It Takes Two: SMITE's top 4 Duo Lanes in Season 3
The SPL Fall Split is underway. The Battleground is once again filled with the sounds of war, and the best in the business are taking their shot at making it to the Season 3 SMITE World Championships in January - but they'll need a great Duo Lane to shoot straight to the top.
No matter how strong your shoulders are when it comes to carrying, SMITE is a team game - and no position in the game understands this quite as clearly as the Duo Lane does. As the Duo Lane has to in order to function well. The best Mid in the game only has to be the best Mid in the game - but the best Carry or Support not only has to train to be at the top of their class, but also be the best at working with his or her partner. JeffHindla and BaRRaCCuDDa isn't one of the biggest pairs in the Duo Lane because they're just so good (though they are), but because they're so good together - making them much scarier than any mix and match you could throw together.
Now, if you've been keeping up as we've cut a path through the top Mages, Guardians, and Warriors in SMITE's Season 3, it might be easy to think the right pick and the right play can win a game all on its own. As we delved deeper into game roles with the Junglers and Solo Laners, however, we started to pick up on how our picks and bans fit into an overall strategy - how the gods and goddesses we play fit into the overall plan of our side of the map. How we function in (and with) our team.
Now the professional scene squads are, by default, the best teams operating in the game right now, so mimicking their picks might be an easy play - but we're doing things a little differently, now. Instead of breaking down the top picks based purely on rate of contest in the professional scene (though that will still weigh heavily), I'm here with the Top 4 Duo Lane combinations that are some of the strongest at their given roles, what those roles are, and when we should be looking to pick them.
Knowing that Guan Yu is the most hotly contested Warrior in the game right now is certainly good information - but totally ignores when he's sent to lanes other than Solo, when he's picked, or even more importantly when he's not picked. It ignores the context of the game, and the role he plays in it - two of the most important parts of correctly selecting your god or goddess for a game.
So with that out of the way, pick your partner and come with me as we learn the steps to the delicate dance that is the Duo Lane - and the tricks and tips for four of the best couples to hit the dance floor in Season 3.
Khepri and Hou Yi
In almost every sport or game, there's a concept of the "quality" composition - picks or players that are selected for raw power or ability before other considerations such as synergy, and then attempt to brute force their way to victory by virtue of just being inherently better than the opposition. When quality picks also have synergy with each other - such as Khepri and Hou Yi - they become a force to be reckoned with.
Hou Yi's combination attack of Mark of the Golden Crow and Ricochet has the potential to deal massive amounts of damage even from early on in the game - enemies caught off guard were very soon buried under the damage output of the Defender of the Earth. Now imagine the enemy being plucked from even farther away, dragged into the Mark/Ricochet combination, then rooted in place - being forced to take even more powerful basic attacks - while having both their protections and damage output drastically reduced.
This is the pressure the Khepri and Hou Yi lane puts on their would-be competitors in the Duo Lane.
True, Hou Yi is scheduled to take a strong hit in 3.16 with the removal of his rank 5 Mark of the Golden Crow passive penetration, but Khepri's Rising Dawn does a passable impersonation of the armor shred, all while keeping Hou Yi, an already fairly safe Hunter thanks to Divebomb, even safer with Fortitude and Scarab's Blessing.
Powerful and synergistic, with massive damage and years of Crowd Control, Khepri and Hou Yi is a terrifying Duo combination with a multitude of strengths and very little weaknesses, cementing them as the top spot for competitive Duos.
When you want this pair: Similar to Thor in the Jungler section, there's very few times you actively don't want this powerful combination, as there are very few game states where they are not a rock solid core. More specifically, the more experimental or high variance the rest of your team is (such as a Kali Jungle, or Chronos solo or mid), the more you want this pair - their inherent strengths can help carry the team through rockier transition periods until the rest of your squad comes online.
When you don't want this pair: Again, very rarely. Thanatos technically can be a thorn in the Khepri's side, and Hou Yi tends to be a bit vulnerable to Awilix, and highly mobile gods that can keep ahead of Ricochets.
They're not always the best all of the time, however, as even this terrible twosome is on the backfoot in the early game when they're up against...
Sobek and Anhur
One of the most aggressive, "king of the kill count" Duos available, Sobek and Anhur bring all the wrath of the Egyptian pantheon down on the enemy from a very early point in the game - boasting relatively high kill potential on any enemy caught out of position as early as level 2 or 3.
Sobek's Charge Prey into Tail Whip combination can be punishing even on its own - it stood toe to toe with the Queen of SMITE Bellona at her peak in Season 2 - but in this pairing is even more dangerous. As Sobek throws his mark back behind friendly lines (and minions), a quick follow-up Impale from Anhur into terrain can leave a single enemy massively damaged, alone, and almost assuredly dead after a few more basic attacks. If there was any attempt to flee, a well placed Shifting Sands can keep the enemy taking basic after basic - and a timely Disperse can match most movement skills an enemy may use to escape, allowing Anhur to secure the kill, and an early lead.
This Duo Lane breaks down to one very simple idea - if you're an enemy, a Sobek pluck spells swift, merciless death.
"So don't get plucked" is an easy answer, but this forces the enemy into a much more defensive position - unable to harass Anhur or Sobek, unable to secure the extra gold from last hits, and unable to push the minion wave forward. Any attempt to do any of these things pushes an enemy forward, and exposed to Sobek. While they may "fall off" a bit in comparison to others in their class in the late game, the Anhur and Sobek lane seeks to bully the enemies out of the lane entirely - leaving the enemies way behind on gold and experience as they sit under their tower. Where it's safe.
When you want this pair: If you like to be aggressive early and often, or if the enemy team is obviously headed for the very lategame with Kali, Hou Yi, Scylla, etc..., the Duo of the Sands certainly can apply pressure to the long lane - hopefully while an equally aggressive Solo Laner and Jungler keep the enemy on the backfoot elsewhere on the map, and unable to come to the rescue.
When you don't want this pair: When the enemy is geared for the early game, or well suited to fighting off your aggression, Sobek and Anhur are left a little lacking as the game progresses. They're not actively bad, but Sobek's contribution to the level 20 fights isn't exactly the same as, say, Bacchus, or Khepri. If it looks like your side of the map is going to be doing most of the defending, you may want to look to the long game a bit more than these two realistically can.
Of course, it isn't all gloom and doom for enemies of the Nile. While Anhur and Sobek are a powerful combination when they work together, all hope is not lost - giving hope to the hopeless, the bright light(s) at the end of the tunnel are none other than...
Fafnir and Apollo
The Lord of Glittering Gold and the God of Music and Light together are a potent combination of power and synergy, with an abundance of stats and bonuses tacked onto every ability - and the power to fundamentally change how a game of Conquest is played.
While they certainly can't brawl with Sobek and Anhur early, and aren't quite the Crowd Control chaining powerhouse of Khepri and Hou Yi, Apollo and Fafnir are among the best in their respective classes by large margins. Fafnir himself has been topping nearly every professional-made Tier chart, while Apollo has been one of the best Hunters in the game for Seasons - very recently falling to "incredibly good" from "heads and tails above most of the competition"
Coerce is certainly a powerful asset to Apollo and his Audacity passive, helping the God of Music make up for the wave clear he lost with the removal of Golden Bow from the game. Cursed Strength is a fine set up for So Beautiful's damage, and likewise for Serenade keeping groups of enemies still as they're caught in the Damage over Time cloud of Fafnir's Draconic Corruption. Underhanded Tactics makes fights with the Dazzling Duo incredibly lopsided, and keeps Apollo even safer than his already incredible escape using The Moves should a gank occur.
Where this Duo really shines, however, is that as long as they're not being killed, they're winning - making them a fantastic pick against early aggression. We went over the downsides to being forced into a defensive position above, but Endless Greed keeps Fafnir building quickly even if the lane isn't going incredibly well, and Apollo (as always) has the late game option to be the King of the Competitive Split Push. In scenarios where he's behind, Apollo can easily transition to downing towers and major objectives before riding away from the enemies that come to defend and Across the Sky - hopefully to the teamfight your team has initiated on the other side of the map, where they are now outnumbered 5 to 4.
When you want this pair: If you're going to come under heavy fire early from an aggressive enemy duo or jungler, or your team is more Mid Lane-centric, this pair is fine to keep your head above water until you and your partner can "turn the corner", and begin winning the game in your spectacularly kit-bloated fashion. If you have a Solo or Mid Laner that's going to require your team's attention to come online, or you've been fairly outdrafted and winning a game "traditionally" seems daunting, Fafnir and Apollo are shining picks in dark times.
When you don't want this pair: While picking "Not Fafnir" is a hard call for any game he's left unbanned in, Apollo can be the weak link in this otherwise daring duo - if he's outclassed in the lane, or more importantly Apollo's Plan B of "back dooring" is turned off by enemies that also have global or semi-global mobility (such as Athena, or Thor), it might be wise to turn these particular lights off for awhile. Luckily, a recently buffed Rama is a fine back-up partner for teams that have secured Fafnir early in the draft but have been forced off of Apollo.
While it requires a ton of teamwork and patience, this combination can quietly sneak games away from enemies before they even realize they've been losing the whole time - extra gold here, an extra tower there, a lopsided teamfight or two. Both Fafnir and Apollo's advantages are incredibly powerful, but subtle. You could easily miss how powerful these advantages are if you aren't looking. Speaking of not looking, we have one more "honorable mention" Duo...
Athena and Medusa
As the newer Guardians and Hunters make their way into the top echelons of SMITE Season 3, Athena and Medusa is certainly a sight for sore eyes that have seen too many dwarf dragons and giant beetles in the Duo Lane.
While Medusa suffers a bit in Season 3 for being a little more early/mid game oriented than the current meta wants from its Hunters, she is still a powerful asset capable of snagging minion waves and kills and keeping the pressure on early, much in the same vein as Anhur.
While dangerous to activate offensively, her Lacerate can be used as a fine burst damage tool that happens to keep enemies still for Athena's Shield Wall to come crashing down on them. Athena occasional suffers from being far more mobile than her Hunter partner, but Sidewinder and Lacerate let the Medusa keep pace with Athena's Preemptive Strike, and Acid Spray is good enough as wave clear to make up for Athena's relative lack of contribution there.
The power of this Duo, however, comes from one very specific combination - Athena's Confound, and Medusa's Petrify.
Petrify, with it's massive damage and 2s stun, can completely turn boxing matches or teamfights around when used correctly - or rather, when the enemy reacts incorrectly. While Petrify's maximum damage is 700 (plus a whopping 100% of Physical Power), this damage is halved if the enemy has the good sense (and reaction time) to simply not look at Medusa as it fires.
Enter Confound, Athena's Crowd Control skill that forces any enemy caught in its radius to attack her with basic attacks. Since no one in SMITE can (currently) basic attack behind them, they're forced to turn to attack her. When timed correctly, the enemies (whether it be the Hunter in the laning phase or multiple enemy gods in a later game team fight) should not only be facing the Greek Goddess - but also the gaze of her Gorgon, nearly assuring the enemy will be Petrified (and from there, most likely dead).
When you want this pair: This pair operates mostly on a question string of -
Did we want Athena anyway for her global presence? If yes, do they have a ton of Crowd Control immune ultimates? If no, do we have a source of sustained DPS that can make up for Medusa's small deficit late? If yes, this pair is golden.
Alternatively, this question suffices: Do we need a plan? Because Confound into Petrify is a strong enough plan to be worth building around.
When you don't want this pair: Essentially, if at any point the question string above fails, you probably can leave this particular pair on the sidelines. Multiple Crowd Control immune ultimates mean that the enemy doesn't even need to burn Purification resisting the combo, and can instead simply Ultimate into a powerful counterassault. If your team is already low on damage, Medusa isn't exactly weak and Athena does alright for herself - but there are better options to hold down damage output at level 20. If you already have a plan, such as "Protect Kali while she murders actual everything", it may be best to focus on supporting that plan instead of splitting attention between the two. Luckily, Neith is a perfectly powerful Hunter for those line-ups that have grabbed Athena early, but decided against Medusa for the 1-2 punch later in the draft.
While each member of this Duo Lane has a few flaws that keep this combination from the top slot competitively, Confound and Petrify can turn around a lot of teamfights (and a lot of games that might otherwise be lost without such a massive swing in battle), leaving this duo still a powerful pair of picks in competitively play.
These top four Duo Lanes are powerful combinations that can spell double trouble for the opponent when used correctly - just be sure to put in the extra reps not only to keep your skills with your pick sharp, but to keep your ability to work as a unit even sharper. After all, SMITE's Conquest mode isn't a bunch of 1v1s or even 2v2s, but a massive 5v5 - and it'll take teamwork to make the dream work if you want to be the one holding Mjolnir on the world stage.
So grab a friend, then go forth and Conquer! But be sure to come back and tell us which combinations both of you like using to dominate the Duo Lane in SMITE Season 3.