The Reign of JerAx, Master of the Earth

posted by Genghis.,
Exclusive interview with JerAx, the legend of Sloth Spirit, and how to wreck like Limp Bizkit. Showcasing all you need to know about Earth Spirit, with JeRax's unique insight into game mechanics and the current meta-game.

Image by Wykrhm


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verything was going well in my Dota life. 6.78 was a lovely place; roughly, I knew which lanes heroes would go to, how many would be there, and when they would gank. The offlane was almost always occupied by a lone hero and the supports would be chugging away in the neutral camps and only occasionally slithering away towards mid for a gank.

Then came 6.79 and football. I’m sure all of you have recently been manhandled by Kaolin, the Earth Spirit. Shoved around and kicked around, a lot of us were not quite sure what happened. I was often left wondering how one hero could have such vast utility – multiple silences, an escape, a devastating ultimate, a knockback, and various methods to save allies. Broken! Nerf? Well, perhaps. In this feature I will have an in-depth conversation with the Master Spirit himself, JerAx, in relation to the current “pub meta-game”, how to play/build Earth Spirit, how to counter him, and what all this means.



The keyword with Earth Spirit is versatility and it has a lot to do with why he fits so well in the current meta-game. He can potentially occupy any position outside of hard jungler and carry, he requires little to no farm, and is awesome to play! Some would argue that 6.79 is still undergoing a period of development; and a lot of teams are still figuring out what works best. Therefore, Earth Spirit appropriately symbolises this transitory and turbulent period before the patch “stabilises”.

The Ultimate Skill-Shot Hero?

It has already been suggested that Earth Spirit may be one of the ultimate skill shot heroes. A player needs to be extremely well acquainted with his cooldowns, the range of his spells, the interaction between skill-shot mechanics, have timings down to the letter, have correct positioning, and be comfortable with roaming around the map.



The Legend of Sloth Spirit and JerAx





Got Spirit?


JerAx is an ex-[b]eu QPAD Red Pandas[/b] player who has been smashing with Earth Spirit and putting us all to shame in public matchmaking (I cheekily insta picked Doom when I saw he was matched against me). This is a picture of part of his 26 game win streak in public matchmaking. Here is our interview:

Hi JerAx, can you introduce us to Earth Spirit and the reason behind why you call him Sloth Spirit?

Hello,

I personally think that DotA 2 didn't have such a versatile hero before. A hero that is able to stun lock a squad of enemies, silence instantly for a long duration, and deal huge dps with his ultimate. Not to forget his mobility rolling through the map and his significant strength gain helps this earthy machine to stay alive. As crazy as it sounds on paper, when it comes to play, it's definitely not that simple. The difference between dominating an enemy hero and failing is often determined by the success of a single skill-shot.

Being a sloth comes from my past; one of my subscribers wasn't happy because I started streaming very late and my sleeping schedule used to get out of control. I then got the idea to create my channel around that and now after valve released Earth Spirit, he might be misidentified as a sloth because of his appearance. But probably Earth Spirit’s incredible mobility might crush any illusions of this misidentification!


You were on a massive win streak with Earth Spirit; various posts about your Earth Spirit skills got a lot of traction on reddit. Can you share with us how you went about achieving that win streak?

I wasn't actually paying attention to my win streak at first. Winning isn't the biggest part of a public solo queue game for me. Of course the lust of winning increases heavily, when people are excited and encourage me to win even more games. The game where my streak ended was ridiculous though. Phantom Assassin destroyed me mentally and physically in the game by having amazing plays and luck on her side. After I lost the game, the guy playing the PA actually subscribed to my channel, even though the consolation didn't really help too much. There is actually a highlight about this in twitch.


Overall, with the combination of low mana cost skills and cooldowns, big utility, and considerable damage is Earth Spirit OP or just currently misunderstood?

"They see me rollin', they hatin" describes my pubs quite a lot. The control you can provide with Earth Spirit to the game is simply amazing. In the public games that I've played usually people say that the hero is OP, because they have died every single time that I've hit level 6. But not many people understand that you can survive against Earth Spirit in various ways, for example something as simple as having a tp can save you. The ulti itself doesn't do damage very quickly.

Another common misunderstanding is that when enemies have the ulti debuff they don't understand that I can extend the debuff with the stones, and the range of putting the stones is very big. Even though it might sound stupidly hard, you can avoid the stones by predicting when Earth Spirit is next going to put the stone and where. I think that when people start to understand the hero better and learn how to play against it, the impact of the hero itself isn't that strong. But I'm sure if you can play this hero incredibly well it might give the feeling that it's OP. The current BKB-Midas meta-game is a counter to this hero. Magic immunity blocks your skillset and this hero drops down heavily when the game goes to late game.


JerAx The Beast, Highlight Video (created by NoobfromUA)





You seem to prefer the mid lane with Earth Spirit, why is that? Do you think he could still function well as a support with little farm?

I prefer offlane and mid-lane, I don't usually care which of those lanes I go to. The hero itself isn't item dependent and that's why I think it's all about changing your play style. You can play this hero as a counter initiator or as an initiator. Saving your allies under the effect of chronosphere (I know, this is just ridiculous) might be better than jumping into it with the items of a support. Initiating into Faceless void is also good as long as he doesn't have BKB. But being an initiator in a team-fight requires some tankability otherwise you need to perform some "wodota" plays. Supporting with this hero is rough if you fall back early in the game, but other than that, the hero is amazingly effective as long as it's not played as a carry…in before we see safe lane Earth Spirit (4).


What core items would you recommend? I’ve seen a lot of people favour arcane boots, force staff, and veil of discord. Do you think these are good choices? What about eul’s scepter and drums of endurance?

The hero has mana issues during the early game, which can be compensated by a bottle or arcane boots. Buying both of those items feels like overkill unless you go for meka and/or pipe. Talking about those items, survivability is a big part of this hero being able to spam the stones during the fight to spread the debuff all around. BKB, a drum, a force staff or just an urn can provide the much needed tankiness. Eul's scepter as a first item sounds very unconventional, unless you really feel the item is going to make itself pay off. I'd say that Juggernaut might force you to buy this, but then there is also ghost scepter available. Buying this item after a force staff is probably the best way to do it.

Veil of discord is very good against non-BKB heroes and for a magical damage burst team, but other than that, I don't see it as a very cost effective item. As for other items and looking at the current meta-game, midas looks very risky since you want to go in the fights, but the attack speed itself is a good bonus to damage output when trying to kill a target. However, getting the extra XP and gold between the ganks makes you extremely stacked towards the later stages of the game.


What do you think is the best method to master Earth Spirit?

Playing any hero and getting accustomed to the routines going is the best way, at least for me. Switch between a little overextension and passive play in public games. Earth Spirit has a wide scale of combos and using the most optimal one doesn’t always come to you at first. But everyone learns from their mistakes. Some very basic things you can do and what I have done is to understand how the kick works on the stone, because getting the angle for it is insanely hard sometimes. Also the basic roll+stone+pull+smash combo is worth trying in private games or bot games instead of failing it every single time in your first public games.



Image by JerAx's Mod, Makemonni


A lot of people seem to prefer maxing his Q and then E and only later going back to max his rolling boulder. Do you think maxing rolling boulder is viable?


Maxing boulder smash makes a lot of sense; it reduces the cooldown and increases the damage. The other two skills, rolling boulder and geomagnetic grip, are a bit different. Personally I always max geomagnetic grip because that extra 1.5 seconds on the stun makes a big difference. Comboing into a team fight with maxed boulder instead of grip is suicidal, since landing the silence on all the enemies is almost impossible if any of them is a little bit awake and has a stun ready. With the extended stun duration you are allowed to have extra time to do everything you want and exactly how you like; take a sip of coffee, put Rollin' from Limp Bizkit to play on background and enjoy the damage output and the disables.

Maxing the rolling boulder, yes, allows you to have very short cooldown and you can escape easier, but I think it's A) not reliable damage at all, because it's quite easy to dodge, B) only one level in boulder is really needed to make a combo and C) your team fight ability is reduced a lot. You can position yourself very well even though you have initiated and avoid getting caught or you can position yourself very aggressively, which puts you into a position that you can't easily escape from without the max boulder. It's all about how you play.




Can you give us three tips/tricks with Earth Spirit? Recently, I saw a post on reddit that shows how to use creeps as wards on cliffs. What are your thoughts regarding that?

1. I personally don’t click the boulder smash on the stones exactly; instead I try to use it next to the stone. This way it’s easier to aim the silences and sniper shots.

2. You can ulti creeps and then spread the debuff with a stone to an enemy. This is a much easier way to get the ultimate on the heroes, because the aoe is only 300, but the stone explosion aoe is 600.

3. Try to not stack the stun and silence if possible; this gives you more effective seconds, which allows you to do more dps overtime. Also think about stunning more enemies than just one. Deny the reinforcements even before they do anything by simply silencing them as well with the same stone.

Putting creeps on cliffs takes some time to do and almost any enemy range hero can quite easily deny it in the same time as you have used to put it there. I think it's not too viable in the end. Creep sight range isn't that high either.


Quite often when a new hero comes out people play it for a while then it loses its flavour, how come you’ve so much time on Earth Spirit? Do you think his terrible win-rate on DotaBuff (39.36%) will improve with time?

I think I'm just addicted to the versatility of the hero, seeing all the possibilities of how you can improve yourself, it's just staggering. The win-rate has actually improved quite a lot recently, I just wonder how high it is going to get.


A special thanks to JerAx for taking time out to share his many insights into Earth Spirit!

Don't forget to follow JerAx on Twitter and Twitch!

Also, show Genghis some love over at Twitter.

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