Want to one-shot people in DOTA 2? Phantom Assassin is the hero for you. We’ve put together an extensive guide on how to play her.
There’s simply no better feeling than one-shotting your opponents. This satisfaction is encapsulated in DOTA 2 by none other than the Phantom Assassin. True to her name, Phantom Assassin excels at jumping in and out of fights, and blowing up opponents with her insane physical burst.
While her kit may seem straightforward, this glass cannon has a lot more nuance than most might consider. To help you crit your way to the top, we’ve put together this guide to Mortred the Phantom Assassin.
Phantom Assassin’s Skill Build
Just like our previous guides, if you want to read about the hero’s abilities in depth, you can check out the Dota 2 Wiki Page. Here we’re going to be focusing on tips and tricks that will help you make the most out of PA’s kit.
Thankfully, how you level up PA’s skills is going to be the same across all games: you want to max Dagger first because its good in lane. Put 1 value point into Blur at level 4 and max Phantom Strike next as it helps you farm faster. Take your ultimate whenever its available, because on PA, we’re all about those crits!
Stifling Dagger (Q)
This ability is PA’s bread and butter. In an ideal world, one dagger = one support kill, but in the meantime, here are some things you should know about the ability.
Stifling Dagger is what allows PA to poke and prod at her opponents without much commitment. The Dagger not only has True Strike (meaning it ignores evasion), it also applies on-hit effects, such as her crit, bashes, negative armour effects and the like. The ability also gives lingering vision on the target, allowing you to follow up with a Phantom Strike if the engagement looks good.
In the early laning stage, the ability is a helpful tool for farming. Between reaching creeps out of attack range, or securing difficult last hits under tower, the low cooldown and mana cost means you can spam it to your heart’s content. If you want to be really sweaty, be sure to cast Stifling Dagger from fog to prevent your lane opponents from getting free Magic Stick charges.
It’s important to note that Stifling Dagger DOES go through magic immunity (but the slow effect does not).
Phantom Strike (W)
Just like all her other spells, Phantom Strike’s ridiculously low cooldown allows PA to, well – play like a true assassin. The spell gives bonus attack speed when used on an enemy – perfect for increasing the chances of a crit or just to fast a little faster!
And just like Stifling Dagger, Phantom Strike goes through magic immunity – so don’t let those BKB heroes run away!
On top of pouncing on squishy backline targets, you can also use it on allies to get out of sticky situations. Be sure to communicate to your allies when you want to blink out onto them, so they can position accordingly.
Take note that Phantom Strike cannot disjoint or dodge any projectiles, unlike say an Anti-Mage blink (although a well-timed use of Blur’s active CAN disjoint projectiles).
Blur (E passive)
This ability is what gives PA a good carry-to-carry match-up by default. While the hero herself is rather squishy, the ungodly amount of evasion means that the opponents simply cannot hit you. This of course changes when they get a Monkey King Bar, but that’s a heavy investment for opponents to make.
This makes PA very strong against heroes that don’t naturally build MKB (like Anti-Mage, Spectre, Luna) because it forces them to spend 5000 gold on an item they don’t really want.
As mentioned above, Blur can be activated to dodge spells and ranged auto attacks if timed correctly. It can also just be very disorientating and annoying to play against, so use this after your initial jump to buy yourself a few seconds.
When activated, Blur makes PA impossible to be seen, essentially “invisible” in the game (and mini-map). This invisibility is unique though, and can only be broken by an enemy being within a certain range of PA. As such, even Observers or Sentries will not be able to see your hero. Opponents will be able to see the creeps you’re killing if they have vision in the area though, so do be wary of that.
Note: Blur can be used as an ‘alarm system’ – because when you are Blurred and it suddenly ends, it means an enemy hero is nearby.
Coupe De Grace (Ultimate)
There’s not much to say about this ability, it’s what lets PA get the job done. The immense boost to her crit damage is her defining trait as a carry hero.
Aghanim’s Shards: Fan of Knives
This recent addition to Phantom Assassin allows her to take out heroes that previously had pesky passives. Notable heroes include Tidehunter, Spectre, and Bristleback. The AOE break on Fan of Knives make it hard to miss, and helps PA cut through even the tankiest of targets.
PA’s Talents – What talents to pick and why?
Lvl 10: -2 Dagger Cooldown vs +175 Health
PA’s biggest weakness is magical burst, so any boost to her HP is good. Don’t bother with the Dagger Cooldown as the cooldown is already low enough.
Lvl 15: +250 Phantom Strike Cast Range vs 12% Lifesteal
Lifesteal on a carry? Should be an easy choice! WRONG! Keep praying for your Possessed Mask and pick Phantom Strike Cast Range. This talent allows PA to jump the backlines with ease, and have a much bigger game impact than 12% Lifesteal ever could.
Lvl 20: +35% Blur Evasion vs -3 Armor Corruption
Generally -3 Armor Corruption is the way to go here as doubling down on Evasion still gets hard countered by MKB. However, if your opponents can’t afford MKB/aren’t building it (lord knows why), Blur Evasion makes you nigh untouchable.
Lvl 25: Triple Stifling Dagger vs +7% Coup De Grace chance
Your main objective as PA is to knock down targets one by one, which the added Coup De Grace chance will help with. Triple Dagger sounds cool in theory, but is generally not too good, unless you’re banking on slowly whittling away at your opponents. You really only want that when you can’t commit yourself into fights safely though.
How To Pilot PA Throughout the Game
More so than most other heroes, it is good decision making that makes or breaks a good Phantom Assassin. Knowing where to farm, when to go in, how to skirt around your opponents – these are all essential to mastering the hero. Here’s a rough guideline on how to pilot her throughout the game.
Phantom Assassin in the Early Game
The early to mid-game is where Phantom Assassin is the weakest. Farming and hitting your item timings should be your top priority.
While her damage is nowhere as explosive early on, she has a slow in Stifling Dagger and blink in Phantom Strike. With the help of allies, securing kills here and there isn’t out of the question. Her kit truly excels when paired with supports that have control and a little extra damage, like Grimstroke.
If you feel like your lane match-up is in your favor, feel free to harass the living hell out of the opponent offlaner. Be aware that if the enemies have Magic Sticks, each dagger is a free charge (unless you throw it from fog). Keep this in mind when committing for kills.
If you’re up against a tough match-up, hang back and last hit with Stifling Dagger.
Items for the Lane
The first items are very important on PA, and you should vary your choice based on what you need. Magic Stick is almost always good, but can be skipped in certain match-ups. If you’re up against a lot of harass but low kill potential, a rushed Ring Of Health will fix you right up. If you’re against a lane combo that can threaten to kill you, a Boots of Speed can keep you out of harm’s way. Generally though, a Band of Elvenskin is usually better before Boots, as it allows you to hit harder and faster. More damage equals more last hits baby.
Good PAs Skip the Wraith Band!
Finally, you CAN build Wraith Band in lanes where last hitting is difficult, but try to avoid this as much as possible as it is essentially wasted gold going into the mid game.
Laning Phase Break-Up (7 to 10 minutes)
When the lanes start dispersing, your next task is to identify where to farm. Your options usually are between TP-ing to the offlane, staying in the safelane, or going to the jungle. While PA isn’t too bad at jungling, the ideal situation is to occupy a lane, so jungling should be your last resort.
Here’s a handy though process to help you assess the options:
Is your safelane match up becoming problematic? If you’re against a Timbersaw or Doom that can dive and kill you, leave the lane.
If the enemy team is flocking around your safelane tower with the Siege Creep, it’s probably time to bounce as well.
Basically – unless the safelane remains safe, it’s best to get outta there. You can also alternate between jungle and lane, but make sure to pay attention for rotations. The enemy team WANTS to kill your safelane tower, so don’t let them have you as well.
Phantom Assassin in the Mid Game
Come the mid game, you have two goals: get your core items and stay alive.
Soft committing is an important concept for PA players. The idea of soft committing is essentially coming to a teamfight but never putting yourself at risk of dying. This means lurking on the side, throwing daggers on squishy heroes or jumping a support who got out of position. All the while never actually making yourself a target. Try to wait for your team to stun or isolate heroes before jumping in.
This can feel really awkward if you are not used to it and it can feel like you are playing too scared or simply watching your team die. IGNORE THESE FEELINGS. As an early game PA you can easily die to 1 stun if you are caught out and it’s going to slow down your farm and lose you the game.
The ideal early/mid game teamfight for a PA is turning up a little bit late – cleaning up a kill or two and going back to farming. At the end of the day, PA is a hero all about item timings – anything that slows her farm down can be game losing.
Where To Farm
As a general rule – you want to farm lanes as much as possible (especially before your Battle Fury is completed). In most games, the your offlane will be the safest location to farm. Farming here will give you access to a few jungle camps and let you fall back to your ancients if needed.
PA becomes particularly strong when she finishes her Desolator as it allows her to do insane damage and pretty much instantly kill anyone with a Dagger + Phantom Strike combo (especially supports).
Keep in mind that while you dish out a lot of damage, you can’t take it so much yourself – yet. Continue to soft-commit during the fights unless they are very clearly in your favor.
Black King Bar + Desolator
Once you have a BKB and Deso completed, this is your strongest timing as you will likely be the most powerful hero in the game. You deal insane damage while being immune to stuns and magical damage (PA’s biggest weaknesses).
It’s go time! With BKB you want to take fights with your team, secure Rosh (which dies easily because you have Deso) and push down towers after successful teamfights.
Tell your team to buy a smoke (or buy it yourself) – look for a good fight which will let you take Rosh afterwards. Having the Aegis on PA is extremely powerful, as it allows her to commit harder into fights – blowing up a target and starting the fight off right!
Again, you may be strong but PA’s not invulnerable – you can still get chain-stunned and burst – so try not to waste BKB early in the fight or be too greedy with it. Using BKB effectively can be quite the balancing act between these two – with a few practice games you will get a hang of it.
A tip for effective BKB usage is to identify what spells the opponents have that will stop you from doing what you want to do. Watch for those specific spells and BKB to shrug them off and prevent them.
Phantom Assassin in the Late Game
PA is strong in the late game as you threaten to instantly kill heroes with crits and daggers. However, in the ultra late game PA can fall off, and requires a high level of awareness to pilot to success.
In an ideal PA game, you won’t get to the ultra late game as you will have ended the game (or carried your team to a big advantage) by using your Deso and BKB timings.
Unlike the mid game where you want to be jumping in, killing a hero and taking a fight 4v5. Late game PA’s will have to be a bit more disciplined.
Let your team’s initiators start the fight. Identify which enemy heroes need to die first (e.g., an Invoker who is gonna control your team, an AA who will Ice Blast you, etc) and look to jump THAT hero. Trading your BKB usage for a key hero kill is fine.
If you find yourself jumping a target, using BKB and NOT getting a kill – you might be in trouble. MOST heroes should die in an Abyssal stun or with the help of Nullifier.
Keep an eye out for things like Aeon Disc and Ghost Scepter which will ruin your plan. Heroes that can save other heroes can also be a big problem for PA. We’re talking Shadow Demon with his Disruption, Winter Wyvern’s Cold Embrace, OD, etc – because if they play it correctly – they will prevent you from bursting a hero.
What items to build on PA?
Quelling Blade, Magic Stick, 1 Set of Tangos, 2 Branches + Faerie Fire.
Early Game Items:
Magic Wand -> Treads -> Orb Of Corrosion (Optional) -> Start building Battle Fury. (We’ve already covered the importance of choosing which early game items to build and when.)
Ol’ Reliable: Battle Fury
Battle Fury is a key item for PA as it allows her to farm at incredible speeds. Firstly, it has great synergy with her crit, allowing her to cleave down entire waves or camps. Phantom Strike also works as a nice farming tool, letting PA jump to camps. Battle Fury helps with all of this as it provides damage and mana regen.
There are niche situations where skipping Battle Fury can be good – like when you have a Magnus on your team. But generally, we recommend you build Battle Fury. It will reduce the chances of you being out-farmed by the enemy carry. Besides, who doesn’t love cleave?
Core Items – Deso or BKB first?
Bfury -> Desolator -> Black King Bar -> Skull Basher
Since we recommend building Battle Fury – the most important question becomes: “Do you have time for a Desolator before getting your BKB?”
Buying BKB before Deso sounds boring and sad, but that’s the price of winning sometimes. The early BKB will let you participate in team fights with less chance of dying. It also doesn’t slow down your farm THAT significantly – since you already have the Battle Fury. And finally, a PA with just a Battle Fury + BKB still does PLENTY of damage – so don’t stress about that.
At the end of the day – only you can answer this question and the answer will change depending on the game and bracket you’re in. But here’s our tips:
Does the enemy team have a lot of push? Generally, if the enemy can take your towers fast – you will have less space to farm, thus less time to farm before being forced to fight. In this case, getting BKB before Deso is probably the way to go.
Does the enemy team have a lot of magical damage / stuns? If yes, then BKB before Deso is obviously the way to go.
This will all change depending on your farm speed, the heroes on your team and so on. So, just test it out a few times and see what works for you. The most important thing to note is: WHEN IN DOUBT – JUST GET THE BKB FIRST.
Abyssal Blade: After finishing your core items – 95% of the time Abyssal will be your next purchase. The guaranteed stun often gives PA enough time to completely kill a target.
Satanic: The sheer amount of damage PA can do allows the lifesteal to basically heal her to full with one crit. The basic purge active is always handy. A generally safe option
Nullifier: If you’re having trouble blowing up supports due to pesky Ghost Scepters / Glimmer Capes/Forcestaffs. Nullifier also gives a lot of damage!
Note: While most spells and items can be purged off with Nullifier, some things like Wyvern’s Cold Embrace CANNOT be purged. Keep this in mind when jumping in.
Aghanim’s Scepter: If you aren’t having trouble killing people and aren’t worried about getting burst – this is the perfect win-more item. It makes Blur instant cast and refreshes all your cooldowns after you get a kill.
Monkey King Bar: Buy if the enemy carry is building Butterfly or if you’re against heroes with evasion, most notably – Windranger.
Sange And Yasha: A good item against stun heavy lineups as it gives status resistance. Works very well with Satanic.
Aghanim’s Shard: Provides a break mechanic which is nice vs heroes like Timbersaw etc – also does a decent amount of damage.
Linken’s Sphere: Only necessary if you’re getting chain-stunned and hundred-to-zeroed. Always good against Dooms for instance. You should never rush this, only get it in the late game.
Divine Rapier: The Hail Mary choice to end any game. In the ultra-late game, PA gets pretty difficult to pilot. If you haven’t already won, just YOLO it up with a rapier. The insane amount of damage will allow you to delete opponents, which is really PA’s biggest boon at that point.
Assassination At It’s Finest
Hopefully, if you follow our guide, you’ll be cutting through pubs with ease or at least, feeling a bit more confident on PA. Win or lose though, the Phantom Assassin is a tricky but very rewarding hero to play. Who doesn’t love one-shotting your foes anyways?
While PA is not always a top tier carry at the highest level of play in every meta, the potential of one-shot-one-killing your opponents is something that will never change about the hero, and what makes her so fun.
We’ve imparted almost everything we know about PA, so take our nuggets of knowledge, and make those silly backline supports uninstall Dota 2.
Here’s wishing you RNG-esus’s favor, fast item-timings, and crits for days.
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