-This build is similar to others you may see on this site or others. Though others use the same items, their order is off. I've tested extensively with Merlin and this is by far the best build I've found so far. Stick with it and you will be the most unkillable damage dealer out there.
*Thanks to user UPLAR for suggestions on the build. Changes were made since the original.*
-Conquest- Start mages blessing and Lost Artifact (Tier 1 Chronos') with pots. An Aegis is my preferred relic, but purification is cool too. Lost artifact provides MP5 Merlin needs early and the power helps with lane clear, which Merlin suffers from early on. Chronos' provides the cooldown and power you need to really become a force of reckoning. An early Shamans ring in slot 3 gives a big boost to damage that most may ignore for its earlier potential. Spear provides necessary penetration and stacks build easy with Merlins abilities. Gem of Isolation lets Merlin be an absolute god with constant slows and extra health for survivability. The slow on any stance is good, but the ice stance with gem slows 65%. Sell mages blessing and buy Rod of Tahuti. Rod is good for power and the extra damage. After the build is finished sell boots and buy the new elixir of speed. Buy Bancroft for power and lifesteal, divine ruin for anti-heal, and soul gem for cooldown and lifesteal.
-Any other game mode- Don't buy mages blessing, it doesn't do enough anywhere else. Also, there isn't an elixir of speed outside conquest. Just end the build with the rod and slay out.
-Merlin is a good midlaner and I would say even a good jungler.
-Before anyone scoffs at my skill build, read first to understand why I recommend it this way. The start goes in Archance stance with the Eclipse (1), make sure when clearing lane to place the move as far for Merlin as possible to make it as large as possible. You want the ability to hit all the minions with the initial damage. This allows the tick to hit every minion, getting you the best damage possible. Next is vortex (2) for extra damage, this also unlocks blizzard. The next point skips flicker (3) (play safe) for damage to clear the lane. Get flicker just to have the escape (or engage if you really need it) and then finally get Elemental Mastery for (4/Ult) the damage/ utility.
-Now it gets weird, the Eclipse/Radiate/Frostbolt is prioritized even over the ult. I rarely use the ult for its damage or effects; using it for its damage and effect mean you have to get close for every stance change which is too dangerous and you get more damage out of this ability. You may also ask about the cooldown on the ult but it isn't as good as the damage on the ability. Your stance change is up quick enough without the levels and as I said earlier you won't be using the ult for damage. You may also prefer Vortex/Dragonfire/Blizzard be leveled first but let me explain why it isn't as good. Your main lane clear/ damage combo (I'll discuss combos later) for early team fights comes from arcane and the damage from arcane isn't from vortex, it's from eclipse. Next, the ult does become better with cooldown so put points into that and level flicker when you have to.
---Eclipse- Good for damage. Works it two phases: It has a first initial hit and tick in its radius after the initial skill is used. Make sure to try and deploy this at max range, as its radius scales with how far it's casted from Merlin.
---Radiate- A short-range channeling beam of damage with DOT. Good for raw damage, not much else.
---Frostbolt- A good line projectile that explodes in a small AOE at the end. Has decent damage. IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS ABILITY DOES EXTRA DAMAGE TO ENEMIES THAT ARE SLOWED.
---Vortex- A small AOE ground ability that charges up and pulls enemies towards the center dealing damage. Good for CC but can be difficult to hit and has moderate damage.
---Dragonfire- Two cones of damage that face each other and overlap fire streams. Small protection reduction.
---Blizzard- A good size AOE that lasts stays on the battlefield for tick damage and a slow.
-Flicker- A short ranged blink. Good for escaping and good for gap closing.
-Elemental Mastery- Merlin explodes dealing damage, causing a different effect based on stance, and changing stance. The natural order is Arcance->Fire->Ice->Arcane.When using this ability you can choose what stance you want, but you can not stay on the same stance.
-The stance change effects may be confusing so let me elaborate. The stance effect works that it will cause damage and proc the effect of the stance you started in then it will proc the effect of the stance you're changing into. For example, if you start arcane stance and switch to fire you will: begin animation->explode dealing damage and knocking up->implode and changing stance->proc DOT-> end animation.
-PASSIVE: Overload- every time Merlin uses and ability he gets a stack of overload, up to 3 stacks. Each overload stack causes basic attacks to do extra damage. Not the best passive in the game but it certainly helps Merlins damage. Just try and weave it in your combat. This passive isn't that important and it's no big deal to miss an overload opprotuniy.
-Arcane- Throw out eclipse for a direct hit and place vortex right after to pull an enemy towards the center or to keep them inside the radius. Really good for punishing the people attacking your teammates. Most of the time the enemy won't have the time to react to anything hitting them. By the time they do their health will be gone and the pull will interrupt their damage.
-Fire- Not a very good stance. Protection reduction on dragon fire isn't enough. Radiate hurts but not enough. This stance can be good for raw damage versus single targets but doesn't offer any CC.
-Ice- Use blizzard for the slow and damage. Hit with frost bolt after for extra damage of the slow. This stance is good for focusing on 1-3 enemies with burst and control. Unlike arcane, Ice has granted CC with its slow.
-Summary of combos- Fire stance is sometimes good for single target damage but can't lock down enemies very well. Arcance and ice are both very good. Arcane is good for wide AOE and is preferable for large team fights and helping teammates who have enemies on them. Ice is good for general fighting and good for lockdown. I'd say I use arcane the most because it is great for poke but ice is the most reliable to bring enemies down and killing them.
-How to use stance change effectively- Cooldowns are separate, so every time you change stance the 1 and 2 will be up (flicker doesn't change because it is only one ability). Try to start fights in arcane and use the 1-2 combo and switch to ice. Use the 2 and then hit with frost bolt. Try to weave in those empowered autos when you can. If done correctly, you should be able to get in one more ice combo before switching back to arcane. The ult can be used for some lockdown and maybe as an escape if you need it.
-Merlin has high damage and long range.
-Needs cooldown to perform well.
-Fire stance is normally used~5% of the time. Arcane 45%. Ice 50%.
-Play by helping the team with aggressors. Also, try to poke out any backline.
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