Mortred the Phantom Assassin is one of the most popular heroes in Dota 2 history. According to stats aggregate site Dotabuff, Phantom Assassin is the second most played hero of all time—accounting for more than one-fourth of all games played in Dota 2’s lifetime.
Her extreme popularity can easily be credited to her straightforward gameplan, and simple design as a pure physical DPS hard carry hero. There’s not much in the way of complexity with Mortred; in fact, she’s all about getting in the enemies’ faces and dealing ridiculous amounts of damage before they even know what hit them.
This uncomplicated strategy is enabled by her signature skill, Coup de Grace. With it, she has a 15 percent chance of dealing catastrophic damage to her target. At max level, Coup de Grace deals a critical strike worth 4.5 times that of her normal attack damage—which is more than enough to kill most heroes in the game in one or two hits. Ostensibly, this ability alone makes her thrilling to play, and an exciting prospect for those new to the game.
Beneath her incredible damage output, however, lies many weaknesses meant to keep her from just instagibbing everything on the map. Phantom Assassin is very fragile, and requires expensive items in order to contribute to her team. She is also a melee hero, which does mean that she is vulnerable to kiting and good positioning from the enemy team. But when she is left alone, she can snowball far out of her opponents’ control, striking swiftly and decisively during engagements.
Phantom Assassin Skill Build
Image via Valve
Just like her gameplan and design, Phantom Assassin’s recommended skill build is pretty simple. Stifling Dagger should be maxed out first because of its great scaling, both in terms of damage and mana cost. It is your primary farming tool in the early stages of the game, since it can be thrown from a good distance and helps with last hitting. It can also be used to harass lane opponents out, if need be.
A single value point each in Phantom Strike and Blur helps Phantom Assassin survive the laning phase. Remember that Phantom Strike can be cast on allied heroes in order to teleport to them, so be sure to use it accordingly if in need of an escape. Blur’s 15 percent base evasion does come in handy in the same way, though of course it’s all up to luck.
From there, Phantom Strike should be maxed second, with Blur being the last priority. Coup de Grace should be taken at every available opportunity, since its critical strike chance and damage applies to Stifling Dagger as well. You might be surprised at the havoc you can wreak simply by throwing Stifling Dagger at targets when you can.
As for her talents, we recommend the following:
- +150 Health
- -4 Armor Corruption
- 20% Lifesteal
- +5% Coup de Grace
Phantom Assassin Item Build
Image via Valve
Her item build, however, is a bit more complex than her other aspects. Item progression for Phantom Assassin can be divided into two branches, for the most part: Battle Fury (farm and late game focused), and Desolator (mid game focused, win early).
The first path involves delaying her power spikes in order to farm creep waves and neutral creep stacks with Battle Fury. Building Battle Fury means that Phantom Assassin will be relatively ineffective at teamfighting during the mid game, but will have vastly accelerated farm. Leveraging the increased farming pace can help you afford more slot-efficient items in the late game, but it will only really matter if your draft is built to help the entire team survive until that point in the first place.
The second path is the “fight now” branch, which sacrifices farming efficiency for a quick injection of attack power and teamfighting prowess in the mid game. Desolator synergizes superbly with Phantom Assassin’s kit, allowing her to quickly delete key targets like supports in order to give her team an instant man advantage. She also becomes pretty decent at pushing towers with it, which is another significant incentive to getting Desolator.
No matter what path you decide on, however, Black King Bar is an absolute must. Mortred’s biggest weakness is her small health pool and vulnerability to lockdown abilities, as well as heavy nukes like Lina’s Laguna Blade. BKB will protect you from many of Mortred’s worst enemies, and will allow you to fight unimpeded.
In the late game, items that help sustain Phantom Assassin or allow her to lock targets down will be most valuable. Things like Satanic give her more staying power in prolonged engagements, and add to her already impressive 20 percent lifesteal talent. Abyssal Blade, on the other hand, helps her isolate key heroes for 1.5 seconds, which is usually more than enough to take them out with enough Coup de Grace hits.
Phantom Assassin Counters
Image via Valve
As mentioned before, Phantom Assassin has several weaknesses that can easily be exploited by a large number of heroes. Her fragility is the first thing that comes to mind, which makes heroes with powerful nukes great against her. Lina, Lion, Skywrath Mage, and Tinker all destroy Mortred pre-BKB.
Heroes with solid lockdown abilities like Shadow Shaman, Witch Doctor, and Nyx Assassin also do well against her. Without the freedom of movement, Phantom Assassin has to rely on Phantom Strike in order to get to her targets—which won’t always be available due to the existence of cooldowns.
Certain items help counter her as well. Blade Mail punishes her when she tries to attack tanky targets, since they can reflect her massive damage right back into her face while surviving the first few hits. Items with built-in roots and disables such as Rod of Atos and Scythe of Vyse keep her from doing much of anything. Silver Edge directly removes her two passives from the game for a short time, making it much easier to go toe to toe with her.
And that’s about it. Mortred’s sheer killing power is obvious, but so are her shortcomings. Shoring up her weaknesses isn’t easy, but once you are able to cover them well enough, she becomes a menace on the battlefield capable of eviscerating her enemies in the blink of an eye.
Give this Sister of the Veil a shot. You might just find that the thrill of the hunt and her effectiveness at her role is worth the risk of picking such a fragile hero.
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