“I am the punishment of God...If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.” -Genghis Khan
Visage, the Necro'lic. Once the game's most boring, one-dimensional hard carry, recently remade and now one of its best, safest gankers for those with the patience to learn how to properly play him.
Amazing base Strength and Strength gain for an Intelligence hero, and actually better than a few Strength heroes. Awful base Agility and Agility gain - Visage gets her attack speed from Grave Chill, not her stats. Nice base Intelligence and gain - nothing remarkable among Intelligence heroes, but nothing to complain about.
Bad armor, slightly low move speed. Workable attack animation and projectile speed, though they require practice. Great range. Decent base damage. The main thing to take away here is that you ALWAYS need to cancel your cast animations. This doesn't seem like it would be that big a deal, but when you have two spammable actives and two familiars to micro, plus at least one usable item...it can be a problem.
Memorize these details, because it's one of your most important skills. The duration is very low until higher levels (level 4 lasts twice as long as level 1), and the cooldown is constant, so leveling this skill quickly is critical to both your ganking and DPS. Generally speaking, this will be used at the very beginning of a gank or fight, so that it's cooled down and ready to go again as soon as possible - when, obviously, you should use it again. Remember, cancel the animation!
These details are less important. The critical two points to take away are that more levels mean more max damage, not more damage every time you use it, and that a single level gives you a max of 200 damage. Remember, the counter of how many "levels" of it you currently have ready to lose is both over your head and in your skill bar. I like to use the one over my head for most things, and only check my skill bar if I'm offscreen. This skill should almost always be used either 1) to finish off heroes, or 2) when your bars are full. If neither of those things are true, don't use it - and it should basically never be used with less than two bars.
One of the most common mistakes I see new Visage players make is maxing this skill first or second. In a contraction, DON'T! One level early is more than enough to make laning a breeze. Not much to say here - it defends you against harass far better than against a full-on assault, but if your opponents are stupid enough to lead with Laguna Blade against you, it'll help a damn lot. Also provides some respectable defense against blink strikes.
Oh man, Summon Familiars. Possibly the most underrated ultimate in DotA currently, this little puppy is what makes you into a powerhouse. Familiars deal what experts have dubbed an "assload" of physical burst damage, which has the twin benefits of dealing damage and charging Soul Assumption very quickly, and do so while your hero does whatever he wants, making your ganks much faster than any other hero bar Ursa and those who rely on nuke combos. The dual stuns are just the icing on the cake, ideally used during Grave Chill (or an ally's stun) so they can be reliably landed.
The typical, SA-maxed-first Visage skill build. Grave Chill is taken at level 1 to both make first bloods possible and avoid being first blooded. Cloak is taken at level two to make receiving harassment a thing of the past. SA is maxed first to make your burst damage with Familiars (and/or allies) as high as possible. Grave Chill is then maxed to further improve your ganking, and Cloak receives lowest priority, as purely defensive skills generally do. Summon Familiars is taken whenever it's available, because it's the key to the whole Visage death machine.
The alternate, Grave Chill-first Visage skill build. Note that only one level each of Soul Assumption and Gravekeeper's Cloak is usually enough; in aggressive lanes, however (such as Visage/Centaur) you may consider taking Soul Assumption at level 2 and Gravekeeper's Cloak at level 4 instead. The advantage to maxing Grave Chill over Soul Assumption is that you'll be a much more powerful chaser, and help allies set up aimed/point blank stuns that much more easily. The disadvantage is that you're sacrificing a fair bit of burst damage, which isn't generally the best idea on a ganker. Assuming your allies are even halfway decent, and that you get good at timing Soul Assumptions, those extra bars will be used. Consider this if any two of the following three statements are true: you aren't too good with Soul Assumption yet, your allies are completely unreliable, or your team has a horrible lack of disables. Then again, that's a situation where you probably shouldn't pick Visage anyway.
The simplest Visage starting items. Three tangoes will suffice to keep you maxed on HP, and you can always chicken yourself more, or a healthpot if emergencies are likely (dual stun lanes). The Ring of Basilius gives you everything you need - damage for last hitting and harass, and some extra armor to fortify your disgustingly low base. It also adds a bit of extra mana regen. Remember to start with it in hero mode, and switch once you get familiars! This set is cheap, easy, and leaves plenty of room to buy items from the side shop or have them couriered to you without worrying about slots.
An alternate Visage starting item set, courtesy of FunnyWarfare. Keeps you alive early on better for tough lanes, but slightly less streamlined if you choose to skip a wand. The extra stats can never hurt, but aren't strictly necessary. Remember to finish your Ring of Basilius when you get familiars, and leave it in normal mode to boost their armor. Probably a better set overall, but shouldn't be done without a courier to finish items, which isn't always guaranteed.
The "my allies are whores and won't buy a damn courier" Visage starting items. To be used when your allies are whores and won't buy a damn courier.
To take a page from TrollWarlord's book, this is my beyond godlike (TM) Visage build. Really, that's it. That's all you need. +30 damage, some speed, some armor for your familiars, and you're good to go. For less than two thousand gold. The best part is, though, there's no reason you have to stop there - additional items are great on Visage, as he can easily semicarry. Just what those items are, though, is completely a matter of personal choice.
Force Staff synergizes very well with Summon Familiars - push a familiar forward after a running foe and Stone Form it. One point five second stun - enough for the other to catch up and Stone Form. Congratulations, it's time to finish him off. Excellent for solo ganking if your micro's up to it, and did I mention it's just 2200 gold?
Urn capitalizes on all the kills (and assists)you'll be getting by letting you heal yourself and your allies. It also grants some nice mana regeneration and additional hit points. The only reason NOT to cough up the 875 gold for this is if one of your allies has or wants one.
Everybody loves a Magic Wand! For just over 500 gold, you can now perform narrow escapes with the best of them - and occasionally even sneak in an extra kill into the bargain. No real reason not to get one of these - cost certainly is no object.
I don't mind admitting that I don't have the micro to use this item well on Visage, and as such I can't wholeheartedly recommend it. Still, if you do have the skill to pull it off, putting mana pressure on the other team is always nice, and it's an excellent counter to heroes who rely on windwalk, Slark in particular.
Desolator is very well suited to Visage - it doesn't just give 60 extra damage plus whatever boost taking 6 armor from your enemies gives your own DPS, but it also makes your familiars' attacks that much more deadly. Perhaps the ideal offensive item.
Ah, Heart. The fortified castle to Urn of Shadows' tent, it all but guarantees you'll never have to make a fountain trip again, not to mention the huge hit point increase. Of course, big benefits cost big bucks. Probably shouldn't be your first major item, because you need a little more offense to justify it. It makes an excellent second one, though.
Even after the nerf, Blademail is excellent on Visage. Lots of damage, and a way to say "fuck you" when your opponents inevitably try to focus you down - and it's disgustingly cheap for the effects at just 2200 gold.
An excellent defensive item that contributes much appreciated stats and regeneration. Makes it much easier for you to escape hairy situations, and works excellently with Blademail by giving you a clue to activate it before you get hit with a barrage of nukes. Like Queen of Pain, and for much the same reasons, Visage really appreciates this item.
Even if having an extra disable (with very high range) wasn't always good, Guinsoo's timing is perfect for Visage. If you use it right as Grave Chill wears off, your opponent will have at most a second between Hex wearing off and Grave Chill coming off cooldown. That's roughly sixteen seconds where your opponent can't effectively DPS or flee, which is a pretty damn long time. More damage (in the form of intelligence) can never hurt either, and Guinsoo guarantees that it's virtually impossible to run out of mana.
Who doesn't love a good Dagon? The higher levels will give you an instantly maxed Soul Assumption, and even the basic level will net you just barely under 3 bars. Makes an excellent combo-nuker out of you, and adds some extra damage, but decreases in effectiveness as time goes on.
Orchid is everything you need except hit points - base mana, mana regen, lots of damage, and a long silence that happens to amplify damage. An excellent choice.
Assault Cuirass is nice way to buff up yourself and your familiars, but should generally wait until you have some serious damage going on to make use of all that IAS.
Monkey King Bar is a great DPS item - but that's all it contributes, and should generally wait until you have at least some survivability. It's also pretty expensive, and as such should only be a high priority when your opponents have a lot of evasion.
Situationally useful when your opponents have heavy physical DPS and your attack, but a waste in most games.
A great way to charge Soul Assumption. The armor and intelligence don't hurt, either. There's also great synergy with Grave Chill.
The slow's great, the stats are great, the HP is great - but damn, this thing's expensive.
The above are generally recommended luxuries. I personally prefer to go with blademail followed by either Linken's/Deso or Orchid/Heart, both of which give damage, regeneration, and defense to various degrees. Following are items that are generally not recommended.
Nothing wrong with attack speed, but Assault Cuirass is a much better choice for Visage, because of the synergy with familiars and added EHP.
A decent defensive item, but not well suited to your role. In teamfights you should be around the edges spamming spells, not in the thick of things; if you're having problems with spells, Linken's Sphere is a much better choice.
Damage is nice, automatic Soul Assumption charges are nice, but it just isn't worth the cost. You aren't a ricer post-remake, don't pretend to be one. If you really want the Soul Assumption charges, go for Shiva's.
Managing your Familiars
A lot of casual Visage players complain about the ease with which their familiars die. I find the easiest scheme to minimize familiar casualties while always having them present is as follows. Have Visage (and Visage alone) as hotkey 1, as normal. Set your Familiars (without Visage) to hotkey 2. Crow, Circle of Power, and (if you swing that way) shops should be hotkeys 3, 4, and above. By default (when farming, traveling, harassing) have your familiars on Move orders to Visage (m+click). Whenever you aren't actively microing them, this should be their order. Keep in mind that if Visage is somehow instagibbed, Astral Imprisoned, or similar, you'll want to get them out of danger.
Ganking with Visage
Now we get to the fun part. In a typical gank, this is what you do. (The precise commands if you use the recommended control scheme are included in parentheses)
- Order your familiars to attack the target. (2, right-click)
- Order Visage to use Grave Chill on the target (1, g, left click)
- Cancel Visage's casting animation with an order to attack the target. (right click)
- Animation cancel your attacks with Visage to keep an appropriate distance of ~400 units between you and the enemy. (right clicks on the ground and target)
- Use Soul Assumption once it has three or four charges, as waiting for it to fully charge when it may never do so is generally a bad idea. (c, left click)
- Use Force Staff on one of your familiars as soon as the target runs. Order it to stone form. (numpad, left click, left click (left click and drag is often faster), f)
- Order the other familiar to Stone Form, if it is in range of the target; otherwise, shift-queue it to stone form where you think the target will be. (left click or click and box, f or right click, hold shift and F)
- Cast Soul Assumption once it comes off cooldown. This will usually kill the target, if it's survived this long. (c, left click)
- If the target's still alive, start over from step 1, keeping in mind that Stone Form and Force Staff are now on cooldown.
Wow. Complicated enough? Practice it over and over again. Recite it mentally when you're not practicing it. Visualize it. Have your friends quiz you on it. More than anything else, the ability to execute that sequence of commands as quickly and precisely as possible will make or break your Visage.
A game on ICCUP where I kick all kinds of ass even with constant terrible lag spikes. Final stats are 24-3, item build is straight phase boots into linken's. There's a guinsoo at the end (I had to do SOMETHING with 6000+ gold) but it never gets used.
Download replay here
I finally managed to get a game with only one leaver, and he wasn't even my fault. Fun little Garena pubromp where I go blademail-linken's and finish 14-5 before finishing Deso. I was kind of a dick to our Vengeful, and at least three of my deaths were due to stupidity, but it's a good "this is how you kill stuff" demonstration. Note: laning Balanar solo mid against Visage is a bad idea.