Smite God Review: At R’lyeh, Cthulhu Waits
In his house at R’lyeh, Cthulhu waits dreaming. Well, he did, but now, Cthulhu, dreaded Great Old One has awoken in Smite! What makes Cthulhu so fascinating an addition to Smite is that he’s a modern creation. A creation of H.P. Lovecraft, the Great Old Ones of his mythos feels like they belong here. I’m glad to be writing about Smite again, as a game I’ve spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours playing. Not to mention, Cthulhu, as the first of the Great Old Ones, is also a role I play the most: Guardian. Cthulhu has released in Smite, and I can’t wait to talk about him.
We’re going to see how this goes! One of the hardest parts of writing these style articles isn’t the actual writing. No, it’s locking the god in. Usually, locking in a new Guardian is easy, but this is Cthulhu we’re talking about here. I want to take a moment, though. H.P. Lovecraft himself was an awful human being. We can’t ignore what kind of awful racist he was. As a people, we cannot ignore what a dreadful person he was, but his actual work as a writer is fascinating.
So, I’m torn on how I feel. Before I get started, I do love a good Guardian/Tank. I fear that he’s a little on the squishy side, but I’ll address that soon enough. Some people might see Cthulhu as a “step too far,” since he’s not a “real God.”
But anything that is spoken of with reference, perhaps fear, anyone that is worshipped, is a god. Cthulhu has that kind of impact. I happen to play a fair amount of Smite (which we have covered a lot of). I have covered pro matches, Smite Worlds and more over the years. I hope to do this more again!
The slumber of aeons is less than nothing to the mighty Cthulhu. He once walked among the stars, inspiring madness and terror anywhere his feet trod. Another interesting thing about Cthulhu is that he is essentially the Priest of the Old Ones. I like to think of him as a herald of the madness of the Great Old Ones.
Cults that worship Cthulhu are sinister, wretched things, scattered across the globe in dark corners. He has waited for the stars to align to make a move again. He aims to shatter the chains of reason and logic, to tear down the old gods. Kings will be made mad, the mad will become kings and not even the dead will be spared his wrath.
One of the more interesting things about Cthulhu is his ability to spread madness and lunacy. In particular, his ultimate creates a temporary, second set of moves he uses, when he unleashes his True Form. His UI might seem a little strange. He has a bar on his screen with a base of 20% on it. It also has a series of eyes above it. Those show your Torment Stacks. The actual number can and should grow throughout the game. As you consume Insanity, it will increase the Damage Mitigation of your first ability. That’s key to being such a tanky powerhouse as Cthulhu. Use it at the right time, and laugh as the other team batters themselves helplessly upon his tanky, squiggly majesty.
Passive: Prey on Fear (Buff)
Abilities and the Final Hit of his attack chain break down the willpower of enemy gods he faces. Abilities and that final hit apply stacks of Torment. Upon reaching four stacks of Torment, enemies are inflicted. Also, nearby enemy gods that are suffering Insanity increases Cthulhu’s Magical Power.
- Torment Duration: 5s
- Magical Power: 25 per enemy with Insanity
- Insanity Duration: 20s
Ability 1: Sanity Break (Cone, 60 Mana)
A blast of energy erupts from the maw of Madness, and deals damage to anyone hit by it. It also reduces their Attack Speed briefly. Those who are hit by Sanity Break also deal reduced damage to Cthulhu for 6s. This ability applies 1 stack of Torment, or 2 if the enemy hit is facing Cthulhu. Conversely, it Fears them instead if afflicted by Insanity. Successfully consuming Insanity permanently increases the base mitigation of this ability. Cooldown: 10 seconds
- Damage: 90/135/180/225/270 +40% of your Magical Power
- Fear Duration: 1.5s
- Attack Speed Slow: 10/15/20/25/30% for 3s
- Damage Mitigation: 20% +0.5% (Max: 30%)
Ability 2: The Mire (Ground Target, CC, 50/55/60/65/70 Mana)
Now, this ability is just gross to see. Blorp. Cthulhu summons a portal that showers an area of the ground with eldritch mire. While he channels this, The Mire will grow. Two masses of corruption descend from this field and damage all enemies caught in it. The first shot Slows enemies caught, and the second Roots them, and each applies a Torment stack. You can cancel this ability by moving, or by being hit to stop the channeling. Cooldown: 18/17/16/15/14 seconds
- Damage Per Shot: 50/95/140/185/230 +30% of your Magical Power
- Mire Duration: 3s after the ability is canceled.
- Corruption Slow: 35%
- Slow: 10%
- Corruption Slow/Root Duration: 1s
Ability 3: Rushing Terror (Dash, Damage, CC, 60/65/70/75/80 Mana)
Dread Priest Cthulhu unfurls his wings and charges forward it creates a pair of slow projectiles at the same time. These projectiles travel slower, but go farther, and damage enemies. Those who are hit by Cthulhu’s dash are damaged, stunned, and knocked away. The hitbox for this looks weird, but with practice, you can easily set up slamming the other players with Sanity Break or set up kills with his ultimate. Cooldown: 16 seconds
- Damage: 80/120/160/200/240 + 30% of your Magical Power
- Projectile Damage: 50/80/110/140/170 +20% of your Magical Power
- Stun Duration: 0.4s
Ultimate: Descend into Madness (Stim, 100 Mana)
Ah yes, here it is! Cthulhu’s True Form plunges the battlefield into his sunken city, R’lyeh. Any enemies caught in the wide field he appears in take damage. Cthulhu gains increased health and a new kit during his time in his true form. Simply being near Cthulhu gives stacks of Torment. The pace they are given out increases if they face him. Enemies also suffer the debuff effects of Sanity Break, which makes them deal less damage to Cthulhu himself. Cooldown: 100 seconds.
- Damage: 150/195/240/285/330 +40% of your Magical Power
- Health Buff: 30%
- Debuff Radius: 50
- Duration: 12/13/14/15/16s
Alt. 1st Ability: Sever (Projectiles)
If you use your Auto Attack, this is the ability that procs. Cthulhu swipes the ground beneath him in a large box. Three projectiles launch, and drop a stacking Protection Reduction debuff. This ability does not proc item effects. Cooldown: 1 second
- Damage: 120/175/230/285/340 +30% of your Magical Power
- Protection Reduction: 3% stacking up to 5 times.
- Debuff Duration: 5s
Alt. 2nd Ability: Devastate (Area, 60/65/70/75/80 Mana)
Does what it says on the box. Cthulhu launches a psychic blast into an area that damages and knocks up enemies. Cooldown: 5 seconds
- Damage: 140/175/210/245/280 +20% of your Magical Power
Alt. 3rd Ability: Transfuse (Area, Heal, Self-Damage, 70 Mana)
This is an ability I did not expect! Cthulhu transfuses his own life into an area around him, to give Allies Health, Movement Speed, and Power. This also harms enemies, and if they are closer to Cthulhu, they take more damage. This ability has a catch, though: It deals Cthulhu 6% of his Maximum Health. Should Cthulhu be under 20% of his health, this ability does not damage Cthulhu. Instead, the Ally effects are reduced by 50%. Cooldown: 6 seconds.
Pros & Cons
Cthulhu, while yes, does lots of damage, feels like he exists to help set up other people for success. I know that’s a weird thing to hear in a MOBA. I feel like he’s situationally tanky, though, and does well to have a healer on the squad too—someone like Aphrodite or Hel that can also deal lots of damage while keeping Cthulhu up. I can see the squiggly lord going Solo Lane too, with how much lane pressure he has. His 2nd ability is a huge circle; he has a cone attack and can dive to help set up kills with his 3. But now that Cthulhu has released into Smite, we have to examine what makes him good, and not so good.
Easy to Slot Into a Team: Cthulhu is a unique addition to the roster, like many of the recent gods. What he does cannot be replicated (except by The Morrigan, I guess). But what makes him a great addition to any team is what he brings to the table. He’s got CC, damage. He’s safe. He has a fair amount of distraction in the form of his ultimate and can bring a great deal of set-up for your teams kills. Overall, Cthulhu, once you figure him out, is a blast, and feels very satisfying to play.
Teamfight Potential is High: Oh, sweet babies! His teamfight potential is infuriating to deal with! Cage people in with Odin ult, and activate Cthulhu’s ult inside of it? There’s no escape from the damage. Set up the field with The Mire to slow/root people, pop Sanity Break to gain more Damage Mitigation, the ult! You gain health, more damage mitigation, and even more damage/CC. He can dole out tons of damage on his ultimate, while also setting up kills for the rest of the team. I can see him being a jungler too, and setting up kills by dropping The Mire over a wall or something. No matter where you put him on the team, Cthulhu brings something to every single teamfight.
Crowd Control Central: While some of it’s hard to land, Cthulhu has a Slow, Root, a Fear, and a Knock-Back in his kit. They’re not always easy to use, but mastery of them, and knowledge of what to do and when will mean nobody escapes their fate. Remember, we’re primarily a support. We want to make sure the team can easily secure kills or gank people. Once The Mire starts plopping down onto the field, people scatter. With that in mind, it’s a potentially great way to steal objectives or push people off! He can do so much.
Hard Target, a Film by John Woo: One of the major downsides of Cthulhu is the double-edged sword that is his ultimate. Descend Into Madness makes him grow to a colossal size. He gains Max Health increase, and Damage Mitigation during the animation, but as soon as that’s over? It’s fair game. If your team isn’t with you (and even if they are), you’re going to be a very likely. It doesn’t help that in his ult, Transfuse sacrifices his own health to give to his team!
High Health Comes with a Cost: Cthulhu’s got a fair amount of health, and once he ults, that number just increases. So that sounds great, right? Lots of health means it’s easy to last in prolonged fights. Until your opponent realizes “Oh hey, he’s an HP tank! Just pick up Qin’s Sais!” and then it’s over. Any warrior/assassin who picks up hp% damage is just going to mow him down, which is all that sees him as smart. It just means you, as Cthulhu, will have to lock them down and destroy them before they can get to you!
Cthulhu has CC, “but”. . . : Sure, Cthulhu has a ton of CC. None of it’s easy to hit, though. The Fear requires Insanity, and the Stun/Knock-Back requires his 3 to hit, which is a sort of slow dash. You can see The Mire coming from a mile away. While it’s got a large puddle, it’s not exactly hard to leap or hop out of. The first hit is slow. It’s the second that roots them down.
Cthulhu’s a really interesting Support/Guardian. He feels complicated to some people I’ve talked to because they don’t get the whole Torment thing on his UI. He gains stacks of Torment (up to 4) from using his abilities on enemies, as well as through his third attack in his attack chain. When an enemy has four stacks of Torment, they go “Insane.”
This makes them see and hear things that aren’t there. He also gains more magical power, which is awesome. But the more times you make someone go insane, the higher the percentage on your screen gets. That’s an indicator on how much damage mitigation you get with your 1st ability, Sanity Break. Fun fact, if the target is facing you when you hit them with 1, they get two stacks of Torment. So if you dash at them with Rushing Terror, spin, drop Sanity Break, and chase them down with Auto Attacks, they’ll likely go insane. This is even better if you trap them in The Mire first.
The Insanity effect lasts for about 20 seconds, so if you can trigger it again on someone, it Fears them. That’s very clunky and frustrating to set up. I don’t hate it, but it’s frustrating. I like Cthulhu as a support a lot, don’t get me wrong. But he also will have a very strong presence in Solo. Possibly even better than the dual lane.
Why? Because you’ll be mostly just boxing one player during the laning phase. Only focusing on one champ and attacking them will make it easier to build your torment stacks. He may be in the jungle too (people are already talking about it), but that’s not something I would personally recommend. That’s because I’m a bad jungler, though.
Peel for Me!
Cthulhu has a lot of peel, but it’s not always so great. Take Rushing Terror, for example. It might be “easy” to confirm since it’s a dash. It knocks people away when you use it, so you can use it to save an ally. But doing this can easily push you into a situation where you’re going to die. It’s not safe peel. The most ideal time to use this as a peel ability for my money is when you’re behind the enemy team. You come sliding through, knock-back/stun them, and now you’re with your team.
It’s also a great escape, so you have to be careful. People may try to bait it by dropping Slows to attempt to get you to use it. Know when you’re safe, and when you aren’t (place. WARDS). While this might be harder to use safely than the rest of his kit, it’s not the hardest part.
That without a doubt goes to The Mire. It sounds easy to use because it’s a large aoe blob that grows as he channels. It drops two hits that Torment (then Slow/Root). But you have to channel to make it keep growing, and the instinct as a tank is to keep moving. Far too often, as soon as I do it, and an enemy is near, they will use something to stop me. Abilities, where you have to channel, are always dangerous, though. At least we’re sort of tanky.
Getting used to the range is key, too. You don’t want just to waste it. It’s an amazing way to slow down minion waves (or clear them). But if you can drop The Mire down as a group is coming in, it may wind up securing quite a few kills. It hits hard, slows, roots, and lets your team be aggressive.
He’s also not a god that you can just spam abilities with in the early game. He’s very mana hungry in the early going. Any other heavy CC support may (and probably will) outbox them in lane, or even ones that can stop his 2. Athena, Ganesha, Ares, Ymir, they’re all just going to bop him and stop The Mire.
Speaking of The Mire, let’s talk about it. It has a lot of utility. You can clear waves with it, or root people down in teamfights. You can also use it to peel for people safely. If your carry is running away, drop it behind them! That way, the other team has no choice but to try and trample through it if they want to keep fighting.
Life Lessons: Synergy
I also want to discuss ganking. Communication is so important in these kinds of games, as is map awareness. Do you see that your jungler is very close and looking to gank? Don’t ult when he gets there. Drop The Mire, pop your Ultimate, and then the jungler goes in! When you have mountain-sized support bullying people, it’s really easy for an assassin to leap in during the chaos, grab a kill or two, and get back out!
One of the biggest lessons you have to learn as a Cthulhu player is “YOUR ULTIMATE DOES NOT MAKE YOU INVINCIBLE.” You’re not immune to things! Don’t just blink in and ult, unless you’re 100% sure your team is going to be with you helping out. Otherwise, you just wasted a 100s ult and threw away your life for nothing.
Thanatos and Achilles can still execute you, as can Ao Kuang. Don’t forget about this. You can still be pulled, taunted, caged. Not to mention, you’re way easier to hit now. A Thanatos that can’t hit an Ulted Cthulhu should probably try playing someone easier, like Loki.
But who does he work well with? Well, personally, I like gods that work well with his manner of CC/slowdown. Can you imagine Miring a team, and then a Poseidon ult comes rocketing in? I can. I like it. I like it a lot. He will fit nicely with a heavy cc comp that includes gods like Cabraken, Poseidon, Hades. He will make Da Ji’s ult easier to secure, same goes for Zeus. Put people in a position where they can neither run nor hide nor punish them for their iniquity. Odin would be a fun pairing too.
If you’re in the solo lane, supporters like Ares, Ganesha, and Athena are all great picks. Or you can go with a healer type like Aphrodite/Hel if you have a tanky jungler. That’s still a thing, I’m positive. I’ve seen more than my share of Guardian Junglers. I don’t like it, but I respect it. While Cthulhu goes nicely on many squads, I think he’s best served when the rest of the team locks down.
That way, when you go for your ultimate, you are safe to deal damage, continue the CC chain, and watch as your team batters those now-mad enemies. I like Cthulhu a lot. I don’t think he’s pick-or-ban tier for his damage, but for his potential. Once you’ve learned how to harass players and easily stack torment, you’ll see what he can do.
This is a hard one for me because 1 and 2 are both equally important. I think you should focus on the one you’re more confident with, between the two. As far as order from level 1-3, I’d say The Mire, Sanity Break, The Mire, then Rushing Terror at 4. I tend to put more points into The Mire than Sanity Break, if only by a little bit.
Your build will, of course, vary from game to game. Never stick to the same static build every time. That’s silly. There are items that I think will almost always be mandatory, though. Hide of the Nemean Lion is going to be a must-buy in many cases. Your opponents are going to know you can be cut down by %Hp damage. Hide will reflect 15% of that damage back, and it’s your only way to survive. So, if your opponent starts building Attack Speed, you may want to drop your money.
The other best item for Cthulhu is Gem of Isolation. Come on, don’t act shocked. I see you! It’s a tank item (HP, CCR, CC). Enemies hit by your damaging abilities are slowed by 20% for 1s, and it also increases your Magical Power by 90. That’s big time numbers. So you hit someone with Sanity Break, they’re slowed. Drop The Mire in front of them, slowed, slowed again, rooted. Dash in, slow them again, and if they aren’t dead, they will be.
Having a “Shield” item is also key. The big choices are Pridwen and Bulwark of Hope. They come down to playstyle, but I prefer Pridwen. Pridwen activates when we use our Ultimate. That’s why I like it right there. On top of the Cooldown Reduction, the Physical/Magical Protections, it gives me a shield that explodes during my Ult. It also slows on top of that when the shield explodes. I’ll give you a few hypothetical builds below though.
- Starting Blessing: Guardian’s Blessing
- Relic Options: Shield of Thorns, Magic Shell, Cursed Ankh, Horrific Emblem
- How Often Should We Ward: ALL THE TIME. A.B.B.W. (Always Be Buyin’ Wards)
- Tyrannical Plate Helm, Pridwen, Shoes of Focus, Stone of Binding, Gem of Isolation, Oni Hunter’s Garb (Sell Shoes of Focus, get Elixir of Speed, and replace with Mantle of Discord/Void Stone/Whatever is needed)
- Breastplate of Valor, Shoes of Focus, Stone of Binding, Bulwark of Hope, Hide of the Nemean Lion, Gem of Isolation (Sell Shoes, buy Elixir of Speed, buy Mantle of Discord)
- Assassin’s Blessing, Spear of Desolation, Shoes of the Magi, Chronos’ Pendant, Charon’s Coin, Soul Reaver (Swap Blessing for Rod of Tahuti, Swap Boots for Elixir and Ethereal Staff)
This jungle build is essentially the same thing I’d run as a Burst Mage for Cthulhu. But I love myself and tend to play tanks the way they’re supposed to be: as tanks. Sure, we can get some damage on him, but that’s not the focus. Even in the solo lane, we still want to be sturdy for the rest of the game. There are a few solid tank items that still help our damage. Void Stone immediately springs to mind, as does Gem of Isolation.
For those of you new to Smite: At level 20, you can now buy the Elixir of Speed, which lasts the duration of the game. It replaces your speed you would get from shoes. Then, you can fill that slot with another item.
I learned something cool about Cthulhu last night, courtesy of Reddit, and my best friend/co-streamer, Colton. Cthulhu has some secret, fun tech you can use to get damage safely. His 3 (Rushing Terror) is a long-distance dash that also deals damage in two lines. Those lines knock people back as well as add stacks of Torment. That’s incredibly important. But what if we want to stay in melee range, and not dash past people?
Why, Cthulhu, at least for now, has a dash cancel option! This is something you use in games like Street Fighter, and possibly even League of Legends. You have to cancel the dash after the main animation has started, not during his windup. On PC you can just hit right-click to cancel. It’s a technique that’s hard to master evidently, but it’s worth it. The linked video clip shows you what it looks like. The most important part is that the lines of damage go the full distance. This is especially good if your opponent dropped something that will snare/silence you (like Nox).
This way you can start the dash, get the free, high damage, and stacks of torment. This keeps you in range, and right in front of someone to follow-up with your 1 (Sanity Break), and auto-attacks. Could be a great way to make someone Insane.
Overall, I like Cthulhu. I also think he’s very powerful with max cooldown reduction. His abilities have decent cooldowns, his kit is unique, and his look is amazing. The devs put a lot of heart into the first Great Old One and it shows. I don’t think he’s busted, because there are holes and weaknesses in his kit. Not being invulnerable during his giant ult (like Jorm is) helps. As always, builds are situational, as are team comps.
But I tend to pair the now-released Cthulhu in Smite with a certain type of god. I like having high-octane damage, lots of CC, and maybe a healer. Cthulhu has the potential to be overwhelmingly powerful in the right hands, though. That’s why I like him. The official Smite wiki lists him as “Average” difficulty, and I think I agree. He’s in the “easy to play, hard to master” category.
I feel like what will separate Cthulhu players is how well they can use the kit. You have to be pretty brave with him! To maximize what you do, you need to get those Torment stacks on people, and then consume them with his 1. Cthulhu is a blast to play, and exactly what we need in our guardians: something new!
He can go virtually anywhere, though. I stand by playing him as a Guardian, but I 100% see him as a safe and viable Solo Laner. Maybe a Jungler. I’m not a good enough Jungler to say one way or another, but I hear whispers that it’s possible.
I am grateful that these recent Cthulhu releases (a new Call of Cthulhu tabletop and this) are done without glorifying the awful person that spawned him.
TitanAjax wrote: “One final note: Just as we reject the ancient Mayan tradition of ritual human sacrifice, we reject the racist and homophobic ideas espoused by H.P. Lovecraft. We believe that Cthulhu has grown beyond its creator over the past 100 years.”
Welcome to the Battleground of the Gods, Cthulhu.
“I have looked upon all the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me.” — The Call of Cthulhu