Axe is quite a versatile STR Melee hero, with the recent buffs that he's had, he is now one hero to reckon with. The buff on his Battle Hunger has made him a formidable soloer and his statistical buffs has made him more viable as a jungling hero.
This quide will be covering Axe's strenghts on these 2 areas and how one can maximize the benefits granted from it as well as explanations and elaborations on the buildup as well as an elaboration on why Blademail, a popular item on him, is rejected.
As a grunt in the Army of Red Mist, Mogul Khan set his sights on the rank of Red Mist General. In battle after battle he proved his worth through gory deed. His rise through the ranks was helped by the fact that he never hesitated to decapitate a superior. Through the seven year Campaign of the Thousand Tarns, he distinguished himself in glorious carnage, his star of fame shining ever brighter, while the number of comrades in arms steadily dwindled. On the night of ultimate victory, Axe declared himself the new Red Mist General, and took on the ultimate title of 'Axe.' But his troops now numbered zero. Of course, many had died in battle, but a significant number had also fallen to Axe's blade. Needless to say, most soldiers now shun his leadership. But this matters not a whit to Axe, who knows that a one-man army is by far the best.
Your Role Preference
Axe is generally a Tank hero, he is DotA's one true tank as he has the ability to taunt his enemies into forcibly focusing on him. At early stages, Axe can also work as a Ganker along with a Stunning partner. Overall, he falls into the Utility Category with a little bit of Carrying potential.
Your bread and butter spell, Berserk is what makes the Axe a one true tank. With Berserk you can make any enemy within 245 AoE to forcibly attack you, you are also granted with a huge armor buff of 30% which grants an additional decrease of any incoming physical damage by 64%.
Axe's main laning spell, gretly spammable once you have your Arcane Boots to provide a steady mana supply, Battle Hunger is what gives Axe his lane advantage. Deals heavy Damage over time, slow debuff on enemies as well as a 5-second cooldown on its maximum level, Battle Hunger is a pain in the neck to any hero at lower levels. It is also usable on Ganks to slow down fast movers.
A deadly counter-attack ability, Counter Helix is a percentage based passive that triggers once an Attack command is issued on Axe. Deals physical and a high proc rate, this spell is what gives Axe jungling potential and also synergizes with his Berserk.
A great finishing spell, Culing Blade instantly kills any enemy that reaches it's kill treshold. It is mainly used as a finisher in pubs but with its granted buff with Aghanim's that gives a huge MS increase to Axe and surrounding allies once it succesfully kills a unit, there are some who are already considering killing a creep with Culing Blade first before rushing to a clash beforehand as to maximize the use of the buff, the lowered cooldown granted by Aghanim's is also a thing that makes it spammable.
Item Build and Overall Gameplay
On this guide there are two ways shown on how one can play Axe, either you do Jungling or choose the Solo lane route.
Jungling with Axe is quite easy but not really a total walk in the park, if you choose to do jungle then it's best to start at stacking the level 1 creep camp, pull the camp out at the XX:52 mark on your timer, drag it as far as you can as to let a new camp spawn. Afterwards, take them out, your Stout Shield can help you easily survive with no much harm done and as a reward you will have enough exp to reach level 2. Afterwards start doing pulls or double pulls on the strong lane, if the timing permits you can also stack a nearby camp along the way and take them out later. Grab your Tranquil Boots as it helps you in any early regeneration issues and make you survive the jungle more without having to go back to base. Depending on the succes of your jungle route, a jungling Axe can easily have his core of Vanguard and Blink Dagger at the 15-minute mark, just in time for the mid-game where the teamfights start to happen.
If you choose to do Solo laning with Axe, it's best if you pick the midlane, drag the enemy creeps closer to you by drawing Aggro then take them out safely near the tower. You wouldn't have to worry about being behind with the harassment, levels on Battle Hunger can easily compensate for that. Rush up your Arcane Boots to have your mana supply sustained so you could continously harass your opponents and prevent them from maximizing their farm on the solo lane.
As an Initiate you would have to pay attention to your enemies formation as well as how close your allies are to you. The timing of your Blink to Berserk is crucial to the success of your team in the teamfight, position yourself well so you can get yourself in-range of the blink while maintaining your forward presence.
Why Blademail is rejected
Blademail, no doubt, synergizes well with Axe's Berserk but if looked closely the cost effectivity of Blademail is thwarted making you to not fully benefit from it. Let's do some math so you can understand clearly;
Let's assume that we have a level 16 Axe with a Blademail and Berserk triggered:
At level 16, your base armor would be 9.22
Berserk grants 30 Armor
Blademail grants 5
All in all, you would have 42 Armor
So you would say "Looks good, high armor, harder to kill"
Yes, it is true but let's look at what happens to the damage return:
First, let's calculat how much damage is reduced with this formula:
(( 0.06 * armor ) / (1 + 0.06 * armor))*10
((0.06 * 42)/(1 + 0.06 * 42))*10
So any incoming damage is reduced by 71%
Now let's say that the opponent attacking you has 100 damage, do the reductions:
Grab the total damage reduction
71% of 100
Subtract from Enemy damage
So you'll only be returning 29 Damage to the enemy, therefore you were not able to maximize the use of Blademail simply because you have uber high armor that already reduced the incoming damage further reducing the damage returned to the enemy.
There you have it, a simple guide on how to maximize Axe's capabilities, both in the jungle and at the solo lane. I will be updating the guide with images sooner and make further explanations if necessary to make the guide more comprehensible, GLHF!