Xin, the Ember Spirit
Hi, I’m SlashStrike (not the same person as slahser), and I’m bringing you my guide to Ember Spirit. I believe very few people truly understand this hero, because everyone I have seen play him opts for the same item and skillbuilds every single game, which is a shame because he is a very versatile hero.
If you’re looking for a guide that will tell you to buy x items and level y skills so that you can thoughtlessly repeat the same thing, this guide is not for you. If you want to understand the hero well and know about different builds, when to go for which one and to be able to adapt to the game, then keep on reading.
Watching a 40 minute video is painful, and nobody wants to read several thousand words of raw text. This guide finds a middle ground – the basis is textual, but there is a video accompanying it. Throughout the text you will find links to certain times of the video, in which I demonstrate exactly what is being discussed in the text. At the end of this guide you can see the full video embedded, in case you want to look through it again.
Table of Contents
- Characteristics & Statistics
- Skill Builds
- Item Builds
- Laning Stage & Match-ups
- Spell Use, Item Use and Combos
- To Farm, or to Gank
- Closing Words
2. Characteristics & Statistics
- Very mobile
- Good farmer
- Strong at all stages of the game
- Extremely hard to kill
- Versatile playstyle
- Weak laning stage versus some heroes
- Becomes item dependent after early game
(Thanks to Dota2wiki for the table)
His starting stats are decent, but his stat gains are terrible – this is to compensate for the hero’s powerful skillset. His movement speed is a great above average 310. His turnrate is in the middle of the pack at 0.6, to a small extent balancing his instant cast point, which is the hero’s defining aspect and also what makes his spells so powerful. His attack damage is slightly below average and attack point is average, but he is very pleasant to last-hit with due to his animation. His main weakness is his terrible base armor of 1, which is what you typically find on tanky strength heroes that build into armor items, not on a mobile agility carry. However, if there’s any hero good at avoiding damage in fights, it’s Ember.
3. Skill Builds
Ember Spirit has one of the most flexible skill builds. This is because each of his spells except his ultimate scale extremely well, meaning there are no defining ‘value points’ that you can find in other heroes (i.e. spells with 50%+ of their potency at level 1).
To expand further on this, take for example Jugger – Often his Bladefury is left at level 1 because it grants you the full 5 second magic immunity, and the total damage only increases by 100 each level, starting at 400. This means you get a 25%, 20% and 16% damage increase per level, and a slight cooldown reduction. A more extreme example of a 1 point wonder would be DK’s stun, starting at 2.5 seconds and only increasing by 0.25 seconds as you level it, meaning 10%, 9% and 8% per level.
Some spells scale best up to a certain level, such as Sniper’s headshot – you get the full slow from level one, but the damage starts off at 15 and increases by 25 each level, meaning you get 166%, 62.5% and 38.5% damage increase, which is why level 2 can also be considered the ‘value point’. Another example of this would be Bounty’s shuriken toss – with the damage increasing by 100%, 25% and then 30%, level 2 is also obviously the level giving most value for your skill point.
Ember’s skills scale in a very interesting way in the sense that there are no clear value levels or 1 point wonders, meaning the skill build is extremely adaptable to each game. Let’s take an in-depth look at each spell.
Ember Spirit unleashes fiery bolas that wrap around nearby enemies, anchoring them in place and dealing damage each second.
Cast Time: 0+0.87
Search Radius: 400
Max Targets: 2
Damage per Second: 80/60/120/100
Total Damage: 80/120/240/300
Cooldown: 14/12/10/8 Manacost: 110
- Despite the visual effects, the effects are applied instantly and can’t be disjointed.
- The 2 units rooted are completely random, with no priorities.
- Affected units can still turn, cast spells, use items and attack. Affected units receive a stop command upon getting rooted – what differentiates this from a ministun is that when you cancel a spell / command with Searing Chains, the enemy has to re-cast or re-issue it.
- Disables AM’s Blink, QoP’s Blink, Furion’s Teleportation, Bara’s Charge, Puck’s Phase Shift and Blink Dagger (despite not immediately dealing damage).
- Interrupts channeling spells of the target upon ensnaring, but affected units can channel spells during it (keep in mind when jumping on CM/WD/Enigma etc.)
- Searing Chains does not reveal invisible units for the duration.
- Does not target invisible or fogged units – this means careful use when chasing someone through trees and up cliffs. A remnant can be useful to give you vision and guarantee the chains connecting.
- Deals damage in 1 second intervals, starting 1 second after cast.
- 100% duration and 50% damage increase from level 1 -> 2.
- 0% duration and 100% damage increase from level 2 -> 3.
- 50% duration and 25% damage increase from level 3 -> 4.
You always want level 2 of this skill asap, almost always when your hero is level 3 or 4. If your main need is burst damage, you keep the spell at level 3. If your main need is disable, you keep it at level 2 or you commit and max it to level 4.
Sleight of Fist
Ember Spirit dashes around with blazing speed, attacking all enemies in the targeted area of effect, then returning to his start location. Deals bonus damage to heroes, and less damage to creeps.
Cast Time: 0+0.7
Cast Range: 700
Effect Radius: 250/350/450/550
Hero Attack Damage Bonus: 20/40/60/80
Creep Attack Damage Reduction: 50%
Cooldown: 30/22/14/6 Manacost: 50
- Ember Spirit is invulnerable, and his model cannot be selected during Sleight of Fist. However, it does not disjoint projectiles, meaning both spells and attacks can still hit you after you are done bouncing around. If you collide with them during Sleight of Fist, they will effectively be ‘dodged’ as they hit you while you are invulnerable. This is not entirely reliable, since the jumping order is random.
- Targets are determined upon cast. The targets have a flaming sword above their heads as an indicator, which disappears once Ember Spirit slashes them.
- This means that units entering the targeted area after cast are not hit, and units which were in the area upon cast and leave the area will be hit, no matter how far they moved.
- Does not mark or jump on invisible units. When a marked unit goes invisible, it will be fully skipped if it’s still invisible on his turn. Units in fog are fully affected.
- Jumps in 0.2 second intervals. The jumps are randomly between all marked units, there are no priorities. The damage is dealt immediately upon each jump.
- Ember Spirit can cast spells and use items during Sleight of Fist.
- The damage is based on Ember Spirit’s attack damage + the stated damage when jumping on heroes, or – 50% when jumping on creeps. This means that the +80 damage is also taken into account for critical strikes.
- Bashes, critical hits, mini-bashes and all attack modifiers / orb effects fully apply or have a chance to trigger on each slash.
- If Sleight of Fist is cast during the fade time of Shadow Blade, each target will receive the bonus backstab damage. Furthermore, upon completing the Sleight of Fist, Ember Spirit will be invisible.
- When Ember Spirit is disarmed, he will deal no damage on slashes, since he cannot attack. He also can miss, and damage reduction will affect the damage.
- After all marked targets have been slashed, Ember Spirit will return to his position he had upon casting Sleight of Fist. That position is marked by a remnant for the duration.
- Sleight of Fist is not canceled when Ember Spirit gets moved by e.g. a teleport or by activating Fire Remnant.
- 27% CD reduction and 40% radius increase from level 1 -> 2.
- 36% CD reduction and 29% radius increase from level 2 -> 3.
- 57% CD reduction and 22% radius increase from level 3 -> 4.
The radius increase does not change much with each level, but clearly level 3 to 4 is the biggest value point because the cooldown is decreased by more than 50%, which is when the spell finally becomes spammable. For this reason, you could get 1 point early to have the occasional dodge or long-reach chains, but once you start levelling it you need to stick to it until it is level 4.
Ember Spirit surrounds himself with a ring of fire that consumes incoming magic damage, leaving him unharmed. Flame Guard deals damage per second in an area around Ember Spirit while Flame Guard is active. If the shield is broken, the damage is also lost.
Cast Time: 0+1.07
Damage Radius: 400
Damage per Second: 30/40/50/60
Magic Damage Absorbed: 50/200/350/500
Cooldown: 35 Manacost: 80/90/100/110
- Flame Guard blocks damage before any reductions. The only exception here is spell immunity, during which it does not block any magic damage.
- Deals 6/8/10/12 damage in 0.2 seconds intervals, starting 0.2 seconds after cast.
- Can be dispelled and purged (this includes not only the purge from Diffusal Blade and SD’s ultimate but also the Cyclone from Eul’s Scepter of Divinity, as well as Invoker’s Tornado)
- 400% absorption increase and 33% DPS increase from level 1 -> 2.
- 75% absorption increase and 25% DPS increase from level 2 -> 3.
- 43% absorption increase and 20% DPS increase from level 3 -> 4.
Something that is immediately apparent is the huge increase from level 1 to 2, meaning again that you definitely want at least two points in this spell, almost always by level 4-5. After that, it highly depends on the enemy heroes. The main reason to level this spell up is not to deal more damage because as shown it scales poorly, but rather to make sure the shield stays up and does not get nuked down. If you’re up against a lot of physical damage, it’s often a good idea to keep the shield at level 2 or 3 and max out your other spells first. If you’re up against big nukes, you want the shield maxed so that it does not drop to one dragon slave or one lightning bolt.
Ember Spirit generates Fire Remnant charges every 35 seconds, with a max of 3 charges. Releasing a charge sends a Fire Remnant that runs to the target location at 2.5x Ember Spirit’s speed. Using Activate Fire Remnant, Ember Spirit can dash out to his Remnants, exploding them for area of effect damage. The targeted Remnant will be arrived at last.
Cast Time: 0+0.53
Cast Range: 1500
Max Charges: 3
Charge Replenish Time: 35
Remnant Duration: 45
- Ember Spirit gets all 3 charges immediately upon learning Fire Remnant
- Fire Remnants move to their targeted location at a speed of 250% of Ember Spirit’s movement speed. The speed is set upon cast and does not adapt.
- Sínce Fire Remants last for 45 seconds and the replenish time is 35 seconds, it is possible to have 4 remnants up on the map at a time.
- Every time a Fire Remnant is placed, Ember Spirit gets a status buff, showing the duration of the remnant. The status buff disappears once the Remnant expires or is used.
- Fire Remnants deal no damage when they expire.
- Fire Remnants have a 400 radius flying vision and are visible to everyone.
Activate Fire Remnant
Select the Fire Remnant to arrive at.
Cast Time: 0+1.07
Cast Range: Global
Remnant Damage Radius: 450
Remnant Damage: 100/150/200
Cooldown: 0 Manacost: 150
- Ember Spirit moves to a Fire Remnant with a speed of 1300, or reaches it in 0.4 seconds, whichever is faster.
- Always costs 150 mana, no matter if Ember Spirit has to travel to 1, 2, 3 or 4 Fire Remnants.
- While traveling, Ember Spirit can attack, cast spells and use items.
- Using Sleight of Fist or Blink Dagger while traveling will cause him to stop traveling and lose the invulnerability, and then instantly get moved to the next remnant.
- Always travels to the Fire Remnant furthest away from the targeted point first.
- The damage is dealt around each Fire Remnant upon reaching them.
- Destroys trees within 200 radius around Ember Spirit while he’s traveling to a remnant. Though at high speeds, some trees may be skipped.
- Can be targeted through the minimap.
- 50% Damage increase from level 1 -> 2.
- 33% Damage increase from level 2 -> 3.
This is probably the worst scaling ultimate in the game. While a triple-remnant burst is likely to net you a kill as soon as you hit level 6, by the time midgame rolls around and you’re level 11, you will almost never want to triple remnant for burst damage. The +50/100/150 damage gained from leveling the spell will be negligible at that point, and considering how well your other skills scale, it is recommended to max everything by 13 and then take stats instead of levelling the ultimate.
Exemplary skill build
- Searing Chains
- Flame Guard
- Searing Chains / Flame Guard
- Searing Chains / Flame Guard
- Flame Guard
- Fire Remnant
- Flame Guard
- Sleight of Fist
- Searing Chains
- Sleight of Fist
- Sleight of Fist
- Sleight of Fist
- Searing Chains
I would have preferred to not add such a skill build, because it seems like a step-by-step rule set that must be followed, which is not the case. However, I am sure many people want to just see what a regular skill build is like, afraid to ‘mess it up’. The truth is that when you play Ember on the mid lane you level up very fast, and deciding what you level up should always be done in the moment according to your immediate goals.
For example, you may want to take a point in SoF at level 5, to make a solo kill happen before you’re level 6. You may even want to take it at level 2, to surprise the enemy and set up your teammates’ gank with a very early SoF+Chains. You may want level 2 Chains at level 3 because you just levelled up and will be able to chain him at the tower for some harass, or you may want level 2 Flame Guard at level 3 because you want to push out the lane and go for the rune.
You may end up maxing SoF by level 9, because you only put two points in the guard and chains, since they have little magical damage to break your Flame Guard with. Or, you may end up maxing it at 13 because you really want to have your level 4 Chains and Guard ready earlier, using your ultimate to run people down. In extreme cases, against a Skywrath mid for example, you could max SoF by 7 with two points in Chains, skipping the Flame Guard until later because it would break immediately to Sky’s spells, and relying on the long-range physical damage harass from SoF to bully Skywrath out of the lane, and with some luck dodge his Arcane Bolts.
4. Item Builds
Ask a support to pool you 2 tangos, buy a salve, 2 branches and a stout shield. If no one pools you just buy the tangos, it’s not fatal. You can swap the stout shield for a magic stick against some spell spammers like Zeus, Batrider and Skywrath. If the enemies have a Nature’s Prophet, you should consider getting a set of tangos instead of the salve, so you always have one ready in case he ganks you with sprout. Get Bottle as soon as possible and Boots after, preferably with a TP. As you’re nearing level 6, with a TP you can start making instant trips to base and back to lane.
Bottle and Boots should not need any explanation.
The Ring of Basilius may seem surprising – the armor it gives you, together with Stout Shield, remedies your greatest weakness (as you become fairly resistant to physical hits), gives you a nice +6 damage, some much needed mana regeneration as well as control of the lane and the ability to push if the enemy mid leaves to gank.
TP scrolls are generally a no-brainer on any mid that is capable of ganking and counterganking, but Ember has an amazing additional use of them thanks to his ultimate, allowing you to leave a remnant, TP home, heal, fill up your bottle, buy items, and come back to lane in the matter of seconds.
The magic stick is optional depending on the enemy heroes and can be skipped.
Bottle, Battlefury / Maelstrom, Power Treads / Phase, TP Scroll and Ring of Aquila
This is the absolute core that will be the best choice in 95% of games.
“What?! Ring of Aquila, no Drums of Endurance?!”
According to dotabuff, in the past week Drums have been most purchased on Ember Spirit, with a total of ~160,000 matches. Compare this to only ~14,000 games with Ring of Aquila, bought more often even on Windrunner than on Ember. The current general opinion is evident, but I disagree with it. Without getting into a full-fledged comparison between the two, I will explain why RoA is core and mention why Drums are not recommended.
First of all, RoA is one of the most cost efficient items in the game right now, meaning that you get more out of your 1010 gold through a RoA than any other item, in a single slot. It gives you a total of 18 damage, which is a very nice early game boost that makes your attacks hurt significantly. The mana regen and extra stats are a nice bonus. The aura gives you the potential to pressure the tower hard as soon as the enemy mid leaves, something that you can do more safely with Ember than with any other mid hero by virtue of being able to instantly zip away to a remnant previously placed next to your tower. But most importantly, it is the only armor-giving item that is useful in the early game on Ember, and armor is something you desperately need, as Ember has the second lowest starting armor out of any agility hero (after Drow, but she is ranged).
I do not recommend Drums because while the MS is nice, it is not worth the cost on a hero that is already so mobile and good at chasing, and the HP is not as effective because you already have Flame Guard to buff you up versus magical damage, but are still weak to physical with Drums only giving you 1 armor compared to the 4 from Aquila. Lastly, the main reason is that they simply cost too much for an early game item, effectively delaying your first major farming item.
Treads sometimes over Phase?!
Like on any hero that uses Bottle, Tread switching becomes even more efficient. It takes some time to get used to the tread switching as it is quite intensive on an already mechanically demanding hero such as Ember, but the bonuses are great. They give you the extra mana when you need it, the bonus damage when needed, and make you much tankier in fights.
Attack speed is colossally underrated on Ember Spirit, as you definitely spend time right-clicking people in fights, especially before SoF is maxed, but still even after. Treads also enable you to farm faster once you get your farming item, as well as take towers faster when pushing. The bonus MS from the Phase active is nice for chasing, but is lost when you use any spell or item, something which Ember does a lot. Phase do give you more damage for your SoF, of course. When you switch to int before casting SoF, remember to switch back to agility during the SoF, if you are hitting multiple and the timing allows it.
With that being said, in some games I still prefer Phaseboots. For example, when dealing with many summons that you could phase through, or simply when you’re planning to fight and gank more than you’re planning on pushing and farming.
Maelstrom sometimes over Battlefury?
Maelstrom is much cheaper, and while it does not scale nearly as well into the lategame, in the first 20 minutes the lightning packs a way stronger punch than the cleave, especially against high-armor and low HP targets such as Terrorblade, Bounty, Riki, etc. If you are dominating it is very feasible to get this item along with your core completed before 15 minutes, whereas a good Battlefury timing would be a few minutes later. Also, the lightning bounce range is much higher than that of the cleave, making it more effective versus mobile ranged heroes that are unlikely to clump up, as well as effective at cancelling blinks from a very long distance.
Maelstrom can also be a better option if you are falling behind. If you find yourself struggling to amass gold and unlikely to finish a Battlefury any time soon, a Maelstrom as a cheaper alternative will help you catch up in farm and have more impact in early fights.
Black King Bar, Shadow Blade, Manta Style, Eye of Skadi, Monkey King Bar, Daedalus, Desolator, Second Battlefury, Second Maelstrom, Mjollnir, Divine Rapier
Though it may seem strange, BKB is not a defensive item on Ember, but an aggressive one. With Ember it is not difficult to dodge spells with slow missile speed. You are only vulnerable to instant disables such as hexes or long range stuns, against which a BKB does not help much, because if you couldn’t get your SoF/ult off you probably wouldn’t get off the BKB either. In those cases you would rather get a Skadi for a direct HP boost, or a Shadow Blade / Manta / Linken’s for more elusiveness. The purpose of a BKB on Ember is to enable you to charge headfirst into fights, which magic immunity allows only versus line-ups with low physical damage (teams with Zeus, Spectre, Skywrath, AA, Disruptor, etc.) Do not buy this as your second item unless you are far ahead and able to force fights with it, because if it does not get you kills it will heavily stunt your item progression.
Shadow Blade probably seems surprising. As you may have noticed in the “Important aspects” of SoF, casting the spell during Shadow Blade’s fade time results in the bonus 175 backstab damage being applied to every SoF target, and subsequently leaves you invisible after the SoF ends. The bonus damage works extremely well with a Battlefury as it is cleaved, gives you great burst albeit on a cooldown, but more importantly also granting you invisibility on a hero that is already very difficult to pin down. Simply initiating with the Shadow Walk is an alternative way to use the item, leaving you with more remnants to use during the fight. I would not recommend picking this up if you already have an invisibility hero on your team that the enemy team is buying detection for. If this is not the case however, it can be a very good choice after your first farming item.
Manta Style as well as Linken’s Sphere are both stat-heavy items great versus strong single target disables such as Storm Spirit’s (inevitable) Orchid, Beastmaster’s Primal Roar, Doombringer’s Doom, Legion Commander’s Duel, Batrider’s Lasso, etc. Linken’s is the slightly more defensive of the two, giving you a fairly large reaction window and allowing you to splitpush safely as even a linken’s break immediately into a disable is likely to give you enough time to just zip out. Keep in mind it is fairly useless versus blink->aoe disable initiators such as Axe, Centaur, Slardar and the likes, as well as heroes that simply nuke or hit you without relying on hard lockdown. Manta has greater offensive use, giving you more agility as well as making your splitpush stronger through the illusions. The active dispels tons of debuffs, most notably any non lingering silence, making it the ultimate counter to Orchid. A special mention goes to Vengeful Spirit’s Wave of Terror, which is hard to dodge in fights and definitely hurts you as an already low on armor hero. Lastly, be aware that you can cast Manta during SoF. While difficult to pull off, a SoF+Chains+Manta combo can leave your enemy chained with two illusions beating on him, useful for finishing off stragglers from a distance.
A very solid choice for a second item is Eye of Skadi. With it giving you a massive 725 HP boost, it becomes practically impossible to chain-disable and burst you down. The 35% MS and 45% AS slow is also incredibly powerful, giving you some control versus magic immune targets. As Ember is a melee hero, the slow from Skadi lasts 5 seconds, meaning that with the 6 second cooldown on SoF you can keep applying it ~85% of the time. Buy this when you do not lack burst damage, but simply need to not get bursted down in order to win the fight, usually as a 3rd item but sometimes as a 2nd. It is especially powerful versus immobile melee heroes heavily relying on high MS, such as Bristleback, Tiny, Juggernaut, Troll, etc.
The true strike component of Monkey King Bar is a must when dealing with PA, and should almost always be purchased up versus common Butterfly users such as Shadow Fiend, Anti-Mage, Terrorblade, etc. This is because Sleight of Fist can miss, and as Ember you heavily rely on it connecting every time because through it you hit infrequently and therefore need to make it count. When facing heroes that could potentially go for a Butterfly, it is a good idea to get the Demon Edge first, and then go into either Daedalus or MKB depending on whether they get the Butterfly or not. Keep in mind, however, that the MKB proc bonus damage is not cleaved by Battlefury, and similarly the Lightning proc bonus damage does not contribute to the Daedalus critical hits, meaning that Maelstrom+MKB and Battlefury+Daedalus are generally speaking the most effective combinations. This of course does not mean that you cannot go Battlefury+MKB if the enemies have evasion, or Maelstrom+Daedalus if they have none.
Daedalus is fairly straightforward. It simply gives you more damage on SoF. A nice thing you may have noticed under the important aspects of SoF, is that the bonus 20/40/60/80 damage on SoF hit contributes to the critical strike, essentially turning into a bonus ~200 damage given by SoF on critical hits. Still, Daedalus is one of the most one dimensional items, as it gives you literally nothing but more damage, and arguably a bit of a surprise factor thanks to the chance of a crit, something that can however also be seen negatively as it is unreliable. Every other item has some additional utility, and even the MKB offers mini-stuns, true strike as well as some AS. Nevertheless, since Daedalus essentially increases your damage on average by 35%, it scales unlike other items meaning it becomes a better choice as your damage grows.
The -armor from Desolator is great when applied in an AoE, and therefore is seen by many as a great choice. However, it does not boost your farming speed and therefore should not be picked up as a first item, and does not give you any survivability either, unlike other potential second items such as Manta, Shadow Blade, Skadi, etc. Also important to note that despite the -armor debuff lasting 15 seconds, you can only re-apply it reliably once every 6 seconds with a SoF, making it weak versus any heroes with dispels (Slark, Abaddon, Legion, PL, manta-carriers, etc.) Lastly, at 4100 gold it is after all a mid-game item, and unless you win fast with it you would wish you had gone for something else.
A second Battlefury is quite an investment, but can easily be the most efficient damage item given the right circumstances. For example, it is amazing versus Meepo (one of his hardest counters), line-ups with triple melee cores that often clump up, or line ups with many high HP summons such as Warlock’s 1/2/4 golems, Lycan’s wolf+necro army, Brewmaster’s pandas, Visage’s familiars, Chen’s (ancient) creep army, and most illusion heroes, especially a CK, because his illusions are very tanky but always clumped up and on a long cooldown.
A second Maelstrom serves a completely different purpose. First of all, the cost of two Maelstroms is much lower (5600) than of two Battlefuries (8700), once again meaning it is an early game investment ideal when snowballing. Obviously, they do not stack fully because only one Maelstrom can proc on a single hit, but having two raises the chance from 25% to ~44%, which is a significant difference, meaning that a 10-unit SoF will on average proc 4 to 5 lightnings, as opposed to the 2 to 3 from a single Maelstrom. Once again, they are quite cheap and have an easy build up, meaning it is not very risky to buy two, giving you the cheapest two-item combination for wave-clearing (except versus high HP / magic immune summons) and significant teamfight damage. Keep in mind there is some anti-synergy between Maelstroms and Skadi, as the lightning triggering means that the slow will not apply.
Generally speaking, go for a second Battlefury only when dealing with high HP summons, otherwise keep it at one. If you went for a Maelstrom, you should usually get a second one as you benefit hugely from the increased chance, and the low cost & easy build up are perfect for snowballing with big midgame damage while keeping your farm up.
Boots of Travel are obviously great on Ember, giving you amazing mobility. Some like getting them early instead of Treads or Phase, but I strongly advise against it, as similarly to Drums it is 2000 gold going towards an item that slightly increases your farming speed (not as much as Battlefury/Maelstrom), but gives you absolutely zero survivability and damage. One can argue that it saves money on TP’s, but spending 100 gold 5, 10 even 15 times during the early game is still to be preferred over an instant 2000 gold investment. Furthermore, many more towers are up in the early game meaning TP scrolls are more effective and BoT’s are rather unnecessary. Nevertheless, as towers start going down and the game progresses, they are a solid purchase that gives you great map presence and split-push potential. I would generally recommend them at the earliest after you have your farming item as well as your first luxury item.
A Mjollnir is extremely situational as it only increases the lightning damage by 30 and total bounces by 4, which is not bad but not nearly worth 2900 additional gold. The only reason you would want to upgrade your Maelstrom is if you can make great use of the active (i.e. have an Axe/Bristle/Legion on the team), and/or are already maxing out your inventory. Even then, it is rarely the best choice. Never buy more than one Mjollnir because the active will be wasted and the static lightning damage will be falling off that late into the game – simply sell the second Maelstrom if you find yourself six-slotted.
Lastly, the big sword, the Divine Rapier. Despite being hard to pin down as Ember, once you are, you are likely to die. While huge amounts of damage obviously works well with SoF, I would generally not buy the item as it is a huge risk. If you do end up buying it in a lategame scenario, it is most effective with Battlefuries and Daedalus(es) for obvious reasons. The Chinese often ran this style of Ember, but I believe it is far from the best way to play him, because it simply places too much emphasis on cautious and precise mechanical play in order to make proper use of the item. A strong Ember Spirit player can be much more dominant and impactful in the midgame with items that do not force the wielder to play more cautiously. With that being said, Ember is still one of the better Rapier carriers, and so if the game is likely to be lost without a major trump card, the Divine Rapier could be what you need.
Why not x?
Basher has a cooldown of 2 seconds. If it did not, it would easily be the most powerful item, giving you a ranged pseudo aoe bkb-piercing stun.
Radiance has a terrible buildup and would burn only for 1 second per 5 targets during a SoF. If you’re hitting 10+ targets you’d rather have something else. By the time you get it you wont be able to stay in the middle of the fight if you spent 5k gold on an item giving you 0 survivability.
Butterfly is not terrible but hardly ever the best choice. The evasion is its main selling point, and it is rather useless as on Ember you will avoid getting hit at all using SoF and remnants.
5. Laning Stage & Match-ups
Your goal in the laning stage depends on the enemy you’re facing. Generally speaking, if it is a melee hero (often tanky), you can look to trade hits, get runes but mostly focus on getting farm. If it is a ranged hero (generally squishy), you should look to control the lane, out-last-hit them by virtue of being melee, and create opportunities for a kill. Solid knowledge of the enemy hero is crucial in order to know exactly which spells at what level you can tank with your Flame Guard. Once you hit level 6, the lane should become much, much easier.
You can try to kill the hero with a triple remnant, but make sure to create and get ready for the opportunity before you’re level 6, and then go the split-second you level up, because if you wait, most players will immediately adjust their positioning and deny you the chance of a kill.
Even if you don’t get the kill, you can outlast your enemy by trading hits and using a remnant to heal, refill your bottle and come back to lane. If you get a great rune or see a kill opportunity on a side-lane, don’t hesitate to TP and gank, since at this point you are much stronger than those dual or tri-laning, likely 2 or 3 levels above them. For further details on when exactly to go for a gank, you can check out my article on ganking here: https://slashstrikedota.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/climbing-the-ladder-chapter-2-ganking/
Lanaya is an extremely strong laner that flat out wins the lane versus many heroes by outfarming them as well as harassing them and having solid kill potential. While she cannot remove your Flameguard, she can easily kill you through it. This is a very volatile lane as both heroes have solid kill potential against each other, but in the absence of aggression TA will easily outfarm the Ember Spirit through her superior damage. One weakness you can exploit is her low attack range which is shorter than the radius of Flame Guard and Searing Chains (both 400), meaning you can kite and damage her while avoiding her hits. Keep in mind that Searing Chains don’t hit invisible units, so be very careful not to miss them as she Melds.
Commonly seen as a strong counter to Ember, this lane is definitely in Storm’s favour, but not as one sided as it may seem. Simply don’t get hit by remnants during the first few waves and focus on getting the cs you can, mostly ignoring denies due to his overload. Go for some harass at level 3 which is the sweet spot at which level 2 Flame Guard blocks 200 magical damage while a level 1 Static Remnant + level 2 Overload (which is what 95% of Storms will have levelled) will deal 140+50 = 190 magical damage, just under the threshold to break your Flame Guard. Of course, if you can bait and maneuver around the Static Remnants while running at him, it is possible to get a kill. Having played a lot of Storm will be extremely helpful in this matchup. Lastly, it is extremely easy to kill the Storm with a Skywrath ganking your lane, so if your Ember gets counterpicked immediately by a Storm, you can ask your teammates to get Skywrath as a support and destroy him on mid.
Another dominant anti-melee laner that Ember is actually not that bad against. Get an early point in SoF to dodge her Shadowstrikes / Screams of Pain, and she should not be able to dive you as long as you have Flame Guard up. Her turn rate is slow and you have 10 MS on her, meaning you can run at her to harass with Chains and right clicks, forcing a blink out. She is also quite squishy and Searing Chains disables blink, meaning that you have solid kill potential at level 6. Avoid using level 2 Flame Guard when she has level 3 Scream, as this is the only point at which it will immediately break.
Similar to QoP, except having much stronger harass at the expense of no blink. Dodge her spells and try to get farm – some Linas will use Dragon Slave a lot to get cs and harass you, which is predictable and can be side-stepped. Be very careful with the LSA, as it landing allows her to get in 2-3 right clicks which will hurt a ton. You can attempt a kill at level 5 with a 2-0-3 build, but it is risky as you rely on her missing her stun. If you go 2-1-2 to dodge the stun with SoF, a single level 3 Dragon Slave will break your Flame Guard, ruining any opportunities for a kill. Dragon Slave has a starting radius of 275, and with a 1200 movement speed it will take (550/1200) ~0.46 seconds to pass through you, meaning that it can only be dodged with a 3-4+ unit SoF. However, if she is surrounded by 3 creeps you will be unable to chain. Ideally you can attempt the kill at level 6 and onwards, tanking the Dragon Slave (level 4 = 320 damage) with Flame Guard (level 3 = 350 absorb) and saving the SoF to dodge her LSA. A smart Lina may attempt to Laguna you right after the Dragon Slave instead of using LSA, but the Laguna can be dodged as well using SoF.
Searing Chains disable Phase Shift, which is why many Pucks will skip it during the laning stage versus an Ember. Another reason for this is that due to the scaling of Puck’s spells (70/140/210/280 damage for both), assuming he does not level Phase Shift, using both of them will always be enough to break your Flame Guard (70 > 50, 70+140 > 200, 210+140 = 350). Of course, this also means that every time he uses either of them to farm or push the lane, you have a window of opportunity to dive him.
Again, one of the strongest laners that Ember is actually quite good against – his Thunderclap has a fairly obvious casting animation, so if you see him about to cast it just pop your Flame Guard to absorb the damage and harass the Brew (keep in mind the levels of clap’s 100/175/250/300 damage and your 50/200/350/500 shield). A smart Brew may also cancel his animation to bait out your Flame Guard – if this happens, run at him to make use of the damage and force him to clap in order to escape. His physical hits are strong but nothing serious – the only way he can kill you is if he claps you before the shield, and you are both next to the creeps meaning you can’t chain him reliably. Once you have level 6 you can leave a Remnant behind and dive him in order to force his Primal Split, and then zip away once he uses it.
A decent lane for Ember, just make sure you get a magic stick and focus on csing, ignore denies due to Arc Lightning’s high damage. You can use the Flame Guard to mitigate some damage in case you’re low on HP but full on mana and want to use bottle. When you hit level 6 you can try to get a kill, but make sure to pop Flame Guard after his bolt or it will get removed and you will have no damage.
Quite tough to deal with for any melee. Use creep aggro to get what cs you can while keeping your distance. The link range is fairly long and even if he gets it off for just two seconds that would be enough to out last-hit you. If he somehow fails his link, get aggressive on him while it’s on cooldown. You have great killing potential if a support ganks, and you can also attempt a kill at level 6, but just keep in mind that if you don’t burst him with magical damage you will have no right clicks to seal the deal and he’ll be whipping you for red numbers.
Similar to Razor, but more difficult to deal with. Will easily out last-hit you even with just one point in Nethertoxin, and the orb-walking means he can push you back to the tower without taking any aggro. Thanks to his Corrosive Skin it is highly unlikely that you will kill him, and if you don’t burst him he can just kite you down afterwards. The lane is very one-sided, but come mid game the Viper cannot do anything to you as you splitpush and bounce around during teamfights.
Fairly easy lane if he goes for Quas Wex, just make sure that you always use Flameguard after his Tornado and/or before the EMP, because the Tornado removes it (counts as a dispel) and it will easily thank the EMP, also making you lose less mana as you cast a spell. The EMP can additionally also be dodged with SOF, as long as you’re aware of the timing.
An Exort Quas Invoker will be more difficult to deal with as he deals heavy physical damage. However, he is more killable due to the lack of a defensive Tornado/Ghost Walk, and since your Remnant+Flame Guard damage is aoe it will also take out his Forged Spirits and let you chain him for a potential kill.
Fairly easy lane – you can dodge/absorb the Powershots, push the lane faster if a rune is about to spawn, and compete well for last-hits despite WR’s great attack simply because you’re melee. Being a squishy int hero she is also very killable, just make sure to not waste time missing your attacks when she inevitably uses Windrun as you chain her, but rather move to position between her and her tower, setting up for a potential bodyblock that could get you the kill. Of course, be wary of getting shackled under the tower. A 3-0-2-1 build at level 6 will give you more damage, and the lower level Flame Guard should not be an issue as it is very easy to dodge Powershot if you have initiated and are right next to her.
Somewhat similar to Razor and Viper – he has the lane advantage and will probably out last-hit you, but cannot do a whole lot after that. Leave your Flame Guard at level 2 because even early Arcane Orb hits won’t bring it down as they deal pure and not magical damage. This is one of the heroes I like upgrading my Stout Shield to a PMS against (of course still getting the aquila) to give me more physical resistance and a bit of extra damage in order to compete for last hits. Getting a solo kill is only possible if his imprisonment is on cd, but in that case you won’t have the mana to use all 3 spells. You can however attempt to outplay him by jumping and then cancelling his Astral casting animation once with Searing Chains, and another time with SoF. SoF will however obviously not work if he simply imprisons himself, in which case the chain damage will also be dodged and the kill becomes unlikely. Keep in mind that a player experienced with Ember will know about his spells’ properties and simply spam-click imprisonment on the same spot, making your command-cancelling less effective.
If the Sniper is babysat by a support (like he so often is), there is very little you can do 1v2 other than get exp, perhaps the occasional last-hit and call for a gank. Still, you are good versus Sniper later on in the game since you have so many ways of closing the distance on him. You should never get hit by Assassinate as you can dodge it with both SoF and Fire Remnant. If the Sniper is entirely alone, however, you can try to kill him as soon as you have level 2 Flame Guard, since his low level Shrapnel will take forever to break through it. Many Sniper’s go 2-1-0 at level 3, meaning their attack range will still be fairly low and leave them vulnerable.
There are very few heroes that can hold their own in a 1 versus 1 scenario facing a Shadow Fiend on the mid lane, and none of them are melee. Two razes at any level will be enough to bring down your shield. However, SF is squishy so if you manage to get close to him and then activate your Flame Guard, only the z / q raze will not be enough to bring it down and you could score a kill. Of course, if the SF plays passively by just pushing out the lane, there is not much you can do other than farm at your tower or jump him when you see he’s about to raze the creeps.
6. Spell Use, Item Use and Combos
When going for a kill on the enemy mid, create a situation in which the Searing Chains are guaranteed to hit – either by running past the enemy creepwave and isolating the hero, or by activating flame guard as the creeps are low hp, killing them while engaging on the enemy. While you should get very familiar with the radius over time, it can still be useful to hover over the skill to see the circle on the ground in order to get those tip-of-the-edge chains. Lastly, you can take a risk and attempt to Chain the enemy with more than 1 creep around. Whether it lands or not is entirely up to the DotA gods, but if it does it will definitely catch your opponent off-guard.
In the early game, Flame Guard is your only farming spell as SoF deals pathetic damage to creeps without a Battlefury/Maelstrom, which means you can’t go wrong with maxing it even if you sacrifice some aggression, as it will allow you to keep up your farm and not fall behind despite a lack of kills. You can use it to farm stacks or several creepwaves. When pushing, you can also use it to clear out the creepwave while you’re hitting the tower, and it provides a nice buffer of EHP in case you get initiated upon.
->-> The Sleight of Fist -> Searing Chains sequence is the most basic combo you need to reliably hit if you want to play Ember anywhere close to effectively. It is not difficult, just go into a lobby, practice it 20 times and you’re golden. Same goes for the slightly more difficult Shadow Walk -> Sleight of Fist -> Searing Chains (example), as well as the Sleight of Fist -> Searing Chains -> Manta (example) combos, which essentially just add an additional button, with the order of Manta and Chains being irrelevant in the latter. No matter how good you get at it, you will occasionally fuck it up. Whether that’s once every 20, 50, 100 or 500 tries is what determines how mechanically consistent you are. Landing the combo on someone in the fog (example) is slightly more difficult since the Chains need vision to latch, and SoF on a single target will only give you vision for an extremely short duration, meaning that if you mess up the timing the Chains will miss. The main difference is that you need to wait around a tenth of a second before using Chains after SoF, unlike when you have vision on the target and you can simply press both as fast as possible. Once again, however, a few attempts in a lobby and the consistency with which you land it will get a lot better. Lastly, when chasing a target with creeps around that you want to SoF+Chain, position the SoF AoE-circle indicator in such a way that only the hero is in it (example). Keep in mind however that the AoE of the Chains is still 400, so even if you only SoF your hero target, they might still latch onto creeps if they are close enough.
When using Fire Remnant to chase (i.e. throwing it and jumping into it), make sure that you wait a bit before you dive into it (example), because moving into a close-range Remnant will be done with an MS of 1300, always faster than the 2.5x your base MS that the Remnant will be flying at. The Fire Remnant has a casting range of 1500. With either Phase or Treads you will have 360 MS, meaning that the Remnant will fly at (360 * 2.5) 900 MS, taking (1500/900) ~1.67 seconds to reach the targeted point. Moving into the Remnant at 1300 MS means it will take you only (1500/1300) ~1.15 seconds to reach the targeted point. Therefore you want to wait (1.67-1.15) ~0.5 seconds before starting to move into the remnant, which translates to when the Remnant is about (0.5 * 900) ~450 units away from you. This is, of course, if you want to jump all the way to the maximum 1500 range. If your enemy is closer, you can start moving into the Remnant earlier and you will reach it before it has reached the targeted point.
Fire Remnant’s travel speed is equal to 250% of your current movement speed, as established earlier. This means that if you are very slowed down in the middle of a teamfight and need to remnant out, shooting it will be ineffective as it will take far too long to reach where you want it to (example). However, if you use your Fire Remnant during a SoF (example), you will fire it from a SoF position, potentially allowing you to get away.
If you want to get out of a bad situation with a previously placed Remnant (for example during a teamfight or when split-pushing) keep in mind that despite the instant cast you still need to turn and face your Remnant before you can jump to it, which with Ember’s turnrate takes 0.15 seconds for 180°. To avoid this, you can use SoF in front of you which will go off instantly as you won’t need to turn, and then Remnant out during the SoF (example). However, be careful as travelling to a Remnant takes 0.4 seconds – if it is completed while you are still slashing, the SoF will override it and you will end up where you casted the SoF, with your Remnant gone (example). As each SoF hit takes 0.2 seconds, you want to start travelling to your Remnant when there are about 2 targets left. Once again, practicing this in a lobby will go a long way in your execution.
Lastly, if you are about to die and have Remnants left, always drop one before you die. It’s very important to make this a habit. In the early game, if you respawn in less than 45 seconds you can travel back to the Remnant and immediately be in a good position to farm or fight, without using a TP scroll. Ideally you want to leave it at the edge of the trees so that it is just outside enemy vision, but will not leave you stuck in the trees when you travel to it (example).
Furthermore, if a fight breaks out during the early game consider buying back and going into the Remnant (example). When the buyback costs <400 gold in the early game, getting just one kill out of it makes it worth it as you can also go back to farming faster. However, be very cautious because dying back so early will put you very far behind. Also keep in mind your Flame Guard will probably be on cooldown.
Since you can pick up items while travelling to a Remnant, it can be a very safe way to take runes without putting yourself at danger (<em><a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djxIkCn2eaI&t=1m16s”>example</a></em>). Keep in mind that Remnants can be targeted through the minimap, making long-distance jumps easier to manage.
7. To Farm, or to Gank
This depends on your team. If you are the only hero with lategame physical damage, your draft sucks, but you should still adapt and focus on farming and playing safe, meaning you make sure you don’t die and don’t go for solo kills on supports if they put your life in danger. Going Battlefury over Maelstroms is somewhat mandatory in this case.
Ideally, you have a harder carry on your team and your goal is to make space and be the secondary damage dealer. This gives you more freedom to pressure the enemy – of course, you should still avoid death because you are extremely difficult to kill as long as you use your spells well. Make sure you get your first farming item at a decent time, meaning before ~18 minutes for a Maelstrom and before ~21 minutes for a Battlefury. After you get them, you should look to find a balance between farming and fighting. Because leaving Remnants behind is such a huge safety net, you should look to farm more dangerously past the river, freeing up the safer farm for your team. Of course, doing this does require excellent map awareness and solid reflexes.
8. Closing Words
That’s it for the guide! I hope you found it informative – if you did and wish to see more from me in the future you can support me by following me on this blog, twitter, facebook, youtube and of course twitch.
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Good luck and remember – balance, in all things.