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Axe, The Only True Tanker!


This is a guide for version 6.63x.

08/18/2009: Added more Battle Hunger information as an optional skill choice, added Naix and Ursa to Feared Heroes and Added Pipe information that I'd forgotten. Added a replay.
08/24/2009: A lot of changes made based on today's comments (check in the end of this page).
08/25/2009: Improved Illusions descriptions.
10/14/2009: Added Shallow Grave on the list of skills that CB goes through.
10/16/2009: Added a quote on Blademail comments.


Hello guys!

Here I am again writing one more guide, this time for Axe. The reason is because he's the the only true tanker of DotA, and also one of my main picks on -CM games. His skills are greatly supportive and offensive at the same time, and his endurance is really great, making a real difference on good hands.

Different of heroes with cookie-cutter builds, Axe's build is very discussed and personal, so I will try to point these choices and describe them detailed to make this choice easier, and I'm not expecting everyone agrees with it.

Also, this guide is not made to teach you how to play DotA, it's made to provide a successful way to play Axe, so I won't be adding some useless stuff just to make the guide more fun (like "deny!", "last hit!", hero's history...).

Ohh... and my native language is not english, so I hope you guys can understand some possible mistakes, and I would appreciate some help to fix them :P

Anyways, I hope you guys enjoy it

Pros and Cons

[+] Great attack animation for easy last hits
[+] Great on taking down paper chars
[+] He has one of the best supportive/tanking skills of the game (Berserker's Call)
[+] Amazing tanking capatibilities
[+] Excelent lane control on good hands
[+] Great farmer

[-] Great dependency on mana early game
[-] One of his skills is "useless"
[-] You can "miss" his ultimate

Skills and Personal Comments

Detailed hero information: Axe - DotA Hero Details

Berserker's Call

With Berserker's Call you can break an entire enemy battle formation, and with a few creeps near and Counter Helix help, do a insane damage as well. While under BC effect, the enemies will just be able to auto-attack, blocking their spellcasting temporarily. The 20 bonus armor that you get makes which the damage you're going to receive becomes pretty low. Another good point on BC is that it works on magic immune targets, what makes of you a great BKB counter.

Battle Hunger

Well... this is the skill I told that was "useless". It can be up to 500 damage, the hero can't be denied, it have a great cast range, so you ask: Why something imba like this could be useless!? The reason is pretty simple: you can remove this DoT by simply killing one single unit, including any creep, buildings and even illusions. Any experienced player can do this pretty easily, which makes this skill useless. On pubs BH usually rapes enemies and provide to you easy dominatings, but not on games with decent players. Whoever, there is still an usage for this skill at early levels, but you have to check the "Playing Axe" section for details.

Counter Helix

This is your main skill, your signature, your main damage source. Early game it does insane amounts of damage has counter attack, and makes you keep a perfect lane control against enemies with bad~medium lane control. A lot of people says that CH is imba due his high amout of damage early game, which is true if the enemy is stupid enough to face you with creeps near. Combine with Berserker's Call and some creeps and it becomes really imba. If you're sharing the lane with another ally, the job is even easier since you will have another heavy source of damage. Also, it's a luck based skill, so you can do a insane damage as much as you can make enemies laugh of you.

Important notes:
- CH checks for triggering whenever an attack against Axe begins, not when Axe is actually damaged by said attack. It means that even when you evade an attack, CH will proc.
- CH does physical damage, so it's affected by enemy's Armor.

Culling Blade

Culling Blade is one of the most effective single target skill. It's basically a MK "Finish Him!", where you deliver a single killing blow on heroes running around with low HP, being the terror of INT/AGI heroes. Always that you're fighting someone that you plan to use it, keep an eye on his HP (yeah, click on him and keep watching until he reachs the limit of CB, then fastly F1 --> C --> Click), it's very important. If you waste your ultimate on someone that is not going to die, he will simply take a shit damage, you will lose A LOT of mana, and finally will go into cooldown and can forget about CB in this battle. I understand that is not so simple check enemys HP during a fight, but you have to do it or you will lose a lot of kills or take more damage than you need. Also, for convenience CB has a very short cooldown. =D

Important note: Yeah, It goes through magic immune targets!! It goes through BKB and even Abbadon's ultimate or Shallow Grave! =D (if someone remembers something else relevant to add here, remind me, please)

Skill Choices

STANDARD and ONLY Skill Build:

1- Counter Helix
2- Berserker's Call
3- Berserker's Call
4- Counter Helix
5- Berserker's Call
6- Culling Blade
7- Berserker's Call
8- Counter Helix
9- Counter Helix
10- Stats / Battle Hunger****
11- Culling Blade
12-15- Stats
16- Culling Blade
17-22- Stats
23-25- Battle Hunger

Unfortunately, there's no other way to play Axe other than this, not even one different point. Counter Helix should be get as first skill cause Berserker's Call lv1 is pretty useless alone while Counter Helix does a very high amount of damage early game. It's around 15% of the total HP of lv1 heroes per Helix! Berserker's Call should be maxed ASAP, since CH damage doesn't scales as good as BC. More points on BC means more time of AoE disable, it's infinitely better than a few more damage. There's no reason for not getting Culling Blade always you can, since it can finish off some heroes with half HP early game! How I explained on Battle Hunger comment, you should skip it and get stats instead, mainly because Stats will help you with more surveillance and mana (what you will need).

****OPTIONAL: Battle Hunger is a shit skill overall, but you can get it lv1 if you want at lv10. Please, check the section "Playing Axe" to see the usage of BHlv1.

Items Choice

Initial Items:


Stouts plays a creep tanking role on your inventory, so you can easily harass enemy heroes and keep a great lane control. They are cheap items for such a great farmer like Axe. You can keep them in your inventory as long as they are not occupying slots of another items or upgrade them to better items later. You can also go for only one Stout, but I don't recommend it, it's only 250g!! Don't be such a miserable...

Tangos are for use before you get your auto-healing items (Ring of Regen/Healing Ring/whatever). Depending of the enemies you're facing in the lane, is possible that some of them will remain unused on your inventory, and if it happens, be a nice guy give them to your lanemate who can probably needs it more than you. You're probably a better farmer than he is, so 90g won't make any difference to you. Go back to base just for healing is not nice.

Since Axe's skills are very important and mana expensive early game, you'll want to have at least one Clarity in your inventory early game.

You can also add a Magic Stick to your items depending of your enemies, so you won't need the Clarity and will have a nice mana supply for the entire game, maybe upgrading it to a Magic Wand.

Usually I start games with 1 Stout + 9 Tangos + 1 Clarity, and I highly recommend this, so you can share your Tangos with your lanemate (as I said above), heal your mana on emergency cases (just use your skills smartly and you won't need more than one Clarity), and you can farm money fast for another Stout that you can buy at Goblin's shop.

What about Bottle?

Bottle is not so bad for Axe, but you won't be using it for too long. Your early game items will provide a passive HP regen, and if you're needing mana, get a Magic Stick and you can heal as much as Bottle for a cheaper price.

What about Healing Salve?

Tango is better than Healing Salve cause you can always keep your health semi-full, while with Salve you have to wait until your health drop considerably to use it effectively. Low health heroes are bait for gankers.

Core Items:


Blink Dagger is your main and undispensable item, and basically, this is your true core, and you can't do almost nothing without it. Dagger helps you playing perfectly the initiator role on the team, blinking in and using Berserker's Call (explained later). Don't skip it NEVER!

The boots choice is kind of a difficult choice for Axe. Some people gets Phase Boots cause it's cheaper, easier to make, provides some more armor and helps you rushing into the enemy's army without Dagger to BC. It's a good item for Axe, but Boots of Travel is so good as Phase, since it provides free teleports, and free teleports for anywhere, which means effectivelly support your team, and this should be your only and main Boots late game, but early game it's not so cheap as Phase, and this is the reason of a lot of people choose Phase instead of Travel. Both boots are great, but my recommendation is to get Travel if you're having a decent farm, otherwise get a Phase and trade it to a Travel later.

And lastly, you HAVE to chose items to improve your survivability, or you will get annihilated right after casting Berserker's Call. As a good tanker, you need to resist to all the attacks while your allies take care of the enemies. Among the choices, you have:
- Vanguard: Provides HP, damage deflect and some regen, being a great item early game.
- Hood of Defiance: Doesn't gives you much protection against physical attacks, but It's great against spellcasters (which is common on -CM/organized games).
- Poor's Man Shield: Cheap item and provides some more physical defense, but it's completely useless against spellcasters, and also, PMS alone as a tanking item is not enough.

My advices to help you with this decision:

- Vanguard -> Boots of Speed -> Dagger -> Hood --> Upgraded Boots. (not recommended)

You should follow this flow if you're being very very high damaged, both magical and physically. Hood can be upgraded to a Pipe to support your team. Actually, I don't recommend you to go for this build cause it's not common to have a high magical and physical threat at same time.

- Vanguard -> Boots of Speed -> Dagger -> Upgrade Boots.

It's a cheaper build, so you can go straight to your late game items, and usually is enough to keep you alive if the magical damage is not being a high threat.

- Hood -> Boots of Speed -> Poor Man Shield -> Dagger -> Upgrade Boots.

This is the build you must go for if the main enemy damage is magical. PMS plays a minor physical defense improvement role, enough to deal with creeps and low physical threat.

If you get killed with 2nd or 3rd choice, so you're doing something wrong or you don't have a good team. If you get killed with 1st choice, you must review your DotA skills.

And what about Bracers?

Actually, there's nothing wrong on getting Bracers, but I don't think you need it. You already have some defense items, and if you need HP, get a Vitality Booster, since it will be used later to do a Tarrasque. Braces will just occupy slots on your inventory.

About Talisman of Evasion

Talisman is a great item for Axe against strong physical DPSers. While Vanguard is great to improve physical defense, it doesn't scales very well during the game progress, becoming almost useless mid to late game. Talisman, however, will work pretty well during the entire game, shinning specially during mid to late game, when the DPSers damage becomes a real threat. Also, evasion doesn't breaks the Counter Helix procs, which makes of Talisman a GREAT pick for Axe against strong physical DPSers, but I don't recommend to you getting it early game, get more 350 gold and you will be with a Dagger on your inventory. If you want, get it mid/late game.

Core Extension:


After getting your core items, then comes a very discussed part: Shivas or Assault. I'll try to cover all the possibilities.

Pipe: If you got a Hood early game, then now is a good time for upgrading it to a Pipe. This is a great supportive item, will increase your armor amount, and the cost is only 1.5k gold, which for you is not a big deal for such benefit to your team, there is no reason for not upgrading it.

Assault: I believe everyone agrees that AC is a great item for Axe, increasing his Counter Helix damage due armor reduction, provides a nice armor boost to you and your team, but it lacks on the IAS given, cause it's almost wasted. Buying it early game, you're pretty much wasting 2100 gold to get Hyperstone. Your main source of damage is Counter Helix, and actually, deal damage is not excatly your role, you should just be tanking and keeping the enemies next to you while your team do the rest. Still, AC is a great item for Axe and should be added in your inventory, mainly later in the game.

Shivas: As a good tanker, is your role to keep the enemies next to you as much as possible, and Shivas do this very well. In addition to the armor that you get, Berserker's Call followed by Shivas means pratically 7 seconds of AoE disable, providing a perfect synergy between you and your team. AoE slow + 200dmg > Armor Red/Boost Aura. Plus, you will also provide a Freezing Aura, which helps with your team survivability as well.

But Freezing Aura reduces enemies IAS, which reduces your Counter Helix procs. How could this be useful for me?

The answer is pretty simple: Freenzing Aura is a great aura that your team shouldn't miss, so if you don't make Shivas, somebody else of your team will do. Obviously you can combine with your team of no one make it, but think just a little about which is better: You get a little more damage or your team survivability get improved?

And the Inteligence that you'll get from Mystic Staff, it will be wasted! IAS > Int!!

Not really... more Int means that you can cast more skills. Obviously a well-planned battle won't ask for more than 2 BCs and one CB, but you will always have to do more than it, plus you won't have to go back to base for mana healing. Anyways, the rest of the Shivas bonuses compensates the "wasted" Int.

And finally, Tarrasque. It will provide a lot of HP and a imba regen, but no armor at all. This is one of the best items of DotA and fits perfectly on any heroes, mainly tankers like Axe.

My Opinion: Which to chose?

Assault: Don't get it early game. Both Tarrasque and Shivas gives more benefits to you and your team early game.

Shivas: Great early game, but get it only if you're facing strong physical DPSers, when the aura and armor will be useful. If the main threat is magical, choose HoT instead.

Tarrasque: Tarrasque is great on any situations, but go for it if the situation requires more HP than armor, like when the threat is magical. If it's not the case, go for Shivas instead.

Final items:

This is how your inventory should looks like late game. A Assault must be added soon or later for obvious reasons (stated up there, on the Core Extension). The rest of the items I've already explained, so you just have to choose a...

...Sixth Item (but I don't believe the game will reach here):

Some games have items restrictions of only one Guinsoo per team, but anyways, this is a great item for Axe, since he's not a damage dealer but a great initiator/tanker/supporter. If the game permits, definitely chose Guinsoo.

That's a great item against great physical threat, such as Mortred, Leoric, Yurnero, and others. Butterfly will provide some very important missing chance, which will improve your tanking abilities. The DPS that you will get is useless, but is better to have a Butterfly than a Talisman of Evasion, right?

The only good thing of this item is the aura provided, which helps your team, but personally for you, it's useless. Since it's a cheap item, you can even get it earlier. Not recommended, but not rejected.

You don't have a orb effect, so Desolator fits very well on you as a last item. It improves the overall damage that the target will receive, even of your Helix. Get it if you're resisting very well to the damage received and your team needs more DPS.

Bloodstone is a great last item for you, providing even more regen and HP/Mana pool. If you're not going for Guinsoo, this is a great choice.

If you didn't get Pipe earlier in the game, now you can fill your last slot with this. Taking 400 less damage per ally, what turns into 2000 damage on a full team, is a big deal even late game, and also, you will get some more resistance.

Rejected Items:

You don't need these items since you can still Helix under stun effects, and your defense will still be good enough to get some damage under any effects. It's better for your team if the enemy spend their disables on you than on your team's DPSer/Supporter.

The burning aura from Radiance is great... early game. Late game it sucks, and the bonus damage won't be useful since you don't auto-attack too much. "If it's good early game, why not getting it after Dagger?" Because just doesn't worths the spent money, you can get better items for him early game than Radiance. Remember, you're a tanker, initiator and supporter, not a DPSer!

You're not a ganker, you don't need burst damage, mainly because it doesn't scales mid-late game.

These and any other DPS items are rejected. I've already told this a lot of times, and I repeat: YOU'RE NOT A DPSer! Let the DPSing job for your team, just focus on atracting the fire to you.

Here's a item that A LOT of people claims to be a core on Axe, but I'll tell why it's one of the worst items for him:

1): Your main items are bought to REDUCE the damage that you will receive, providing Armor or automatic damage block, which potentially recudes the damage that your Blademail will return.

2): You can draw physical fire to you with BC and activate Blademail, but what's the point on doing that if in addition to your natural armor, you also gets 20 bonus when doing this. Each target won't receive even 200 damage back.

3): Your role is to tank, or else, DRAW FIRE. How the hell you will do that with a big set of spiky things around you?

4): "But if the enemy team have strong carries?" you ask. Considering that you have a good team, who knows their roles in the team, here are the situations: If their team consists 50~100% in carrys, the game won't last more than 20 or 30 minutes, and they won't have enough items to counter your well-farmed early game. If they have less than it, your team can disable them, so they won't be a threat. It's easy to say in theory, I know, but some theory is necessary for explanations.

Resuming: Blademail is useless. If you still believe I'm wrong, try to proof with a decent replay and I will strike back with more valid arguments.

I would also like to add this "final comment" that I made answering some questions related to BM late game, I hope it helps.

Originally Posted by Valasty View Post

You guys are not getting the Axe's role in the game, which IS NOT deal damage. There are A LOT of great items that could fill a BM slot LATE GAME, such as Guinsoo, that could do a way better job than BM would.

At late game, with strong farmed carries, probably Axe will be with his inventory complete, what will result in a very high amount of HP and Armor, which combined with his bonus from BC, will reduce A LOT the damage taken by ANY attacks. Even a PA with 1k crit won't take you down in 3 seconds, plus, you HAVE A TEAM, they MUST BE at your side after you initiate, taking down the most dangerous targets while you take their attacks, such as this strong PA. With a Guinsoo, you can even save it for a longer disable on this PA if she manages to survive until there.

Bottle and Rune Control

Axe is not a great fan of runes, since they are not so useful for him due his core item. With Dagger, you pretty much can do the job without Haste or Invisible, the only runes that are useful for him. Anyways, early game the runes can still do a great job:

- Useful information: Runes spawn every 2 minutes on ONE of the two spots, initiating on the minute 0. But there are two occasions when a new rune won't spawn:

1) If there is already an spawned rune on one of the spots.
2) If you get the rune with 5 or less seconds left for the next spawn.

Illusion: Useful only for scout and mindgames, possibly atracting the fire or triggering a disable for a safe attack of your team. Also, your illusions procs Helix, so you can use them later in the game when they don't die easily for neutral creeping or push/defend a lane from creeps.

Double damage: You won't DPS auto-attacking, so DD is useless for you, let it for someone else with a nice base damage.

Invisible: This is a great rune for you, since you can easily Berserker's Call a group of enemies.

Regenaration: Not great, but useful.

Haste: Just like the invisibility rune, it makes you BC job easier.

Playing Axe

Now that you know his main items, builds and skills, you're ready to begin the pwnage. But... how to do it? Where to go? Here are some tips, supposing that you know the basics about surviving, killing, denying and last hitting with any hero.

Laning or Jungling?

Definitely go lane. Axe is a great jungler, but his potencial shines on the lane, where you can easily harass oponents and get free kills with a decent lane partner or soloing against two oponents. There's no point on throwing away his great lane control just for a little more exp.

Solo or with a Partner?

If there's a jungler in your team, definitely ask for solo against two. Axe have a great lane control and can do very well against two opponents, mainly because his skills are great paper stomper. Even you being a great soloer, don't be the only one soloing, since a ganker should take priority.

Axe's Role:

First of all, you must know what Axe should do in a team, and it's quite simple: initiate and tank. Tanking means keep the enemies as next to you as possible while targeting all their spells on you, while your team smash them. Your job is to rush into enemies and Berserker's Call them, to make a clear path to your allies smash.


Now that you know your role, the next thing that you must know is about aggro. It's when the enemy creeps will attack you, and when they won't. Since more auto-attacks boosts your Helix, you need a lot of creeps to be able to do a lot of damage. There are two situations where the creeps will attack you:

1) When you choose "Attack" (right click) the enemy hero, near enemy creeps will attack you.
2) The creeps will attack who is closer to them when they are not attacking anything else.

Early game:

Harassing: Axe's way to harass is simple: aggro the creeps next to the enemy heroes. Like explained above, just click on them when next of the creeps (and of the target). It will proc Helix and do some AoE damage. If you're lucky, you will proc more than once and do A LOT of damage. It helps you pushing and harassing as well. Some enemies can make this job a little harder, mainly the ranged units with a decent attack range and disablers. The pro of this is that while more is the range, less is their HP, so if you hit a single Helix, it'll do a lot of damage. Since you won't be never soloing, prey for a good lane partner and your job will be a piece of cake. Important: Just start harassing after you get two stouts, or you'll take a lot of damage.

Ganking: This is not exactly the Axe's role, but he can do this pretty well during the laning phase. If no one sees you coming (wards) and with some partner(s) to support, you can come out of the jungle and BC them for some kills. If you find a Haste or Invisible rune, it will be a lot easier.

Pushing: If your laning is doing well and you can easily rush into their tower, go behind it and kill their creeps by yourself (it's not dificult with 2 Stouts), leaving the path clear to your creeps get the tower down, but watch out for teleporting heroes on the tower.

Playing defensively: Unfortunately, sometimes you have to retreat and keep yourself under your tower, mainly when soloing against disablers or with a partner with no lane control at all. There's nothing much you can do here, except for using their mistakes against themselves. The best way to do it, is to cast BC on them when they comes next to your tower and pull them under it, or across the jungle area and come from behind, BC'ing them along with their creeps (but only stupid enemies will wait for this...).

Main role early game: Push Axe is a great pusher (not even close of the greatests, but still great), so use it for your teams advantage. Until you get your Blink Dagger, priorize your farming, and the better way to do this is while pushing. Keep going through their lanes to take towers down with your partners help.

Middle Game:

Middle game is the moment that you complete your core build. If you were able to farm Dagger fastly, then this part of the game is when you will shine and decide the future of the game along with your team. Team battles are more common now, and your job here is simply to be an initiator and tanking.

-> .

This is your main combo and what you will do for the entire game. Doing this you practically ensured a kill to your team, supposing they are there to support you. You can also kill by yourself, but you have to be lucky of getting a few CHs to finish them off with Culling Blade. Be sure of using the combo next to as many enemy heroes as possible, so the rest of their team will have to save them while yours smashs them.

Late Game:

Supposing that now you have Shivas, your main combo will still remain the same, except that now you have one more item to use after BC is over. There's not much secret here, just ensure that your team will survive (yeah, you're responsible for their safety) and be able to do their jobs.

Culling Blade Usage:

CB is one of the better single target ultimates in the game, but the problem is that it can easily miss, spending a lot of mana and going into cooldown. To never miss it, always check the exact HP of the enemy that is a possible target of CB, clicking on his character for this and seeing when his HP will hit the limit that you need (I'll try to get a movie showing this).

Another mistake that I usally see people doing is wasting CB on a dead target just for the kill, when the team could kill him with just a few attacks. NEVER do this, NEVER! CB can decide the tide of one team battle if you use it on the correct target at the correct time, not simply on the first low HP enemy that you see. Check the scenario and possibilities before ulting.

Battle Hunger Lv1 Usage:

Optionally you can get Battle Hunger lv1, cause it shows valuable on some situations, such as:

1) Against Blink Dagger users: Casting BH against a Dagger user can break totally a team combo if you find the blinker hidden behind a tree just waiting for the right moment to go in and kill your entire team.
2) Chasing: Casting BH against a fleeing target won't let him uses potions or blinks.
3) Finishing a lucky bastard: Sometimes happens of a lucky guy escapes of you with less than 50 HP, so you can just finish him casting a BH an pursueing for some seconds (for the exp).

But remembering: Don't get it more than lv1! DOesn't worths the spent points.

Feared Enemies and Valuable Allies

I'm not putting single heroes here because there are A LOT of them, so I'll be just doing a general comment, and you use your DotA experience to tell you those who can fit each part. If I missed someone, remind me please.

Hated Heroes

They are those heroes who can interrupt your Blink even before they see you in the battle, like Doombringer, Spectre and Zeus. After you get Dagger, it's really boring to rush into enemys to BC. Another kind of annoying heroes are those who burns mana (Magina, Nerubian Assassin, Ezalor...), and since you're greatly mana dependant, it will make you almost useless.

Feared Heroes

If you have the proper tanking items, won't be easy to take you down, but there's a few ones that are still a threat, such as Necrolyte, Witch Doctor and Ursa. They can do a lot of damage even through your high defense and HP. But the most feared of your enemys and the one that you will NEVER win against is Naix. If you are alonge and see him, run, I'm not kidding.

Valuable Allies

All those who gives AoE damage. Axe can keep enemies unmoved for 3.5 seconds, enough for some powerful spells which are hard to hit, such as Maledict, Midnight Pulse --> Black Hole, and a lot of others.


That was a inhouse game played just between friends. One or other player were still learning how to play DotA, so it's not the best replay ever (and also aren't the picks =p), but the point there is simply to watch the Axe gameplay.


Thanks all for reading (or not), and please comment. I will appreciate every (constructive) opinion/critic If you dind't agree with something, or would like to add something, please let me know.

I hope you guys have enjoyed it

Thanks again!

Valasty ~

Mogul Khan the Axe
Author: Valasty
Map Vers.: 6.61x

Mogul Khan, the Axe

Effective way to play Axe

Date Posted: 08/17/09
Last Comment:23/07/2011
Total Votes: 116
Current Rating: 6.31
Views: 98432

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