Basis instructions for play Merlin is not the presence of items, but an aggressive/safe style of play. You can buy many different other items, but your damage anytime will be the same. With good play-style you can have no items, but you will be top dmg :)
I tried to buy different combinations of items, but I think:
Chronos' Pendant 2nd not give me good burst. But need get it anyway as 2 or 3 item.
Spear of the Magus 2nd - we will be always without mana. Take Spear of the Magus if you want be more useful for team (not take, if yours team as 3 phys like warrior, adc, assassin + weak mage). You can replace with it Shaman's Ring or Obsidian Shard. Or replace Divine Ruin in main build if enemy heave weak heal.
Best 2nd I think - Gem of Isolation. He early helped your team kill same enemy's and they get more trouble to escape from Eclipse.
You can buy Shaman's Ring as 4 item it's can give you more average dmg. Now most teams play with more than 2 fat gods with good magic def, so I get Obsidian Shard most time.
Bancroft's Talon good in assault as 3rd item after 1st Chronos' Pendant and 2nd Divine Ruin.
I never take defensive items. They no need.
Vs. one player blink to him and use:
( Blizzard + Frostbolt) + Elemental Mastery (change to arcane ) + ( Eclipse + Vortex)
(or change to fire) ( Dragonfire+ Radiate)
vs. group players save Flicker and use him for escape after combo. You need maximize 1-st and 2-nd skill, ignore ultimate. Usually fire stance not really good. Radiate good vs. only one enemy, arcane skills more universal vs. several enemy's.
In long game sometimes useful change arcane skill order ( Eclipse + Vortex as Vortex + Eclipse). People get used to the usual skill order and make mistakes if it is changed. They bypass the Vortex (this skill usually missed), but get to the center Eclipse after.
You main team damage dealer - not use arcane combo in single target before main battle. Single target have 90% chance escape from Arcane combo and in main battle you do nothing. Use frost skills to them and change to Arcane when main battle start. After battle change to Fire and try kill low HP targets. You need initiate main battle (if your team have cowards xD) - look for good enemy group and use arcane combo in full HP targets. If you want get some kills - wait when good team will do all the work for you and you can kill targets with less than 50% HP (not recommended).
Success of your actions - true Flicker use and quick use combo between Flicker on cool-down. Flicker is an incredibly effective skill - you can escaped Hercules's Driving Strike before he hit you... need only good reaction... Except skills that block movement - Siphon Darkness, Whirlpool, Entangling Vines - they a some problem.
Merlin will be nerfed in next patch... Now he is top dpm (damage per minutes) and gpm (gold per minutes) among all my heroes...
After patch the average damage fell by ~10 thousand, but Merlin still strong.
After nerf Gem of Isolation - I not see fell damage. Still buy Gem.
Remove Shaman's Ring to situation. Сhanged items buy order in main build. You can still change this order at your discretion.
Add additional situation items.
After 3-rd nerf:
Eclipse - Decreased Magical Power Scaling of the Initial Hit from 60% to 55%, Decreased Magical Power Scaling of the tick damage from10% scaling to 8%
Blizzard - Increased the Time to Deploy of this ability from 0.5 to 0.7
Elemental Mastery - Increased Cooldown from 28/26/24/22/20 to 32/29/26/23/20
It became more difficult to be top team dmg. But if play good - you can do this.
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