If you have spent any time playing as Anti-Mage you should know how critical Manta Style is to your game. Manta is what turns Anti-Mage from a decent damage dealer to a game-breaking hard carry. Manta Style's active could well be considered Anti-Mage's true ultimate ability. With Manta Style's active's low cool down and relatively low mana cost you can essentially spam Anti-Mage illusions once you acquire this item; and with those illusions utilizing your increased damage from Mana Break they are truly deadly.
Now that I have sufficiently sung the praises of Manta Style on the Anti-Mage and it's crucial role in cementing the Anti-Mage as one of the most powerful hard carries in the game, let's see how we structure our game around obtaining and properly utilizing this weapon.
Anti Mage Pros:
1. One of thee best pure carries in the game
2. Tremendous farming ability mid-game
3. Scales incredibly well and can decide a game if it goes deep
4. Blink allows for awesome escapes, chases, and maneuverability
5. Relatively straight-forward and easy to play
Anti Mage Cons:
1. Fragile, especially early game
2. Incredibly weak at laning
3. Requires a fair amount of time and farm to become a game-changing force
4. So-so ultimate that requires some skill to use correctly
Anti-Mage has a mixed bag of skills, like so many Dota heroes. Some are good, some are not so good. Unfortunately, the worst Anti-Mage skill is probably his ultimate, Mana Void. Let's go over them to see what works and what doesn't, shall we...
Let's get it started, IN HERE...
The item discussion should naturally start with your starting items. Quelling Blade is an absolute must on Anti-Mage. Anti-Mage is highly dependent on last hitting and farm. Quelling blade makes that a lot easier. First item, always, on the Anti-Mage is a Quelling Blade. More on last hitting is to come, as it is of such vital importance to our fledgling Anti-Mage.
You will also buy a Stout Shield and one Tango. You can send the courier to get more tangos as needed, but if you are in a favorable lane one tango will suffice until you move into your jungling phase.
Oh, oh, oh, stayin' alive, stayin' alive...
This guide places a high priority on obtaining Manta Style, but there are two things which you must do before you can begin to build it:
1. Increase Anti-Mage survivability so he is not feeding the other team and completely worthless.
2. Increase our ability to farm so we can rush Manta Style.
Increasing survivability is your first priority as an Anti-Mage. If you are dying you are not farming and falling way behind. Anti-Mage is fragile; that needs to be remedied ASAP. The first item you should build to increase survivability is a Poor Man's Shield. It is no Vanguard, but at 1/4 the price it gets the job done. Remember, we must make some compromises to rush Manta Style. While in a perfect world we would prefer Vanguard, it just takes way too long to pay for. The other downside of Vanguard is that it does not help our farm, at least not as much as Vladmir's Offering does (more on that later). Poor Man's Shield is in the Goldilocks zone of defensive items... it is just right.
The second item we build is another defensive item: Power Treads. Wait you say, that's not a defensive item! Yes, it is. First, it gives you speed, perhaps the most important defensive stat of all. The other team can't kill what they can't catch. Boots saves lives, remember that. Power Treads also give us over 150 health. That's right. The key is to keep your Power Treads attuned to strength. The 8 extra strength and the 150 health is way more important than the agility at this point in the game.
It should be noted that when farming or later in the game you can turn the Power Treads to agility, but for a vast majority of the game and in any team fight you should have your boots on strength for the health. Tread default attribute = Strength.
Also note that in my item build I like to build a Ring of Regen before my power treads. It is best to get the ring of regen a bit earlier than the rest of Vladmir's Offering as the ring gives you considerable sustain in the lane.[/color]
Old McDonald had a farm...
The third and last major item before we begin constructing our Manta Style is Vladmir's Offering. The armor and mana regen are meh on Anti-Mage, what we desperately need is the life steal. Anti-Mage is already saddled with a unique attack modifier ( Mana Break), this means that Vladmir's Offering is currently the only item in the game that allows Anti-Mage life steal. The value of life steal cannot be under-stated. Anti-Mage has one of thee fastest auto attacks in the game, thus making life steal a tremendous defensive asset in team fights. Furthermore, and most importantly, life steal allows you to farm/jungle with impunity. The second you finish building Vladmir's Offering you'll NEVER have to return to base for the rest of the game. Low on health? Go find some creeps or jungle and tah-dah! You are back to full health. Vladmir's Offering is what turns the Anti-Mage from a jungler with very little sustain, to one of the fastest and most efficient junglers in the game. Vladmir's Offering is how you farm, and it is what will pay for the game-breaker: Manta Style.
This is how we do it...
This guide is based on getting an early Manta Style. The point is that Manta Style is that good. Those illusions hitting with that naturally devastating Anti-Mage speed plus Mana Break is just pure death. You get two illusions plus the real Anti-Mage whacking on even the hardiest tank and they will not last five seconds, no exaggeration. So we rush Manta Style because that is what makes the Anti-Mage who he is.
At this point you will notice that I have only bought a handful of items before Manta Style: Quelling Blade, Poor Man's Shield, Power Treads, Vladmir's Offering, and a Tango or two. This means you will only have spent about 4300-4600 gold or so before beginning your work on Manta Style. And that is the key right there, you get the bare essentials for what you need to be effective (health and farm) and go straight to Manta Style. It is this author's belief that the longer you put off Manta Style the longer you go without being a truly devastating force. You want to be a truly devastating force I assume, why else would you be reading this? Get Manta Style, and get it fast.
It's up to you - New - York - New York...
What you do after Manta Style is really up to you. I like to parlay Perseverance into a Bloodstone. Perseverance allows you to spam Blink and Manta Style's active, while Bloodstone allows you to further abuse those skills while giving you an incredible amount of late game health. Basically, after Manta Style we are looking to get tanky so we can dominate all comers. Perseverance to Bloodstone fills that tanky need quite well. And the passives on bloodstone ain't half bad to boot.
(Many people seem to have an issue with the Bloodstone build so I'll justify it here. The thing is that you definitely need Perseverance, if you do not have perseverance you will not have the mana to spam Manta Style, and Blink, and Mana Void. Yes, the mana provided by perseverance is enough to solve your mana problems, and yes bloodstone is overkill when it comes to mana, but Bloodstone builds directly from Perseverance so bloodstone really only costs 3300 more and provides killer passives. Yes, you can build Heart of Tarrasque instead, please feel free to do so, especially if you want to start right after perseverance. Heart of Tarrasque will give you 500 more health than Bloodstone but if you do not build Perseverance first you will have mana problems. I would rather sacrifice the extra health for the ability to spam all of my skills, including Manta Style. But if you prefer the health and want to use manta style more conservatively please feel free, but remember that because you build perseverance, bloodstone is significantly cheaper than heart of tarrasque and provides passive bonuses which are heads and shoulders better than heart of tarrasque. Please do not rate this guide based on my personal preference for Bloodstone over Heart of Tarrasque, I just find that bloodstone has more utility than an extra 500 health. With that said, I have added heart of tarrasque as an optional item if you feel the health is more valuable than spamming your abilities/active.)
The truth is, by the time you finish a Bloodstone nine times out of ten the game will be drawing to a close. You see, once you finish Manta Style you are usually in the driver's seat and the game does not last much longer. If you have had trouble reaching Manta Style and are still having trouble after you build it, well the game probably is not going your way at all and it is going to be hard to change that. Basically, by the time you are working on a bloodstone the game is decided. If you have gotten there with relative ease you are going to dominate and mop up while your team rick rolls the n00bs on the other side of the map. If you had a lot of trouble reaching this point you are probably under farmed and your team is getting sch-lacked.
Very rarely does it get to the point where you will put in any serious effort toward obtaining an Abyssal Blade. This is your luxury item. After Manta Style and the tankiness provided by Bloodstone what you could use in the closing moments of a game is a bit more damage. Abyssal Blade fits the bill. Considering your auto-attacks will be coming at lightening speed the stun on abyssal blade is nice too. It is a nice little addition, but rarely will you have the time to complete it.
Anti-Mage is at his weakest at the very start of the game. He progressively gets stronger as the game goes on, so each passing minute increases your power. That means that the very first second of the game is also when you are at your absolute most vulnerable.
Laning, quite frankly, is a nightmare for Anti-Mage. You have two goals when laning:
1. Don't Die (that's a big one)
2. Get last hits
Let us get something out of the way. You need to be able to last hit well if you are playing Anti-Mage. If you cannot last hit you have three options. First, you can stop playing Anti-Mage because you will not be effective if you cannot last hit. Second, you can keep playing Anti-Mage and just lose most of your games because you are under farmed. Third, you can keep playing Anti-Mage with one of your goals being specifically to get skilled at last hitting.
Last hitting is all about timing. You should not walk up to a creep wave and simply auto attack them. You should dance around them, waiting until a creep is on the very brink of death, then swoop in and land the killing blow. It is not exactly easy, but Anti-Mage has a tremendously fast attack animation. This means when you click attack the damage will land a fraction of a second later.
Creeps tend to lose their health at a steady rate when being hit by opposing creeps. You must be aware of that rate of health decline and learn when to swing to land the killing blow. If you notice you are swinging too early and not getting the killing blow wait until the creeps are at lower health before swooping in. You will notice that at levels 1-4 your margin for error is very small. You must time your last hits extremely well when the creep has near zero health. As you increase in level though, and your damage increases, your margin for error will improve. By levels 5, 6, and 7 you can start swinging at creeps when they have a nice little chunk of life left. Remember, this is what you bought the Quelling Blade for: you NEED to last hit!
Oh, also DON'T DIE. This should go without saying, but with such a farm dependent hero you must never, ever, die. You have Blink so really there is no excuse for dying while laning. Even if you get ganked just blink out. You should be AVOIDING CONFRONTATION during this entire period of the game. You are not looking to get kills. I repeat, you are not looking to get kills. That doesn't mean you don't take them if they are easy, and that doesn't meant you don't help your teammates when they need it. What it does mean is you are not tower diving, or initiating ganks, or in general just being aggressive.
During the laning phase you are focusing on last hitting and avoiding enemy heroes. Period.
Now this strategy can really go one of two ways. You can have a lane with soft opponents who allow you to freely last hit, or you can have a dreaded laning opponent like Dark Seer or Enigma who are going to annoy the **** out of you while you try to farm. If you are against particularly strong/aggressive laning opponents you should look to change lanes. By the way, Anti-Mage should always be in the side line, preferably with a lane support; never go in a solo lane as Anti-Mage as you are too weak to hold a lane alone. So if you are top lane and your lane opponents are ruining your farm ask to go bottom. If you are stuck in a lane against aggressive opponents who lane well this could very well cost you the game: find a softer lane.
The other way laning can go, and the vastly preferable way, is to have weak/passive laning opponents. This is perfect. Have your lane partner harass them if possible while you last hit, last hit, last hit. Get that gold up, son!
Of course there are shades of grey between the uber tough lane and the super squishy lane. They key question is are you consistently landing last hits? If you are you are OK. If you are being denied constantly and forced to disengage every time you approach the creep wave that is a lane which is worthy of a switch.
The laning phase ends abruptly and absolutely when you complete your Vladmir's Offering.
A major shift occurs in the Anti-Mage game the moment your Vladmir's Offering is complete.
Anti-Mage stinks in the lane, that is just the way it is. Unfortunately, he is not that good at ganking or jungling either early game. That is, until you get Vladmir's Offering. You still aren't going to be able to gank without Manta Style, but you can now jungle very very effectively.
Vladmir's Offering grants you life steal as we outlined earlier. This addition instantly makes you a jungling machine. The moment you complete your Vladmir's Offering you can wipe out any creep camp (save Roshan and the Ancients, and as the game progresses you will handle those too) and emerge with full health. At this point your focus should shift entirely to jungling and farming. You are weak in the lane, and with Vladmir's Offering you no longer belong there.
When you have Vladmir's Offering, but have not yet built Manta Style, the vast majority of your time will be spent in the jungle earning gold to buy Manta Style.
You can leave the jungle to wipe out unattended creep waves, and you you should after all it is free gold. You can also emerge from the jungle to engage in team fights but you must be very careful when you do this. Remember, you are still relatively weak at this point in the game (though rapidly gaining power). You are not in a position to gank or dictate a team fight until you have Manta Style. I am not saying hang your teammates out to dry, but be very selective before engaging enemy heroes with them. Basically look for a decisive advantage before throwing your hat into the melee, or look for situations where your team desperately needs your help (such as a tower defense). For the most part, stick to the jungle till you have your Manta Style.
Another abrupt shift in your strategy occurs when you acquire Manta Style. It is at this point in the game that you ratchet up your aggression considerably.
Once you have Manta Style it is time to start flexing your hard carry muscles. Up until this point in the game you have been primarily farming and helping your teammates when necessary. Now is the time for you to start showing your real value. By this time, if you have been relatively undisturbed and have not died too many times you will be in a great position to win the game for your team.
With Manta Style you should continue to roam the jungle and farm for Perseverance and Bloodstone, but you should be actively seeking to engage in team fights. If you see an opportunity to engage with even numbers on both sides, do it. You're powerful now, and you have a distinct ability to tilt team fights in your own team's favor.
Again, this comes with a caveat. You should not run in all alone, or even run in to a 3 v 2 situation. You never want to engage in a disadvantaged position. Furthermore, you are not an initiator. As an Anti-Mage you are more of an assassin. Granted, now you are a particularly powerful and somewhat tanky assassin (especially after Bloodstone) but you do not want to be the first to engage. You want the teams to engage, and when the enemy team has blown their cooldowns that is when you sneak in and pop your illusions. Do not rush in head first to any team fight, you are not a tank. You are at your best when you are rapidly mopping up enemy heroes with your illusions after they have already engaged your team.
By the time you have completed Bloodstone you are officially bad ***; plus, there are three of you. With the additional mana from Bloodstone you can spam your manta illusions. The cooldown on Manta Style is only 35 seconds. This means that your illusions can be up for 20 seconds while only down for 15 seconds. You can keep the mana breaking illusions up more often than they are down. Abuse this fact. Pop those illusions whenever you are in combat.
The fact of the matter is that with all your health, attack speed, and mobility you are a one man wrecking ball. If the game was close before this stage you should now be the deciding factor that tips the game in your team's favor. That is what a good carry does, and no carry does it better than Anti-Mage.
The only time you will only get to this point in the game and not win is if your team is getting absolutely butt smacked. This has happened to me on occasion, but it is extremely rare. If you make it this deep into the game, and you followed the guidance contained here somewhat effectively, it is going to be extremely difficult for the opposing team to stop you.
Let's try to summarize the strategy for the Anti-Mage which I have laid out here. Please note that this is my way of playing the Anti-Mage, and it is very effective. I am sure other people have other styles, different strokes for different folks and all, but there are certain factors which limit you to the style of play I have outlined here. You may be able to tweak the item build and skill progression, but having a different play style will be very difficult. Anti-Mage simply is not effective enough early game to do anything other than farm.
Anti-Mage begins in the lane because he has no other option. You take a Quelling Blade and last hit till your wrist and fingers are sore. Once you complete Vladmir's Offering you move into the jungle and farm, farm, farm. You beeline straight to Manta Style.
Once you acquire Manta Style you take a much more aggressive stance (at about 20 minutes). You start actively engaging in team fights using your illusions to tip the balance in your favor. After manta style you look to beef up your health and become somewhat tanky. This is usually when you win the game, or at least win a couple of decisive team fights which decide the fate of the game.
In a nutshell:
1. Lane passively until Vladmir's Offering
2. Jungle fast and hard until you get Manta Style
3. Begin to aggressively engage with your illusions
This guide is meant primarily for pub-stomping. It is also a guide for new players who want to learn the basics of the Anti-Mage. It is not meant for you professional players out there. Heck, you can create a better guide than me. Also, these are just one man's thoughts, and this is just one effective strategy out of many possible other angles. Feel free to take what you like from this guide, discard some other stuff, and do it your way. I'm sure most of you will want to switch up an item or two here and there, but I would recommend trying to keep with the general feel of play outlined here.
Please excuse the lack of refinement and frills in this guide, it is still a work in progress. In the meantime, try out the build! If it works for you give me an upvote, but don't knock it till you try it! Check back periodically as I will be attempting to add some flair, do some proof-reading, and refine the guide.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment!