In depth guide to the Lich by Tastybread

In depth guide to the Lich

By: Tastybread
Last Updated: Mar 18, 2020
21 Votes
Build 1 of 5

Kel'Thuzad

Build: Build alternative #1 (my regular)

Level 1
Level 4
Level 7
Level 10
Level 13
Level 16
Level 20

Kel'Thuzad

Build: Beginners traits

Level 1
Level 4
Level 7
Level 10
Level 13
Level 16
Level 20

Kel'Thuzad

Build: Build alternative #2 (quick burst)

Level 1
Level 4
Level 7
Level 10
Level 13
Level 16
Level 20

Kel'Thuzad

Build: Build alternative #3 (situational)

Level 1
Level 4
Level 7
Level 10
Level 13
Level 16
Level 20

Kel'Thuzad

Build: Build alternative #4 (experimental)

Level 1
Level 4
Level 7
Level 10
Level 13
Level 16
Level 20

I got him in Brawl, just give me the tl;dr Top

- Burst DMG mage with low HP
- Stack your passive ASAP
- Spam Q like there is no tomorrow
- Combos to maximize DMG output (add a Q whenever possible)
    E->W->E
    E->R->W->E

Introduction Top

Maybe you got your *** wooped last game by a Kel’Thuzad and decided you gonna do some *** woopin yourself.

So who am I to tell you something about how a hero should be played? I honestly don’t care much how you play him but if you want to shorten the learning curve with this hero you can take some advice from me. My IGN is Tastybread and I peaked at masters (now Dia)and play KTZ most of the time if the team comp allows it.
KTZ is a caster/mage/ranged assassin or w/e you want to call it nowadays. If you manage to land your combos, he provides for some great catching potential and a good amount of AoE DMG+CC in form of roots. Most of the time you will have to adapt one or two talents according to the enemy picks and what your team needs. His talent choices give him great flexibility in this regard.

Patch-related changes of 11th March Top

The latest balance Patch didn't really touch KTZ so I will let the last changes to him from 22nd Nov stay here until another patch touches KTZ


See what's new
And here is the longer version:
Level 7
Chilling Touch [Passive]
Bonus damage reduced from 100% to 80%.

Nerfing the DMG of Kel'thuzad seems to be an ongoing theme in the last patches. Nevertheless the slowing component was what made this spell so good. The DMG was a nice cherry on top though


Level 10
Starting missile speed increased by 60%.
This had more of an impact than i thought. It really helps in comboing and engaging with it


Level 13
Icy Grasp [W]
Bonus Slow amount increased from 15% to 20%.
Cooldown reduction increased from .4 to .5 seconds.
Nice, I guess...but nothing overwheling

PROs and CONs Top

+good dmg burst (given you completed Master of the Cold Dark somewhere along the game)
+ridiculous low CDs
+very high skill ceiling with his lots of extra abilities
+good wave clear
+very high killing potential / catch potential


-relies heavily on his team
-relatively short range of Chains of Kel'Thuzad which starts your combos
-meager DMG until you completed Master of the Cold Dark
-absolutely no mobility until Lvl 20 with Shifting Malice
-easily outpicked when drafted first
-can't really play the map

The Lich's tools Top



It has a 5sec CD and costs you 20 Mana. Spam it in laning phase every time you feel like pushing. Unless you go for Accelerated Decay at Lvl 7 it's an okay spell for its low CD and neglectable mana cost.

One of your bread and butter skills. Roots with this give you stacks for your Master of the Cold Dark in the beginning. Later it provides CC and DMG for your Combo.

This is the skill that made me fall in love with KTZ. Gives you stacks for your Master of the Cold Dark in the early game. Becomes more useful the more you play this hero. Can be cast onto Glacial Spike as 1st or second target. The enemy will then be pulled toward your Glacial Spike. The range on Chains of Kel'Thuzad is pretty short and lures you to overextend.

With the nerfs to Shadow Fissure it's worth a look again. The potential of this ult is immense IF your team can finish off the enemys caught in your combo. I would recommend this only to players that already have a good grasp on the hero.


The final piece in your DMG-combo. High burst DMG, low CD with only 45 Mana cheaper than most of your other spells. Since it needs 1.5 seconds to explode, hitting it reliably requires you to hit your basic skills in a specific order. Otherwise it can be used to delay objectives that need channeling, herding enemies away from choke points or sniping fleeing strugglers. This will become more useful the more you play KTZ and can anticipate enemy movement.

This is what makes KTZ snowball hard or be useless for the whole game. Once you have 15 stacks on Master of the Cold Dark your Glacial Spike is unlocked which also enables you to solo lane if neccessary. But before you generally don't want to play a lane with just one opponent since you can't stack effectively. You usually should be aiming to complete your quest before Lvl 10 since you will have unlocked your full burst potential and profit from 75% free spell power. If you can't, don't panic. In higher ELO enemies will tend to juke better or in Quickmatch your team doesn't have a frontline to set you up. Just remember the earlier you manage to complete Master of the Cold Dark the sooner you you have a power spike.


Unlocked once you get 15 stacks on Master of the Cold Dark. Can be used to block choke points. Can be used as a target for your Chains of Kel'Thuzad which pulls the enemy hero all the way to the spike. The high CD can punish you greatly if you don't hit a combo. The DMG of it is neglegtable. Gives you a good amount of flexibility if you get creative with it.

Explaining the beginners build Top

Blighted Frost : Whether or not you stack quickly, this gives you a boost in dmg upfront and better cc when you eventually finish your quest

Phylactery of Kel'Thuzad:Another quest...I know. But you can do it on the side and it helps somewhat if you make mistakes with spellvamp and a revive. Plus it's one less active spell you have to worry about.

Chilling Touch : The slow down helps you to hit your chain easier.

Shadow Fissure : It's the easier ult to utilize of the both. After the row of nerfs it's arguably not the strongest one anymore.

Chain-Link : This could helps you to have even more disruptive power in teamfights when you hit your first rotation. Plus it has some nice synnergy with your lvl 16

Power of Icecrown : Amps up your already high dmg

Might of the Scourge : The easiest lvl 20 but probably the weakest as well. It's rather gimmicky tbh. The reason i still recommend it is that you are trying to learn the hero. Every other alternative means another active ability you have to manage.

Your first goal is to reliably hit your Chains of Kel'Thuzad then to integrate your Frost Nova and later to integrate Shadow Fissure and Death and Decay. Remember that D&D is the only spell that can't be animation cancelled, so always cast this last in a combo.
What to change while improving: slowly start picking more of the active abilities, like Armor of the Archlich at lvl 4 and any other talent at lvl 20. Get comfortable with utilizing 7 spells at once.

Explaining my regular build Top

Blighted Frost : In most situations the upfront DMG increase really helps a lot. And the increase in roo duration later on makes your CC that much better for your team o follow up on.

Armor of the Archlich : Since the global movement buff I started to use this more and more often. Use it for peel, use it to easier line up skillshots, use it to buy you some more time when focused

Accelerated Decay : This makes your Q-spell a nightmare for every frontline. Staying in the pool will hurt a lot. The Plaguelands has a very good synnergy with this BUT a plaguelands build dealys your early DMG a lot. The Damned Return has crazy synergy with this, since both pools profit from each this.

Frost Blast : This can be used to initiate and to peel. But i would recommend against it. Rather use it at the end of your combo to ensure a longer combo. Depends on the situation you are in though.

Icy Grasp : The CD reset will be easy to get within one combo rotation. Each tick of Death and Decay will trigger the CD reduction.

Power of Icecrown : Seems pretty obvious since you will stack easily with the amount of CC in your kit.

The Damned Return : This is the best storm talent of KTZ. Every other is useful in some situations but every talent choise was catered to this so you better pick it. Just outright doubles the DMG output of Death and Decay when you allign both pools. Helps with clearing, sieging, melting tanks, melting squishies.

The reason this is my regular build is that it excels at making catches and still providing your team with burst DMG. The only problem is that you really have to have a firm grasp on what you can and can't do with the hero. Plus I wouldn't choose this build against a really beefy team or Deathwing

Explaining the quick burst build aka QM build Top

It is very similar to the beginners build. The reason is that it works in QM.
Your phylactery helps if you don't have a healer but can be replaced by armor if the enemy team has divers or the map doesn't allow for quick orb collecting.
Your fissure is quick DMG and helps to burst away when the enemy team has a lots oft soft targets.
Shifting Malice could be replaced by The Damned Return, either is fine depending on whether you get enough peel or not

This is just easily accecible DMG. It works on less than optimal team comps. Interchangeable talents can help you with shortcomings of your own team. This build falls apart real quick against a double frontline or specific healers or medivh because it offers little else than DMG. If you can't burst down the enemy diving you, yo are done for

Explaining the experimental build aka WIP Top

This build plays with the idea of cahining as much CC together as possible while providing sustained DMG with your D&D.
In a best-case scenario you can rotate through your basic abilities at least 3 times without losing the root. It should work well against teams with lots of melee heroes, tanks and bruisers. The problem is that roots can't keep the enemy from casting their own spells. I couldn't play this one often enough outside training mode so it still is a WIP

The basic Combos of a build with Shadow Fissure Top

I will try to give you a rough overview on what you should be trying to do, to unlock the DMG numbers KTZ is capable of. I will try to add some footage later on to help visualize the mumbo jumbo I'm about to unleash.

Pre-15 stacks of Master of the Cold Dark: E->W->E->AA
(gives 4 stacks on your passive if succesfull)
This is pretty straight forward. Try hitting Chains of Kel'Thuzad on an enemy. Then you have 3 seconds to re-activate Chains of Kel'Thuzad to cast it again from the location of your first target. If you hit they will be pulled towards each other, getting stunned for a short amount of time when they reach the middle. For beginners i would recommend to not use smart cast on your E until you get used to its behaviour.

Optimally you want to cast Frost Nova in the middle of the distance between both targets before you cast the second instance of Chains of Kel'Thuzad. If this is too overwhelming in the beginning, just focus on hitting your E reliably and cast W afterwards and whenever a teammate sets you up with CC.


Post-15 stacks of Master of the Cold Dark: E->W->E->AA
This one will be your bread and butter combo, still.

E->1->W->E->AA
So what do if there is only one enemy hero in range? Fear not and embrace your inner Korean heritage. With 15 stacks on Master of the Cold Dark you get galcial spike. Your Glacial Spike can be used as an anchor for your chains. So you have to place W directly adjacent to your spike to hit the root.

1->E->W->E(->AA)
Oh BOI! This is where a good KTZ player becomes a great KTZ player. This almost doubles the reach of your Chains of Kel'Thuzad if utilized correctly. This also can be used to initiate a fight if your frontline doesn't go for an opportunity. This combo can be cast over terrain as well, so the enemies can't see or reach you. Better yet: You can use this combo to pull enemies straight through their existing gate. Players in low ELO seem oblivious to what that spike even means and won't try to juke your chains, while some high ELO players still fall for the abduction throught their gates. WIth the Buff to MS on all heroes this becomes a lot trickier though. I would recommend this only if you can hide your spike.

Post Lvl 10
The general idea is to weave your R into the Combos above so nobody can avoid the 1.5 second wind up time of your Shadow Fissure. The combos will be simply listed, since nothing about them changes except the DMG numbers.

E->R->W->E->Q->AA
E->1->R->W->E->Q->AA
1->E->R->W->E->Q->AA

If you picked The Damned Return at Lvl 20 your combos will look something like this (3 symbolises the casting of TDR)

E->3->R->W->E->Q->AA
E->1->3->R->W->E->Q->AA
1->E->3->R->W->E->Q->AA

The Combos of a build with Frost blast Top

Frost Blast is best used as a means to prolong the time an enemy is CCd. So you would cast it after your basic combo rotation. If you initiate with it the risk of the enemy running away or otherwise countering it are high.

E->W->E->R->Q->AA

If you really want to initiate with R you just blast your regular combo (see above) after impact.

If you picked The Damned Return at Lvl 20 your combos will look something like this (3 symbolises the casting of TDR)

E->3->W->E->-R->Q->AA
E->1->3->W->E->R->Q->AA
1->E->3->W->E->R->Q->AA

Going through the trait selection Top

Tier 1

The Plaguelands This became more viable in my eyes when I started to experiment more with Frost Blast builds. If you pick this one you have to commit a D&D build ( Accelerated Decay and The Damned Return to max the potential.

Blighted Frost It's a solid choice. gives you upfront DMG without completing your quest and improves your CC. Solid choice in my eyes.

Barbed Chains I just can't say it compares to the other two. Yes, it gives more DMG but other than that it has no utility whatsoever. Since KTZ can't 100 to 0 like before the nerfs, there is little reason left to pick this.

Tier 2
Strip Shields I honestly can't recommend it. Since you start all of your combos with Chains of Kel'Thuzad you only profit from gaining a shield since most heroes won't preemptively cast their shield abilities until you hit your chains.

Phylactery of Kel'Thuzad Good choice. Once achieved you have some form of self sustain for when you don't have a healer in quick match. Otherwise you can skip long death timers in the late game which can decide the match. Consider the charges are consumed after activating and you need to recollet orbs.

Armor of the Archlich Becomes a lot better, now that assassins without a cleanse or multiple jumps like Tracer can be peeled off by slowing them after they used their gap closer. In addition it gives you armor which can make you beefier than the assassin anticipated.

Tier 3
Accelerated Decay The only reason to choose this is because you took The Plaguelands at LvL 1. Otherwise it isn't as optimal.

Chilling Touch is a choice you can't go wrong with. Taking it makes it easier to hit the enemy with your Chains of Kel'Thuzad. Also helps to peel and gives you a stack for your Power of Icecrown.

Ice Cold There is no reason why you would ever go for this. EVER.

Tier 4
Frost Blast with a buff to the travel time this spell became so much mor versatile than before. Plus CC is always nice. Remember that this ult for itself means a huge decrease in DMG output in comparison.

Shadow Fissure this is the final piece needed for the high single-target damage combos. If your map awareness allows it you can stall objectives on maps like Towers of Doom or herd fleeing enemies that run into a choke point.

Tier 5
Icy Grasp This synergizes well with the D&D build imo. Every tick of DMG lowers the CD which makes it almost immediately availiable after your first rotation.

Chains of Ice This makes no sense at all since the slow crosses with the snare duration of Frost Nova. The only reason to pick this is if you want to land Shadow Fissure without the usage of Frost Nova.

Chain-Link makes your Chains of Kel'Thuzad spammable, given you hit enemies with it. Can help disrupting the enemy frontline nicely. Ramps the stacks on your Power of Icecrown in a single teamfight before unleashing a whole combo.

Tier 6
Arcane Echoes can make your Death and Decay spammable given you hit enemy heroes with it. Not recommended imo since it doesn't get triggered by the D&D from your The Damned Return.

Hungering Cold great synergy with Death and Decay gives you a little bonus on thoses DMG ticks. relies on you hitting your Frost Nova or skilling Frost Blast.

Power of Icecrown is the best option here, especially for long fights. Problem is not all of your spells in your first rotation profit from it. If you took Chilling Touch you get the first stack by AA before going ham, also real nice synnergy with Chain-Link. The increase of ability power is appied in real time as far as my testing goes.

Tier 7
This is where you decide what you need, depending on how your team played so far

Deathchill THis is rather gimmicky. Sure you can wipe a whole team within seconds and it feels amazing to pull off. The thing is that you rely on your team setting up, the map having lots of chokepoints and a drop in DMG if you don't kill someone in time. I think it's best if you are in the lead already and the enemy team didn't reach 20 yet.

Might of the Scourge is what I started with when i picked up KTZ. This was a fun choice for 20 and situationally recommended but now that hitting a Shadow Fissure doesn't completely reset the CD it's only recommended for people who start picking up KTZ because it doesn't give you another new active ability like Shifting Malice and The Damned Return

Shifting Malice gives great mobility for the cost of DMG. If your team just seems to be unable to even peel an orange I would highly recommend taking this talent. On the other hand it gives you immense kill pressure on unsuspecting enemies with low mobility. Shifting Malice to get in range of Chains of Kel'Thuzad and combo away.

The Damned Return is a god tier talent if you can trust your team to do their jobs. Practically doubles your DMG on Death and Decay. Clear camps in a matter of seconds, siege from afar, clear waves like nothing
It is essential to integrate it into your combo rotation for spicy extra DMG

Synergies Top

Frontline
Basically anything that can set up your combos and help peel if neccessary. E.g.: Mal'Ganis, E.T.C. ( if he doesn't randomly face melt), Varian with taunt, Muradin

Healer
In general most healers work with KTZ. When it comes to displacement spells, they should be careful. Looking at you Lúcio or Lt. Morales. They should either help you to peel or provide additional CC.
E.g.: Ana, Malfurion, deckard cain

other damage dealers
Lots of assassins work with KTZ, best case they provide the sustained DMG throughout your weaker early game and help finishing off enemys you caught in a combo.

Your game plan Top

- your early goal should be to stack your Master of the Cold DarkASAP
- try to always follow the tank or healer when you want to roam since you are helpless early
- you can do the easy camps solo at a decent pace, but you will need to spend mana and will be an easy
pick-off for roaming enemys

- your mid and late game is pretty straight forward. Your strentgh lies in teamfights and catching enemies
who are out of position
- since you are still a very easy target try to stick to your team as much as possible
- this is what makes him so team reliant. Solo soaking or holding an objective solo will be a risk that
will most likely get you killed
- if you went for a plaguelands build you can clear camps really fast at lvl20. Even solo you can take
camps super fast, making them less risky to take solo

General Advice Top

- Using smart cast is really recommended on all spells to shorten the reaction time your enemy has. If you start playing KTZ I would consider not using smart cast on the first instance of your E to get a feeling for its range.

- You can get stacks for Master of the Cold Dark by hitting your E on the Dragon Knight or The Protector. You can also use this to start a combo. The vehicle will then act like Glacial Spike and the hero will be pulled all the way towards it.

- If you have difficulties with stacking, try to focus on hitting the second instance of your E and only afterwards on integrating your W.

-If you combo, always cast W before Q since you can't cancel the animation of Death and Decay but casting Frost Nova is instantanious.

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