Dota Auto Chess Mages Guide
Artist: Valve
Author:
MrNiceGuy
Date: 03/2019
Tags:
text
Auto Chess

Mages Overview:

Mages are probably the most underrated synergy by beginner to intermediate players and at the same time the most important one to get a good understanding of once you grasp the fundamentals of Auto Chess strategy. 

The reason is quite simple: Mages are the only synergy that directly counters three of the most common DAC strategies – Elves, Warriors, and Goblins.

Mages Strategy Summary:

The goal is to get to 3 (usually) or 6 (more rarely) Mages and to use the magic resistance reduction in order to AoE nuke the enemy lineup. It’s very important to keep in mind that the mage magic resistance has great synergy with all units that deal magic damage – Kunkka, Shadow Fiend, Queen of Pain, etc. 

Unlike more straightforward strategies like Warriors or Goblins, simply buying all the mages you see in the shop from early on is not a viable option. You need to use other synergies in order to build a solid frontline of tanks which will carry you in the early and mid game. You usually want to commit to a Mage build in the mid-late game after you already have key units like Razor or Shadow Fiend.

PROS

  • Very strong in the late game due to absurd AoE nuke potential.

  • Synergize well with all heroes who deal magic damage.

  • Directly counters Elves, Warriors, and Goblins. 

  • Easy to get Humans as a secondary synergy.

CONS

  • Weak in the early-mid game: relies on other synergies to carry you to the late game.

  • Small margin for error: You deal AoE damage. A large number of enemy units will survive on low HP and kill you if you don’t deal enough and you will lose large chunks of HP.

  • Countered by Nagas and Knights. 

  • Terrible against creep rounds.

Mage Heroes:

Ogre Magi Portrait

Ogre Magi: 1 Gold, Ogre, Mage
Has great stats, so he is pretty strong in the early-mid game but falls off late. He is the only real frontline mage by design, so he is great if you want to get the (3) Mage synergy in the early-mid game. His ability doesn’t benefit from the magic resistance reduction, so unless you need him for the (6) mage synergy you sell him in the mid-late game. 

Crystal Maiden

Crystal Maiden:  2 Gold, Human, Mage
Probably the individually weakest unit in the game when it comes to fighting. Because of this, you rarely want to include her in your early-mid lineup. However, she has arguably the most impactful ability for a mage lineup in the mid-late game. Her aura, of course, allows your mages to cast their spells earlier. Equally importantly, however, she allows your other AoE disables to be cast earlier as well. Tidehunter, Kunkka, Disruptor, Medusa – all benefit a lot from CM. If your crowd control comes off before the crowd control of the enemy, this might allow your other mages to nuke at least a couple of enemy units before they are able to cast their skills.

Puck Portrait

Puck: 2 Gold, Elf, Dragon, Mage
Puck is likely to become your third mage if you are trying to reach the (3) Mages bonus in the early-mid game. He is a decent unit to get to lvl2 because his AoE damage is good and he opens up the possibility to go for (3) Dragons + (3) Mages in the late game. If you already have (3) Mages secured and don’t want to go for (6), you can choose to ignore him. Put him in a corner so that he will cast Illusory Orb diagonally and hit as many units as possible. The elf bonus is also decent if your opening includes Druids and you want to get to (3) Elves for a more durable frontline.

Razor

Razor: 3 Gold, Elemental, Mage
Razor is considered by most players to be the best mage unit and the key to make (3) Mages worth it in the mid game. Getting him from early on (especially on two stars) is what prompts most players to commit to Mages. He has decent attack damage, which means he charges his ult fast, and the ult itself is absolutely great – reliable AoE damage. Razor together with a Shadow Fiend and the (3) Mages bonus is where most of your damage will come in the mid game if you are going for Mages. Because of this, however, he is usually highly contested and it will be hard to get him to three stars.

Lina

Lina: 3 Gold, Human, Mage
The problem with Lina is that her stats are bad (low DPS) and while her ultimate is powerful, it’s not reliable. If she instantly kills a high-impact unit that’s great. She can, however, waste it on a low-impact unit, a low-HP unit that’s about to die anyway, a unit that has already cast his ability or worst of all – a unit in the middle of a jump, which makes it invulnerable. That said, she is a long-range human. If you want to get the Human synergy, including her might be a great idea because she could silence the enemy frontline spell-casters before they are able to use their abilities. Moreover, her attack DPS increases after casting Laguna (because of Fiery Soul). Because of this mana items (Void Stone) are quite good on her.

Keeper of the Light

Keeper of the Light: 4 Gold, Human, Mage
Great ultimate with big AoE and very high damage, but terrible attack damage, which means he takes ages to charge it. Playing him together with Crystal Maiden is a must. This not only helps him charge his ultimate faster but also gives you the (2) Humans synergy. This way the low-damage Maiden and KotL attacks become useful because they have a chance to silence.

Lich
Lich: 5 Gold, Undead, Mage

His ultimate deals brutal damage with the Mage synergy. Try to get him to two stars. Even though the (2) Undead synergy doesn’t seem synergistic with Mages (your lineup doesn’t deal good attack damage), it is still decent because if your units deal slightly higher damage they will cast their spells a bit faster. This combined with CM’s aura and some mana items stacks up and becomes noticeable. It’s best to combine him with Necro for the (2) Undead bonus because Necro also benefits from the Mage bonus.

Non-Mage Heroes:

Tiny

Tiny: 1 Gold, Elemental, Warrior
Tiny is an Elemental and a Warrior. This means it’s easy to trigger both synergies (because of Razor), which in turn makes him very tanky (and increases Razor’s survivability as well).

Juggernaut
Juggernaut: 2 Gold, Orc, Warrior

Orc + Warrior means he is a great frontline unit for a mage strat. He also deals magic damage with Blade Fury, which means he benefits from the Mages synergy. Last, he is magic immune during the spin, which means he is a great three-star unit to have against enemy lineup who also deal magic damage and disables.

Queen of pain
Queen of Pain: 2 Gold, Demon, Assassin

QoP deals high magic damage on a low CD. She benefits a lot from the Mages synergy. Make sure to position her immediately behind your frontline to make it less likely she jumps on the enemy backlines. That said, her smaller AoE (and tendency to jump and not benefit from your turtle positioning) make her a worse option than Shadow Fiend.

Shadow Fiend Portrait
Shadow Fiend: 3 Gold, Demon, Warlock

He benefits from the Mage bonus a lot and together with Razor is the unit that will provide you with enough AoE damage to win rounds in the mid game. Having both Razor and Shadow Fiend is usually a sign that you need to try to get the (3) Mages bonus. Like Razor, he is highly contested and usually hard to get to lvl3.

Kunkka
Kunkka: 4 Gold, Human, Warrior

Kunkka’s ultimate actually deals high AoE magic damage, so he benefits from the Mage bonus. He is also a human, which makes it easier to get the silence synergy bonus. He is also a Warrior, which is one of the best classes to form a frontline for Mages. Last but not least, he synergizes Crystal Maiden – can cast his ult before the enemy Kunkka.

Disruptor Portrait
Disruptor: 4 Gold, Orc, Shaman

Disruptor’s AoE actually does decent AoE damage, so in a Mages lineup, he becomes an additional damage dealer. Even more importantly – with Maiden on your team he is likely to cast his AoE silence before the enemy AoE disables trigger. Last but not least – he is a hard counter to Mages especially if you are using the corner positioning. Buying Disruptors will make it harder for your opponents to complete a three-star Disruptor of his own.

Gyro
Gyrocopter: 5 Gold, Dwarf, Mech

Terrible tribals for the late game, but he deals Magic damage in a huge AoE, which means he synergizes with Mages.

Tidehunter Portrait
Tide: 5 Gold, Naga, Hunter

The tribals are not very useful, but the fact that he is likely to trigger his Ravage before the enemy Tide in a Mages lineup (thanks to CM) makes him very valuable. Moreover, Ravage deals magic damage – it benefits from the resistance reduction.

Making Mages Work:

Early Game:

Making a mages lineup work in the early game usually has little to do with Mages. You need a strong frontline first, and this usually comes either from Goblins or from Warriors. Warriors are ideal because you will be able to keep some of your units in the late game (like e.g. Jugg). Goblins can also work, but you will most likely sell all of them off and replace them with late-game disable units. Grab a fast two-star Ogre if you can – this will help you get the (3) Mages bonus faster. Later on, you can either sell him or save him for a (6) Mages draft.

Ideally, get Shadow Fiend and Razor – they are the key units that will carry your mid game.

Mid Game:

This is when you typically get to (3) Mages. You can do this fastest with Ogre & Razor + one. That said, don’t force the (3) Mages upgrade. A strong frontline is more important at this stage. You can get to three mages on lvl6-7. Buy all the Razors, Fiends, and Crystal Maidens you get in order to get them to two stars ASAP. Keep CM on the bench if you can’t squeeze her in – you’ll include her later on. Carefully plan if you'll try to get SF or Razor to three stars. Even though they are the "core" of your strategy, if other people on the board are searching for these pieces, it might be unrealistic to try at this stage. Leave them at two stars, focus on other units and possibly attempt to three-star them in the very late game when more players are dead (units returned to the shared pool) and when you have more bench space.

Late Game:

Start replacing your weaker frontline units with AoE disablers like Kunkka, Disruptor, Tide, etc. Try to get lvl2 Lich. Decide whether you want to reach (6) Mages or not – usually you will stay at (3) and focus on upgrades, other synergies, and AoE disable units, but it is certainly possible to go for (6) Mages if you feel you need the extra burst damage to win (usually to counter Nagas).

Positioning:

Mages are very, very fragile, so you need to protect them. Usually, this means using a corner positioning strat. This has an additional benefit besides protecting the squishy mages – it draws all enemy units towards you, which means your Line and Circle AoE spells (Puck, KotL, Disruptor, etc.) have a higher chance to hit more units. Moreover, staying in a corner buys one or two additional seconds for your CM aura to provide some mana, which might give your casters a better chance to cast first.

Auto Chess Corner Formation

The corner positioning is the standard, but it gets countered by AoE and most importantly – Disruptor. If your mages get silenced or stunned before they cast, this might end in a disaster for you. In such cases spread your units on the board. Line AoE units (Puck, KotL) still need to be on the sides, while units like Razor, Shadow Fiend, and Tide – in the middle.

Economy:

To be successful with a Mage strat you need a good economy. Remember that Mages is a late-game strat. You need multiple expensive units - not only Mages but also units like Kunkka, Disruptor, Tide, etc. This is why you typically don’t want to start rerolling the shop before you have a high-level courier and more than 50 gold. You are unlikely to ride a strong winning streak in the mid game, so don’t try hard to upgrade your army in the mid game at the cost of economy. Your game plan is to win late.

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With this in mind, Mages have a small margin for error, which means you cannot afford to be riding a big losing streak in the mid game. This will leave you on low life, and losing one or two late game rounds (not enough AoE damage to finish off enemy units) could cost you the game. This is why building a strong frontline and a decent mid-game lineup is crucial for your success with Mages.

Example Lineups:

(3) Warriors into (3) Mages:
Tiny
Juggernaut
Kunkka
Disruptor Portrait
Tidehunter Portrait
Shadow Fiend Portrait
Razor
Crystal Maiden
Lich
Keeper of the Light

Frontline: Tiny, Juggernaut, Kunkka, Disruptor, Tide
Backline: Shadow Fiend, Razor, Crystal Maiden, Lich, KotL

Synergy: (3) Mages, (3) Warriors, (2) Humans, (2) Elementals, (1) Demon

A Warrior opening (Tiny + Jugger + 1) with Shadow Fiend and Razor in the backline will likely win you the early-mid game. With the (3) Warriors and (2) Elementals bonus, your frontline will be hard to breach, which will buy Razor and SF time to deal lots of damage. Ideally, get your second and third Mage as a 6th and 7th unit to complete the (3) Mages synergy and increase the SF and Razor damage significantly. This would usually be Crystal Maiden + 1 (Puck, Lina, or KotL).

Warriors into (6) Mages:

Many people think that going for (6) Mages is a trap and you shouldn’t try to do it. This is true most of the time. Going for (6) Mages requires you to start buying more Mages in the mid game. This, in turn, is an easy way to get a weak mid-game lineup (and to run out of bench space). Loosing too much in the mid game will drop your HP hard and a random loss in the late game might end the match for you.

That said, (6) Mages obviously increases your nuke damage a great deal and it’s a good way to counter a lineup who is winning against you thanks to (2) Nagas and high-star (high HP) units.

To pull off (6) Mages successfully try not to force them early-mid game. You still need a strong mid game lineup.

Take the above lineup for example. To get to (6) Mages you simply need to sell Tiny and Jugg and replace them with two additional mages in the late game (ideally, one of which Lina for the (4) Humans synergy). Plan in order to pull this off successfully. Don’t try to get lvl3 on Jugg or Tiny. This will leave you more bench space to start buying your future mages.

 Once you are ready, make the switch on lvl9 or even lvl10. By doing this you will benefit from the (6) Mages in the late game without sacrificing a lot in the mid game besides bench space (which admittedly might come at a premium).

Druids into (6) Mages:

Below you can see another example. In this lineup, you start with a Druid opening to carry you through the early-mid game. High-star Ench + Lone gives you the (2) Beast bonus which increases your DPS a bit and helps your SF & Razor charge their spells even faster.

Like in the example above, start preparing with additional mages in the mid game. Once you reach the late game, sell all your Druids besides Lone Druid (in this example Treant + Ench) and replace them with Mages to reach the (6) Mages bonus.

In order to pull this off, you might need to keep even your Razor and Shadow Fiend on two stars to free up bench space for the Druids. Once you sell your Druids, you can start buying those Razor + SF once again to try to get them to lvl3 in the late game. This is a good strategy because other people using those two popular units might be dead by this point and the unit-pool of SF and Razor could be bigger once again.

Ogre Magi Portrait
Treant Protector
Lone Druid
Kunkka
Tidehunter Portrait
Enchantress
Shadow Fiend Portrait
Razor
Crystal Maiden
Lich
Lina
Keeper of the Light

Frontline: Ogre, Treant, Lone Druid, Kunkka, Tide
Backline: Enchantress, Shadow Fiend, Razor, Crystal Maiden, Lich, (Lina, KotL)

The units in bold are the ones you sell in order to fit the last two mages.

Synergy: (6) Mages, (4) Humans, (1) Demon

(4) Knights (3) Dragons (3) Mages:
Ogre Magi Portrait
Chaos Knight
Omniknight portrait
Abaddon Portrait
Dragon knight
Razor
Puck Portrait
Necro
Viper
Medusa

Frontline: Ogre, Omni Knight, Abaddon, Chaos Knight
Backline: Dragon Knight, Razor, Puck, Necrophos, Viper, Medusa

Synergy: (4) Knights, (3) Dragons, (3) Mages, (2) Undead

A (4) Knights into (3) Dragons strat. It’s easy to get to (3) Mages because of Puck. Ogre is also more valuable because Bloodlust is great on Chaos Knight or Dragon Knight. The lack of Shadow Fiend, other Mages, and more AoE units means your nuke damage is weaker. At the same time, you deal more physical damage and the lineup is much more durable.


Thanks for reading! I hope you found this guide useful and enjoyable. If you did, you can check out our other Dota Auto Chess content in our blog or in this Auto Chess guide collection.

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Authors:

Kyril "MrNiceGuy" Kotashev
Author

Esports and gaming enthusiast since forever and founder of Dotahaven.

Has been playing Dota since 2005 (5.84). An Ancient player in Dota 2.