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Rigwarl, the Bristleback
Version 6.61


Guide Version: 1.4

7/13/09 - 1.0: Completed guide
7/13/09 - 1.3: OMG, as I was submitting this I read for the first time that all images should be from I had to go back and replace everything.
7/13/09 - 1.4: Little error with Null Talisman image.



Hello, my name is Tormodpwns and I have been playing DotA for about one and a half years (started in 6.49). I've always thought that there was never a "best" or "worst" hero, but for some reason I always put Bristleback below the others. Maybe it's his low stats, or his weak skills, but I have decided to look at Bristleback through rose-colored glasses and alas, I see his strengths.

This is a guide on those strengths, and how to bring them out.


The Bristleback

STR 22 + 2.2
Agi 17 + 1.8
Int 14 + 2.8

HP 568
Mana 182
Damage 52-62
Armor 3.4
Movespeed 295
Attack Range 100

Attack 0.6/0.3
Cast 0.5/0.51
Day 1800
Night 800

Looking at his stats, we can see that he is a very strange hero. His primary attribute is STRENGTH, and while his base of 22 is pretty good (568 HP), his growth of a 2.2 is quite low, meaning his raw HP and damage will be quite low as well. He has an average base agility of 17, and his growth of 1.8 is also quite average, meaning his raw attack speed and armor will also be average. His intelligence, however, is something to consider. With an almost minimum base of 14 (just 182 mana), Rigwarl has trouble with mana early game. However he has an insane growth of 2.8, which ensures no mana problems late game.

+good early base damage for last-hitting/denying
+good farming
+high EHP
+good chaser
+fairly item independent

-low STR growth, so low raw late HP and damage
-early mana problems
-poor cast animation for a spammer


Bristleback is a tank, a pusher, a chaser, and a ganker. His skills provide him all of these qualities, allowing him to reduce incoming damage, dish out mass AoE damage, and increase his speed at will.

However, I often see people playing Bristleback as some kind of DPS carry. I can see why this may be attractive because of Warpath and Goo (lots of attack speed and damage amplification). However, Bristleback has low STR growth meaning low base damage late game, meaning the attack speed bonus is not very useful. Also, in order to get and maintain this attack speed bonus you need to be constantly casting Goo. If you are constantly spamming spells then you cannot attack very often, which is why Bristleback should be Gooing the enemy with someone else attacking. Also, when you attack an enemy you show your front to them, making the skill Bristleback near useless.



Viscous Nasal Goo

Covers a target in snot, causing it to have reduced armor and movement speed. Casts on the same target are cumulative.

All levels slow by 20% initially, have 30 mana cost, 1.5 second cooldown, last 5 seconds, and has a 600 casting range. Stacks up to 4 times.

1. -1 armor, 3% stacking slow
2. -1 armor, 6% stacking slow
3. -2 armor, 9% stacking slow
4. -2 armor, 12% stacking slow

This skill is quite spammable, making it ideal for ganks at around level 3 or 4 and beyond. The armor reduction scales well into late game, when your carry should be taking down enemy heroes with Bristleback slowing them and amplifying damage.

Quill Spray

Sprays enemy units with quills dealing damage in a 650 AoE. Deals 30 extra damage for every time the unit was struck by a quill in the last 10 seconds.

All levels have a 35 mana cost, 3 second cooldown, and 650 AoE. Deals physical damage and has a maximum of 180 damage. Hits units in the fog of war.

1. 20 initial damage
2. 40 initial damage
3. 60 initial damage
4. 80 initial damage

This is Bristleback's powerful pushing and farming ability. It seems quite mediocre at first, because of the low damage and damage cap and that's true. It scales poorly against heroes because of its reduction by armor and low maximum. However, it works wonders against creeps and will quickly net you lots of gold.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The moment the skill is cast, damage will be done. Even though the animated quills take a few milliseconds before hitting their target, the damage will have already been dealt. This makes it particularly useful when last-hitting in a tough lane, because there is no need to anticipate travel time or whatever.


Rigwarl covers his back in spines, causing him to take reduced damage. Automatically releases a quill spray whenever his rear receives 250 damage.

Bristleback's rear is 70 degrees, and his sides are now 110 degrees each, leaving his front (no reduction) to be 70 degrees. This skill reduces damage through triggered healing, meaning that Bristleback will not be able to reduce damage if he takes it at full HP.

1. 10% reduced from rear, 5% from sides
2. 20% reduced from rear, 10% from sides
3. 30% reduced from rear, 15% from sides
4. 40% reduced from rear, 20% from sides

This is your signature ability, giving you fearsome tanking power despite low HP and average armor. This skill also kills heroes as they try to kill you, because while chasing you they attack your back, activating quill sprays.


Everytime Rigwarl casts a spell, he works himself into a fury. Movement and Attack speeds increase on repeated spell casts.

Warpath only activates when Viscous Nasal Goo or Quill Spray is cast. Warpath does not activate off of item spells such as Shiva's or Guinsoo's, but it DOES activate off of the automatic releasing of Quill Spray from the skill Bristleback. Speed bonus lasts 10 seconds and stacks up to 4 times.

1. 30 + 5% attack speed, 5 + 1% movespeed
2. 40 + 10% attack speed, 7 + 2% movespeed
3. 50 + 15% attack speed, 10 + 3% movespeed

Warpath has great synergy with Bristleback's chaser/caster playstyle, but not so much the attack speed as the movespeed. The MS bonus works well with Goo to chase (they get slowed AND you get faster with each cast) and Bristleback to run (they attack your back, releasing quill sprays, making you faster). The attack speed bonus is somewhat wasted. While others will argue that it makes for a great steroid DPS hero with an armor-reducing spell, that goes against Bristleback's playstyle.


Skill Build

1. Viscous Nasal Goo
2. Quill Spray
3. Quill Spray
4. Bristleback or Stats
5. Quill Spray
6. Bristleback or Warpath
7. Quill Spray
8. Bristleback
9. Bristleback
10. Warpath or Bristleback
11. Warpath
12. Viscous Nasal Goo or Bristleback
13. Viscous Nasal Goo
14. Viscous Nasal Goo
15. Stats or Viscous Nasal Goo
16. Warpath


Cookie cutter build. Goo is taken at level 1 for ganking or to save an ally that is being chased. Quill Spray is maxed ASAP for farming, harassing, early (counter)pushes, and taking down weakened heroes. The levels with multiple options were made to either pick all first options or all second options. First option is more defensive, and really both Bristleback and Warpath are defensive so take one at level 6 depending on your situation, then take the other one at level 10. The second option is more offensive, with early stats for more damage and mana with Warpath at level 6 for chasing.


Item Build:

Bristleback is not a terribly item-dependent hero, but he has good farming potential and we will take advantage of that. He is a tank, pusher, and chaser so we will need to keep that in mind when choosing his items.

Basic Core:

The two bracers give nice overall stats, and buff up Bristleback's low STR. Boots are a necessity for every hero. Believe it or not, these 3 items can be all you need for the ENTIRE GAME, no matter what hero you are using (except in special cases). Of course you will farm up more gold than that, but this is the foundation upon which you build up everything else.

Advanced Core:

() ()

Radiance is a must on Bristleback, in order to make him the tank that he is. After all, what good is 3000 HP and 30 armor if nobody attacks you? If you constantly immolate the enemies then they will have incentive to get rid of you. Besides the immolation helps a lot in farming and pushing, which are Bristleback's roles.

I say BoT > Phase > Treads for Bristleback. Treads give poor movespeed, but the IAS is good for DPS heroes and only DPS heroes. Phase is viable on Bristleback, because of the extra tanking and chasing power. However I feel that BoT + Warpath gives you tons of movespeed. Being able to teleport around the map is also a luxury that many pusher/farmer heroes need, so BoT solves that problem.

Yes, I agree, it is very difficult to jump directly for a 3800 gold relic right after your 3 very basic core items, but the earlier you get your Radiance, the better your farming, pushing, and overall team advantage. If you are having trouble with surviving or farming up your gold all in one piece, you can go ahead and grab one of the (alternative items) listed above.


If you got a Radiance early, then you should have no problem getting these items after your core. If you got your Radiance late because you died a lot/delayed it for other items, at least you have a Radiance and you can quickly farm your way up, assuming your team is not losing badly.

In terms of defense, HoT provides a pure 965 HP and 1% regen to yourself while AC provides 15 armor to you and 5 to your team. In terms of offense, HoT gives you +35 damage, while AC provides 55% attack speed for you, 15% attack speed for your team, and -5 armor to all enemies.

Evidently AC gives more bonuses, and they affect other players as well, increasing its usefulness. The -5 armor also comes in handy when you Quill Spray everybody, amplifying its physical damage. However HoT provides mass HP which is useful against a team of nukers. An easy way to decide which item is to think, Am I getting owned more by nukers like Zeus and Tinker or by DPSers like Shadow Fiend and Mortred? If you can't decide, go for AC because the item buildup is easier, and it has great synergies with almost any team.


Most guides have a "Rejected Items" section simply for the sake of having such a section. They have obvious stuff like "no Aghanim's on Riki" or "Buriza is rejected on Tinker". In my opinion, most players have a pretty good idea of what each hero should get as a main core item, but have trouble with the seemingly innocuous minor items that actually do have a significant impact on the game. This section will describe those small items I reject, because I'm pretty sure you don't want to read about why Dagon and Refresher suck on Bristleback.

"Bristleback needs mana to spam his spells"

True, but he has a crazy growth of 2.8, and his spells are very cheap to cast. He does have mana problems early, but you shouldn't be spamming spells early anyways. Bracers are a much better way to make up for his weakness, which is low STR that he needs for tanking.

"Gives him regen to stay in lane longer"

Well, regen never hurt anybody, but it's quite unnecessary on this guy. As stated above he has no mana issues, and you should be heading back to base for full regens, not idling time in the forest healing 5 HP/sec. It also sets back your core considerably.

"Yes, I can see why IAS is useless for Bristleback, but +190 HP is nice"

True, no one hates 190 HP and 10 damage, but BoT's lane-changing power gives you farming power above and beyond all else. Besides, BoT helps take advantage of Bristleback's greatest power, which is pushing/counterpushing.

"+5 armor and better for chasing and escaping"

+5 armor does indeed help Bristleback with tanking, and the +10% speed bonus from Phase makes him faster than with BoT as well as reduce collision size to zero, but it still doesn't give what BoT gives: teleport. And you need map control to effectively push and counterpush.




Assuming you have 5 players on your team, and you picked or randomed and repicked Bristleback, you will have 603 gold. We can buy two circlets and a set of 3 tangoes and still have 143 gold left. The +4 to all stats is a great way to start off with any hero, and makes a HUGE difference early game. Tangoes are used to heal. With your remaining gold you can buy any of the following item combinations:

a set of tangoes and an ironwood

a set of tangoes and a clarity

2 ironwoods

2 clarities

an ironwood and a clarity

a scroll of town portal

Clarities are used for mana if you decide to be aggressive with Quill Spray early on. Extra tangoes if you anticipate a tough lane. TPs are also nice to have on hand, because you can help defend a lane if your ally is in trouble or retreating.


the laning stage

Lane choice is not a big deal with Bristleback. Give the mid solo to someone who needs it, such as Tinker, Zeus, or Shadow Fiend. Bristleback works better with allies in dual lanes. You can also use him as an early ganker, in which case going mid with a bottle would be ideal.

Viscous Nasal Goo (VNG) is a valuable tool early on, because it can be used to permaslow an enemy hero for an early kill, or to permaslow an enemy hero chasing your ally.

If your ally has nukes at their disposal and the enemy heroes are passive/weak laners, then start harassing the enemy hero with Quill Sprays, but make sure you do not run out of mana. Once the enemy hero is at about half health have your ally chase him while you cast VNG repeatedly. If the going gets dangerous (near tower, mobbed by creeps), cast a quick nuke or stacked Quill Spray and hopefully you will get the kill, otherwise the hero will have to go back to base, both good things to do.

If you and your ally are getting dominated by powerful laning heroes, then VNG will be used more as a life-saving skill than a killing one. Use Quill Spray defensively, like for last-hitting creeps (remember that the damage is INSTANT, regardless of skill animation).

If you lane against somebody with a magic stick or wand, don't even think about harassing or killing. You get early kills by spamming, and that is how the magic stick saves its owner. Be sure not to cast your spells, only if it is important such as saving an ally or getting 2-3 creep kills with a single Quill Spray. There's really not much else you can do.

On your first trip back to base (if you survived to around level 7-8, hopefully with a kill and several last-hits) quickly boost your two circlets to bracers and grab a pair of boots. This item upgrade has a total cost of 1150, which is a reasonable sum of money to have. Any leftover gold can go towards Vanguard/Hood if you feel the need, but it would be best if the gold was saved towards a Radiance. The earlier you get Radiance, the bigger impact it makes on the game. Delay it as little as possible.


the ganking stage

This is your time to help out the team. By now your INT growth should be taking over your mana pool, and you will be able to spam your spells. Participate in ganks often with your permaslow VNG. Protect the carry with VNG. Quill Spray is great for pushing and counterpushing. Ganking enemy heroes, especially late gamers, and taking essential towers and lane advantages will help out your team a lot.

Your Radiance is your goal right now. You don't have the luxury of buying your items in small pieces, so you need to make sure you die as little as possible (as if that needed saying). Once you get Radiance, it's late game.


the pushing stage

If the Scourge and Sentinel were evenly matched before you got your Radiance, then it's time for you to win. With your pushing/counterpushing skills now improved, you can push and farm like no other. Your BoT will come easily. Once you get that, you will be able to defend all 3 lanes like they are 1.

Get a quick mid lane rax for constant pressure on the enemy, then push down their base once your team is ready.

You might not have the most kills, and you might have more than a few deaths, but with your assistance you have brought your team victory.



Bristleback does not DPS.
Bristleback can chase/gank well.
Bristleback's greatest strength is pushing/counterpushing.
Bristleback is a teamplayer.
Bristleback, even with Bristleback, cannot tank as well as other STR heroes.
Bristleback has no mana problems.

Thank you for reading!!!

A lot of images coming soon. with replays.

Rigwarl the Bristleback
Author: tormodpwns
Map Vers.: 6.61b


The Quillboar

Date Posted: 07/16/09
Last Comment:08/11/2010
Total Votes: 116
Current Rating: 7.61
Views: 183658

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