Spin! Cut! Shred! A Timbersaw guide

by Dennis Gonzales Feb 9 2017
Thumbnail image courtesy of Valve

Timbersaw is hard to kill, outputs crazy damage and has an exciting, fast-paced play style.

If you're looking for a high tempo pick that's strong in the early and mid game, this melee strength hero is a solid choice.

Timbersaw was a moderately popular hero until an impressive showcase from compLexity Gaming's David "Moo" Hull, when he was still part of Digital Chaos, at the International 2016. Since then, Rizzrack has cut and carved out a strong presence in casual and competitive play.


Timbersaw is one of the highest tempo heroes in the game outside of Storm Spirit and Puck and one that excels in the early and mid game. His passive, Reactive Armor, makes him one of the safest heroes in a solo lane, while his Timber Chain grants him virtually unrivaled mobility.

On top of all this, his entire kit has the ability to deal pure damage which gives him a ridiculous burst window.

Timbersaw also has some of the shortest cooldowns in the game, ranging from eight seconds on his ultimate Chakram, to four and six seconds on Timber Chain and Whirling Death respectively. He's somewhat dampened by a lack of scalability into the late game as well as a lack of any utility, but the best form of crowd control is death, which happens to be one of Timbersaw's primary exports, alongside lumber, of course.

Skill Build

A few months ago, the skill build for Timbersaw was pretty well set with Timber Chain being prioritized. Not only did it's damage scale up, but so did it's cast range. At max level it's cast range is 1450, which allows you to travel farther than a Blink Dagger, every four seconds, at Level 7.

This mobility theoretically translates into survivability as no hero could keep up with Timbersaw during an early game chase, but this is assuming there's no silences to prevent casting or stuns to interrupt the Timber Chain, which is not an issue for higher-level play.

Since Timbersaw is unable to solely rely on Timber Chain to survive the offlane, a new build was popularized by North American player Moo.

The premise is simple: Max Reactive Armor first instead of Timber Chain. It didn't catch on immediately because if a Timbersaw maxes Timber Chain and Whirling Death first, he has one of the highest damage bursts in the early game. Tempting, but, all that damage means nothing if you're dead.

It was only after The International 6 that people started to notice the strength of Moo's Timbersaw. It was an integral part in the team's Grand Final run, after all.

After that, even prolific Timbersaw players such as Daryl "iceiceice" Koh have adjusted their builds to prioritize Reactive Armor.

There are exceptions however, as his skill build while playing in the mid or safe lane looks a bit more traditional. Taking two early points in Reactive Armor and maxing his Timber Chain and Whirling Death first, something that EHOME's Wang "old chicken" Zhiyong has done plenty of times when playing Timbersaw mid.


Timbersaw is one of the more versatile laners in the game and his build in the early game is reflected in that. However, all these options and item permutations invariably lead to a single item: Bloodstone.

It's a cornerstone item for Timbersaw, arguably more so than Storm Spirit. It enhances his kit more than any other singular item and afterwards your options are wide open again.

Your general philosophy for building Timbersaw is to build efficiently early, then tanky and mobile in the mid game. The late game is likely where you'll see the most variation, but your safest bet there is to build for your team.

Starting and Early Game

Your starting items are usually dependent on your lane setup, but generally speaking a rock solid opener is a Tango, Healing Salve, Stout Shield, Iron Branch and an Enchanted Mango. A starting build that both iceiceice and Moo use often.

There are variations on this, such as replacing the Healing Salve with another Mango, which is definitely greedier, but Timbersaw has a tendency of getting away with a lot during the laning phase.

From here you will work your way towards essential items Arcane Boots and a Soul Ring for regen in the lane, but also because both build towards your eventual Bloodstone. However, you will likely get a few other items before, between or after these items, depending on your lane and how it progresses.

Here's the basic of items to consider during the laning phase:

  • Magic Wand - Easily one of the most efficient items in the game, which takes up a whole slot, but seeing as how you're working your way to a Bloodstone, you will have slots to spare. Sometimes even just a casual Magic Stick is enough.
  • Cloak - Thanks to your passive, you potentially have armor in spades, which means the best way to kill you is magic damage. Cloak mitigates this and is a core item for an eventual Hood of Defiance and Pipe of Insight.
  • Poor Man's Shield - One of the most efficient Effective HP items for the early game, particularly if you'll take damage from creeps and potshots from the enemy support, which you will.
  • Quelling Blade - Timbersaw is a lot of things, but a right-clicker he's not. A QB could be a big difference in getting more last hits, but it's not essential. Moo likes it, iceiceice less so.
  • Orb of Venom - An optional piece, but the movement slow could be key during early game chases.
  • Infused Raindrop - This item was practically made for Timbersaw as it blocks magic damage and provides decent mana regeneration. It's not often picked up by pros since inventory space is scarce from your other early game items.

Mid Game

Bloodstone is your key into the mid game and should push you into rotating for kills, if you haven't already been. Kills with a Bloodstone translate into more charges, which further translates into more HP and mana regen, which potentially means less time at the Fountain, which means more time creating space on the map.

It's the perfect snowball item for a snowball hero and it's not uncommon for an unchecked Timbersaw to take over the mid game.

At this point you should consider building a Hood of Defiance, if you haven't already, and sometimes a Hood is a solid pickup even before your Bloodstone.

The mid game is where Timbersaw shines, but the same goes for other magic damage heroes, who are particularly effective against Timbersaw. In certain cases, such as against a Zeus, it may even be wise to prioritize a Pipe of Insight right after your Bloodstone.

In building your Bloodstone, you should have disassembled your Arcane Boots for the Energy Booster, leaving you with just regular Brown Boots in the mid game.

This is the perfect transition point for a pair of Boots of Travel. As you've acquired your Bloodstone, your map presence should be spread, and nothing does that better than BoT. It's key for making rotations and since Timbersaw has strong AOE wave clear, you will need to clear creepwaves from time to time.

Blink Dagger is always a good buy as the game progresses. Even though you have strong mobility just from your skill set, a Blink is a more reliable way of initiating fights and another way to escape them.

Black King Bar is a strong, though very situational pick up.

Against lineups with a lot of silence, spell damage or stuns, BKB is probably a necessity, but more often than not you can probably get by without one.

This is especially the case since you'll be working towards a Pipe of Insight, and you don't really benefit from the extra 24 attack damage that BKB gives you. There are more efficient choices.

Though your main issue in the mid game will be magic damage, certain heroes do output enough physical damage to overtake your Reactive Armor, especially heroes with critical strike such as Phantom Assassin or Wraith King.

This is especially the case if you happen to start a fight without any Reactive Armor stacks. A casual Platemail can come in handy and it also builds into two core items for the late game.

Late Game

One of your decisions in the late game will be what to build your Platemail into, a Shiva's Guard or Lotus Orb. Both are solid pickups, but Shiva's is better against right-click heavy compositions, while Lotus Orb can turn teamfights against nasty single-target spells. Regardless, both items deepen your mana pool.

If you haven't built a Pipe of Insight yet, you can't go wrong building one in the late game. It's the perfect transition from the Cloak or Hood you likely built earlier in the game.

The active magic damage shield adds a much needed buffer in teamfights, while it's 4 HP per second and 10% magic resistance aura are useful as well.

Take care when considering items such as Aghanim's Scepter and Octarine Core. While the second Chakram from the Agh's is a huge damage boost, it's also a big drain on your mana pool.

It also adds no utility for your team, the same can be said about Octarine Core. They're good choices for your own purposes, but they do little to nothing for your team. If you want to go HAM, Agh's/Octarine is what you want, but if you want to win, the safer bet is utility.

Skill Tree

LVL 10 LVL 15 LVL 20 LVL 25
HP +150 HP Regen +14 Spell Amp 5% Whirling Death Attribute Reduction +6%
XP +10% INT +15 Cast Range +125 STR +20

Timbersaw has one of the least interesting skill trees in the game. Variation is possible, but generally there's some set paths, such as the Level 25 talent. It looks interesting, but the math says otherwise.

The Level 10 talents are a mixed bag. The 10% experience bonus could get you levels quicker, however you don't gain XP when you're dead and that extra 150 HP could have been what made the difference in a fight. Since you should be fighting quite a bit, I'd lean towards the extra HP.

Level 15 talents are also a toss up. More HP regen is solid, but maybe a bit overkill given your passive. And it's also worth noting that the +15 intelligence (INT) talent is one of the highest INT bonuses across all talents trees at that level. Either talent is solid.

While 5% spell amplification is a decent boost on paper, it's a pretty low bonus for a Level 20 talent, but it's probably still better than +125 cast range. The extra cast range is nice for Timber Chain and a Blink, or in the odd case of you building a Eul's Scepter or Orchid of Malevolence, but your default choice is likely the spell amp.

Like most heroes, the Level 25 branch is potentially where things are the most interesting. The 20+ strength (STR) bonus is close to the value of a Reaver, which gives 25 STR and costs 3,000 gold. The raw stat translates into an extra 400 HP and 0.6 HP per second, as well as 20 more right-click damage, whatever that's worth on Timbersaw.

Meanwhile, the other level 25 branch increases the base primary attribute reduction debuff of Whirling Death by +6%, up from 15% reduction to 21%.

That's a 20% bonus to the debuff, which is nice on paper, but flaws arise when you look deeper into the math.

Whirling Meh

Overall, the Whirling Death debuff lowers the damage of the heroes it affects since it lowers their primary attribute, and this causes some secondary effects depending on the heroes' primary attribute.

Against INT and agility heroes the secondary effect of the reduction in base attribute is minimal, such lower mana and slightly lower armor and attack speed. However, against STR heroes the debuff can be pretty devastating.

This is partially because the debuff is applied before damage is done, so Whirling Death actually does essentially a portion of their base STR as "extra damage."

So what does this mean for his Level 25 talent? Well, Reddit user Daniel_Is_I did the math. As the "extra damage" from Whirling Death only affects STR heroes, Daniel_Is_I averaged the Level 25 STR attribute of every STR hero in the game and averaged them out.

It's a little less exciting than it sounds.

He found that Timbersaw's Level 25 talent essentially was on average a +100 damage boost, but only against STR heroes. It's decent, but considering it's contingent on being used on a STR hero, the +20 STR talent is much better and more reliable.


One of the most important factors in laning as a Timbersaw is maintaining your Reactive Armor stacks, which is best done by aggro'ing the creeps.

This is for the obvious benefit of the sustainability from the extra HP regen, but it's also important to maintain the bonus armor during every phase of the game, even if you have full health.

If and when you get ganked, you're going to want as much bonus armor possible right from the get-go. This will be easier to maintain as you level Reactive Armor, as its buff duration also scales up from 10 seconds at Level 1 to 19 seconds at Level 4.

As for last hitting, Timbersaw hits like a wet noodle, so don't be afraid to use Whirling Death or Timber Chain to last hit, especially if you can hit the opposing heroes as well.

Whirling Death is easier to last hit with as it's instant However, Timber Chain is your most efficient damage per mana spell when it's Level 4, so use it to clear camps.

Chakram Level 1 is also pretty efficient, but it's efficiency drops as the skill levels up.

Nuking the creeps and tanking their hits does have the added effect of pushing the lane, so definitely learn when and how to pull from the side lane, which should be much easier with your ability to clear trees.

As you start your laning phase with Timbersaw, you have some pretty dramatic changes in what you're able to do in the lane depending on very small differences in level.

This is largely based on how many levels of Reactive Armor you have and whether you have Chakram yet.

  • Level 1-2 - Ideally you've started with one level in Reactive Armor, but this may have depended on whether your team wanted to take a Level 1 fight. Regardless, this stage is probably when you'll need to be most cautious, or at least, don't overextend.
  • Level 3-5 - With at least two levels in Reactive Armor, you generally have free reign in the lane. Though this is not the case if you happen to be against a trilane, in which case, wait until you have three or four levels in Reactive Armor... or ask for rotations.
  • Level 6 - Once you get your ultimate, your burst potential gets a massive spike and you can go from a generally defensive posture in the lane to an all out offensive one. A Level 1 Chakram, if you hit with both passes, deals 200 pure damage for roughly 100 mana. Wait eight seconds for it to cooldown and you can chunk another 200 HP off. This probably puts the opposing core at less than half health and it will instill a bit of caution in their game, allowing you to completely bully them out of the lane or at least force rotations.

From here it's up to you.

Sometimes it's good to start rotations once you get your ult, but sometimes it's good to play a bit more greedy to get a better timing on your Bloodstone, which adds even more value to every kill.

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev Discipline Priest Pharah. You can follow him on Twitter.