There’s a beautiful simplicity to Phantom Assassin. A simplicity which, I’d imagine, is going to mean that a lot of people pick her, and a lot of people are going to get disappointed when they get constantly killed for being too bold, too eager, and far too frivolous with their abilities, leaving them a useless dead weight on their team. Playing her on the Test server along with Chaos Knight and Gyrocopter, Monday’s new Heroes, there’s one thing I’ve come to realise over the course of my first few games; you’ve got to be willing to be carried.
To begin with I was as eager as was dangerous; you think that just because you’ve got some evasion from Blur, her passive, and a slow with Stifling Dagger, that you can just start ganking from level two at the latest. That you are, as her name suggests, an Assassin, and thus must be amazing at taking out other heroes. Except she’s not, not really. Not until she’s tooled up to high hell and got a team to back her up.
Stifling Dagger is actually her most interesting ability, from my short time with her. Originally it seemed like it was only useful for the 50% slow it gives, but it’s actually far more useful at keeping her at a safe distance while you last hit with it, as it deals 200 true damage to creeps at level four, leaving you with a nice last hit margin from a hefty distance.
And you’re going to need that farm, too, because Mortred is nothing without her items. Rushing a Poor Man’s Shield is in Valve’s recommended item list, and blocking that incoming damage is going to help reduce harass damage, because while it’s tempting to rush your Blur, grabbing points in Phantom Strike, her blink, is going to be much more useful at keeping you alive.
It lets you teleport to any unit, friendly or enemy, and gives you a bunch of bonus attack speed when you target a foe with it, but that ability to hop into an incoming friendly creep wave is going to save your life more than once. In fact, grabbing Phase Boots helps mightily, letting you breeze through any incoming units just as you blink to them, leaving your pursuers to get tangled up in a creep wave.
With both Blur and Coup De Grace, her ultimate that increased crit chance and multiplier, as passives, it leaves Phantom Assasin with only two active abilities. I’ve heard she’s considered a newbie friendly hero, and I’d imagine that’s why, but as she’s sosquishy, and so reliant on good farm and a healthy amount of support from her team, it seems like a bit of a misnomer to label her as such. I mean, when you really need a Battlefury and a BKB before you’re really viable as an assassin hero, that’s a pretty big ask for someone who’s not played the game much. Especially as her abilities lead you into believing she might be more useful than she is at early ganks.
Regardless, once you’ve got her farmed she’s a hell of a lot of fun, and if you can steamroller your way into Monkey King Bar or Satanic you’re going to become pretty hard to stop, especially if your team has a good initiator to distract for you. It’s just about surviving that initial twenty minutes or so, and making sure you get an ungodly amount of last hits so that you can afford the items you need. At least, that’s the way it seems from a game or two.
Finally, as an aside, from reading around Phantom Assassin had an 80% transparency on her Blur in the original Dota, but it appears that that’s been removed from Dota 2. She disappears from the minimap when Blur is active (triggered by an enemy hero coming within 1600 of her), but she’s still fairly visible, especially with a whopping great health bar above her head.