Bristleback is a melee strength hero with two passive skills and two actives; famous for their synergy with reducing armor, high slows and stacking damage. He is an extremely effective tank and ganker in the mid game who can scale as a tank, but finds his primary nuke lacking in later teamfights; however the Bristleback and Viscous Nasal Goo prove useful throughout. Highly reliant on his farm, Bristleback makes an excellent early ganker and can scale to a semi-carry with good ganking, this build plays to his strengths as a ganker with high armor reduction, good mana regen and some brilliant tank to go with it. Tried and tested this build will give you good teamfight presence while making you a devastating chaser and ganker able to hold your own against almost any other hero.
Here's where I justify my build and give you the low down on the skills.
Viscous Nasal Goo, your main slow and armor reduction, a 20% base slow, which stacks up with each new goo, a 1.5 cooldown means spam it! The ENTIRE stack wears off after 5 seconds so keep them snotted and max stack is 4 (Note: each new goo refreshes the stack, so once it reaches 4, just launch one every 4 seconds, but get it up quick!). The key to this skill is its long range, high slow (Especially with Warpath up) and ARMOR REDUCTION.
Quill Spray, your bread-and-butter nuke, low initial damage makes it bad for last hitting early, but with higher max mana, and with spray at about level 3, it can be very useful for grabbing creep kills when you're harassed away or when you just won't reach one in time, be conservative but bear in mind its utility. The quills will stack and only wear off after a massive 14 seconds, so don't worry too much, and from level 1 they do 30 more damage each stack with a cap at 400 damage. THIS IS PHYSICAL DAMAGE, so armor reduction from Viscous Nasal Goo and items (explained later on) are a must.
Bristleback, a fantastic passive tanking skill, this will allow you to soak up Laguna Blades, Fingers of Death etc, coupled with high max health you become invincible. Damage reduction is 20% at max on the sides and doubled on the rear. After receiving 250 damage on the rear you will proc one Quill Spray of its current level. Remember to face away from your enemies whenever possible, this will save your life more than once and make laning harass ineffective.
Ultimate:Warpath, a passive ultimate which grants move speed and base bonus damage every time you fire off a skill, at max, you can hit for an extra 180 damage, so you need the mana to spam! Bear in mind his high damage late game so attack speed is very important, but also, if you find yourself pursued, fire off a Quill Spray or two, no need to turn around, a single stack at level one is a 6% move speed boost!
At level one, Quill Spray is admittedly pretty useless, bad for last hits, but it's important to level it ASAP, so grab the first point unless your lane is really ****ty and grab the Bristleback early.
Assuming you took Quill Spray, put your second point into Bristleback, the reduction on laning harass is brilliant and will make pretty damn sure you won't get ganked.
Third point into Quill Spray again, from here you can harass and if you feel up to it, last hit with it, but be conservative, you'll need the mana for a gank.
Fourth goes to Viscous Nasal Goo the slow is great and armor reduction means easy ganks with a cooperative laning partner, make sure you spam Quills beforehand to stack up the damage!
Five is your nuke again, grab Quill Spray for higher initial damage.
Six is obviously Warpath, let the ganks rain now.
Seven, finish the nuke, another in Quill Spray.
Now, damage has gone up, you need to scale with it, so grab a second point in Bristleback, bear in mind, the Viscous Nasal Goo slow doesn't scale much and your next point of armor reduction is TWO skill points away, so grab the damage reduction first.
Then, put nine and ten into Viscous Nasal Goo, now it has two armor reduction for each stack making Quills and your hits MUCH more effective.
Then obviously go Warpath again for better ganking.
Now finish off Bristleback, the only thing Goo gives you is better slow which you don't need for now.
Now put fourteen into STATS, again, goo just gives you more slow, you don't need it, max mana and max health will go a lot further.
I normally but fifteen into goo just for completeness and to make chasing that little bit easier, but if you want, it's a good idea to just skip the fourth and go with stats till 25, Bristle needs them.
Then, Warpath at sixteen and stats all the way.
There are too many Bristleback builds out there that do not sufficiently compliment his tank and mana needs early or late game, this build will give you the mana and tank you need to properly gank, I'm going to go through and justify every item for this build and try and convince you why you should already be playing this build.
The Beginning -
Stout Shield. until Bristleback is skilled this will give some damage block to allow you to take a bit more harass while moving in for those all important last hits, against any ranged heros this will pay for itself in minutes. But more importantly, this will build into your Vanguard the ESSENTIAL Bristleback item.
Ring of Protection, a nice bit of armor to compliment a relatively low armor hero, but also, this will build into your Ring of Basilius from the sideshop which will keep your mana manageable.
Tangos, face it, you'll need some basic regen.
Early Game -
Healing Salve, NOTE: I KNOW this is part of basic regen, after buying all your beginning items you'll have 88 gold left, if you think you'll need it (and you should) just grab the salve the moment the game starts from tick gold.
Ring of Basilius, you will need this mana regen, Quill Shot is very useful for grabbing some last hits on creeps you can't reach, but with 35 mana a shot and particularly after throwing out about 200 mana on an early gank, the Basilius means you can stay in lane and gives you a good bit of armor to boot. YOU MUST BUY THIS FIRST.
Boots of Speed, before Warpath comes up you can't afford to be left behind, Boots will make sure you can stay in range for Viscous Nasal Goo and a follow up gank.
Mid Game -
Vanguard, not enough people pick this item up on Bristleback, a hefty damage block complements your Bristleback skill and the 250 extra health early makes you nigh-on unkillable, the health regen also makes sure you stay in lane, so grab the ring of health early. You WILL be harassed.
Power Treads, by this point, with Warpath up, your move speed should easily be enough to catch almost anyone, especially with Goo, the attack speed makes sure you can get off those hits with +50 or more extra damage and the 8 strength (or intelligence if you feel you need it) goes a long way.
Decision time. Ganks going well? Want to take people down that little bit faster? Grab the Medallion of Courage, extra armor reduction will make Quills and your punches LETHAL. If things aren't really going that well and particularly if you're facing a nasty right-clicker, grab a Heaven's Halberd, shut down Anti-Mage or Lifestealer or even just help in ganks and eat them, miss chance and Sange gives you more damage and more tank.
Late Game -
Assault Cuirass, DO NOT GET THE HEART FIRST! Your armor will be pretty pathetic by this point, get your physical damage resist up (keep on tanking) attack speed will help get off the Warpath damage and YET MORE REDUCE ARMOR!! Make those Quills scale.
Heart of Tarrasque, if it really gets this late -I shouldn't need to explain- get a heart, tank up, a bit more damage and no need for the Vanguard.
I've seen a depressing number of bad Bristle items out there, here are a few to avoid.
Quelling Blade, I'm gonna do this one first because it isn't so bad, if you really can't last hit, take it, but with quills and respectable starting damage, it's a lot of gold to throw into an early game item when you could be getting Boots/Basilius/Vanguard earlier.
Orb of Venom Dear God why? Same as above, 275 gold for a 12% slow? and the poison does nothing. If it's for Skadi that's an even worse idea, but the Orb alone costs a lot of gold and ONE point in Viscous Nasal Goo is a 24% slow and one armor reduction with ONE stack!
Phase Boots, Warpath gives you all of this and MUCH more, Treads mean more tank AND attack speed to get off those +120 damage hits at level one Warpath.
Radiance No. 5150 gold for an item with mediocre AoA damage at best? The 60 bonus damage can be acquired from Warpath with two Quill Sprays at level one. You could almost get a FULL Assault Cuirass for the same amount with armor reduction to scale your quills, good tank and insane attack speed. An INCREDIBLE waste of money on this hero.
Hood of Defiance/Pipe of Insight, while admittedly you will be focused, Magic Resistance isn't a great idea, turn your back on Lina and an Aghanim's 3 Laguna Blade will do 600 damage with level 4 Bristleback, if you build a Vanguard and have got some stats by this point that won't even be half of your health, an expensive item and you could simply buy a Heart instead, just remember, face AWAY from nukers.
Blademail, reflected damage is calculated AFTER reduction, as above an Aghanim's 3 Laguna Blade will do 600 damage with level 4 Bristleback, 600 damage back is alright and the intelligence is quite helpful, overall this really isn't such a bad item, but you could be buying so much more when simply turning away will almost halve the effectiveness of your Blademail.
I've said largely what has to be said, Bristleback is a tank through and through, build to his strengths, Vanguard for health, armor to supplement his low pool, for the love of all that's good a Basilius for mana regen and remember, you can afford to be aggressive. Play a conservative first 12 minutes, grab your core Basilius, Vanguard and Boots, then go wild, reduce armor, spam spells and face away from the fight.
Good luck, have fun and have a good scrap.