Ezalor, Keeper of the Light, first impressions

Dota_2_Ezalor

Along with Nyx Assassin and Visage, Valve have released Ezalor, Keeper of the Light, out into the wilds of Dota 2, to fend for himself and use his flashlight/staff to make the scary things go away. The good thing is he’s kind of good at it, and the bad things tend to start running the instant his staff starts glowing extra bright. The bad thing is he’s kind of weird. In a creepy old man way, sure, but also in the way his abilities work. 

I’ve got a few games under my belt now, though, so I’m starting to get used to the weird, figure it out and offer a few first impressions. And the first first impression is that I kind of like him. He’s a pretty cool guy. He’s Gandalf without all the pomp and circumstance, but he kept the great horse and the shiny staff. He’s also the most pushy support I’ve ever come across, but we’ll get to that.
While it might seem like the strength of him comes from Illuminate, a charged (massive) beam attack that does more damage the longer you charge it and hits everything in its path with giant spectral horses, it’s actually his Chakra Magic that’s the biggest boon to your team, because the amount of mana it restores, and how instantly it restores it, means that whichever carry you’re babysitting on your lane is going to be able to spam their abilities all day long, which should mean lots of kills.
It works on yourself, too, which means that you should be able to keep casting all day long, especially if your carry isn’t one of those mana-hungry ones. Blasting an Illuminate down the lane here and there to harass and offer up some easy creep kills for your friend really helps, especially if you can do it from the jungle, or the fog of war, as then your opposing players won’t realise it’s coming. It’s not a huge amount of damage, but it’s enough to whittle them down pretty quickly.
So that’s your Q and your E, but on your W you have Mana Leak, which is a lot like Bloodseeker’s Rupture, only instead of wiping out all of their health and making everyone cry, it hits your mana supply the more you move, and if you empty it, you get stunned for a second. It’s not only great for knocking out a fleeing enemy with the stun, but if you can get it off before a teamfight really starts, hit their initiator and kill their mana pool before someone like Tidehunter can get off a Ravage, you’re laughing.
Which, inevitably, brings us to his ultimate, Spirit Form, which is what makes him so very weird. It doesn’t actually do anything on its own, instead altering Illuminate to make it almost like a fire and forget charge, which you just set down and walk away from, and giving you two new abilities. And it’s those that really start to get interesting.
Firstly you’ve got Recall, which lets you pull any allied hero to your side, from anywhere on the map. It’s incredibly powerful if used right, but it’s not intended to really pull anyone out of the fire, as it’s got a short delay between cast and action, and if they take any damage from heroes during that delay, the spell is wasted, and they stay where they were. Instead, it’s great to help with defense/pushes, where one player has to stay back to defend a lane while you’re all surging down the middle. Or just gathering that one wayward player to a teamfight just before it all hits.
On top of that you’ve got Blinding Light, which is a massive AOE that not only thrusts everyone out away from its center, but also blinds them, giving them an 80% miss chance. Drop it in the middle of all the right clickers in the enemy team and you’ve got up to five seconds to deal with them before they start doing serious damage again. Not only that, but the knockback can be great for pulling that wayward runner back into the fight as you chase them down.
With so much utility in his abilities, items are put on the backburner, from what little I’ve played. Grabbing observer wards and a few survivability items like bracers and Urn of Shadows early on is always a good idea, but it’s not until the later game that you need to start eying up items like Boots of Travel or Scythe, and by that point your Illuminate is powerful enough to wipe out creep waves in one go, so you shouldn’t have much of a money problem.
Which all gives Ezalor a pretty strong overview. He’s great in the early game to make sure you can sustain on your lane, and if you do die he can pull you back with Recall after level six. He pushes seriously hard with Illuminate, and if used right Mana Leak can take the teeth out of the enemy team’s attack. The only problem is he’s pretty squishy, and requires a lot of positioning to really do his damage. But even then, he’s not about damage all that much; it’s instead about keeping everyone topped up with mana, and using Blinding Flash and Mana Leak when appropriate.
He’s also a lot of fun to play. The Illuminate always feels brilliant, with all those charging horses and bright white light. And glowing like a firefly whenever you pop your ultimate isn’t exactly boring, either.