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60 Votes

Axe - Prove Yourself! The Hunger Game

February 6, 2013 by Mrs Warboys
Comments: 27    |    Views: 427476    |   

Build 1
Build 2
Build 3

Lane Domination Hunger Build

DotA2 Hero: Axe

Hero Skills

Berserker's Call

10 12 13 14

Battle Hunger

2 3 5 7

Counter Helix

1 4 8 9

Culling Blade

6 11 16


15 17 18


Axe is one of the most unique Heroes in Dota who is capable of completely dominating early and mid-game with his hyper aggressive playstyle. He is an extremely powerful laner, counter-pusher, support pusher and ganker.

I wasn't ever thinking I'd write a guide about Axe because, while he's a fun Hero, I don't often get to use him because of his poor position in the metagame... but I checked out the other guides on DotaFire and felt that Axe isn't being represented well enough. Thus, I come here to help out potential Axe players!

Other Guides
If you guys like Dazzle and Jakiro, then check out my other two guides...

Please vote and comment if you enjoy this guide!

Had to add a line of this **** to get past the freshness rating bull. This guide is still relevant.

Skills: Counter Helix

When attacked, Axe has a 17% chance to trigger a vicious physical counter attack to all enemies in range.

Radius: 275
Chance to Helix: 17%
Damage: 100 / 135 / 170 / 205

Cooldown: 0.65 / 0.6 / 0.55 / 0.5

Counter Helix triggers from the beginning of an attack targeting Axe, not when the attack hits.

I started the skill section with Counter Helix because it is Axe's defining skill and the most important thing to understand and exploit to play a successful Axe.

Counter Helix is a deceptively complex ability. Whenever someone targets Axe for an auto-attack, he has a 17% chance to spin around and deal up to 190 Physical Damage to enemies in a 275 radius of him. Simple, right? Yes... but there are things you need to know and be constantly reminding yourself of...
  • It costs no Mana
  • It activates when disabled and has no casting animation
  • It's Axe's farming tool, primary nuke and 90% of his lane control
  • It can deal disgusting damage early game, but is often insignificant against Heroes by mid-late game

If you master these little facts, and exploit them to the max, you will be almost unstoppable in lane.

Counter Helix in Lane
Because it costs no mana, you should be spamming it.

"Oh Mrs Warboys, how can I spam a passive?!" you ask, well you get a Stout Shield & Tangos and constantly draw creep aggro. Whenever an enemy strays too far forward, right click them and gore the bastard. Axe dominates melee lane opponents for this reason.

Because it activates when disabled, you should always attempt to position yourself behind enemy Heroes when you can. Draw that creep aggro and charge past them. If they use their disable on you, you'll force them to run around you and all the creeps attacking you. This will kill them unless they completely flee the area. You should always keep this in mind as Axe. If you get disabled at long range, you're going to die. When an enemy with a disable engages you or attempts to enter casting range, MAN UP and charge down that motherf*cker. If you get behind them, they're basically dead.

So, by spamming it and playing super aggressively, Counter Helix will make the enemy scared to farm (this is important for later). This grants you complete freedom to farm your own items. If the enemy is foolish enough to try to take gold for themselves, you'll engage them and cull them. They get nothing. Good day, sir.

Counter Helix in the Jungle
This is not a jungling or neutral creeping guide, but Counter Helix is your main source of jungle farm and there are some tricks to maximizing your gold income.
  • Balance the Health Bars
    Counter Helix triggers on enemy attacks. The worst thing you can do as Axe is kill single targets. One less attack = 17% less chance to trigger your AoE damage. Whenever you jungle, try to keep all the creep health bars around the same level... so you have maximum Helix chance for as long as possible

  • Stack Dem Creeps
    Axe doesn't take much damage and he deals more damage if more enemies hit him, so stacking creep camps is Axe's jungle bread & butter.

    Just like Counter Helix itself, Creep Stacking is simple but difficult to completely master. Basically, creeps spawn at every minute 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 etc. If you start attacking the creep camp at 00:54, and just run as far away from the camp as possible (basically trying to lose vision), you'll get another creep spawning where the old one was. Now you have 2 camps.

    The reason creep stacking is difficult is that you have to be very good at timing everything else you do. Standing around waiting for 2 minutes so you can get a triple creep spawn isn't a good use of time. You need to do other stuff while you wait but not miss that vital 54 second mark to get back to the camp you're stacking.

Skills: Battle Hunger

Axe fills his target with his insatiable libido, giving them a raging ******* that just won't quit. This is extremely painful unless the target can relieve themselves by killing a creep.

Duration: 10 / 13 / 16 / 19
Movement Slow: 8%
Bonus Movement Speed: 8%
Damage Per Second: 15 / 21 / 27 / 33

Total Duration Damage: 150 / 273 / 432 / 627

Cooldown: 20 / 15 / 10 / 5 Mana Cost: 75 / 85 / 95 / 105

Battle Hunger is the main reason I started this guide. The other top ranked guide on DotaFire had it skilled last, after stats. This is a valid playstyle, but Battle Hunger was considerably buffed recently and the non-Hunger playstyle is outdated.

Many detractors whine that Battle Hunger only kills noobs. That it would never work against decent opponents. This is untrue. Battle Hunger is extremely powerful in a number of situations. Dota is a situational game, so a situational skill is not weak.

Balanced Safe Lanes
So you're in a lane against 1 or 2 dudes. It's balanced right in the middle and one of the enemies has a hard disable. In this case, Battle Hunger sucks. The enemy can just last hit or deny a creep as soon as you cast it.

Balanced Lanes, Health Advantage
Same as before, but the enemy has about 50% HP. Your ally has been harassing them and you've been getting some nice Counter Helix damage by engaging when they attempt to last hit. In this case, Battle Hunger rocks. You engage just after they last hit a creep (so that there isn't another one to kill) and then you charge them down with Counter Helix. If they run, they take the full damage from Battle Hunger. If they try to last hit, they take the full damage from Counter Helix.

The whole point of Battle Hunger isn't to spam it in bad situations. The point of Battle Hunger is to assess the creep wave, assess the enemy's health and distance to the tower (their retreat point) and then to decide if you are threatening enough with Counter Helix to force them to run away.

TLDR: No-one is going to stand around trying to get a last hit when Axe is all up in their grill triggering Counter Helix. This is when you cast Battle Hunger.

Other important times to use Battle Hunger...
  • In a 2v1 when you're owning face - You can only cull one of them. Cast Hunger on the support Hero (who will find it hard to insta kill a creep) and then cull the other dude. More often than not, you'll get a kill 10 seconds later on the support.
  • When fleeing - Axe doesn't flee often, but when he does you should use your remaining mana on Hunger. It slows the chaser, it speeds you up and if the chase goes on for a really long time... you can turn around and cull their ***es.

Battle Hunger Replays

Match ID: 18463215

In this game, I make a few stupid mistakes in team fights and initiating (I'm pretty rusty at the moment) but there are a lot of instances where Hunger does some amazing moves that a Call-Helix Axe wouldn't be able to pull off. We were against Zeus and Lina, two perfect targets for Battle Hunger. Early game I was very dominant, and Hunger got me a few kills from behind the fog of war.

Skills: Berserker's Call

Axe releases powerful pheromones from his pits, causing all nearby enemies to be both attracted and angry at him for a few seconds. The offending stench gives Axe extra protection against physical attacks.

Radius: 275
Bonus Armor: 30
Duration: 1.5 / 2 / 2.5 / 3

Cooldown: 10 Mana Cost: 80 / 90 / 100 / 110

Axe's initiation skill. That's pretty much it. It's used to stun a bunch of dudes who are silly enough to stand near each other so your allied Sand King and Enigma can jump in and obliterate everyone.

As an offensive skill, it's rather lackluster. You get your Counter Helix triggers from attacking creeps (so there's no need to taunt them), so it's only worth using offensively if you're with a powerful teammate. You require a Blink Dagger to perform any offensive Call tactics.

As a defensive skill, it's very useful. It's excellent for baiting and punishing enemies who get too greedy.

You're pretty much invincible against single targets for 3.5 seconds, while dealing about 200 damage in Helix nukes (usually when you're baiting you don't have the luxury of 10 creeps attacking you) + 3.5 seconds of auto-attacks + 3.5 seconds of Hunger (every little helps).

A prudent estimate would put that around 300-350 damage mid-game... which is sometimes enough for you to get them to Culling HP. There are countless times when I've completely turned the tables with 100HP + Tango + Tranquil Boots and Berserker's Call. If Cull is on cooldown though, you're pretty screwed.

Skills: Culling Blade

Axe flips out and murders enemy units below a certain health threshold. If they have too much health, he fails and deals pitiful damage. Any enemies killed in this way will boost the Movement Speed of Axe and his allies.

Kill Threshold: 300 / 450 / 625
Damage: 150 / 250 / 300
Range: 150
Bonus Movement Speed: 25%
Movement Speed Radius: 600
Movement Speed Duration: 6

Cooldown: 75 / 65 / 55 (6*) Mana Cost: 120 / 160 / 200

Culling Blade rocks. It's probably the most fun of Axe's skills and it has one of the best animations in the game. It's like 90% of the reason I play this guy.

It's also an incredibly powerful ultimate if you have a level advantage. It is, quite frankly, completely awful if you are trailing the enemy team in experience. It is also really embarrassing if you failboat with it... so don't!

Culling Blade is pretty simple though, and it doesn't have any crazy tactics associated with it. You drop the enemy to under the health threshold and you end them in one hit. That's about it. The only thing you need to know is WHO to use it on. The cooldown is lengthy (even 6 seconds with Aghanim's Scepter is a long time in a team fight) and you should never be wasting it on someone who will be dying anyway. Kill stealing is bad.

Priority list for Culling Blade...
  1. Carries - This is pretty obvious. If your team manages to bring a carry down to the kill threshold, do not hesitate to end them. You should probably save your ult just for this purpose late game.
  2. Disablers - Witch Doctor, Storm Spirit, Sand King... anyone who can disable during a battle should be culled. Heroes like Tidehunter and Warlock don't count here... unless you somehow managed to jump them before the fight started.
  3. Aura Holders - If you can cull someone before Mekansm or Pipe of Insight, then you might have just won your team the battle. Anyone with an aura is worth murdering, especially since teams only tend to have one of each aura item (except Drum of Endurance). Early-Mid game you should be charging the Mek carrier.
  4. Nukers - Lion and Lina are pretty good targets for Culling Blade. They'll drop below the threshold in milliseconds if they start getting hit, so make sure to cull them before they just ult your carry with their dying breath. Of course, if they've blown their nukes then ignore them.

That's about all you need to know. If you're against 2 guys with low health, always take into consideration the damage of Battle Hunger. You can get 2 kills quite easily if you Cull and Hunger the right guys. 2 is always better than 1.

Skill Build Choice

While I love Battle Hunger, remember this is Dota and everything is situational. Therefore your skill build should be flexible to the situation in game. Remember that every choice you make is a trade off at another point in the battle.

In all builds, you take your Ultimate when you can

The Lane Domination Build

  • Helix
  • Max Hunger
  • Max Helix
  • Max Call
Helix, Max Hunger, then Helix, then Call.

This is what you'll use if you get Solo Mid or if you have an early double kill (first blood double kill even better). This build is all about pushing the advantage early game to make your opponents super weak for mid-game. You will have to be ultra aggressive with this build, but if it pays off you will get your core and Blink Dagger extremely quickly.

The reason this is my preferred build is because Axe needs a level advantage to dominate, and with Hunger maxed you are focussed entirely on overpowering weaker Heroes (allowing you to snowball).

The Old School Initiation Build
  • Max Helix
  • Max Call
  • Hunger
  • Max Stats
  • Max Hunger

The old school veteran Axe build. This is the mid-game team fight build that relies on a quick Blink Dagger. You give up lane domination early game for powerful initiation mid-game.

Hunger is only really useful early-mid game when it deals crazy magic damage on lower HP bars. It's nice in a team fight if you're winning and the enemy is on the run, but it's generally just not worth skilling. Have 1 point in Hunger for the speed boost. With only Berserker's Call, you won't be using your mana much for anything until you get Aghanim's Scepter

The Helix Weighted Hunger Build
  • Helix
  • Hunger > Hunger
  • Helix
  • Hunger
  • Max Helix
  • Max Call
  • Max Stats
  • Hunger

This is what you will go with if you want lane power but you cannot rely on Hunger for your damage. This build will use Hunger to apply pressure and chase, but it will rely on your Counter Helix for damage. It's very powerful against Melee laners because they will be forced to take Helix hits if you Hunger them. I wouldn't use it against ranged Heroes because Hunger is your main damage source in that situation (see the first build).

Since Hunger tails off towards mid-late game, you'll want your full power Berserker's Call more than that final level of Battle Hunger.


Starting Items
2x Iron Branch - Cheap stats, ensures a GG and all that. Great for your Magic Wand if you want one. I tend to get 2 because I want inventory space for my early Ring of Regen

2x Tango - Cheap healing. You'll need this to offset the damage you take from creep aggro

1x Stout Shield - Absolutely essential. Without Stout Shield you're useless in lane. Allows you to take creep aggro.

Boots of Speed

Ring of Regen into Tranquil Boots - Get the Ring first, after your boots. Regen always helps Axe.

Tranquil Boots - The best boots on Axe by far. Extremely powerful early game for Chasing and Regeneration (you take a lot of damage). They're the best boots for Roaming which is what you should be doing if you get a level advantage.

Ring of Basilius - The best mana regen item for low intelligence Heroes like Axe. It also provides Armor, which never goes amiss.

Ring of Health - You'll most probably need either a Vanguard or a Hood of Defiance at some point in the game. The Ring of Health means you can ditch your Tango and have the flexibility for later.

Magic Wand - Optional but always good. Axe has terrible mana regeneration, so 150 burst mana can save your life and guarantee kills.

Poor Man's Shield - I'm not a huge fan of Vanguard on Axe. It's expensive and delays his other items. The level of regen and block often isn't necessary and I'd rather save my Ring of Health for a Hood of Defiance. Tranquil Boots provides enough regen early game so picking up a cheap PMS gets you 'online' and ready to rock noobs much quicker.

Vanguard - Despite all that I've said, Vanguard is nice on Axe. He needs health, he needs regen and the block helps. BUT, I'd only get it if I'm dominating early game and the enemy has a lot of right-clickers. That's the only time it's really better than a Poor Man's Shield

Hood of Defiance - My preferred Ring of Health extension. Grants you tons and tons of health regen and some extremely useful Magic Resistance. If you're laning against nukers, Axe has a hard time. An early Cloak into a Hood can give you the resistance you need to crush them. Later it can be upgraded into a Pipe of Insight

Ring of Aquila - There's no real reason not to get this. You need the Ring of Basilius and it gives you some nice stats. Why not?

Blink Dagger - While I have listed this as Luxury, it's still a pretty core item on Late Game Axe. Once laning and roaming ends, you'll need this to do anything of note (except culling people). Still, I do not recommend rushing it. I classed it as luxury because you should have your Core and main Extension item before this. You're not Tidehunter or Enigma, your disable has tiny range and a medium duration... Berserker's Call is not good enough to warrant a rushed Blink Dagger.

Aghanim's Scepter - I love this item. The mana and health increases are excellent for Axe (armor too!) and the ultimate improvement is the icing on the cake. You won't likely be culling enemies every 6 seconds, but it does mean that you can be a little more liberal with your executes. When you have Scepter you can use the principle "If in doubt, cull". Without it, you need to take smart gambles.

Blade Mail - Blade Mail isn't a great item on Axe but it does have its uses. Using Berserker's Call + Blade Mail is NOT a good combo. Blade Mail deals back the damage dealt to you, which will be very little because of the +30 armor. You use Blademail when you're not taunting, when enemies have no choice but to attack you or get helixed. It's a great anti-caster item in small skirmishes. The stats are pretty meh. Armor is useful, as is Mana, but the damage is wasted.

One occasion when Blade Mail is a great item is if you're snowballing out of control. If you have a level advantage, and 4 seconds of Blade Mail, then that's 4 seconds of Helixes on top of your Call, on top of Hunger. Nothing is going to survive that. If the enemy retaliates, they take a nuke (unless they're Rhasta) which makes them even easier to Cull.

Boots of Travel - Late game, when you have all your items, you might as well trade in your Tranquil Boots and upgrade them to Travels. Great for defending towers.

Heart of Tarrasque - If you need to be even more tanky, this is the item for you. Unfortunately it's so expensive that you're unlikely to get the gold for it... and by the time you do, you should have won the game already.

Medallion of Courage - I'm surprised you don't see this more on Axe. Armor is great in laning, Mana Regen is nice too (although the effective mana regen is pretty bad with his low intelligence). The active is great though. If you manage to catch the enemy with Berserker's Call in a packed creep wave, the -6 Armor will make short work of the enemy when you start Counter Helixing

Shiva's Guard - Great for your late game mana troubles and the armor and active are awesome. It's just so damned expensive.

Pipe of Insight - If you picked up Hood of Defiance, you should probably upgrade it. Just make sure you have enough mana to use it! I usually pick this up after my Aghanim's Scepter.

Bottle - If you're going mid, Bottle is a nice pickup on Axe. You have very low mana regen and Bottle will help you spam Battle Hunger once you hit level 3+. For a slow melee Hero, you actually have quite good rune control. If the enemy leaves the lane, Battle Hunger will deal a lot of damage. You're a natural pusher with Counter Helix so you can often keep your opponent's back against the tower, giving you free runes. If you get Bottle, there isn't much need for Ring of Basilius.

Playing as Axe

Unlike Dazzle, who can play a multitude of roles (and was the Hero in my last guide), Axe has a pretty simple playstyle.

When laning as Axe, you just have to be super aggressive. If you get unlucky, you can do pretty badly but don't let that deter you. Axe can only be effective if he's aggressive. If you cannot threaten the enemy with Counter Helix, Battle Hunger will be ineffective and you're a glorified creep. You have to take your chances and scare enemies.

So remember the lessons...

  1. In a new creep wave, if your enemy steps forward to last hit, judge whether you can get within melee range of them.
  2. If you can get into range, charge them for Counter Helix damage.
  3. If you can't get into range, wait for their last hit and Battle Hunger them.
  4. While Battle Hunger is active, make sure you stay ahead of the creep wave. Try to push them out of attack range

If you are playing Mid, you'll want to keep this up. Smart use of Battle Hunger can completely cripple an enemy opponent. Weak use of Battle Hunger will result in the enemy mid getting very very fat. Keep the lane pushed, control the runes and cast Battle Hunger at smart times.

If you do really bad, really early in lane... you can switch to the Old School Veteran Axe build. Stop skilling Battle Hunger and transition to a Berserker's Call + Counter Helix build.

Mid-Game Ganking and Roaming
If you were powerful in lane, this is your greatest time to shine. Use your Tranquil Boots to intelligently crush lanes. If an enemy is over extended in lane, run around the back (you're tanky enough to take hits) and draw creep aggro. Even if you don't get a kill, you'll have dealt around 200-300 damage with your Counter Helix and you can leave the lane by dropping Battle Hunger on your target. A kill doesn't matter, the enemy will have taken a significant chunk of damage with the 600+ magic damage of Battle Hunger. They might cancel Battle Hunger with a last hit but if you time your ambush properly, and scare them enough, you'll be too much of a threat that no smart carry will risk it. If they do, use Culling Blade.

Smart play and a lack of enemy wards will give you more presence than you actually have. As Lord Varys says in Game of Thrones "Power resides where men believe it resides". Try to visualize the enemy's line of sight, imagine you are them and whether they can really risk farming while you're around.

If you did badly in lane, don't fret. In general your team is going to have to play defensively. You've basically left them with a 4v5. You're going to be a complete waste of space (or a massive kill stealer) but you can farm up for mid-late game if you play smart. Stack creep camps, carry lots of TPs and make sure you gib creep waves. You will catch up in XP and gold eventually, which will let you grab your Blink Dagger and help you transition into an initiator.

Of course, by this point you've missed your time to shine, so you'll have to rely on your carries.

End the game here! After this point, you're nigh on useless

Late-Game Team Fights
Axe is pretty bad late game. His Counter Helix does nothing to Heroes and his Battle Hunger is pointless. By late game, Axe is a Blink Dagger + Berserker's Call bot.

His only job in life is to jump into a bunch of Heroes and taunt them for 3 seconds. After that, make sure you stay in the midst of the fight and look for enemies you can Culling Blade. You deal no damage and have little mana, once you've initiated you just run around executing people (this is why Aghanim's Scepter is so good on Axe late-game).

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