Guide to Playing Thorn in Battlerite

Updated for patch 1.3.

Contrary to what many players think, Thorn can be hard to play well — it’s just that when he is played well, it often seems effortless. That said, he’s a good champion for newbies because he has a good amount of self-sustain, lots of control, and a small window to be punished.

As with most melees in Battlerite, Thorn doesn’t have much mechanical depth. He’s all about good decision making and cooldown management. Once you have that down, he easily becomes one of the most powerful champions in the game.

Basic Abilities

Root Claw (M1)

Root Claw is the strongest hitting melee M1 in the entire game. It’s a three-part sequence that deals 13/13/16 damage, with the third one being an extended Root Grip that pulls the hit target closer to you. Root Grip also heals you for a bit of health.

Note that even when the first two attacks miss, the third comes out as a Root Grip. This means you have to track your M1 sequence and always position yourself to land that third hit, because that third hit is where most of his power lies. If you aren’t engaged in combat, try spamming M1 while you approach an enemy and timing it so that the third hit comes out just as you get within range. Landing a Root Grip sets you up for a full 42-damage M1 sequence.

Battlerites

Branch Out
Root Grip range increases by 20%, drags target enemy closer, and deals 4 bonus damage.

While the extended range on Branch Out isn’t that noticeable, the other two aspects are. The closer drag makes it significantly easier to keep up pressure on pulled targets. The bonus damage turns that third punch into a hefty 20-damage strike, which adds up quite a bit with how often you’re spamming M1 in a round. Thorn is all about sustained pressure, and Branch Out helps you with that quite a bit. Pretty much a must-pick.

Regrowth
Hitting an enemy with Root Claw reduces incoming damage by 10% for 2.2s. Stacks up to 2 times.

Regrowth is a strong battlerite, particularly against other melees. It isn’t that hard to get in two hits during an engagement, which means you’re only taking 80 percent damage in most melee-vs-melee fights. That mitigation comes in handy when you’re fighting and another enemy wants to coordinate burst on you. Regrowth lets you stay in fights longer and with less risk, further boosting Thorn’s prowess at sustained pressure.

Note that the Regrowth buff only applies on Root Claw, not Root Grip. In other words, it only triggers on the first two hits of Thorn’s M1 sequence. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but definitely good to know.

Leeching Thorns (M2)

Leeching Thorns is the key to Thorn’s self-sustain. It fires two projectiles in succession, each dealing a non-trivial amount of damage and applying the Thorns debuff. This debuff plays a crucial role in keeping yourself alive, especially if you grab the Neurotoxin battlerite.

Thorns deals damage over time and self-heals over time. It’s a non-stacking buff, so if you hit the same target with both Leeching Thorns projectiles, it doesn’t double the strength. This means it’s best to hit two separate targets if you need to regen health and hit the same target twice only if you need the burst damage.

Landing Thorns on two targets grants 16 total self-healing over 4 seconds, and since the ability cooldown is only 6 seconds, the uptime on this self-healing can be significant.

Battlerites

Hamstring Briars
Thorns reduces the movement speed of target enemy by 20%.

Hamstring Briars isn’t bad on paper, but wholly unnecessary given all the different ways Thorn can stay on a target. If I were to get it, it would only be against champions with very little mobility (e.g. Lucie, Alysia, Varesh) and only with sticky teammates who can capitalize on snared targets when you can’t. Generally speaking though, I never pick Hamstring Briars.

Neurotoxin
Thorns reduces target’s damage and healing output by 20% for 2s.

Neurotoxin is very good, but not as much of a must-pick as some claim it to be. It can be hard to wring value out of it because it only lasts for 2 seconds, but combined with Regrowth, a melee skirmish basically turns into 40 percent mitigated damage, which allows you to come out way ahead. Also good for reducing enemy sustain if you can tag the enemy support whenever you use it.

Parasitic Stems
Thorns deals 4 bonus damage and heals you for 2 bonus health over its duration.

Parasitic Stems is a straight value buff that upgrades Thorns from 4/8 to 8/10 (damage and self-healing) over 4 seconds. Not a bad choice against any matchup, but especially against ranged where you think you’re going to be zoned out and forced to rely on tagging with Leeching Thorns all game long. If you can consistently tag separate targets, the extra damage over time stacks up surprisingly well.

Burrow (Space)

Burrow is what makes Thorn such a thorn in the side (pardon the pun). There are so many benefits in this one ability that it’s borderline overloaded: quick cast time, huge travel distance, ability interruption, damage when emerging, and an inexplicably short cooldown.

Whereas most champions need to be careful when they want to use their mobility spells aggressively, Thorn laughs in their faces. Burrow’s cooldown is 8 seconds, which is typical of most escapes, but the cooldown starts ticking as soon as he goes underground… and since Burrow lasts up to 1.75 seconds, the cooldown is effectively 6.25 seconds (even shorter with the Lurker battlerite). This is why Thorn can be so hard to punish.

The trick is to wait until an enemy blows their outs — you can force this with your other abilities, namely Entangling Roots and Evil Clutch. Once they’re vulnerable, you chase them down with Burrow and make them suffer. And here’s what’s really unfair: if you accidentally overextended, Burrow will likely be off cooldown just in time for you to escape.

Battlerites

Deep Burrow
Turn invisible during Burrow.

Most of Deep Burrow’s value is psychological. Enemies can still see the AOE indicator when Burrow ends, which gives them enough time to react if they’re fast enough, so you can’t really sneak up on people and get free unburrow hits.

However, it gives you more room for mindgames — the moment you disappear, all enemies have to play with heightened senses until you reappear — and this extra pressure can push them into making mistakes and suboptimal plays. The keys is to be unpredictable with your targets, especially against good players who will expect you to pounce on obvious targets.

Fearsome Uprootal
Landing Burrow grants you a shield absorbing 14 damage for every target hit, lasting up to 3s.

Fearsome Uprootal is a very strong pick since Burrow is more often used to aggress on targets than to run away. A 14-damage shield may not seem like much, but it’s basically soaking up an M1’s worth of damage every time you engage. Assuming 10 engagements in one round, that’s a potential savings of 140 health. And that’s not even considering the fact that the shield is even stronger if you can unburrow on multiple targets.

Impaling Roots
Moving under an enemy during Burrow sends Impaling Roots upwards, dealing 10 damage to struck enemy after a 0.2s delay.

Impaling Roots is very good. Don’t just think of it as a measly 10 damage — think of it as 10 damage on top of the 14 damage when you unburrow. Immediately starting an engagement with 24 damage on the target means you’re that much closer to dealing permanent damage, and this is essentially a zero-effort battlerite.

The tricky part about Impaling Roots is that it triggers on every enemy you pass under, which can tempt you to play overly aggressive just to nab an extra hit on someone. It’s better to play Burrow as you normally would and only pass under enemies who are on the way to your target. Use it mainly for the extra 10 on top of the 14 damage.

Note that Impaling Roots triggers on objects too, like Blossom’s Tree, Pestilus’s Queen, and the middle orb. The actual Impaling Roots effect is a small AOE so it can (very rarely) hit multiple targets if they’re right next to each other.

Lurker
Burrow duration increases by 0.5s.

By extending the duration on Burrow, Lurker essentially extends the distance of Burrow. You can catch targets who are farther away. You can run far away when you’re in danger. But perhaps most importantly, you now have a 5.75-second window of punish between Burrows instead of the usual 6.25-second window. This one battlerite makes you more threatening and more slippery at the same time.

But baseline Burrow is already so good that you probably won’t need Lurker except on larger maps like Dragon Garden, Sky Ring Night, and Blackstone Day.

Evil Clutch (Q)

Good usage of Evil Clutch elevates Thorn from “nuisance” to “monster” status. Even though you can use Burrow to initiate on enemies, why waste it when you can pull them to you? Especially at the start of a round, which lets your entire team put out heavy pressure on one target instead of putting you at risk in the middle of the enemy team.

When an enemy is caught in a well-placed Evil Clutch, they’ll usually burn their mobility spell to get away from you. Now you can follow up with Burrow and continue pressure. Doing it the other way around — Burrow first, then Evil Clutch when they run — is less reliable.

Note that Evil Clutch does not trigger counters! You can also place Evil Clutch behind walls and it’ll pull through. This is a great way to hide your intention and works well on most maps, but particularly excels on Sky Ring Day, Orman Temple, and Dragon Garden Night.

Two more things: don’t forget to pull the orb so the enemy team can’t break it, and don’t forget to peel for allies! If your team’s Lucie or Alysia is being tunneled hard by Freya, for example, just pull her away.

Battlerites

Grounding Grasp
Evil Clutch inflicts a 1s Root.

You should rarely need a root when using Evil Clutch properly. Think about it: the main times to use Evil Clutch are when you want to initiate (force outs so you can chase with Burrow) and when you want to catch runaways (they already have no outs). In this case, a root would be most useful for forcing outs, but Evil Clutch itself already does that. I find Grounding Grasp to be redundant and so I never pick it.

Whiplash
Landing Evil Clutch grants a recast to strike nearby enemies, dealing 9 damage and inflicting Thorns.

How useful is it to have another way to apply Thorns? Not very, if you ask me. The cooldown on Leeching Thorns is short enough that uptime usually isn’t an issue, plus the damage on this battlerite is pretty insignificant.

It’s somewhat effective when combined with Neurotoxin since you can start fights with an immediate weaken, but considering how often Evil Clutch can miss and how often the recast can miss even when Evil Clutch hits, I don’t think the value is worth the inconsistency.

Entangling Roots (E)

Entangling Roots is probably the most annoying thing about playing against Thorn. The projectile is fast and the hitbox is sizable, making it hard to dodge with movement alone — and despite the name, it petrifies the target rather than rooting them. While entangled, you heal over time; if it breaks early, you stop healing.

Entangling Roots is a great way to control enemy supports, locking them down while you punish vulnerable enemies. Entangling Roots is also useful for setting up a guaranteed Evil Clutch, and since the damage isn’t enough to break the effect, you can recover the full amount before commencing your attacks.

Battlerites

Creeping Roots
Entangling Roots spreads towards nearby enemies when the effect is broken, dealing 4 damage to enemies hit and inflicting Lesser Entangling Roots.

Creeping Roots is good as a zoning tool. When a target is entangled, all enemies can see the giant spread radius around them and will take care to move outside of it, either by wasting time walking or by burning an out. Both are to your advantage. The damage and duration on the Lesser Entangling Roots is worse, but still annoying enough for enemies avoid it.

I mainly pick this battlerite on extremely tight maps where the zoning can severely mess up an enemy team’s positioning. Sky Ring Day, Orman Temple, and Mount Araz Night are good examples. Value can be tough to get on the bigger maps.

Sinister Sap
Entangling Roots cooldown is reduced by 1s and deals 8 damage over its duration.

Seeing as how Entangling Roots has a base cooldown of 10 seconds, which is longer than average for an offensive ability, the reduction on this battlerite is pretty good.

A higher entangle uptime gives your team a noticeable control boost, and can be very useful for locking down problematic supports and aggressors. I mainly pick it with Creeping Roots on small maps. The extra damage is icing on the cake that adds up fast.

Energy Abilities

Thorn Barrage (EX-M2)

Thorn Barrage falls into the “situational and high-risk/high-reward” category of EX abilities. If you can land all four hits, it strips away all of a target’s recovery health for a single bar of energy plus the benefits you get with Thorns and any relevant battlerites.

But if you miss even one hit, its value goes out the window — you’ve basically paid a bar of energy for 6 extra damage (30 damage vs. 24 damage with a normal M2). I tend to only use this against close-up melees who have no outs. Unless you can guarantee all four hits, you’re probably better saving that energy for Thorn’s game-changing ultimate instead.

Root Network (EX-Space)

Root Network is basically the same thing as Burrow with two important differences: first, you appear at the target location instead of manually moving around, and second, you take any nearby allies with you. It seems like it’s meant to double as an initiation tool and a rescue tool, but it’s never quite practical in actual matches. It’s the kind of ability that’s better suited for a game like Dota 2. Save your energy for Thorn’s ultimate instead.

Barbed Husk (R)

Thorn isn’t the only melee with a true support ability (Ruh Kaan and Bakko have their own), he is unique in that his support ability is a point-target hard save akin to Taya’s Tornado and Poloma’s Other Side. Barbed Husk isn’t as good because it’s a shield instead of an immaterial, but often does the job well enough.

Teammates cannot move or cast abilities while husked, so you have to be careful when you use it. A poorly timed Barbed Husk could actually be a great setup for the enemy team. Another big risk is that Barbed Husk interrupts casts and channels, which is bad news if you accidentally interrupt ultimates for Iva, Sirius, Blossom, etc. They’ll lose all of their energy, so it’s imperative that you think twice before husking.

Since the husk triggers AOE damage whenever it’s attacked, it can shred melee enemies into pieces, especially if the enemy team has a Jade or Ezmo. And since you’re immune to all debuffs while husked, be sure to use it to block big disables like Iva’s Concussion Shot or Sirius’s Lunar Strike. There’s a lot of nuance to using Barbed Husk well, and it simply comes down to good timing and choosing what to block with it.

Battlerites

Critical Backlash
Barbed Husk cooldown is reduced by 2s and inflicts Thorns upon enemies hit.

Barbed Husk is superb as a last-ditch save ability, and as with most defensive abilities, cutting the cooldown is always a nice thing. The difference between 13 or 15 seconds may seem negligible, but it lets you survive those moments when you would otherwise get caught in a big attack with 1-2 seconds left on the cooldown. The Thorns application is useful too, especially in conjunction with any of the Leeching Thorns battlerites.

Dead Roots (F)

Dead Roots is easily one of the most game-changing ultimates ever made. Hold it until an enemy uses their outs, make sure you have Evil Clutch ready, then unleash the roots over the target. Set up an Evil Clutch in their escape path to pull them back in. Dead Roots doesn’t do much damage on its own, but you can put out tons of damage just by M1ing enemies who are caught in the snare and trying to run out.

The projectile-blocking aspect is really nice too, because it essentially zones off a large chunk the map. Dead Roots lasts for a surprisingly long duration of 3.5 seconds, which can successfully stall ranged pressure. Just note that the projectile only gets blocked when it reaches the middle of the wall, and you can still get hit if you aren’t hidden deep enough.

Battlerites

No Escape
Burrow underground at the end of Dead Roots. The Burrow lasts for up to 1.25s.

No Escape sits in a weird spot, being extremely strong and borderline overpowered but not necessarily a must-pick battlerite. Normally Dead Roots is an aggressive ability where part of the risk is ending up in an overextended position. With No Escape, you’re free to catch anyone in the wall without any worry — just Burrow back out to safety. Now Dead Roots becomes an offensive escape ability, allowing you to blow it whenever you’re in danger.

However, all of that’s only true when you have 100 energy. Thorn does have some amazing energy generation built into his kit, but this battlerite ends up burning a hole in your loadout any time you don’t have a full meter, and there isn’t much extra value in it beyond the escape.

Overall Playstyle

Offensive

Thorn has two offensive “modes” that you’ll flip-flop between during a round.

When you’re disengaged and far from enemies, poke with Leeching Thorns and stay at range while trying to hit Entangling Roots. If you land it, pull the target with Evil Clutch and beat on them until they flee, then chase them down with Burrow (unless doing so would put you in a dangerous position) and continue beating on them.

When you’re engaged on a target, remember that Thorn’s M1 sequence has Root Grip on the third strike even if you miss. You should hold and spam M1 even when enemies are outside your range just so you can pull them in, then you can beat them up some more. It’s a good way to dance around melee attacks, and it’s useful for pulling through Pearl’s Bubble and Destiny’s Wall. Landing Root Grips is essential to Thorn’s pressure and damage.

Overall, Thorn is sticky. He has three ways to engage targets: Entangling Roots (then walk up if close enough), Evil Clutch to pull, and Burrow to chase. As long as you aren’t blowing those cooldowns, most champions can’t get away from you. He’s all about sustained pressure. Always be on the lookout for enemies who burn escape abilities, then pounce on them and don’t let them get away, spamming M1 for those big Root Grip punches.

Thorn can generate a ton of energy. If you hit Leeching Thorns twice, it gains 10 energy, and since it has a short cooldown, it builds fast. If you can Evil Clutch two targets, that’s 10 energy. Three targets? That’s 15. Burrow can hit two targets for 14 energy, up to 21 in those rare cases where you catch three. Entangling Roots is pretty hard to miss and yet it grants 8 energy. As you can see, these multi-hit abilities are insane for energy so abuse them.

Defensive

Thorn doesn’t really play defensive. If you’re low on health, stay at range and throw Leeching Thorns and Entangling Roots until you heal back up. That’s where he gets most of his self-sustain, plus some extra help from his weakening battlerites (Regrowth and Neurotoxin) and the self-heal on Root Grip.

Barbed Husk is about as defensive as Thorn gets, and you need to save it for true emergencies: multiple enemies focusing a teammate, a huge projectile coming your way, or to become immune to game-changing CCs and AOEs. It’s costly so don’t waste it.

Orb Control

The best way to control orb as Thorn: save Evil Clutch around 10 seconds before it spawns, then cast it just as it appears. Pull the orb over to your team so you can break it in peace. If you time it well, enemies can’t do anything about it.

The other option, if you really need to pop it fast, is to get the orb down to 40 health and then break it with Thorn Barrage. Spending energy isn’t ideal, but you’re securing more energy and health for the rest of your team, so it’s definitely worth it.

Build Ideas

Standard Thorn

  • Branch Out (M1)
  • Regrowth (M1) or Parasitic Stems (M2)
  • Impaling Roots (Space)
  • Lurker (Space) or Fearsome Uprootal (Space)
  • No Escape (F) or Sinister Sap (E)

Pretty straightforward build for solo queue. Branch Out boosts your DPS and increases your reach (which increases your threat range). Regrowth helps sustain against melee, Parasitic Stems helps sustain against ranged. Impaling Roots gives you more permanent damage per engagement. Lurker picked for aggression, otherwise Fearsome Uprootal for survival. And lastly, Sinister Sap for more control/pressure otherwise No Escape.

Control Thorn

  • Branch Out (M1)
  • Neurotoxin (M2) or Hamstring Briars (M2)
  • Sinister Sap (E)
  • Creeping Roots (E)
  • Critical Backlash (R)

This control build is situational but fun, best on small maps and/or against ranged-heavy comps. Sinister Sap and Creeping Roots combine to make the enemy team’s life a nightmare, always having to play around the spread radius with a faster cooldown. Critical Backlash synergizes with whichever M2 battlerite you pick, and Branch Out is there because it should be in pretty much any build. The utility on it is just incredible.

Conclusion

Does Thorn deserve his reputation as a brainless melee champion? Probably. His self-sustain, his tankiness, his always-ready escape ability, his saved-just-in-time shield, his massive control, his stickiness — all of these things give him lots of room to be aggressive and make mistakes yet still get out when trouble comes.

Obviously Thorn can die. You still have to be careful, just like any other melee champion. But his playstyle is straightforward and he has the capacity to put a lot of pressure on the enemy team without much effort, making him a strong choice for both newbies and veterans. With a support who can bail him out, Thorn is pretty much unstoppable.

Zanetski

He is the lead writer at Battlecrank. You can find him on the Battlecrank Discord.

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1 Comment on "Guide to Playing Thorn in Battlerite"

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Dio_
Dio_

“Overall, Thorn is sticky”

nice.

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