Dungeons and DotA: Creating Axe

Axe is a melee Strength hero whose roles are Initiator/Durable/Disabler/Jungler. Despite this range of roles, his abilities are simple: kill things, bring more things to kill, and then kill them more. Mogul Khan is more than an axe-wielding maniac: he’s the axe-wielding maniac. When his superiors said he wasn’t axe-wieldy enough, he killed them and took their place. Over and over again. Now, Mogul Khan is the only member left in his army, meaning it’ll finally be a somewhat fair fight for whatever army he decides to take on next. Axe respects honor and authority, but only if someone is strong enough to maintain either (his previous leaders clearly weren’t). For this reason, Axe falls into Lawful Evil (or Neutral Evil, considering willingness to kill authorities).

Before I continue praising the power of Axe, let’s see how he does what he does.

Axe’s first ability is Berserker’s Call. This shout forces nearby creeps to attack him and gives him bonus armor, allowing for great crowd management.

Axe’s next ability is Battle Hunger. Axe’s bloodthirst is contagious, and marked enemies are slowed and take damage until they kill another unit. For every unit suffering from Battle Hunger, Axe gains movement speed.

The third ability is Counter Helix. Axe has a chance to retaliate when hit, dealing damage to nearby units.

Axe’s ultimate ability is Culling Blade. With this single blow, Axe insta-kills targets below a certain HP threshold or deals massive damage assuming they survive. The cooldown for this is reset if it kills.

These skills have a certain level of nuance unobtainable in DnD 5e. However, the bulk of them are not only replicable, but easily so. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the most straight forward Dungeons and DotA guide yet: Axe.

Race

Technically it seems that Axe is an Oglodi, along with Disruptor and Warlock, but for DnD Axe is a hobgoblin. Just look at him. The Saving Face feature that Hobgoblins get will also help us later. Finally, an easy selection for race!

Hobgoblin from DnD (left) and Oglodi from DotA 2 (right)

Class

We’re going to go 3 levels into Champion Fighter and 17 levels into Berserker Barbarian for this build. As always, break these up however you see fit. Personally, I take the fighter levels early on because every bonus we’ll get from these will be a lasting help.

It is important to mention that you could theoretically just go all levels into Barbarian for the same effect (kind of). In my mind, this choice just doesn’t make the cut. While Primal Champion is one of the best capstone abilities, going this route gets us further from a mechanically accurate recreation than I’d like.

Fighter

Fighter is a great choice for Axe in many ways, mostly mechanically speaking. At fighter level 1, we get a fighting style, which is already a great opportunity to maximize ourselves to un-axe-ceptable levels. You’re going to want to select the Great Weapon Fighting fighting style. With this, you can reroll 1s and 2s made on the damage dice for a two handed or versatile weapon. Another bonus at level one is Second Wind for a little extra tankiness.

Level 2 gives the infamous Action Surge (no, DM, that is not the end of my turn) and level 3 gives our subclass bonus. By going Champion Fighter, we get Improved Critical, making our attacks crit on a 19 or 20. Some of you might see where this ends up…

Barbarian

We’re sticking in Barbarian for a long time, so I’ll only cover some of the features. Barbarian level 1 gives us Rage and Unarmored Defense. Both of these are going to be important parts of recreating Mogul Khan. Rage provides us with physical damage resistance (like the bonus armor received from Berserker’s Call). Unarmored Defense, on the other hand, is just a lore-friendly depiction of Axe.

Axe’s anger is par for the course when it comes to Barbarians.

We choose the Berserker subclass at Barbarian level 3 for obvious lore reasons. Truth be told, the greatest benefit this gives us isn’t seen until level 14. While Frenzy is a cool ability, Intimidating Presence at 10th level is literally the opposite of Berserker’s Call. We endure such disappointments for the 14th level feature Retaliation, allowing our Axe to perform a melee attack against creatures that hit us while within 5 feet of us. This lacks the AOE of DotA 2’s Counter Helix for now, but is otherwise a good fit.

By Barbarian level 5, we also get Fast Movement. This small buff to non-heavy-armored move speed is going to be our replacement for Battle Hunger. Sadly, there’s no class feature or spell that is within easy access to emulate all the effects of Battle Hunger.

The recreation of Culling Blade, Mogul Khan’s signature ultimate ability, comes in multiple stages (just like in DotA 2!). If you haven’t already guessed, instead of a class feature being Axe’s ultimate, it will just be a critical melee attack. With 3 levels for Champion Fighter, we currently crit on a 19 or 20; a 10% chance for our attack to deal double damage (by way of rolling another damage dice).

Once we hit level 9 Barbarian, we deal an additional damage die with our weapon when we crit, so two initial damage dice plus another die. This increases again at 13th level and 17th level. If you want to see the theoretical single-attack damage output from rolling a 19 or 20, skip down to the section after Abilities Scores titled ‘The Culling Blade.’

Equipment

Mogul Khan does not need armor (though you could pick it up, it isn’t quite lore-accurate: choose medium armor if you choose any at all). He does not need potions. All he needs is a great axe. While it is not recommended, you technically don’t even need friends to use this build. There is no team in Axe.

Feats

As is usual, melee builds make great use of feats to keep up with magic users. Axe is no exception, really. By splitting our levels 17/3, we only get 4 Ability Score Improvements to make use of feats. Additionally, if you put 3 levels into fighter first, you get your first Ability Score Improvement at character level 7. So, there is a trade off that makes this build shine later than others.

The first feat I recommend for making Axe is Martial Adept. This feat allows us to choose a two Battle Master maneuvers with a d6 superiority die. The first Battle Master maneuver we’ll be choosing is Goading Attack. Successful use of this maneuver gives disadvantage to a single target attempting to attack anyone other than you. This is our Berserker’s Call. While it doesn’t allow for taunting multiple units, creeps aren’t much of a thing in DnD 5e. The additional once-per-short-rest limitation is expected of DnD features.

The second maneuver we will take is Sweeping Attack. This allows us to, when we hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, attempt to hit another creature within 5 feet of the first. The beauty of this is that Berserker Barbarian’s Retaliation allows us to make a melee weapon attack. This means that, when hit, you can choose to do a sweeping Retaliation attack – just like Axe!

Is it dangerous to 360-spin an axe? Yes. Does Axe care? No.

The second and final feat I recommend is Great Weapon Master. The option to take -5 to hit for +10 damage is pretty great, if I do say so myself. And if this -5 makes you miss, you can use Hobgoblin’s Saving Face feature to add up to 5 to your roll. The additional synergy it provides with allowing for a bonus attack after kills and crits is also helpful. This allows us to not have to Frenzy every time we rage without losing the Frenzy benefit. Additionally, this attack-after-crit can be seen as Culling Blade’s cooldown reduction.

Ability Scores

As a Barbarian, you really need just high Strength and high Constitution. If you are going for unarmored defense, consider Dexterity as your next highest score.

The Culling Blade

For this example, let us assume that our Axe is a level 20 Barbarian/Fighter multiclass, as is discussed above. With 20 Strength and the above feats, here’s what our Culling Blade looks like.

Combat begins and, like usual, you rage. You don’t, however, choose to go into a frenzy. On your turn, you make your way over to some foolishly confident warrior and decide to attack using Great Weapon Master to deal +10 damage. You can choose make this a reckless attack for advantage.

If you attack twice and hit twice, you’ll deal 1d12 + 19 damage per attack, rerolling 1s and 2s once. If you attack twice and only hit once, but that hit is a crit, you’re damage is still very high. It doesn’t matter that you chose a -5 to hit, a 19 or 20 is a critical hit and always hits, regardless of modifiers.

For the critical hit, you’ll deal 1d12 + 19 damage from the initial attack, then an additional 3d12 damage from the crit. Every one of these d12 can be rerolled if they land on a one or a two. That’s 4d12 + 19 damage – and you get to attack again as a bonus action for landing a critical hit. The average damage of this single attack, without considering rerolls, is 45 damage. 10% of the time when you attack, this is your average damage.

If you were to get absurdly lucky and attack 3 times, critically hitting twice (a 1% chance), you’d get an average of 90 damage in a single round of attacks, again, not counting rerolled 1s and 2s. After this, you can use Action Surge.

Culling Blade when it insta-kills (left) compared to when it injures (right)

It isn’t that dealing this much damage is unreasonable or even unusual, but that it is reliable. By using Frenzy and Reckless Attack, you can seriously increase your chances of landing a critical hit over the course of a battle: no spell slots, no components, just Axe.

I really enjoyed the relative simplicity of this build and it’s definitely one of my favorite character conversions. Finally we have a DnDotA build that can recreate a hero without extensive reflavoring – how nice! If you found any glaring issues in this article or had any ideas for recreating Axe of your own, put them down in the comments below. And as always, from the Red Mist, Axe returns!

This concludes all the heroes whose names start with A! Find the rest here:

Abaddon
Alchemist
Ancient Apparition
Anti-Mage
Arc Warden

Additionally, consider dropping by for our podcast at 2:00pm EST every Friday on twitch.tv/heavyshelf for a conversation on what’s big each week in gaming.

Dungeons and DotA: Creating Arc Warden

Creating Arc Warden

Arc Warden: He’s Electric (boogy woogy woogy woogy).

Arc Warden is a ranged Agility hero whose roles are Carry/Escape/Nuker. His abilities combine micromanagement, debuffs, and high damage to control the enemy in a myriad of ways. Being a sort of avatar for one of the supreme primordial aspects of the universe, Arc Warden (or ‘Zet’) is concerned with nothing more than saving all of existence. Ya’ know, real casual stuff. Dire and Radiant are going to end the world, and it’s up to Arc Warden to stop it. With this greater-good philosophy, and being a literal warden to retain the structure of the universe, Arc Warden has the distinction of being the first ever Lawful Good hero to be converted to DnD 5e!

As always, lets first do a rundown of what Arc Warden is capable of.

Arc Warden’s first ability is Flux, a ranged attack that slows and damages targets but is less effective if the target is around other enemies.

His next ability is Magnetic Field, a protective barrier for allies.

The third ability is Spark Wraith, which summons a little dude who patrols an area for an enemy and gives them a slowing zap when he finds them.

Arc Warden’s ultimate is Tempest Double. With this, he creates a copy of himself with its own item (and ability) cooldowns.

When I first looked at this ability spread, I was worried that Arc Warden would be the first character I couldn’t truthfully recreate in DnD 5e. With some more research I found a way to replicate most of his abilities, though it is excessively clunky. So prepare to reflavor some stuff, but don’t be too worried: Zet is here to save the universe!

Race

DnD 5e is seriously lacking in “shattered remnant of primordial energy” races, so just go Warforged. Envoy works, but so does Skirmisher, so either subrace will be okay. Technically, Envoy gives freedom in ability score increases that will be helpful for this build, but I prefer the relative lore accuracy of a skirmisher.

Class

Unlike with past articles, the class of Arc Warden is best not dwelt on too much. For this build, you’ll be taking 2 levels into Great Old One Warlock, 2 levels into Trickery Domain Cleric, and the rest of the levels into Shadow Magic Sorcerer.

Like always, I recommend you go into the levels however you see fit. Personally, I’d take the first level of Trickery Cleric at level one then save the second level  towards the end. From there,  I’ll go into Warlock then Shadow Sorcerer. This all sounds very strange, but it is definitely intentional, so keep reading.

Warlock

The two levels into Great Old One Warlock are for nothing more than Eldritch Blast and an invocation. I get that this is kind of a meme, but hear me out. By picking Great Old One, our Zet gains the ability to telepathically communicate with others – more fitting for primordial energy than what is offered by other patrons at level 1. By sticking in for 2 levels, we get the choice of 2 Eldritch Invocations. If we choose Lance of Lethargy as one of them, we’ve already got an excellent replica of Zet’s Flux ability.

By going this route, we avoid using unfitting cantrips (like Ray of Frost) and still slow targets. Moreover, by picking Eldritch Blast we can replicate the damage over time effect of Flux, attacking a target multiple times for incremental damage rather than once for loads of damage. For the hardcore Arc Warden roleplayer, Eldritch Blast also gives you the opportunity to, like Flux, diminish your damage when your target is with other enemies by attacking other targets. It may seem unreasonable for a two-level cantrip dip, but the mechanical bonuses and accuracy with the lore is worth it to me.

As far as starting spells and other cantrips go, it is also completely up to you. Pick whatever.

Sorcerer

No, you didn’t misreading anything. Arc Warden is a Shadow Magic Sorcerer, not a Storm Sorcerer. I have two main justifications for this choice. Firstly, Sorcerer has the widest selection of elemental themed spells regardless of subclass chosen: there is no penalty to the number of lightning and thunder spells available because we don’t choose Storm Sorcerer. Secondly, Shadow Magic gives us (along with loads of features we’ll never need) the closest thing to a Spark Wraith we’ll ever have. More on that later: for now, let’s look at what you should pick up in the early levels of Sorcerer.

Level 2’s Font of Magic feature is nice, but let’s be honest, the Metamagics at level 3 are the only thing we care about here. You could pick up Twinned Spell and another one of your choice (personally, I’d go with Careful Spell). To be honest, no particular Metamagics are essential. Twinned Spell is highly restrictive in what it can alter (and you can only twin Eldritch Blast from levels 1-4).

Shadow Magic Sorcerer level 6 gives us the only feature I’ll talk about in length: Hound of Ill Omen. By spending 3 sorcery points as a bonus action, you create a hound to hunt down a single target. Because this little pup has its own initiative and turn order, you get to recreate the multi-tasking required to play Arc Warden – fun!

Arc Warden creates his own friends. How shocking!

Hound of Ill Omen is, for all intents and purposes, our Spark Wraith. This feature has loads in common with Spark Wraith: it is autonomous, it hunts down a single target, multiple can be made, and it can even hunt down hidden targets! The only issue is the fact that it’s a dog, so, I dunno, reflavor it to be a Manectric or something. As an added bonus, it gives its target disadvantage on saving throws against spells you cast.

Once you get past level 6, Shadow Sorcerer has nothing more for us. The ability to teleport in shadows is cool, but it’s not in Zet’s repertoire. Theoretically, you could go deep into Warlock after level 6 Sorcerer, but in doing so you’ll forfeit many themed spells. Speaking of spells, let’s take a moment to look at all the spells we’ll get along the way.

Spells

In terms of cantrips, Lightning Lure and Shocking Grasp fit with Arc Warden’s theme, but to be honest Lightning Lure sucks. Early to midgame spells should include Witch Bolt, Blur, Lightning Bolt, and Storm Sphere. The purpose of Blur here is to recreate Arc Warden’s second ability, Magnetic Field. Sadly, this version only helps you avoid damage, so it isn’t quite a wholesome recreation.

Magnets – how do they work?

By late game, spells like Chain Lightning and Synaptic Static can be cast. It’s also later that we can cast the next discount Magnetic Field with the spell Globe of Invulnerability. This spell does actually protect your allies… but only from spells of 5th level and lower. Maybe I missed a big spell that emulates Magnetic Field (and please let me know if I did!) but I was having serious trouble finding a generic protective orb spell that could affect multiple people.

Trickery Domain Cleric

To prevent unnecessary bloat, I’ll keep this section brief. By going Cleric at your first character level you get medium armor and shield proficiency, which means Composite Plating for the Warforged and a chance at higher AC. Whether or not you want to do this is completely up to you.

The level 2 channel divinity option of Invoke Duplicity is Zet’s Tempest Double feature. Though with this feature you don’t duplicate spell slots, using Twinned Spell you can effectively double the spells cast as if you had more spell slots. It’s a makeshift work-around.

This is getting out of hand. Now there are two of them!

The reason that I save this for the end is because it’s Zet’s ultimate, so fitting with DotA 2 it’s the last thing you unlock. Practically however, the benefits provided by Invoke Duplicity is completely negligible, so you could put it anywhere in the build. Again, if there is a spell or other class ability that gives you more than an illusory duplicate, please let me know!

Equipment

As a Warforged you won’t need any armor and as a spellcaster you won’t need any weapons, so enjoy your light equipment load!

Now, you might be wondering about the difference between choosing Darkwood Core integrated protection versus the Composite Plating. The difference depends entirely on how high your dexterity is.

If you have 20 Dexterity and light armor proficiency at level 8, you’ll be touting a cool 19 AC with no shield. If you have at least 16 Dexterity with Medium Armor Master and no shield at level 8, you’ll also have 19 AC. In my mind, the chance you’ll have a 20 to spare on Dexterity is fairly low, and if you have medium armor proficiency from Cleric you’ll also get shield proficiency.

Regardless, if you have 1 level into Cleric (even when multiclassing) you will gain medium armor and shield proficiency, so it’s inevitable to have a shield and high AC. What you control is how much Dexterity you need to do it.

Feats

If you are able to pick a feat, Elemental Adept in lightning is probably your best choice. Besides this, there’s nothing that our Zet absolutely needs from feats. If you chose Composite Plating you could benefit from Medium Armor Master, too. Some DMs may argue that it isn’t valid, so be sure to check with them first.

Ability Scores

Because Sorcerer will be providing most of your damage through spells, a high Charisma is essential. Besides this, at least 13 Wisdom is needed to multiclass into Cleric. Finally, having a high Dexterity depends on your choice of Darkwood Core or Composite Plating integrated protection.

This review is, honestly, the most underwhelming in my opinion. While being able to recreate Arc Warden is cool, the mechanical limitations of DnD prevents true recreation of many of Arc Warden’s more in-depth abilities. That being said, there are plenty of other guide articles I made that work well both in recreating the original DotA 2 hero and in creating a fun, effective DnD 5e character. You can find each one here:
Abaddon
Alchemist
Ancient Apparition
Anti-Mage

And as always, what was none becomes one again.

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Continue reading “Pate’s Picks for Top 10 Games of the Decade”

Dungeons and DotA: Creating Anti-Mage

Anti-Mage is a melee Agility hero whose roles are Carry/Escape/Nuker. After a bad experience with rabbits being pulled from hats, this fellow decided that the only answer to magic was murder. Anti-Mage was educated among the monks of Turstarkuri, shortly before they became thralls for the Dead God. Now, he enjoys hunting necromancers, hunting magic users, and long walks on the beach. What’s so interesting about Anti-Mage is his indiscriminate code of ending magic and magic users. His strong unwavering values put him solidly into Lawful Neutral. Continue reading “Dungeons and DotA: Creating Anti-Mage”

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