Everywhere at once - Phantom Lancer Codex
January 11, 2012
Azwraith the Phantom Lancer
"Although his true name is unknown to his allies, Azwraith's assigned name tells you enough. Like the Angel of Death, Azrael, he fights to rid the world of those who choose to embrace undeath. He is able to appear and disappear at will like a wraith, often appearing in many places at once. Azwraith is more than capable of dispatching the undead using his lance, each blow sending them closer to the spirit-realm. This lance is the source of his astounding ability to duplicate himself, whenever it draws blood he can use their life to create weaker copies of himself."
Hello Dotafire! Welcome to my guide//codex for Azwraith the Phantom Lancer. This guide will focus on PL (Phantom Lancer) as a carry//pusher. To play PL effectively you will need a great deal of practice and game experience. This guide is a combination of my own personal Dota experience along with some of the best Phantom Lancer guides from the past.
Disclaimer: There will be a whole sh*t ton of quoting in this guide. I would just like to stress that this guide isn't my personal creation, but a codex for Dotafire on how the best PL's play.
Pros & Cons
- Great Pusher
- Great Carry
- Great stat/lvl
- Great juker
- Bad early game
- Very Item dependent
- Low movement speed
- Low HP
- Throws a magical spirit from his lance at a target damaging it and slowing it down for 3 seconds. An illusion is created attacking the target.
Level 1 - Deals 100 damage and Cripples for 10%. Illusion lasts 2 seconds.
Level 2 - Deals 150 damage and Cripples for 20%. Illusion lasts 4 seconds.
Level 3 - Deals 200 damage and Cripples for 30%. Illusion lasts 6 seconds.
Level 4 - Deals 250 damage and Cripples for 40%. Illusion lasts 8 seconds.
The projectile can't be evaded by blink or windwalk.
Mana Cost: 125 / 130 / 135 / 140
This is your ranged harassment tool for all game. The damage isn't bad, but the slow is awesome for PL. Chasing couldn't be easier when you land one of these on your oppenent, so remember to take advantage when they overextend. Its mana cost is fairly high so you should avoid using it too much.
- Allows the Phantom Lancer to become invisible for a period of time, leaving behind a duplicate of himself to confuse enemies. 10% movement bonus at all levels. Lasts 8 seconds.
Level 1 - 150 mana.
Level 2 - 120 mana.
Level 3 - 90 mana.
Level 4 - 60 mana.
Mana Cost: 150/120/ 90/ 60
Cooldown: 30/ 25/ 20/15 seconds
This is your survival/chase/ambush spell all rolled into one. Use this to avoid ganks, gain distance on your enemies and surprise your enemies when the time comes. The mana cost of this spell is EXTREMELY high at early ranks, so you should avoid using it as much as possible. Never cast dopplewalk for no reason.
- Whenever the Phantom Lancer attacks he will have a 12% chance to create a duplicate of himself. Duplicates last 20 seconds.
Level 1 - Limit of 2 images.
Level 2 - Limit of 3 images.
Level 3 - Limit of 4 images.
Level 4 - Limit of 5 images.
Illusion deals 25% damage and takes 450%.
A passive skill that allows you to totally dominate lategame. With the number of illusions surrounding you your enemies won't know who to focus. Your images will burn enemies mana on strike (once you have Manta)
making it impossible for enemies to ignore them.
- Gives the Phantom Lancer an edge in combat by increasing Juxtapose's image generation and increasing magic resistance. Additionally, it enables his images to generate their own images.
Level 1 - 10% magic resistance, 3% chance illusions will duplicate, 2% increase in Juxtapose.
Level 2 - 15% magic resistance, 5% chance illusions will duplicate, 4% increase in Juxtapose.
Level 3 - 20% magic resistance, 7% chance illusions will duplicate, 6% increase in Juxtapose.
This is where the sh*t hits the fan. Besides increasing your own chance to generate an illusion, now your clones have a chance! This is what enables PL to carry SUPER hard lategame. The passive magic resistance isn't bad, but the fact that your enemies won't be able to tell the real you from the fakes is what enables you to carry.
This is the priority in which you rank your skills. We focus on spirit lance
and take a single rank in dopplewalk
early for our time in the lane. The truth is that you do not need to create illusions while laning early. Ranking either Juxtapose
or Phantom Edge
before 9 is just not efficient when your focus is to be last hitting.
Why 4, 6, and 8?
- "It adds a nice boost to all attributes and helps increase your HP, damage and attackspeed so that when you do get Juxtapose you create images much faster and they are stronger and more helpful. Survival is the most important part in this stage of the game and the extra HP from stats is needed to increase PL s low HP." - HoneY
HoneY says it best so I won't bother rephrasing it. We max spirit lance
for lane harassment and take one rank in dopplewalk
for escapes. A good PL doesn't need illusions to farm early.
Why did you get stats over Juxtapose?
Why did you learn only 1 level of Juxtapose and then Phantom Edge?
- "It adds a nice boost to all attributes and helps increase your HP, damage attackspeed so that when you do get Juxtapose you create images much faster and they are stronger and more helpful." - HoneY
Why did you max Dopplewalk at levels 16,17 and 18? Why not leave it till levels 23,24,25?
- "Phantom Edge does not grant the real PL a chance to make illusions unless you already have atleast 1 level of Juxtapose. So learning 1 level of Juxtapose is worthwhile so that when you do learn Phantom Edge you get all the benefits possible from it." - HoneY
- "This is the part of the game where you may need to chase fleeing heroes more often, after team battles/encounters. The much faster cooldown will will be necessary as you may find yourself in trouble more often than in earlygame. Also, you can use the Dopplewalk illusion to help you create many illusions much faster." - HoneY
Once again, HoneY is right. Don't ever prioritize Juxtapose
over Phantom Edge
really only comes into play while enemies heroes are around, which happens more frequently mid-late game.
Core Item Build
At this point in the guide I might lose some people who are Dota vets. Many Dota players believe they have the 100% best build out there. Let me assure you there is never a 'perfect' build. Early game builds have been argued over for forever and I have left my arguments in the 'item arguments' chapter. This section will simply explain each item and its use.
These give you a all around stat boost, but a little heavier strength pool. We grab these for early game survival to counter PL's low HP.
Boots of travel (BoT) give you the solid ability to win chases. PL's base movement speed is low and these really solve the issue. The teleport, when used correctly, can enable you to push multiple lanes at the same time. Backdoor!
Bonuses are +26 Agility, +10 Strength, +10 Intelligence, +15 Attack Speed, and +10% Movement Speed with the ability to make 2 illusions of yourself. On top of all that your images will burn mana. (aka shenanigans)
*Manta Style is an absolute must on PL. The orb effect from diffusal alone is worth the buy. Fighting spell casters just got easier, on top of them having to locate the real you. The all around stat gain is amazing and the active doubles your juke potential.
Yasha is great at providing useful stats for a decent gold cost. Agility, attack speed, and movement speed are all MUST stats on PL. I personally choose this item for my midgame core and let butteryfly carry me into lategame.
Your first luxury item and one that I consider core. Heart of tarrasque
gives you a massive 965 HP boost and makes your illusions very bulky. On top of that it provides really great regen.
Luxury & Situational Items
- "The item that almost any agility carry should have. And of course, it synergizes with Juxtapose and Phantom Edge because of the immense attack speed bonus that it offers. Evasion is also a great lategame skill. I shouldn't even have to explain why this is a good luxury item for PL." - Kwans4
- "The downside, it's expensive at $6,000. This can be skipped in favor of other items in this section if you go the Radiance route as your damage output will be already increased." - Juddernaught
Butterfly is an all around amazing item for PL, but it comes into play towards the end of your build. If your not having trouble generating images the gold might be better spent towards heavier damage.
- "Buriza is worthwhile, but only after Heart and Butterfly. Images do critical, althouth the criticals deal much less damage. (a % of the real PL's critical depending on what type of illusion they are) You do not really have to worry about your higher critical damage giving you away because PL usually has so many images and it is very difficult to tell which PL got that certain critical, especially when all the PL's are moving and other actions are occuring in battles." - HoneY
- "Buriza offers a lot of DPS on PL. But getting Buriza kind of defeats the purpose of playing a deceitful hero. You are supposed to confuse your enemy with your illusions - buriza doesn't let you do this because your illusions will crit in smaller numbers." - Kwans4
Daedalus, or Buriza, is always something people tell me I should get lategame. As explained above it can increase your personal damage, but has a chance of giving you away in your crowd. Personally I avoid this item, but if your not having trouble surviving this can really up your damage output.
- "Radiance is excellent because of the Immolation. Images do not get the +60 damage but they do get the immolation. Excellent when pushing as immolation will cover the whole lane and all the enemies." - HoneY
HoneY states it quite perfectly. Radiance will make you deal some real damage, but the main thing is that your illusions will set your enemies aflame. Great replacement for a Bracer
once your build is complete.
- "It's just a great item in general, and people with escape mechanisms like PL are especially good holders of magic wand because it provides that burst mana and health for more survivability (along with cheap stats)." - Kwanz4
I'm not a huge wand fan myself, but it definitely works early-midgame. I simply bypass this and grab a Bracer
. This will help if you cannot manage your mana well.
- "Is awesome on Phantom Lancer in the early-mid game, because it allows you to spam your lance more freely in-lane, and is also good for regening your mana for doppelwalk to avoid ganks." - Kwanz4
Thats pretty much it. If your having problems with mana basilius will solve them.
Item Arguments & Items to avoid
- "Ironwood Branches: For stats and to later upgrade to a magic wand. Stats obviously provide better survivability as opposed to no stats, and starting out with branches is much more cost-effective." - Kwanz4
- "The Circlets are a great starting stat booster for Azwraith plus they upwards convert into either Wraith Bands, Bracers, or Nulls." - Juddernaught
I personally side with Juddernaught when it comes down to branch vs circlets. I always end up building a Bracer
or Wraith Band
so I never see the harm in it. Some of you might be more into Magic Wand
laning which works perfectly fine. Either are a great start just remember to focus on stats early.
- "Bracers are much better than Null Talismans or Wraith Bands for almost every hero, including PL, in almost all situations. You have two active spells and together they use 200 mana, you have sufficient mana to use them without any extra intel items, hence Nulls are unnecessary. Bracers are much better as they give you much better survivability and HP, the thing PL desperately needs more of. However, if you are in a easy lane and do not get harrassed much then Wraith Bands will be a good option instead of Bracers as they provide good damage and are cheaper." - HoneY
I always pick bracers over the others because my early game laning is mainly farm and deny. I don't personally use the bonus agility early and for newer players health is always a better bet.
- "Treads should be in your core because it provides cheap stats and is more lategame dps oriented. (you should obviously have BOTs at some point too - treads just come first)" - Kwanz4
- "Boots of Travel are a necessity on PL. He needs the Teleport ability to defend/push and to increase his and his images pathetic base MS. Power Treads are not a good item for PL. The attack speed does not benefit his illusions, the movespeed is also too little. PL is a pushing hero and he has low base movespeed of 290. BoT are much better than Treads on PL." - HoneY
- "remember, we are not trying to make illusions early game and so it is not needed." - HoneY
Although the allure of treads is strong I always find myself getting BoT. They always seem to turn my game from good to great. Strong chasing ability with a teleport to promote map control, what else could you want lategame?
- "Sange and Yasha (SnY), while usually decent on agility heroes, is terrible on Azwraith. First, images cannot maim! Third, you can already chase with Spirit Lance and Purge, so what do you need maim for anyway? Fourth, attack speed increases don't help out images. Besides, Manta Style already uses your Yasha for better bonuses so there is no point in rebuying a Yasha." - Juddernaught
- "This is also a really popular pub item. Don't get it for Phantom Lancer. This shouldn't be considered a cheap replacement for Manta, because SnY is like Skadi - which also shouldn't be gotten for PL. The maim isn't needed because you are already a good chaser, and Manta offers much more dps. Avoid getting SnY at all costs." - Kwanz4
Honestly, just don't buy a SnY. ^
- "The Cranium Basher sounds appealing: You might think, "Sweet! My images can bash too!" WRONG! Images no longer bash due to the recent update on Cranium Basher so why waste your money on something that doesn't help your images? "But you can bash them, holding them in place while your images hit!" True, but you really don't need to bash because you can already chase effectively with Diffusal Blade's purge and your Spirit Lance. You really don't need to hold them in place at all." - Juddernaught
Illusions don't proc the stun, nor do they benefit from straight damage. Don't buy this.
- "This is a pretty popular item for PL... in pubs. Yes, it grants a negative armor buff that illusions can benefit from (assuming that the real PL hit the enemy hero with it in a certain time frame), but it's a mid game item and PL is a lategame hero. And of course, illusions do not benefit from raw damage." - Kwanz4
Not worth the hassle. Buy something better.
Early Game: Levels 1-8
As PL you should be going top or bottom with a partner. Good choices are someone ranged with a strong ranged disable or stun. PL needs to farm and the best way to insure your early success is to set yourself up with a strong laning hero.
- "The PL + KotL duo is one of the most famous laning setups ever. Period. This lane was made famous by the Asian scene a while back, and there are several reasons that make it a good lane. In short, the idea behind this lane is for KotL to feed mana to PL with Chakra so that PL can nuke the brains out of those laning against him." - Kwanz4
- "She's [CM] a great ally for anyone anyways - she can also fulfill KotL's role to a degree. She also makes up for KotL's weakness, which is his lack of a disable." - Kwanz4
These are great examples of laning partners.
- "Azwraith's primary goal early game is to stay alive because he's very squishy. Fortunately, Dopplewalk is there to save you if you get in trouble, but it costs a lot of mana, so just stay back and last hit creeps (if you can)." - Juddernaught
- "I can't stress this enough - FARM FARM FARM until you have either core build complete." - Juddernaught
Like Juddernaught said, stay alive and FARM. Please don't be one of those early game failing PL's who saw a person face roll a pug and then decided to copy paste the experience. Use your abilities wisely and tango when you need it. Last hit anything close to death and hope you make it out of your lane with your life.
Mid Game: Levels 9-16
At this point in the game you really need to make a choice. Does your team need a ganker? If not then just farm.
- "By level 11/12 you should have your Boots of Speed, 2 Bracers and parts of/maybe all your Yasha. With average hp, decent movespeed, good attack speed and a nice nuke/slow you can get a few kills. Using Spirit Lance twice on a hero will do 460 damage, AFTER magic resistance. This is about half of the total HP of most heroes at this time, not to mention it also gives you 6 seconds of slow to keep hitting them." - HoneY
- "The middle of the game is the make or break point. You should be starting to get strong now and you can use him for hero-killing, ganking (Spirit lance for nuking and slowing and Dopplewalk for sneaking up and escaping) and pushing (lots of me!)." - Juddernaught
Spirit Lance acts as both a great opener and finisher. Remember to make use of the slow and get in as many auto attacks as possible.
- "Don't try to ambush heroes with 2 or more disables ( eg, Lion, Rhasta, etc.) If there are no low HP heroes farming by themselves then simply go to a lane and farm. If the level 1 towers are already down, then go farm neutral creeps." - HoneY
- "Your focus during the middle part of the game is to get as much gold as you can, either from heroes or creeps. Azwraith requires some pretty expensive items to be strong because his abilities enhance the items' massive power. Just play smart and you should make it to the end game successfully." - Juddernaught
Forest, or jungle, creeps can be a good way to stay farmed while roaming around the map. Creating a small army at a camp and continuing through the forest can warrant some nice gold as well as map control.
- "You can ambush/Gank but don't make it your priority, keep in mind that you have to also farm so that you can be a monster when lategame comes. Of course this does not mean just farm farm farm, if your teamates ask for you to come help push or if the enemies are attacking your base towers then ofcourse go and help. Help your teammates in ganking heroes, you have 2 slows, use them. Don't always use Spirit Lance to last hit, use it for the slow so your allies can whack the hero too, not just so you can last hit. Help your allies if they are being chased, slow the enemy with either Purge or, preferably, Spirit Lance as it is not limited to 10 charges." - HoneY
Couldn't ask for better advice. HoneY makes our lives easy by explaining our midgame priority. Farm > Ganks > Pushing.
Late Game: Levels 17-25
Teamfights are breaking out and major pushing is happening. This is what playing PL is all about. Time to push like you never have before and confuse your enemies until victory is yours.
- "The end game is where Azwraith truly shines. By now you should have at least Diffusal/Yasha or Vanguard/Radiance and something from the alternative core build. You can push lanes for farming while using images to scout runes, jungles, potential ganks, etc. You are truly a farming machine - not many heroes can keep up with your farming ability. If you have boots of travel, you can farm a lane, teleport to another one, and let your images continue to work while you're not there. Also, your Spirit Lance still (and purge if you have it) provides the slow you need to effectively chase people. When the big team battles ensue (which they always will) you shouldn't just charge in. You're not a tank. Dopplewalk and use that image as a distraction so they think it's you waiting there and run behind their front line (usually full of tanks and creeps). Once the two lines clash, begin decimating their casters. Usually, they won’t have time to react before you're all over the place thanks to your images. If they start figuring out which one is the real you, activate Manta and continue the punishment. If you're in real trouble, Dopplewalk and get out safely. Fortunately, you'll be doing hefty damage so you might bring down one without getting too hurt and you can begin chasing.
Your images will be duplicating themselves at both the front line and the back line, confusing your enemy. Your job is to focus on one hero, kill him, and move onto another. Your images will act as fodder." - Juddernaught
- "After your 10 charges of Purge have been used up, or when you think its about time to get Manta, upgrade Diffusal to Manta. With Manta and Phantom Edge PL will be an insance pusher. With Boots of Travel and your illusions it is your job to teleport all over the map and push down towers and cause confusion in team battles, aswell as dealing damage." - HoneY
- "When you are killing a hero keep the real PL attacking him to slow him down and control half your illusions to also attack him. The other illusions should be sent infront of the hero to try and box him in, this is will allow you to have way more hits on the enemy and with Spirit Lance’s slow and Frost attack the enemy should rarely get away." - HoneY
Nuff said. Remember to focus your overall damage and surround your enemy as soon as you can. Try not to give yourself away without dopplewalk up. The active on Manta can really add to your juke game, so remember to save that for when it counts. Push for your team and don't ever let the pressure down. Use illusions to your advantage and split push when your team is strong enough.
Juddernaught's Mind Games
This is simply best left alone. Transferred from Juddernaught's original guide, I simply can't compete with his list of tricks.
Images are your best friend: they do a lot of work for you and are expendable. They can be used for a variety of purposes:
The image created by Dopplewalk lasts 20 seconds, that's more than enough time for you to get to a rune or to scout the jungle. You can scout with your Juxtapose images, but each only lasts about 7 seconds. They are best used when you're jungling and want to scout out an area since you can start them running in different directions, covering lots of ground. They are also helpful during pushes because once you have killed the creep wave and you have left over images, send them in different directions (into the jungles, Rosh, behind you, ahead of you, etc). They won't survive until the next wave anyway, so you may as well put their sight to good use.
Drawing Enemy Fire
Azwraith gets dominated by chain stuns and focus-fire due to his fairly low HP. The way to counter this is to go out of your enemies' sight (behind trees, up cliffs, around corners, out of range, etc.), Dopplewalk, and control that image like you would control yourself. If played right, enemies will fire away on that image. This is especially the case when you think they are coming to gank you as they are very eager to get a kill. I have successfully drawn Rooftrellen's mass entangle, Rexxar's roar, Lion's finger, Bane's grasp, and a bunch of stuns with my illusion. The trick is to make your enemy think it's you since they can't tell a difference. Although this may not seem like much since you're not killing anyone, you just made them waste their precious mana with (hopefully) their strongest spell. Now they are less of a threat to both you and your teammates. Plus, you can trash talk a little. Go on, you earned it.
In a related concept, since Dopplewalk has no transition time into invisibility, you can use it to avoid spells. Although this isn't really "using your images," one is created in the process, so I stuck this here. For example, if you have a storm bolt coming at you, activate Dopplewalk or Manta. The spell will fail and you will be unharmed. Additionally, the enemy, anticipating the stun will hit, will likely come in after you. They will attack the illusion, diving towards you, potentially offering an opportunity to hit back.
Confusing your Enemy
As mentioned earlier, when you cast Spirit Lance, your images mimic you but shortly afterward. By casting the lance, you give away your position, but this can be used to your advantage. First, make sure you can Dopplewalk. Second, cast your lance. Third, Dopplewalk. You know that "real" one your enemy was looking for? Well, he's a fake one now. You can run around searching for an opening to strike or bail if you have to.
Images play an important role in jungling because they allow you to tackle creeping earlier and harder. It's like having a friendly hero with you but better because they don't leach your experience. The basics are: go in and attack, creating some images, then you back out a little while your images do most of the work. Some people recommend moving on to another creep camp once you've spawned a few images, but I prefer to stay at one until it's over. Why? Well, 1) that ensures you get the experience, 2) if enemies come to gank you, you already have duplicates to confuse them, 3) if only one enemy shows up, you already have a ganking squad, 4) you can use your 7 images to scout the area after the camp is dead. What camp you can kill depends on the creep strength and your items. Once you get Diffusal Blade most of the creeps will be easy pickings but with Manta or a Vanguard, creeps should be trembling in fear (except Rosh, who eats your illusions like a fat kid eats cake).
Slowing your Enemy
WARNING: Uber-micro Required! Having a hard time catching that speedy Strygwyr or Barathrum? Spirit Lance and Diffusal Blade slow. Well, so can images. After casting Spirit Lance, your enemy is crippled for a decent slow. If you plan it right and can chase. After casting the spell, quickly tell your real hero to attack the enemy and take control of your image. Then, have your image, who runs at your speed, run in front of their hero. Use that image to block the enemy as you would your own creeps. You can catch up and initiate the beating. However, this is very difficult to do and I don't have the micro skills necessary so don't expect a replay (if you can and want to submit it, I'm all for that!).
As I said earlier, images are your best friend. They not only do damage, but they can be utilized for a variety of purposes apart from hacking away.
Juddernaught's How To: Images
All hail Juddernaught's awesome knowledge!
Images, although very helpful and strong, are picky about what they will and won't benefit from. Note: These two sources are where I got my information. I did not test these as it's taken me long enough to write this out!
See Play DOTA Mechanics
Images will not benefit from:
Images will benefit from:
- Raw damage or armor
- HP or mana regeneration
- Orb effects (except Feedback on melee illusions)
- Bash (it works in some rare scenarios, but it’s not worth going into), this includes the interrupt on Monkey King Bar
- Damage block
- Spell resistance from Planeswalker's Cloak, Hood of Defiance or Khadgar's Pipe of Insight
- Critical Strike (it should be noted that the red number is before the illusion reduction)
- Feedback (only works on melee illusions)
- Movement speed (flat and percentage)
- Attribute bonus (Strength, agility and intelligence)
- Flat HP or mana
- True Sight
- Radiance burn aura (the aura still will not affect units already affected by a different Radiance aura)
- Endurance Aura (includes for example – Yasha, Inner Beast, and Jango of Endurance)
- Spell resistance from abilities, and base spell resistance
- Quelling Blade's Demolish
Like I said at the start of this guide, I am not the creator. I simply have gathered the best points from the best players over the years. My aim was to provide Dotafire with a strong PL guide by forming a collection of pro tips and tricks. Up vote for the reputation of the greats. Without them we might not have the PL build we know today.
I will continue to update this guide with the approaching release of Dota2. Knowledge is a privilege and we should help those new to the learning curve.