Bristleback's win rate is better at lower ranks as players don’t know how to counter him. With the right strategy, items, and heroes you can easily claim victory.
Bristleback isn’t a top hero in 7.07, but he can be very troublesome against inexperienced players. Below 2k rank, he has a win rate of 55%, but it steadily falls to 50.6% in the 3-4k range, and even hits 43% at 5k.
High MMR players adapt their heroes, gameplay, and item builds depending on the opponents faced, while low ranked ones mostly use standard builds.
They are of considerable help if you are testing a hero for the first time, but don’t rely excessively on them, and learn to purchase the most effective items against a certain lineup.
Generally, any ability that holds Bristleback in place will benefit your team. Fighting face to face, he can’t exploit the damage reduction nor spawn extra Quill Sprays via his passive.
- Legion Commander’s Duel prevents the use of all skills and forces a frontal fight. Try to commit in a Duel with the support of the team and Bristleback will melt without damaging your entire lineup.
- Doom’s ultimate, if upgraded with an Aghanim's Scepter, silences his passive. That’s the easier way to render him harmless for the duration of the teamfight.
- I love Viper because the 7.07 Nethertoxin disables all passive abilities of the enemies affected. With a stun, you can literally destroy him, but even your slow should be enough to prevent his escape. In the worst case, you can buy a Rod of Atos to root him in your poisonous pool.
Check out my 7.07 Viper guide and try the new magic damage build!
- Any stun works, but you want skills that last a reasonable amount of time, such as Void’s Chronosphere, Axe’s Berserker’s Call, Bane’s Fiend’s Grip, or Shadow Shaman’s Hex and Shackles. Of course, your team must be smart enough to capitalize on your spells and attack him from the back, but that’s another tale.
- Pure damage is strong against Bristleback as he relies on his armor to tank most carries, so Enchantress and Outworld Devourer are effective choices.
- Draining mana will make him powerless in the lane stage. Lion’s Mana Drain and Keeper of the Light’s Mana Leak are some of the most traumatic abilities a Bristleback can face in a lane. Without mana he can’t use his skills - even buying some clarity potions won’t be sufficient to counter these heroes.
- Magic Stick/Wand is mandatory: it will charge quickly thanks to the Quill Spray spam. Report any player that doesn’t buy one when fighting against a Bristleback in the lane.
- As a support, items to kite or root him such as the Rod of Atos, Force Staff, or Eul’s Scepter of Divinity.
- Bristleback's damage is physical so the Ring of Basilius or the Buckler are of great help in the lane phase. Depending on your role, you can upgrade the former in the Ring of Aquila or Vladmir's Offering, and the latter in the Mekansm or Crimson Guard. Likewise, also the Solar Crest and the Assault Cuirass will largely aid the team.
- A new 7.07 item, the Spirit Vessel, is amazing against him in the late game as will reduce his HP regeneration and healing by 70% for 8 seconds. Bristleback relies on the regeneration provided by items and even the level 20 talent +20 Health Regen to survive.
- If possible, take the Silver Edge. The active ability, Shadow Walk, disables his passive for 5 seconds so all members of the team can attack him without risking their lives.
Zone him out in the early game
Very weak up to level 3
The hero requires experience to become dangerous and is particularly susceptible to harassment and ganks at the start of the match.
Usually, in lower ranked games there are fewer people willing to invest their time in proper ganks in the first minutes of the game, so he can get the levels required to turn into a problem.
If the supports properly zone him out, he won’t be a nuisance in the lane and will even have a weaker presence in the mid game.
First power spike in the mid game
As soon as he gets a Vanguard, the pain commences. You want to delay this moment as much as possible.
Weaker past the mid game, but can grow into a beast in the late stages of the match
The level 20 and 25 talents can either boost his overall damage or toughness, and he will put his hands on expensive items such as Assault Cuirass, Octarine Core, and Heart of Tarrasque.
A tanky hero with a solid AoE physical damage, lots of armor, HP, health regeneration and even 40% spell lifesteal. You can’t kill Bristleback quickly, and ignoring him will cause great harm to the entire team as he will keep stacking Quill Sprays during the fight.
Summarizing, Bristleback isn’t a nuisance only in the mid game, but can transform in an even bigger threat if he has the opportunity to farm and build items.
Vincenzo is an esports writer with five years of experience. Former head editor for Natus Vincere, he has produced content for DreamHack, FACEIT, DOTAFire, 2P, and more. Follow him on @SkulzDota.