Abaddon: the scary man with a scary face.
Abaddon is classified as a melee Strength hero whose roles are Support/Carry/Durable. Using a mix of healing, protection, and damage abilities, Abaddon is a mixed bag who excels in staying in lane and leading the charge. With a terrifying voice, an eerily buck-toothed horse, and a creepy slouch, the first thing that we can mark down with Abaddon is his alignment. His unnerving cool, title of “lord,” and allegiance to House Avernus mix well with his creepy demeanor to put him solidly into Lawful Evil (in my opinion the most playable of the evil alignments – don’t @ me).
Before we get into equipping our Abaddon, we need to start off by assessing his abilities.
Abaddon’s first ability is Mist Coil, a ranged attack which sacrifices some of Abaddon’s own health to either heal an ally or damage an enemy.
His second ability is Aphotic Shield, a basic protective barrier which explodes around him after being destroyed, dealing damage to enemies around him.
Abaddon’s passive ability, Curse of Avernus, makes his melee attack slow targets as well as giving attackers to the slowed target a faster attack speed.
Finally, Abaddon’s ultimate ability, Borrowed Time, converts damage that he takes into health.
So what we have with Abaddon is a mixture of protective, offensive, debuffing, and melee elements all performed by a guy on his creepy horse. How can we possibly make this work, and what classes do this best? Here’s the guide on how you can emulate Abaddon from DotA 2, albeit a bit sloppily.
Abaddon’s race is a tricky part. His twisted, screaming face doesn’t tell us much, but we can comfortably say that a Dark Elf (or Drow) fits his dark and scary visage. Alternatively, you could select a Fallen Aasimar for a similar scary and somewhat mystical appearance. Mechanically speaking, the bonuses provided by a Fallen Aasimar will best fit the build we’ll be pursuing, though I find myself most in favor of the Drow route.
There is one class that fits the melee Support/Carry/Durable roll better than all others, and that’s Paladin. Yes, I know, you’ve excelled at these rolls using a different class, but for this character specifically and the effects we need to imitate: Paladin is our best bet. The stereotypical lawful good undead-smiting Paladin will have to be ignored for this particular character. Paladin works for Abaddon primarily in the spells and abilities provided by the subclass we’ll be selecting for him.
Along with Paladin, you will be multiclassing with your Abaddon build. However you want to divvy up the levels you’ll end up taking 15 levels into Paladin and 5 levels into Warlock. It is recommended that you take Paladin first, as the proficiencies and d10 hit die help with a solid start as a melee fighter. The Warlock aspect achieves some more mystical elements of Abaddon’s character and also fits lore-wise as the Font of Avernus is the entire lineage’s source of power, much like a patron. To begin, we will start with the breakdown of Paladin.
At Paladin level 2 you’re going to want to select the Dueling fighting style. Abaddon is seen with his sword in one hand and his other hand on the horse reigns, so the Dueling fighting style mimics his own fighting style in DotA. You’ll also want to pick up the spell Shield of Faith now that you have access to spells. This level 1 spell will give us an armor class boost similar to the protection provided by Aphotic Shield (without the area of effect damage, sadly).
At Paladin level 3 the Oath of Vengeance subclass is going to work best. Though the Oathbreaker subclass is stereotypically the evil one, it falls short in lore and mechanics. First of all, Abaddon isn’t an oathbreaker: he is quite loyal to House Avernus from what we can see in his bio. Secondly, Oathbreaker’s abilities and oath-specific spells miss the mark for Abaddon’s defining features. So, with that out of the way, let’s look at what the Oath of Vengeance gives us.
Ignoring the oaths associated with the Oath of Vengeance (blah blah “greater good”), level 3 gives your Abaddon some essential tools. The Vow of Enmity Channel Divinity option emulates Abaddon’s Curse of Avernus increased attack speed. When paired with the oath spell Hunter’s Mark the thematic equivilencies become evident. Sure, you won’t actually get an increased attack speed, but the advantage and bonus damage provides the damage increase and greater hit chance as if you had multiple attacks. The other Channel Divinity option, Abjure Enemy, loosely replicates the slowing effect, albeit from a range. If you haven’t noticed, a large portion of this build so far is trying to figure out how to get Abaddon’s passive at least somewhat accurate.
Briefly skipping through the rest of the Oath of Vengeance, level 7 allows for movement after an opportunity attack as part of the reaction and level 15 allows you to make a melee attack on the target of our Vow of Enmity when they attack. Both these effects mimic Abaddon’s run-down attack style and single target focus. Along the way to these abilities, your Abaddon has gained a fine number of spells to use along the way. Aside from the Shield of Faith spell at level 2, by Paladin level 5 you’ll be happily trotting along with Find Steed, and by Paladin level 13 you also have access to Find Greater Steed: both easy ways to get your own silly looking horse. You’ll also get a small selection of healing spells (most of which on touch) to try and fit the healing ability of Mist Coil when used on allies.
Paladin level 13 also gives you a spell which is the closest to Abaddon’s ultimate we can get: Death Ward. Now, Abaddon’s ultimate not only prevents death, but also heals him. Using the Paladin’s Lay on Hands feature, however, we can achieve this quite reasonably. As an action, you’ll be able to restore a guaranteed 75 hitpoints instantaneously by level 15, assuming you haven’t expended any of the Lay on Hands uses prior to then. Finally, the level 14 Paladin ability to end any spell affecting our Abaddon fits the Aphotic Shield’s ability to remove debuffs.
Now that we’ve gone through the Paladin aspect of this knock-off Abaddon, let’s turn our attention to Warlock. First, you’ll be selecting your patron. Easy choice: you’ll be picking Hexblade. Since you’ll only be spending 5 levels in Warlock, you’ll only get the first features of your patron. Hexblade’s Curse doesn’t require concentration, and as such can be used simultaneously with the Oath of Vengeance spell Hunter’s Mark. This combo ensures the ability to focus and run down a single target. If you want, you could ignore preparation of Hunter’s Mark and instead choose the Warlock spell Hex; however, this is suboptimal, as they essentially do the same thing (besides minor differences) and Hex occupies one of your Warlock spells known, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
On the topic of spells, we should start with cantrips. Booming Blade is a fun option, though not necessarily an Abaddon signature. You need something to function as Abaddon’s attacking element of Mist Coil – something strong and direct. Hmm…
Eldritch blast. I’m talking about eldritch blast. Of course it’s a great cantrip, but it also fits the spookiness of Mist Coil. Not only that, but in DotA at level 25 Abaddon can pick the talent to have Mist Coil affect multiple enemies at once; a feature that just so happens to be unique to the Eldritch Blast cantrip at later levels.
Your Hexblade patron also gives you an additional spell option for Warlock level 1: Shield. While Paladin gives you Shield of Faith, Shield doesn’t require concentration, so the two can be used together. After you cast Shield of Faith, as a reaction you can then cast Shield. This gives +7 to armor class for one round, boosting your makeshift Aphotic Shield effect. Do keep in mind, however, that only Shield of Faith can be used on another person. Shield must be cast on yourself.
Another spell that helps with trying to emulate Aphotic Shield is Armor of Agathys. This spell doesn’t require concentration and gives temporary hitpoints. As a bonus, when taking damage while Armor of Agathys is active, the attacker receives damage in return. This is the closest you’ll get to the real Aphotic Shield. Like Shield, this spell also must be cast on yourself.
Enough about spells; let’s wrap up our discussion of Warlock by talking about invocations. As far as invocations go, Lance of Lethargy and Fiendish Vigor both work well. You could also pick up Eldritch Smite for some extra damage once you hit Warlock level 5. Do note that this errs dangerously close on playing Abaddon as a nuker, especially when paired with Divine Smite. For that reason, I prefer Devil’s Sight and Improved Pact Weapon, which are also thematically related. Speaking of pact weapons…
At level 3 you get to choose a Pact Boon. Pact of the Blade is the obvious choice. It fits with the character more than any other, so why not? You’ll want to have your pact weapon appear as a longsword. Technically, you could choose any weapon, but with the Dueling fighting style one-handed weapons get bonus damage.
That basically does it for building Abaddon. A mix of Paladin and Warlock abilities creates a character that is both able to hold his own through protection and regeneration, and can run-down single enemies with ease. But, before we wrap up, let’s look at the finishing touches – some real cherry-on-top stuff.
Abaddon appears to wear a kind of plate armor (so heavy armor) and wields a sword in one hand. The longsword will work best for this stylistically. You should hold it in one hand with no shield for a +2 to damage from our Dueling fighting style. Besides this, you could pick up a mount to replace when you get the Find Steed spells. You also might want to pick up a Tango and Boots of Speed – wait, wrong game, never mind.
Feats are always a fun part to building a character as long as your Dungeon Master allows them. There are really no “essential” feats for Abaddon, though Mounted Combatant is a good pick to keep your steeds alive.
I’m covering ability scores last because most players can easily deduct what scores they should invest into more heavily than others. For newer players, you’ll want your highest score to be Charisma and at least 13 Strength. In order to multiclass out of Paladin you need 13 Strength. Additionally, to wear the best heavy armors (plate armor), 15 Strength is the needed. However, because you’ll be mounted, you can simply wear heavy armor without the Strength requirement. The -10 walk speed penalty won’t matter as you’ll use your mount’s speed instead.
Other than that, it’s really up to you how you allocate the ability scores. I personally recommend a high Constitution for some additional tankiness. You won’t need a high Dexterity for increasing your armor class because you’ll be using heavy armor. Alternatively, you might decide to increase it for the sake of boosting your rolls on those pesky Dexterity Saving Throws.
So, there you have it: a guide on how to recreate Abaddon from DotA 2 in Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition. Let me know your thoughts or if I missed anything in the comments down below. And as always, the Lord of Avernus is reborn.