually extremely huge, so you don't even have to get close in order to use it. Just keep in mind that the radius might cause you to aggro enemies from afar, even high level jungle bosses, possibly leading to some unfortunate accidents (like the Revenant zapping you from over the wall).
When you level up this spell, the mana cost, the damage reduction, the armor reduction and the duration of the spell increases.

Ultimate Ability - Soul Annihilation

Fires out a beam of deadly energy at the target enemy, dealing a huge amount of damage to it.
This is the big burst point 'n click ultimate. It's Lina's or Lion's ult from DotA, or Veigar's ult from LoL. With the twist being that it has an insanely long cast time, which is why it's important that there's always something that keeps you safe, so you don't get stunned or killed while casting this. Another big problem with this spell is that its damage is a flat number, so it falls off once you reach the very late game with bosses like Michael or Kel'Thuzad. So in order to deal with this issue, the fourth level of this ability does 10 times more damage if you use it on an enemy who is above level 100, so instead of 40K damage, it does 400K which is not that bad, actually.
When you level up this spell, the mana cost and the damage gets increased, while the cooldown gets reduced.

Skill Order

I've already touched on this in the "abilities" section, but here are some possible skill orders that I would recommend.
Standard Dark Mage: Summon Water Elemental - Ice Road - Disarm - Electric Field
Offensive Dark Mage: Summon Water Elemental - Electric Field - Disarm - Ice Road
Physical Fighter/Solo Carry Dark Mage: Summon Water Elemental - Disarm - Ice Road - Electric Field
Pure Utility Dark Mage: Ice Road - Disarm - Summon Water Elemental - Electric Field

Now, remember that your ult is still your strongest spell, so take it whenever it's available (levels 8, 16, 24 and 32). Also, your Ice Road stun and slow duration will not increase with points. So even if you're not maxing it first or second, you should still put at least one point into it every game, just so you have an aoe stun when you need it.

Items

I'm gonna be honest, I haven't really tested out everything on this guy yet. Experimenting with items is my favorite part of this game, and the experimentation for me is not 100% complete yet, so I might miss something here. But here are some things that turned out to be quite solid on this hero.

Circe Book
This item is a core purchase on this hero. Without it, your water elemental falls off very quickly in power, but this item makes it a LOT more powerful. The item is even better if you have allies with permanent summons too, as you can upgrade their stuff while also letting their heroes get a different item instead. Oh, and did I mention that it increases the damage of Water Blast by a lot, since its damage scales off of the water elemental's maximum health? Because it absolutely does! Seriously, get this item.

Perseus
This is the item I usually build second. I build it on pretty much everybody, since movement speed is an extremely valuable stat on just about every hero. It also makes me a bit less squishy, meaning that I won't die from the splash damage of a few attacks from a boss.

Arcane Scepter
This is a pretty decent purchase on any burst mage, and Dark Mage is no exception. It empowers your nukes pretty well, and if you combine this item with the Water Blast of a fully Circe Book-ed water elemental, then you're gonna see some seriously high damage numbers.

Talisman of the Spirit
You should buy this one when your team doesn't really have a good tank. But if you have a Defender or a Little Child who went Swordsman, then it's a little redundant.

Commander Wish
This item is overall pretty solid on any supportive or summoner hero. If you're playing with a team, then you'll most likely want at least one person to get this, and Dark Mage is a pretty good candidate, since he isn't very item dependent, and it buffs up your elemental quite nicely, along with your teammates.

Chronos
This one is pretty ok, as it allows you to shoot out your ult twice on the same boss, which can be helpful in the very lategame. It also refreshes all your items I think, so you can combine it with high CD items like Talisman of the Spirit or Eternal Ledger.

Immortal
I think this is pretty self explanatory. You need some tank items to survive later, and this one converts your armor into Hero Armor, which gives you more mitigation, and makes other tank items more valuable. But if you prefer another tank item like Unbeatable due to its mana shield, then feel free to use what you prefer instead.

Now, there were also a few items that I tried, but they turned out to be absolutely horrible. Those items were:

Diamond of Knowledge - As I've said before, this hero is surprisingly not very mana hungry, so this item is kinda redundant, as the whole purpose of it is that it gives infinite mana, and not much else. You'll want utility and survivability on your items, not mana.

The Hunt Begins, Boss Hunter, Bounty Items - I've put these into one group because these items all share a big flaw. And it is that they don't get triggered when your summon is the one to kill the enemies. And since you're most likely having your water elemental most of the work, using these will be extremely annoying. They're fine in theory if you're focusing on making your spell damage really high, but the stats from the items are probably better used on your teammates anyway. I'd only use these if I'm playing solo.

Something I should also mention here is that it's probably a good idea to leave at least one slot open for neutral items. There are some decent RNG drops from bosses, and I personally always like to carry at least one dropped item. It's not very hard to find at least one good item from the boss drops.

Tips and Tricks

- Make sure to unload every ability you can before using your ult, for efficiency with your cooldowns
- Using Ice Road and immediately following up with Soul Annihilation will allow you to nuke down the enemy, while still staying safe during the cast time due to the enemy being stunned
- If you feel like the boss's DPS is too dangerous, then you can wait for Ice Road to end before using Water Blast
- You can use Subsoil Travel to save allies who are being chased by enemies, as you can block the path and kill the pursuing enemies.
- The most ideal combo is: Ice Road - Disarm - Electric Field - Water Blast - Soul Annihilation (add in Arcane Scepter at the beginning if you have it, add in any damage items before the ult, add in Chronos after ult if you have it, then do the entire thing again)

Conclusion

So yeah, this should be everything you need to know in order to play this hero well. Keep in mind that the things I've written here have mostly been off of my experience. If there's anything wrong or missing from this, feel free to let me know, but please be nice, even if you're looking to criticize.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them!

Wish you all a good day/night!
CosmicBardFecha: Monday, 2021-11-01, 1:36 AM | Mensaje # 2
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Oh, and something I forgot to mention in the "tips and tricks" section is that you can use your water elemental to farm in 2 different places at the same time. And Subsoil Travel allows you to do it basically without any risk, because if the elemental is getting low on health, you can just teleport it to the fountain, and if you need him in a different place to fight a boss, then you just teleport it there.

This is actually kind of important, as it lets you get items quickly, and you could even buy stuff for your team. So you should to do it when you ele is maxed (but don't steal farm from teammates ofc).
PtigrooFecha: Wednesday, 2021-11-17, 10:11 AM | Mensaje # 3
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Hi just one more thing in case you didn't know holy staff max lvl gives some damages scaled on your int for ice road wich makes it better than ult fot burst damage solo game in my opinion. (Solo because in team you holy item isn t the most important). And with that holystaff spell is also a good burst same for alll int heroes
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