Today, I’m going to talk about one of my favourite Heroes, Mortred the Phantom Assassin.
Mortred’s role seems to be a late game carry with decent lane control and some survivability. Her spammable Stifling Dagger allows her to harass and/or last hit during the early game and chase fleeing Heroes down. Phantom Strike provides a form of initiation paired with some additional attack speed, while it can also be used to escape, if there’s an actual unit to be used on. Her last 2 skills are a lot simpler, as Blur provides evasion from physical attacks and the unique ability to disappear from the minimap when no enemy Heroes are around, while Coup de Grace is a straight-up critical, reaching up to 4.5 times her damage when maxed out.
Her base damage is quite poor, one of the lowest in the game. Her Strength gain is also not something to be proud of, although her base Strength is respectable. Other than that, she has good Armour and Movement Speed, and a good Agility per level.
After this small introduction, let’s get down to business then.
If this Hero seems pretty underwhelming to you, you’re very much right. She’s awful. Terrible. Outrageously weak. She’s so weak, I’d rather try a carry Techies for once.
This by itself wouldn’t be much of a deal, since all heroes have had their ups and downs, but here’s a fun fact: Ever since I personally started playing, namely patch 6.40, every single Hero in the game has been considered at least a decent pick in competitive matches, decent meaning not necessarily first pick/ban material, but a pick you’d rather not let your opponents have for free. Every Hero, EXCEPT for Phantom Assassin.
During 6.82 she had started seeing some play in pugs, but to the surprise of most sentient beings, she received nerfs to her two first levels of Coup de Grace, tossing her back to the abyss of uselessness.
Other than that, despite receiving numerous buffs during the ages, she remains a very, very situational pick. And by situational, I mean when there’s not any opponent Hero that can get MKB and there’s a Magnus on your team. And maybe an Ogre or Veng.
I’ve practically tried every playstyle in the book on her; safelane into AFK farm with Battle Fury, safelane into early fight participation, solo mid, alternate builds, and won a good number of matches, but still felt victory would’ve been easier with another pick.
So, what’s really the problem with her? First of all, her damage output is unreliable, and not that much greater than that of other carries. A full slotted Alchemist can chop enemies to pieces equally fast, just not 15% of the time, but always; a Gyrocopter with Flak Cannon hitting 5 Heroes deals 5 times his damage always, not 15% of the time. The list can go on forever, but I’m sure all of us have jumped on that poor support Lion with our BKBs on expecting to murder him into bloody pieces and, well, he just didn’t die.
Blur is a skill that may sound impressive to newer players only; in fact, it’s one of the easiest to counter. A decent player will simply look directly for PA and not through his minimap, while evasion is completely negated through MKB. This is, I believe, the only case in the entire game in which a skill is rendered totally useless. Even non-MKB-friendly right clickers, such as OD and Silencer, can now have a 40% chance to not miss through Rod of Atos.
Phantom Strike cannot be cast on spell immune units, thus reducing her possible DPS even further. Also, while she’s considered an “Escape” Hero, having a unit nearby to blink on is not a luxury she can always have.
And while Stifling Dagger provides good laning, that extra advantage you gain from it isn’t nearly enough. All those weaknesses make her an expensive Hero, meaning she needs a lot of farm to actually come online.
Being an expensive Hero means that other Heroes can fill her role with less farm. A Juggernaught or Gyrocopter can fight a whole lot better early on, while having more reliable damage later on. Alchemist and Antimage are better farmers. Spectre is omni-present and harder to kill in every sense. Chaos Knight deals 4-5 times his damage with his ult activated, and that’s without any crits. The list goes on and on.
There are plenty of ways to remedy the situation. A remake would perhaps be the wisest choice, or she could simply get a better evasion skill. A risky idea would be to make Blur work like Backtrack used to, so she can go for a hybrid damage+tankiness build and actually be valid.
The problem is, I’m starting to question whether the master Frog actually wishes for the situation to be remedied at all.
Why, you ask?
Base Intelligence increased from 13 + 1 to 15 + 1.4
Till next time boys.