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13 Votes

Magnus - Utility Initiator (with Matchups)

January 29, 2015 by Sando
Comments: 12    |    Views: 103511    |   

Build 1
Build 2

Mid Lane

DotA2 Hero: Magnus

Hero Skills


2 3 5 7


10 12 13 14


1 4 8 9

Reverse Polarity

6 11 16




Magnus is a melee strength hero with fantastic teamfight and AOE abilities. He has arguably the best ultimate in the game with Reverse Polarity, combined with a damage buff, escape and long ranged nuke. This makes him a very complete hero, providing a well rounded set of abilities that will compliment any team.

He's almost always played as a solo, either mid or offlane in order to quickly get experience and unlock his ultimate. Although he can be quite a good makeshift carry, I think he works much better played as a #3, with a strong emphasis on team fight power. Theoretically he can semi-support, getting just a Blink Dagger when possible, but this tends to leave him underlevelled and he's not a good lane support.

Although powerful, he's not the easiest hero to play successfully, and requires both the right items and usage to be effective. The closest skillset in some ways is Windranger or Earthshaker, as you've got to get both your placement and angles right.

Pros and Cons

+ Good strength and agility growth
+ Good movement speed and base armour
+ Cheap, well rounded spells
+ Great teamfight ultimate
+ Effective escape mechanism
+ Steroids for your carry

- Level dependent
- Somewhat farm dependent
- Small mana pool and intelligence growth
- Requires precise usage and control
- Requires good positioning skills

What you should know about Magnus as a team mate

1) He wants a solo lane

2) He needs a reasonable amount of farm early game

3) He's not a support, don't expect him to provide wards or a courier

4) He's a great team fight initiator and AOE disabler

5) His buff works best with melee carries, especially ones with big primary stat gains

6) He works really well with big AOE damage spells

7) He'll want to Skewer after Reverse Polarity, make sure you wait to use abilities, or tell him beforehand not to


Shockwave is your AOE nuke, a cheap and handy spell for farming, pushing, and sniping enemy heroes. It fires a long straight line of energy between your position and the target point, hitting every enemy or neutral unit along it's path with the full amount of damage.

Although quite fast moving, it is still possible for enemies to dodge it, and you have to predict the best possible path to make the hit. This can quite often be the difference between getting a kill or not. The line is also pretty narrow, so you need to position yourself correctly to hit multiple targets.

As with all nukes, you'll always want to max this first, and the mana cost is the same whether you're inflicting 75 or 300 damage. The only real issue with this is your rather small mana pool - usually it's best to wait until you've got a few levels in this before using it too much. In lane you'll want to try to both last hit creeps and harass the enemy at the same time.


Empower is your buff, or "carry steroid", and very nice it is too - adding extra damage and a cleave effect. Bear in mind that only melee units gain the cleave, and that the damage bonus is only a percentage of their base damage + primary stat increase, not their raw damage.

For example, a Heart of Tarrasque provides +40 strength, and combined with level 4 Empower would give you an extra 60 damage. (40 * 1.5 = 60). A Desolator provides +60 raw damage, but would not benefit from Empower.

You can give it to yourself, or any allied unit. Generally this will be your carry, but it also helps you farm, push and fight too. Sometimes I'll even put it on a friendly creep if I want to push the lane out but can't actually be there personally (make sure you cast it on the melee creep furthest back, as he's least likely to take damage).

It works nicely with your other powers as the grouping effect of Reverse Polarity provides an ideal match with cleave. This makes it especially effective for heroes with Battle Fury and Sven.

Ranged heroes don't gain the cleave effect, but still get the bonus damage. For Empower priority I usually just follow the farm priority order, with preference given to melee heroes if it's close.


Skewer is a multi-purpose ability, working overtime as your escape, slow, nuke and enemy grabbing skill. As it's got so many different uses, lets break it down into game areas:


During the early laning stages, Skewer is primarily an escape mechanism. It will quickly get you a fair distance from your attackers, and ideally to safety. You can even use it to cross impassable terrain as well as Fissures and will knock over trees in your path.

The other thing to be aware of here is that a number of enemy heroes (1 per Skewer level) will be carried along with you if they are between you and your destination. Usually this is a good thing as you can throughly turn a gank around by charging them below your tower unexpectedly, but be careful of it when you just need to get away.


With more levels in it, Skewer gains a pretty respectable amount of nuke damage, and also applies a 2.5 second 40% slow to targets. This, combined with the ability to move enemies out of position makes it a very strong ganking ability, provided you're in the right place to use it and hit the target.

This is where runes like Haste and Invisibility can come in very useful, and Blink Dagger opens several new possibilities.

Team Fights:

Although it's possible to initiate with this spell (followed by Reverse Polarity, it's much more useful generally to blink in and then do your thang. Even before a teamfight, you can still use your ganking tricks - if you can blink in behind an enemy and instantly Skewer them out of position and into your team it can let you fight 4v5 soon after.

HOWEVER, be very careful who you grab this way - a fast fingered Earthshaker or Faceless Void may be a very bad choice to move right into the middle of your team.

Thanks Atlas :)

Also be very careful when using Skewer in team fights, yes a Reverse Polarity gives you the ideal situation to use it on multiple enemies, but be very aware of what the rest of your team is doing. Sometimes it will be appropriate to charge them back to your team, sometimes it won't be appropriate to move them at all. Hell, you could even help the opposition by getting them out of trouble!

I sometimes find it difficult to not instinctively Skewer stunned enemies - the best thing to remember is that you can charge them a very short distance and still get the damage and slow effect.

Reverse Polarity

Reverse Polarity is your ultimate, a fantastic AOE disable that also groups enemy units in a small area in front of you. It inflicts a small amount of damage, but the real feature is the stun - which lasts for up to 3.75 seconds at level 3, and goes through magic immunity like Rage and Black King Bar.

As with all AOE disables, it relies on your team following up appropriately to deliver the damage, although your combo of Shockwave, Empower and Skewer is pretty respectable already. However, your carry cleaving them while the likes of Sand King or Lich nuke them senseless usually results in a team wipe. If you really feel the need, have an Enigma standing by with Black Hole :)

Reverse Polarity isn't that hard to land, but isn't that easy either. The AOE is smallish and is completely centered on you, so getting yourself in the right position is the most important thing - hence why we really want that Blink Dagger ASAP. Smart enemy teams will try to stay split up, so pick your moment carefully, sometimes you may even have to wait for the fight to start before jumping in.

It inflicts minor magical damage, but this is barely worth mentioning compared to the disable effect. You'll want to level it at every opportunity 6-11-16.

Skill Builds

There aren't really too many variations on how to skill Magnus - you'll pretty much always max Shockwave by level 7, have at least 1 point in Skewer early on, and take Reverse Polarity as soon as it's available at every stage.

The only real decision is when to put your first point in Empower. Some people like to skill it at level 4, but that early point leaves Skewer a little bit less weaker. Empower isn't a particularly good skill early on as right click attacks are so weak, and the cleave will just push the lane out.

Maybe you've somehow ended up as a safe lane solo and you have a melee jungler who might appreciate it. Maybe you need a cheap spell to get rid of Curse of the Silent. Maybe your lineup is really setup for early pushing. All quite unusual situations.

I've levelled Empower once at level 8 for this guide, and this is probably the earliest I'd recommend it. You could easily leave it later on if you wanted to, but personally I like to have it available at this point just so all your options are open, and don't feel the minor loss to Skewer makes much difference at this point.


Magnus is pretty much always a #3 role - not a support, and not a carry either. He does need farm, but more than anything he needs levels early game. First of all this allows him rapid access to Reverse Polarity for ganks and early team fights, but it also allows his nukes to level to the point where he can secure or assist in getting kills.

Playing as a support tends to slow your early levelling and means that he misses the window where he can get solo kills. This leaves him as just a team fight hero who did a below average job helping out in lane.

Some people like to play him as a carry, and there's no doubt his stat growth is respectable, and that Empower can both help your farming speed and boost your damage. Overall though, I'm pretty "meh" about those builds, you're simply not as scary as many other heroes with similar farm, and there's no reason you can't pass Empower on to allies to boost them instead.

Playing as a solo mid or offlaner gives you those early levels, and enough access to farm to get his core items together. He needs two things pretty badly - an increased mana pool/regeneration, and a Blink Dagger for positioning.

Playing Mid

I'd normally suggest a Bottle rush for Magnus when you're playing mid, with Skewer giving you a decent chance of rune control even against other mobile heroes. When deciding to go mid you need to be aware of which opponent you're up against. While your tankiness and escape make you hard to kill, you don't want to lose the lane and be forced to play too passively.

We'll take a look at a few heroes who you might come up against, especially the ones you will struggle with:

Difficulty: Hard

A challenging matchup for you, as she can harass you reasonably effectively using Shadow Strike and auto-attacks. You'll probably want to get a Stout Shield fairly early on to minimise that right click damage, allowing you to nip in to pick up last hits.

Effective use of Shockwave is important from level 3 onwards - she will try to push the wave using Scream of Pain before grabbing a rune. Do the same back to her. If you can regularly hit her with it, you can force her to be more respectful. Skewer versus Blink makes rune control very competitive, it depends who guesses right and/or has better wards usually.

Difficulty: Easy

You're both melee heroes, so last hitting is down to skill and timing more than harassment. You're nice and tanky, so his only realistic chances of killing you are to hook you all the way to his tower, or with supports rotating. Remember that you can also Skewer him back to your tower if he positions badly.

Shockwave should deliver more lane control for you over time, and Pudge is likely to look to the other lanes for ganks instead. Give him more respect once he reaches level 6, and if the other team have aggressive supports.

Difficulty: Medium

Another ranged hero, so the early Stout Shield is probably a good idea, even if his auto-attack isn't particularly damaging you want to be able to deny as well as last hit.

Watch out for Illusory Orb, as it really starts to hurt after a few levels. Try to keep moving and make yourself difficult to hit. Good Pucks will dodge your Shockwave with Phase Shift given the chance, but you can hurt them quite badly if you can hit them with it.

Outworld Devourer

Difficulty: Hard

This is quite a tricky matchup - Astral Imprisonment will reduce your already meagre mana pool and make it very difficult for you to use abilities like Shockwave very much. It also increases his damage and makes it harder to compete for hits. About your only advantage is in grabbing runes, but generally you want to avoid this matchup.

Difficulty: Hard

Another unpleasant matchup, you'll be suffering under Sticky Napalm for long periods, and will have to regularly drop back once they get 4-5 stacks on you. You can escape using Skewer and harass with Shockwave, but you'll be at a disadvantage. It's very important to get a Magic Stick early on to help out.

Difficulty: Medium

This is an interesting matchup, and you need to stay on top of it from the beginning. Shadow Fiend has initially so-so base damage, but this rises rapidly as he gets souls from last hits and denies. It's vital that you make this very difficult for him early on, slowing him down and allowing you to grab a fast Bottle.

Once you have this and level 2 Shockwave you can begin wearing down his relatively squishy health. About the same time he'll have probably got at least some souls, and can begin using Raze to get some anyway. A Stout Shield is handy here. It's quite possible to kill him by Skewering him to your tower if you get a Haste or Invisibility rune.

Difficulty: Hard

Not a great matchup, as it's hard to avoid the Psi Blades of a competent TA, and this will wear down your health to an unpleasant degree, potentially allowing her to follow up with Meld. Even your Shockwave can be completely nullified with a well timed Refraction. Your only real advantage here is your mobility to get runes, and you could really do to get all of them.

Difficulty: Hard

This is not an easy matchup due to the Static Remnant spam and Overload harassment you'll be on the receiving end of. Try to duck and dodge, picking off last hits where possible and minimising the damage you take. A Stout Shield is definitely recommended, and a Magic Stick is pretty useful too.

All is not lost though here, Storm Spirit is quite squishy and doesn't get mobile until level 6. Get your own back with Shockwave harassment, and a tower Skewer can be lethal if he gets out of position or you get a good rune.

Difficulty: Very Hard

These aren't especially common mid heroes, but you should be very aware of how much they can screw you over if you end up against them. Even with a Stout Shield their DoT abilities will soon leave you hurting badly and playing passively. Again, you should be able to get rune control, but you'll be reliant on that and bottle crowing to keep you in lane.

Playing Offlane

You have absolutely everything you could want for playing offlane - fast movement speed, an escape, tankiness, good base armour, a cheap, long range nuke....the only thing you're missing is a ranged attack.

Still, for a hero who is more level than farm dependent, this isn't the end of the world, and there isn't usually the same requirement to "win" the lane here. If you're up against multiple enemies you grab what farm/experience is safely available, and make sure you don't feed.

This shouldn't be too difficult, there are very few heroes/combinations that can completely disable/silence you for long enough to kill you at low levels, and Skewer is an excellent escape mechanism. Provided you don't do anything really stupid, get massively out of position, let your health drop too low, or run out of mana completely, you should be ok. Still, be respectful of what the enemy can throw out, and don't get too greedy.

Against strong pushing lineups you can do a fair job with Shockwave and may even opt for an early level of Empower (usually at level 4) if they're really laying it on strong.

Whether you run a Bottle or not really depends on your mid - if they're not very interested in rune control then it may be a good idea.

These are the heroes you need to watch out for when going offlane:

Difficulty: Very Hard

The same as in the midlane, these heroes are a real pain - even with a Stout Shield their DoT abilities will soon leave you hurting badly and playing passively. Huskar is also very resistant to death by Shockwave, you'll need some help to take him down.

Difficulty: Hard

While you can soak up Thunder Strike pretty well, the real threat here is the Glimpse/ Kinetic Field combo when he has others backing him up. This removes the effectiveness of Skewer as an escape, and means even minor positional blunders can be punished.

Difficulty: Annoying

If the KOTL is smart, he'll level Mana Leak and make your escapes very expensive. This will soon lead to you being forced to play passive, and occasionally eating an Illuminate isn't fun. He really needs a trilane or aggressive partner to be truly life threatening though.

Starting Items

Some fairly standard starting items for either a Bottle rush or an offlaner expecting plenty of harassment. There's nothing particularly unusual or exciting here, the main decisions you have to make early on are whether to get a Stout Shield, and whether or not to get a Bottle in the offlane.

Core Items

Although you really need your extension items too, and ASAP, this is the starting point for making you effective early on. There may be games when playing as an offlaner you substitute out the Bottle and even the Magic Wand if other options look more appealing, they are pretty standard choices for most games.

The most contentious issue here is Arcane Boots - the "recommended items" in the shop always suggests Power Treads, but that's just for the carry builds that I don't like on him. Arcane Boots are a necessity if you want to be able to make regular use of your abilities, with the expanded mana pool the most important component.

The alternative would be to get a Soul Ring and replenish yourself with the Bottle, but this arrangement isn't always ideal, and takes up an extra item slot.

You might also trade out the Bracer if somebody else is already building a Drum of Endurance, in which case you might consider a Ring of Basilius or Urn of Shadows.

Extension Items

Two really useful items for you - the Drum bulks you out and expands your mana pool, while making you even faster and providing a useful aura for the team. The Blink Dagger is really essential to your playstyle, allowing you to successfully land Skewers and Reverse Polarity.

If another hero on your team has already built a Drum of Endurance you're in a bit of a bind. You need to get the Blink Dagger ASAP anyway, but you then have a few options to ponder.

You might just stick with a Bracer or Urn of Shadows...against teams with a lot of right click a Ghost Scepter is a nice choice (good stats too)...while you might consider a Black King Bar against teams with a lot of disable. You might think about a Pipe of Insight against nuke heavy teams, or even some simple Blade Mail.

Luxury Items

Once you've got your extension items you've got everything you need to do your job effectively, everything else you can add afterwards is just the icing on the cake. First on my shopping list is usually a Refresher level 3 the cooldown is only 100 seconds, but being able to throw out 7.5 seconds of magic immunity busting AOE stun should win you just about any fight - if it doesn't, your team is really underpowered.

The other options are useful too however - all add quite substantially to your survivability while providing useful team effects. Heart of Tarrasque gives you tons of health and regen, while adding some right click damage. Shiva's Guard boosts your armour and mana pool, and obviously works well with Reverse Polarity. Finally Heaven's Halberd is great against right clickers.

You might also want to consider situational items here.

Situational Items

These are the common situational items that you may need from time to time, we've already discussed the usage of a few of them above. Vladmir's Offering is a nice little extension that works well late game if nobody else has it, giving you and allied melee heroes lifesteal, as well as bonus damage and armour for everyone nearby.

Boots of Travel boost your speed even further, although you need some mana/intelligence items in your inventory to make up for the loss of Arcane Boots. They can be especially useful late game when you don't tend to be able to teleport to towers anymore, and your pushing power is quite useful to have available globally.

Good Allies

The global mana boost from Arcane Aura is very nice for you. Your spells are relatively cheap (when not compared to your mana pool), so this boost will allow you far more usage without anyone else clogging up your lane. You repay the favour later on, giving her several seconds of Freezing Field time with the opposition.

His existing Cleave ability is further boosted by Empower, and his massive bonus strength from his ultimate also combines with it. Give him a bunch of defenceless grouped enemies to chop at and he'll be a happy bunny. Drow Ranger also enjoys the extra bonus damage, but misses the cleave.

Outworld Devourer

The teamfight crew - many of them have tricky to land AOE ultimates that can do massive damage or chain further disable on the back of yours. Try to rein in your urge to Skewer.

Bad Enemies

These guys are not fun for you to play against, either in mid or offlane. As a melee hero their constant DoT harassment can really hurt you and drive you away from the creep wave. Can also delay your Blink Dagger's availability.

Reverse Polarity is such a good spell, it's horrible to have it stolen from you. If at all possible, try to catch him in the effect and follow up instantly with Shockwave or Skewer so he can't get hold of it.

Pretty irritating to lane against if they build him right - Mana Leak can force you to lose mana or take damage depending on your reaction. Skewer can be particularly expensive. Chakra Magic can feed nukes and keep you on the back foot. Not too much of a threat outside that.

A bit annoying to lane against, but a swift point in Empower will make Curse of the Silent a fairly minor irritation. Much more annoying is a well timed Global Silence which can badly crimp your ability to land a good ultimate.

You Blink into the enemy team and land a great Reverse Polarity on all 4 of them and then Skewer them back to your waiting team...just as she emerges from hiding with Song of the Siren going...allowing them to recover and turn the fight around.

Somewhat difficult to lock down with their various evasive skills, makes it difficult to time a good Reverse Polarity. Skewer doesn't always work as an effective escape against these guys.


Magnus is a great initiator and addition to any team that has or needs more team fight power. His strong early nuking power should be maxed quickly with a solo lane, allowing him to quickly farm up some mana regeneration equipment and a Blink Dagger. This allows him to use Skewer to drag enemy players out of position, and get the best possible placements for Reverse Polarity.

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