Ever since Grimstroke was released, players started theorycrafting interesting and effective combinations to use with his ultimate, Soulbind. While initially many concentrated on doubling high-impact, single-target nukes or disables, people soon discovered that coupling it with pseudo-AoE and bouncing abilities can yield amazing results.
In fact, some of the combinations were so successful that heroes had to be nerfed. The best example of this is Lich, whose Chain Frost received a 50 damage decrease at level one: the ability wasn’t by any means overpowered in vacuum, but it could do some crazy things in the early game when used on a Soulbound target.
Today, we would like to highlight another combination that definitely deserves the attention of players: Grimstroke and Warlock. Much like Chain Frost, Fatal Bonds is also a bouncing spell and while its effect might not be as immediate and as apparent, we believe that in the right hands and in the right game it can lead to even crazier things.
Warlock is finally in a decent place: the meta is slower, the laning stage doesn’t have to be a bloodbath, and babysitting supports are not an auto-lose. Grimstroke received some noticeable nerfs, but they weren’t aimed at his ultimate.
Another reason is that tanky lineups are currently quite popular. Lifestealer, Ursa, Monkey King, Tiny, Kunkka, Chaos Knight, and Sven are all quite durable when played in the core role.
These lineups and cores also tend to be “high-contact”: they need to engage into your team to deal damage, instead of trying to dance around the teamfight like most ranged carries want to. It means that at worst you will generally have at least two or three targets to Bind and Bond.
The idea behind this is pretty basic: you take a damage multiplication ability and slap it on another multiplicative effect, netting massive DPS boosts. Warlock with level 10 talent and fully leveled Fatal Bonds increases any damage dealt by your team by 30%, if you hit only two targets. This goes up to theoretical 150%, if you hit all six.
Grimstroke doubles this effect, so the damage modifier can theoretically go up to 300%. It means that so much as a sneeze in the general direction of the enemy will likely result in a kill or two. Realistically, however, you will only generally hit three targets with double Fatal Bonds, but even then it is a 120% damage boost.
Ideally, you then want some AoE effect, to hit all three targets, be it Cleave, some form of Multi-Shot or AoE nuke. Queen of Pain using her level 2 ultimate on three targets bound by Fatal Bonds will deal 900 pure damage to each, instead of measly 410. Sustainable forms of damage are probably going to be even better: Luna, Gyrocopter and Medusa will have no problem hitting three targets at the same time, potentially leading to pretty easy teamfight.
Even if you don’t have a strong AoE, this combination can still be amazing. In a scenario where you get initiated on by something like a Dragon Knight or Sven, using Fatal Bonds one them will give you a chance to hit the enemy backline without actually engaging it: Fatal Bonds effectively turn everything into AoE.
Dispels either from Manta Style, Spell Immunity or hero abilities do throw a wrench into the whole plan: timing the usage of the combo until after the BKBs are over can be quite problematic sometimes and requires some trigger discipline: you don’t want to use your abilities just to use them, but sometimes you will have to, if you get initiated on and will die with zero impact otherwise.
Interestingly, not many players realize that Grimstroke’s Soulbind can actually highlight the real enemy among his illusions. Given how we don’t actually need the Soulbind after the Fatal Bonds are cast, it can be a good strategy against illusion-heavy heroes: just cast Soulbind on a random target and it will automatically latch to the real hero.
With an immediate Fatal Bonds follow-up, you will also get several extra targets to enable the massive AoE damage: full damage is spread, regardless of how much HP the initial target had, so if you nuke a 1HP Fatal Bonded illusion with a 500 damage nuke, it will still spread 300 damage to other targets.
Playing around Spell Immunity is harder: Warlock does have a BKB-piercing one-second fight reset, but it is not enough. In general, you just want your cores to be tanky enough to survive through the initiation and then re-engage. While your carry is trying to survive, bait out the enemy BKBs with Upheaval or Ink Swell and patiently wait for the timer to run out, throwing the Golem when it will have the most impact.
Damage is rarely going to be an issue, especially in chaotic pub environment where players tend to clump up: suggest building survivability or hybrids to your cores, double Fatal Bonds will do the rest.
Finally, don’t show on the map unnecessarily past midgame. You never want to be the target of initiation. That is true for all supports in all games: your cores are playing Action-RPG, you are playing a Survival Horror, frequently with Psychological Horror elements.
This idea came to me randomly during a pub game and surprised me with its effectiveness. In this game, our team was stronger and capable of winning fights even with an 8k gold and experience deficit. And of course it was a game against Lifestealer, the hero is pretty much in every high level pub game, so it is possible to play around Spell Immunity.
Here you can see the damage breakdown for each hero and note how Warlock is almost on par with both position one Faceless Void and position two Queen of Pain, while almost doubling the damage output of Beastmaster. Even in my best Lich games I’ve never been even close to these values.
Let us know of your own surprisingly effective and easy-to-execute hero combinations in the comment section below. I would love to test out something interesting every couple of weeks and give my thoughts on it.