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124 Votes

Nothing Can Stop Our March: Phantom Lancer

September 27, 2013 by Burma Jones
Comments: 95    |    Views: 1207235    |   

Build 1
Build 2
Build 3
Build 4


DotA2 Hero: Phantom Lancer

Hero Skills

Spirit Lance

2 4 6 8


1 3 5 7

Phantom Rush

9 12 13 14


10 11 16


15 17 18

Nothing Can Stop Our March: Phantom Lancer

Burma Jones
September 27, 2013


Phantom Lancer is a very strong pusher and a hard carry. With his illusions and unique play style he is also very fun. He requires a lot of gold (items) to be effective and struggles early on, but is a powerhouse pusher and dpser late game if he doesn't fall behind.

I will cover the hero in general, his abilities, the main skill order (with a note on the laning phase), an item build, how illusions work, and some tips and tricks. I have posted a few alternate skill builds as well.

Constructive comments will be appreciated. I hope this guide will help you enjoy Phantom Lancer as much as I do.


The remote village of Pole had no knowledge of the wars raging in the heart of the kingdom. For them, the quiet of spear fishing, and a family meal were all that a full life required. Yet war came for them nonetheless. Joining the able-bodied conscripts as they filed passed their homes, the humble lancer Azwraith vowed to bring peace to his kingdom, and in so doing, his people. Placed with his kin in the vanguard of the final assault against the Dread Magnus Vorn, the cost to his fellows was absolute. As the charging force battled toward the fortress, Azwraith alone among his kind remained standing, and he alone was able to infiltrate the keep. Focused and infuriated by the slaughter of his brothers, Azwraith bested each of the wizard's deadly traps and conjured guardians. Soon the simple fisherman arrived at Vorn's tower sanctum. The pair dueled through the night, pike to staff, as chaos raged below, and with a defeaning cry Azwraith pierced his enemy. But the wizard did not simply expire; he exploded into uncountable shards of light, penetrating his killer with power. As the dust settled and the smoke of combat began to clear, Azwraith found himself standing among a throng of his kin. Each seemed to be dressed as he was, each seemed armed as he was, and he could sense that each thought as he did. Aware that his allies were approaching, he willed these phantoms to hide themselves, and one by one they began to vanish into nothingness. As the soldiers came upon the sanctum they found the warrior that had bested the wizard. When they approached their champion, the lancer vanished. The pikeman who stood before them was no more than another phantom. The real Azwraith had fled the field, ashamed of his anger, heartbroken at his loss, and all the more determined to ensure peace for his people through the wars to come.


+ Excellent pusher
+ Difficult to target
+ Good escape ability
+ Solid dpser
+ Decent stat development

- Squishy
- Very item dependent
- Weak starting hero (melee attack, low HP and mana, small last hit window)
- Relies on team for CC/disables
- Momentum can be easily stopped with aoe, sentries and dust


Q - Spirit Lance

ABILITY: Target Unit
AFFECTS: Enemy Heroes
DAMAGE: Magical

Casts a magical spirit lance on a target enemy unit that damages and slows, while a Phantom is summoned to attack the unit.

MOVEMENT SLOW: 10%/20%/30%/40%
ILLUSION DAMAGE DEALT: 25% DAMAGE: 100/150/200/250
COOLDOWN: 7 seconds
MANA COST: 125/130/135/140

This skill can provide fearsome ganking ability (decent damage, slow for chasing) early/mid game if used right, especially with teammates. Don't use it a whole lot early on though, as the mana cost is pretty punishing until you're leveled up and have some items. Save it for those special moments, like when a stranded enemy advances too far.

W - Doppelwalk

ABILITY: No Target

Renders Phantom Lancer invisible, while generating a duplicate image to confuse enemies.

COOLDOWN: 30/25/20/15
MANA COST: 150/120/90/60

This skill is what will help you most early/midgame. By level 7, for only 60 mana you could escape ganks, set ganks up, get away with extra harassment, generate a little extra pushing power, or just plain mind game your enemies. 8 seconds of stealth can be a huge advantage, especially if your micro is good enough to make your illusion act convincingly while you sneak around.

E - Juxtapose

ABILITY: Passive

Phantom Lancer's attacks have a chance to create illusions to confuse enemies.


A nice passive that continues the illusion theme and enhances your pushing power, especially late game when you also have your ultimate and a lot more attack speed.

R - Phantom Edge

ABILITY: Passive

Phantom Lancer hones his abilities. Improves chance of Juxtaposing, and the Juxtapose illusions can now create their own illusions. Phantom Edge also increases Phantom Lancer's magic resistance.


This is a very powerful ultimate in conjunction with your other abilities. By the time you've hit level 16 and have maxed your 4 abilities (all of which create illusions), you are going to be confusing as hell and capable of quick, devastating pushes.

Skill order

Start with Doppelwalk and max it right to level 7. It is simply too powerful an escape and too useful overall. Also, its mana cost and cooldown are reduced substantially as you improve this ability. The sooner you get it ranked up, the more you can sneak around, confuse enemies, dps and push.

Next get Spirit Lance, and max it right to level 8. Though the mana cost is a bit high, it only increases by 5 per rank. With this skill you get decent damage and some chasing ability.

Similar variations (examples in builds 2 and 3) could be starting with Q, maxing right to 7; or getting W at 1, then Q on 2 and 3, maxing Q to 7 and W to 8. And so on. The basic idea is you really need your Q and W up first. Personally, I favor the Soul Ring build, but I normally play with friends who can support me so I don't have to worry about getting ganked or harassed too much early game.

Wait until 9 for the first point of Juxtapose. You have hardly any items, are focusing on last hits only, and get a ton of utility out of your Q and W. You won't get many illusions and they'll be weak anyway. Take the first point at 9, and fill it out from 12 to 14.

Phantom Edge is a very nice ultimate, but like Juxtapose, is not worth putting skill points into early on. Your other skills are hardly leveled early game, so you want to hold off until levels 10 and 11 and of course finishing it at 16.

By level 16, the combination of all your max skills will be really powerful, and with a supportive team, the pressure you provide against towers and in team fights will be decisive.

Note on the laning phase with Phantom Lancer:
You could also go for stats early and build Soul Ring/Tranquil boots (variation shown in build 4) rather than ranking up both your active abilities right away. The basic idea is, by maxing Q first, putting points into stats and buying Soul Ring, you can: (1) spam out Spirit Lance against anyone attempting to stay in lane against you; (2) always have mana for Doppelwalk escape, which allows you to max Spirit Lance and prioritize your skill points elsewhere; (3) spam out Spirit Lance to allow illusions to farm jungle while you farm the lane; and (4) have the heal from your boots to make up for Soul Ring damage and any creeps you have to tank. As you get your core items, you sell the Soul Ring and Tranquil Boots.

In my opinion, Phantom Lancer works best in the safe (long) lane with a baby sitter (or two) and his actives leveled up quickly. An ideal situation for Phantom Lancer is being given last hits on all the creeps and ganks in a tri lane or dual lane with a lot of cc; the supports more or less allowing Phantom Lancer to get some solo xp and all the farm, either by stacking and pulling the jungle or roaming and putting pressure elsewhere on the map to allow for free farm.

Stats do help to last hit but your active abilities add way more value: a ranged nuke and slow, an escape ability, and illusions. It is my experience these will do much more to enhance your laning phase as long as someone with higher attack damage than you isn't freely denying your farm. You can't get that huge farm up if you can't stay alive or offer some sort of threat beyond a melee autoattack.

Item build

Starting out you want a Ring of Protection, 1 or 2 Tango, 1 Healing Salve and Slippers of Agility (and 1 Iron Branch if you only got 1 Tango). There are two reasons you want to start with this.

First, you will have very nice sustain to keep in your lane, which is needed to compensate for your low hp. Last hitting will still be hard, but if you went with a Quelling Blade instead, you'd get forced out of the lane way too easily.

Second, you can quickly build your Ring of Protection into a Ring of Basilius for early game regeneration, which can be easily built into a Ring of Aquila. Also, if you are going for the Soul Ring/ Tranquil Boots build, the Ring of Basilius can be disassembled and go into those items.

Once you have your Ring of Basilius, you should work towards Boots of Speed, then finish off your Ring of Aquila. Then you want to work towards Power Treads. From this point you really want to save everything you can to get a Diffusal Blade ASAP.

Don't neglect buying at least 1 Town Portal Scroll though, should your team need you to move from your lane and help with a push or a gank.

Phantom Lancer can build items pretty flexibly in my opinion, going either for more tankiness or damage, but your core should really be a Blade of Alacrity, a Diffusal Blade and Power Treads for two main reasons.

First, you do best with raw stat items. A lot of agility increases your damage, attack speed and armor, which translates into more and stronger illusions.

Second, your illusions copy your items (not everything though--more in the next section). The mana drain and purge ability from Diffusal Blade are incredibly useful, giving your hero a lot of control and good stats in one item.

I also like to add Yasha/ Manta Style to my core, as the stats are very nice, and the extra illusions make your pushing power and ability to confuse enemies even greater. Heart of Tarrasque is also something I really prefer to buy, as your illusions (and you of course) are so much harder to kill, especially for supports.

The main thing is to keep up a strong economy and get your Diffusal Blade and Power Treads ASAP. Then you work to the optional items which really depends on how the game is going, or your preference.

Illusion mechanics

Since Phantom Lancer is a hero whose niche is creating many illusions, I figured it would be appropriate to have a section in this guide devoted to how illusions actually work. Your illusions only copy you and your items in a handful of ways, otherwise they simply look the same.

First, the list of what illusions do benefit from:

  • +Strength, agility and intelligence
  • +HP and mana (no percentage increases)
  • Movement speed (both as a flat addition and percentage increase)
  • Critical strike*
  • True sight
  • Feedback (melee illusions only)
  • Radiance burn aura**
  • Creep damage bonus from Quelling Blade
  • Endurance aura
  • Inner Beast aura
  • Nethertoxin
  • Spell resistance from base stats and abilities

And the list of what illusions do not benefit from:
  • Cleave
  • Active abilities
  • HP and mana regen***
  • +Damage
  • +Armor
  • +Attack speed
  • Damage block
  • Unique Attack Modifiers****
  • Bash*****
  • Backstab
  • Spell resistance from items

*The red number indicating the critical strike damage is incorrect: it shows the damage before the illusion damage reduction.
**The Radiance burn aura from your illusions will allow you to extend the influence of the aura through wider placement of your illusions (the damage from the aura, per usual, does not stack).
***This includes lifesteal.
****As may have been guessed by the core items, Diffusal Blade's mana burn is an exception (for melee illusions only).
*****With exception to Monkey King Bar. Also of note, illusions no longer "fake bash" as in Dota 1, a quirk of the Warcraft 3 engine which would extend the length of real bash procs but did nothing if a real bash proc was not present on the target before the fake bash proc occurred.

Tips and tricks

  • If you activate Doppelwalk at just the right moment, you can completely avoid most harmful targeted spells. Essentially activating it right before a spell lands will cancel out that spell. Keeping this in mind can get you out of so many bad situations.
  • Placing the hotkey for selecting your hero and selecting other units under your control right by each other (mine are space bar and X) makes it a lot easier to switch control between you and your illusions, allowing you to micro much better and make your illusions even harder to distinguish from yourself.
  • If you can without wasting mana, always send an illusion up to an area first while leaving yourself in fog or otherwise hidden, especially near towers, wards and creep waves. It's always safer to scout an area first, and you might bait enemies into attacking an illusion.

    By doing this often, your enemies might actually end up playing even worse by being incredibly conservative, always paranoid they might waste more mana and cooldowns on illusions.
  • When activating Doppelwalk to escape a bad situation, make sure to send your hero and illusion in separate directions. If you simply activate Doppelwalk and run away, your illusion tends to follow your path for the first couple seconds after spawning, which would basically ruin your escape if someone simply targets the illusion with any sort of aoe.
  • Be mindful of towers, sentry wards and enemies with dust of appearance or true sight. Nothing is worse than trying to push or go for a risky gank only to discover your escape plan won't work because you aren't actually invisible.
  • When you see an enemy approaching you while you are in the middle of a huge pile of illusions, select just one of them and command it to run away. Out of instinct a lot of people will quickly go for what seems like a kill. You can activate Doppelwalk and, depending on the situation, either go for a gank or make a smooth escape.


Please leave a constructive comment and vote, as I will always be seeking to improve the guide. I have had a lot of fun working on it and hope you guys enjoyed reading it, NOW GO OWN (FARM)!

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