I’ve had some success running Warlock mid throughout 6.83b/6.83c (#8 on Dotabuff, highest WR in the top 10, 315 games played), and there’s been some interest going around about me putting together a guide. The way I play Warlock isn’t hard to grasp or duplicate, but it is incredibly effective. If you’re looking to get out of your MMR trench and have some fun along the way spamming a non-Sniper/Troll hero, this guide is for you.
First things first—I am NOT a great DotA player, but Warlock works for me. I’m 680-565 all time, but I’m 210-105 with Warlock mid. That’s EXACTLY 50% overall without the Warlock games. Warlock mid made me go from 3900 to 4900 solo MMR in about 1 month, and I’d like to share how you can too.
Have thick skin. You WILL get flamed by your own team >25% of the time for trying to pick Warlock mid. Since he’s not sniper or storm spirit, prepare for some pushback from your team. Simply be calm and explain that it works. If your team doesn’t want you to pick Warlock mid, just take the temperature of the room and move forward one way or the other in a civil, professional manner.
While any matchup can be won by outskilling your opponent, here are some where Warlock has a natural advantage or disadvantage. I believe Warlock has the advantage in ~85% of matchups out there, but here are some popular ones that I think are skewed one way or the other.
Favorable: Storm, Shadow Fiend (Storm and SF are 100% Warlock food), Zeus, Sniper
Unfavorable: Lina, Viper, anyone with a roaming PotM
This section is where you will also get flamed by your own team >25% of the time. By FAR the best build I’ve found is going Shadow Word and stats. Your team will yell at your for not getting Fatal Bonds until 10, not leveling Upheaval until 12, etc. Just try it out and see how it works.
Detailed Build: 1) W 2) Stats 3) W 4) Stats 5) W 6) R 7) W 8) Stats 9) Stats 10) Q 11) R 12) E 13) E 14) E 15) E 16) R 17) Q 18) Q 19) Q 20-25) Stats
Here’s the item progression I go for in 99% of my Warlock games. I’m sure there are more nuanced scenarios or personal preferences where these can be adjusted, but it’s been successful for me.
1) Null talisman, 3 branches, hopefully 2 pooled tangos a. If you can’t get your pooled tangos, buy a null and a set of tangos for yourself 2) Phase boots 3) Hand of Midas 4) Ring of Basilius 5) Aghanim’s Scepter 6) Refresher Orb 7) Shiva’s Guard/Ethereal Blade/Scythe of Vyse
As a rule of thumb, here are some decent item timings that indicate you have a great chance at winning the game:
1) Phase boots – 4 ½ minutes 2) Midas – 9 minutes 3) Aghanim’s – 20 minutes 4) Refresher Orb – 28 minutes
At both your Aghanim’s and Refresher Orb timings, you get a HUGE increase in your damage output. The second you get these items, you should be looking for a fight if your team has the advantage or is even close to even. 2 golems at 20 minutes is a really easy way to get a teamwipe, and 4 golems before 30 minutes is usually game-breaking, enabling your team to take at least one set of barracks.
Gameplay (laning phase)
I don’t play Warlock primarily as a ganking hero. The strength of picking Warlock mid is that the vast majority of the time in 1v1 situations, you will drastically outlane your opponent, and you will cripple their position 2 player while getting yourself huge.
Here’s how: 1) Extremely high base damage, augmented by skilling stats and early phase boots 2) Very favorable attack animation 3) High HP/mana pools, augmented by skilling stats 4) Ability to spam a very strong heal/DoT
With a Shadow Word/Stats build, you will both out-cs and out-harass most opponents, and you will find a ton of farm and early kills doing it. I can get into detailed strategy for any matchup you may find in the middle lane, but the general formula is this: to use your superior right click and your HP/Mana pools to trade damage with your opponent until your Shadow Word can kill them.
1) From levels 1-2, use your superior right click to trade damage with your opponent and offensively use level 1 SW once to get them somewhat low.
2) At levels 3 and 5 aggressively look to first blood your opponent. Optimally, you have harassed him down a decent amount, and a level 2 (275 damage) or level 3 (385 damage) and a few right clicks should get you a kill). People really underestimate the amount of damage this skill pumps out relative to a hero’s HP pool at this level, along with the power of your right click with stats skilled.
3) At level 6, aggressively look to drop your golem and level 3 SW on your opponent. If you have your opponent under 95% health, the vast majority of the time you will be able to just dive the tower with your golem drop and secure a kill. You should have phase boots right around this time, and since the golem will have the tower aggro, you can really get aggressive with diving to get the last right click you need to get a kill. This is where you can really start to snowball.
Don’t forget to always control your golems—you can get a lot of really silly looking kills just by animation cancelling your golems’ melee attacks on slow supports at this stage. If there are no heroes around to kill, just send your golems using Ctrl-A on a path to either jungle’s camps, and make sure you make the most of your golem’s uptime.
If you’ve managed to kill your opposing mid 2-3 times by level 7-8 or so, you’ve now done your job and you’re in great shape. Their mid is in a bad position, and you should be on your way to victory. The laning phase is really the most important part of playing Warlock.
Gameplay (post-laning phase)
Honestly, it’s pretty straightforward. Try to use midas/golems when they are up, help your team, and farm your items so you can get your 30 minute refresher. Kill lots of stuff with your golems. As with any hero, you’ll get the feel of it as you play Warlock more.
Shadow Word/stats/midas in the mid lane wins games. This guide is focused on shutting down their mid lane and making sure you can have 2-4 golems at early points in the game. You won’t win all your games as Warlock doing this, but you will win a healthy percentage of them if you win the mid lane decisively in pubs. I’ve had success with this build going against people all the way from 3.7k pubs to 6.6k semi-pro players, and I’d like to see more people running it as well.
Sorry for the text wall, but I think it gives a pretty good idea of how I’ve found success with Warlock as a core mid hero. I’d be more than happy to answer any specific questions you may have about item builds, matchups, gameplay, etc. in the comments below.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the guide, and happy Warlocking!
EDIT: People have asked for game replays, so here’s the most recent one: 1417450413
EDITx2: Here’s a replay that didn’t go as well as the first one. We still won, but here’s a view at a non-stomp where warlock has an impact: 1419356270