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Ares has historically been a niche guardian. His ultimate is one of the most powerful CC's in the game, but it is easily countered by Purification Beads. Once his ultimate is down, his remaining CC is the crippling from his Shackles, which are tricky to hit. This means that not only does Ares have some of the lowest crowd control in the game, what he has is unreliable.
Furthermore, Ares' waveclear is notoriously, comically bad. He can, and will, be pushed into his own tower by minions when at a low level, and can barely hold them off until he's put several points into Searing Flesh.
What Ares has always brought to the table was player damage. With only a little magical power, Ares can drain the life from enemy gods with astounding ease. If you had a hypercarry ADC with a weak late game, Ares could help feed that god much more easily than other supports. After that, his utility was limited to confirming kills and burning beads.
Ares' synergy with aura items has always been noted but rarely lauded. There simply haven't been enough auras worth building. In season 4, that changes significantly. This build focuses on two of the items that have gained the most from season 4: Gauntlet of Thebes, and Pythagorem's Piece. With their addition, there is room for a new Ares with all the same damage we love, plus undeniable and powerful passive effects for all allies to make Ares the God of War he was meant to be.
Ares must begin with Searing Flesh in order to help clear waves and buff camps, in his own small way. Once the initial point is purchased however, there is little need to put more in for a while. Since the early and mid game is focused on farming, and gods are generally squishier, the percentage scaling you'd receive from leveling Searing Flesh first is not very efficient against Gods and is pitiful against minions because they have percent damage mitigation.
At second level, grab a point in Shackles and prepare to level it every chance you get. Shackles is Ares' most reliable CC (if you can make the skill shots), and the damage is frighteningly good. It also helps with clearing waves and jungle camps...but just a little. When in the early game, try to stick the enemy ADC so that they can't escape with abilities, and follow up with Searing Flesh while your own ADC rips into them with auto attacks. The enemy will fall quickly.
At level three, get Bolster Defenses. Twenty protections for you and your ADC is useful even in the early game, but if you are able to stick your chains before popping this off you'll gain bonus protections. 20 protections is equivalent to about 17% damage reduction, which will add up to a lot of health saved on minion attacks and enemy poke.
At level four, get your second point of chains, then at level five unlock No Escape. Your enemy ADC most likely has Beads, so unless you know they're down, don't try to grab the ADC. Instead, look to use it to either peel a Jungle/Support gank on your ADC (this will likely result in your death, but it will help the team overall), or use it to peel the Support if your ADC has a good 1 v 1 matchup, or finally use it to isolate the Support so you and your ADC can dogpile them.
You won't need to level up No Escape again until you've maxed everything else out. Since the enemy is most likely going to be watching like a hawk for you to use this, it's rare that you'll see any damage confirmation with No Escape, and therefore you don't need to spend points for the extra damage.
Max out chains, then max out Bolster Defenses. It's a powerful team fight ability that will improve your team's chances of surviving a skirmish, and you want to get the most protections out of it as soon as possible so that your squishy characters can reap the rewards. At max ranks, it provides as many protections as a mediocre defensive item purchase, but if you're hitting all your Shackles then it's a strong free defensive item for your whole team.
Max searing flesh third. By the time you reach this point in the game, the percent damage is going to really shine when confirming kills on low health gods. It also causes some chaos!
Watcher's gift provides you with necessary income. You simply cannot clear camps or waves efficiently enough to choose anything else (unless you're Incon).
Your first Relic will depend on your ADC and the enemy Duo. If your ADC has decent sustain, Shell or Sprint would be excellent; if they do not, Meditation doesn't hurt and it will still be useful late-game thanks to its Season 4 buff. For very aggressive players, Blink will allow you to gank to powerful effect.
Talaria Boots second provides you with additional income. Ares has a very easy time getting the passive to proc because his Shackles increase his movement speed (allowing him to close in on other gods not yet hit) and because Searing Flesh is very, very easy to hit with. Each time you earn that 30 gold bonus, you've gained 10 seconds of passive gold income. If you hit only 6 times, then you've earned 180 gold and are able to purchase an item a full minute sooner than you would have otherwise (all other farming being equal). Furthermore, the HP5 and increased movement speed out of combat makes you better able to rotate and support the team in the early and mid game.
Next, you'll want Hide of the Urchin. The sooner you get this item, the sooner you can max the stacks, and Ares has a pretty easy time getting assists and kills. Hide of the Urchin gives Ares a lot of survivability in a hyper-efficient package, and the longer you live the longer you can support your team with your auras.
The first aura item you'll want to get is Gauntlet of Thebes. The new passive of providing 20 magical and physical protections to allies in range makes this arguably a core item for any Ares. Furthermore, aura items provide their auras to the wielder, meaning that this item essentially provides you with:
30 magical power (due to Ares' passive Blessed Presence)
20 magical and physical protections
15 HP5 (on top of talaria boots this gives you +40 HP5, very good sustain out of combat)
All for only 2150 gold!
You may be approaching level 12. Choose your second relic based on how the game is progressing, but if you did not get Shell as your first relic, consider getting it now. Shell will provide a crucial bridge for when you reach the teamfighting phase, which I'll describe in more detail in the Summary.
Next, choose either Sovereignty or Heartward Amulet, depending on how well particular enemies on the team are doing. Purchase the counterpart item next, or after Pythagorem's Piece if your team really doesn't need the protections for the one type of damage or the other.
On the balance, Sovereignty is the better item because it provides you with even more HP5 and a standard enemy team will have 3 physical gods and 2 magical ones (one of which is likely a Guardian building tanky). However, don't feel too bad if you need Heartward first; it provides 15 more protections to you than Sovereignty does and the MP5 is still helpful. Both items provide 200 additional HP each.
You'll sell Watcher's Gift for Pythagorem's Piece now. If your team is quite aggressive you may want to get it right after Gauntlet of Thebes, or even before that. Pythagorem's Piece gives you a whopping 100 magical power; 40 base, 30 from the aura, and another 30 from your passive. It provides you with a little CDR (that you're sorely missing now; we'll get into that in the Pros and Cons), and gives every person on your team in range a power boost and lifesteal. This means that your whole team now has significantly more sustain in combat, and you personally get 24% lifesteal which interacts very nicely with your kit. Ares has never really had access to lifesteal before, and being able to access it with an efficient item that not only synergizes with him but with the whole team is what is going to put Ares on the map in Season 4.
Finally, you'll sell your Talaria Boots to get Shoes of the Magi. The bit of extra power doesn't hurt, and more importantly you get another 10% CDR for a total of 20% across the whole build.
This build provides the following stats to a level 20 Ares:
3245 HP (1050 of it from items)
230 magical power, all without building anything other than support items.
214 physical protections (140 from items and 74 from Ares' leveling)
202 magical protections (155 from items and 47 from Ares' leveling)
Plus 500 extra MP and 24% magical lifesteal.
The personal tankiness available here is phenomenal. With items alone, if this Ares is hit by a maxed-out enemy Ra ultimate, with the Ra having 450 magical power (an amount one would typically see on a serious Mid who hasn't built entirely glass cannon) and Obsidian Shard, Ares would take:
700 base damage, +450 magical power=1150 unmitigated damage.
You've mitigated 57% of the damage on that ult, and taken a mere 15% of your maximum health in damage.
This does NOT count any additional protections from Bolster Defenses, but you don't need them. Bolster Defenses is for your team.
Just by standing around teammates, you provide them with 40 protections, 20-30 physical/magical power, and lifesteal. 40 protections, before penetration, is about 29% damage reduction for your teammates. You've given everyone on your team a free and powerful item: how much would an item cost that provided you with 40 physical and magical protections, power, and lifesteal? It sounds like it's comparable to a Spirit Robe, and that costs 2500 gold. If you're giving all that to your teammates, then you not only saved each teammate an item slot but also 2500 gold apiece, or 10,000 gold for the team.
If you use Bolster Defenses, you add another 40 protections to all your allies. 80 protections is nearly 45% damage reduction before penetration. If you've chained three enemies first, you're providing an astounding 101 protections to all allies, which is over 50% damage reduction. At 20% CDR, Bolster Defenses has a 4 second refractory period between the 8 second duration and 12 second cooldown. During an extended teamfight, you could use Shell during that refractory period to provide your whole team with continuous damage mitigation for a total of 21 seconds.
Plus, everyone has lifesteal. Can't forget that.
This Season 4 Ares build provides excellent personal tankiness and unprecedented damage reduction and sustain for the entire team. The presence of such an Ares in a team fight ought to make the allied team close to invincible! However, it's not perfect.
This build of Ares will have a few exciting moments in the early game, but will otherwise be somewhat lackluster. In mid game, this Ares will be poor; he won't hurt very much, and his auras won't have come online yet, so his teamfight presence won't be at the "Godlike" level it will be later.
Furthermore, while 20% CDR is nice, it's not as good as 40%, which means that this Ares requires a steady hand and the confirmation of Shackles.
On paper, I believe that this build could have a tremendous impact in coordinated casual games and in low-level ranked games. It has the potential to be a truly competitive build for a team looking to maximize DPS and survivability in late-game team fights, particularly around objectives like the Fire Giant or Phoenixes because the high damage mitigation provided for the team will allow them to take environmental damage for a much longer time than the enemy could.
Furthermore, the build is flexible enough in item slots such as Heartward Amulet and Sovereignty that it can adapt with other items on a situational basis. There are a handful of other new aura items in Smite Season 4 that could be put to good use; time will tell.
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