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Bristle me softly

January 5, 2014 by RSpinoza
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Pub Bristle Build

DotA2 Hero: Bristleback

Purchase Order

Starting items

Early game items

Core items

Damage item (only one)

Luxury items (replaces wand)

Hero Skills

Viscous Nasal Goo

1 8 10 13

Quill Spray

2 4 5 7


3 9 12 14


6 11 16


15 17 18

Bristle me softly

January 5, 2014


Never one to turn his back on a fight, Rigwarl was known for battling the biggest, meanest scrappers he could get his hands on. Christened Bristleback by the drunken crowds, he waded into backroom brawls in every road tavern between Slom and Elze, until his exploits finally caught the eye of a barkeep in need of an enforcer. For a bit of brew, Bristleback was hired to collect tabs, keep the peace, and break the occasional leg or two (or five, in the case of one unfortunate web-hund).

After indulging in a night of merriment during which bodily harm was meted out in equal parts upon both delinquent patrons and his own liver, Bristleback finally met his match. Your tusks offend me, sir, he was heard to drunkenly slur to one particularly large fellow from the northern wastes whose bill had come due. What followed was a fight for the ages. A dozen fighters jumped in. No stool was left unbroken, and in the end, the impossible happened: the tab went unpaid. Over the weeks that followed, Bristleback's wounds healed, and his quills grew back; but an enforcer's honor can be a prickly thing. He paid the tab from his own coin, vowing to track down this northerner and extract redemption. And then he did something he'd never done before--he actually trained, and in so doing made a startling discovery about himself. A smile peeled back from his teeth as he flexed his quills. Turning his back to a fight might be just the thing.

Why Bristle?


- Stacking
- Shines in mid game
- Cheap and easy items
- Very fun to play
- Great at chasing heroes down
- Great at fleeing


- Stacking
- Less or no shining in late late game
- Makes you go for impossible kills

Lebron James
For all you basketball fans out there, I always call Bristleback the Lebron of Dota. Why? Well first of, he shines early and especially mid game, but not so much in that late game (Mavs-Heat finals anyone? ;-) ), both Bristle and Lebron do the flopping thing: acting all hurt to use that to their advantage, but more importantly (to show some love for Lebron, cause he is the King) they both excel in chasing down opponents: they're both the chasedown artists of their sports!

Pro's and con's explained:

Stacking is in both the pro and con list. The pro is, the longer you stay in fights, the more damage you do. The con is, you gotta stay long in those fights to be able to stack your skills.
Bristle shines in the mid game and with the right tactics and items, he is able to take almost anyone down. In the late game he can also be a threat, but those 60+ min games, were everyone is able to get his or her farm and goes to lvl 25, he tends to become less effective. Not tanky enough to stay alive long enough and therefore not enough damage. The pro is, not every game goes into that really late game, but every game goes through the mid phase. So don't worry and just make sure you outlvl your opponents quick enough by contributing to your team in the mid game and you'll cruise through the late game with your item and lvl advantage.
With his Bristleback skill, Bristle is not only great at running heroes down, but also fleeing from them. Melee heroes will stay at a safe distance if they're smart, ranged heroes are a different story, but they will have to be careful with their positioning. If they come to close too often, a fleeing Bristle might just turn thing around with his passive quill sprays and make the hunter become the hunted!
The last con is mostly meant for when you switch from Bristle to another hero in your next game. With Bristle, it can really pay of to not run away from enemies to hard, let them attack you in the back from time to time while 'fleeing' and then suddenly turn around when you stacked enough quill sprays to turn the tide. I find myself being to cocky when playing another hero after a few Bristleback games, and that usually doesn't pay of. Something to keep in mind ;-).


Skill order

I like to start of with Viscous Nasal Goo since it's an all around skill in the laning phase. Someone thinks he can take down your tower fresh out of the gates? Goo 'em and let the tower make him pay while he crawls away. Someone want's to gank you real bad? Goo 'em and get your *** to safety. Someone isn't watching his health? Goo 'em and make him pay. You want to gank someone? Goo 'em.
After that you get your main skill the Quill Spray. Works great with the goo. Go back to the situations I described above and add quill 'em to the goo 'em. Then you want to get some extra defense with your Bristleback. After that it's all your points in quill and your ultimate at level six.
After quill is fully leveled, the basic thing is to alternate nasal goo and bristleback. Sometimes, when you got you ganking hat on, you might wanna go full nasal first. When somebody on the opponents team has his ganking hat on maybe go bristleback first. Either way, don't forget your ultimate.

Skill usage

Bristle has pretty straight forward skills. 2 of his 4 skills are passive, so you don't have to worry about them. The other 2 speak for themselves. Goo people when you want to slow them for either a gank or if you want to flee from them. Quill people when you want to gank them. Quilling while fleeing is never bad, maybe you'll scare him off, but don't forget your main priority is getting your *** to safety.
What you really need to keep in mind is that Bristle is all bout stacking. His goo stacks, his quills stacks and his ultimate stacks. In team fights this means you spam your quills like crazy, when running somebody down you stack goo first, quill second for damage and keep stacking those. At some point the runner will have so much goo on him he will stop and face the music aka getting the flail in his face. At this point you start right clicking and stacking even more quills. Just be gentle and get it over with quick ;-).

With the quill stacking you can get a maximum of 4 stacks at the same time, which is a bonus damage of 120. This is because of the 14 second duration of the stacks. New stacks do not reset the timer on older stacks. With a 3 second cooldown this is a maximum of 4 stacks. To get more stacks (and reach the damage cap of 400) you need the extra quill sprays from your passive. Since those depend on your enemy, you can't rely on them. But dont worry, the four stacks is enough. After 12 seconds each 3 seconds you will do a new quill spray that does 200 damage.
For example: in a 30 second fight that is 2000 damage (80-110-140-170-7 times 200). That is already an impressive number, but don't forget that in between your quill sprays you will also be smacking your opponent with your flail and those hits will get stronger with each spray because of warpath. So after you first quill spray you get the base 30 bonus damage on your first right click hit. Then another 30 after you start stacking. Let's write it all down (Q=damage from quill spray, W= stacking damage on top of your base damage from warpath, s is the number of seconds): 80Q (0s)- 30W - 110Q (3s)- 60W - 140Q (6s)- 90W - 170Q (9s)- 120W - 200Q (12s)- 150W - 200Q (15s)- 180W - 200Q (18s)- 180W - 200Q (21s)- 180W - 200Q (24s)- 180W - 200Q (27s)- 180W - 200Q (30s).
So 2000 from quill sprays and 1350 extra bonus damage from warpath on top of your base damage. But that's not all folks, with the added attack speeds of your drums and treads you can squeeze in 2 attacks between every quill spray. So voila, at least 2000 + 1350 + 1350 = 4700 damage in 30 seconds. That's whopping average of 157 dps. Not even counting your base damage or the extra sprays!
Seasoned Dota players will know that most fights don't last 30 seconds, and that's true, but at fifteen seconds you have maxed out your quill stacks and warpath bonus, a more realistic time frame. And you don't need to take down everybody in the fight, damaging them enough to make 'em run is enough, because as soon anyone runs from Bristleback, he essentially signed his own death certificate. Bristle will run you down.
And don't forget that his quills are a AoE skill, meaning that you don't target a single hero. In a teamfight, being able to dish out 157 dps to all heroes in a 625 radius can be a big thing.


Spam that goo to flee or chase down. Spam those quills to kill. The rest is passive. Oh yeah, that spiny back of yours is your safe spot. Less damage, more quills!


Starting items

Pretty straight forward. Tango for healing, Clarity for mana since you'll be spamming goo and quills. Iron Branches will build in to your magic wand while also providing 3 extra skill points. Stout Shield will build into vanguard and provide you with extra defense in the beginning.

Early Game Items

Get that Magic Wand straight away. Really good early game item that gives you attribute points, health and mana. Also makes additional space in your inventory ;-). After that, get your Bracer on. Cheap and effective for every strength hero, and they will build in to your Drum of Endurance later on. The Ring of Basilius will build into Vladmir's Offering, gives you extra damage, while also providing you and your allies extra mana and armor for only 500g. After you got your defense on with the shield, boosted your strength, mana and damage with the bracer and ring and also provided yourself with some healing from the wand, it's time to get your Boots of Speed. You don't really need them early on, since you can easily chase down or flee from enemy hero's with your goo, but now that were going into the mid game stage, you want that extra speed.

Core Items

After you got your boots and we are going into mid game, upgrade them to Power Treads. Extra damage, extra attack speed: sounds good to me! After the treads, start your own hippie drumming circle with the Drum of Endurance. A great cheap item that gives you attribute and damage bonus, and provides you and your team with extra attack and movement speed. Sweet! Also: don't forget it's active, it can save your *ss or run down someone that's insane fast, even with the goo (haste rune for instance).
After the drums, you can either go for Vladmir's Offering first or Vanguard. Both will help you with your health, but Vladmir will do it offensive through lifesteal, Vanguard passive by health regen and extra damage block. Your choice, but get them both.

A short note: What's also nice is that your core only costs around 7900 gold. That is slightly more then a pair of Treads and a Butterfly. All the items are composed of cheap parts (so get those parts as fast as you can for extra stats) so they are easy to get. No saving up for a 3000+ item and getting killed just before you have enough. So it's really easy to get these core items together and you can get them fast!

Treads or Phase?
Phase Boots can also be a valid choice on Bristle. The active together with his nasal goo make Bristle very scary when you're running away from him. I personally prefer treads over phase because most of the time I don't need extra speed to chase down opponents because of the nasal goo. The active is a bit overkill on Bristle imho. When we compare phase and treads and leave out the active from phase, it only gives you 16 more damage, but not the extra attack speed from treads. That's why I go treads on Bristle, but phase will also work.

Late game items

You got your boots for speed, attack speed and damage; your drums for attack speed and damage; Vladmir for lifesteal, extra damage, mana & hp regen and even some armor (such a great item!); and Vanguard for health, health regen and damage block. That magic wand is still there but getting less useful, but just keep it. Now you want to boost your damage for that late game. You can go Desolator, crystalus or Skull Basher (can be upgraded to Abyssal Blade later on). See what you think suits your need and your wallet. They all have pro's and con's and you could get a other item too, just look for an item with extra damage and attack speed, maybe some strength bonus and a extra like stun/crit/lifesteal/armor reduction.
Personally, I usually go for Skull Basher. It's nice that it's upgradeable (to Abyssal Blade and it's stun can help you out a lot. Crystalys is also nice, but I usually only go for it when I'm short on cash. Cheaper components and cheaper overall than skull. The crit is nice of course, but I prefer the stun since it helps with outrunning and making sure your opponent can't hit you too much in a fight. Since Bristle needs some time to stack up in fights, a stun will help you more than a crit.
Shadow Blade is usually not my go to damage item, but in some games you really want to be able to go invisible. Especially if your team has no one that goes invisible or the other team has a lot of them and they keep ambushing you and your team. Usually I need it as a escape mechanism, but the added attack speed and damage is also nice. Not upgradeable like crys or skull. So only get it when you really need that active.

Luxury items

If by this time in the game there is plenty to kill, you can drop that Magic Wand (if you didn't already for tp scrolls) for a luxury item. Again, take the item that you think works best for the game. You don't want to go late late game with Bristle, as he tends to be less effective in those long games, but if it does go that way, and even the second damage item isn't enough, replace one of your core items for another luxury damage or defense item. Need more damage and no need for defense? Replace vanguard. No need for lifesteal, replace Vladmir, etc. Use your brains buddy, but keep the boots.
Whichever item you choose always depends on the game. Low on cash and not enough fools to own? Go for something cheap and with lots of parts like Sange & Yasha (go Sange first). If you got enough cash, make sure you upgrade your previous items first (like skull or crys) before you drop some of your core items. Wand isn't that good late game so you can always replace it.


Since you need to stay alive in fights in order to stack your quills and warpath, you need lots of hp, hp regen and some blocking power to keep you safe. Hence: Vladimir & Vanguard.
After you stayed alive long enough to stack up, you want to finish the job quickly, so more attack speed and damage. Hence: the drums and the damage items.
Boots need no explanation, everyone need a pair. Magic wand, same thing. If there is enough time, drop the wand and get a luxury item you like and can afford before the game is over.

Alternative items

Black King Bar is already mentioned in the luxury items department (and it should in every guide!). Like all the other items here, main thing is to give you some extra protection against spells, especially stunning ones like Lina's Light Strike Array. I prefer BKB as a magic protection item because of the extra strength and damage it gives you.

There are some discussions about the Heart vs Vanguard. Since the damage block from Vanguard, especially late game, doesn't do that much for you, people tend to prefer Heart. More HP, more HP regen and a whopping 40 strength. So yeah, why go Vanguard?
First of, in pro games, go Heart. The opposition knows Bristle, isn't going to give you those early kills. Games tend to be tougher and more late game oriented, so go heart.
But in pubs, as Bristle you can really kick *** and speed up the win for your team. In that mid game Vanguard can still help out.
Not only that, but you can also get it a lot faster. You already have the stout, Vanguard an Heart both need the vit booster, so that's 875 left for the RoH to get Vanguard. That extra (4400-875) 3525 gold is enough to get your first damage item.
So what you really need to do when you're saving up for that Vanguard, is ask yourself the question: is this going to be a long game or can I turn the tide in my team's favor in the mid game? If yes to the first: save up for heart (exchange the stout shield for a vit booster in the meantime), if yes to the latter: go Vanguard. I end up going Vanguard lots of times in pubs.

Hood of Defiance is nice, not that expensive and besides your magic resistance some HP regen. Imho, the extra HP regen isn't necessary with Vladmir and Vanguard, so I prefer BKB over this one. Though it is a lot easier to get. In games against heavy casting heroes, it might be useful to swap your vanguard/vladmir for the hood, though I rarely need to.

If you go hood, go for it early and you can upgrade it to pipe later on. Usually found on supports that can help out in teamfights with the active. I also prefer my support to go for this item and I can top it off with a BKB, but if your support doesn't go for it, and you already have the hood to save your ***, upgrade it.

Team mates

Laning partner

Obviously you want some kind of support while laning. I've played with lots of different supports in the lane and think a lot of combinations are viable with the bristle. The most important thing is for you to get that early farm, since that late late game could mean the end of your effectiveness (depending on the opposing team ofcourse). A little help with the ganking with some stuns or disables is nice, but not necessary. When played the right way, Bristle can be a beast early on. When you get two or three kills in lange without them getting a kill back, you can consider that lane won if you play your cards right.

Team composition

Like I said, any type of support will do. As far as team composition goes I look for two things to make Bristle shine: a hard carry and a initiator. Why? Pretty simple, if the game goes on for a long time you want that hard carry to take over since Bristle really kicks *** in mid game and you want someone to start those teamfights for you.
But more importanty, you wanna divert the action in teamfights to them. When the opposing teams sees that hard carry or initiator they wanna take them out immediately. They don't want the carry to get kills or the iniaitor to iniatiate. And this is where things get interesting for the Bristle. Jump in to that fight, start stacking those quills, start swinging that flail like a possessed mad man and when things start to look grim for your team (hard carry isn't tanky enough yet and starts to flee, initiator is done and starts to run also) who is there to save the day? Yep, that's you my man with the Bristleback. The whole enemy team is stacked, your warpath has stacked and all of the sudden you hear that announcer: "DOUBLE KILL!" "TRIPLE KILL!". The two heroes left standing think: "ahw hell no! get the f*ck outta here!" but they forgot about your goo, about the quills already stacked and that warpath in full glory.
So you chase the suckers down, gooing them to a crawl and with one big smack from that flail you finish them off. ULTRA KILL! R-R-R-R-R-R-R-RAMPAGE!
Your team recovers hp and stays behind that spiky *** of yours and start pushing some towers. Next teamfight, same thing and all of the sudden you are going GODLIKE. By this time, the enemy team has figured you out, but hey, those 10+ kills in the first 2 or 3 teamfights have done your wallet and xp a lot of favors. Good luck taking me down now suckers!


Make sure you get that early farm. Team up with a initiator and hard carry to divert the action in teamfights to them instead of you. Go stand in the middle of that fight, stack the sh*t out of your quills and warpath and see 'em drop like flies!

Disclaimer and updates

This is my first guide (so be gentle ;) ), I hope you liked it. I will update it some more if you guys want it. I'll add a specific playstyle section and enemy heroes that are dangerous to the Bristle, short skill explanations and more pro/con's and a extended when to choose Bristle section. All the updates will be listed here.

01-05-2013 - Upgraded the item section a bit

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