Xin the Ember Spirit is a high skill cap, mechanically demanding hero that’s often played as either the safe lane core or midlaner in a game of Dota 2. His kit makes him both versatile and highly mobile, but he requires a fair amount of game knowledge, game sense, and precise unit control.
His signature skill, Sleight of Fist, allows him to deal physical damage to all enemy units in a large area of effect, with each hit proccing secondary effects, such as critical strikes, cleave, and unique attack modifiers into account. This makes him capable of wiping entire teams that dare clump up together in the blink of an eye.
He’s very fragile, however, and his stat growth per level is absolutely nothing to write home about. Thus, he requires a strong pair of support heroes helping him with map vision so he can use his ultimate, Fire Remnant, to zip away to safety before getting jumped by heroes with powerful burst damage abilities.
When he’s fully mastered, however, he’s a force to be reckoned with, able to lock enemy heroes down with Searing Chains while shrugging magic damage with Flame Guard. If you’re looking for a difficult but highly-satisfying hero to pick up, Ember Spirit is a stellar choice.
The stalwart flame flickers: Ember Spirit’s skills
Here’s a brief explanation of each of Ember Spirit’s skills and the priority they should be given.
Searing Chains [Q] locks down two targets near you, dealing damage per second. Searing Chains is a great spell but just doesn’t scale as well comparatively. Its Root mechanic has also been nerfed, making the ability unable to interrupt attack or cast animation. As such, it gets maxed third.
Sleight of Fist [W] causes you to jump around an area and deal damage to every unit, all while triggering on-hit effects. Buffed constantly since Patch 7.08, its stock has considerably risen. The hero damage bonus has doubled from 20/40/60/80 per level to a monstrous 40/80/120/160 in Patch 7.20c. The cooldown has also been decreased, making Sleight of Fist a monstrous laning spell. It also scales the best since every point improves damage, cast range, and cooldown.
Flame Guard [E] creates a flaming shield, blocking magic damage while dealing it in an area around you. It expires after time runs out or it has absorbed damage. Flame Guard remains a great dual defensive and offensive ability, but it’s fallen down the pecking order because of the overwhelming amount of buffs to Sleight. It’s still your best farming spell since it opens up the jungle for you. Thus, it gets picked up second.
Fire Remnant [R] sends out a spirit, allowing you to jump to it for magical damage. The ultimate allows you to weave in and out of fights, all while providing insane burst damage. At level 12, the skill doubles in damage, making it a great value point for bursting down enemy heroes. It’s not too shabby at level 18 either, as it goes from 200 damage to 300. Points whenever available
Since it’s a charge-based ability, you can throw out all three charges at an enemy and [D] Activate Fire Remnant for triple the damage.
Our recommended skill build is as follows:
- Alternate between Flame Guard / Sleight of Fist for the first five levels.
- Fire Remnant whenever available at levels six, 12 and 18.
- Max Sleight of Fist.
- Max Flame Guard.
- First point of Searing Chains at level nine.
- Level 10 Talent: +25 damage
- Max Searing Chains.
- Level 15 Talent: +1s Searing Chains
- Level 20 Talent: +10% Spell Amplification
- Level 25 Talent: -20s Remnant Charge Restore Time
If you’re in the side lane, you can consider taking one or two points of Searing Chains rather than Flame Guard earlier to increase kill potential with a lane partner. Sleight of First is still your most powerful ability and should be maxed first. But don’t go for more than two points of Searing Chains early since Flame Guard is your premier defensive ability that also hurts quite a bit if you can stick to your targets.
There’s a choice to make for the first level. If your lane opponent doesn’t have much magic damage, Flame Guard could prove to be a great way to push your middle lane into the enemy’s tower, hereby forcing a quick level two for you and increasing your kill potential. Otherwise, go for Sleight. You can’t go wrong with it.
For talents, the increased damage makes your Sleight stronger, and also increases farming speed.
The additional Searing Chains duration definitely pisses your enemies off, which always deserves consideration.
Additional Spell Amplification, well, amps your spell damage. This includes magical damage from items like Maelstrom.
The last talent, Remnant Charge Restore Time is amazing. More on this later.
“Prepare for a lesson”
Recommended item build:
- Stout Shield
- Quelling Blade
- Phase Boots
- Blight STone
- Drums of Endurance
- Aghanim’s Scepter
- Black King Bar
- Octarine Core
- Shiva’s Guard
- Aeon Disk
- Eul’s Scepter of Divinity
Starting and core items:
Stout Shield is simply the most valuable starting defensive item for a melee hero. Because of Ember’s low base armor, it’s very efficient. Regeneration items like Tangoes allow you to stay in lane. Quelling Blade helps you farm
Your core items definitely revolve around Bottle, Phase Boots, and Drums of Endurance. These three items provide a phenomenal amount of sustain, defense, and catch.
As a hero that loves to gank, rune control is paramount. A good rune can turn a fight from defeat into victory. Bottle allows you to keep the rune and pop it at a more opportune time. You can leave a Remnant, teleport to base, and heal quickly, returning to the fray.
Phase Boots is the best boots upgrade because it provides armor to augment Ember’s low starting value and increases his raw physical damage. It also gives him another way to catch enemies or escape with movement speed.
Blight Stone is a 300 gold item that reduces armor, giving your Sleight of Fist additional oomph. Would not recommend upgrading it due to better items being available. Sell it when you get bigger items.
Drums provides health, mana regen, and an additional way to boost speed. It’s also very cheap and helps Ember become a space-creating monster. Movement speed is very important to Ember. His ultimate’s flying speed is tied directly into his speed. And as a ganking hero, speed means covering more ground, allowing you to roam around the map quicker.
Maelstrom is your first big damage item. Yes, it deals magic damage, and technically doesn’t synergize with your massive physical damage bonus, but it syncs greatly with how Sleight works. Sleight of Fist has reduced damage when used on creeps, but Maelstrom allows you to bypass that restriction. Since it scales off the number of attacks, your Sleight of Fist could feasibly proc Maelstrom more than once every use. It’s an efficient item for both fighting and farming, which makes this the core item every Ember Spirit should aim for.
If you weren’t already obnoxious enough, Aghanim’s Scepter allows for some true PogChamp plays. The item greatly increases your ultimate’s cast range, decreases mana cost, and also gives you two additional remnants.
It also synergizes greatly with your level 25 talent since you can use your remnants with reckless abandon and still retain a short cooldown for escape. A 1,500 damage nuke for 25 mana, anyone?
Black King Bar gives you Magic Immunity, which allows you to get into the thick of the fight and use your Flame Guard to its full potential. Flame Guard can be dispelled with enough magic damage, so BKB guarantees that your Flame Guard will deal substantial damage. Also, it prevents you from dying, and not dying is good.
Mjollnir is the direct upgrade to Maelstrom. It boosts your attack speed and provides some offensive utility with the active, Static Charge. Any damage can trigger the shield, causing bolts of lightning to shoot out.
Octarine Core is pure, unadulterated fun. Who would ever say no to cooldown reduction? Octarine also provides a substantial boost to health and mana, and Spell Lifesteal aids survivability with the amount of magic damage you put out.
Aeon Disk can be a lifesaver if you’re facing a lot of control or burst from enemies. As it procs, all status effects will be removed from you, allowing you to spam Activate Fire Remnant and holler at them back at the fountain. But it’s not a core item because of its otherwise poor utility and doesn’t provide any damage or farming capability. It can be countered by Dispel, so don’t get too cocky.
Shiva’s Guard provides you with lots of armor, which is always welcome. It also provides a great active, dealing magic damage and providing vision. Its passive aura reduces enemies’ attack speed, which help mitigates physical damage further.
Eul’s Scepter of Divinity is a cheap way to get rid of pesky debuffs like Silence and slows. It also provides a lot of intelligence and mana regen, allowing you to stay on the map longer. Consider skipping Drums and picking this up instead since they provide a lot of the same stats with different uses.
Battlefury used to be the go-to item for Ember, but it actively sucks now. Battlefury’s cleave damage has been nerfed multiple times, and coupled with changes to how Sleight works with the item, the cleave damage output is even further reduced. Going for Drums and Maelstrom gives you everything you need, and it’s cheaper!
Daedalus has also lost its stock. Ember Spirit isn’t a physical carry anymore, and that’s fine.
“Walk a warrior’s way”
Ember Spirit is a fervent warrior, always looking for a fight. Leverage your incredible mobility and low cooldowns to pick enemies off all over the map.
Sleight of Fist hurts like hell. Use it freely to harass enemy heroes and laugh as you watch your invulnerable self chip away at your opponent’s health.
Getting Phase Boots and Bottle is a top priority. With these two items, you can pretty much catch any enemy hero on the map and they also allow you to sustain since you can travel to and from the fountain once you hit level six. Bottle allows you to take runes that can turn the tide of battle, too.
Work toward Drums for even more staying power in teamfights. Once you get Maelstrom, your damage output becomes even higher. With Sleight every six seconds dealing both physical and magical damage, it becomes difficult to itemize defensively against you. As a major power spike, encourage your teams to group up, take fights, and demolish objectives.
With the new Ember Spirit playstyle focusing more on space creation and pushing out waves, you’re less of a physical damage threat in the late game. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t retain your staying power as a core since you provide unparalleled utility during long, drawn-out fights.
With Fire Remnants, you can chase down even the most mobile of heroes. And Aghanim’s Scepter improves the spell so much that it’s barely recognizable from its base form.
“Fire shall teach you!”
Ember Spirit’s gameplay relies on getting a few skill combos down pat. The first and arguably the most important one is the Sleight of Fist into Searing Chains combo, which involves casting Sleight where your target is and quickly activating Chains during the Sleight animation. If done correctly (or with luck on your side, in the case of executing the combo with a creep wave in the area), this will cause Chains to hold your target in place.
This works because the game puts Xin’s position on the map according to which target Sleight of Fist is hitting and because you can cast spells and use items during the animation. This combo does, however, take a bit of practice and muscle memory, so make sure to practice beforehand in order to get the speed at which you need to hit the appropriate keys.
From there, you can run up to any rooted heroes with Flame Guard to deal extra damage and to protect yourself from retaliatory nukes. Finish wounded heroes off with either right-click attacks or additional uses of Sleight.
Once mastered, the Sleight/Chains combo will allow you to skip buying a Blink Dagger since you can initiate from a decent range with some consistency without it. The combo also allows you to initiate without the use of an aggressively-placed Fire Remnant, giving you an emergency escape route if a gank or teamfight go wrong.
You can jump to any active Fire Remnant during Sleight of Fist. This is especially useful in situations you need to react to, such as when all of the enemy heroes suddenly show up to gank you. Use Sleight on either the heroes or a nearby creep wave, then jump to a Remnant while you have Sleight’s invulnerability buff.
“Be wary, be cautious”
In late-game situations such as high-ground sieges, make sure to take full advantage of Ember Spirit’s reach. Sleight of Fist is quite spammable thanks to its low mana cost and cooldown, and it works even when you don’t have vision because of Fog of War. They don’t hit invisible units, though. This makes it perfect for dealing chip damage to enemy heroes defending a tier-three tower, forcing them to either use a Shrine, go back to the fountain for healing, or get initiated on with half their health gone.
Xin isn’t designed to win late-game fights. As most of his offense and defense capability comes from spells, he becomes a lot weaker against soft disables like Silence compared to other traditional carries. He isn’t Spectre, Medusa, or Wraith King. Avoid being in the frontlines for too long unless you already have a sizable advantage in the teamfight. Keep your distance from the enemy team, weaving in and out as Sleight of Fist comes off cooldown. Leave Remnants behind before committing to teamfights, in case you need to jump out at any time.
Don’t skimp on the defensive items like Black King Bar, Eul’s or Aeon Disk. With Ember’s focus on snowballing, any death greatly hurts the hero’s capability and also gives more time for your opponents to purchase the required items to fight you. Items like Scythe of Vyse, Orchid Malevolence, and Abyssal Blade can really ruin your day.
If you decide to learn how to play Xin, be aware that the road to mastery will be quite the journey. Although he has a pretty reliable escape mechanism in Fire Remnant, his margin of error is very slim. Silences, in particular, practically remove him from the game and his poor stat growth per level means that he stays squishy.
Don’t feel discouraged if you lose your first couple Ember Spirit games. The hero truly requires a decent amount of practice and game sense in order to excel. But of course, nothing good ever comes easy. And when you’re ripping the enemy team to pieces, smile and think about what Xin would say.