The Skeleton King
Leoric is a methodical bruiser who crashes and clangs across the battlefield with his massive mace. With the ability to simultaneously drain an enemy and heal himself, he makes for a scary frontline bruiser, especially once his Skeleton Swings start chunking down the enemy team. Wraith Walk is one of the best movement abilities in the game and gives Leoric a firm presence on the battlefield.
What really makes Leoric a unique nuisance is his trait, which causes him become a ghost upon death. After his death timer is complete, he will respawn at this ghost, allowing him to be in the fight the moment he’s up. Even spookier, he can harass enemies from beyond the grave, reducing his death timer as he does so. With the right talent pickups, death becomes an easily overstepped obstacle for this once great king.
Become a ghost when you die, and resurrect upon reaching full health. Your Abilities don’t do damage while dead, but can still heal causing you to cheat death.
When Leoric dies, he spawns as a ghost, similar to Uther or Tyrael. Unlike these heroes, Leoric stays in this form until his health bar fully refills, at which point he respawns at the ghost’s location. While ‘dead’, Leoric can still use two of his abilities, sans damage. Skeletal Swing can still slow enemies, and Drain Hope will cause his respawn bar to fill faster. The Skeleton King can still harass enemies and peel for allies in death, and with a few talent pickups he can reduce his death timer by a significant amount.
Cooldown: 8 seconds
Swing in front of you to deal 300 (110 + 10 per level) damage and slow enemies by 40% for 2.5 seconds. Deals double damage to all non-Heroic sources.
With a wide AoE, substantial slow, and reasonable 8 second cooldown, Skeletal Swing is Leoric’s bread and butter. With it he can clear a creep wave or slow an enemy for the kill – later in the game, its huge radius makes it a hard-hitter in fights. While in Undying form, this skill becomes Ghastly Swing, dealing no damage but still applying a slow.
Cooldown: 12 seconds
Grab an enemy Hero’s soul, dealing up to 25% of their maximum Health as damage and healing you for up to 25% of your maximum Health while you are nearby, over 4 seconds. You are slowed by 20% while this is active.
Leoric’s source of sustainability, this ability creates a bond between the Skeleton King and an enemy, draining health for four seconds or until the bond is broken. It can reasonably be up 33% of time in fights, mana and aim permitting, giving Leoric some potent damage and persistence. Drain Hope does apply a slow to Leoric while it’s active, making the slow from Skeletal Swing (and teammate assistance) crucial to achieving its full duration. This skill scales well against other high-health heroes since it drains a flat percentage of their health. When Undying, this ability will restore Leoric’s health bar, allowing him a quicker respawn.
Cooldown: 14 seconds
Separate from your body, becoming Unstoppable and gaining Movement Speed accelerating up to 50% over 2.5 seconds. When Wraith Walk ends or is canceled, your body jumps to your wraith.
This is one of the farthest traveling movement abilities in the game, and it gives Leoric much room for chasing, escaping, and initiating. An ability this good needs a drawback, and true to form, Wraith Walk has the downside of not being instantaneous. While Leoric’s body is Unstoppable (AKA can’t be stunned) during the duration of this skill, he can still be damaged, meaning a coordinated enemy team can punish a last-minute escape effort.
Cooldown: 50 seconds
Create an unpathable tomb in front of you for 4 seconds.
A tactical ability with a wealth of applications, Entomb allows Leoric to separate enemies from their allies and possible routes of escape. Entomb spawns three walls in front of Leoric, creating a narrow and unpathable alley leading directly to him. This ability can trap enemies with high mobility or bottleneck foes to be decimated by Leoric’s allies’ well-coordinated AoE abilities. At level 20, Leoric can opt to improve this skill, adding AoE damage to everything inside the structure. This isn’t a great pickup against someone like Illidan, who can maneuver past the body-block, or Murky, whose small frame allows him to squeeze around the bulky skeletal blockade.
March of the Black King
Cooldown: 80 seconds
Become Unstoppable and swing your mace three times, healing yourself for 7.03% of your maximum Health for each enemy Hero hit and dealing 400 (210 + 10 per level) damage.
If a Leoric feels his team is faltering in teamfights and needs more damage, this heroic is an easy pickup. Extremely powerful in tight quarters against clustered enemies, this triple swing will devastate anyone unfortunate enough to be hit by all three. That said, the ability requires precise positioning and timing for optimal use – swinging and missing leaves Leoric vulnerable as he blunders forward, unable to cancel the animation.
Between March of the Black King and Drain Hope, Leoric has tremendous potential sustain in skirmishes. Both of these abilities require timing, skill, and some team coordination to utilize fully, but make him a hard-to-kill wrecking ball. It’s a dangerous pickup against enemies with dashes, e.g. Valla, Tychus, or Falstad, but if Leoric exercises forbearance, he can use this herioc at the optimal time and exact some sweet, sweet punishment. Using Skeletal Swing just before March of the Black King will slow the enemies long enough to make them easier targets.
Level 1 Talents
Recommended: Reanimation or Hopelessness
Reanimation is Regeneration Master on crack… clean, high-octane crack. It grants the same regeneration bonus for picking up Regeneration Globes, with one extra touch – the added regen speeds up Leoric’s death timer. While the regeneration and death reduction might be inconsequential early game, but by the time the mid-to-late game rolls around, the Globes will have stacked up enough to make a huge difference. If the enemy team has high burst-damage potential, however, this talent may be inadvisable – the regen won’t help him survive, and respawning more quickly won’t change the fact that he’s getting bursted down in fights.
Drain Hope is a potent ability, and anything that augments it is worth consideration. While 20% extra range may not seem incredible, Hopelessness increases both the cast range and the range in which the drain is effective, making it harder for enemies to break the channel and re-engage. Especially against maneuverable or long range heroes, this should be a consideration.
Block is a good pickup for any Leoric who is faced with some intense attack damage. If the enemy team has a Valla, Raynor, Nova, Butcher, etc., Block can go a long way to keeping Leoric alive. This hero is first and foremost a bruiser, and needs to have longevity in a fight for him to reach his peak effectiveness. Block isn’t always a great pickup, but a quick look at the enemy roster should confirm or discredit its validity.
Mana Thirst will go a long way to keeping Leoric’s mana stores full, but adds little else to his kit. When pitted against the other talents in this tier, this should only be picked up by Leorics who find themselves… well, mana-thirsty.
Level 4 Talents
Recommended: Fealty Unto Death
Fealty Unto Death is great for sustaining in a tough lane and throughout the game. Gaining health and mana on every nearby minion death turns Leoric into a formidable early presence. The value doesn’t end after the soaking is done, however. A Leoric in ghost form can still reap the benefits of Fealty Unto Death, which means that minions that die near him will cause him to respawn more quickly. For a Leoric looking to stay alive in lane and minimize downtime, Fealty Unto Death is a solid pickup.
As mentioned before, Drain Hope is a premier skill for Leoric – bolstering it is often a good idea. Increasing the life drained from 25% to 30% may not seem huge, but over the course of a game this extra drain can bring a lot of extra damage and self-sustain to the table. Leoric is going to want to be extracting maximum value from Drain Hope all game long, making Willing Vessel an excellent choice.
If Leoric finds himself being focused whenever he tries to Wraith Walk away, Hardened Bones is a solid choice. While it may not add more to his damage or respawn him more quickly, the added damage reduction will probably save his life or two in any given game. This talent also allows Wraith Walk to be used reactively to mitigate, say, a Nova’s Triple Tap.
Royal Focus allows Leoric to traverse the map quickly by Wraith Walking repeatedly, but this added utility is unreliable and usually unnecessary. It’s pretty fun, though.
Level 7 Talents
Recommended: Ossein Renewal or Paralyzing Rage
Ossein Renewal would be a good talent without its “while Undying” clause. Being able to regenerate a fifth of your life on command is a powerful option on a tank, even if it takes 6 seconds to restore. Being able to shave a tenth off of his respawn time makes this even more appealing. This ability will keep Leoric up between lanes and objectives, help him withstand more punishment in fights, and get him back in the fray more quickly should he perish.
The 40% slow from Skeletal Swing is already hefty – boosting it to 60% is just dirty. Especially against speedy heroes like Li Li or Falstad, this added slow can be a death sentence. Forcing an enemy to move at 40% movespeed for 2.5 seconds is brutal, and makes Paralyzing Rage a good alternative to Ossein Renewal.
Lingering Apparition adds some impressive range to Wraith Walk, but the ability is already strong without this and being in Wraith Walk for longer means that the enemy team has more time to punish Leoric’s physical body. That said, the added mobility can be a huge boon in both chases and escapes.
Ghastly Reach adds a nice bit of range to Skeletal Swing, which is a nice option in some situations. However, the added slow is usually a better call unless the enemy team has some evasive backliners like Valla or Sgt. Hammer.
Level 10 Heroics
A Leoric will have to take into account his team, his opponents, and his personal preference when it comes time to choose a heroic. March of the Black King is incredible when paired with the likes of Johanna’s Condemn or Anub’arak’s Impale, which can clump or stun groups of enemies. In a double warrior lineup, when damage is lacking, when stuns are abundant, or when the map involves some narrow places (think Haunted Mines), March of the Black King can do a ton of damage while restoring a lot of health, two things Leoric definitely resonates with. On a team with poor crowd control, or against a team with high mobility, this heroic can be hard to land.
Entomb is a versatile heroic, and can be reasonably picked in any match, though its lack of damage should noted. On a team that already has high burst damage, this heroic can corner a group of enemies and allow for some quick pickoffs. Teammates like Jaina and Kael’thas should bring Entomb into immediate consideration. Even without a team, Leoric can do some staggering damage to a cornered enemy – should he want to get off some ganks, picking up Entomb gives him a great enabler. Certain heroes can bypass this trap though, so there are many factors that come into play in choosing between these heroics.
Level 13 Talents
Recommended: Crushing Hope or Drain Momentum or Burning Rage
Crushing Hope pushes Leorics damage levels over the top, but only if he can get a full drain off on someone. As such, it’s a great pickup with a team full of coordinated stuns and slows, but not so much if Leoric is the only one keeping enemy movement in check. If that’s the case, Drain Momentum is can provide a lot of value by letting Leoric keep up in fights. He’s already slow enough without Drain Hope siphoning his speed.
Burning Rage is an awesome pickup if Leoric is managing to persist on the front line throughout fights. The damage really adds up over time, and also helps with pushing, wave-clearing, and mercenaries. If he can get off full Drain Hopes, nice Entombs, and maybe has a healer on his side, Burning Rage grants Leoric some decent AoE presence and even more PvE prowess.
Spell Shield is a powerful pick against heroes with high ability damage, especially those that do it in bursts. Leoric is already difficult to take down, and Spell Shield further adds to that.
Level 16 Talents
Recommended: Renewed Swing
An argument can be made for any of the talents in this tier, which is always a good place for a hero to be. That said, Renewed Swing brings a lot of extra damage and slow to Leoric’s repertoire. The second strike only swings for 50% damage, but the slow remains intact, allowing Leoric to effectively double the slow time on someone if he doesn’t swing until the end of the timer. The second swing is also affected by any talents that affect Skeletal Swing, making this a solid choice all around.
Consume Vitality is a more pragmatic choice. On top of the rest of Leoric’s heals, another 10% health swing makes him one hell of a survivalist. Unyielding Despair is another option for survival, albeit a less immediate one. Decreasing the cooldown time of Drain Hope by 4 seconds is incredible, but that is the best cast scenario. Whether Leoric built more towards Skeletal Swing or Drain Hope will probably determine the choice in this one.
Imposing Presence is a crippling pickup against the likes of Illidan or Valla or The Butcher. If Leoric is getting auto-attacked to (un)death, Imposing Presence will provide a lot of utility for him and his team.
Level 20 Talents
Leoric’s storm talents are another contested tier. Improving either of his heroics can prove powerful. Applying Drain Hope to every hero in range will keep the health coming after the March of the Black King ends, making Death March a scary talent.
Leoric wants Entombed enemies to be taking damage, so adding some AoE damage to the entrapment makes Buried Alive equally scary.
Hardened Shield is a classic vanilla talent that any tank can be happy to pick up. Increasing resistance to dying is an awesome thing, and popping Hardened Shield and then Wraith Walking away is a sure way to survive an exchange.
That said, Leoric isn’t as hindered by death as some other heroes, and gaining only survivability seems questionable when Leoric has the awesome Spectral Leech talent. Draining the enemy for 5% of their max health with each swing of the mace will dismantle even the beefiest of tanks and keep Leoric alive. Even with his .77 attacks per second (the current lowest in the game), this lifesteal works with the rest of his kit to chunk anyone down. Spectral Leech is especially advised against warrior-heavy lineups.