[SBA]Phoenix: In an Interstellar Burst, Back to Save the Universe


Like Terrorblade from yesterday, Phoenix is a hero that definitely has a dominant skill build, both in terms of popularity and success.  And yet, there’s something much more interesting going on here to me.  It’s not that I have anything against straightforward carries; farming specialists are an important part of what makes Dota’s gameplay works.  But when it comes down to statistic evaluations, it’s the fuzzy heroes that tend to tell more interesting stories.

And Phoenix is a pretty fuzzy hero regardless of its skill or item builds.  You have this highly mobile semi-carry with nothing in the way of hard CC, so the first comparison you might tend to draw is to Queen of Pain, but that really feels off the more you look at the hero.  You also have some impressively long cooldown times on every ability, which seems out of place for what might otherwise look like a nuking semi-carry.

In any case, Phoenix’s low 40’s win rate at launch was pretty unsurprising if you watched it being played, but since then its win rate has improved dramatically, so let’s break down some stats on how players have acclimated themselves to the extremely new hero.  So first, a brief description of another set of abilities that are really annoying to create a brief description of.


For the more detailed descriptions of her skills you can refer to its Dota 2 Wiki Page.

So let’s have a look at how things are shaking out:


As we move up in the brackets, we see a distinct trend towards Fire Spirits (W) both in terms of primaries and secondaries.


Fire Spirits wins out pretty decisively, which isn’t a huge surprise when you think about it.  Let’s put aside the magnitude of the attack speed slow and how it helps enable successful ultimates.  Fire Spirits also potentially receives great damage scaling because the +80 damage you get per rank is per spirit.  On top of that, the fact that each usage of Fire Spirits gives you access to four separate nukes goes a long way towards mitigating Phoenix’s downside of long cooldowns.  On this note, it’s also worth pointing out that additional ranks in Fire Spirits reduces the skill’s cooldown, further improving the uptime of the spirits.

From there the question is Icarus Dive(Q) or Sun Ray(E), and the answer appears to be Icarus Dive.  While the skill has a surprisingly low base damage, the scaling per rank is quite sizable.  You’re also likely to use Dive for initiations, so you might as well get some decent, reliable damage out of it.  Without some kind of a setup, landing a full Sun Ray is much less dependable.  On top of that, much of the ability’s scaling is in % of max HP, which is going to have diminished value in early game situations.  Subsequently, Very High players seem to be favoring a 3/4/0/1 build by level 8, as 30% of them are ignoring Sun Ray entirely in those first eight levels.  This group has also done quite well for itself, with a 53.86% win rate overall.  You could possibly make a case for prioritizing Sun Ray earlier if you’re in an environment where you have a major AoE teamfight ult to capitalize off of, such as Chronosphere, Reverse Polarity, or Black Hole, but Sun Ray builds in general should be seen as the much more situational option at best.

As for items, Phoenix so far appears to have a very low farm dependency score.  This might change some in the future as players acclimate to the hero, Ember Spirit went from rank ~90 to ~45 in the month after his release, but with Phoenix I think it’s unlikely we’ll see a tremendous jump.  Once you have a Mekansm, hereafter referred to as “Best Item in the Game,” you’ve plugged Phoenix’s major itemization hole.  In any case, here’s what we’re looking at itemwise:


Very High item trends, as usual, tend to emphasize utility items.  Two items that narrowly missed the cutoff for VH were Pipe of Insight and Rod of Atos.   Atos in particular looks like it could be a good sleeper luxury pickup for the hero due to the slow making it easier to land both Fire Spirits and Sun Ray.

Also of note is the trend away from Tranquil Boots.  They’re still quite popular in the upper brackets, but maybe not 100% necessary.  If your team needs an Arcane Boots carrier, Phoenix appears to be acceptable.  Skipping the early boot upgrade entirely to get your Mek quicker may be an option too, which leaves your boot upgrade options open until later.  While Power Treads are popular in both brackets, I would hesitate to recommend them.  In both Normal and Very High, Treads have a lower win rate than Tranquils despite being more expensive.  That’s certainly not proof the pick is completely worthless, but unless you’re pulling some major Tread switching tricks, I’d probably opt for something else.

I think that covers it for Phoenix.  I’ll be back tomorrow with a bonus SBA to close the week that revisits a recently covered hero that has seen some major changes in the new patch environment.

11 Responses to [SBA]Phoenix: In an Interstellar Burst, Back to Save the Universe

  1. chocopaw says:

    I cant check right now, but I’m pretty sure that tranquils are less expensive than treads.

  2. > Once you have a Mekansm, hereafter referred to as “Best Item in the Game,

    Good analysis *and* writing.

  3. Vykromond says:

    One possibly relevant note is that until a patch 2 days ago Phoenix’s Sun Ray was healing half of the amount it “should,” making it substantially underpowered.

  4. Colonel Asdasd says:

    Really love this site! Thanks for the great articles.

    On the topic of the BIITG: is it so good that more than one of your supports (assuming that luxury) should build one? My stack at the moment tends to have one Mek carrier while I (t’other support) favour Drums. (If for no other reason than, hey, 9 > 5! Bad of me, I know, but then that’s why I’m asking.)

    • phantasmal says:

      Generally, no. The value the Mek brings has diminishing returns (specifically only getting one activation during a standard < 25 second teamfight), and you're likely better off spending that next 2.3k gold on something that better diversifies your team's overall utility.

      I can't rule out the existence of some niche strat that actually gets value out of rushing a second Mek, but unless that weird outlier is you, pass on building a second one.

  5. goldesam says:

    I usually run tranqs, mek, Atos, Although I usually play as 4 with phoenix with another hard support manning the wards. I feel that Atos is almost always core as it sometimes I can run into mana issues ( crazy as it seems) but it also adds some much needed tank cheaply in comparison to a heart or a bloodstone.

  6. tatin says:

    nice article man.. and great title, i love radiohead and dota :)

    greetings from argentina

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