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Infinite March- Phantom Lancer Guide 6.82 UPDATE
By Sleeveless Monkey King
An in-depth and easy-to-understand guide to Phantom Lancer. Check out the 'Recap' section for an alt+tab guide. This guide will cover all the changes to Phantom Lancer in 6.82 and how to adapt and build around them.
Phantom Lancer is a melee Agility-based hero who excels at using illusions to confuse and bewilder the opponent while dealing a large amount of damage in a short amount of time using fast-spawning illusions.
This guide will focus around learning what skill builds and item builds are optimal for 6.82 PL and give gameplay hints, as well as tell you what heroes work well with- and against him.
Phantom Lancer's abilities got a massive overhaul in 6.82, radically changing the way he's played. I will first describe the abilities before telling you how to utilise them and when to skill them. Here's a brief introduction to all the abilities:
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. Fortunately, this ability did not get changed in 6.82. It is still Phantom Lancer's main source of damage in the early game, so make sure to max it as early as possible.
Doppelganger is Phantom Lancer's new escape mechanism in 6.82, replacing Doppelwalk. It removes Phantom Lancer and all illusions near him for 1 second, before having them re-appear in a different spot, along with 2 illusions. One of those illusions takes 100% damage and deals 0% damage, while the other takes 600% damage and deals 20% damage. Keep in mind that the 0 damage illusion can still deal damage through Diffusal Blade. This ability can be used to dodge projectiles, get to runes quickly, or, in rare cases, be used to jump from the high ground to the low ground or vice-versa. This depends on where PL and the two new illusions get placed.
This ability allows Phantom Lancer and any illusions, regardless of whether they're near PL or not, to move quickly toward an enemy.
Juxtapose is now PL's ultimate, though it works in a different way than it used to. The original PL will have a 40/45/50% chance to create an illusion, while his illusions have an 8% chance. These illusions take 600% damage and only last for a few seconds, meaning they're unable to push and die rather quickly. However, since PL's chance to create illusions is so large, the player can focus on building attack speed and damage instead of STR and HP.
There are several ways to build PL skill-wise at this point. Naturally, Spirit Lance should still be finished first, as it is his main source of damage early on. Doppelganger's effects and mana cost are the same at all levels, the only thing that improves is its cooldown. I share the same sentiment with this ability as I did with Doppelwalk- get a single point in it at level 1 or 2, then refrain from skilling it for a while, unless you're in a lane that requires you to need it. Some of these situations could be: playing in the middle lane against a hero like QOP or Puck and needing to dodge projectiles often, playing in a lane where you're often heavily harassed and need to escape often. If you're having an easy lane, consider picking up stats instead. Phantom Rush is useless until later on- get one level in it at 4, if at all.
This is a potential skill build to use in a dangerous lane:
In this section, I'll give an explanation of good items to pick up on PL. 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!
Nothing's really changed about the starting item build, but since you've got a bit more STR and AGI at the start, consider picking up an SS instead of a QB at the start more often. 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 two items; a Quelling Blade or a Stout Shield.
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.
Phantom Lancer's item build has changed massively as a result of his overhaul in 6.82. He's no longer a late-game pusher who excels at being in one place while his illusions are in another, and he doesn't need -that- much tankiness with shorter-lasting illusions.
Power Treads are still the boots of choice, as PL now fights so often that Tranqs isn't really an option anymore, and he doesn't need Phase due to Phantom Rush.
Phantom Lancer is now a lot more level-hungry than he was in 6.81- he absolutely needs to get to level 16 as early as possible. That's why I'm suggesting a Hand of Midas pickup- not incredibly common before, but more viable now. If your lane isn't going amazingly well, you could consider skipping it.
"Hey! What's the Diffusal Blade doing all the way over here already?" is a thing you may (although you probably won't) think as you see this item. Yes, Diffusal Blade is now even more core than it used to be, as his illusions (remember, 40% chance to create up to 6 illusions at level 6!) do paper cuts worth of damage early on and direly need that extra damage. The added slow doesn't hurt, either. Diffusal Blade got changed in 6.82- recipe cost went from 850 to 700, agility bonus became 20/35 and feedback damage went from 20/36 to a constant 25. If you're more desperate to get 15 extra agility than to have Diffusal charges, consider upgrading it early on.
The Medallion of Courage can offer you a great boost in damage after picking up your Diffusal Blade. If you're looking to gank a lot after completing that item, you could pick this up. Otherwise, skip it and continue farming.
Still decently viable in 6.82, as it provides a lot of stats early on. If your enemies are packing a lot of early-game damage you might want to get this, but I wouldn't recommend it.
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 
PL's core items have changed in 6.82. He no longer needs to build tankiness and stacking AGI is now wáy higher on his priority list. This new item build will reflect that.
A Manta Style is your first big pickup after the Diffusal Blade. Make sure to start with the Yasha first, as it provides you with a lot of that necessary attack speed and damage through AGI. Keep in mind that these illusions are different from the ones created through Juxtapose, as they last 20 seconds and deal 33% damage instead of 16, although they do have the ability to proc normal Juxtapose abilities through attacking. They do not count towards your Juxtapose illusion count, meaning you could have up to 8/10/12 illusions depending on your level of Juxtapose.
This is a fantastic source of additional AGI and attack speed for your illusions. The evasion (which applies to your illusions) is very helpful as well. Don't forget about its new active ability which trades in its evasion for a large speed boost, which can be used to escape or close in on enemies.
Previously, Phantom Lancer had no need to build a Black King Bar as his illusions were too beefy to be killed- if he was even among his illusions to begin with. Now, his illusions are far weaker and he's guaranteed to be in the middle of them. In order to survive through spells and keep attacking, you'll need a BKB. You could pick this up earlier or not at all, depending on how your game's going.
Boots of Travel, while not as vital as they used to be, are still helpful. You can't use them to splitpush anymore, but you can use them to quickly travel around the map. Plus, it frees up the item slot your TP scroll used to be in.
Linken's Sphere has now become a more viable option a PL moves to being more of a single unit at most times. If your enemy's got a particularly nasty single-target spell like Flaming Lasso, Fiend's Grip or Roar that could disable you for a large amount of time, consider picking this up.
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 your other items, it might be a good idea to pick this up.
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.
An Assault Cuirass will help decrease your opponents' armor which allows you and your illusions to hit for more damage. The added attack speed helps too.
As a kind of 7th item, you could replace your Diffusal Blade with an Eye of Skadi when you're already 6-slotted. Later on, that little extra bit of health and that reliable slow really help.
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.
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 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.
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:
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
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 or Crimson Guard) (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:
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.
In 6.82, Wisp is -fantastic- as a support for PL. Relocate allows him to gank unsuspecting targets much like a CK would, and the increased attack speed provided by Wisp means he's creating more illusions to deal damage. Especially powerful when played as a duo mid.
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 three 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. One thing to keep in mind in 6.82 is that Phantom Lancer is now almost certainly among a group of illusions, making -any- area of effect spell a lot more potent. In lane, you can harass him by using projectiles that either can't be dodged or are difficult to dodge (a lot of). Some examples are Huskar, Gyrocopter and Clinkz. [/previewimg]
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...)
Keep in mind that in 6.82, when Dark Seer or Shadow Demon creates an illusion of the original PL, they will still only have an 8% chance to create illusions themselves. This means they're not as powerful of a counter to PL as they were before.
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.
Helpful Console Commands
Here you'll see a list containing helpful console commands and launch options for Dota 2. Feel free to post more in the comments!
Activating the console in Dota 2 Step 1: Go to Library > Dota 2 > Properties Step 2: Then go to Set Launch Options and enable the console here by typing in “-console” in the tab that opens up. Step 3: When you start the game, you should now see the console loading up. Step 4: (Optional) Dota 2 allows users to re-assign their console hotkey. You can do this in Options > Controls > Metagame tab.
EXTRAS 1: Removing the creepy bald guy intro Step 1: Go to Library > Dota 2 > Properties Step 2: Then go to Set Launch Options and enter -novid
EXTRAS 2: giving Dota 2 higher CPU priority when you are playing Step 1: Go to Library > Dota 2 > Properties Step 2: Then go to set Launch Options and enter -high
Most Useful Commands:
Enables right click deny: 0= off 1= on dota_force_right_click_attack 1
Shows the range of your spells: 0= When clicked to use the spell 1= When mouse is over spell icon dota_disable_range_finder 0
dota_minimap_hero_size ### (default is around 500) this is a great console command as it will make the icons on your map any size you want.
dota_always_show_player_names - 0 will disable, 1 will enable player name on top of health bars. Default = 0
dota_player_add_summoned_to_selection will add Summons automatically to your current control group when spawned
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. TheShadow for helpful console commands.