Playing Mages in the Duo Lane
Sat 6th Jul 2019 - 12:49pm
Mages have been rising in popularity in the duo lane in the Smite Pro League. The weeks leading up to the Mid-Season Invitational saw Chronos and Freya become highly prioritized. While these Mages have been played in the Hunter, or carry, position since beta, there has been a recent swell of them in the professional scene. In this article, we will examine why basic attack Mage have stormed the duo lane in the professional scene.
In the SPL, the duo lane is often left alone for most of the early-to-mid game. The Hunter position is allowed to farm up several items without splitting too much experience. This allows them to get levels quickly and shred through enemies and objectives in the mid-to-late game. In addition to normal Hunters, select Mages are thriving in this environment. Freya and Chronos are the primary Mages playing played in the carry role. Both characters are popular in the SPL and are prized picks for the long lane.
Even if the duo lane is a true duo lane at the start of the game, eventually the support will roam and leave their "Hunter" alone at get solo experience. During this period, characters that can safely farm or win duels are strong. Laning alone makes one vulnerable to ganks, so you have to be aware and ward or you might be repeatedly ganked and fall behind. Losing the 1v1 is also detrimental, as getting solo-killed means your opponent will have a large lead when you return to lane. However, if you survive or get the kills yourself, you will be in a great position to carry in the late game.
Right now, double Hunter compositions are prized in the SPL, but compositions with a Hunter and basic attack-focused Mage are valued as well. Teams with one Hunter and one Mage are powerful because it diversifies the team’s damage profile and makes it difficult to defensively itemize against them. Many Hunters thrive in the mid lane, Ah Muzen Cab being the most popular at the moment. Hunters are usually able to out box and pressure traditional Mages, making the mid lane a pressure point on the map. Whether to put the Mage or Hunter in the duo lane depends on player preferences and matchups.
Mages like Freya can Chronos can play in the long lane and still have a Mage in the mid lane, but this puts heavy emphasis on Magical damage. While not ideal, Magical Hunters can still win without much physical damage on their team, but they might have to work hard to chew through the additional protections enemies should be building. Demonic Grip and Spear of the Magus do a lot of work in making this type of composition work.
The Enhanced Fire Giant is a big objective in Smite. The buff is powerful and the boss is hard to kill. Teams have started to buy the Belt of Frenzy to quickly take out the jungle objectives. This Relic increases a team’s damage, attack speed, and penetration. If you know you are going to pick up a Belt of Frenzy, you might as well draft gods that benefit from all the stats it provides. Two Hunter or Hunter-like characters already do a good job of killing the Fire Giant, and Belt of Frenzy just makes it easier to nuke the objective and obtain the buff. Belt of Frenzy is also great in team fights, where your basic attackers melt anyone in front of them.
In terms of itemization, the duo lane Mages start with a Hunter’s Blessing for strong basic attack trading and mana sustain. Once the Blessing upgrades, it provides attack speed, a stat these characters love. Dynasty Plate Helm is key in the matchup against Aggressive Hunters. The item provides some power, physical defense, and penetration, all for just 1700 gold. Dynasty Plate Helm allows the likes of Freya and Chronos to trade very favorably in the early game, simultaneously reducing incoming damage and boosting their own attacks. Physical defense is also nice when an Assassin or Warrior try to gank and disrupt the Mage.
The Emerald Ring tree is very popular on magical Hunters. Movement speed is a strong stat in Smite and it is on all of the Rings. Demonic Grip in particular is powerful. It is a couple hundred gold cheaper than the Hunter staple Executioner for a similar effect. Hastened and Telkhine's Rings are also often picked up by the basic attack Mages.
Belt of Frenzy and Ring items empower Magical Hunters
Freya is a monster. She is the second most-contested god over the first half of the SPL season, even showing up more often than King Arthur. This is after being largely ignored in the middle of the phase. Freya was also the second most-contested god in the last week of the SPL, meaning she is still highly valued. Freya has an amazing early game. She has the best wave clear at level one with Aurora Blade cleaving the entire wave. If the enemy is positioned poorly, they will also take a lot of damage. This is amplified at level two, where a combination of Aurora Blade and Northern Lights blasts through creeps and gods alike. Freya can use her great push to clear waves and then invade the jungle.
Freya also brings her own set up. If she lands a Banish, there is a good chance she will get a few amplified basic attacks off. If enemies get away with low health, Valkyrie’s Discretion can clean up the kill. Freya’s Ultimate can also be used to get out of sticky situations if she gets too aggressive.
Even with an insane early game, Freya’s late game is devastating. Her gumball shots deal a lot of damage and she gains good mobility during Hastening Ring windows. Freya deals a ton of damage with her basic attacks and attack speed boosts in the form of Belt of Frenzy, Coerce, and Shogun’s Kusari help her get her insane damage off quicker. Freya does not need these outside buffs to be great, because she can duel on her own from the very start of the game and wins most extended engagements. Her turn around ability is fantastic as Banish and Valkyrie’s Discretion can give Freya enough time to get her Northern Lights attacks back, if they don’t allow her to kill her target out right. Freya is unstoppable in the right hands and will dominate the Mid-Season Invitational meta.
Freya is a terror in the early and late game stages of a match.
Chronos is another popular Mage in the Hunter position. Chronos is well known for scaling into the late game and players are even buying Warlock’s Staff to farm the lane. Pythagorem’s Piece is another item that is becoming popular to build early on Chronos. Pythagorem’s Piece has low power, but provides health, lifesteal, and cooldown reduction, stats that help Chronos win his 1v1 in lane. The item also has a beneficial aura that helps out when Chronos rotates or receives a gank.
At full build, Chronos is able to destroy towers faster than any other god, but he has a sneaky strong early game. Stop Time gives Chronos kill pressure at level two. The stun allows Chronos to land a Time Rift and several basics. If Chronos is already trading favorably, this can be enough damage to finish off someone if they aren’t using their Purification Beads correctly.
Later in the game, Chronos does a lot of damage with his basic attacks and spells. Time Rift is hard to hit, but will take off massive chunks of health when it connects. Stop Time is a large teamfight spell that can force Relics or scramble enemies around the fight. These abilities force Chronos to get pretty close to his foes, but Rewind means Chronos can get out of dangerous situations.
Chronos was the second most banned god in week 13 of the SPL and won all the games he was played in that week. In addition to the Hunter role, Chronos is also great in the mid lane. He builds the same and is still terrifying to fight. He may get pushed in by other Mages, but his strong basic attacks and kit allow him to fight gods very well. Wherever he is played, Chronos loves fighting and can snowball games when given a lead. If Chronos is put behind, he is still a ticking time bomb and will destroy players and objectives once he hits a critical mass.
Chronos can chew through a team if given enough time.
Sol is a distant third choice when you want to play a Magical Hunter. Sol still uses Hunter’s Blessing and hits very hard throughout the game. Sol is the most Mage-like of the trio, as her ultimate, Supernova, can one-shot enemies in the late game. Sol does incredible DPS, especially after ramping up her passive steroid, but she isn’t as prioritized as Freya or Chronos. Sol lacks hard CC to set up kills for herself and needs to be in a fight for a while before she unlocks her full potential. Sol has strong wave clear and can pressure or zone enemies in the lane, but she is less likely to score solo kills. Sol is still a great pick if you want to play a magical carry, but lacks the raw power of Freya and Chronos.
Sol is the most mage-like of the magical Hunters.
Besides magical Hunters, other types of Mages can be played in the duo lane. These characters do not build like Hunters, but instead usually employ traditional Mage builds. Usually these Mages are played in the long lane to just farm up for the late game. They are also great partners with Hunter mids to keep a team’s damage profile diverse. Even without two attack speed carries, having a major damage dealer from each damage type is important to keep your opponents from stacking one type of protection and shutting down your team.
The Morrigan is a flexible character and has been played in three positions already this year in the SPL. One of these roles was as the long lane carry of the team. Between Dark Omen and her passive, The Morrigan has great wave clear and even out shoves the likes of Hachiman. After reaching level 5, Morrigan is good at 1v1s because she can stun from stealth, place a Dark Omen, then use the kit of another god, proccing the Dark Omen and dishing out another character worth of damage. The Morrigan is good in both the mid and long lanes, where to put her depends on player preference and god matchups. A Hunter in the mid lane can pressure and kill most Mages early, allowing The Morrigan to farm up in the duo side of the map. Once she gets to the late game, The Morrigan is very scary and can 1-shot an unsuspecting squishy and still have her Changeling transformation ready to go.
Over the last couple of seasons, Nu Wa has been viable pick in the long lane. Nu Wa has a weak early game and can be pressured, but her range allows her to clear minions from a safe distance. Nu Wa is pretty safe under tower because she has CC to lock a diver down and can ascend to the sky for a few seconds to avoid damage. Nu Wa deals a lot of damage in the late game, especially with Fire Shards. This ability also allows her to influence fights and get assists while away from the action. If Nu Wa is allowed to accumulate items without much intervention, she can prove hard to deal with in the mid to late game.
Merlin is another Mage that has been seeing occasional play in the duo lane. In competitive games, Merlin is mostly banned, but when he is allowed through, he is usually played in the mid lane. A few players have brought the master sorcerer into the long lane. Merlin doesn’t have the best early game among Mages, but once he buys a few items, he can rip through teams with ease. With the duo lane being mostly ignored in the SPL and the carry able to just sit and farm, Merlin is able to quietly farm up and then unleash havoc.
More Mages can be played in the duo lane, but most struggle against Hunters. Part of the reason that Hunters are strong in the mid lane is that they can clear the wave early and favorably trade auto attacks against Mages. This is true in the duo lane as well. Mages that can't take early 1v1s against Hunters or safely clear under tower should not be played in the duo lane unless you are feeling adventurous.
Other Mages that want to farm up for the late game can be played in the duo lane.
Olorun is the newest God in Smite. He is a Mage that is designed to play like a Hunter and his passive allows his basic attacks to be critical strikes. The higher Olorun’s power, the greater his chance to crit. Olorun also has utility abilities and a very unique ultimate that dilates time. As time goes on, we will see what Olorun is capable of and how he fits into the battleground of the gods.
Olorun is the newest god in Smite and is designed to be a Magical Hunter with lots of utility.
With magical Hunters starting to dominate the pro meta, how do you play against them? They are still squishy Mages that just want to solo farm a lane, so don’t let them. Leaving your Hunter alone with a Freya or Chronos is not the best idea. Ganking them with the support or jungler can put their plans behind. Many Hunters can carry just as hard as a magical carry, so getting them ahead is a great game plan. However, all magical Hunters can turn around 1v2 situations, so you have to be mindful of their cooldowns or they will accelerate their game plans and steamroll the late game.
Magical basic attackers are largely single target based, so loosely grouping around them and focusing them down can win team fights. These characters can be bursted, but all have ways to get out of trouble, so they need to be killed instantly or they will come back. Assassins can pick them off at the side of a fight, but trying to kill a Freya or Chronos by yourself is always scary.
Anti-attack speed itemization is also very useful against the magical Hunters. Items such as Witchblade and Frostbound Hammer can slow down their DPS and Relics such as Horrific Emblem, upgraded Shell, and Thorns also mitigate their attacks.
However, while items like Midgardian Mail and Hide of the Nemean Lion provide defense and passives that work against Hunters, they have trouble mitigating the damage of Freya and Chronos. Investing a magical defense item in addition to these defensive options helps a tank’s survivability. It does take two item slots to counter build a magical carry, but you should be building magical defense against a Mage anyway.
Several items can reduce the basic attack DPS of magical carries.
In the Smite Pro League, Mages have become popular choices for the Hunter position. The long lane is often ignored in these games and Mages can just farm up until they make impacts in fights. The most common duo lane Mages, Freya and Chronos, have play styles similar to Hunters and can abuse items such as Demonic Grip and Celestial Legion Helm in the matchup. These characters have solo kill potential even in the early game, but hyper carry come the late game. Basic attack Mages can be fought with early aggression and counter itemization. Some normal Mages can also be played in the duo lane with the intention of farming up for the late game. With the Mid-Season Invitational approaching, we will see how the tournament meta evolves with and around these magical carries.
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