Kael'thas: the fire mage notorious for his power spikes. Before the August patch, Kael'thas relied on reaching level 16 for the Ignite talent. Currently, Kael'thas is still considered a late game hero, but his power spike has shifted over to level 13 with his Chain Bomb talent. But what about the early game? What can Kael'thas actually offer to the team until he reaches full power? Do you just hope your team carries you to level 13 and you take the wheel from there? As you get matched with better players, you will notice that the effectiveness of Chain Bomb is mitigated by proper enemy positioning and spacing. What can you do to make sure that reaching level 13 is remains a power spike? This article will provide you with some tips and tricks for making Kael'thas as annoying as possible for your opponents.
Note: This article will use the following standard talent tree build for Kael'thas as a reference point.
Tip: Kael'thas' Phoenix can be used to chase down fleeing enemies since it deals damage along it's path to the destination point.
Early Game: Level 4 Mini Power Spike
The talent that is most commonly taken at level 4 for Kael'thas is Nether Wind. This increases the range and speed of Gravity Lapse by 30%. It doesn't sound like much, but level 4 is definitely a small power spike for Kael'thas. However, Nether Wind is not like Chain Bomb in that taking the talent will not suddenly boost your impact in team fights. Landing a Gravity Lapse on the wrong target or at the wrong moment will not help your team in any way. This section will provides some tips for maximizing what you can do with Gravity Lapse post level 4.
1. Combo Potential
The range on Gravity Lapse after you take Nether Wind is VERY long. In fact, in terms of basic abilities, the range is rivaled only by Tyrande's Lunar Flare and Anub'arak's Impale. Due to its long range, landing a Gravity Lapse is more than just a simple stun for your team, it gives your teammates the opportunity to close the distance so that they can follow up with their shorter range spells. For example, you could use your Verdant Spheres (Kael'thas' trait) to land a triple stun in order to set up a juicy combo for Kerrigan to jump on. The animation for Kerrigan's W+E combo is quite long and can sometimes be dodged with proper side stepping. With your stun, however, Kerrigan's combo is impossible to escape. Try to think of Gravity Lapse as a tool to set up kills for your teammates rather than just for yourself. All of this of course heavily depends on your knowledge of other heroes. The better you know your teammates' heroes, the more consistent you will be in setting up combos.
Immediately after a Devouring Maw is the perfect time to triple stun your enemies.
2. Positioning & Targeting
When throwing down a Gravity Lapse it's ideal to be flanking so that the enemy has little to no chance of dodging it. Being stunned when you have no idea where it's coming from can be pretty terrifying, especially for squishy enemy heroes. Also, throwing a Gravity Lapse through terrain and at an angle that is not in the enemy's line of sight gives your team the opportunity to combo unsuspecting heroes. If it's not safe to flank and you have to throw the Gravity Lapse straight onto the enemy's line of sight, try to cast it at maximum range. This will give yourself the space to be able to step behind your front liners if you miss the stun. In the meantime, while waiting for your Gravity Lapse to reset its cooldown, just hide behind allied heroes so you are not vulnerable to getting jumped. A Kael'thas without his Gravity Lapse can get blown up pretty quickly if the enemy team decides to target you.
Gravity lapse is also great for catching enemy heroes who think that they are safe behind their gate.
Who do you target with your Gravity Lapse? Do you always just go for the squishy hero in the back? The prime targets for Kael'thas' stun are heroes who have the tendency to overextend in order to do damage (e.g., The Butcher, Illidan, Sonya). Landing a stun right at the moment The Butcher is no longer Unstoppable as his Ruthless Onslaught charging run ends will mitigate any damage he can deal and will even put him at a dangerous position. Be patient with your stun. Someone will overextend, and that someone will get punished with your stun.
Soaking Yourself to Late Game:
This next point is short and straightforward, but very important: before turning “Super Saiyan” at level 13 you need to soak enough XP to get there. It is important that you are diligent in soaking XP instead of engaging in random skirmishes. This is especially important for Hero League games where your team will not exactly be completely coordinated. Is your team pointlessly chasing after a Johanna? Are there 4 people doing camps and 2 empty lanes? Then you should make the appropriate rotations and clear as many lanes as possible. Be active on the map and take over soaking for your team. You cannot control what your teammates do, but you can soak yourself to the late game.
Late Game: Using Tanks to Spread Your Fire
You've hit level 13, you now have your Chain Bomb talent, but you find yourself at a level disadvantage since your team struggled in the early game. In fact, your enemies are about to hit level 16 and they are knocking outside one of your keeps. It's time to make Chain Bomb do some work! Sometimes if the enemy team clumps up you can throw random Living Bombs at your enemies and just hope that they stay clumped up long enough so that it spreads to every enemy for a magical team wipe. However, this will not always be the case since good players will know that they should start spreading out as soon as Kael'thas hits level 13. Making use of tanks to spread your bombs is one trick to making sure your bombs always spread.
Muradin spreads the gift of fire onto his teammates.
Tanks are usually the ones who get the team fights started which means they have to charge in to engage. At the same time tanks will take take considerable amount of damage during team fights forcing them to retreat for a little while. It is during this small window that a tank is retreating that you should be timing your Living Bombs. Doing this forces the enemy tank to make a tough decision: stay a little longer so that the Living Bomb does not spread or retreat and risk spreading the bomb on the team. This is easier to do on certain retreating tanks than others. Tanks with quick escapes like Muradin's Dwarf Toss or Leoric's Wraith Walk tend to spread fire to their teammates if you can time it just right. For example, when Leoric is below ¾ of maximum health you can stun him with Gravity Lapse, quickly cast one small Flamestrike (save your Verdant Spheres trait for the upcoming Living Bomb) underneath him and one Living Bomb. By the time Leoric is no longer stunned he has to make the decision on whether or not he should Wraith Walk to escape. The escape speed on Leoric's Wraith Walk is faster than him just walking back which makes it harder for the enemy team to disperse. Once he reaches his teammates it is up to you if you want to force the explosion on the bomb by casting a second Living Bomb or just wait for the bomb ticks to finish before exploding. Casting a second Living Bomb to trigger the explosion will mean that you lose damage from the first bomb's ticks, but the spreading effect you get from the bomb is well worth it.
When to Pick Kael'thas: General Principles
We have gone through some tips for maximizing Kael'thas' potential from early game to late game. It is now time to go through general principles for when you should draft Kael'thas. These principles are not set in stone and your judgment based on what your team needs is still very much required when drafting. Rather these general principles are here to guide your thought process when thinking about drafting Kael'thas.
Map Size & Game Length
The smaller the map the easier it is for you to soak multiple lanes if your team is ever leaving lanes empty. This will make is a lot easier for you to reach level 13. When drafting Kael'thas you should also consider the likelihood that the game will get to the late game. If the enemy composition has powerful early game heroes (e.g., Kerrigan, Valla) it will be harder for you to get to the late game. Also consider how long the game will last. Matches on maps like Dragon Shrine and Garden of Terror tend to be longer which works in your favor in terms of getting to the late game.
Kael'thas can indeed do a lot of work for your team. However, this does not mean that you should just automatically lock in Kael'thas every time you queue up in Hero League. Kael'thas excels when he has a solid front line to hide behind, making double tank compositions very favorable for him. Also, in the late game Kael'thas' damage output is quite large making him stronger against Support heroes without a good burst heal. Even if your Living Bombs do not kill enemy heroes, it will put the enemies at a low enough health such they will no longer be able to continue the fight without access to burst heal. Another strength of Kael'thas is against heroes who have targetable spawns like Anub'arak's beetles or Nazeebo's zombies. These spawns can aid you in spreading your bombs on the enemy team. On the other hand, Kael'thas can be weaker against enemy team compositions that can dive and burst down him down in the early game making it very difficult to reach the late game. Below are a few heroes to keep in mind when drafting Kael'thas.
As you get better with Kael'thas it will become evident to you that positioning is vital in order to make him effective. For example, you need to be there when the enemy team is passing through a choke point. Capitalizing on opportunities to spread Living Bombs on clumped up enemy heroes can lead to massive team wipes. Aside from making Kael'thas effective, positioning is also key to making sure you stay alive, if not at least making it very difficult for your enemies to take you down. If your spells are on cooldown, there is no need to be on the front line. As Kael'thas, there is no need to get off every single basic attack possible. Just get in a better position and make it hard for your enemies to get to you. Kael'thas is annoying enough as is with his Chain Bomb, there is no need to risk dying by overextending with basic attacks. This is also why Arcane Barrier is often taken in favor of Backdraft at level 16 in the competitive scene. Arcane Barrier is just another tool for Kael'thas to survive. A Kael'thas that is not targeted and allowed to use up all his mana during a team fight will wreck havoc on the enemy team.
Thank you for reading StormLegacy's hero gameplay guide, we hope this information helps make you the best fire mage in the Nexus.