The Morphling has been one of my favorite heros ever since I started playing in version 5.34. At first glance, he looks very complicated and intimidating to play but once you figure him out, you’ll see that he’s incredibly versatile and fun. Hopefully after reading this guide, you’ll be well prepared to play him :)
Skills and use of them:
Waveform - One of the best non-ulti skills in the game. It is a skill used for chasing, escaping, damage dealing and so on. It has the flexibility of blink, several times the damage of blink strike, and a pretty low cooldown.
It is a burrowstrike without the stun, but since you are ranged it evens out.
Adaptive strike - Deals damage based on your agility, at least with the build of this guide, so the skill is not very good in early game when your agility is low, and as most single damage spells is loses its potential as the HP of the heroes grow in late game.
Morph - Makes you able to shift between your STR and AGI. In this guide, the focus won't be on constantly developing after the circumstances and you won't have mana for it. You will mostly need it to get your agility as high as possible. Of course, if chased, you might find it useful to get some bonus STR of waveform is on cooldown.
Replicate - As I see it, replicate is somewhat a "displaced" spell in the reportorial of Morphling. As it is yourself you are gonna deal the damage with, the potential of a clone of another hero looses its potential.
1 - Waveform
2 - Stats/morph
3 - Waveform
4 - Stats
5 - Waveform
6 - Stats
7 - Waveform
8 - Stats
9 - Stats/morph
10 - Replicate
11 - Stats
12 - Stats
13 - Stats
14 - Stats
15 - Stats
16 - Stats
17 - Replicate
18 - Replicate
19 - Morph
20 - Morph
21 - Morph
22 - Adaptive strike
23 - Adaptive strike
24 - Adaptive strike
25 - Adaptive strike
Reasons and justification:
Waveform asap should hardly be questioned. It is after Morph what makes you so good, in early game as damage, escape and chase, and later on as escape and chase.
Though this is not a Morphling guide focusing on highest stats, we still need the stats very much indeed. They make it possible to use Waveform much more often than otherwise, and are necessary for your survivability.
We only take one point in Morph, as it will be used primarily for get your agility sky-rocket, you need the stats more, so Morph should be taken at level 2 or 9. If facing easy early game opponents and/or having a good supporting ally in your lane, you can take Morph early in level 2 to make your harassing and last hitting easier. Especially if facing a single melee hero without more than one nuke, you can drop your HP down to about 400, just watch the map and count the foes often... If facing a nuker or more than one disabler, shifting to low HP might prove very "unpleasant" and will probably result in many trips back to fountain or, worse, deaths. In this case, you should not take Morph before about level 9, when you might start ganking and have a higher HP.
The same reason for waiting with replicate. It won't be much use to have a image dealing half damage, especially in early game when the heroes have low physical attack. If facing an opponent and creating an image of him, he will most likely flee, and since you have no stun, you won't be able to prevent him from doing so. That us why you won't need it before the ganking starts. And since most battles last shorter than 15 seconds, especially in early game, you do not need to level it up higher in a while.
Adaptive Strike is a spell that need you to have high agility, which you do not have in early game, and when you reach late game and have it, you deal more damage with attacks. That is why we just save it for last, prioritizing stats, quicker morphing and longer lasting images.
Items and game progress:
Ok then, this Morphling is gonna use his morph ability to heighten his agility, hereby maximizing his damage output. Because of this, he need a bit more survivability. That is why I suggests the following as starting items:
/Stout shield if facing physical dealers, or RoR if nukers or a mix.
1/2 sets of tangos
Fill up the rest with branches =)
Head to your lane, Morphling is not among those heroes that need high EXP very fast, though you should avoid getting out-leveled, so you should do fine with a lane partner. You should also if possible avoid the mid-lane as the nukers will go there, left if sentinel or right if scourge will be best, because this is very your enemy's late gamers will go, and usually just one. As said before, if having easy foes, lower you HP and heighten your DPS, but to a reasonable point. To be able to do this more efficient, get a vitality booster as first item after your startings, or if having problems with mana and HP, get a bottle and then vitality booster. A vitality booster gives 250, which is more than 13 point in strength. So if buying it, you might shift 14 STR to AGI. In other words, you just bought 14 agility for 1100 gold instead of the 10 for 1000 or the 25 for 3400. See the logic? You should also try finish the vitality booster to a vanguard for more efficient HP, before buying yet another vitality booster, which you do not need to finish to vanguard. The damage block for the second will be lower, and the physical attacks higher so wasting more than 1000 gold on a 4 hp/sec and a small chance to block some damage won't benefit you. A third vitality booster has about the same price, and might be a better choice if facing many nukers. If you did well, you hopefully stood in your lane to now, probably getting some kills, if you went back, it might have been a good idea if you bought some boots then. If you did well, get the boots at the first time home as they aren't necessary since you have waveform, but they are helpful.
Later on in the game, you will no longer be able to get the kills waveforming in every direction like a maniac. This is when your high DPS from all the agility gets really useful. If having a good game, you can stay around with 1 in strength, getting HP only from vitality boosters and attribute bonus. You are still vulnerable, so now you have two item choices: Get HP and survive easier, getting some kills as you last the battle longer, OR get more damage and kill them before they kill you, simple as that. Personally I usually prefer the kill or get killed. In both tactics, your items will be Stygian Desolater and Heart Of Tarrasque. And pretty obvious, the Stygian for damage or the Heart for HP. No matter which you choose to go first, get the other after. Especially if going Stygian, you should try to gank or push with a teammate as you are pretty fragile for disables or ganks.
Bottle - Because this Morphling has a pretty low mana pool and low HP bottle is pretty efficient on him. Especially the combo Waveform followed by bottle makes good. The bottle dispels on attack, but after the waveform, you will usually have some seconds before next contact.
S&Y - If having bad farming, this might be a good alternative if you are having problems farming and killing, it is an item boosting you overall and no parts more expensive than 1000 gold. And who cares if it is a noob item, it doesn't make it less useful. It gives both the STR and AGI that Morphling depends on, increased speed. It uses the orb slot at the cost of Stygian, but Morphling is one of the heroes benefiting most from maim as it has no other stun/slow and the high attack speed will trigger maim often.
Buriza - If the game for some reason lasts longer after the Heart and Stygian, this might be an alternative to heighten the damage from your high attack speed.
MKB - Same reason as Buriza, and also same purpose.
Treads - After the treads getting better and giving the much wanted stats, it is a good choice on Morphling as a quicker "morph", and it increases your speed.
BoT - Who doesn't love the flexibility from a teleport? If doing well, the increased speed and ability to be everywhere makes you much more efficient. But still, you do not need the ms from neither treads of BoT desperately, and if farming bad, you should consider staying with boots all the game.
BKB - Being fragile to disables and nukes, BKB may remove a lot of the weaknesses of Morphling, as adding some HP, though it sets you back in getting other survivability or damage items
Skadi - Of course a good item on Morphling, but that is the stats Morphling, not my killing machine =)
Butterfly - More or less just boosting his strengths further, but not increasing HP against spells though. With his high armor, he hardly needs the evasion, and butterfly is expensive, but still efficient on him.
HoD - Not very good, unless there are many chain nukers against you. You will have HoT for 11 HP/sec and Vanguard for 4 HP/sec. And it doesn't protect you from disables either.
Linken's - As a weaker BKB, but it provides you with stats instead.
Satanic - If you have good DPS this item, being an alternative to Hot, keeps you more or less alive as long as you attack, but it removes the Stygian, and therefor put your DPS back. It should only be taken in special occasions, though I do not know which that would be
Vladimirs Offering - Should be pretty obvious to not be a choice, but by some obscure reason, some people actually take this... I would think going Aghanims Scepter and Refresher Orb on SA to be a better choice, but still there are some maniacs out there taking it on Morphling...
Nice, but still realistic, finishing items:
Heart of Tarrasque
Hood of Defiance
*One thing about replicate being underestimated and also the main reason I take i at all that early is that you may at any time teleport to the clone, replacing it. If you are being chased, replicate a hero, doesn't matter much which, but preferably one with high MS. Run away from your chasers, but send the clone in the opposite direction. This will not only confuse them, but giving you a superior way to escape since you can replace the clone. Several times when I have done this, I get a lot of WTFs from the opposite team afterwards, as they do not understand how I just vanished. If they are more clever they will understand though, and you might get a "nice" from them instead, or better...a "FUCK YOU BLOODY NOOB GOD DAMN IT!!!11", it feels so good. And if you reply with "How does me killing you make me noob?", you will probably see the message "*NickName* has left the game.", which makes the day, seriously!
And, even if they know the possibility for you to replace the clone, who will actually drop you and follow the clone if you make one and send it away? Of course, if they do, run freely, but that will most likely not happen. Still, of there are more than one chaser, and they are well organized they might split up after you and the clone, but even then, you did at least half the chasing strength, and if being strategic, kill one of them, which feels REAAALLY good indeed! ^^
*Waveform is an extremely underestimated spell. It is as I said before a blink, but better. You might shorten your way by about 1000 range instead of run, but also shorten it by waveforming straight forward instead of running around something, like edges, trees, units, you name it.
* If running away from enemies, or better A enemy, and having plenty of mana, heighten your strength and now and then turn back and shoot at him to make him follow on. When running up a ledge, turn to the side, and as the enemy gets up too, he will probably not attack you immediately and there will often be some seconds delay of free fire for you. Now, waveform past him to his most likely escape route, BUT NOT OUT OF SIGHT, as this will mess up for you. Get some more blow on him, unless he is a very high HP hero, and you pretty short, or if he is just stupid, he will now turn and run away, and you are free to take him down
* You are not a tank. That is pretty obvious, so if going against more than one enemy or against a chain disabler, do not go alone. You deal a hell lot of damage, but it helps little if they kill you first. The best that can happen is that the enemy flee. You can chase most heroes, except other blinkers, due to your waveform and your high DPS makes the execution go quick.
In team battles, you are the person who enters LAST as the enemies will most likely, and wisest, focus you. So you need friends in front of you. Waveform to your own attack range, but not in the middle of the chaos, this is a place for tanks and stunners, not you.
Good friends and bad foes:
I am not gonna list the usual disablers as good friends, and disablers as bad foes, but I will remark that as most DPS agility heroes, you are very fragile when stunned/disabled/slowed, so try to avoid this. But there is four heroes I will list as pretty nasty, that is Venomancer, Lucifer, Axe and Bradwarden. I said that it is only about killing them before they kill you. But Veno And Luci may even kill you after you killed them due to their high Dot spells. And for Axe and Brad, their returns and high HP makes you lose pretty much HP while trying to take them down. And Brads Stomp and Double Edge lowers you even more, while Axe 3 seconds of mass spin with Call and his Culling Blade dealing about 50% of your HP is pretty unpleasant.