I decided to write a guide on the overall purpose of Legion Commander as part of a team in DotA; I’ve seen a lot of confusion about how to play this hero and I’ve seen a lot of people play her exceptionally poorly. Through this guide, I aim to spread a deeper understanding of this hero and, hopefully, help people play her more effectively, while also reducing the amount of complaints about her being “OP.”
This guide is meant to be conceptual, and items and skill order are too situational for players to copy every game; still, I will list my personal preferences at the end.
The first thing to understand about Legion Commander is that she is NOT a traditional carry, despite what her ultimate might lead people to believe. She is very slow moving and has poor buffs to her damage and survivability (outside of a massively stacked ultimate). However, she brings great utility to her team and has the potential to permanently increase in power outside of the item game, making her the prime example of a support carry (hybrid carry, semi-carry, whatever you want to call it). That is, she is not the direct kill-maker for her team for the majority of the game, she instead provides utility and support to her team while also maintaining a threatening presence in team fights. Given a long enough game, she can transition to being a legitimate carry, unfortunately, this will typically take her a while.
Let’s look at her abilities;
Legion Commander’s first ability, Overwhelming Odds, does damage in an area that increases with the number of targets hit. Additionally, this ability provides her with a short movement speed buff. The best part about this ability is its incredible range, allowing her to secure last hits even in the hardest lanes from complete safety. Max this first for the best damage early game, as well as the ability to clear creep waves and farm gold against a difficult lane.
Her second ability, Press the Attack, provides an impressive combination of a heal over time, attack speed boost, and cleanse, removing most debuffs from the target it is cast on. This ability is fantastic all around and LC’s primary support ability. Since she can cast it on allies at a high range, LC is very adept at saving her team from sticky situations and this ability can make her incredibly frustrating to play against. The heal from this spell can add great sustain to LC’s lane, making it very difficult to push her and any partners out. Furthermore, the attack speed boost can quickly turn losing situations into wins. This ability always warrants a point early on, and can be maxed first if LC is playing more of a support role.
Legion Commander’s third and passive ability is Moment of Courage. This ability works much like Axe’s Counter Helix, and activates when she is attacked, causing an additional auto attack which gains immense lifesteal. It’s worth noting that, currently, LC must be actively attacking something for the strike to actually happen - if she is standing around passively, the activation will go on cooldown with no additional strike. The ability provides Legion Commander with a decent damage boost while she is being attacked, and the lifesteal bonus is a great source of sustain, allowing her to heal herself on creeps (in lanes or the jungle) without needing to return to the fountain. This ability can be maxed first to provide additional healing without the need for casting Press the Attack, but remember that early on in the game LC will not have a lot of damage, making the return from extra points in this ability minimal.
Legion Commander’s ultimate is Duel, which forces her and her target to auto attack each other for five seconds. If either hero dies during this time, the survivor will gain permanent damage. Additionally, during the duel, both heroes are effectively doomed, removing the ability for the player to control his hero and for these heroes to use abilities or items (even many passive abilities are disabled). This ability is easily LC’s signature - not only is it incredibly shiny and attention-grabbing, no one can ignore the permanent stacking damage she gains from winning multiple duels in a game. With enough wins, this ability can turn LC into a formidable carry and a terrifying hero. Furthermore, Duel provides a great CC ability, effectively stunning an enemy hero for 5 seconds - just remember that the other 8 heroes in the game CAN interrupt the duel in multiple ways, the dueling heroes are not immune to other player’s abilities. Duel is Legion Commander’s biggest joy in life and should be skilled immediately upon reaching the required levels.
Understanding her abilities, it should be easier to see that LC is not a primary carry. She is not an excellent farmer and does not have amazing passives like most other carrys (compare Moment of Courage to Phantom Assassin’s Coup de Grâce and Blur). However, she does bring a great amount of utility to her team, and can be very difficult to kill. Furthermore, her ability to slowly gain permanent damage from duel victories can allow her to seamlessly transition from a support role into a carry role late game. This is the niche she best performs in, and she should rarely be looked upon to fill the primary carry role of a team. She does not need to spend an entire game farming - LC is a far better team fighter and lane supporter than she is gold collector. She can fill the carry role for her team if there is no better options, but ideally, Legion is picked as a backup for a harder carry and builds more support-themed items, such as Heaven’s Halberd, Assault Cuirass, Eye of Skadi, or even Necronomicon. Since she does not need to build damage-heavy items to deal heavy damage, Legion can easily build for more CC and tank ability while remaining a huge threat to the enemy team.
With all this in mind, here are a few tips from me for general LC play, taken from a game I very barely won:
It can be very tempting to jump on the first person you see for a duel, especially if you think an ally is in danger and you can save them. However, duels you don’t win are of little value. In the above replay, Axe is chasing my ally Invoker around for quite some time, and while I could have attempted a duel with Axe, I knew I was unlikely to kill him. I saw Lion teleporting in to help and decided to wait for him, instead, since he does not even have half of Axe’s health and armor. In this manner, I was able to gain a relatively guaranteed damage boost from Duel, as opposed to a long shot duel with a tank.
While going after the weaker players might seem obvious, many people try to duel immediately in a fight, when they should be patient. There is no reason to take chances with duels, especially if you might die during them and give the enemy bonus damage. Try to hold your duel for when you can make guaranteed kills, and remember that you are not a champion early on in the game. Every victory is one victory closer to total domination, just be patient and wait for that +200 damage from Duel. LC is a hero who is famous for turning around bad games, and she even surprised me in this game, after we lost our middle barracks and the net worth chart looked like this:
I was pretty sure it was a loss. However, discouraged as I was, I kept focusing on Duel victories and remained patient.
While the enemy team was stronger than my team for the entirety of the game, the best way I could do my job and win Duels was to:
2) Bring friends
Keep in mind that LC is not actually very good at killing people in 5 seconds with just auto attacks. If you can, you always want to run around with someone who can help guarantee the enemy dies before the duel ends. Furthermore, remember that the duel IS interruptable by enemies. In this team fight, I take a free cheap shot at Lion, finishing him off with the backstab damage from my Shadow Blade, and immediately duel Kunkka. Right before I finish him off, enemy Pudge hits me with his Dismember and stuns me. Even at full life, I very quickly am in danger of getting crushed by the enemy team and losing the duel. Luckily, my allied Vengeful Spirit swaps me away from Axe right as I enter Culling Blade range, and my allied Bounty Hunter finishes Kunkka off for me, giving me the victory. It does not matter that I did not actually receive kill credit - I still get the bonus damage for winning the duel. This quirk is what makes Legion Commander a fantastic support to an already heavy damage dealing carry.
It should go without saying that during a Duel your team should focus on trying to kill your target. At the very least, if you are merely using Duel as a form of CC for an enemy, your team should focus on keeping you alive - the bonus damage from the ultimate won’t lose you the game if you lose one Duel, but it certainly won’t do you any favors, either. Remember that many forms of crowd control work on both LC and her target, which you can use to your advantage. Even though it is Legion Commander’s ultimate, Duel does not actually grant her any immediate benefit over her enemy - both heroes are just as susceptible to enemy intervention while they are rooted in place and unable to do anything but auto attack. As such, it is very unadvised to Duel someone with an enemy hero such as Skywrath Mage hanging around, ready to drop Mystic Flares on you.
With the game lasting longer and longer, the damage from Duel will stack up and turn Legion into a monster. At this point, the best advice I have for LC players is
3) Fear nothing
One of Legion’s biggest flaws is her terrible escape ability - she really can’t run from a fight. Here, I made one kill and chased Axe out of my base, almost scoring a second. However, enemy Weaver caught up to me and almost took me out in two hits. Instead of trying to flee, I simply held my ground and, a quick Moment of Courage later, Weaver was sinking into the abyss. At the later stages of a game, Legion’s damage can get quite ridiculous, and when she starts killing heroes in three or four strikes, she can very easily punish enemies for trying to fight her toe to toe. In this situation, having a creep wave attacking me worked greatly to my favor, allowing Moment of Courage to activate almost immediately on Weaver, luck I might not have had if we were truly one-on-one.
It can be easier to get away from bad situations early in the game, as Press the Attack can dispel debuffs on LC and heal her up, allowing her to flee from unfavorable situations. However, she still has no true escape ability. The best part about this hero, however, is her ability to achieve amazing damage without building an entire kit of expensive items. For this reason, if a situation gets completely out of control and you can make the choice to sacrifice yourself to save allies, give it consideration. LC is a prime candidate for being a team’s sacrifice, allowing other carry heroes to escape. Since she doesn’t need as much gold to get her damage, death does not impact her nearly as much as it does traditional carry heroes. Plus, if you simply turn and fight enemies once in a while, you can be surprised what this hero is capable of surviving between Press the Attack and Moment of Courage. You certainly can’t win them all, but as most carrys have gap closers and/or some form of crowd control, you are very unlikely to escape them, so you might as well fight.
Of course, while we’re busy having no fear, at some point we have to push forward and
4) Lead the team
When the time comes, Legion Commander will evolve from her humble supporty beginning into a wrecking ball of pure chaos and carnage, eliciting anguished cries from her enemies and destroying buildings at a speed that would make even a Stone Giant jealous. However, even before LC is capable of such destruction, she is still a lead hero. Press the Attack is very useful for clearing debuffs on allies, but it is even better if you can draw those spells to yourself. It is much easier to cleanse yourself instead of having to turn and chase allies around, after all. Because Legion gets fantastic damage growth from her ultimate, she can afford to build mostly as a tank, going for an item build such as Armlet > Heaven’s Halberd, Heart, which, combined with her natural tank ability as a strength hero and Moment of Courage activations, makes her excellent at damage soaking. Finally, Duel is an incredibly threatening ultimate which will draw the attention of most, if not all of the enemy team. This can be used to your advantage if you run in first, allowing your team to set up their spells on the enemies.
In the above replay, I see enemy Pudge walk too close to my team while we destroy their top tower. I take the opportunity to run and use my Black King Bar and Duel, drawing the enemy team to engage a fight. Since the enemy team gets anxious about our Duel, my allies are able to sit back and aim their spells with ease, allowing us to wipe the enemy team with very little effort. In the end, my damage at this point has grown so out of control that I kill a 3400 health Pudge in four hits, so while it is unlikely we would have lost the team fight at this point, the same logic applies to all points of the game.
While you should still avoid unnecessary fights and deaths, as LC is still a semi-carry and does need some measure of gold to be effective, you should play Legion very aggressively. Even if you die immediately in team fights, successful Duels will add up, and your ability to soak damage for your team and help them set up their abilities will go a long way toward winning games. If you can make even trades with the enemy team, the bonus damage from Duel will add up over time and make those trades very unfair for the enemy team at the end of the game.
As a bonus clip, please enjoy
Don’t forget, anything can happen during a Duel!
For a quick rundown of how I prefer to play LC, given ideal circumstances:
For lanes, run either top or bottom, with a partner. LC can work great as a support for a farmer, and would max Press the Attack first and get some minor mana regeneration (like Soul Ring), or she can run with a support and be the farmer herself, maxing Overwhelming Odds and going straight for carry items. In extreme circumstances (very, very easy lanes you can farm in passively), you can max Moment of Courage first to increase your ability to farm the jungle, as well as the lane, and maximize your damage during early Duels. I really dislike LC as a jungler, she is incredibly strong in lanes with a partner and I believe her potential is wasted in the jungle. Let the hard carrys farm the neutral creeps.
For items, there is a good reason Armlet and Desolator are recommended. The former greatly boosts her damage and survivability early game and the latter gives her massive damage synergy with Duel victories. Outside of these items, I tend to prefer building tanky, so Heart and Heaven’s Halberd are great choices, as is Assault Cuirass. Black King Bar can be essential in some games, as LC is a sitting duck for enemy spells during Duel. If you have a traditional carry who is doing well, don’t be afraid to build more support items, such as Shiva’s Guard or Necronomicon.
For heroes LC compares to, consider other hybrid carrys such as Slardar, Beastmaster, Brewmaster, Night Stalker, or Spiritbreaker. Rarely are these heroes called upon to be the primary damage dealer of their team, but they are typically quite capable of winning lanes and securing kills at all periods of the game, as well as providing support to their team.
For counters to LC, look at heroes who can screw with her Duel. Any hero with abilities that require moving-out-of obviously greatly damage a hero that can’t move. Such heroes as Stealth Assassin, Skywrath Mage, or Disruptor. Additionally, heroes who can simply shrug off her Duel or greatly reduce her damage during it are effective, such as Viper. Since Duel does not provide LC with any advantage over her target, her greatest partners and combos are also her best counters.