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Magnus: Pro Initiator, Pub Carry

September 23, 2014 by Zrog
Comments: 9    |    Views: 140275    |   

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Initiator/Support Magnus

DotA2 Hero: Magnus

Purchase Order

Initial Buy

Early Game

Midgame (Pick 1 boots)

Late Game (in this order)

Luxury: Against Magic-Heavy Opponents

Luxury: Against Melee-Heavy Opponents

Luxury: on Melee-Heavy Team

Luxury: I have so much money, I think I'm a Carry

On Magic-Heavy Team

Hero Skills


2 3 5 7


10 12 13 14


1 4 8 9

Reverse Polarity

6 11 16


15 17 18


I go by Zrog, and I've played at least 500 games of Dota2, but I've also played a ton of Magnus. This guide is a compilation of everything I've read online about Magnus, and the result of many games of practice.

UPDATE: Patch 6.78 nerfed Magnus' Ultimate - it is now similar to Enigma's Black Hole in that it is an area-control initiation spell rather than a damage dealing ultimate + area stun.

Pros / Cons

I shamelessly stole this list from Ace's Guide to Magnus, and added to it. Ace writes a very good guide, but I found myself writing a book in his comments, so I decided to write my own guide.


+ High strength/hp gain
+ Escape Mechanism
+ Superior to Black King Bars ulti
+ Great initiation skills
+ Very good movement speed
+ Decent Armor


- Low intelligence/Mana pool/Intelligence gain
- Mana dependent.
- Easily countered by Keeper of the Light, Nyx Assassin, Silencer (anyone with ranged mana burn), Rubick (all his spells are good to steal)
- Needs a mobilty item (Blink/Forcestaff) for his ultimate to be effective.
- Long cooldown on Reverse Polarity Ultimate and on Escape skill ( Skewer)
- Your Wombo Combo costs most of your mana early-game
- Large, distinctive model (easy to target even in the thick of combat)

- UPDATE: Your Ultimate's Damage has been nerfed!

Lane Choice

In a typical pub 2-1-2 situation, you are probably going to be off-laning Magnus, hopefully with someone who can help you gank. You should probably be the one last-hitting in this case, especially if you have another ranged support with you who can deny at range and harass.

UPDATE: Pros usually put Magnus mid, so that he can hit L6 early and start ganking/teamfighting with the help of his ultimate. The reason he is no longer off-laned is that his Skewer range was reduced a few patches ago, so that it starts at 600, rather than always being a fixed 1200 range. This range reduction hurt Magnus's ability to escape bad situations in the early game, before his Skewer gets leveled up. In older guides, you may see only 1-2 points in Skewer, and the reason is that it used to be equally good for slower and escaping at L1 as L4, but that is no longer the case.

Magnus can mid-lane very effectively, using Shockwave to harass and Skewer to escape. If you are really pro, you can get behind an enemy hero who has overextended, and then Skewer him into your tower range. Follow-up with a Shockwave, and you might even get a kill.

If you are supporting easy/safe-lane (bottom on Radiant side and top on Dire side), this means you are letting your carry get the last hits. You will be most effective when paired with a ranged carry, who won't get harassed off the lane. You will use Observer Ward, You will stack and pull Neutrals to pull back your lane (and get XP and farm), and you will counter-harass with Shockwave (when you can hit both heroes with it, hopefully). While you may think it's a good idea to Empower your carry at this point to help get last hits, it's really not a good use of your mana.

You should be pulling your lane back by using the closest Neutral camp to aggro creep waves (stack lane at X:54, then pull the camp into the lane at x:15 or x:45). Try to last-hit the Neutrals to get some gold.

If you are babysitting a hard carry, you should be putting up a ward to prevent your carry from getting ganked.

Don't put Magnus in an aggressive tri-lane. Just don't do it. He doesn't hit that hard, he doesn't have a true disable, and he needs some farm and levels to be effective - you don't want a gimped initiator. You CAN, however, use him in a 4 position, where he can get some levels from pulling and jungling.

Jungle Magnus

There are a few videos showing how Magnus can jungle from level 1. Most easily done on the Dire side, doing the Radiant side ancients has become nigh-impossible since the delay to Flying Courier.

Dire video

Radiant Video (out of date)

The best way to jungle Magnus is to use chokepoints in the trees, after stacking a pull of almost-exclusively melee creeps. Magnus doesn't care that much about Mud Golems, either...

Items - Initiator/Support

Item choice is highly dependent on your team makeup and your opponents. I've given a variety of things to aim for, above.

If you are a support, the sad fact is that you are going to fall behind on items, and you are going to need survivability. You are probably going to be stuck with a few simple items like Bracer/ Arcane Boots/ Magic Wand. Try to get a Blink Dagger or Force Staff ASAP, even if it delays your carry's farming, because that is how you can participate in teamfights and use your Reverse Polarity to full effect (this is similar to how Tidehunter is farmed on pro teams. He NEEDS a mobility item, and is a walking ultimate and little more).

After your basic items, you are looking to add items that buff your survivability and help your team. Drum of Endurance is a natural transition from Bracer, and several of your endgame item choices involve getting a Perseverance, so you might as well get the Regen, and head that direction.

EDIT: I've recently found value in a Blade Mail, because the next thing that happens after you initiate is that you often get focused and killed. So... a Blade Mail helps you take some of them with you. This is the same reason that you want a Black King Bar... but as a non-carry, you're not likely to get all the farm you want.

UPDATE: Although I've managed to get to a Refresher Orb in a few games, I found that most of the time, I didn't also have the mana to use my full combo, Refresh, and then Reverse Polarity again. Refresher Orb uses a ton of mana by itself, and is really only to allow you to teamfight again quickly, NOT to double your combo in a single fight.

Items - Pub Carry

One thing you have to realize about Magnus is that he's never going to be a hard carry. Carries like Anti-Mage, Faceless Void, Phantom Lancer, Phantom Assassin, Drow Ranger, Spectre, etc. are going to out-carry him in a long game. You are going to need to gain the advantage before these heroes start becoming too powerful.

Guides that recommend Power Treads for Magnus are trying to play him as an end-game hard carry. He is a semi-carry at best, so do not fall into this trap; Magnus is FAR more effective when he can spam his spells and avoid running around without mana, or not have enough mana pool for his "wombo combo". Get Arcane Boots. If you insist on getting Power Treads, set them to Intelligence until you get your combo off, then switch to Strength. However, I should point out that Arcane Boots gets you +250 mana pool, and Treads w/Int only gets you +104 mana pool.

I emphasize that in pubs, you can't count on your Supports to get Arcane Boots for you, and you need them. Yes, otherwise, Power Treads is a much better choice for a carry.

Update: it should be noted, that with a Bottle, tread-switching to Agility during regen maximizes your regen, because you regen more of your (smaller) mana/hp pool while on Ag, and then switching back actually boosts your pool, as if you had regen'd it.

Most builds for carry- Magnus suggest a Battlefury, and I can't disagree. It works well to buff Magnus' cleave and damage (although Empower does NOT stack with +dmg, only with stats, per the wiki). More Cleave allows better farming, pushing and jungling, which gives more gold, and also helps dish out the pain if you catch several enemies in a Reverse Polarity.

Edit: You need the Battlefury EARLY. Eventually, your Empower and base damage is going to be plenty of cleave. If you can't get the BFury by about 20 mins, start going for other items, such as a Black King Bar or even a Heart of Tarrasque.

Edit (Oct 3, 2013): I've included a Battlefury + Mark of Madness Item Build (credit to Ace), where the objective is to maximize your right-click damage against the multiple targets you catch in your Reverse Polarity.

In general, the items you want for Magnus should favor Strength, because it buffs his hp and cleave more than +dmg items , but if you're truly going to carry, you still need +dmg and +crit items to get your right-click damage up.

Noob Tips and Item Choices

If you are a new Dota 2 player, I recommend you go read this first:

Purge's Dota 2 Guide: Welcome to Dota, You Suck

also read this: Beginner's Guide to Dota

... don't take it personally, but Dota 2 DOES have a fairly steep learning curve, and there are some basic things that you need to know to avoid frustrating your fellow players and then getting yelled at. Read this guide. Just do it. DO EET!

While I don't think that Magnus is really a good pick for new players (ranged heroes are a bit more forgiving), I must say that Magnus at least has an escape skill using Skewer. In general, use Skewer to get TOWARDS your team, not AWAY from it!

For items, and using Magnus, I recommend that new players start with a Quelling Blade, and getting the Stout Shield afterwards if you find you are getting harassed a lot in lane - if you are having trouble last-hitting, the Quelling Blade will help a lot, and you can't buy hardly anything if you can't get gold from last-hitting. And get Regen items!

New players should also focus on getting items that give Magnus stats, which brings survivability, like Bracer and Magic Wand. Magic Wand has the side benefit of some hp/mana if enemies are casting a lot of spells nearby.

Purge once said that if you had unlimited inventory space, you would buy as many Iron Branches (also called GG branches) as you could afford, as they are one of the most gold-to-stat efficient items in the game. This cost-efficiency is why you buy 3x Iron Branch for 53x3 = 159 gold, instead of a Gauntlets of Strength for 150g or Circlet for 185g. The only reason to buy the Circlet is that you don't have enough inventory space for three Branches, and want to make a Bracer later. The reason a Magic Wand is so good is that it takes up 1 space (you turn your 3 branches + a Magic Stick into this), is very cheap, and gives +9 worth of stats (+3 total to Str/Ag/Int), plus some hp/mana recovery.

DO NOT buy the big items first, including Bottle and Boots of Speed. Regen items like Tango allow you to stay in lane and not die (this is your most important job: stay in XP range, about 3/4 of a screen, while not dying). Not dying and not having to go back to base to heal or buy items (*cough* use the courier) means faster leveling.

Noob trap: If you get hit by anything while using Clarity or Healing Salve, the effect will stop, and you will waste the rest of its regen.


One point I want to mention is when to use Shockwave in early-game laning. The answer is: when you can both last-hit enemy creeps and hit enemy hero(es), and when you want to get last-hits without getting harassed. You can also use Shockwave to push a lane (duh), but I recommend damaging the creeps a bit first (with or without Empower), so your Shockwave will last-hit almost the whole creep line (with good positioning).

There are two general opinions to Magnus' skilling, but everyone agrees that Shockwave should be maxed ASAP, and you should take points in Reverse Polarity at levels 6, 11, and 16 (i.e. as fast as possible).

Skewer can be left at level 1 or 2, if you just need it as an early-game escape, as its slowing effect stays the same; only the charge range and damage increases. However, some people like to use it to chase or initiate, so the longer range becomes useful. If you are using it after you initiate, you want to be able to grab more than 1 enemy hero to bring back to your team!

Edit (Oct 3, 2013): It is worth noting that Skewer only moves you as far sa you click, even if the maximum range is longer. Don't make the mistake of clicking next to Magnus, or ON a hero who is running from you, because that's as far as Magnus will go! Scroll the screen a bit if necessary, if you want to charge your maximum range.

Empower can be useful earlier in the game if you intend to do any pushing or jungling. Otherwise, you only need the skill to buff your carry (or yourself) later in the game once the carry is farmed up, and you are better off taking stats as your items start to fall behind, and you become more squishy. Taking Stats instead of Empower helps with that.

MY Noob build, above, recommends Ability Ranks before finishing with Skewer or Empower. The main reason for this is that Empower only benefits from Stat-bonus increases, not from +damage items (per the Magnus Wiki notes). This means that the more you put into Ability Increases, the more it benefits Empower. Magnus also tends to be a punching-bag after he initiates, because he will typically lack a Black King Bar (BKB), and his Blink Dagger and/or Skewer will be on cooldown.

Edit: However, as Magnus is a Strength hero, with adequate farm he can level Stats last, so you'll typically see Empower leveled immediately after the other abilities, and stats taken at level 17+. If you fall massively behind on farm, and your carry isn't a melee right-clicker who would benefit heavily from Empower, then you might consider putting points into Stats instead.


I'm going to put this in bright, bold letters:


That combo again:

Blink Dagger + Reverse Polarity + ( Skewer) + Shockwave

... this is your combo. Do NOT attempt a Skewer to initiate (edit: except at low levels or in small skirmishes, where the damage and slow it does matters), as you will be stunned so fast you won't know what happened, and your whole combo will fail. You might accidentally also push the enemy team further away from the rest of your team, which is the opposite of what you want (you can Skewer less than max distance if you watch where you click). You are FAR better off blinking in, getting off your Reverse Polarity(RP), and then using Skewer to GTFO (with a enemy present for your team) before the rest of the enemy team focuses you (assuming you didn't land your RP perfectly, which will happen quite frequently, unless of course you are too pro, in which case why are you reading this?).

You will notice that I don't even mention Empower. Empower should have already been cast, preferably on your highest-damage carry (or yourself if you're carrying), before you initiate. You can, and should, even skip Empower when you won't have the mana for your combo. RP is quite mana-heavy.

WARNING: It is up to you to determine how far you need to Skewer the opposing team. A half-inch Skewer is perfectly acceptable to punch out the damage + slow, if it means that you're not screwing up Gyro's Call Down or Earthshaker's Echo Slam. Don't take the enemy team for a free ride out of the kill zone!

Using Items

Remember to use Empower BEFORE Black King Bar. You cannot Empower during BKB, but you can do so before and the buff will remain (need to double-check this, but it used to be true).

Ensure that you Empower+BKB before your blink-in combo.

Use Drums of Endurance after your RP, so you and your team can get the attack speed buff while your opponents are stunned in your Reverse Polarity. You can also use Drums to chase, although the movement speed buff isn't that significant, nor does it last particularly long. However, it might help you get that last kill, so use it!

Use [Refresher Orb]], if you manage to get one, to allow you to teamfight again sooner, rather than trying to Reverse Polarity twice in one teamfight. The main problem with trying 2 x Reverse Polarity is that you won't have the mana pool to cast two of them, PLUS the 350 for Refresher Orb, plus any other abilities. Better to surprise opponents, who push another teamfight, with another RP while they think it's on cooldown.

Edit (Oct 3, 2013): I've recently found that a Force Staff is a more flexible item as compared to a Blink Dagger for Magnus. First, the Staff gives Magnus more mana pool, and also allows him to escape even if he's being hit, unlike a Blink Dagger, which goes back on mini-cooldown whenever the bearer takes damage. If you have a good team though, Blink Dagger is far better for surprise initiations (or counter-initiations).

Counters to Magnus

Rubick is very annoying, because all of your abilities are good to steal. Even Empower on the enemy carry isn't something you want to have happen.

Silencer shuts down Magnus HARD in lane with his mana drain and low-mana ranged attack. If he ever manages to kill you and steal your Intelligence, he will have increased Magnus' greatest weakness, which is a small mana pool (with matching poor mana regen). Silencer can also instantly shut down Magnus' combo if he manages to avoid or pre-empt Reverse Polarity. If paired against Silencer in lane, ask to switch with someone, and hope that Silencer doesn't follow you and continue to make you miserable. You will also need a Black King Bar so you can initiate without getting shut down by his Global Silence ultimate. Remember to use the Black King Bar AFTER Silencer drops his Global Silence, or you will still get silenced! (BKB removes Silence, but you can still get silenced while magic immune!)

Drow Ranger, arguably one of the most powerful pub heroes, can also be very annoying to Magnus with her slowing and silence and high ranged damage. I personally think she needs to be nerfed (slowing + silence + damage? Hello?), but in the meantime she needs to be heavily ganked early game until the person playing her rage-quits.

I recently found out that a Keeper of the Light who levels his Mana Drain early can be an incredible annoyance to Magnus, and to the usually-mana-dependent support that is hard-laned with Magnus.

Anyone who can steal Intelligence, such as Outworld Destroyer, is also very annoying to Magnus.

Nyx Assassin's Mana Burn doesn't hurt Magnus that badly due to his low Int, but Magnus needs all his mana to use his big combo, so anyone who can burn off that mana is highly annoying to Magnus, and needs to be given the horn in their tender parts.

Naga Siren can pretty much nullify the effects of Reverse Polarity (unless you catch her in it), and shut down Magnus' combo, and any followup your team was trying to do. Don't play a big-teamfight-team against Naga, or fake the initiation and hope she blows her Song of the Siren.

Area-Effect Friends of Magnus

Magnus is best friends with Enigma, and also with any hero with a powerful AOE damage spell or area lockdown that can follow after Reverse Polarity, such as:

Shadow Fiend
Sand King
Outworld Devourer
Queen of Pain
Dark Seer
Faceless Void

How Teammates Mess Up Magnus' Initiation

You don't really want to be on a team with the following:

Clockwerk: this little guy is also an initiator, but his shtick is that he separates the enemy team for easy pickoffs with his Power Cogs, which is ocmpletely opposite to what you want to do, which is gather the enemy together for easy AOE.

Batrider: Not only does Batrider usually hog mid, but like Clockwerk, his ability to pull one of the enemy team out of the pack upon initiation is opposite to how Magnus works. Also, Batrider's Flame Break tends to push targets apart, which is bad for RP'ing and general AOE'ing of the enemy team.

Outworld Devourer and Shadow Demon: Yes, I know they both have AOE that could technically work well alongside Magnus. However, what tends to happen is that pub players tend to use Disruption or Astral Imprisonment at exactly the wrong time, on the enemy team, and end up protecting someone from your RP. This is extremely annoying. You've been warned.

Invoker: Does anyone play Invoker anymore? Just remind him NOT to Vortex until AFTER you initiate, or better yet, only when RP is on cooldown. Otherwise, Invoker is quite a good partner, since he can Chaos Meteor and Sun Strike right on top of the RP.

Good Laning Partners

In general, Magnus should be mid-laned. He benefits from early levels given that ALL his abilities are good, and he needs a basic amount of farm to be effective (at least Arcane Boots + Blink/Forcestaff).

If you're going to dual lane, he needs to be laned with a ranged character, or he will be harassed off the lane. He has pretty good abilities to hold the lane back, if suicide/solo laning, but he will be denied most of the gold, meaning he won't be getting his Arcane Boots or Blink Dagger anytime soon, unless he brings a ton of Clarity potions, or Bottlecrows (keeps refilling the bottle with the courier - this hogs the courier, though).

Magnus can use his spells far more often than his mana regen allows, so for an early tower push or lots of harass, Keeper of the Light or Crystal Maiden are great partners, since they can replenish or speed the regen of Magnus' mana.

Because Magnus doesn't have a stun until he gets Reverse Polarity, he's best with a ranged lane partner who has a stun, slow or immobilize if you plan to try for kills in lane. However, Magnus does not excel at this until he has his L6 Ultimate.

Team Work

One of the reasons that Magnus can suck in pubs, and tends to be played as a carry, is that after he initiates, if he can't kill the whole enemy team by himself, he's dead unless your teammates are right on your heels. I can probably count the number of times on one hand that my whole random pub team has been with me after I initiate. This has led to Magnus' lack of pub-crawling popularity.

One big no-no with Magnus is to use Skewer to initiate, because IF you push the enemy team even further away from your allies, and then have no escape, nor can you push some enemies back towards your team (i.e. "divide and conquer"). This situation will contribute to your raging about why your allies weren't with you or didn't follow you in, and how they left you to die. Don't do this. I repeat:

BLINK + REVERSE POLARITY + [SKEWER to bring enemies to your team] + SHOCKWAVE

Have fun with Magnus!

Recent Magnus Slump

Since the big nerf to his Reverse Polarity damage in patch 6.78 from 150/225/300 to 50/125/200, Magnus has been relegated to a situational pick, and despite a slight buff to his Skewer range since then (600/800/1000/1200 to 750/900/1050/1200, in patch 6.81), he still hasn't regained much popularity, and even his pub win-rate is sub-50%.

As of patch 6.81, The heroes that are now being used as initiators in his place are the likes of Sand King, Vengeful Spirit, Axe, Tide Hunter, and Batrider. I believe the reason for this is that Magnus isn't as strong in lane or jungle as the above heroes, and he also needs just as much or more farm than any of them (he REALLY needs at least Blink Dagger + Arcane Boots.

Web Site

I've recently created a blog called "Dota 2 Lists", which gives ideas for tri-lanes, powerful dual-lanes, team ideas, drafting tips, ideas, and analysis, and dota2 online tools that a player might find valuable.

Feel free to comment - I'd love some feedback.

Shoutout to Guide Authors

I have just learned that it takes about 4+ hours to write a good guide and put in all the links and formatting and stuff. So... props to all those who have taken the time to write a complete, grammar-corrected guide with links and pictures.


June 19, 2014: Added jungling section and "recent popularity" section.

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