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Infinite March- Phantom Lancer Guide 6.80 UPDATE
By Newgoodsdelivery
An in-depth and easy-to-understand guide to Phantom Lancer. Check out the 'Recap' section for an alt+tab guide. The introduction will handle what's changed.
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Introduction
Phantom Lancer is an Agility-based melee Hero who focuses on creating a swarm of illusions to push and use in teamfights.

In 6.79, Phantom Lancer received some pretty substantial nerfs. He can't use Tranquil Boots anymore, which hurts his sustain and means he can't jungle as early as he used to. To counter this, we'll handle an alternate, Tranquil-less, item build.

PL did not get affected in 6.80.
Skill Build
A lot of people like to skill PL with early points put into their W or stats, because they think illusions are useless in the early game. In my experience though, doing that is a massive mistake.

Getting early levels in your E allows you to hop into the jungle that much faster, and having 2 levels in your E and 1 level in your ult at level 6 gives you the ability to quickly spawn a lot of illusions.
Here's a brief introduction to all the abilities:

Spirit Lance

Spirit Lance is an incredibly powerful nuke that not only deals 250 damage at its max level, but also slows the target for up to 40% for 3.75 seconds (also at its max level). It also spawns an illusion near your target, providing you with vision if they manage to juke behind trees. Great for chasing.



Doppelwalk

I often put my first level in Doppelwalk and don't level it again until much later.
This provides you with a great escape tool by allowing you to become invisible while also spawning an illusion which always lasts 20 seconds. Microing this illusion correctly can lead to the enemy focusing it, wasting mana by throwing nukes and stuns on it.
The illusion's longevity also makes it a great tool for jungling.


Juxtapose

PL's signature ability.
For a chance of 12% per attack, this ability allows you to spawn up to 8 illusions which each deal 20% of his normal damage.




Phantom Edge

Your ultimate and your second most important ability. This ability increases your Juxtaposing chance up to 18%, and gives your illusions up to 7% chance to Juxtapose themselves.




Here's our skill build up to level 8:
















After this, work on maxing your E, followed by your W and getting your ultimate whenever you can.
Item Build
In this section, I'll first give an explanation of good items to pick up on PL, and end by giving you examples of items you shouldn't buy. I've released an easy-to-use item build for use within DOTA 2 itself as well, so be sure to subscribe and upvote that as well!

You can find it here.

STARTING ITEMS










These items may seem like a lot, but you're not supposed to get all of them at the very start. Naturally, we'll start off with some branches and a little bit of regen. Then we'll select one of three items. There's a Quelling Blade, a Stout Shield, and a Ring of Protection.

You can get a Quelling Blade if you're not confident in your early-game last hitting and feel you need that little bit of extra damage to keep up. Make sure to get it eventually, because the increased damage also works on illusions. This will help you when you're jungling.

Stout Shield is a great item to get if you're expecting a lot of auto-attack harass in-lane. If you want, you can choose to upgrade this to a Poor Man's Shield for increased protection and a nice extra bit of damage.

You may also choose to buy a Ring Of Protection. While not as core as it used to be before the Tranquil nerf, you can still get for an early Ring of Basilius to provide mana and armor to nearby allies in-lane. You may then choose to build it into a Vladmir's Offering or just keep it as is. Great in trilanes.


EARLY GAME





This is probably the biggest change to PL's item build after 6.79. Tranquil Boots now break if you hit things, and since PL really likes hitting things, he's gonna have to get new boots. Power Treads are a worthy alternative. Keep it on STR for extra health, switch to INT if you feel like throwing a lance, and use AGI for additional damage. The nasty thing now is that PL still has a terrible HP pool, but with no way to regenerate it. You can now choose to get one of two items.

Vladmir's Offering is a pretty good item. (In fact, it was considered core before people discovered how good Tranqs were!) The armor, lifesteal and damage mean you can get to jungling pretty quickly if you feel like laning's not getting you enough farm. I tend to get this when I'm behind and really wanna get some farm going.

Drums are still viable. While you can't pick them up alongside a Vlad's (since that'd delay your items too much), you can still get them if you're having a great laning phase and want stats to endure early teamfights and be able to push better. If you're confused on which of the two to get, I'd suggest the Vladmir's Offering.

The Magic Wand and Soul Ring are more situational items.

Are you in a lane where lots of spammable nukes are being thrown out? Pick up a Wand!
This is also a great way to get rid of excess branches.

Do you feel that you need the ability to spam out your Q as much as you can - possibly to get kills or just pressure your opponent? Feel free to get a Ring. I'm less enthusiastic about this item- with good mana management you'll barely ever need to get one of these, and it really does delay your other items. But for that rare chance you're up against a squishy Sniper/CM dual lane with a Venomancer or Earthshaker on your side- keep it in the back of your head.

And remember, always carry a TP scroll!


Item Build [2]
CORE ITEMS





These three bad boys allow Phantom Lancer to become a tanky, dangerous and inescapable foe, impossible to defeat 1v1.

The Diffusal Blade will be our first pick-up, because of its great value. It has two amazing effects; mana burn and purge. The mana burn deals 20 flat damage and removes 20 mana from your enemies on each hit. The best part though? Your illusions ALSO get the +20 mana burn. For 8 illusions+PL hitting at the same time, that basically means +180 extra damage. And that's on a level 1 diffusal, level 2 gives you +36 per hit...

Purge is the second, and active ability the Diffusal has. Purge allows you to slow one enemy target for 4 seconds as well as removing any buffs, making this a great item for chasing enemy heroes. But that's not the only thing Purge can do. It deals 99999 damage to summoned units- instantly killing them. Say goodbye to Warlock's golems and Anti-Mage's Manta illusions.
You can also use Purge on allies and on yourself, allowing you to get rid of revealing effects like Bounty Hunter's Track and Dust.
Most players upgrade their Diffusal once they run out of Purge charges, because it refills them, but depending on whatever situation you find yourself in (if you're lacking damage and don't have a lot of money, for instance) you could upgrade it earlier.

A Manta Style is your second big pick-up. The Yasha gives you extra attack and movement speed, which, coupled with your Drum and Diffusal, makes you impossible to chase or run away from. Its active allows you to spawn 2 illusions. Keep in mind that Illusions spawned from a Manta or Illusion Rune don't affect your 8 Juxtapose illusions, so you'll be able to get up to 10 now!
A great way to gank people is to use Doppelwalk to become invisible, run up to your enemy, use your Diffusal and Manta and kill them before they even realise what's happening. It's also great for pushing lanes while you're in the jungle.

A Heart of Tarrasque finishes your core. Not only does it give you and your illusions roughly 1000 more HP, it also gives the main PL incredible HP regeneration, allowing him to jump back into battle at a moment's notice.


Do note that the order in which you get these items is not strictly rigid. If you feel you need more tankiness ASAP, then feel free to rush that Heart! I've found myself sometimes getting Manta before Diffusal when I felt splitpushing and getting a few extra stats were the best idea.

LATEGAME ITEMS






Choosing lategame items for Phantom Lancer can get a bit confusing, because there's barely any really expensive items that help your illusions. A guaranteed pickup, however, is the Butterfly.

You thought that Heart made your illusions hard to kill? Wait till you get a load of this! Not only does it give your illusions +30 AGI and +30 attack speed, it also gives them a 35% chance to avoid physical attacks!


Ditch those Power Treads and get Boots of Travel to splitpush everywhere.
Get a bunch of illusions in one lane (you may choose to use your Manta here) and teleport your hero to another lane and push that out too. Double the money! C9.EternalEnvy once used a strategy where he rushed brown Boots, Drum, Manta and Boots of Travel, without even getting a Diffusal Blade. This allowed him to splitpush down towers very easily, while his team kept the enemy distracted.

Now, Illusions don't benefit from flat damage increase, but they do get some buffs. The Daedalus allows your illusions to crit for 2.4x their normal damage on 25% of their attacks. Do remember that the big number that appears above their heads isn't the actual damage dealt- it's only 25% of that number.

If you're up against nasty evasion-centric heroes like Brewmaster, Phantom Assassin or anyone else who might pick up a butterfly, a Monkey King Bar could help. Your illusions don't get the extra damage or bash, but they do benefit from True Strike, making their attacks undodgeable. When you find yourself unable to kill a PA even with Diff/Manta/Heart, it might be a good idea to pick this up before your Butterfly.

An Abyssal Blade allows you to lock down annoying slippery enemies like QoP and Anti-Mage, as well as fed heroes who clear away your illusions before you get a nice surround like Sven, Medusa and Gyrocopter.

If you really think you're still not tanky enough (which, honestly, is hard to believe), the armor aura of an Assault Cuirass should do the trick. Alternatively, you could get a second Heart.
Item Build [3]
WHAT NOT TO GET

There's a lot of way to mess up item builds for phantom lancer, because illusions are so different from normal heroes. I've dedicated an entire chapter to that, so check that out for more info. I'm going to give you a list of what items not to get, and why not.





Your illusions don't get cleave, so that Battle Fury is useless.
Sange doesn't give your illusions its Maim ability, and you're much better off using that Yasha for a Manta anyway.
Don't get a Vanguard. Your illusions don't get the damage blocking chance and it delays any big items you're trying to get. If you're really lacking HP, just get a Vitality Booster and build it into a Heart after you get your Manta.

Finally, I'd like to discuss the most controversial pick for this list; the Radiance.
But first, let's look at what the Radiance actually does. It gives PL himself +60 damage (which his illusions don't get), and him and all his illusions get the burning effect, which deals 45 damage per second in an area around them. The burning effect doesn't stack, however, so if 2 illusions are standing in one area, they still only deal 45 damage.

Let's look at what supporters of the Radiance say:
  • It helps to push lanes
  • It helps jungling

That's... Lacking, for a 5150 gold item. And half of it isn't even true!
Think about it. Generally a PL wants to push a lane with 8 of his illusions, while he himself jungles for maximum gold income. Having a burning effect means the illusions will have less of a chance to attack and proc Juxtapose, meaning the push would end quickly, seeing as there would be no illusions left.
They would benefit much more from increased attack speed (To create more illusions) and increased damage (To effectively kill towers). All of that can be achieved with a Manta Style- an item that's less expensive and more efficient than a Radiance!
This also disproves the jungling argument, as being able to instantly spawn 2 illusions and destroy creep camps instantly is just as fast as what a Radiance would do.





Aside from that, there's still an unspoken argument in this discussion; Hero battles.
Let's say you wanted to gank someone. Not only would they be scared off from your Radiance burn, you also wouldn't be able to kill them anyway.
Compare the two outcomes:
  • You run into an enemy, slow him with your Diffusal, and you fight for two seconds, which means you+ your Radiance would do ~250 damage.
  • You run into an enemy, slow him with your Diffusal, use your Manta to get two illusions and you fight for two seconds, which means you + your 2-4 illusions would do ~400 damage.
It's really a no-brainer. Its teamfight potential would be nice, were it not that every hero has at least 1000 health in the lategame which your puny +45 burn damage couldn't even scratch.
In short, the Radiance is a useless item.
Mid-Lategame Strategies
FARMING AND PUSHING
Phantom Lancer's greatest power lies in his ability to let his illusions push while the original does something else. Your two mains goals are these:
  • Get mad cash dollar
  • Push lanes like crazy
Your midgame should revolve around this, where the original PL with his Drum + Diffusal would take out jungle creeps while his illusions push out the lane next to the jungle, giving you twice as much income. Make sure to farm whenever you can, I cannot stress this enough. PL desperately needs items, and he needs them at a certain time to be of any kind of use. Generally I use the following standards for getting items:

(Get either a Drum or Vlads, followed by a Diffusal)
Drum or Vlads and Diffusal= 17 minutes in a game with a good start, 22 minutes in a game with a bad start.

(Either of the two)
Heart or Manta= 30 minutes in a good game, 35 minutes in a bad game.
You should aim to have your core + extension done at 45-50 minutes.

A common tactic when Phantom Lancer was picked in tournaments was to have him push out a lane, let him create 8 illusions and use Keeper of the Light to Recall him to a different lane where his team would be waiting. This would force the enemy team to either split up (giving you an easier time killing them) or to let the illusions whack away at the tower and possibly even take rax!
Even without a KotL, this strategy is still possible if you get your Boots of Travel, it just takes a little bit longer.

GANKING

I've already discussed this in my "what not to buy" item section, but I'll expand on it a bit more here. Phantom Lancer's invisibility ability allows him to, much like Bounty Hunter and Riki, sneak up on people before killing them in an instant. The general tactic of doing this is to Doppelwalk,
sneak up on them and use your Diffusal to break invisibility and slow them. If you have a Manta Style, use that as well. Make sure not to chase for too long after failing to kill them within 3 or so seconds! Chasing is a horrible sin, not just for Phantom Lancer but for pretty much any hero- if you chase, their team will be there waiting for you.

TEAMFIGHTING

Teamfighting as Phantom Lancer can be a little tricky. If you're up against a fed carry, especially one with powerful stuns, running into battle will probably result in your death. PL really needs a good initiator to allow him to get his 10 illusions up and running and really start doing damage.
If your team lacks a good initiator, don't run into battle just yet! Phantom Lancer is an incredibly elusive hero, being able to Spirit Lance an enemy for a little bit of damage and then running away, chipping off bits of their health over time. Once they're sufficiently weakened, that's when you jump in!

Another one of PL's strengths is the ability to quickly pick off people running away from a battle, since he's very difficult to beat 1v1. The combined difference in movement speed from your Drum, Manta and Diffusal ensures your enemies will not be able to get away.

Illusions
I wanted to briefly go over this, since buffed illusions are the main focus of this build. Illusions behave much differently from most other summoned units in DOTA 2. They aren't affected by most buffs, auras or other status modifiers. Here's a brief list of everything you need to know about PL illusions and how they react to different abilities and attributes within a possible build:

They're affected by the following passive abilities:
  • True Strike
  • Evasion
  • Critical Strike
  • Feedback (Diffusal)
  • Movement Speed bonus
  • Attribute Bonus (Which is basically the only way to make your illusions do more damage.)
  • Attack Speed and Movement Speed from Yasha (And Manta, stacks with drums but not itself.)
  • Health or Mana
  • True Sight
  • Radiance's Burn Damage
  • Magic Resistance from abilities as well as base Magic Resistance

They're NOT affected by the following passive abilities:
  • Raw Damage, Armor or Attack Speed increase (This is why building a
    Divine Rapier is a bad idea)
  • Health or Mana regeneration and Lifesteal
  • Most Unique attack modifiers except Feedback
  • Cleave (I.E. Battlefury and Empower)
  • Bash, including Monkey King Bar (But that's not what we're using it for.)
  • Damage Block (I.E. Vanguard) (NEVER build vanguard on PL! If you're really desperate for more HP, pick up an early Vitality Booster and build it into a Heart later.)
  • Magic Resistance from items (Cloak, Hood of Defiance, or Pipe of Insight)

As you can see, it's not worth it to build damage-increasing items as they don't affect your illusions. Instead, we boost our stats and focus on increasing our attack speed and building a Daedalus for crits.


On the subject of skills, the following unit and hero skills help illusions:
  • Centaur Conqueror (jungle): 15 Attack Speed increase aura
  • Kobold Foreman (jungle): +12% Movement Speed
  • Beastmaster: Attack Speed increase aura
The following items help illusions:
  • Tranquil Boots (and all ingredients): +3 HP regeneration, +3 Armor, +75 Movement Speed
  • Radiance: 45 damage per second aura
  • Drum of Endurance: +5-15% Movement Speed aura, +5-15 Attack Speed aura
  • Yasha (and items that contain Yasha; Sange and Yasha, Manta Style): +15 Attack Speed, +10% Movement speed
  • Point Booster and Vitality booster: +200 and +250 HP increase respectively
  • Ring of Health: +5 HP regeneration
  • Heart of Terrasque: +40 STR, +300 HP
  • Crystalys (and items that contain Crystalys; Daedalus): 20% chance to crit for 1.75x damage
  • Butterfly (and all ingredients): +30 AGI, +35% Evasion, +30 Attack Speed
  • Assault Cuirass (and all ingredients): +10 Armor, +35 Attack Speed, -5 Armor Aura (to enemies), +5 Armor Aura (to allies).
  • Monkey King Bar: True Strike, +15 Attack Speed

Lane Partners & Other Good Supports
What's a carry without a good support? In this section we'll look at good laning partners for Phantom Lancer and we'll also look at which heroes benefit PL in the lategame.

Keeper of the Light
Of course, we can't talk about supports without mentioning the big bad himself: Keeper of the Light.
Hated in pro- and pubmatches alike, in the right hands this elderly wizard can help snowball PL into a blue-furred death machine.

The best way for KotL to be played, is for him to go Chakra-first to let PL throw out as many nukes as he can, forcing the enemy out of lane lest they get hit with a spear to the face. It also allows KotL to harass the enemy with Illuminate and auto-attacks, forcing them out of experience range while PL happily sits and farms. Getting Mana Leak at level 5 is a great idea, as it would force enemies to either stand there and tank nukes or run out of mana and get stunned.

Crystal Maiden is another great support. Not only can she help PL out by giving him extra mana regen, her spammable Q and powerful W allow her to harass and possibly even kill.
Basically, any hero with spammable abilities (Bane is another good example) makes PL a happy camper.


Shadow Demon is an incredibly versatile hero. His early game is very strong, with his Disruption allowing you to set up kills, and his Shadow Poison is a great harassment tool.

Vengeful Spirit's nuke and armor decreasing aura is a huge boon to PL.
Lina's powerful nukes are great for setting up kills.


If you're up against heroes who have powerful but mana-intensive spells like Sven or Tiny, Silencer could help you out a lot.


When going for a pushing lineup, Pugna and Leshrac are very strong.


But let's look at later in the game. Who's gonna be of use then?

Well, our old friend just reared his head again. Keeper of the Light has the ability to Recall you, allowing you to spawn 8 illusions in 1 lane, get Recalled, and push as 5 in another lane. Your enemy would either have to split up or let 1 set of Barracks get killed.


Illusions are affected by auras that increase attack and movement speed. Beastmaster therefore makes for a great ally in the lategame, giving your illusions +40 attack speed.

If you have a hero like Chen or Enchantress on your team, they can dominate a Centaur for a small attack speed bonus, or a Kobold for a movement speed bonus.

Outworld Devourer's aura gives you a small chance to regenerate 25% of your mana pool after casting a spell, allowing you to spam your Q a bit more easily.


Auras aside, any hero with a good stun or disable to help you set up kills is a great asset in my book.

In my opinion, these two supports would be your best bet:

Playing Against Phantom Lancer
Phantom Lancer may be amazing, but like any hero, he's not perfect. These are some of the heroes that can really mess up PL.
























PL shares his biggest weakness with heroes like Anti-Mage and Lone Druid.
Less money= Mo' problems, since he relies entirely on farm to have any impact in the game. That's how you kill a PL! Harass him out of the lane in the early game, ward his jungle so he can't farm there, and constantly pressure him and make him unable to farm.

The heroes I mentioned before do help a bit with killing a fed PL, but remember: A fed carry is going to be difficult to kill by anyone but an equally as farmed carry. Bounty Hunter and Slardar have a True Sight ability, making your escape mechanism useless. (Of course, skilled PL players know that a Diffusal's Purge ability removes debuffs like Track...)

Shadow Demon and Dark Seer can create Phantom Lancer illusions (with Disruption and Wall of Replica, respectively) which behave exactly like normal PL illusions, including the ability to Juxtapose! These two become extremely useful in the lategame, since their illusions are just as strong as PL's. (If not stronger! The Wall's illusion can do up to 140% of the orginal PL's damage.)

Earth Shaker's ultimate deals more damage as more enemies are near him. Since Phantom lancer can spawn up to 10 illusions, this ability allows for a lot of damage to be dealt.

Outworld Devourer's ultimate does a great job of killing illusions, and his Astral Imprisonment is an amazing harass tool in the early game.
Playing From Behind
Let's say you had a horrible laning phase, either because you were in a dual carry lane and your lane partner took all your last hits, or you were just harassed to hell and back. There's no reason to give up yet, though! Phantom Lancer has the ability to come back into the game, even without a lot of farm. We're going to be looking at good value item and skill builds.

Now, before trying these tactics, I have to stress that they're desperation tactics and shouldn't be used if it can be avoided. Try doing the following things, and if they work, just use the normal build.
  • Move to a different lane for easier farming
  • Convince different lanes to gank you or set up a delayed trilane
Also consider how late it is in the lane. The sooner you realise a lane is lost, the quicker you can get back into the game.


Item Build:








First off, we're gonna get our Early Game Core, including the Diffusal.
After that, we'll build the most cost-effective items we can get, those being a Yasha and a Vitality Booster. These two items, while not being as strong as their completed counterparts, give PL a huge boost in all the areas he really needs, allowing him some teamfight/ganking/pushing potential.

Finally, we can start completing our Heart and Manta. Whichever you complete first depends entirely on your situation. If you feel like you're lacking damage and can't focus down enemies quickly enough, grab a Manta. If you're dying too much, pick up a Heart. If you can complete either of these items before ~35 minutes, you're definitely still in the game.

Recap
In this guide we reviewed an incredibly strong way to build Phantom Lancer, with unconventional items and an unusual skill build, as well as what to do when you're playing with him, or against him.
Phantom Lancer is an incredibly fun hero to play, and one of my personal favorites. Hopefully this guide will help you on your future endeavours!

Items you gotta get (in order):









Skills you gotta skill:















I'd like to thank the following people for their help when writing this guide:
McBawbaggings for his helpful input regarding supports and early-game strategies.
[λG] Vic for proofreading and editing the guide.
[λG] Reflexeos for prodding me into actually writing this thing.
373 Comments
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j.d. Jun 29 @ 12:44am 
Awesome guide, I liked and fav'd your 6.79 also!
But I don't read anywhere that Lycan and his howl Buff are also affecting the illus! Maybe mention it?

regards
REAV(SISKA) Jun 11 @ 6:00am 
vlad core item?lol
Ulcera Apr 2 @ 12:46pm 
If you need a soul ring its because of poor hero picks in your team.
Panasonic HD Sonic Mar 22 @ 3:03am 
ахренительный гайд))
StratosFear Feb 2 @ 4:24am 
I prefer getting a Soul Ring to turn the harrasment table around to let me farm in lane. On the condition you're not laning against nukers. That will be bad.
KissMyMiddleFingerOfDeath Jan 3 @ 7:53pm 
in new patch tranquil boots is useless in pl now
Friopjofur Dec 10, 2013 @ 4:59am 
Can you do this for the Enchantress or is that too much to ask? lol
Newgoodsdelivery  [author] Nov 1, 2013 @ 11:11am 
My item build for PL's changed completely, check out my 6.79 guide.
lordcirth Nov 1, 2013 @ 7:14am 
Thanks for this guide, it helped me win after randoming PL. One question: does your recommendation for Tranquil boots still hold after 6.79's changes to them?
ĐẄ Oct 28, 2013 @ 11:33pm 
очень хороший гайд