"Axe is not stupid!" - The Int Axe Compendium
April 12, 2013
Why Int? Surely you jest?
Let me tell you why this build works:
1. Axe is strongest early-mid game. This build capitalizes on that - your core items are all very cost-efficient, so your utility will skyrocket at the same time your skillset does. L5-12 are very kind to Axe - use this period to push towers and take a gold advantage for your team.
2. Battle Hunger. Battle Hunger's damage, when the target cannot find a lasthit to clear the debuff, will deal 150/273/432/627 damage for 75/85/95/105 mana. That's insanely efficient. If you increase your mana pool and regeneration, you can drive this advantage home hard.
Once it's level 2, you will spam it constantly in lane using your Clarities, forcing the enemy into a defensive position where their CS is going to suck.
Once you have a Soul Ring and Tranquils, you will spam it whenever Soul Ring is off cooldown.
Once you have a heap of Int, you'll be able to cast it on every enemy.
The moral of the story is: You will be able to spam Battle Hunger constantly all game with this build.
3. Axe is kind of a caster. Seriously. He has 3 spam-worthy spells that are all pretty mana-hungry for a guy who doesn't have much Int gain. He doesn't even need to be in melee to cast his DoT, either. An int toolkit benefits him greatly.
Short and Sweet Guide to Your Abilities
Q - Berserker's Call
- Forces everyone who's in your face to right click attack you for a few seconds.
- During those seconds, you get a HUUUGE armor bonus.
Because it's only a ten second cooldown at all levels of the skill, you should use this any opportunity you can. Offensively, it is good when you see a cluster of enemies you can Counter Helix, or if a weak enemy is going to retreat. "Were you going somewhere, Zeus with 30% HP? Sorry, but I'm afraid you're autoattacking me for the next 3 seconds!" Force Staff helps a LOT for setting up teamfight-winning taunts.
Defensively, you mostly will use it to save allies who are getting focused down, forcing enemies to hit the armored whirling cyclone of metal instead of your carry buddy who'll die in one right click. However, its cooldown is low, so you can be liberal with it - even if you're getting ganked by a ranged hero who isn't in range, it's good to pop this ability just for the armor buff while you either get in melee range or get out of there.
W - Battle Hunger
- Puts a 10/13/16/19 second damage-over-time debuff on someone.
- This debuff can be removed by your target if they kill any unit.
- Every ticking Battle Hunger gives Axe 8% more movespeed.
This does a LOT OF DAMAGE. If the enemy hero can't lasthit, they'll take 150/273/432/627 over the duration of the spell! This is your bread and butter spell and the first thing you max. As the game progresses, the way you use the spell will change.
Early on, the damage is insane. Battle Hunger effectively states to your opponent, "Either you're getting into the creep wave to land a kill, or you're suffering a huge nuke." Most people underestimate the damage and eat the nuke. If they come into the creep line and fish for a lasthit, punish them - Berserker's Call is great for this.
As the game progresses, your opponents will get more HP, and you will get more mana. This is where the movement speed comes in. As you go into late-game, you will be able to spam the spell more and more - and the more Battle Hungers you have ticking, the more movespeed you rack up.
The stipulation of it being dispellable through kills must be on your mind when you use this spell! Don't use it if there's a creep one auto-attack away from death nearby. But everytime there is a good opportunity, you should be using your Soul Ring - if there are no creeps around, or if you are controlling the creep line, DoT every chance you get!
E - Counter Helix
- Passively grants Axe a 17% chance when attacked to spin-slash and hit close baddies.
- Hits for 100/135/170/205 damage on a 0.65/0.6/0.55/0.5 sec CD.
This is your payoff for being a beefy strength hero: Foussing attacks on you effectively turns you into a tornado of death. Your Berserker's Call works excellently with Counter Helix, effectively forcing enemies to hit you for no damage while they eat some Counter Helix twirls. So whenever the enemies are clumped up, man up and initiate!
It's also handy when you're not fighting heroes. You will use this skill for quick lane pushes, and fast jungling. Creeps attacking you will die in after a few helixes.
R - Culling Blade
- Instantly kills a target in melee range with 300/450/625 or less HP.
- Does a couple hundred damage if they're above kill threshhold.
- If a kill happens, gives a 6 sec movement speed buff to any close allies.
Watch the HP bars (250 per small tick). If someone's falling below the threshold, kill them. Goes through Shallow Grave and shuts down Armlet carriers hard!
The movement speed buff gives you teamfight momentum. Nuking someone down to Culling Blade range and quickly finishing them off will mean you can press the advantage if nobody on your team died - or it can provide an escape if they did.
When do I pick Int Axe?
Most people play Axe as an initiator. Frankly? Axe is not one of the better initators. What are you going to do, blink in, taunt, and make a few people eat 1-2 Counter Helixes? No, Axe's true calling... is killing a target in two buttons.
Int Axe is, first and foremost, an anti-carry. Maxing Battle Hunger first regularly forces a carry out of lane, and his skillset makes the creep line a dangerous place. More attack speed on Axe means more Counter Helixes - Agi melee carries don't fair well against Axe for this reason.
Pick Int Axe if:
- Enemy heroes need farm to win.
- Enemy heroes have low max HP.
- Enemy heroes have high attack speed.
- Your strategy involves taking towers early.
Don't pick Int Axe if:
- You need disables (you'll be maxing Berserker's Call last)
- Enemy heroes attack slow and strong
- Enemy heroes have a nuke-heavy lineup
- Enemy heroes have strong lasthitters
Your Core and You
Tranquil Boots + Soul Ring
For a similar price to the fancier boots, you can have a limitless (well, 60 sec/20sec respectively) pool of health and mana. Axe likes health, because it means more time in the enemy team's face twirling. Axe likes mana, because it means he can always cast his spells. Axe likes cheap, because that means less time farming, more time crushing skulls!
If you see action brewing, pop Soul Ring and Tranquils so that when the fight happens, you're at full HP and can open with a free Battle Hunger.
When it first occurred to me how good Dagon is on Axe, both my team and the enemy laughed at me. Then I went 25/5/17. Here's why Dagon is good:
1. Range. Especially with broken Tranquils, Axe is slow. Dagon extends the area of the game you have control of. Running away from Axe isn't easy anymore.
2. Dagon + Culling Blade. Culling Blade has a kill threshold. Your Dagon effectively increases that threshold
. With the skill maxed and a L3 Dagon (about the most I'd recommend upgrading it), anyone with 1225 or less HP is a potential INSTAGIB
for Axe in two buttons.
3. Dagon + Battle Hunger. Remember how I said Axe is kind of a caster? If someone runs early (say, after you Dagon them) and you're too far for your ult, you can still probably Battle Hunger. If it's maxed and you land one on someone with ~600 HP or less (HP regen factored in), they'll either be forced to heal or die. And it is incredibly infuriating
dying to Battle Hunger.
Every upgrade costs 1300 and grants a little Int, a shorter CD, a larger range, and a smaller manacost. I highly advise an upgrade or two in the midgame.
HP regen? Axe likes that. Mana? Axe likes that. Mobility? Axe DESPERATELY NEEDS THAT. Use Force Staff to reposition during teamfights, to dodge spells, to escape, to land awesome taunts... and of course, to push your teammates into fountain-diving. It's only 25 mana - you can afford it.
But what about Blink Dagger?
Some people like Blink Dagger on Axe. I love Blink Dagger... but it's pretty lackluster on Int Axe. Here's why:
- Blink Dagger is for big initiates - RP, Black Hole, and so on. If you were to build Battle Hunger last, sure, Blink's great. But not when you're building taunt last, when your abilities start to do less damage and everyone's HP is a lot higher.
- You can Blink in with Blink Dagger, sure - but Axe is meant to take damage, and Blink Dagger turns off when you take damage. You can blink into a fight, but you probably can't blink out.
- Force Staff has 10 Int and 3 HP/s for a similar price. Blink has 0 stats.
- Force Staff can be used on anyone, friend or foe. Can you yoink an enemy into tower range and taunt them into eating tower hits with a Blink Dagger? Didn't think so. Buy a Force Staff.
Int Axe Gameplay: Laning Phase
So you just picked Int Axe and you grabbed your items. What lane?
I recommend the suicide-lane the most. Safe lane is usually where carries are, and your primary goal is to shut down their carry.
However, bottom-lane is a fantastic choice too. The jungle is accessible for farm, which lets you cover your free-farming carry and get lasthits and XP yourself.
Mid-lane is doable on Int Axe, but your results are largely tied to your ability to last hit versus your opponent so that Battle Hunger works. Int Axe does have a favourable attack animation for lasthitting - but he is melee, which severely counts against him. Going solo against a good ranged disabler or nuker is not advised. If you do opt to go toe-to-toe against a Night Stalker, I highly recommend buying a Quelling Blade with your first handful of lasthits so you can secure full duration Battle Hungers.
Here's your itinerary:
L1-L2: Harass and get farm. You need some gold and a fast L3 to get the ball rolling. If you're with a carry, split your attention between last-hits and harass. You are burly at start-game thanks to Counter Helix - don't be afraid to play aggressive, but watch for disables.
L3 - Start DoTing, keep up pressure up with harass. Start casting this on CD as long as your mana keeps sustained. You should have a Null Talisman (or be close) at this point, so you should have a stat advantage over your enemy. Try to cancel Clarities and Salves.
L4-L6 - Your opponents have burned through their regen. It's time to start looking to secure kills in lane. Once you have Tranquils it is time to assess how your opponents are acting:
A. Did they back off from your harass, staying in XP range?
If they back off, get a gold advantage, and once you have a few items, push the lane. Taking the tower early is ideal, especially if another good pusher is on hand - even with Berserker's Call and Counter Helix at first level, you're still a pushing force to be reckoned with.
B. Did they take on Axe's challenge, enduring harass and trying to lasthit?
They're going to die to Axe. If you have some good disable in your lane and catch them out of position, you may not need mid's help, but call for a gank if need be.
L7 - Battle Hunger hits its hardest now and you should be having Tranquil Boots and Soul Ring around this point. It's time to start securing kills. Spam your items for free mana and pile the DoTs on thick - if you're waiting for cooldowns, grab some farm in the jungle, but don't venture too far.
L8-10 - Prime roaming time. Axe can push lanes early - if you can push faster than your opponents, you should be looking to kill most or all of the T1s. Naturally, you're also a good counterpusher if the enemy tries to push early.
Depending on the game, you may want to beef up a little more once you have your core. These are some cost-efficient options to keep in mind. All of these are realistic to pick up during early-midgame while Axe is still at the crux of his effectiveness.
Vanguard is a really subpar item that happens to synergize well with Axe's abilities, making it an okay choice situationally. In the VERY early game, it's pretty good, but unfortunately the block it provides scales TERRIBLY the further into the game you go. The stats on it are good for Axe and you'll be buying a Stout Shield anyway, so if the enemy team is right-click heavy it can be a beneficial choice. Its power drops off really fast, though, so don't buy one after the laning phase is over.
Black King Bar
If the enemy team has ten disables and keeps trying to stunlock you down, a BKB is a must-have. Depending on the game, it may even be worth prioritizing before a Force Staff.
This item is great on Axe. To maximize your survivability with Blade Mail, it should be used as taunts end - not at the same time. After your taunt is up, your enemies can cast again, your armor bonus is gone, and it's 7-8 seconds until it's off cooldown. Blade Mail is your bridge between two taunts. It makes it a bad idea to attack you for 4.5 seconds of this downtime, leaving a measly 2.5-3 seconds to hit Axe before taunt's off cooldown! This extra safe time is great for NUKING SOME SCRUBS DOWN.
If your team is in need of disables, Axe is a good choice to hold a Eul's. Since Battle Hunger and Culling Blade provide percent-based movement bonuses, your tornado-stick's movement speed will factor into the multiplicative bonus, and you'll be swimming in mana to boot.
An effective way to use Eul's in teamfights:
1. Lead the attack, throwing out Battle Hunger and your taunt.
2. Soak some damage and twirl a bit.
3. When you're around 50% HP, Eul's yourself out of harm.
4. Let your team beat on them while they're forced to retarget.
5. As you return to earth, Culling Blade anyone weak to give your team a massive movement speed increase.
6. Cleanup with Dagon and Battle Hunger as they try to flee in vain!
Hood of Defiance
Lots of damaging spells on the other team? Hood of Defiance's 30% spell resist will ruin a caster's day. And for a little more gold, you can build this into a Pipe of Insight, which is one of the most fantasticly cost-effective team items in the game. This is the right choice when you see Linas, Zeuses, and Jakiros on the enemy squad.
How to optimize your Battle Hunger use
Battle Hunger ends when its target lands a lasthit. You don't want that. So to get the most out of your Battle Hungers:
1. Look at the HP and positioning of creeps (and heroes) that are close.
If there's easy lasthits around, Battle Hunger could be a complete waste of mana. Wait for either no low-HP units to be on hand, or for your target to be low HP.
2. Pop your Soul Ring and Tranquils before using Battle Hunger when possible.
The 150 bonus mana from the Soul Ring makes Battle Hunger effectively free at all levels, with a little bonus mana to pop a Berseker's Call or an ult if necessary.
3. Be present in the creep wave.
If they go for a last-hit, you can Berserker's Call to draw aggro to you and effectively deny it. Or, y'know, just deny it.
4. Be smart about your target.
Think about who you'd prefer to have several hundred less HP when the fight begins. Make them your Battle Hunger *****.
5. Remember that any lasthit, including denies and structures, end Battle Hunger as well.
Make sure to land your la*****, because if they get denied, your Battle Hunger was wasted. If you're using Battle Hunger near a low HP tower, you better be ready to deny it!
6. Late-game, use your massive mana pool to put it on every single person who enters its range.
Did you read the part about your movespeed stacking up for every cast? Between Battle Hunger, Culling Blade, and Force Staff, Turbo Axe can fly all over the battlefield.
There is a chance you are shaking your head. "It can't be," you think, "Axe is supposed to get nothing but tank items, I don't believe this hippie Int nonsense for a moment!"
But some of you, like me, will be intrigued. And that intrigue will grow into curiosity and the next thing you know you'll be KSing with Dagon and dodging nukes with Force Staff all the way to victory.
This guide has been renovated extensively, but still continues to improve. Expect a section on mid/late-game Int Axe in future.
Apr 8/13: Made this.
Apr 8/13: Fixed dumb errors.
Apr 9/13: Added a section on add-on survivability items. Increased prettiness.
Apr 13/13: Added a section on Laning as Int Axe.