Back in the “legendary” meta, Mages were the salt and pepper of most end-game comps–especially Crystal Maiden, Razor, and Lich. A full 6-Mages alliance used to be a decent strategy precisely because it could transition easily into multi-legendary squads at level 10. Even after the August patch, Mages had a fairly good run thanks to their explosive AoE and burst potential, but as players increasingly focused on 3-star units, most of these heroes began to fall off.
The strength of Mages is their ability to burst in under 10 seconds and erase the enemy team off the board before taking too much damage. However, when the enemy team is made up of mostly 3-star units with high defense and HP pools, the initial kaboom of Mages doesn’t quite finish the job. Because they also lack sustainability, Mages are then easily defeated by most other squads.
That’s why players hesitate before building a full 6-Mages alliance right now. It’s just not a sustainable thing to do if you want to place in top 3 during a match. However, Mages have not all gone down the drain. Some of the most powerful comps currently in Dota Underlords use specific combinations of 3 Mages and other units that can still compete at a high level. These are the squads that we will focus on below.
How Good Are These Mages Individually?
Before you can mix and match with Mages, you have to become familiar with each hero in this alliance, as well as their weaknesses and strengths. Bear in mind that, although some of these units are fairly bad on their own, they can be used successfully during transitions (to link to “Dota Underlords: Should You Transition or Stick to Your Guns?”) or in unique situations.
Probably the worst Mage in the alliance prior to the most recent August patch. Now, he casts his Bloodlust ability on CD for 0 Mana, which makes him slightly more desirable overall. If you plan to go for Mages, he can help you get the 3 Mages buff early. He is also the only Mage with some tanking potential, which makes him a decent choice for the first 10 rounds of a match. Unless you’re building Blood-bounds (link to “Dota Underlords: The Best (and Nastiest) Blood-Bound Comps”), however, you should replace him as soon as a better alternative is available.
The best Mage for the early game, Razor is now a 1-cost unit that can be paired with Tiny and/or Morphling for decent damage and survivability. He is an essential hero for the Mages + Primordials + Assassins comp and can has decent DPS at 3-stars. He’s also pretty tanky for a Mage, so you can use him in your frontline if no better option is available. However, if you don’t specifically need him in your comp and you haven’t been able to get him to 3-stars by turn 25, you should probably replace him with something better.
A rather so-and-so Mage, Lina can be both good and terrible. Players will usually avoid her if any better option is available and so should you. However, she is sometimes your only choice to complete an early 3-Mages alliance and she can do great work at 2- and 3-stars IF she decides to blast the right target with her Laguna Blade. That’s a big “if” though.
One of the few Mages who we can still call “excellent” in this meta is Puck. At both 2- and 3-stars, he does impressive AoE damage if positioned correctly. His Dragon alliance ability is not tremendously useful, but it does give him some additional survivability. If you manage to find an Octarine Essence (link to “Dota Underlords: Perfect Itemization in a Nutshell”), the item can improve his damage even further.
CM is just as useful now as she was prior to the August patch. However, she is currently a 3-cost unit, while her stats and DPS are just as terrible. As a result, you don’t see her as often as you would have a couple of months ago. She basically functions only to enable other heroes, which she does incredibly well. Disappointing as her stats may be, you should almost always count CM as one of your 3 Mages simply because she does so much for all your other casters.
Keeper of the Light
Oh, KotL… the same old story. In some rounds, this Mage will obliterate the enemy board with his ultimate. In others, however, his contribution will feel as bad as a disappointing toot. Helm of the Undying, Boots, and Brooch of the Aggressor can help secure his cast, but even with one of these items, the hero is simply too unreliable. You should never try to use him in a Mages + Assassins + Primordials comp, but he can be a good transition hero when played with Scrappies.
A 5-cost Mage that used to be a game-changer prior to the August patch, Lich is now pretty lackluster unless you can get him to 2-stars. When upgraded, he benefits immensely from an item like Refresher Orb or Bracers of Desperation and can even be positioned on the frontline for faster DPS. If you find 3 of him late in the game, he might be worth using to replace another, weaker mage in your line-up; think Ogre Magi (though you shouldn’t have him this late in the game in the first place), Lina, 2-star Razor, or KotL.
Mage Comps that Still Work Well
As we said before, we do still like Mages in certain specific situations. Our favorite two comps that include the 3 Mages alliance buff are the following:
Mages + Assassins + Primordials
One of the strongest comps currently in Dota Underlords, this squad works best with Razor, Puck, and CM. Lich can also be added during the late-game if all other important units are upgraded to 3-stars.
In addition, you’ll need the 3 other Primordials – Tiny (preferably at 3-stars), Morphling (a must-have 3-stars hero), and Arc Warden, as well as 2 other Assassins (link to “Dota Underlords: How to Build a Killer Assassin Squad”) to complete the alliance with Morph. There are a few good options here, but we love using Viper (to enable the Dragon alliance) and either Queen of Pain (high magic damage) or Sand King (super useful CC). If you have enough gold to level to 10 and you were able to find a 2-star Dragon Knight, feel free to throw him in as well for some extra damage and tankiness.
Mages + Scrappies
Some Scrappies are much better now than they used to be, but it’s rarely worth going for the full 6 alliance. Instead, you can combine Clockwerk, Tinker, Timbersaw, and Alchemist with 3 of your favorite Mages (or, you know, whatever the shop gives you).
Razor, CM, and Puck are still good choices here, but you can also use KotL or Lich if you have the chance. For some added sustainability, feel free to throw a second warlock in the mix. Shadow Fiend can benefit greatly from the 3 Mages buff and does tend to do a lot of damage at 3-stars. Otherwise, the most important unit in terms of upgrades is Tinker, who becomes a bestial machine at 3-stars with Mages.
Don’t feel intimidated by the fact that 6 Mages is not a thing in the current meta. Including 3 Mages in certain comps is still a game-winning strategy, especially if the shop throws the right heroes at you for the first 15 turns of the game. Plus, it sort of feels like you’re winning the lottery every time Lina decides to blast an actual decent enemy hero, rather than a treant. It’s meme-worthy, but it can work!