December 3rd, 2012
Author: Oscar 'OckE' Svensson
Ostarion, the Skeleton King, is a Melee Carry, who can also serve as a Disabler and a Tank. Although he is one of the easier Heroes to play, he can still be quite hard to fully utilize in the early game due to his low mana pool. He more than makes up for it by hitting very hard though, especially when his Critical Strike ability pops.
The high possibility of landing a critical hit on an enemy is part of what makes him so dangerous to the enemy team. However, what really makes him unique is his ultimate, which will be described along with his other abilities in this next part.
Skeleton King is a Hero with only one active skill, with the other three being passive. This is part of what makes him such an easy Hero to play, since there is no need for you to argue with yourself over which of Ostarion's abilities to use first, seeing as you can only choose one.
Hellfire Blast: Fires a sphere of hellfire at an enemy unit, which deals up to 200 damage (when fully upgraded) to its target as well as stunning the target for 2 seconds upon impact. After the stun has worn off, this ability does 50 damage per second (when fully upgraded) and also slows the target by 15% movement speed for two seconds. Hellfire has a cooldown of 8 seconds and costs 140 Mana.
Given how limited the Skeleton King's mana pool is, especially in the early stages of the game, every Hellfire Blast should be made to count. This means that it shouldn't be cast on creeps, but saved for crucial situations, such as ganks or escapes.
If you are able to replenish your mana, you should use it as soon as you see a badly positioned enemy Hero or when you need to catch up to a fleeing enemy Hero. On the contrary, this can be used to escape from perpetrators when you are injured.
Vampiric Aura: When attacking enemy units, friendly units within 900 range gain HP based on their damage dealt, with as much as 30% life-steal when fully upgraded.
Vampiric Aura will allow Ostarion and his allies to stay alive for much longer when taking damage. However, the same can be said for friendly creeps.If creeps on one team stay alive longer than those on the opposite team, then those creeps will be pushing the lane. Pushing the lane is something a team desperately wants to avoid during the early game, as having to fight near the enemy tower is much more risky than fighting in the open.
In most skill builds, Vampiric Aura is chosen in the later levels to avoid pushing the lane too early. The sole exception is when Skeleton King decides to go jungling, which Vampiric Aura should be chosen first. One thing to note about this ability is that it stacks with other life-steal effects as well as orb effects.
Critical Strike: Skeleton King has a 15% chance to deal bonus damage on an attack. The damage you do is amplified by 2.75x if this ability is fully upgraded. This is a passive ability.
This is what gives Ostarion a lot of carrying potential, provided that he has good enough items and that this ability is triggered. The number of strikes needed to defeat an enemy Hero can potentially be ridiculously low. While the chance of a critical strike is far from high, the probability is certainly high enough to make it a very lucrative skill. This ability also greatly simplifies farming creeps, as they usually get shot once when it is fully upgraded.
Reincarnation: After death, Skeleton King's bones reform, causing him to resurrect when killed. When he reincarnates, enemy units in an area of 700 are slowed by 30%. Reincarnation has a cooldown of 260, 160 & 60 seconds depending on its rank. Reincarnation also costs 140 Mana, despite being a passive ability.
Reincarnation, Skeleton King's signature move, is what makes him so beginner-friendly, since Ostarion can essentially die twice before actually dying. In addition, he also slows the enemy upon resurrection. This means that you can be a little more reckless while playing as Skeleton King compared to other Heroes.
Due to Reincarnation, Skeleton King should be the first one to engage the enemy as well as the first one to die (with the exception of enemy Heroes, of course), since the AoE slows down upon resurrection, which really helps his team if the enemy attempts to escape. However, if his mana pool is lower than 140 Mana, Ostarion will die without resurrecting through Reincarnation. Naturally, it is important to acquire an item that ensures the possibility of having over 140 Mana before death, such as the Soul Ring.
Although Skeleton King is a carry, he should not go solo mid. This is partly due to the fact that he is a melee Hero, and often needs support to finish other Heroes off or escape from combat quickly. Therefore, he should be in a double lane with a support character that has either a slow, stun or even both. Heroes, such as the Vengeful Spirit, Crystal Maiden and Ancient Apparition, make good laning partners for Ostarion.
On the subject of other Heroes, some are the bane of Ostarion's existence. They can be summed up in two words: Mana burners. Since his ultimate requires him to have 140 Mana, Heroes with abilities that drain his Mana can stop his second coming. These are, among others, Anti-Mage, Silencer and Lion. Should one of these go up against Skeleton King, getting a Soul Ring is almost obligatory, so that it can be used just before he dies in order to deny the enemy the pleasure of shutting down his ultimate.
There are two lanes, which usually are dual lanes, and where Ostarion goes depends on the player. If the player is afraid of getting ganked early on, he should go to the lane where creeps clash near his team's tower, which is the bottom lane if you play on the Radiant side, or the top lane if on the Dire side.
This is the safer lane as it allows the option to escape to a tower more quickly than you could elsewhere. If the player feels he will be the one doing the ganking, he should go to the other lane, and attempt to score some kills for his team.
Since Skeleton King is a carry, and quite dependent on items come late-game, last-hitting the creeps is extremely important. You must not be too reckless, as that may allow the enemy team to defeate you due to overextending, which is something that a player never wants, even if he has Skeleton King’s Reincarnation.
Should one of the enemy Heroes come a little too close, a Hellfire Blast should be used to stun the enemy to try and land some hits. If the teamwork is good, the allied Hero at the lane might be able to cast slow or stun, which most likely will result in a kill for Ostarion's team. Given Ostarion's dependence on late-game items, always keep in mind that farming is of paramount importance during the laning phase.
There are a few various skill builds of Skeleton King. Here are the most prominent ones:
Level 1: Hellfire Blast
Level 2: Stat Bonus
Level 3: Hellfire Blast
Level 4: Stat Bonus
Level 5: Hellfire Blast
Level 6: Reincarnation
Level 7: Hellfire Blast
Level 8: Vampiric Aura
Level 9: Critical Strike
Level 10: Critical Strike
Level 11: Reincarnation
Level 12: Critical Strike
Level 13: Critical Strike
Level 14: Vampiric Aura
Level 15: Vampiric Aura
Level 16: Reincarnation
Level 17: Vampiric Aura
Level 18-25: Stat Bonus
This one is the most standard build, as it allows moderately high damage being dealt to enemy Heroes quite early due to Hellfire Blast being maxed first, which also allows for more effective ganks. The ability is also very useful as a tool to finish off enemy Heroes with low health, because if the damage upon impact does not kill them, the damage over time is likely to do that unless they have a way of healing themselves.
As previously mentioned, Vampiric Aura has skill points put into it quite late in the skill build to minimize the risk of pushing the lane early. However, Critical Strike is maxed before Aura, even though the first point in Aura is put in earlier. This is because life-steal is not as important as doing tons of damage to the enemy team when in team fights, and therefore Critical Strike takes precedence over Vampiric Aura.
“Hard Carry” Build
Level 1: Hellfire Blast
Level 2: Stat Bonus
Level 3: Critical Strike
Level 4: Critical Strike
Level 5: Critical Strike
Level 6: Reincarnation
Level 7: Critical Strike
Level 8: Vampiric Aura
Level 9: Vampiric Aura
Level 10: Vampiric Aura
Level 11: Reincarnation
Level 12: Vampiric Aura
Level 13: Hellfire Blast
Level 14: Hellfire Blast
Level 15: Hellfire Blast
Level 16: Hellfire Blast
Level 17-25: Stat Bonus
This build is called a “Hard Carry” for a reason considering Passives are maxed first, and how effective those abilities are, highly depends on how good the items that Skeleton King is carrying. Good items are needed quickly, so making sure to successfully last-hit as many creeps as possible without taking too much of a risk is very important.
The reason why Hellfire Blast isn't skilled more than the first rank until level 13 is because neither the stun nor slow increases with levels. With this build, Hellfire Blast is only a means to get Ostarion close to the enemy in order to use his immense physical prowess to quickly cut them down.
This build is very hard to use if the enemy team knows how to deny creeps properly, as a steady gold income is the key to success here. Since Skeleton King has the potential to hit like a truck—if his lane partner helps him out correctly with stuns and slows—enemy Heroes can easily be picked off. Sometimes three, two, or even just one hard critical is all it takes for the enemy to bite the dust.
If you are new to playing DotA, I would recommend that you use the first build, as it is generally easier to use. If you feel confident though, that you can get last hits without encountering any problems then try the second one. If one build seems to not work out for you, attempt to do the other. In the end, it’s your decision on how you want to play.
Since more than one build has been shown here, build-specific items are hard to list.Here are some items that Skeleton King generally uses as well as reasons to why they are effective for him.
Tango, Healing Salve, and Clarity are just several items you want to start with. Tangoes & Healing Salve will help Ostarion regenerate Health if the enemy team wounds him. Clarity is there to help out with his low mana pool. Other items like Iron Branches are generally good thanks to the attribute bonuses and Quelling Blade gives a very large damage boost against creeps and makes farming much easier.
Magic Stick is used in order to get Mana & Health back when you desperately need it, provided the enemy team has used abilities within its range. Boots are always required, perhaps to catch up to an enemy in order to gank him, or retreat from a losing fight. The Helm of Iron Will gives a much higher HP regeneration (which is always nice) as well as makes Skeleton King tankier by giving him more armor. These items are all used for building some of the core items later in the game.
Neither Soul Ring nor Desolator are in the in-game Core items list, but they are both so good for Skeleton King that are in almost all of his builds. With Soul Ring, you will always have enough Mana for your ultimate if you use it properly. When he is matched up against Mana burners, Ostarion can use the ring just before death to ensure that he will have a second chance to defeat his adversaries.
Desolator does tons of extra damage, which really benefits Skeleton king, especially when his Critical Strike ability pops. With its passive that reduces armor on any target he hits, he will hit even harder when wielding the Desolator. This item is simply great for him.
Amulet of Mordiggian is the most cost-efficient item for Skeleton King by far. When activating it, he gains a lot more hit points & damage thanks to the Strength bonus it gives, and the HP drain per second is barely noticed thanks to his Vampiric Aura. This item makes him a complete beast in combat, and is strongly recommended.
Power Treads are good as well, since they give more movement speed and Strength. If more mana is needed, they can always be switched over to Intelligence for a while. However, if Skeleton King finds it hard to finish ganks, then Phase Boots might be a better choice, as the increased movement speed and the ability to walk through creeps when the item is activated is extremely beneficial.
Magic Wand is just like Magic Stick, except with attribute bonuses. It is a good item to have if more Mana/Health is needed instantly. With enough charges, it works as well or even better than a potion. Although in your later levels, it should be switched for something else, as it does not scale well enough to justify keeping it for the late-game.
Divine Rapier is really nice to use, since it gives so much damage. Although it is dropped upon death, his ultimate allows him to die once before that happens, which may be all the time Ostarion needs to take to defeat the enemy teamif he has good enough team support.
Black King Bar is great because of the magic immunity its active ability grants. Thanks to that, Skeleton King will be able to go wild even when the enemy team tries to lock him down through the use of stuns. While the active ability is what most people buy it for, the extra damage it grants is very useful as well.
The Heart of Tarrasque drastically boosts survivability. Its Health regeneration when the Hero is out of combat is amazing and it also grants 40 Strength as well as 300 HP. Ostarion will be able to last even longer upon the fields of battle before his bones break.
Assault Cuirass is a mix of BKB & Heart, as it improves attack speed and grants extra armor. It also has a two-way aura that increases the attack speed & armor of allies while also lowering enemy’s armor by as much as 11, if stacked with Desolator's passive ability.
Boots of Travel is the late game boots of choice, mostly due to the teleportation ability, and there is no reason to not have them. It is completely reasonable to skip them in favor of some other items for a little while, though.
Other Useful Items
Drums & Phase boots are a great combination to have in the early to mid-game, since they provide Skeleton King with the mobility he desperately needs sometimes. If he barely misses ganks, getting these items is recommended. Also, if Hellfire Blast stuns someone, the Force Staff can be used to get in front of the enemy in order to get extra strikes in.
Refresher Orb & Aegis is an excellent combination due to Skeleton King's ultimate. With these items, the enemy team will have to kill you a minimum of four times before you are down permanently. That's one really durable Hero. Of course, the Mana regen, HP regen, Intelligence & Damage the Orb grants are also nice, but that's nothing compared to the power to reset the cooldown on his ultimate.
Skeleton King is a Hero for those who are not afraid to face their enemies, but still want to have some kind of “insurance”. I personally find the Hero to be a ton of fun to play. While his melee range can be somewhat of a burden at times, it is nothing that a few good items cannot solve.
In team fights, Ostarion is the initiator, and one the team depends on. Therefore, he is the first to go in and the last to leave. Even if he dies once, he will come back and fight for his team as long as he has enough mana and Reincarnation is off cooldown. On top of that, Skeleton King is a Hero that's very easy to play, and a Hero that is recommended to players new to the MOBA scene. He is also recommended to experienced players, as playing him well takes a great deal of skill and is very rewarding. The gameplay is fun, fast and filled with tension.
I hope this is helpful to any aspiring Skeleton King players. Good luck and have fun!