Hi everyone. I've been playing Dota for about 3 years now (with a good bit of the past year spent in Dota 2) and have been playing semi-competitively for a little over a year. I've been playing anti-mage extensively lately and he's honestly one of my favorite carries (and apparently the community's too based on his popularity). Despite his current OP status, he has been seeing alot less success in recent tournaments. I think that the primary reason for that is because the current meta is geared towards early domination, tower pushing and ganking and it just takes too much time and farm for anti-mage to begin to provide contribution for his team. Teams are much more used to facing him nowadays and are starting to discover easy ways to slow/lock him down and take quick wins.
Let's face it; in the current meta, a competitive anti-mage has to be a cost-efficient anti-mage. His endgame potential will always be there, but he needs to be able to farm up and start contributing to ganks and teamfights earlier than ever if he's going to see consistent success. Because of this, i have put together this guide which lists how i believe is the most cost efficient and most feasible way to get him to start carrying earlier on in the game.
I realize that some of my build suggestions are ones that you hardly ever or have never seen, but trust me, they work. I use this build all the time and it has served me well in all kinds of lineups. I came up with this build assuming even some of the most difficult lane setups and you should be able to consistently to farm these items by the game times i have listed above. If you can farm them even faster, even better (you can carry even earlier). You should however try to aim for these items by at least the game times that i have listed.
Pros of Cost Efficient Anti-Mage:
-Can contribute to teamfights earlier (harder to shut down).
-Crazy chase/escape potential.
-Still has crazy hard-carry potential.
-Not as scared of burst damage 10-20 minutes in as an anti-mage that rushes Battlefury or even Vanguard.
-Can enable his team to apply relatively early Roshan pressure.
-Can farm jungle relatively fast around the 8-12 minute mark (faster than Vanguard anti-mage for sure but a little slower than a Battlefury anti-mage).
-Brings some useful buffs for his team in the form of Vlads and Drums.
Cons of Cost Efficient Anti-Mage:
-Gold-per minute won't be as high as a Battlefury anti-mage (but it doesn't need to be! You're being efficient!)
-Gotta remember to turn on/off that Armlet of Mordiggian...
-Manta style gets delayed slightly (but that's ok cause you'll be owning in teamfights and get it in no time anyway!)
-Vulnerable to CC till he gets a BKB (this applies to every single hero in the game).
I'm not going to sit here and write out an explanation for anti-mages' skills (because you can read about them and how they work anywhere). I will however explain the logic behind my skill sequence:
Why Blink at levels 1,3,7 and 9?
You want to pick up quick levels of Blink at level 1 and 3 because it is your primary escape/chase mechanism and it is awesome! You do however want to be efficient with levelling it because at very early levels you want to gain the benefits of your other skills and you won't have the mana pool to spam it every 5 seconds anyway. The first two points grants you a significant 3 second cooldown reduction whereas subsequent levels only decrease the cooldown by 2 seconds. Despite that you still will want to max it early in the game after getting some points in your other skills, as it will save you from ganks and when it's time to teamfight it will allow you to pick off stragglers easily. (In the current meta teamfights quickly devolve into cat and mouse chases).
Why a single level of Spell Shield at lvl 2 and then maxing it so late? (lvl 17,18 and 19)
A single level of Spell Shield gives you the most benefit for the point (26%) and it helps with that pesky spell harass in lane. (Make their mana expenditure less efficient! That's what this is all about, EFFICIENCY) It's inefficient to take more points of Spell Shield until later in the game. It's much more important max your other skills and get some stats first. It could be argued that it's better to take the skillpoint at lvl 4 in favor of earlier Mana Break, since enemies don't typically start harassing with their spells till they have put some more levels in them but I disagree. There are many heroes that are designed around spell harass starting at lvl 3 to gain lane dominance (Zeus, Shadow Demon, KOTL, Magnus, Windrunner etc.) and the single point in Spell Shield simply gives you too much to ignore. Let's take a moment to run some numbers:
As you probably already know, magic resist does not stack additively with your base magic resistance of 25%. On average, a 1% increase in magic resistance results in an actual increase of about 0.7%. So the first level of Spell Shield grants you a 26% x 0.7= 18.2% actual increase in magic resistance. Subsequent levels only give an increase of 8% x 0.7 = 5.6%. Also keep in mind that while in the early stages of the mid-game most of the damage you will take in clashes will be magical, a 5.6% increase in magic resistance will not raise your effective HP significantly enough while your health pool is still low and the enemy's spells are not levelled to max effectiveness yet. An increase of +2 to all stats will give you +38 health, 2% Attack Speed, 2 Damage, and some small amounts of mana and armor. These stat levels actually give you more value before you get a bunch of items rather than after. The stat increases not only give you more effective health till you are up to the 1200 health or more range, but they also improve your ability to farm. The magic resistance only helps you in team fights and you only get the most out of it once your enemy has their strongest level spells. That is why I suggest waiting till lvl 17 to get the rest of Spell Shield's levels.
Why Mana Break at levels 4,5, 8 and 10?
You shouldn't be going for harass or even kills before level 4 (or even till lvl 6 or greater honestly). Your priority should be getting CS and Mana Break doesnt help you with that very much. You do want to max Mana Break after Blink though because it IS a great passive and WILL make you annoying/scary when you start teamfighting.
Why Mana Void at levels 6,11 and 16?
Its your ultimate and its a damn good one, put a point in it every chance you get. As an additional note, make sure to use it on targets that have used up (or you have burnt) alot of their mana. It does damage based on how much of their mana is missing so the more mana they are missing (ie targets that had alot of mana to begin with) the harder this will hit. DO NOT use this ultimate on a target with full or near-full mana, it will do almost no damage. Also try to use it on mana-drained targets that are clumped with the rest of their team because it does AOE damage and can net you multiple kills! (INCREDIBLE SYNERGY WITH ULTS LIKE BLACK HOLE OR SKILLS LIKE EMP) Remember that Mana Void also does a mini-stun so it can be used to prevent enemies from teleporting away or channelling a spell.
I think most of the items are pretty self-explanatory and obvious, i will take some time however to explain the logic behind some of my less-common item choices.
Why the early Bracer and Poor Man Shield?
Anti-mage needs last-hitting power and he needs to be able to withstand some harass in lane. These items+quelling blade will give you the stats and block necessary to do that for a cheap price. Additionally make sure to buy tangos as necessary because you will lack sustain until you complete your Vlads.
Alot of pro players like to rush Vanguard for the tankiness/sustain that it provides but i have found that going for Vanguard first often leaves anti-mage with terrible damage output around the (12-20 minute mark) when alot of the major pushes begin. It's most often inevitable that by the 12-20 minute mark anti-mage will be unable to absorb much aoe damage/hits regardless whether he goes Vanguard or not. As such it is better for him to be able to soak up a couple hits but leans more towards having hitting power to pick off the enemy teams' squishies. At the very least, the aura provided by the early Vlads will give your team more sustain and teamfight potential to counter early pushes than a Vanguard will.
I've done a quick number crunch to compare the gains of going this build:
Pano's build with Bracer, Poor Man's Shield, Ring of Basilius and Ring of Regen Cost: 1925g
2.2 health regen
20 damage block
9 attack speed
0.77 mana regen
Rushing Vanguard Cost: 2225g
6 health regen
28 damage block (70% x 40= 28)
As you can see, anti-mage gains alot more useful stats for a lower price tag by getting some cheap early game items rather than rushing a a Vanguard. These items will also have great synergy with the the next few items.
By going Bracer->Poor Man Shield->Vlads first anti-mage will have a useful aura for his team, a little bit of beefiness and, most importantly, great synergy with his items that will come in the next few minutes.
Why the Armlet of Mordiggian? No one builds that! Are you crazy?!
I'm sure most of you have almost never seen an anti-mage build armlet. Personally i have encountered it maybe 4-5 times in pub games and have NEVER seen it in a competitive match. But to be honest, it astonishes me that no one does it. In reality, Armlet is an incredible, cost-efficient item for anti-mage. Let's take a look at it:
For 2600 gold, a turned on armlet can instantly provide anti-mage with 40 attack damage, 25 attack speed, 5 armor and a whopping 500 health! Sure armlet provides even more benefits to STR heroes, but do STR heroes have anti-mage's skillset and OP endgame scaling? No they dont. The item still provides anti-mage everything that he needs to kick butt in mid-game teamfights and it does with a much cheaper price tag than other core items like Manta style.
When combined with the other cheap items that preceded it, by 24 minutes or sooner anti-mage will have high health, high damage, high attack speed, high armor, high magic resist, damage block, high movespeed, health regen, mana regen, lifesteal and two awesome auras for his team. He will be ready to start carrying his team for the low pricetag of 8375 gold, which averages out to 349 gold per minute (not even accounting for the 603 starting gold since depending on the lanes you may have to spend 300-500 of that on regen/port scrolls along the way). Most competent players can farm at 349 gold per minute or better,so in most games a competent player will be able to start carrying around the 20 minute mark easily. Let's do a number crunch comparing a cookie cutter Vanguard + Manta Rush compared to my build (excluding Power treads since both builds buy them):
Cookie Cutter Vanguard + Manta Rush Cost= 7125g
28 damage block
6.3 hp regen
41 attack speed
0.4 mana regen
Manta split (benefits too hard to quantify, the benefits are vastly situational)
Pano's Drum of Endurance + Vlad + Armlet + Poor Man Shield Build Cost= 6925g
20 damage block
38 attack speed
7.3 hp regen (ends up being -29 degen with armlet on)
0.36 mana regen
5 armor (aura)
15% total damage (aura)
16% lifesteal (aura)
15% movespeed (aura)
15 attack speed (aura)
0.8 mana regen (aura)
*Benefits of the auras also too hard to quantify because it varies greatly based on team positioning/comp/situation much like it varies with manta. Nevertheless they at least give substantial bonuses to anti-mage's stats in all situations.
As you can see, my cost-efficient builds gives you alot more for less money. You hit harder, faster, have more health, more armor and give your team auras!
Why the Drum of Endurance, isn't that a support item?
Yes Drum is a support item, but it's actually good on everyone. Supports and carries alike. In my opinion every team should have one, as well as a Mekansm and Pipe. Since your supports will not likely complete it by the time you start teamfighting (seeing as how they have to ward, get Mekansm, Pipe and get Blink dagger if they are an initiate), why not get it since it builds off your bracer anyway? It gives anti-mage all kinds of things that he needs mid-game, buff his team and the movement speed stacks with manta style. In competitive games you often see Str carries like CK and Sven pick it up early for the utility it gives them and their team. If it is good on them why wouldn't it be good on you? It gives the same damage to them at is it does to you and one should never underestimate the power of more movespeed, even with a blink. The only stats that AM needs to buff up to start making a contribution to teamfights is health and attack speed and drums will give you an efficient amount of both while also buffing your team. It's a win/win! If you havent won the game by the time you got your armlet, manta and have replaced your poor man's shield with something else (which in most cases you will probably will win by then) then sell it and get a real carry item. You'll have probably expended its charges by then anyway.
What about the situational items? How do i decide which of those to buy?
Black King Bar In most competitive games, after your Manta Style a Black King Bar is a must. Good team compositions simply have too much crowd control and they will be gunning for you now that you are starting to get scary. It should be a core but i list it as situational just because it won't be as useful if you're not facing alot of CC or if you just don't know how to use it correctly (waste of money if you're not good at timing it).
Butterfly: Always a good item to have on a hard carry, it raises your survivability even more and gives you alot of damage. Unfortunately it is countered by Monkey King Bar so if the enemy carry/ies is building or has built one of those then you should probably go for something else.
Monkey King Bar: It counters Butterfly, Heaven's Halberd and heroes with evasion (like Brewmaster or Faceless Void), if your enemies are building a Butterfly or have evasion then build one of these. The mini-bash is also nice.
Heart of Tarrasque: Turning your Armlet on and off is annoying and/or the enemy team has alot of burst. The Heart gives you even more insane health than you already have with the Armlet. Unfortunately it doesn't give you any damage but you'll already be hitting very hard so if you're getting bursted alot then get one of these, turn your Armlet on indefinitely and enjoy being almost unkillable.
Skull Basher: Anti-mage with Manta split, mana burn, Armlet, lifesteal, a 5 second blink and NOW A STUN. Congratulations you are now one of the best assassins in the game. No one is gonna get away from you except for those pesky stealthies. (Tell your support to carry dust or just get a Gem of True sight; you're tanky as hell now anyway) Can be upgraded into an Abyssal Blade that gives you even more damage and the ability to stun through BKB! Very nice.
Gem of True Sight: You're facing stealthies. Screw Rikimaru, get one of these once you got your core and hunt this punk down. He can't beat you if you can see him.
Town Portal Scroll: Always have one of these in your inventory after the laning phase is over (i.e. when supports/gankers start running around to lanes to setup ganks and push towers). It can be used to escape strong ganks when a blink escape doesn't look sufficient (you can blink into the trees and TP out), it can be used to go farm another lane when your lane is pushed, and of course it can and should be used to defend 5-man pushes once you got your core up.
Why the situational wand and courier early game?
Wand is a great early game item on almost every hero but it IS actually quite situational. It gives some cheap stats and if used properly can save you from death quite often, however it isn't as optimal as you may think. If you are facing heroes/players in lane that tend to use spells to last hit/harass alot (Zeus, Batrider, KOTL come to mind) then wand is a must buy. It tends to come with experience to be able to decide early on if wand is/isn't an efficient buy for that game. It's never a bad buy, but i find myself quite often nowadays foregoing it to get bigger items faster (might have something to do with the types of players/heroes that i've been facing alot too).
If no one buys a courier at the start of the game, don't buy the circlet and get the courier instead. You can live without the circlet but a courier truly is gamebreaking. You need it, your team needs it. I know you're the carry and you shouldn't have to buy it but if no one is doing it in a pub game then be the smarter guy and get it.
Thank you guys for taking the time to read this guide. I hope you try it out and that it serves you as well as it has served me so far. Please make sure to upvote me if you like it and to comment if you think something else works even better! I will be updating and adjusting this guide based on my experiences and how the meta changes.
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