The Skeleton King. An icon from the Diablo franchise and much like in the Diablo games, Leoric is a hero who never stays down. His spectral presence will literally haunt his enemies, dead or undead. Played well, he can dominate fights, control the battlefield, and spooky scary skeleton your opponents into submission. Are you prepared to wear the crown?
Roles that Hero Can Fill:
Leoric is not a suitable tank for a composition that requires hard CC, such as pick comps, but in general he can tank so long as you are careful about his relatively low health pool. He’s much stronger as an anti-tank bruiser because of his ability to safely solo lane and do significant damage to high health targets in team fights. He also has acceptable wave clear in the tank slot, which is always worth considering, especially with the minion changes.
- Q; Skeletal Swing: A moderate damage, large frontal arc ability that slows by 40% for 2.5 seconds and deals double damage to all non-heroic units: Minions, mercenaries, and monsters. This is all of Leoric’s wave clear potential and, since he lacks hard CC, it is also most of his peel and control in team fights outside of his Heroics.
- W; Drain Hope: A medium range skillshot that only hits heroes. If you land it, it creates a tether between you and the hero that deals 25% of their maximum HP, and heals you for 25% of your maximum HP, over 4 seconds. While the tether is active, you are slowed by 20%. If the enemy hero moves out of range, the ability is cancelled. This is essentially all of Leoric’s sustain in teamfights and during laning. It is the reason he is considered an “anti-tank” bruiser: the threat of the damage is often his best zoning tool, and most of his strongest talents improve Drain Hope in some way. In most cases, any fight where you miss your W is a fight you are out of until it comes back off CD. It is critical for everything about Leoric, be it in lane or all out team fights. Ensure maximum value by using W in combination with your Q-slow, Entomb, or other CC from your team.
- E; Wraith Walk: Leoric gains Unstoppable as a ghost form and accelerates to +50% movement speed over 2.5 seconds. When Wraith Walk is canceled, his body jumps to his ghost. This functions as an all around engage, escape, and repositioning tool for him. Unlike most escape mechanics, the fact the he leaves his body behind means he can still be focused, so using it as an escape is something you have to decide very quickly. Often the best escape will be W-ing a target for the sustain and then immediately E-ing away. The range it can travel by default is roughly 3/5 of a screen width.
- Trait; Undying: When Leoric dies he becomes a ghost and regens a certain amount of health per second based on his total health and the length of his death timer. Any abilities that heal him in this form heal for half, but reduce the length of his death timer allowing him to “Cheat Death” and come back faster. While dead, Leoric becomes the ultimate scout: he can keep tabs on the enemy team, spot rotations, and check bushes and camps. His Q still slows and his W regens at half effectiveness, shortening his death timer, though he does no damage as a ghost. You have to judge when you want to come back quickly, however; sometimes if no objectives are spawning it is more valuable to stay dead and be a free invulnerable scout for your team. If you are going to resurrect in a bad spot, it is possible to use Hearthstone (B) while dead to return your ghost to your base.
Leoric’s wave clear and ability to sustain and be far forward to scout and zone for his team’s rotation make him very strong in lane, so he shines on maps that favor a four-man rotation, where two lanes are close together or there are only two lanes: Dragon Shire, Tomb, Towers, Shrines, Braxis, and Blackheart’s. He can also be a reasonable solo laner on most maps if he is drafted as the bruiser so long as he is matched against a melee solo laner and not a ranged one, as his sustain depends largely on his W. On Dragon Shire and Garden of Terror, his W applying to the Terror and Dragon Knight gives his team a defensive advantage. The way terrain is arranged around the temples on Sky Temple makes it his strongest map because of the strength of Entomb on temple fights, particularly the top and bottom temples.
If Leoric is with his team, he should focus on using his Q on the wave and then immediately mount up to be a mobile ward while his team finishes the wave. On rotation maps, which are his strongest, he should focus on breaking the enemy team’s rotation by dismounting them and then using his E to get back to his team. If he dies, Leoric becomes a scout. If he is the solo laner he should focus on keeping his W up to trade damage with his laning opponent and save his E in case he gets rotated on. Solo laning as Leoric is very simple because his escape is so good, the only hard part is landing the W consistently.
In team fights Leoric should usually position very aggressively and throw his W on the highest health or lowest mobility frontline target. Lacking hard CC, the best way Leoric can create space for his team is to always know where the enemy team is coming from and slow them with his Q so his team has a chance to position well for any potential flanks or engagements. If he gets into trouble, he can E out.
If there are heavy dive heroes on the enemy team, such as Greymane or The Butcher, he wants to position above or below and in front of his backline so that he can use Entomb as a wall when the engagement happens. This either splits the enemy team or catches the diver outright, allowing an easy pick off for his ranged damage. If Leoric dies, he can still peel for his team by slowing with his Q, a unique advantage among tanks. In terms of tempo, on an objective his trait means it is always worthwhile to trade your life for a higher value target because you will come back faster, and if you can ever save an ally by sacrificing yourself, it is always the right decision. It can be very difficult to judge that situation, however, and comes with practice.
Leoric’s strong positioning and “catch” mechanics but lack of hard CC make him pair very well with heroes who have hard CC but a hard time safely engaging. Xul, Rexxar, The Butcher, Anub’Arak, Kerrigan, and Dehaka are some of the more obvious examples. Entomb counting as terrain for Diablo’s Shadow Charge is a very strong synergy as well; the same applies to Auriel’s Detainment Strike. When you use Entomb and Q to their full potential as zoning tools, he can also pair very well with Sgt. Hammer and Lt. Morales, but that is extremely dependent on strong positioning and awareness from your entire team. Entomb is an acceptable set up for burst damage which means he pairs very well with all the mages and Tychus, assuming they save their CDs for that one perfect Entomb.
Other warriors that lack stuns, Chen and Arthas being the two worst offenders. He doesn’t usually pair well with Johanna, but on wave-clear centric maps you can often win just by pure lane pressure, a strategy probably best reserved for organized play. He lacks sufficient peel to pair with Sonya, Greymane, Kharazim, and other dive oriented heroes.
Heroes who lack any form of terrain-bypassing escape. Entomb is a big target your entire team will understand. Additionally, warriors who are low mobility or depend on their high health pool to survive, like Artanis, Diablo, Sonya, Johanna, Cho’Gall, and Arthas are very weak against Leoric. Sonya used to be a difficult matchup for him but the recent changes to Drain Hope pushed it in Leoric’s favor.
Heroes with high damage skill shots or vulnerabilities because his E leaves him in a fixed position long enough for them to get full value consistently. A full Tracer combo is guaranteed to land with even average positioning and timing.If he is already low health at all, it can kill him. Same thing for Li Ming, Zagara, Tyrande, and so on.
The Default: This talent is usually the default pick just because of how strong it is and at best other talents at this tier are only situationally better.
Niche/Situational: One of the most common questions I get asked is when do you take certain less picked talents. They often have uses but the uses are specific to either comps or maps. These are those talents.
Must be Paired with Other talents: Often there are certain talents that, by themselves, are not very impressive but synergize so well with other talents that if you plan on taking the other talent, you should take the talents that pair well with it.
Trap: Trap Talents are either actively bad or, more usually, simply so much worse than competing talents at the same tier it doesn’t make sense to ever take them.
Fun: This can be a little bit of a personal thing, but I’m going to label the talents I personally consider fun even if they are not actually worth taking in real games.
- Entomb: Entomb enables picks on heroes without terrain-bypassing escapes, can be used to peel for team mates, trap people against terrain, deny engages if used as a wall, turn choke points into dead ends, set up for wombo combos, create terrain for Diablo’s Shadow Charge and Auriel’s Detainment Strike, and has such a low cooldown that you can feel free to use it any time it will accomplish any one of these things. Entomb is one of the most versatile Heroics in the entire game, and correctly using and placing it is arguably the hardest part of playing Leoric at a very high level.
- March of the Black King: Sometimes as a solo tank against heavy melee teams, you need this Heroic simply for the sustain. The damage is almost irrelevant, it is the self heal that you are looking for value on. Try and use it after a Q to ensure you hit multiple heroes with it so they can’t simply walk out of the swings.
- Mana Thirst: Leoric doesn’t have mana issues, so this talent fixes a problem that doesn’t exist.
- Block: Mitigating burst whenever you have healing over time can be worthwhile. Leoric’s W is essentially a heal over time, so if you are not against heroes who eat block charges for free (Tychus, Kharazim, Tracer) and are against heroes with very strong AAs (Greymane, Thrall, The Butcher), this can be worthwhile, especially if you are against them as a solo laner. Those are fairly specific requirements.
- Hopelessness: Increasing the range of W makes it easier to get the full duration out of it, negates many disengages from getting out of it for free such Muradin’s Dwarf Toss and Cho’s Surging Fist, and helps ensure full value out of later talents.
- Reanimation: After the nerfs this talent is very lackluster. The only time you take this is against poke comps, you are going a full die to trade build, or you are against a tank with no mobility options like Johanna and there are few AA heroes on the enemy team so neither Block nor Hopelessness will get much value. Note: it does allow you to pick up globes when dead, but this is currently bugged and they will not count towards the stacking.
- Fealty Unto Death: On maps where you fight in or near lanes, this is a very strong sustain talent. The range is identical to XP soak range, and it applies to both allied and enemy minions, which means it is often 14% health and 70 mana per wave. It is half as effective during Undying, which means it can shorten your resurrection timer by quite a bit. Leoric is already strong on wave clear focused maps for his wave clear and sustain, and Fealty dramatically enhances that. It starts to lose value in the late game on every map except Tomb, so take it expecting to use it to achieve an early advantage on wave clear maps because globes and wells will be enough to make sure you never have to back allowing you to constantly be active on the map.
- Willing Vessel: Increasing the healing of Drain Hope to 30% is actually a fairly substantial increase, but it will only see real value when paired with Unyielding Despair (16) to give enormous late game sustain. Without that talent, Hardened Bones is better in most scenarios in terms of strict survivability.
- Hardened Bones: When using E as an escape mechanic it is extremely easy to focus you. This ensures you don’t die. Even using it mid team fight when you have your W on a target can mitigate a lot of damage, even if all you do is come back to the exact same spot. As a tank, soaking damage is part of your job and Leoric has a relatively low health pool, and this helps patch that weakness.
- Royal Focus: The problem with this talent is when you use E as an engage mechanic, which is the only time you’ll get the CD reduction, you’re rarely looking for damage value from your Q. Q damage increases are valued for wave clear, CC additions are needed in team fights for peel. Using E just to clear a wave faster leaves you very exposed. But on the dual lane maps, Tomb, BHB, Shire, Towers, Shrines and post-mount speed change it is technically faster, especially with Lingering Apparition (7), to use W as a rotation mechanic between lanes and then the increased Q damage matters because of wave clear. Outside of that extremely niche scenario, this talent is not worth taking.
- Ghastly Reach: If you are not the main tank and are on a map where wave clear is essential, particularly Infernal Shrines, this is an incredible talent.
- Lingering Apparition: Combined with Hardened Bones (4), this is the tankiest and most mobile build that Leoric has to offer, but in general your positioning tools are already quite strong. Combining it with Royal Focus (4) leads to some interesting engage, then disengage, options as well as the double soaking strategy noted above. It isn’t a bad talent and I genuinely think it has a niche for Leoric as a solo tank, though not a solo frontliner, but as a solo tank Paralyzing Rage usually creates so much space for your team that this only becomes good if the enemy team is so mobile that a 60% slow won’t do anything. This is possible with heroes like Tracer, Kerrigan, and others in the game, but that is such a small unlikely niche to draft Leoric into that I don’t think the situation will come up very often.
- Paralyzing Rage: Slows are your only peel as a tank outside of Entomb. A 60% slow is very strong and will create a lot of space for your team. It is honestly very difficult to recommend any other talent at this tier because, played correctly, this talent can often single handedly deny anyone getting into your back line and ensures the full value of your W consistently.
- Ossein Renewal: Essentially a specialized version of First Aid, you can use it normally while alive as well as while dead to revive faster. If you are getting heavily focused and the enemy team is essentially ignoring the rest of your team to always kill you first then you take this talent. Outside of that or niche scenarios where your entire comp is built entirely around delaying objectives to let something like an Abathur or a The Lost Vikings soak and push lanes, this isn’t as good as Paralyzing Rage in most cases.
- Crushing Hope: With Paralyzing Rage, Entomb, and strong positioning, you should nearly always get the full duration of W in late game fights. So a free 10% of an opponent’s health every time you W is basically what this talent does. Without those control options, this becomes less consistent but still very threatening. Remember, Leoric zones by the threat of damage from his W, and this enhances that no matter what.
- Drain Momentum: In the unusual scenario that there is a highly mobile team with one relatively immobile target, you can W the immobile target to allow you zone effectively for your team against the mobile enemy heroes with the speed increase. Normally you can do this anyway because of E, but sometimes that isn’t enough. With more and more mobile heroes being added to the game, this scenario may become more common.
- Spell Shield: After the recent change, this is much better than previously. With his lower health pool and the heal over time from his W being his primary survival mechanic, Leoric is very vulnerable to being bursted out. Activating this at the right time can save you from that extremely well, but it is high skill floor: you need to activate when it’ll save you from substantial damage, which means being aware of how much of the enemy team’s damage is ability oriented and when they use it, or are likely to, when focusing you.
- Burning Rage: Between Q and this talent you have very fast wave clear. In terms of damage to heroes it usually gets over shadowed by Crushing Hope, but sometimes you end up very short on wave clear or need substantial PvE damage in general, like Shrines or Braxis.
- Imposing Presence: If the enemy team is very heavy on AA, or has a Tychus at all, this becomes your greatest survivability talent at this tier. After the rework the additional slow and the ability to mitigate for your entire team is also a notable asset to Leoric, who otherwise lacks any ability to save his team from focused AA.
- Unyielding Despair: Having belabored this entire guide about how important Leoric’s W is, it should come as no surprise that a talent that potentially offers only 3 seconds of downtime on your W is pretty strong and is usually the top contender at this tier. If for whatever reason your Ws have consistently been getting broken very early, after only 1-2 seconds, don’t take this.
- Consume Vitality: In general, this won’t heal you for more than Unyielding Despair over the long haul, but it does give you a second source of healing, which sometimes allows you to sustain in a burst fight long enough to secure a kill. The key is that it must hit multiple targets consistently to have any value at all, so you can only take it on maps where that is likely. Tomb and Shrines are the best examples. If this talent were earlier, the healing would have strict laning value, but usually post-16 teams are grouping more so it drops off of as a factor.
- Renewed Swing: Very nearly the only talent that improves your peel. Combined with Paralyzing Rage (7) this can easily give you five straight seconds of a 60% slow, potentially on multiple targets. If you desperately need additional peel, this is just about your only option, though overall Imposing Presence’s slow, even being lower and on a longer CD, is better in most scenarios because of the added utility. If you took Ghastly Reach (7) just for additional wave clear on a map like Shrines, this will also increase the value there.
- Buried Alive: The damage is laughable. If only this extended the duration, or somehow made it impassable to teleports, or anything that wasn’t strictly worse than another talent at this tier, but alas.
- Death March: You want March for the sustain in most cases. This gives you sustain in spades. Your real W will stack with the untalented versions, so even on one target you can be getting two Ws. If you hit three targets, you could be getting four. Healing for 100% of your health over four seconds seems pretty good. Spectral will still be better in most cases, but against teams where you have consistently been getting multi-target Marches this talent can close out a game.
- Spectral Leech: It heals you for the amount of damage it does, which means you want to AA targets with larger health pools if you need sustain. In the late game this increases his damage to such a large degree that it is hard to recommend any other talents at this tier, but sometimes Hardened Shield is mandatory because of the combination of heavy burst and Leoric’s relatively small health pool. If you’ve been dying to focus fire consistently all game, take Hardened Shield, otherwise take this.
- Hardened Shield: one of Leoric’s only tools to deal with heavy burst damage, if you’ve been getting blown up in a game this is a mandatory pick up. If you’re surviving long enough to get multiple AAs off, Spectral Leech will usually be better.