Phantom Assassin has almost always been built incorrectly in pubs in my opinion. And I think the problem stems from the suggested build, along with a lack of understanding of the hero’s strength. Let me explain.
Blur will give 50% evasion when maxed, which gives her massive survivability boost against right clickers. The problem is that smart players will eventually get an MKB, and the main part of the skill is now void against that hero. If you look at the defensive skills of other carries, they scale so much better into the late game. Dispersion, Backtrack, Mana Sheild and Spell Sheild all do so much more in the late game. All 4 heroes are often considered very strong late game heroes, and all 4 heroes have an ability that scales much better than evasion. Evasion can eventually be counted, where as Backtrack is annoyingly strong even past 70 minutes. This puts Phantom Assassin’s defensive ability in a unique situation, it will eventually be void against the heroes that matter the most.
Phantom Assassin’s Evasion Window is what I call the time where PA needs to strike. It’s the time where PA has evasion, but the enemy doesn’t have MKB yet. Most players won’t get MKB as a first item. For example a Shadow Fiend isn’t going to rush an MKB, he might want items like a Blink or a BKB first. Morphling and other attribute-based carries take this a step further. With 50% evasion you generally need to get an MKB, but a Morphling will probably want 2/3 items first. A Morphling with Treads, Aquilla and an MKB just doesn’t do enough to warrant rushing it. But a Morphling with Treads, Ethereal and Linkens will be more than fine in getting a generally sub-par Morphling item in order to hard counter the Phantom Assassin.
The Problem with Battle Fury
This is the problem with Battle Fury on Phantom Assassin, it doesn’t allow her to take advantage of the Evasion Window. If she gets a Battle Fury, she gives time for the enemy carries to pick up an MKB. Adding to this, she is also a really good early-to-mid game fighter. She has a 4 second 50% slow on a 6 second cooldown, a Psuedo-Blink, and high damage with Coup de Grâce. Keep in mind that you also can’t Blink Strike to Magic Immune targets, but that’s the hole you can dig the enemy into.
That is, you want to fight when the enemy has a BKB or MKB, but not both (even better if neither). If they rush a MKB, then they will be really squishy and you can still blink on them due to a magic immunity. A basically raw MKB often means PA can slice through their health pool and swiftly dispose of them. On the other hand, if the enemy has BKB but no MKB, you can’t blink strike on them, but they will miss some of their attacks on you. As you get more and more levels, it becomes a much more significant percent (20/30/40/50).
How Do I Build?
Whenever you build a hero, you need to ask yourself a simple question; “What does a hero truly need?”. Generally speaking PA needs items to allow her to stay on target, items that are effective in the mid game, and items that allow her to commit. Items like Phase Boots, Drums, Basher, Sange n Yasha, Vlads and Black King Bar all come to mind. I would say Black King Bar is the most important out of all these items, since it forces the enemy to kill her via right clicks, which is when evasion is most effective. It also allows her to tunnel vision and truly commit to a hero and dispose of them. Phantom Assassin isn’t a cooldown based hero; dagger is 6 seconds and Blink Strike is 14/11/8/5. As long as she doesn’t die, she can exploit her low cooldowns in a team fight. Where as someone like Medusa or Void have long cooldown one shot ultimates. They still pack a punch outside these ultimates, but are nowhere near as potent during the eary-to-mid game without them.
This is where the HP from Drums and Sange fit in nicely (technically also BKB and Basher), since they boost up her HP pool, increasing the amount of times Evasion will proc during a fight. Evasion is always more effective the higher your HP pool is.
Anti-Kite items allow her to stay on target; Drums, Sange (Maim) n Yasha (+MS), Phase Boots and Basher are useful here. Some people perpetually hate SnY, but it is an effective item on Mid-Game fighting heroes, some people most likely would always prefer Manta though and trash talk SnY at any given opportunity. Manta has some benefits as well.
PA just isn’t a hero you want to take to the late game with and get Battle Fury non stop. She’s a hero you want to exploit her low cooldowns and evasion window. Juggernaut and PA can both do very well when they’re farmed, but I would say that farming builds are not the most effective way to build them. Engaging in a Farm War on heroes who excel at fighting is often not very effective in pubs. It might work out, but it’s rolling the dice for no reason. The commonly accepted idea to win games is to have a High Impact, afk farming is Delayed Impact. You are very Low Impact for the first 25 minutes, before finally starting to Impact your team in a positive way. Technically even carries with a better late game defensive ability than Blur shouldn’t go for the late game in certain circumstances. And in pubs often people don’t, since there’s no time nor farm focus to be able to do so.
PA doesn’t have any flash farming ability, which is the main driver behind Battle Fury. But I still don’t think that’s the problem that needs solving with itemization, because her late game isn’t as strong as other heroes. Especially weakens when more and more Ghosts, Force, Blinks, MKBS, BKBs and Hexes come out as it makes it increasingly harder for her to commit to a hero. Not to mention how good of a fighter she is.
Pubs tend not to be atmospheres revolved around farming, and people are far less forgiving if you attempt to do this. The most popular heroes in Pubs are a often early and mid game oriented heroes. For years Pubs have preferred winning through ganking, Pudge has topped the charts for years, and Riki and Bloodseeker have always been in close pursuit. It’s probably because ganking is more fun than farming, but regardless this is the atmosphere of pubs. Farming can work in farming games, but the vast majority of pub games have a strong ganking atmosphere. Fighting PA is the High Impact way to build and play the hero, even more so with the recent buffs, such as the 6 second cooldown on dagger, which can now crit.
Pubs also don’t tend to have the same Farm Focus as pro games. Pro teams are 5 stacks who are all trusting of eachother, and all on the same page. They put Farm Focus as a team onto certain heroes. Sometimes it’s the Sand King to get his blink, but often it’s heavy focus on the carry to get as much as possible. This doesn’t happen in pubs, where people are unknowns, heroes are lacking in supports, and there’s no clear team vision or gameplan.
Battle Fury rush works better under a game plan, and even better on heroes who excel in the late game. Mid game focus on PA is an incredibly effective way to itemize her, and pubbers should seriously considering doing it more.