- Extremely high nuke damage.
- Focus down the backline first.
- Some of the best carry heroes in the game – Phantom Assassin and Slark.
Assassins haven an offensive Alliance bonus that has a few important unique features which help build unique strategies around them:
(3) Assassin Heroes: Assassins gain a 15% chance to Critical Hit for 300% Damage. On a crit, the target is WOUNDED and healing taken is reduced by 50% for 3 seconds. (30% DPS increase on average)
(6) Assassin Heroes: Assassins gain a 25% chance to Critical Hit for 400% Damage. On a crit, the target is WOUNDED and healing taken is reduced by 100% for 3 seconds. (75% DPS increase on average)
The goal of an Assassin strategy is to get either three or six Assassins as your main carries. They are high-priority for upgrading to three-stars and receiving high-tier offensive items. The rest of your strategy usually needs to provide utility for your Assassins, usually in the form of crowd control or possibly healing.
The fact that you want multiple units on a three-star level means that Assassin strategies rarely want to go to lvl10 – you need gold for rerolls, and your highest priority Assassins cost 3 gold, which means it’s most likely to find them when you are lvl8.
Opening with Assassins, unsurprisingly, usually uses (3) Assassins as main damage dealers. There are plenty of cheap Assassins in the game (Bounty, Blood, Morph, QoP), so this shouldn’t be too difficult.
More importantly, however, you need to think about your frontline:
Tiny is a great option because with Morph he gives you the (2) Primordial bonus (which is party strong in the early game). Later on, you can use him in a Primordial/Mage/Assassin build, but if you’re not going in this direction you can also just sell him.
The second option is Druids – they are also a strong early-game Synergy and you can use them to go for an Elusive/Assassin build. You can always sell your weaker Druids and replace them with Treant/Lone Druid later on if this fits your build (or sell them entirely if it doesn’t).
Last but not least, Timbersaw is a great frontline for an Assassin opening if you have a Bounty Hunter. He can be used to go for a Scrappy/Assassin build.
Six Assassin builds focus mostly on very high damage output from the Assassins and getting as much utility as possible for the two or three remaining hero slots. Because of the few remaining slots (especially bearing in mind you usually don’t want to go to lvl10 when you’re running Assassins, so you essentially have two extra slots), six-Assassin builds are actually more mid-game focused compared to three Assassin builds. This means they are great at snowballing and playing on a win-streak, but they are generally weaker in the late game and in order to win you need to get your three-star upgrades and end the game sooner rather than later. Because of this, six Assassins perform very well in fast-paced metas and struggle a lot in late-game metas. At the time of writing this, three Assassin builds definitely out-perform six Assassins.
The (6) Assassin (3) Elusive build from above is one of the oldest Assassin builds (originates from the original Dota Auto Chess). It works well because the two Druids + three Assassins make it strong in the early game, and hitting your six Assassins timing gives you a lot of mid-game strength, while the three-star PA with evasion can carry in the late game.
Treant (with the Elusive evasion) and Lone (with the Bear) are great tanks and are easy to get to three stars (you need Lone only on two stars because of the Druid bonus). This makes them slot and cost-efficient tanks, which fits the general philosophy of a six Assassins draft.
Your most important unit by far is Phantom Assassin and it’s vital that you get her to three stars. With the (3) Elusive bonus she is harder to kill than she usually is, making her even stronger in the late game. Even though Templar Assassin also benefits from the Elusive bonus, it’s generally a mistake to try to get her to three stars – you will be rolling on lvl8, so you have a lower chance of finding enough copies of her. This makes your two other highest priority upgrades the other three-cost heroes in the draft – Slark as a secondary carry and Treant as the main tank (and as a way to provide Lone with three stars as well).
Even though you usually want to roll on lvl8, in slow metas going to lvl9 is a good idea (especially after having found the PA three-star upgrade). Including Tide will give you more crowd control, a stronger frontline, and the (2) Scaled bonus, which helps a lot versus magic damage in the late game.
This is a much newer iteration of the six Assassins build possible because of the changes to Sniper and Bloodseeker, who are both Deadeye.
One advantage of this variation is that it reaches (2) Scaled on lvl8. Another one is that with Tide + Sand King you have great crow control.
The disadvantage is that without Lone and Treant your frontline is much weaker and your Assassins will get focused down quicker. That said, the two Scrappy bonus actually helps out a little bit in this regard if it procs on Bounty and he manages to tank some of the damage.
In this build, your main carries are Slark, PA, and importantly: Bloodseeker. He is much stronger with the Deadeye buff (heals himself much more reliably) and if you manage to get him to three stars sooner rather than later you’ll have a great mid game power spike.
Getting to lvl9 on this build is also possible but arguably even less valuable because you don’t have obvious choices for a 9th unit and in general it might be more valuable to get more of your Assassins to three stars. The most obvious 9th unit candidate is DK as a 2nd Dragon and 2nd Human as well as an additional frontline tank (very valuable if you have Fall from Grace). If you intend to go this route, try to get Viper to three stars as well so that you can benefit fully from Corrosive Skin, which is particularly powerful against Mages.
Three Assassin builds focus on buffing your main carries (usually Phantom Assassin and Slark) as much as possible through other Alliance bonuses. This mostly means improving their survivability, which is extremely valuable when they are your win condition heroes.
As mentioned, three Assassin builds are in general stronger in the late game because of the other “main” synergies they have.
Arguably the top-tier Assassin build in the current meta is a Scrappy build.
The reason it works wonderfully is that now when Sniper is also a Scrappy it’s much easier to get the (6) Scrappy upgrade (you don’t need to find Techies). This is extremely valuable because the (6) Scrappy bonus applies the armor and regen buff on all units, including your non-Scrappy Assassins. A three-star Slark with the Scrappy buff and a MoM is hands-down one of the scariest carries in Dota Underlords.
The 8-unit core build above is pretty standard. Bloodseeker + Sniper is pretty strong in the mid game. That said, if you don’t have a three-star Bloodseeker, you can easily replace him with Phantom Assassin – the benefit is that she is a better unit in general and if you are rolling down on lvl8 it’s actually easier to get her to three stars than Bloodseeker (on lvl8, the shop has a 22% chance for a Tier One hero and a 35% chance for a Tier Three hero).
Getting to lvl9 is quite usual with this lineup but if you are doing well-enough it’s still better to do it after you’ve upgraded your Slark to three stars (higher chance to find him on lvl8).
On lvl9, you are usually looking for Techies. The Inventor Ace perk is very strong (Chain Reaction) and can win you rounds in the late game when your three Assassins are starting to fall off a bit. If you’re not making use of Sniper + Bloodseeker, it’s a good idea to replace Sniper with Techies. This will open up a free slot for an additional unit – either a Warlock like Disruptor to get the (2) Warlock heal bonus or Tide to get (2) Scaled.
(6) Elusive (3) Assassins pretty much follows the same logic as (6) Assassins (3) Elusive – it buffs PA to be your main carry with the evasion bonus. That said, this variation gives her more survivability in return for a less DPS.
Arguably, this is the better Elusive/Assassin build in the current meta. Your draft is much more durable – 7 out of 8 heroes have the Evasion bonus, in comparison to only three heroes in the six Assassin variation, which gives PA more time to bring down the enemy backline while they are occupied with your frontline.
Unlike Scrappy Assassins, this build is more mid-game oriented – going to lvl9 or 10 wouldn’t help you a great deal because there aren’t any easy additional synergies or Ace bonuses to grab. This means you should focus more on getting three-star upgrades and riding your mid-game timing to get a good place in the lobby.
The Primordial/Mage/Assassin build was invented during the first WePlay Underlords open and has been a very well-performing build ever since. This build is significantly different then all other Assassin builds here because it relies on magic damage and doesn’t use the traditional hard-carry Assassins (arguably it’s more of a Mage build than an Assasin build).
The creative thing about this build is how it uses Viper’s passive that he gains from the Dragons synergy (thanks to Puck). Corrosive Skin applies a DoT to all enemies hitting Viper. It deals magic damage, so it benefits a great deal from the Mage synergy. Moreover, it makes Viper tankier, so getting him to three stars and putting survivability items on him makes him a great frontline hero.
The other two Assassins in the build, Morph and Sand King, also deal primarily magic damage thanks to their ultimates – the crits are just a bonus. (Before getting Sand King you usually want to run QoP as a source of Magic Damage. Sand King is better, however, because besides AoE damage he also gives control.)
The Primordial bonus makes the draft stronger in the early-mid game, and needless to say – Arc is a great late-game carry in any build.
The build has one additional important quality – versatility:
It’s possible to stay on lvl8 and to try to find three-star upgrades, especially if you’re not doing great in terms of health.
It’s also possible, however, to play a slow game, to push for lvl10 and to transition into a more late-game focused draft. This usually means getting to (6) Mages with KotL + Lich, which increases your late-game damage output a great deal. Losing (4) Primordials in the process isn’t a big deal because Eidolons fall-off in the super late game.
Good single target DPS in the early game from his attacks and nuke. Makes it easy to get the (2) Scrappy bonus in the early game with Timber and also makes it possible to go for a Scrappy/Assassin build. If you're not running Scrappy, he is a low-priority Assassin and usually you want to replace him with something better.
Being Deadeye means he combines well with Sniper. This is valuable because he relies on getting the last-hit on heroes to heal himself, and this is much easier to do with the Deadeye bonus. Because of this interaction, he is a high three-star priority if you're running Deadeye. If not - it's usually better to replace him with something stronger.
Morph's ultimate is also a mobility spell, which makes him a good frontline hero. The idea is that (with sufficient health/armor) he will get mana fron tanking damage, cast it, and lose the enemy aggro. This will allow him to continue dealing physical damage (while possibly regenerating some HP) and cast his nuke at least one more time before the end of the fight. Waveform deals magic damage, so it works great in Mage comps, in which Morph can be a top three-star priority. The spell benefits a lot from Bracers of Desperation and Octarine Essense. Last but not least, the Primordial bonus is also quite useful especially in the early game when Eidolons are pretty strong.
Being the only Demon Assassin, QoP deals very high DPS both with her attacks (because of the Demon damage buff) and her ultimate (which is an AoE nuke). This makes her a very valuable pick-up in the early game and she is often your main carry until you are able to find and upgrade PA and Slark. Getting her to three stars is not a bad idea, but usually other heroes take priority and you don't have the bench space to do it.
(Change! Not an Assassin anymore!) Viper: 3g, Dragon, Scaled
Not an Assassin anymore, which is a big nerf to (6) Assassin comps. He is most synergystic with Dragons/Ma
Slark: 3g, Scaled, Assassin
Slark is one of the strongest hard carries in the game - once he gathers enough attack speed from his passive, he can easily win rounds even in 1v3 situations. The tricky part is getting him to this point because he's fairly squishy. He needs a high star level + a good iteam (MoM, Moonshard) to be efficient, and any Alliance bonuses which make him harder to kill (Scrappy/Warlock/Scaled) are a big benefit. He is Scaled himself, which makes it easy to get the (2) Scaled bonus with Tide.
The hero with one of the highest damage outputs in the game is, unsurprisingly, one of the main carries in the Assassin hero roster. She is almost always a top three-star priority and she works best with good DPS items like MoM & Moonshard, possibly Battlefury/Sacred Relic/etc. She shines in Elusive/Assassin comps becuase she gets the evasion and becomes much more survival than usual. Surivivability is important for PA becuase she tends to jump faster than other Assassins, meaning she often gets focused by enemies first.
Templar Assassin: 4g, Elusive, Assassin
The second Elusive Assassin, making it relatively easy to get the (3) Elusive bonus. She is also one of the most survivable Assassins because her ultimate has both an offensive and a defensive side. Even though she is strong, getting her to three stars is very hard and ususally not worth the effort.
Sand King: 4g, Savage, Assassin
Sand King is one of the most valuable Assassins simply because he has something no other Assassin hero has - great AoE control. He is also 4g, which means he has good-enough stats on two stars and doesn't require a three-star upgrade to be efficient, allowing the carry Assassins to take the bench space.
Helm of the Undying: extremely good on Slark and Bloodseeker because it allows them to deal extremely high DPS in the 5s duration before dying. The armor is also great - makes them tankier.
Blink Dagger: one of the biggest weakness of Assassins is that they expose themselves to danger by jumping directly at the enemy team (i.e. they don't stay behind the tanks). Blink Dagger is a great way to take a powerful tank with them, and the 50 mana gain will help the Blink tank cast its crowd control spell sooner. Axe, Tide, Tiny, etc. are all good candidates to bring along with your Assassins to draw some of the enemy fire power away from your squishier Assassins.
Big-Time Contract: running a single Ogre or Warlock on the frontline makes the item extremely valuable on any Assassin because of the huge DPS increase once the Blood-Bound dies. The bonus HP is also useful in the early game.
Target Buddy: six Assassin builds have a frontline problem, so a "free" additional tank is very useful. Less useful in three Assasin buils unless you're able to find Blink Dagger and equip it on the Buddy.
Mask of Madness: hands down the best item on a three-star Slark or Phantom Assassin. The attack speed is great, but the lifesteal is even better and helps them survive for much longer (they deal very high DPS
Bracers of Desperation: an amazing item on Sand King, allowing him to cast his AoE stun at least two times in a fight. Also quite useful on Morphling for the same reason.
Sacred Relic: because of the crit, Assassins use flat damage increases better than other heroes.
Moonshard: the biggest DPS increase on three-star Assassins, who already have good damage but lack attack speed.
Tombstone: good for the same reason as Target Buddy - six Assassins benefit a lot from an additional tank. The zombies are also great at distracting enemies and buying your Assassins more time to hit.
Pipe: very valuable on six Assassins versus corner strats, Mages in particular.
Desperate Measures: in a six Assassins build almost all heroes are damage dealers, which means Assassins utilize Desperate Measures more efficiently then most other builds.
Assault Cuirass: the armor reduction and attack speed increase auras are extremely useful especially in six Assassin drafts.
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