Qualifications: I am currently ranked 41st under the ID TANGO WANGO on the Dotabuff Top 100 list for Timbersaw and I have a 25/5 record in 6.82 (83% winrate). I am 4.6k MMR. Full list of games on Dotabuff for those interested.
What role does Timber fill and what lane should he go to?
Timbersaw is a spell-based semi-carry, ideally played in the 2 or 3 role. He is most similar to heroes like Death Prophet, Bristleback, or Undying in that he loves long fights and skirmishes that allow him to cast his spells multiple times. However, with Agh’s he has really good AoE burst so he can work well with teamfight wombo-combos as well.
For laning, Timbersaw wants a solo lane above all else. He doesn’t really have good kill potential until he hits level 6 (unless the enemy is really out of position), so he just wants to get that as fast as possible. Timbersaw can be played solo in any lane, but be careful about going mid against strong laners like QoP, Razor, or OD as they can shut you down hard. However, since Timbersaw is overwhelmingly played in the offlane I am going to focus this guide on offlane Timber.
When is Timbersaw a good pick?
Basically, you pick Timber when your team needs damage or the ability to create chaos in a teamfight, but doesn’t need more crowd control. Timbersaw provides almost no crowd control, but he does a lot of damage and distracts the other team by being in their face. The other team is forced to deal you when you dive in on them because you do so much damage, but if they focus you (and you itemized correctly) then you will take so many spells/time to bring down that your team can clean up.
Allies and Enemies
Timbersaw has the most synergy with heroes that thrive in long teamfights, have good CC, or benefit from longer games. Weaver, Juggernaut, and Viper are all good examples of heroes that can help lengthen teamfights by being hard to kill/focus down at the beginning. Heroes that take some time to come on line like Spectre, Naga Siren, and Faceless Void benefit immensely from Timber’s ability to counterpush. Heroes like Ogre Magi, Lion, or Bane are great as they can hold down evasive heroes like Storm Spirit and allow Timber to kill them quickly.
Timber is countered by heroes that are very mobile, have lots of lockdown, or have high burst damage. Ember Spirit, Anti-Mage, and Storm Spirit are examples of heroes that are hard for Timber to kill as they can just run/blink away if he goes on them. Ursa, Clinkz, and Zeus all do tons of burst and can just kill Timber in the early game if you aren’t careful. Skywrath, Doom, and Bane are examples of heroes who can hold Timber down and allow their team to kill him.
When you are laning, everything you do should be working towards the goal of getting level 6 and some kind of mana item (Arcane Boots or Soul Ring depending on the game), everything else is secondary.
If you are given a ward by your supports, where you put it is extremely important. The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to block the pull or not. Generally you want to block the pull if their lane doesn’t have strong kill potential on you, their supports aren’t likely to roam, and you aren’t expecting early rotations to kill you. Conversely, you want to place a ward to give vision in the jungle if you are expecting early rotations by a jungler/mid/roaming support(s), they have strong kill potential on you, OR the supports are going to be roaming a lot. I stress the or here because if any of these things are true you should ward to give yourself vision in the jungle instead of blocking the camp as you need it to be able to safely soak EXP in lane.
Some ward spots I like.
As for how to play the lane, it depends on how strong the enemy lane is. If it’s a weak lane (think something like a Spectre-Earthshaker dual lane) then you can play really aggressively and trade right clicks to force people out of lane. When you are against weak lanes as Timber it’s really important you punish them as it can flat out win the game for your team.
However, if the other team has a strong lane (stuns, silences, lots of burst, multiple ranged heroes) then you won’t be able to just sit in lane and farm/trade right clicks. Very broadly speaking, trilanes come in one of two flavors. They will either be a harass lane (where they get you low then kill you) or a kill lane (where they just kill you from full health).
Kill lanes are the easiest to identify because they will always have mass disables and high damage. Shadow Shaman, Lion, Juggernaut, and Sven are all examples of heroes that are good at just going on Timber and killing him from full health. When playing against these heroes it is super important to ward the jungle (to watch for supports trying to get behind you) and to play very carefully. If you feed kills early it’s going to get very ugly very quickly as you will be stuck at a low level and the supports are going to get more points into their stuns/nukes. However, if you can get to level 6 without feeding a kill then you can find yourself in a position to punish out of position supports.
Harass lanes usually have heroes like Weaver, Ancient Apparition, or Skywrath. These heroes are great at dealing out damage and zoning you off the creep wave, and then going for kills when you get low. It is really important to stay at full health as much as possible when against a harass lane. Going Tranquils or Bottle instead of rushing Arcanes can make a huge difference.
It’s ten minutes into the game and you are level 7 with Arcanes, what now? Well, unlike heroes like Clockwerk who just roam once they get their ulties, what Timber needs to do depends on the game. The first thing you should determine is if the laning stage is breaking up or not. If things look like they are gonna be static just stay in your lane and farm. Once you hit 6 it is dangerous for supports to solo zone you so you can bully your way into lane and get last hits with Chakram. It is possible to get at least two last hits every creep wave with Chakram by throwing it on the range creep and getting a melee with the pass-through damage. You then leave the Chakram out until you can kill the ranged creep with the pull-back damage.
If lanes are breaking up, you should be looking for teamfights to participate in. Once you are level 6 with Arcanes or Soul Ring you should carry a TP at all times so you can punish dives and counter gank the enemy team. If you can’t get much out of your lane (which is likely against heroes like Weaver or Razor who can just zone you 1v1) then you need to leave your lane. Ideally you would get kills, but if the enemy isn’t giving you opportunities then go stack and farm jungle. Timbersaw is a farm dependent hero so make sure you are using your time wisely.
Once you get Bloodstone (ideal timing is somewhere between 15-20 minutes) you can play a lot more aggressively. You are very tanky with your high HP pool and you have the mana to spam your spells. In teamfights you should start diving aggressively onto the enemy team and force the enemy to use cooldowns on you. This is especially important if you have glass cannon heroes like Drow, Ember Spirit, or Sniper on your team as that Roar that gets used on you can’t be used to lock down and kill your Ember.
If there aren’t fights happening, you should be farming. Timbersaw with Bloodstone is a very good offensive farmer, so abuse this by split pushing and farming the enemy jungle when it’s safe. By pressuring towers and taking farm from the enemy, you will force rotations to protect the enemy’s side of the map. This creates space for your team to farm your own side of the map and gets you farm at the same time.
As the game goes on your importance as a damage source begins to fall off. Don’t get me wrong, Timbersaw with Aghs and Shivas does a lot of damage, but right clicking cores will outscale you. You should start to dive as hard as possible on the enemy, even if it seems suicidal. It’s far better for you to do die in place of your Shadow Fiend or Slark; this is especially true as Bloodstone will heal your team and give you a shorter respawn timer.
Skill and Item Builds
How you skill and itemize in the first 10 minutes of the game is very important. It’s fun to talk about ideal six slot builds, but most games won’t get to that point. However, you will play the laning stage in every game, so adjusting your items and skill order depending on the game is super important.
These are your starting items if you are expecting an easy OR a kill lane.
The reason this build works for both is simple, your goal in either lane is to get Arcanes as quickly as possible. In the easy lane you want Arcanes quickly to push your advantage as much as possible. Against the kill lane you want to stream line your build as much as possible so you can get Arcanes as quickly as possible so you can leave if needed.
This is what you start with if you are expecting a lane with heavy harass potential, but don’t anticipate the need for Tranquils. There might be a single hero that has strong harass (Ogre, Weaver, Crystal Maiden) or you anticipate the enemy supports are going to roam.
This is the “fuck this lane is going to suck” build. We’ve all been in that game where the enemy Skywrath shows up to lane with 5 clarities, and this is the item build you have to go to have a chance. The idea behind this build is to get Tranquils as fast as possible.
So you have your starting items, now you need to decide on a skill build and what early game items you need (if any). Timbersaw’s skill build isn’t very finicky as long as you end up here or here by level 11.
The cookie cutter build looks like this. You can use this build every game with any item build and it will work fine. However, if the lane is going especially well/poorly I suggest you adapt. This is a fantastic build if you can sit in/near the creep wave and just trade hits with people or if the enemy is giving you a lot of right click harass. Thisis a build that you can do if you are being heavily zoned and go Tranquils. The idea is that you don’t really need Reactive if you go Tranquils, and only leveling your nukes will help mitigate a lack of levels.
Any items you buy early game (other than Tranquils, brown boots, or things that build into Bloodstone) should be bought in reaction to your lane. If the enemy lane has strong mana drain/burn (mainly Lion or Silencer) then a magic stick is super important. Those lanes will be looking to drain all your mana and then kill you once you can’t chain away, but if you have 10 magic stick charges saved up you can pop them and immediately chain away to safety. The other item that I really like is Urn. If you think the game is going to be really crazy then an Urn is a good buy. It can be used to cancel blinks, kill fleeing enemies, and heal yourself in the middle of/after a fight.
Mid and Late-game
Before I talk about specific items, I want to talk about how Timber scales with items. Timber’s late-game scaling comes from Agh’s and Reactive Armor. Agh’s obviously gives you a second Chakram which helps Timber’s damage scale better into the late game. However, his real scaling is in Reactive Armor. Reactive Armor works by increasing your HP regen and Armor each time you are auto attacked. This means that you don’t get the full benefit from Reactive until you have been auto-attacked 16 times. However, once you can live long enough to get the full 16 stacks of Reactive, Armor and HP are more effective on Timbersaw than on other heroes.
Your first item should always be Bloodstone. It gives Timber everything he needs, lots of HP so he can live to build up stacks of Reactive and plenty of mana to spam his spells (assuming you don’t lose all your charges). Once you have Bloodstone you need to figure out what you need to get next, this chart gives a flowchart to choose your next item.
Shiva’s Guard: This is just an overall good item on Timber. It increases your mana pool and it gives you a very nice slow that also gives flying vision in an AoE which can be useful for thwarting juke attempts. However, it’s primary benefit to Timber is the +15 armor.
Pipe of Insight: I love getting Pipe as a second item when the other team is doing mostly magic damage. It makes you insanely hard to nuke down and the active is great for your team. It also plays into the “take punishment for your team” mentality in that you still eat stuns for your team, but you are a lot harder to finish off.
Black King Bar: This item is definitely a last resort item in my mind. You buy it when the enemy team has so many stuns that you just get perma-stunned. Pipe is almost always the better option if you are only getting stunned for like 5-6 seconds at a time.
Blink Dagger: This item is good for situations where you want to jump a glass cannon (Drow, Sniper, or Ember) OR if you need to avoid being Doomed. Blink allows you to start the fight off by jumping Doom (who gets shredded by Whirling Death) or at the very least getting off one combo before you are Doomed.
Agh’s: You want this item at some point. Double Chakram is a lot of damage in teamfights and it will insta-kill a regular creep wave from full HP. Chakram also doesn’t get blocked by Pipe so pushing into an Agh’s Timber is insanely hard.
Assault Cuirass: You buy this when someone else built Shiva’s and you need armor or you stack it with Shiva’s against a team that does mostly physical damage. With Shiva’s + AC + Reactive you can get to over 50 armor.
Dagon: I like building Dagon as a follow up to Blink as it gives you greater solo kill potential on heroes like Drow, Sniper, or Tinker.
Scythe of Vyse: Really good item that works with any build. Get it after your survivability item(s) and Agh’s.
Heaven’s Halberd: Good item against right-clickers that bought an early BKB. I like it as a 5th or 6th item as BKB charges will be low by then.
Boots of Travel: BoTs are a fantastic item, but be careful about getting them too early. Going straight for BoTs after Bloodstone can leave you very easy to kill in a teamfight. Since Timber usually isn’t pressed for item slots, I usually wait to upgrade to BoTs until I have Agh’s and enough survivability.
Eul’s is an ok item, but definitely a second choice.
Pros: Cheap, decently easy build-up, can be used to break channels/TPs, and can be used to dodge/purge some disables.
Cons: Arcanes + Eul’s costs almost as much as a Bloodstone (4150 compared to 4900), it doesn’t give nearly as much mana which means you need another mana item before you can really use an Agh’s, and it doesn’t give any direct survivability (no HP/Armor means that you will be running around with ~1k HP which leaves you vulnerable to getting chain stunned and killed from full HP in fights).
Its main use in my mind is to dodge/purge specific disables when you won’t have time to farm Bloodstone + BKB. The main ones are Global Silence, EMP, and Orchid (usually on fast Orchid heroes like Storm or QoP).
Blademail: I don’t really like this item in general (except on Legion), so I may be a bit biased. The thing I don’t like about it is that it doesn’t really give you much direct survivability. For the cost of the Blademail you could have bought a Platemail that builds into your Shivas or AC. The other thing I don’t like is that it sucks up an item slot that you will often want to fill with a bigger item come late game. I find that Timber will very often get 5 or 6 slotted in long games because of how well you can farm/push waves, and filling an inventory slot with Blademail unnecessarily delays your big items.
Tips and Tricks
Chakram gives vision.
Abuse cliffs! Every time a Timber dies or misses a kill because he didn’t abuse cliffs, Icefrog buffs Oracle.
Draw creep aggro in lane to get stacks of Reactive. You can draw aggro by right-clicking an enemy hero, even one across the map.