In depth guide to the Lich by Tastybread

In depth guide to the Lich

By: Tastybread
Last Updated: Nov 24, 2019
10 Votes
Build 1 of 4

Kel'Thuzad

Build: Beginners traits

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

Kel'Thuzad

Build: Build alternative #1 (extremely...

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 (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 excels at high single target and (kind of) AoE dmg burst. Otherwise he provides for some great catch potential and a good amount of AoE 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 Nov22 Top

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%.
Have to play test this more in order to say something about 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

+high dmg burst (given you completed Master of the Cold Dark somewhere along the game)
+ridiculous low CDs
+very flexible combos with his Glacial Spike ability
+excellent wave clear
+self sustain and avoiding long death timers due to Phylactery of Kel'Thuzad


-relies heavily on his team
-relatively short range of Chains of Kel'Thuzad which starts your combos
-low DMG until you completed Master of the Cold Dark
-absolutely no mobility until Lvl 20 with Shifting Malice
-easily outpicked when drafted first

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 the plaguleands at Lvl 1 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 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.

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 pretty 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 I don't think this is worth it anymore. Since your Main combo doesn't deal as much DMG as before going for this LvL 1 trait means you will have even less kill potential.

Blighted Frost With the new changes this is my go to pick. After you completed stacking it helps you to hit successive shadow fissure casts

Barbed Chains It's okay. The thing is that Chains of Kel'Thuzad have less utility than Frost Nova when it comes to clearing which is why this trait is situational imo.

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.

Tier 3
Accelerated Decay The only reason to choose this is because you took The Plaguelands at LvL 1. Otherwise it is a wasted talent.

Chilling Touch is the best choice atm. 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 nice AoE CC but fairly easy to anticipate for its slow travel time. Only recommended when you have a team comp that profits from it. (e.g. Mosh Pit + Eternal Feast + Frost Blast to wipe a team in seconds).

Shadow Fissure this is the final piece needed for the high 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 Helps you a lot with the way KTZ is played now with the changes to his Shadow Fissure reset.

Chains of Ice This makes no sense at all since the slow crosses with the snare duration 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. Recommended.

Tier 6
Arcane Echoes can make your Death and Decay spammable given you hit enemy heroes with it. Not recommended imo.

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 have taken Chilling Touch you get the first stack by AA before going ham, also real nice synnergy with Chain-Link.

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

Deathchill absolutely inferior to all the other traits imo. But maybe I haven't used it all to much to say for sure.

Might of the Scourge is what I started with when i picked up KTZ. This was a fun choice for 20 and situational 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 introdue ne spells like Shifting Malice and The Damned Return do

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 trait. 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 still a good trait 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
Try integrating it into your combo rotation for some spicy extra DMG

Synergies Top

Frontline
Generally you want a frontline with CC that can set you up for a nice combo like Muradin or Arthas. And while other tanks like Diablo and E.T.C. are fine as well, lots of players tend to Overpower or Shadow Charge the enemy straight out of your combo, especially if you were the one to initiate with a long range Glacial Spike Chains of Kel'Thuzadcombo and they still have their CDs up. You generally want a frontline that helps initiate or peel and isn't too triggerhappy with displacement spells

Healer
Ana with her Sleep Dart and Nano Boost can be your greatest friend if she knows can anticipate when you are about to go ham. I mean KTZ already has dumb CD timers but Nano Boost makes them borderline stupid
In general most healers work with KTZ. When it comes to displacement spells, they should be careful. Looking at you Lúcio or Lt. Morales

other damage dealers
Generally some sustain DMG would be nice like Valla to deal with the remaining enemies while you wait for your CDs
Alternatively an assassin like Genji is great to pick apart any squishy or low HP tank that just barely survived your first onslaught
Last but not least KTZ can work well with another caster that has AoE DMG/CC in his kit like Orphea or Jaina but then you should go for debuffing traits like barbed wire to help with tankier foes.

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 start a combo. The Objective 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 instead and 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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