Visage: A niche hero explained

Visage Visage is considered one of the toughest heroes to master due to his high requirements in terms of micromanagement, spell timing and map awareness. While his win rate in lower level pubs is suffering from this degree of difficulty, high level players are finding tremendous success on the hero. Here is how to master the bound form of Necro’lic.

Same hero, drastically different results

If you look at the overall win rate, Visage sits fairly tightly in the middle of the pack at 47,75% in 7.04. However, that number hardly tells the whole story. While the numbers in brackets up to 3K MMR reflect the overall win rate, the hero starts to excel from 4K MMR onwards. In the 5K+ bracket, Visage even sports the fourth highest win rate overall at 54,73%, only trumped by Abaddon Abaddon, a hero with traditionally high win rates in pubs, as well as Spirit Breaker Spirit Breaker and Treant Protector Treant Protector.
Highest win rate heroes in the 5K MMR+ bracket, Image courtesy of Dotabuff
The most obvious reason for that staggering difference is the high skill floor and ceiling of the hero- both learning the basics and mastering the hero will take a lot of time and effort. Using Summon Familiars Summon Familiars Familiars to their full potential requires a knack for micro management. Before picking Visage, one should make sure to have control groups set up and be savvy about their usage. Having full control over all units at any time is an absolute necessity, since losing familiars to micro mistakes not only cripples your potential for action, but also grants the enemy a 100 gold bounty upon bringing down one of the stone birds. 
Besides the hefty skill requirements, there is another reason why the hero is enjoying so much more success in very high skill pubs. While lower level players mostly play Visage in a support role, he takes over the mid role in most of his appearances above 5K MMR. Played as a position 2, the hero provides a great mid game presence that comes online quickly without the need for big items. With that, the goal is to end the game fairly early, before the enemy gets a chance to recover.
There are several reasons why it makes sense to run Visage mid. First of all, he is very level dependant. While item progression is rather secondary, he needs to rack up as many levels as possible in order to maximize his potential in the mid game. Furthermore, while not being a lane dominator, Visage Visage can hold his own in almost every mid matchup. While not being the most prolific farmer, he rarely struggles to gain the necessary experience in his lane. 

Diving into Visage’s mechanics

Since Visage is a rather rare sight even in higher level games, a lot of players are not familiar with the details of his skillset and mechanics. Therefore, let’s make a quick rundown of his abilities and their details.
Image courtesy of Dotabuff
Grave Chill Grave Chill is an attack and movement slow, that grants Visage an attack and movement speed bonus. However, contrary to popular belief, Visage does not steal or drain speed in the literal sense. Both bonuses work independently from their slow counterparts, which has two implications. First of all, if one side loses the buff or debuff respectively, the other part keeps their buff or debuff. 
For example, if Visage casts Grave Chill on an enemy hero, who is later purged by Repel Repel or any other dispel, Visage Visage keeps the Grave Chill Buff, even though there is no corresponding debuff anymore. The second implication of this mechanic comes with the calculation of the movement speed buff/slow. The 32% speed buff/debuff is calculated using the respective movement speed of Visage and the targeted hero. 
Grave Chill Grave Chill is the most popular choice at level 1, since the spell has great use for both offensive and defensive purposes. It can be used to chase down an enemy in level 1 fights, while also serving as a tool to get away from incoming ganks in the mid lane. Furthermore, it serves as an effective damage trading tool for the laning stage, which is a huge part of the success Visage is enjoying as a mid lane in high level gameplay. 
Soul Assumption Soul Assumption is the skill that is most commonly maxed out first. The short cooldown nuke is a big part of Visage’s damage output. The ability damage is based upon charges Visage collects when nearby heroes take damage. Whenever a hero that is near Visage or Visage himself takes 110 damage, Soul Assumption gains a charge that lasts for 6 seconds or until cast. Taken into consideration is only damage dealt by players, including their summons and damage received by a hero, excluding illusions or “creep-heroes”, such as Familiars, Summon Spirit Bear Spirit Bear or Warlock Warlock's Golem. 
Image courtesy of Dotabuff
Gravekeeper's Cloak Gravekeeper's Cloak is a passive that makes Visage very tanky in the early and mid game. It consists of four layers, each blocking a percentage of incoming damage. It also affects familiars as an aura, as long as they are within 900 units of the hero, granting them damage block based upon the current charges. One layer is peeled off every time Visage takes a damage instance of at least 50 after all other reductions. Gravekeeper’s Cloak blocks physical, magical, and pure damage. The only damage that is ignored by it is HP removal, as dealt by Ice Blast Ice Blast or Culling Blade Culling Blade, for example. 
Despite all the details in the mechanics of the other spells, the effective usage of Familiars is what separates a good Visage player. The familiars have an active called Stone Form, that makes them drop to the ground, stunning enemy units in an AoE of 350. While in Stone Form, Summon Familiars Familiars can’t be attacked and regen their HP to full. Besides landing precise Stone Form stuns, Familiars offer another challenge. Starting out with high base damage, they lose damage with every attack. A lost charge of attack damage is recovered after two seconds. Therefore, their attacks should be managed carefully instead of blindly attack moving them across the battlefield.
Another mechanic to keep in mind about Familiars is that their attributes do not update on existing Familiars after being leveled up. Once you gain a level in your ultimate, only resummoned  ones will have the increased attack damage, health and armor.

Skill build

As mentioned earlier, the skill build for Visage is pretty clear-cut. While Grave Chill Grave Chill is the favorite for level 1, Soul Assumption Soul Assumption gets the undisputed nod for first spell to be maxed. In turn, his talent tree offers some different options. 
Image courtesy of Dotabuff
  • At level 10, 77,3% of pub players chose 90 gold per minute over 30% experience gain. However, the latter option has a 3% advantage in terms of win rate. While there are some items that show great synergy with Visage’s skillset, level progression is much more important for the hero. Therefore, picking up the experience boost is most of the time the better option.
  • At level 15, the choice is between an extra 100 cast range and 50 damage, with 59,1% opting for the latter. The extra damage helps the hero fit the role of a scaling core better, which is reflected in the 3,1% win rate advantage.
  • At level 20, the 40 seconds respawn timer reduction is, once again, the crowd favorite over the more successful option. 300 extra health are quite a chunk especially on a naturally tanky hero. In combination with Gravekeeper's Cloak Gravekeeper's Cloak, the extra HP is highly valuable, explaining the 4,2% win rate advantage. 
  • At level 25, however, the more popular option is also the more successful one. 60,8% of pub players chose the 120 extra movement speed for Summon Familiars Familiars over the 20% spell amplification. The extra gear puts the Familiars at 550 movement speed, equaling the maximum movement speed for heroes. With that, escaping from them becomes close to impossible, making stun locking opponents much more reliable. 


“I do not require gold. Only tools”. This response line of Visage hits the nail on the head. Visage is a very item-independent hero, yet there are some items that heavily benefit him. The most popular choice for the first major item is  Medallion of Courage, which is later upgraded to  Solar Crest. The item helps with the Familiars’ damage output, especially when their damage charges are decreasing. 
A typical follow-up choice is  Rod of Atos. Not only does the item provide some extra mana to work with, but also grants 30 base damage due to the intelligence bonus, as well as some extra HP to work with. Furthermore, the root allows for your Familiars to catch up and chain disable any hero that has no dispel tool at hand. The last “must-have” is  Aghanim’s Scepter, which gives you a third Familiar to work with.
The typical item progression for a mid Visage doesn’t go much further, since the hero aims to end the game fairly quickly. Whenever that is not possible, the item build can adapt to the needs at hand, with utility items such as  Assault Cuirass Scythe of Vyse rounding out the build. Since aura items also affect Familiars, they are worthy to be taken into consideration.

Image courtesy of



One of the reasons why mid Visage has been so successful is that he matches up against Invoker Invoker very well. Not only does he have the capability to interrupt his combos with Familiar stuns, but he also hits a very unfortunate timing window for Invoker. Visage hits his power spike at the exact time when Invokers typically want to farm up for a bit, leading to a 2,9% win rate advantage for Visage. 
The hero also works great versus heroes that rely on skillshots, such as Pudge Pudge, Clockwerk Clockwerk, or Mirana Mirana, since Familiars block both hooks and Sacred Arrow Sacred Arrow. Visage is also a counter to  Techies, since Familiars can spot  Proximity Mines and destroy them, while they do not trigger them.
His weak spot are heroes that have the ability to take out Familiars quickly through AoE or multi-target abilities. Visage also struggles against illusion heroes, such as Phantom Lancer Phantom Lancer and Naga Siren Naga Siren, because his damage is almost exclusively single target. 
Still, with a decent amount of practice and knowledge about his mechanics, Visage can be a very intriguing addition to your hero pool. Don’t be discouraged by the low overall win rate and take a look at how high MMR players utilize the hero, and take away some insight on how to win with this special hero. 
AuthorKardinalR Date30 March 2017, 17:29 Views18032 Comments0
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