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How To Play As Atlas

Feat. PCL Emerphish

Art by: dond0n

Atlas is one of the most complex champs with a steep learning curve and there’s not a ton of education out there about how to fully utilize his kit to its full potential, so I’ve interviewed Emerphish, a pro PCL off-tank player, with a lot of questions and I’ve included his answers.

This guide won’t explain what his abilities do, but you can find that here on Gamepedia.

1) His two good talents are Déjà Vu and Temporal Divide? When would you choose each? Is it more dependent on the map or the draft?

I choose Deja Vu every single game. Initially, I liked the value Temporal Divide would give my main lane, but Deja Vu is so much better at winning the offlane that it’s impossible to pass up. If the shield cooldown were the same between the two talents, I’d probably take Temporal Divide on the smaller maps, but as-is even a coordinated team won’t get enough value out of it. Deja Vu gives you more shields, which is vital, since it’s already such a long cooldown, and it gives you the ability to spend more time shooting fleeing enemies, as you can wait until they round a corner before rewinding them. It also allows you to rewind multiple enemies, which is double the value, especially against a Khan or any other type of AoE heal.

I am just one off tank player, though. Out of respect to the team, I won’t give their name, but one of our scrim partners does run Temporal Divide on maps where it can span multiple lanes.

2) The standard itemization for off-tanks is to Cauterize to III, Resilience if needed and Rejuvenate. Apart from those, what other Items would you pick up? Do you get Rejuvenate III? Is he a good Wrecker? Is Chronos a worthwhile filler?

Atlas typically gets less value out of Rejuvenate than offtanks that actually rely on heals to survive. It’s still pretty good, but resilience is better almost every time. I’d only forgo it if the enemy team doesn’t have a single serious crowd control threat.

He gets good value out of wrecker, particularly because he has some anti-healing in his kit in the form of his rewind. However, cauterize is still usually the better pickup, since your rewind does get countered by resilience, and you don’t always have your rewind, while the enemy healer will almost always have heals. He also just doesn’t do as much sustained dps as an actual dps champion, so if you’re not against triple shield or a torvald. you buy Cauterize.

Chronos seems really good on him, but I rarely end up buying it. I’ll end up with Caut+Wrecker+Resil+Rejuv more often, just because Chronos is so expensive. I might experiment with buying it over Rejuvenate in the future.

3) Would your talent/deck/items be different in solo queue vs. organized play?

Nope. I have two decks, with one point different between them.

  • Old Wounds (4), Beyond the Veil (4), Continuum Shift (1), Lost Legacy (5), Hell Hunter (1)
  • Old Wounds (4), Beyond the Veil (4), Continuum Shift (1), Lost Legacy (4), Hell Hunter (2)

I use the extra ammo on longer maps where my dps is going to be a significant contributor to kills and I don’t want to get stuck reloading. E.g. bazaar/frozen.

4) Which direction do you place the Big Shield: Vertically, horizontally, diagonally?

The Big Shield is used to split a lane so you can push it without taking damage (when your teams are grouped up). Like in Keep on Stone Keep, you can split the Keep and weave in and out of the shield and get huge value from it.

When your teams aren’t grouped, it’s usually better to place it horizontally, and maybe slightly angled, so that both lanes can benefit from it.

5) Are there any meaningful differences in how you use your shield with Big Shield vs. Little Shield?

Small shield is used for everything: pushing (movespeed), warding off a push (healing and shielding), or used once you’ve pushed the enemy, so you can live longer in their face. Only use it for movespeed if you feel safe. Though, since you can reset at any time, you should feel safe quite often.

6) Regarding your cooldowns, are there any that you prefer to use shortly after cooldown for maximum APM and are there any you prefer to save for the right moment?

If you use any of Atlas’s cooldowns as soon as they come up, you’re likely to waste them. His shield is so versatile that you’ll rarely hold it for long, but you have to use it purposefully. Same with your Setback and Second Chance.

Setback is best used after an enemy gets healed, or if they try to flee, or if they use a channeled ability that’s worth interrupting (namely vivian’s shield, maybe an Inferno Cannon or Torv ult). Set back Vivian’s feet, and regardless of her level of resilience, it’ll be interrupted and destroyed.

Second Chance is best thought of to be “activated” when you decide to dive, and then only goes on cooldown once you disengage.

Combing your abilities, like a shield push into a reset, is greatly effective. However, knowing when you don’t need to spend a long cooldown is important too. Don’t be scared to use abilities, but use them all purposefully.

7) Are there any major differences in positioning, playstyle or target priority, compared to other off-tanks?

Atlas is like Fat Talus. He should be positioned similarly to most off tanks, except he wants to be close enough to dive and then beat up a squishy and then reset to safety in 5.7 seconds.

8) Uncharged vs partially charged vs fully charged shots. Which do you use the most/least often?

Your most used shots will be the uncharged and fully charged shots.

The middle two I only use for enemies that are mid+ to long range and will make it to cover before I can land a charged shots. Any time you’re too far away to dive+reset, you should be shoulder peeking with charged shots.

9) Atlas will be going often be up against Ash, Khan and Ruckus (his off-tank counterparts). How would you rate these matchups? Any tips or tricks for them?

Atlas is so powerful that he will absolutely dominate every offtank matchup. He and Makoa are similar in this way, and funny enough they both dominate each other, so Makoa vs Atlas will come down to the dps picks (in a vaccuum, atlas beats Makoa, but you’re never playing in a vaccum).

Setback key abilities! If you can’t interrupt Ash’s dash, lob a rewind across the map after her! It’s not that hard to hit, and if you do you’ll bring her all the way back. You’ll allow your dps to hold an angle uncontested every time you shield, so use that to your advantage.

10) Regarding the enemy off-lane DPS, which do you think are the easiest and hardest matchups for him?

CC-heavy or burst-heavy champs. Both of those can make it difficult to consistently get your Second Chance off.

Tyra is hard too, because you can’t cleanse the mark, so you just have to play much safer than normal. Still, you can eat her alive if her off tank takes even two steps away from her.

The easiest matchup would probably be any flank. Assuming the Atlas’s pilot is mechanically skilled enough, Atlas dominates flanks like no other champion in the game. One shot forces them to either disengage or invest cooldowns to sustain, and the next will either kill them or put them into lethal rewind+shot range. My mechanics are not pro level on PC, but I’ve had my way with PML evies and maeves and androxuses. Androxi?

11) Does Atlas prefer or dislike any maps? Is this a factor at all in the drafting?

You’ll do better than the other offtank every time you play atlas, but his best map is Bazaar. The combination of long range dominance and his ability to contest a lane are both used maximally there.

12) Are there any champs that Atlas has a particularly strong synergy with and would want on his team? If you duoed and picked Atlas, would you have any preference on what your partner picks?

I quite like having a Vivian or a Tyra that can melt shields and make the enemy offtank’s life harder. If their life is hard enough, I can ignore them and kill the enemy dps.

It’s worth noting that a dps without a movement ability might get left in a sticky spot if they push too hard with their Atlas and he resets.

13) What do Atlas players look for when they see the enemy comp/builds/etc. before the first round?

As Atlas, it’s worth noting any scary fast-activating CC or burst damage. If you’re against a sniper, for example, you may consider resetting yourself sooner than usual if you enter their LoS. Having a basic gameplan is always good. Where do I go to best win this matchup? Is it better to push instantly, or to wait until the enemy’s used a key cooldown? Even if your gameplan isn’t perfect, having one will save you mental energy while you’re playing.

14) Many of us know what Atlas’s setback could be used for. It could be used to send someone back to spawn, damage someone who recently got healed or to tell a flank to take a hike. But the context of which and when can be confusing? What are your thought processes and priorities for using this ability?

You should only rewind enemies when you actually get value out of it. Sending an enemy three feet to the left and dealing no damage to them is a waste of a cooldown most of the time. Setback enemies using channeled abilities, running away, or ones who just healed.

A particularly potent combo that requires some mental effort is to guess where an enemy’s head was x seconds ago and place your crosshair there and charge a shot right after you rewind them. If you time it right, you’ll headshot them with a charged shot as soon as you rewind them, since the rewind sets them back about as long as it takes them to charge a shot.

15) Any tips on using Atlas’s Second Chance?

Dive before you reset. Mentally “activate” the ability, run in, beat someone up, maybe kill them, then get out. The ability starts when you decide to dive, but the cooldown only starts once you disengage.

Think of it like a shield that only goes on cooldown once it’s destroyed. Also, if you’re shuffling your feet in a spot that might become dangerous in a 20 seconds, keep that in mind. You might need to run away with your shield, since your Second Chance can get you killed if it sends you back into the thick of the enemy backline.

16) Atlas currently has a 47% winrate in ranked, despite dominating in pro play. He has a high skill ceiling, but a steep learning curve. What aspects of Atlas do you most think the average player is not grasping or utilizing?

Atlas’s winrate is tanked by how hard he is to play at first. Once you play him a few times with the right build, the ability to safely solo anyone whenever you want is too good to be true.

The average player probably doesn’t have the move speed card Beyond the Veil) to maximize reset value, and uses Setback off cooldown instead of at key moments.

17) Is there anything obscure or misunderstood about his kit that people should know? Do you have any other tips or comments regarding Atlas?

I’ll take this opportunity to talk about his ult (Exile). It’s really cool, so the majority of players seem to think it’s good. It’s not. It doesn’t have lots of potential that only good players can take advantage of, it just plain isn’t good. It gets countered by crowd control, shields, damage, long range characters, walking away, resilience, and the enemy off tank’s mom’s dead cat. Everything makes it bad. It’s best use is to stagger an enemy after a fight or to zone. You might get lucky and be able to quicky use one charge to banish the enemy support mid-fight sometimes, but you’ll do better not to worry too much about it. It’s purely win-more, but if you’re winning you’ve probably already won.

Atlas is arguably the strongest character in Paladins. When I get Atlas, I’ll outdamage damages, control the offlane, outsnipe snipers, block main tanks from escaping, box anyone, and on a good day transcend space and time and 1v57 and score 5 points alone every game. Realistically, I will drop top kills every time I play him, and keep pace with my damages in damage output. He does have weaknesses, though, in his ult and his inability to fight at full strength while running away. He’s closer to being balanced than he seems.

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