A guide to Witch Doctor, one of the deadliest support heroes in Dota 2
Playing support in Dota 2 gets a bad reputation, not only because the carries get all the kills and the glory, but also because you have to rely on those same carries to win the game. But not all support heroes are passive and helpless. In this guide, we’re going to talk about how you can both support your team and get plenty of kills as one of the most versatile intelligence heroes in the game – Witch Doctor.
All of Witch Doctor’s abilities are active, and give him everything any good support & ganker needs – a stun, a healing ability, magic burst, and a powerful ultimate for scoring kills.
Launches a cask of paralyzing powder that ricochets between enemy units, stunning and damaging those it hits. 20-14 Sec cooldown.
Getting off a good cask requires proper positioning and timing. You typically want to use it when an enemy hero is close to another hero or creep, but too many nearby targets will make it much less likely that the cask will bounce back to stun your initial target again. You also have to consider the cask’s flight time – what looked like an excellent opportunity may result in only a single stun by the time it lands.
This skill takes a good amount of time to master, but once you do, it can be one of the most devastating stuns in the game.
Witch Doctor focuses his magic to heal nearby allied units for 16-40 hp per second.
This is the Witch Doctor’s main support spell, and is especially useful for keeping your laning partner alive, or even your entire team during a team fight. The nice thing about Restoration is that you can toggle it off and on so it has no cooldown.
Curses all enemy Heroes in a small area, causing them to take 5-20 damage each second, as well as 16-40% of health lost since the curse began as burst damage every 4 seconds for 12 seconds. 20 Sec cooldown.
Maledict is one of the most powerful magic nukes in Dota 2 – the more damage you land after casting it, the more damage the curse will deal. Ideally, you want to use it right after landing a Cask, so that the target is standing in one place long enough for you to get the cast off. It’s also possible to curse two enemy heroes if they’re standing really close to each other.
In the early game, you should follow up Maledict with auto attacks and try to combo it together with a nuke spell from your allies. Once you hit level 6, you can follow it up with Death Ward to cause massive curse damage and secure a kill.
Summons a deadly ward to attack enemy heroes within 700 range. Lasts a maximum of 8 seconds. Deals 60-120 physical damage. 80 Sec cooldown.
Death Ward is one of the highest damage ultimates in the game, which may come as a surprise for a support hero. If Witch Doctor can get off a full 8 second cast in the middle of a team fight you can easily score multiple kills.
The hardest thing about Death Ward is positioning and timing – if you use it too early, the enemy can just walk out of range, while if you try to get close up, you might get stunned and killed before you’re able to do any damage.
The ideal way to use Death Ward is after you’ve thrown Cask and Maledicted an enemy hero, so that way you can ensure at least one kill. However, if you are concerned about dying it is better to Death Ward right after the Cask, since casting Maledict requires you to get in closer range and put yourself in more danger.
Death Ward is especially deadly when upgraded with Aghanim’s Scepter, and can cause some devastating damage:
There are 2 main ways to build Witch Doctor – as an aggressive ganker or a passive support. The ganker build prioritizes maxing Maledict as soon as possible, which leads to the following opening build: Q-E-E-Q-E-R-E. After this, you can either max out Cask first or pick up one rank of your heal first.
The second way is more-support oriented – you max out Cask first followed by the heal, and leave Maledict until later. The build opening is thus: Q-W-Q-W-Q-R-Q. After you max out both, you can either pick up Maledict, or level stats first.
You can also go for a middle-ground build, where you pick up one rank of Voodoo Restoration at level 4 to help with surviving early on, but prioritize Cask and Maledict.
The decision of which skill build to use depends largely on the team composition and your preferred playstyle. For example, if your team has a lot of stuns and high-burst abilities, then choosing the first build is a good idea as it will allow you to pick up many kills throughout the early and mid-game. Meanwhile, if you’re going to be playing full support and need to help a carry get farm, it’s far better to go for the second option.
Position & Role
Witch doctor is usually played as the safe lane support, either as a tri-lane, or dual lane with a jungler. Less frequently you might also support an offlaner. In terms of role, your primary job is always to support your team by buying wards, upgrading courier, and making sure the safe lane carry is protected so he can farm. As mentioned above, Witch Doctor can also be a very potent ganker at the same time.
Starting / Early Game
As with any support hero, your #1 job is to buy the courier and always keep wards up on the map to provide your team with vision. You should aim to buy two wards and courier at the start, unless you have another teammate supporting, in which case you can split the costs. Along with that you should pick up one stack of tangoes, 1-2 clarity potions, and 1 or 2 branches. Later on, make sure to upgrade the courier to flying ASAP, and then pick up normal boots from the side shop.
Arcane boots are pretty much mandatory on Witch Doctor, both because he requires a lot of mana himself, and because it is one of the best support items in the game.
Like all support heroes, your most important job is to keep wards up, because vision is arguably the most important aspect of Dota 2. Try to buy wards every time they’re not on cooldown and keep one ward up on the upper and one on the lower part of the river, ideally with vision of the rune spots. You should also buy sentry wards later on to remove wards placed by the enemy.
The Aghanim’s effect for Witch Doctor is one of the strongest in the game, boosting the damage of your Death Ward’s attacks from 60 / 90 /120 to 90 / 120 / 150, and also making them bounce 4 times. This makes your ultimate absolutely devastating if used well in a team fight, and has the potential to kill all five enemy heroes.
Witch Doctor is one of the best heroes in the game to get Aether Lens on, because the extra 200 spell cast range helps all of Witch Doctor’s abilities. Most importantly, it gives your heal a larger AOE, makes it far safer to use Maledict by improving its cast range from 575 to 775, and allows you to cast Death Ward from further away, greatly increasing your chances of staying alive and getting off a full 8 second channel.
Black King Bar
BKB works really well on Witch Doctor by allowing you to channel your ultimate uninterrupted in most situations. It can also qualify as a Luxury item, but given the fact that almost any enemy team you face will have some sort of magical interrupt or burst damage, BKB is a must-buy as long as you’re keeping up with your Support priorities.
Glimmer cape can be picked up if you’re farming extremely well. You can use the cape to go invisible after you start channeling Death Ward, which is a cheap way to avoid getting interrupted, provided the enemy doesn’t counter it with dust and sentry wards.
Scythe of Vyse
Scythe is a late game luxury item that is good on pretty much any support hero. And considering your lack of reliable single-target CC, Scythe is especially useful on Witch Doctor.
Dagon is a great luxury item for a ganker Witch Doctor, since you can use it right after Maledict to cause heavy curse damage.
The Witch Doctor’s primary role to babysit your laning partner, who will typically be a hard carry hero like Anti-Mage. You will need to harass the enemy heroes so your carry can farm, pull neutral camps to keep the enemy creeps near your tower, and go for potential kills when appropriate. You will want to continue keeping wards up, particularly around the bottom and top rune positions. You can also choose to gank other lanes throughout the game, but only if your carry is safe to farm while you’re gone.
In any fight, make sure to open up with Cask and follow up with Maledict on your first stun target, and then your Death Ward. You can also go straight to Death Ward after Cask if you feel it’s too dangerous to use Maledict, given its short range and cast time.
Try to channel your ult from a location that is far enough away that you won’t get interrupted quickly, but also casted at the right time so the enemy won’t just run out of range. Particularly great places to cast Death Ward is from behind trees, such as to the left of the bottom tower on Dire Side – this will keep you hidden until you start casting.
Overall, the most difficult aspect of playing Witch Doctor is positioning – if you enter the fight correctly, the enemy heroes will neither be able to either run away nor kill you before your Death Ward and your allies kill them.
Tips & Tricks
- At level 6, you can solo kill most heroes with Cask – > Maledict – > Death Ward
- You can activate your heal while channeling Death Ward
- Paralyzing Cask can stun two enemy heroes that are close to each other for up to 4 seconds
- Death Ward will always target the closest enemy hero first
- Rank 1 of Maledict is very weak, so don’t bother using it until you at least have Rank 2
- A well-placed Death Ward with Aghanim’s Scepter can easily wipe the entire enemy team even in late game
Unlike most Dota 2 support heroes, Witch Doctor packs quite a punch and can deal devastating damage during team fights, while being able to pick off heroes 1v1 as soon as he hits level 6. If you’re looking for a hero that can support without getting boring, then Witch Doctor is one of the best choices out there. Even if your carries are doing poorly, you can still make a big enough impact with your Death Ward to win team fights and secure the win.