Chaos Knight was among the biggest winners of the new patch. The hero currently wins almost 54% of his 5k+ pub games and is a popular pick among professional players. The reason for his sudden resurgence is pretty straightforward as well—the hero received numerous buffs in the new patch, while the meta has slowed down just enough for him to squeeze into it. Today we discuss how to make the hero work in your pubs and why exactly he is suddenly so much better.
7.20 had one defining feature—it was incredibly fast paced and with the reworked armor mechanics and rescaled tower EHP having a team that could push early was more or less mandatory. We’ve seen teams experiment with lineups incapable of taking early structures during the Major and they rarely worked.
Better teams facing non-pushing, teamfight-heavy lineups would avoid direct confrontation, mirror the map movements and through faster pushing would essentially make their time investments more effective. Terrorblade was one of the heroes who was exceptionally effective in the previous patch for that reason.
He takes towers, farms and scales up extremely fast, despite having a very long cooldown on Metamorphosis. He has long periods when he is weak in fights and can be punished, but if allowed to play correctly he can simply use it to farm up.
Chaos Knight can’t do that. The hero’s farming speed is much slower, compared to most other carries. Pushing towers with Chaos Knight without his ultimate is also pretty hard, since his DPS-boosting ability doesn’t work on structures. Yet, somehow, he is currently among the most popular and successful heroes in high level pubs.
Meta is slightly slower in the current patch. There is slightly less gold at the start and for Chaos Knight it means a longer period of time, when he is useful even without his ultimate.
Strength heroes don’t scale as well as Agility heroes when it comes to DPS, since Agility gives both damage and attack speed, so they are generally not going to be as powerful if the game goes for 45+ minutes, but they are usually a lot more capable in the early game engagements.
Farming creeps is still going to be more profitable in terms of gold income, but the difference in gold between farming and successfully ganking is now slightly smaller. That means early game cores can play more aggressively, pressuring the enemy, disrupting their farm and taking over the map not through timing pushes, but through pick-offs and teamfights. They can still take out towers pretty fast, but they generally prefer doing it after ensuring the enemy isn’t farming or taking their structures at the same time.
There are numerous builds for the hero in the game right now. Many players stick with the true and trusted Armlet, some hedge their midgame potential with an early Midas while some try to rush Echo Sabre to have mana sustain and slightly higher burst damage.
We don’t necessarily believe in the Echo Saber rush—while the mana sustain on it is decent, without Armlet it doesn’t provide enough burst damage to easily secure early game kills. With Chaos Strike reworked there is also less incentive to go for the double-hit, since you are guaranteed a critit every four seconds.
That leaves us with either Armlet or Midas as the first purchase after Power Treads. Either of them is a good choice and generally depends on what game CK finds himself in—how good was his start and how greedy can he be, without sacrificing his early game power spike. Do keep in mind that while Midas is not a very cost-effective item DPS-wise it still gives a decent amount of attack speed—something many Strength cores lack.
Later on going for items that give Strength is generally the best option, since you want to maximize the damage and survivability of your illusions. It means things like a Heart of Tarrasque rush can be done, though in most cases you will be forced to go for either BKB or Manta Style to be actually effective.
Interestingly, the Blink Dagger build is now less popular than it was previously. Perhaps it is related to better catch on the hero or perhaps with lower illusion duration it is now harder to justify spawning them in the trees and waiting for a couple of seconds before engaging the enemy. Another potential reason for it is that in the current “arms race”, it is hard to justify spending 2k gold on an item that doesn’t help pushing or farming.
Chaos Knight skill levelling is chaotic, as it should be. Players max out either ability by level seven in almost equal measure. We will go through each of the options.
Maxed out Chaos Bolt is generally forced on the CK player by high-mobility enemies. It doesn’t maximize DPS or farming speed, but it does allow CK to actually kill elusive targets. In general we currently advise against it—your supports should generally provide the utility you need to kill off targets and as a tempo core you need all the damage and farming speed you can get. Depending on the situation it can be followed up with maxing out either of the other two abilities.
Maxed out Reality Rift is mostly a teamfight and pickoff build. Three seconds of -90 Attack Speed on a five second cooldown is incredible for early, pre-BKB skirmishes. The movement speed slow is also very handy during ganks or when chasing the enemy. This maximizes CK’s utility without his ultimate, allowing him to apply constant pressure on the enemy. The huge drawback is that it doesn’t help the hero farm and sustain himself. It is generally followed up by maxing out Chaos Bolt and is best suited for CK who is creating space for his greedier core in mid, rather than trying to carry the game by himself.
Finally, maxed out Chaos Strike is currently the most popular and probably the most successful build in high level pubs. It is maximizing the farm speed and the burst damage of the hero, allowing him to one-shot most non-core targets and some core targets with the help of his ultimate. If the enemy has no AoE abilities you can really punish their lineup by maxing Reality Rift afterwards, jumping from target to target with your illusions, however maxing out Chaos Bolt is generally a better idea, since it will give you an edge when fighting the second enemy core.
Talent-wise getting as many stats as you can is going to be your main priority for the first 15 levels. Your Phatasm illusions need to survive for as long as possible and the extra 400 HP from level 10 and 15 talents can give them one more hit and make all the difference.
Depending on the situation, you can opt for both +150 GPM and Spell Immunity-piercing Reality Rift at level 20, though the latter is slightly superior stats-wise. There is no question about the level 25 talent since -2s Chaos Strike cooldown is simply too strong DPS-wise and is also great for sustaining the hero during the teamfights.
Strength cores were overshadowed by the Agility cores in the previous patch, but it looks like they are making a comeback. Having better early game and the ability to play proactively while the enemy carry is still farming up is a huge bonus and hopefully Chaos Knight and Lifestealer aren’t the only Strength carries to make a comeback.
Going forward we believe that CK is not going to get nerfed, at least not heavily enough to make him unviable. He is a solid pick, but he is certainly not overpowered or popular enough to get expelled from the meta once again. If there is a time to learn the hero, it is now.