A Comprehensive Guide to Mages in the Duo Lane with Ataraxia
Sat 31st Aug 2019 - 12:54pm
Because of the current meta in the duo lane, more and more Mages are appearing in the long lane, with ADCs getting plenty of time alone and an opportunity to get plenty of solo farm. This has led to Mages being picked up in the role and spending plenty of time becoming hypercarries in the mid-to-late game as they come in a few levels above everyone. With the meta shifting and more of these Mages appearing in the duo lane, we took the chance to speak to Dignitas’ hunter Nathaniel "Ataraxia" Mark about what you need to do to get the most out of Mages in the long lane.
Who to Pick
Just because Mages are strong in the duo lane doesn’t mean you can play any there and it’ll work. You still have to look at who the strongest picks are and how you can best utilise them. Just because the role is preferred in the duo lane doesn’t mean that every Mage is a better pick up in the duo lane. So, who are the top Mages that you should look to bring into the duo lane?
Ataraxia says, “The Mages you'll want to be bringing out are those which have pretty solid 1v1s, particularly into Hunters and other Mages. More importantly you need to be a resilient character who is hard to kill so that you deter that pesky jungler from ganking you. Mages like Chronos, Zhong Kui, Merlin, and Thoth are all solid choices.” We also asked what makes them strong in the role, “They're all pretty versatile and can be picked into most matchups you can expect to face off in the 1v1. Furthermore, they're all very potent late game and as such will utilise all that solo farm you're getting.”
Gods that can either play safe and clear safely to deter a jungler from coming over are favoured in the duo lane. All the Mages Ataraxia mentions will deter a jungler from showing their face and try to gank you as they will waste too much time and resources for a kill on you that they might not see it as worth it.
Chronos is hands down one of the best picks, and with the changes to the magical attack speed items, it doesn’t look like this will change. He can provide plenty in the role and is by far one of the safest options on this list with the stun on his three and his ultimate allowing him to reposition and get out or turn the tides of a fight. Chronos, once he gets rolling, can be a bully in lane and will look to push a lead early so he can transition into the late game effectively. From there, he pretty much is the hypercarry that your team has always wanted.
Chronos' survivability is what makes him one of the top mages for duo
Another that Ataraxia mentioned was Zhong Kui, we’ve already seen how strong Zhong is in the SPL and it looks like he has found a new home in the duo lane. The biggest benefit to Zhong in solo is he a tanky boy and because he’ll be left alone to farm, he will have the sustain and the tankiness to survive any gank attempt while still pumping out plenty of damage to turn the fight around. It isn’t like Zhong hasn’t been doing this before. With him doing similar jobs in mid and solo, we’ve seen how strong the demon queller really is. The difference now is he’ll be joining the fight later with a greater level advantage and a ton of damage.
Zhong has been a great pick up because of how tanky and hard to kill he is
The last two that Ataraxia mentions are Merlin and Thoth. Both have huge amount of damage and can be great carries in the mid-to-late game. Merlin is still favoured more than Thoth due to the damage output that he can do. I mean with three stances and a massive amount of damage in the late game, it is understandable as to why Merlin is favoured as an ADC. For the 1v1 laning phase, Merlin has enough damage to clear the wave and can stance change to either kill or poke out the enemy laner and, if it gets too heated for Merlin, the blink he has is probably the best escape in the game right now. Yes, it’s short range, but it's enough to get you repositioned and out of a dangerous situation. Thoth doesn’t provide as much of this as Merlin does but he can be safer because of his 2-3 combo.
It can get you out of really tight situations if it doesn’t get interrupted. He also provides great objective secure and burst damage with his ultimate, which is something you really can’t overlook when Thoth is near an objective. He does become a target, though, because of this secure. His ult also is a great tool in 1v1 fights in the early-to-mid game. With the range on the ability, even if someone might be slightly out of range for normal Mages, Thoth’s ult can probably kill them as their trying to escape.
Merlin and Thoth both bring high damage and can stay relatively safe in lane
What to Avoid
As always in Smite, there are weaknesses and ways to counter these picks because of how adaptive and sometimes chaotic the meta can be. This means you need to constantly be aware of what is going on and what can prevent you from doing the fun things your god can do. This isn’t something to panic over. We have got you covered, as like most of our guides, we've look at the parts you need to be aware of while playing these gods and other Mages in the duo lane.
Ataraxia mentions, “All of these Mages are extremely vulnerable to ganks before they get their first item online and start developing that natural XP lead you gain in duo over the rest of the map. Playing cautious and safe until you organically develop a lead is the best way to mitigate this. Furthermore, they can all take a spill to an aggressive Hunter like Anhur or Ullr in the early game. Eventually you'll win that 1v1, but until you reach 3 items the ball is definitely in their court.”
So first big tip is to stay safe. We don’t care if you're constantly clearing wave at your tower line just so you can get a few items online. Just play safe. You might not gain a lead over your lane opponent for a while. but you’re playing for the late game fame so just hold fire for a bit. If you are lucky enough to get a pick, obviously don’t say no to it, but just be aware of how exposed you are. Once you have the first few items, you can start putting pressure on the enemy Hunter as you’re now out of the worst part of your laning phase and can start looking to gain control of the lane like that.
The Mage needs to make sure they survive the early game so they may be spending a lot of time close to their tower
Currently the best way to counter Mages in the duo lane is to pick a super aggressive Hunter to put them under constant pressure and, like Ataraxia said, until you get your third item you’re going to have a rough time. That is unless they farm you and gain a huge lead over you. This made us wonder who the best Hunters are to counter Mages in the duo lane?
Ataraxia advises, “Anhur and Ullr are the best picks to run the game early. Skadi and Cernunnos can absolutely do well into certain matchups, too.” Ataraxia then adds, “Due to the nature of the gods, Anhur and Ullr can always out-skill an enemy and win a 1v1 in the early game so be on the look out for players who can utilise those gods to their full potential. Furthermore, there are a few Sssassins who could give you a run for your money.”
Anhur and Ullr are the obvious two currently, as they can fight from minute zero. Anhur has the highest base damage of any Hunter and has probably one of the best early games out of any Hunter, which means he can control the lane easily over a Mage. If Anhur gets a few early kills over you and gains plenty of levels over you, there is very little you can do other then try to catch up in farm. All you really can do is look to stay safe, avoid the Impale, and bide your time. This is a similar case with Ullr. He has a bit more range and control that can lock you down early, with his combo being potent from level two and him having the chase down potential he can make lane hell for any Mage that wants to be in the duo lane.
Both Ullr and Anhur can bully Mages early in the lane, so play safe against these two
The other two Ataraxia mentioned were Skadi and Cernunnos. Both are strong picks in the Hunter role currently and can provide a lot early and late for their teams, but as far as keeping a Mage behind early, you’ll have to make sure you are against a Mage that is easy to lock down. Skadi can do this with her three and Kaldr and her ult combo. She has the ability to constantly poke out the mage with Kaldr early so she can dominate lane early and, against easy-to-lockdown Mages, she will have a field day. Cernunnos also has this lockdown potential. With the CC on his 2 and his ult, he can look to follow up on fleeing enemies. Add in the mechanics of his 1, and he can box nearly any Mage that tries to step to him, on top of either being able to chase or escape with his dash. With Cern being stronger in close range, he does need to be careful against some Mages as they can keep him at max range of their abilities while controlling the area around them.
Both Skadi and Cern are strong lane bullies, and against certain Mages, they can dominate them in the lane
We mentioned that you need to survive the early game till you can get a few items online. Now these can’t just be any items, as some are higher priority and provide a lot more for a Mage in the duo lane.
Ataraxia mentions, “You can't go wrong with either CDR boots, Dynasty Plate Helm, and Pythag's or CDR boots, Book of Thoth, and Breastplate of Valor as core builds to make you a menace against any physicals. If you're against another mage, consider dropping the physical protection item unless you're particularly afraid of their jungler or they're running a heavy physical line-up.”
With mages being squishy targets early, this can leave them open and vulnerable, which is why looking into physical protections early is so important for a Mage in the duo lane. This is, of course, if you are laning against a Hunter or they have plenty of physical in their team comp, as you will need to try and survive while still dishing out plenty of damage. Dynasty Plate Helm has been a great item for Mages but with the slight decrease in protections and power in the most recent patch, it might not be fully worth it with every Mage in duo. But that’s why Breastplate is there for you to pick up! Both items do similar jobs, but one isn’t better suited in every situation compared to the other. In one game Dynasty would be a better pick up, in another Breastplate would be. You just need to know which is best for the situation you find yourself in.
Both Dynasty and Breastplate provide great protections to survive lane
Ataraxia also mentioned the value of CDR boots, with mages it has always been a question of which boot is better, but it has always been dependent of the job of the Mage. With pen boots being the better option for burst Mages as the early pen helps them amplify their damage. But CDR boots are viable more for Mages with high cooldowns and plenty of spread-out damage. You can still take pen boots on these gods if you want to try and force the situation early, but CDR is better for a Mage in the duo lane as you’ll be looking to make sure you clear those waves as quickly as possible and with lower cooldowns it allows you to do that and still poke out the enemy ADC.
CDR boots allow you to clear wave and poke a lot more often
The problem with stacking items for mages is getting the stacks. Think about it! With 3 of you in the mid lane pinching farm off each other, there is a lower chance of you getting that last hit. It’s why items like Book of Thoth have fallen out of favour in the mid lane. With Mages coming into the duo lane, it has opened up the opportunity for these items to shine again and allow you to get the stacks on them earlier. For the Book of Thoth, with the power and the mana it provides, it gives you plenty of damage for poke and clear on top of having the mana to cast more abilities, which is always a plus in the duo lane.
Book does require you focus on farming while you stack so makes sense to get it while you're farming duo lane
Hunters vs Mages
What does this mean for traditional Hunters? Will they be getting shoved out of their role and have to find a new home in other lanes? Not necessarily! We’ve already mentioned how strong the likes of Anhur and Ullr are in the duo lane against Mages, but is there anything else you need to be aware of if you want to stick with a traditional Hunter pick?
Ataraxia mentions, “Hunters are absolutely viable. Aggressive Hunters can still punish the greedy Mage picks but you're on a strict timer. If you're playing a traditional 2v2 duo lane, picking a Hunter will almost always be the more reliable choice over picking a Mage.”
Anhur and Ullr excel in the early game and are the highlight two for aggressive Hunters. They are the main ones that can punish Mages, but you do have to stop them early and keep them down for pretty much the entire game. Otherwise, they will just have more impact in the late game.
Otherwise, Hunters are still a much better option in the duo lane then a mage in 2v2 lanes. Because Hunters have more damage in their basics, they can provide a lot in 2v2s as a mage’s DPS is far lower than a Hunter because of their cooldowns. You also have to watch out with if your support leaves you exposed as a Mage, because there is a high chance the enemy duo will just focus you, as you are a squishy and easy target. This will mean you're walking around the entire game with a massive target on your back.
Sometimes its best to stick to what you know, Hunter and support in the long lane (well at least one is)
The main reasoning behind the Mages showing themselves in the duo lane is because of the potential of plenty of solo farm, if you get left alone for long periods of the game.
Ataraxia explains, “Mages have been in a stronger late game spot than Hunters for some time now, and as such it makes sense to see the swap. Leave the boring tower hitting duty to your mid laner, you're the real carry now.”
With Mages having a stronger late game currently than Hunters, it means that they can sit in lane for most of the game and farm to their heart's content. The ADC and mid roles have pretty much switched. Like Ataraxia, said the mid now has to focus more on the towers while you get to have the fun of doing all the damage. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have an important part in the sieging process, though. Instead of you sitting there focusing on a phoenix or tower, you have a different responsibility.
With the amount of time alone in duo, Mages are susceptible to getting dove on
Ataraxia mentions, “Almost all of the Mages in the game bring something that is useful in a sieging situation, whether you're on the offensive or defensive, so this isn't anything to worry about.”
Each mage brings an important responsibility to sieging and will always have a job to do during this process. While a Hunter's job is to just get the objective, it is more important for a mage to focus on dishing out all the damage to the enemy team, while trying to help the hunter get the objective quickly.
With Mages having a tough time early and being late game carries, it makes sense for them to be over in the duo lane as they can spend plenty of the game getting as much farm as possible to become that late game bully. Surviving the early phase is your biggest priority, as you can’t find yourself falling behind in XP and gold. Otherwise it becomes a really tough task you have to get out of.
Ataraxia says, “In a traditional 2v2, you're going to have a tough time early if you're playing a Mage. High clear supports can help mitigate this so you can spend more time farming and less time brawling until you're online.”
With the wave clear from your support, you can focus on getting those waves easier and start to get yourself out of that rough early game sooner rather than later. Yes, ideally, you want to be alone from minute one but in situations where the support needs to start in duo, it makes sense for them to bring a god with high wave clear that can assist you in staying as close to the enemy ADC in terms of farm.
Supports like Khepri have great wave clear to help you early on and can help you get out of tight situations
Your biggest responsibility as a Mage in the duo lane is getting farm. Literally do nothing else but farm and stay safe until you hit your power spike. It can be a boring early phase, but it will be worth it.
Ataraxia explains, “[You have to] Follow up on crowd control and deal some big damage. Your team has (hopefully) been keeping your enemies at bay and in a stalemate while you've been playing farming simulator over in the duo lane. It's time to repay your debt and carry some teamfights. Play it smart, but make sure you're looking for opportunities to abuse your lead and give your team the edge.”
When it comes to teamfights, you need to look at punishing while still playing safe. If your team has been able to keep it even across the map, you’ll have a great time coming in and doing all the damage. All those waves of farming and staying safe while you fight over control in the duo lane you can reward your team's patience with an ace in the hole during a teamfight.
Hopefully this guide will help you play those mages in the duo lane and use them effectively in the mid to late game.