This build is optimal only for when you're laning together with someone you can trust (a friend) who gives you the farm and plays a good harassing support/ganker such as lich, veno, wr, ds, etc.
It has ridiculous power in this setting but without someone you can trust running with you it's better you go mid or jungle.
If you're playing alone and don't trust the random people you're playing with you can jungle with this build easily, just use the jungle starting items and level up Counter Helix as your first skill but then continue on as noted.
You still want battle hunger maxed as soon as possible even though you're jungling, and leveling counter helix past one only gives miniscule damage increase and proc cooldown lowering so it's not all that useful, especially since battle hunger is incredibly powerful early game and wanes off later.
Just avoid centaurs and the hard camp for a while when jungling. Stack the hard camp though because when you come back later with tranquils you can just hit them and spin in the camp for a ton of gold.
Your starting items for laning should be stout shield, one set of tangos, one salve, and soul ring recipe so you don't need to use courier to finish it. If you lane with lich you often won't even need the tangos though it's safe to nab it anyhow.
Hard/Long lane is recommended for this as you are not the carry and you want to shut down the enemy carry.
Your soul ring should come in at around 3 minutes, you should get level 2 battle hunger quite soon after and then it's time to spam it like crazy. Keep your lane partner harassing and denying like mad while you continue to hunger. If your enemies are melee the lane is won as soon as you get soul ring, they will not be able to stay in lane. If your enemies are ranged then heroes like Lich are your best bet for ranged harass, spammable nuke/slow and the ability to deny from any hp so the enemy can't get hunger off. The combo of Battle Hunger, Lich Nuke, and Berserker's Call is enough to kill anyone by itself though if they manage to escape they have to suicide to neutrals, use a salve, or die to hunger ticks.
Tranquils should come in around 5-7 minutes with Vanguard at 10-13, this is when you start ganking if you haven't already. Not expensive ganks like opposite sidelane ganks but little stuff like jungle and mid ganks using the immense early game power Axe posesses. Your goal is to make your lane, the enemy jungle and mid a living nightmare for the enemy. Axe snowballs pretty well early game so if you get even a few kills around 5-10 minutes you will extend your reign of terror even further.
Tranquils are my boot of choice as they're cheap, provide armor, lots of ms, extra heal and an active heal that helps you stay ganking forever and lets you spin inside quintuple stacked hard camps for gold.
If you somehow manage to not get early game kills with this build, you still shut down the lane so whoever was there got 0 farm.
Once you have vanguard, tranquils and soul ring you are an annoyance. Topping that with a blink dagger turns you from annoying into death itself. Once the dagger is up you can do some severe solo ganks, and if you have someone with you or you're ganking a lane you will definitely get the kill.
TP scrolls are good as you can TP into a fight and wipe everyone due to be so tanky and having lvl 4 Battle Hunger to spam on everyone along with Berserk to make you toss some spins into people while your team lays into them. You will most likely win the fight, but if somehow you do not, battle hunger picks off all the retreating enemy heroes and you get fatter.
Blademail is situational, midgame is the time to get it though it's only useful against certain lineups. Ursa/Huskar are amazing to get this against and Ursa will kill himself before he notices what's happening and Huskar can instakill himself just by ulting you when you have blademail on. It's also a great item against heroes with uncontrollable spell damage such as Leshrac (edict/nova), Tinker(walking in MoM kills tinker very quickly), Bloodseeker(get ulted, run around) and most initiators with AoE spells such as Sand King. Fun item, though may not be useful in some games.
In lategame you're starting to taper off, the game should have ended earlier and if you didn't manage to completely shut down their carry midgame you're in trouble so it's time to start building items that can help your team as a whole. Blademail can work to counter a right click carry, Cuirass allows you to survive longer for multiple berserks while adding pushing power to your team, Heart will increase your hp pool in the case of a midgame blademail so you can dish out more damage through it.
Boots of travel can be useful as the added ms allows for easier chasing and frees up a slot that is always taken by tp scrolls.
Eul's scepter will let you chase better due to the ms boost combined with its disable that can be directly chained with berserker's call. It also lets you regen mana at a pace that will no longer require you to be careful with ability spamming.
Bloodstone is recommended if you're absolutely destroying the enemy team and you can get it by 30 minutes after getting your core items. The idea of the bloodstone is to never run out of mana on Axe as well as tank him up a bit. Combine the bloodstone with an Aghanim's scepter and you'll have some laughs, it will be very rare you get the situation where this is a workable idea.
Shivas is a good item if you skipped Blademail due to them not having very much uncontrollable damage, you get large amounts of armor to tank more, some good intelligence for spells as well as its great active and passive.
Pipe is a great pickup if the enemy has a Zeus or other magical damage dealers than can control their targeting. I don't recommend it against a Leshrac as Blademail would be a better idea as you can activate it and walk directly into his nova/edict and kill him quite quickly.
There's a few interesting things to remember when playing axe:
- All of Axe's spells do damage through magic immunity, though Battle Hunger may not be casted on a magic immune target. This means you can culling blade a low hp bkb's hero or berserk him so he can't run away.
- Culling Blade removes all positive buffs on a target before killing it. This means you can use culling blade on a target under the effects of shallow grave and it will still kill him.
- The command dota_health_per_vetical_marker can be used to give you a visual indication over each enemy hero of whether or not you can ult them for a kill. Set it to 300 for lvl 1 ult, 450 for lvl 2 and 625 for lvl 3 and you'll always ult at the perfect time.
- Jungling Axe will lead to less gold than laning with a harassing, supporting friend but more experience in many cases unless you absolutely dominate. It is also much safer farm in the case you aren't laning with a friend and will usually lead to more gold in such a case.
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