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Created September 26, 2019

I am Eternal!

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Welcome to Carry Class! Here, aspiring main tanks are equipped with the tools they need to 1v5 and dominate. Last week, we deconstructed Arthas, the Inevitable End; this week, we’ll investigate the instigator of his insurrection: Mal’Ganis, the Dreadlord.

TLDR at the bottom!

Mal’Ganis is a Disruption Tank. His gameplay loop consists of making himself feel better by ruining other people’s games. The Manbat has a myriad collection of tools for the job, with three charges of gap close, a 0.75s AoE stun, a 2.5s sleep, 50 on-demand armour, and two behemoth ultimates that offer an additional HP bar and heavy damage. Added together, you’ll find a nigh-unkillable self-healing frontline that can uptrade till the death of the universe at the hands of Sargeras - and probably survive that too.

What The Dreadlord Does

Mal’Ganis’ trait reads “Lifesteal 45% of damage done to heroes and 10% to non-heroes”. Clearing a wave, Qing a tank, and even your Spreading Plague aura all contribute towards filling up your health bar. There are numerous benefits; you’re a lot more independent than most tanks, requiring less in the way of resources from your support. In ranked, you’re able to take odd lane matchups in stride, push your limits, and generally play more aggressively because you’re sitting on large, non-visible health reserves.

Effectively, you’ve got a very large HP bar, compounded by your armour-granting W. In addition, with (my recommended talent) Might of Sargeras, that armour gets pushed up to a whopping 50 – effectively doubling your health bar for the 2.5s duration. Every damage buff you receive, through talents and allies, also feeds into this loop. While it starts off subtle, Mal’Ganis’ extraordinarily stretched HP bar will shortly become apparent to you after a few games on the hero.

That’s all well and good, but what do we do with it? After all, Muradin can also make his HP bar bigger, and that’s not what makes him scary. Mal’Ganis’ basic playstyle revolves around correctly using his Q. While you’ll generally dump the first two charges on a wave, it’s imperative you position to hit the third on as many heroes as possible; a 0.75s stun is nothing to sneeze at, especially on multiple targets.

Disruption is the name of the game, and you’re looking to make life as difficult for the opposition as possible. Time your Q well, and you’ll be able to ruin damage followup or tank engages alike. You’ll also draw attention, which is where the rest of your kit comes into play.

Mal’Ganis THRIVES off escalation. Get focused? Q. Still focused? Q twice more. Still focused? W. Still focused? E. Incredibly, STILL focused? R. Rinse, repeat; you have answers for every problem the game can throw your way; you have some of the most potent CC in the game, and you have the perfect formula for Storm League wins.

How to Play the Dreadlord

Mal’Ganis has two primary playstyles; Laning, and Hunting. During the prior, you’ll look to bait the enemy tank into engaging, recognising the threat in their CC and damage followup, and matching your aggression to their capability. During the latter, you'll look for creative, hidden flanks from bushes and behind terrain.

This will be the most difficult step for new players; recognising how much aggression you can get away with. There’s no easy way to do it than to jump in with your best foot forward. Remember that you’ve got access to two panic buttons, W and E; take advantage of your outs!

You want to start all skirmishes from your mount, and preferably out of a bush. Cast Q twice while figuring out what you want to stun; look for targets with CC that can threaten you or allies, and prioritise them. Try to position yourself at point-blank range with your third Q, and followup with your E to sleep threatening targets. It's much easier to ensure targets sleep if they're far from your teammates, so prioritise ranged heroes. Remember that your E grants 50% move speed, and should be used to disengage after you've slept a few targets.

Your Q-Q-Q W deals a very reasonable amount of damage to a wave, and I'd generally recommend you play a roaming waveclear style. No other tank provides this level of kill pressure in addition to waveclear; identify what you should be doing (if there are waves to be soaked, that is almost always the priority!) and save abilities for that purpose.

Post 7, try to start fights with an E; you need your aura rolling as often as possible to maximise damage as well as healing. Three seconds of aura against a target is equivalent to an auto attack, and you heal for 45% hero damage, so look to spread the love! Remember to weave in auto attacks on heroes to reset the duration to five seconds.

At ten, you can transition to more of a hunter role. Around objectives, look for creative flanks, or places where you have vision, but your enemy does not (such as when you've cleared their wave, and yours presses forward). Sleeping the enemy backline is an excellent signal to engage, and there are an enormous number of abilities you can cancel with your CC.

Your movespeed at 13 enables you to skirmish a lot more effectively, and will help you survive through the faster mid-game fights. From here on out, you're simply executing the core Mal'Ganis loop; QQQ, W, E, R; rinse, repeat.

Talents of the Dreadlord

Mal’Ganis has two builds, one for all occasions and one for advanced use. Begin with the first.

Winged Guard/Might of Sargeras/Spreading Plague/Carrion Swarm/Blood Rush/Plague Bats/Seeker Swarm

With this build, you’re capable of enduring physical and spell damage alike, and are a generalist tank able to threat virtually any composition. Your level one can be adapted to your team composition; look out for friendly auto attackers! Vampiric Aura granting life steal is enormous for any physical dps, be it Valla, Kharazim, Samuro, or any other. It also further enhances your own self heal capabilities, granting excellent sustain off camps or waves. In situations where neither Winged Guard nor Vampiric Aura get value, Time to Feed provides above regen-master levels of healing, provided you can continuously damage opponents (which is not uncommon in ranked!).

At level four, Might of Sargeras provides an excellent panic button, mitigating half of all damage for 2.5 seconds. I strongly believe increased armour to be significantly more valuable than additional healing or duration, as it will nearly always mitigate more damage than you could’ve gained back. It also encourages intelligent use of your armour, rather than ability spam.

At level seven, Spreading Plague offers a damage aura after completing the cast of your E. This aura refreshes for 5 seconds off of auto attacking heroes, amd is equivalent to a free auto attack for three seconds of contact. That doesn’t sound like much – until you remember that every tick of damage matters on this hero, because (a) it’s healing, and (b) your damage goes on KILL TARGETS. As the main tank, almost all your damage is relevant damage; that is, damage that contributes directly to a kill. Unlike a maximum distance firestrike that a Malfurion can erase with a W, your damage actually ccontributes at the time when a hero is most vulnerable. Since you possess not only damage, but also CC, you mark targets for your team to execute. A free auto against anything you’re near is nothing to scoff at, and the aura can last as long as the fight; whether that be ten seconds, or a hundred.

Carrion Swarm is the ultimate of choice for the majority of your games; it functions as an engage, escape, extra health bar, and damage. It can close or open kills, or allow you to reposition creatively in backline. Again, hitting three heroes with the full duration will nearly fullbar you!

Your thirteen is set in stone, as no melee skirmisher can pass up universal mobility; pick Blood Rush.

Your sixteen is composition dependent; Plague Bats offers easily executed follow up damage, while Frenzied Assault requires a little from you to get going. The latter also synergises nicely with Vampiric Aura – give it a try!

At twenty, all of your options are good. If your ult is not on cooldown, I’d recommend you pick Seeker Swarm, as the sleep goes an incredibly long range and offers a universal engage/disengage. Else, both Blind in the Dark and Vanquish the Weak offer compelling utility. I recommend the prior into ranged heroes, and the latter into melee, depending on your kill priorities.

Alternative Playstyle (of the Dreadlord)

Once you’ve grown quite comfortable with Mal’Ganis, you might want to give Dark Conversion a try. The ultimate ‘swaps’ HP woth an opponent, allowing you to replenish your bar and remove theirs. There’s an incredible skill ceiling to be explored here, offering the incredibly enticing 100-0 kill on virtually any target. With an HP swap, you can threaten both front and backline equally hard – presuming you can complete the 0.75s channel, that is. Much like Mosh Pit, a good channel will win games, especially with the AoE at 20, as seen here:




The build goes like this:

Winged Guard/Might of Sargeras/Will of Tichondrius/Dark Conversion/Blood Rush/Blind as a Bat/Wrath of Nathreza

There’s a whole lot different here, so let’s start with the talents.


Firstly, we’ve swapped our burning rage at 7 for Will of Tichondrius: a 3% HP swap on your third Q. There’s a few reasons for this; firstly, in the ideal situation where you succeed in swapping while at around 10%, you still have to actually kill your target. 3% of an enemy’s maximum HP is a huge chunk when they’re at critical health; additionally, the HP swap of Dark Conversion is NOT instantaneous; after the 0.75s channel, there’s a 3 second long Damage over Time applied to the high HP target, and a same duration Heal over Time applied to the low HP target.


What this means is there is a short window where you have virtually no health, where a passing breeze will end you. Part of Will of Tichondrius’ power comes from healing you during that critical time, pushing you into safety thresholds.

Of course, your biggest safety asset is your W, Might of Sargeras; with fifty armour, you can double your miniscule health pool, buying you time to hit your cast and heal. With your armour and lifesteal Q combined, you have a highly synergistic pair of defensive options to tide you over that terrifying period.

There are a few more elements to this build; the spiciest comes at 16, where I actually recommend picking Blind as a Bat. This is a talent that absolutely deserves practice, and becomes significantly more useful with synergistic teammates. It grants you unlimited Qs for a 6 second duration, removing all vision sans damage numbers. This synergises enormously with Will of Tichondrius, giving you enormous life steal potential if you can hit multiple targets.

Frankly, Blind as a Bat deserves its own section, but we’ll try to keep it short: use it in entombs, in chokes, on contested points, and anywhere the enemy team clusters.


Blind as a Bat gives you an additional kill condition following Dark Conversion, as it’s generally very easy to connect enough Qs in a second to kill a target at critical health.

Additionally, should your ultimate be cancelled, it grants a possible out, as the enemy team will likely be swarming you anyway.

At twenty, take Wrath of Nathreza; if you’re taking Dark Conversion, commit completely. It offers some of the highest carry potential since mosh pit, enabling creative and dedicated players to wipe entire teams, or simply chunk more than one target.

Thus, your basic playstyle with Dark Conversion is this: engage as you would normally with your Q. Survive at least 6 seconds for it to come off cooldown. During this time, lose an enormous amount of HP. When near death, stun the closest Dark Conversion interrupts, or sleep them. Press W to survive incoming damage, and hit R. Now QQQ the target, and look for an auto or two; should the target survive at critical health, pop blind as a bat to give chase.

Ta-da! You’re on your way to becoming the best carry around.

Undervalued Synergy (of the Dreadlord)

As Lauber pointed out to me, there's an excellent talent synergy that went unmentioned in the 1.0 edition of this guide; that is, Nightmare Fuel and Deep Sleep. Combined, these talents generate a whopping 3.5 second sleep when casting E from a bush. That's a century in a team fight! While esoteric, the talent synergy is nonetheless enormous, and deserves to be mentioned. With these talents, you'd be well positioned to utilise either ult; ideally, after sleeping the enemy team.

Additionally, having an accurate Ana on your team allows you to utterly chomp. A 200% damage bonus is nothing to sneeze at, and multiple procs sets your team up nicely for success. Too, in a long, sustain-based fight, unexpected burst puts enormous strain on the enemy healer. Use this to your advantage!

My only suggestion is to ensure you have good knowledge of the map you pick these talents on, as you'll want to make maximum use of bushes in you engages. Dragon Shire and Braxis are yeses - Hanamura and Volskaya, significantly less so. Pick wisely!

Tips and Tricks, Bits and Baubles

You can move during the Carrion Swarm cast; juke plenty!

You can actually interrupt everything in the game, including Powerslide and Blaze’s E; you need to hit the target from the side to do so however, as hitting the front requires you to be pixel perfect.

To hit a relatively immobile target, you can draw a triangle with your Q, with the final vertice being in front of the enemy.

Your Q dashes ignore bodyblocks, and enable you to both position to bodyblock as well as escape enemy blocks.

Spreading Plague will proc at the end of your E, whether you hit anyone or not, or even if it’s cancelled. You can double tap E to cancel your Sleep flight quickly if you just want the buff.

You still see numbers during Blind as a Bat, and your third Q will get a big crit with Will of Tichondrius; use this to echo locate your prey.

Post 20 Carrion Swarm can be used as just an engage, for no healing or damage value, just to sleep enemies at range. It’s likely your enemies are split apart, making it significantly easier for your teammates to not wake them. The bats have a cast of 8 range, emitting from the center of your hero. For reference, 1 range is one abathur mine.

TLDR: Get focused? Q. Still focused? Q twice more. Still focused? W. Still focused? E. Incredibly, STILL focused? R.

If you enjoy my content, or would like to enquire about coaching (first session free!) you can find me on Twitch, Twitter, and Discord!

Bonus Meme:
Winged Guard
Each time Necrotic Embrace hits an enemy Hero, gain 75 Physical Armor against the next enemy Hero Basic Attack. If Winged Guard has no charges, Mal'Ganis will gain 1 charge after 6 seconds.
Winged Guard mitigates the most damage of this tier. If you're looking for the most raw protection, and the enemy team doesn't have Tracer/Lucio, look here first.

Vampiric Aura is an excellent team buff for any auto attacker; look to help out your Valla, Greymane, Kharazim, or Samuro by giving them a slightly bigger HP bar. They'll thank you for it by winning the game more often!

Time to Feed is an excellent heal talent; while I prefer to mitigate damage altogether with block, the sheer amount of healing makes it an incredibly attractive alternative. Look for this when the other two fail you!
Might of Sargeras
Necrotic Embrace's Armor is increased to 50, but the duration is reduced to 2.5 seconds.
One of the reasons I rate Time to Feed relatively low is because I don't believe Fueled by Torment is very good. Rather, I recommend Might of Sargeras; 50 armour mitigates half of any incoming damage, and gives you an incredibly powerful 'panic button'. Too, it encourages good use of your W; press it when heavy damage is about to come in, NOT to enable small amounts of healing.

Like Fueled by Torment, Echo of Doom is just too weak compared to 50 armour.
Spreading Plague
After Night Rush expires, deal 30 damage per second to nearby enemies for 5 seconds. Basic Attacks against Heroes refresh this. Does not wake Sleeping targets.
Black Claws is very hard to get value out of, simply because sometimes you slam QQQ as fast as possible to get right to the stun. In a world where you can afford to auto attack after every single Q, this talent would be a lot better!

Will of Tichondrius pairs well with Blind as a Bat and Dark Conversion; if that makes zero sense to you, there's a write-up called "Alternative Playstyle" above detailing the synergy.

Otherwise, for most use cases, Spreading Plague does by far and away the most damage of this tier. A burning rage at 7 is heaven, and the face that it heals is pure gravy. Start here!

Nightmare Fuel synergises well with Deep Sleep at level 13, causing one of the longest CC effects in the game, at a whopping 3.5 seconds. That's enough time to easily kill a hero, while they're support is rendered unable to assist. Use it map-specifically, such as on Braxis, where fights often occur near bushes. This is a slightly esoteric talent, but it has enormous potential!
Carrion Swarm
After 1 second, disperse into an Invulnerable swarm of bats for 3 seconds, dealing 63 damage per second to enemies. Vampiric Touch heals for 75% of Carrion Swarm's damage to Heroes.
Carrion Swarm is a powerful do-all ult, with a moving channel to boot. Use it to give you an additional health bar, chunk the enemy team, engage, disengage, reposition, or just because it looks cool.

Don't actually do the last one.

Dark Conversion is a high-skill high-risk high-reward ultimate that takes advantage of the "mosh pit" brain in a tank player to one-shot an opponent. You can read about this playstyle in "Alternative Playstyle" above!
Blood Rush
When Mal'Ganis is healed, he gains 1% Movement Speed for 8 seconds, up to 15%.
Blood Rush is my recommended go-to, both for learning and overall function.

Deep Sleep is an excellent talent in games where you can isolate the enemy's frontline from the backline, such as when your damage is unlikely to wake anyone up. In particular, it has excellent synergy with Nightmare Fuel at level 7, conditionally making this combo extremely powerful. Use it on specific maps where fights happen near bushes - Braxis is a yes, Hanamura's a no!
Plague Bats
Necrotic Embrace unleashes a wave of bats in front of Mal'Ganis, dealing 81 damage.
Plague Bats is a powerful addition to your kit, giving you a small damage burst that hits in a wide area. The damage is especially relevant because it heals you at a time where you have significant armour, and armour makes every point of HP more valuable!

Frenzied Assault is a powerful talent that gives you a conditional AA steroid; consistently proccing it is quite a challenge, but you'll often find the payoff rewarding. It combos well with Black Claws and Nightmare Fuel, but unfortunately neither of those talents are as strong as their competitors. Perhaps buffs to the 7s would make this more attractive?

Blind as a Bat is a high-skill, high-reward psuedo-ultimate at 16. While the cooldown is extremely long (80 seconds!) the reward for using it correctly is huge. Always, always pair this with Will of Tichondrius at 7, else do not pick it. It's a big part of the Dark Conversion playstyle, which you can read about in "Alternative Playstyles".
Seeker Swarm
Upon expiring, Carrion Swarm's bats seek nearby enemy Heroes, dealing 132 damage and Sleeping them for 2.5 seconds.
If your ultimate is available and the game isn't literally about to end, upgrade your ult for the final fight(s). Otherwise, you can consider Vanquish the Weak for dealing with Melee heroes, and Alone in the Dark for isolating Ranged.
Balance Patch - 08/28/19
There are no comments for this build.
This is fantastic insight. Ive put this hero on the shelf for the longest time and could never really understand why. Your direction on the gameplay and talent decisions makes me rethink the way I play Lord Dread. Great stuff dude, truly.