Crystal Maiden — the Queen of Pubs

Image by Zipfinator

The trickle down effect of the professional meta into everyday pubs has been discussed at length, and today the focal point of one such discussion is going to be Crystal Maiden. Crystal Maiden is both one of the oldest Dota heroes and an iconic support—players are frequently introduced to Dota by playing CM.

Does it mean the hero is easy to learn? She probably is, but it doesn’t mean that she is not effective or weak. Against certain lineups she becomes a premier disabler, can dish out a lot of damage all while enabling her whole team with a very powerful global aura. In all other cases, she is still a very versatile and self-sufficient support who can bring a lot of utility to your side of the table.

Reading the Changelogs

Strangely enough, there isn’t a lot to read, when it comes to the changes the hero has received in the last year. The new talent tree is good, but not exceptional, while her abilities have been largely left untouched for a very long time. Moreover, the new Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade, while great, is still highly situational and can’t be acquired consistently enough to make a huge enough difference for the hero’s popularity in the pro-scene.

The biggest buff the hero received was the root mechanic change. This skyrocketed the utility the hero can provide, since CM suddenly became less inferior to the usual disablers like Lion when it comes to dealing with highly mobile heroes. There are always several mobile heroes popular in the meta at any given time, making CM effective in the majority of games.

She is a decent lockdown for Storm, Earth and Ember Spirits. She can prevent Riki and Puck from phasing out and stops all types of blink, while disarming the target. Against many heroes Frostbite Frostbite is now effectively a stun that lasts 3 seconds and has a cooldown of 6. The efficiency of this spell alone already makes CM a worthwhile opening pick.

Position 4.5 Support

Crystal Maiden is somewhat unique in her position on the regular 1-5 scale. She isn’t a greedy roamer like Riki or, possibly, Treant Protector. But neither is she a lane babysitter, such as Dazzle. She can be a good lane harasser, if it is required of her, but in the majority of cases her potential is wasted, if she is played as a hard support.

CM is still expected to buy the majority of support items, sacrifice herself for the greater good and experience all other usual pleasures of the support life, but her gameplay has recently evolved. She usually starts off in the jungle, getting a quick level 2 by taking the larger creeps from camps with the help of the Frostbite. This immediately puts your team ahead in terms of XP and gold, while enabling the aura. Moreover, even after the first couple of rotations to the lane, she should still be farming up the closer neutral camps, otherwise she can quickly become a liability for her team.

The hero should remain active at all times, whether it’s farming, ganking, harassing or getting resources. She can’t and shouldn’t stay safely behind her core, waiting for an enemy initiation—this job is better performed by many other heroes. Instead, she should be proactive and unexpectedly appear in the lane to get a kill or strongly harass the enemy, then rotate back to farming. And while it might sound somewhat similar to what your typical afk-Legion Commander would do, the effectiveness of early CM ganks is much higher. And, once again, don’t forget about the aura.

Dressing Up

Crystal Maiden has the coolest cosmetics, period, but it is the items she can afford in-game what make the biggest difference. The support endgame has changed drastically over the last couple of years, with really good items, such as Lotus Orb Lotus Orb, Glimmer Cape Glimmer Cape and Solar Crest Solar Crest joining the usual Force Staff Force Staff and Ghost Scepter Ghost Scepter.

Given her somewhat greedy, yet proactive playstyle, Crystal Maiden can afford a lot, on top of the usual wards, smokes and dusts, at least when played correctly. There is even an argument regarding Hand of Midas—the recent changes made it somewhat better for support heroes.

Early game should be dedicated towards farming up the biggest game-changer: Boots of Speed Boots of Speed. CM is incredibly slow and can’t boast a massive cast range on Frostbite. And in many cases she might be outran by her target even if it is hit with Crystal Nova Crystal Nova. An early value Wind Lace Wind Lace can also be very helpful and opens up a road towards either Drum of Endurance Drum of Endurance, which is a decent stats item with a decent aura. Or if you need to rush a specific item such as Force Staff vs. Lifestealer or Ursa or Glimmer Cape against nukers, it can be assembled into Tranquil Boots.

Skipping both Tranquil Boots and Drums is not completely out of the question, but you will need to rely on your allies to initiate in the early skirmishes, or most of your targets will run away accompanied by the pings of your irritated teammates. Frostbite has 525 cast range—keep that in mind.

Choosing the Right Talents

The talent choices for the hero are pretty straightforward, since there isn’t much choice involved in the majority of cases. +15% Magic Resistance at level 10 is extremely deceptive, and the damage overflow from a last hit of an enemy core on CM is much bigger than anything 15% on a ~1000 HP target can provide. It simply doesn’t work until ultra-late and even then a Glimmer Cape you will be able to farm faster with the help of +60 damage will remain superior.

The cast range increase at level 15 is also somewhat mandatory. Frostbite has a very short cast range, and as CM you generally want to stay as far from the battle as you can. Get in, use your spells, get out. Or get in, use your spells, and follow up with your ultimate. Until you have at least some form of protection, rushing into enemy to cast your ultimate will at most soak up a disable. Sometimes it can be a worthwhile trade, but quite frequently it simply isn’t. Frostbite is a 3 second disable on a 6 second cooldown, and you almost always have mana for it.

Level 20 and 25 talents are slightly more situational. GPM vs. Respawn Time will generally lean towards GPM—it is simply useful in more cases. At level 25 extra 1.5 seconds of disable are excellent and are probably superior in the majority of cases, but sometimes having an extra powerful nuke can be beneficial.

EDIT: There are no longer any RTR talents in the game. LvL20 has been changed to +50 Freezing Field Damage

Playing Like a Pro

There is a really good CM guide on our forums which goes in much more detail to your opening strategy as CM. Alternatively, looking at tournament replays can be a good starting point for learning the hero. As mentioned previously, her gameplay has significantly evolved and she is no longer a simple, generic support. Though, to be fair, no Dota hero is.

More from The Dotabuff Blog

    Such a good article,about my fav hero!



      Edit: Dammit

      This comment was edited

        main cm check my profile


          B4 HARD NERF


            Cookie's guide being advised on a KawaiiSock's post, FeelsGoodMan


              hopefully valve won't nerf cm she's too balance

              Black Knight

                6th Hokage! Yes!!!

                Edit: Sh*t! 7th Hokage! Yes!!!

                This comment was edited

                  am i a good cm if i play carry XDD

                  pro feeder

                    And not nerfed at all, thanks icefrog!


                      10 th cm is to perfect first pick

                      True Samurai Warrior

                        Icefog smoked kush while making this patch xd


                          I blame Cookie :)


                            no major nerfers in 7.0.6
                            Im disappoint
                            she's op af and playing her feels like cheating

                            Brock Hall

                              There is a good point made about the aggressiveness of the hero early in the game. It's no secret that CM is food by, like, minute 20 and that makes her warding game very weak very fast, so the early game is incredibly important for her.

                              With that in mind, the jungling and surprise rotations are what differentiate learning players from learned players. It's easy enough to babysit with CM when you're learning. Even if you die, you are providing an aura that will help your team feel less like they are pulling your weight. But once you get comfortable in the game, knowing how to prioritize frostbite in jungle and making rotations is essential to the success of CM.

                              You gotta stay ahead in levels and get those survivability items to bolster her MS and health, and you're not going to do that when you sit in lane. Shaman stays because he has a nuke and a fantastic channeling stun to pair with, say Ursa. Lion can ruin an offlaner's presence in the lane with mana drain. Dazzle can heal and harass with low mana cost spells, not to mention shallow grave. All three of these heroes have either high enough health, high enough damage, or the ability to gain health back quickly. None of them can farm relatively easily though, so what CM loses in health she makes up in farming capability and much better crowd control. It's fairly unique to CM which makes it an easily forgotten twist to your normal support role. If you're struggling at winning games or finding you get killed easily, you're probably forgetting to jungle.

                              AGAN.Kenny Gsus

                                Why no Arc Warden buffs in 7.06 Icefrog? He had like a 10% winrate in Kiev Icefrog. Wtf icefrog?


                                  Sporting a 70% winrate on this lady in the last month, 9 game win streak and counting.

                                  Notice me senpai.

                                  Mexican chicken

                                    @Black Knight no you are not.

                                    Shegz #afktillsummer

                                      Cancer Drows incoming


                                        CM is my waifu

                                        -Vrz • ロリコン • Sagiri ♥ (R...

                                          Hope she's not get nerf in 7.06

                                          (|/) 0_o (|/)

                                            Teammates see CM: mmm aura
                                            Weaver/Clinkz sees CM:
                                            mmm food


                                              She might be getting a minor nerfs post-TI if we were to judge from her winrate in pubs, and pick rate in competitive. Even while cm becomes weak into the mid/late game, her ultra-late game is actually quite strong, because bkb durations drop down to 5s, and she has a much superior gpm talents compared to other supports which allows her to keep up her economy in that time.


                                                she is my fav sup hereo and most played. sure she is one of the best.....

                                                1-IceTea 🌟

                                                  Every single day CM is being flapped to alot of time,I am certain of that


                                                    I just need urn and force staff on her, then very easy game.

                                                    This comment was edited

                                                      "Crystal Maiden has the coolest cosmetics" <---- Totally agree with this statement.
                                                      Though, Death Prophet has the most elegant dresses.


                                                        чет не о чем

                                                        Back from hell

                                                          DAMMIT IM LATE WHAT NUMBER RIGHT NOW?


                                                            I hope volvo will not nerf her...

                                                            Just Get Out Of My Way

                                                              pretty garbage hero....i eat her alive with my slark

                                                              LSD | Zealot

                                                                Favourite ! <3


                                                                  VEI O CARLOS EdUARDO DA ROCHA MORAIS É MT INUTIL

                                                                  Brock Hall

                                                                    @Just Get Out Of My Way

                                                                    Every Slark does. It's a counter.


                                                                      A lot of support heroes' early game got pretty much screwed when urn seized to provide any strength.


                                                                        CM is a great starting support for people in the low brackets / trying to get started, everyone should try her.


                                                                          Damn the pro scene. a criminally underrated hero for so long, now people are wise to how much disruption she causes to right click line ups


                                                                            mmm a supports wet dream...


                                                                              noobs af


                                                                                CM is buffed every game!!!


                                                                                ! I'm TEROR !

                                                                                  Хороший герой)


                                                                                    amazing hero


                                                                                      I just really want to know why the fuck cm have a giraffe​ neck.


                                                                                        i played cm & reached 6k just for playing CM + hard support only.