Dota 2 Bristleback Guide

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Dota 2 Bristleback Guide

Get tame and master the temperamental and tanky Hero with this Dota 2 Bristleback Guide

Bristleback (BB) and his mission to give old knobs a proper bashing, no one puts their backs into more than BB. This armored Hero is quite tricky to kill, with his back and sides being adored with quills that shoot out to impale any aggressors with a vengeance. 

Bristleback is a melee Strength Hero heading into battle with a decent starting 604 HP, but his 243 Mana and 295 movement speed are average. His base damage and armor are reasonable, at 55 and 3.8 respectively, giving him an all-rounded but durable start.

Playing Bristle is not too complicated, but mastering him requires a good understanding of your enemies’ damage capabilities, itemization and your mortality. He’s a good frontliner in most lineups, rushing back-first into combat and raining snot and quills on all those who stand in his way. 


Let’s hit things off by getting to know Bristleback’s ability kit. 

  • Viscous Nasal Goo – Achoo! Is it cold in here? Bristleback covers an enemy target with snot, reducing its armor by 2 and movement speed by 15% for 5 seconds on heroes and 10 seconds on creeps. Multiple casts stack and refresh the duration, reducing armor by up to 3 per stack and slowing movement speed by 12% per stack. Maximum stacks per target are 4, and with Aghanim’s Scepter, it goes up to a maximum of 7.

  • Quill Spray – Things are about to get prickly! Bristleback sprays enemy units around him in a 700 radius with quills, dealing damage that stacks every time a unit is hit again within 14 seconds. The base damage inflicted levels-up up to 85 and each stack adds damage by up to 34 (59 with level 20 talent). The stacks last for 14 seconds, with a maximum damage cap of 550 per spray. It can be upgraded by Aghanim’s Shard, which grants Bristleback the Hairball ability.

    •  Hairball (Aghanim’s Shard Upgrade) – A bombardment of snot and quills. Bristle coughs a hairball imbued with nasal goo and quills at a targeted location, which bursts on impact. Enemies within its AoE radius are hit with 2 instance of Viscous Nasal Goo and 1 Quill Sprays.

  • Bristleback – The game’s in the name. BB’s impenetrable back is covered with quills, and as per certain angles, he takes different amounts of reduced damage. Within his 70% rear angles, Bristle takes up to 40% (48% with level 15 talent) reduced damage, and within his 110% side angles, he takes up to 20%  (24% with level 15 talent) reduced damage. Furthermore, after taking 225 damage, Bristleback releases a Quill Spray of the current level. This ability can be upgraded by Aghanim’s Scepter.

    • Aghanim’s Scepter Upgrade: Allows Bristleback ability to be point-targeted, where BB turns his back to the location and ejects 6 Quill Sprays in a tight cone at 0.35 second intervals. He can cast spells during this time, but is also slowed by 40%, disarmed and cannot turn. 
  • Warpath – “Time for a good scrap”. Every spell cast by Bristleback infuses him with rage, increasing his movement speed by up to 4% and attack damage by up to 25 (43 with level 25 talent) per cast. Every cast stacks, with a maximum stack of up to 12, and lasts for up to 20.  


  • Level 10 – +1.5 Mana Regen or +20 Damage
  • Level 15 – 8%/4% Bristleback Back/Side Damage Reduction or +150 Goo Cast Range
  • Level 20 – +25 Quill Stack Damage or +25 Health Regen
  • Level 25 – +18 Warpath Damage Per Stack or 12% Spell Lifesteal 

Dota 2 Bristleback Guide – Tips 

BB is a tank that not only absorbs a lot of punishment but also dishes them out. Powered by his Warpath infusing him with movement speed and damage, and his Bristleback ability reducing damage and proccing Quill Sprays, chasing down enemy heroes with Viscous Nasal Goo and spamming Quill Spray is a deadly summary of the Hero. And in the current meta, with the help of spell steal, BB is quite impossible to stop when he reaches his peak.

Bristleback’s role is simple: walk into the enemies and tank for your team while spamming your Quill Spray & Viscous Nasal Goo as much as you can. If the enemies focus on you, turn your back and walk out, spraying any who dare chase you with your deadly quills. Once the focus shifts, rinse and repeat till all that’s left are dead enemy pincushions. 

Bristle is a solid Aura carrier, with the likes of Crimson Guard, Pipe on Insight and Lotus Orb being standard pick-ups in pro matches. Once you have your teamfight items picked up, focus on getting yourself some tanky items such as Heart of Tarrasque, Bloodstone (incredibly strong due to spell lifesteal), Assault Cuirass and more. Sustain yourself and keep a check on your status because, with a break debuff, you can do little to save yourself. 

Dota 2 Bristleback – Pros and Cons

Here are some of Bristleback’s best and worst features that you should keep in mind.


  • Has a decent slow 
  • Deals high physical damage (even with his abilities)
  • Itemization is quite versatile.
  • Highest Intelligence gain of any Strength Hero
  • Depends on leveling more than farming
  • Can easily dive towers early on


  • Lacks a hard disable
  • Has Mana problems in the early game
  • Extremely vulnerable to break debuff

How to play Bristleback

Following this short guide will help you learn this tanky frontliner’s basics.

Starting Items

Depending on your lane and your lane partner, there are a few variations of starting items you can choose. You can focus on getting some regeneration items like a Tango, Magic Stick and Mango with a pair of Iron Branches and one Gauntlets of Strength if you believe you will have an aggressive lane. If you notice you will have space to farm, you can even go for two Gauntlets of Strength for some base stats, one Tango, one Mango for Mana and a Quelling Blade for easier last hitting. Getting at least one Bracer, a Boots of Speed and a Magic Wand early on is suggested.

Early Game

If you are confident, be aggressive in your lane. Use Quill Spray to harass your opposing core, punishing him every time he comes close to you. Focus on getting last hits and denies, and getting precious XP. If you are going for a tanky build, buy your Power Treads and work towards a Vanguard or Blade Mail as per your need. 

If you are looking for more of a right-clicker build, you can even go for Phase Boots. Picking up a Voodoo Mask can also help you survive better in the lane. 

Mid Game

If you have had a good lane, you have probably picked the items you need to join teamfights with. If the enemy team has a lot of physical damage, you should go for a Blade Mail or Crimson Guard, or in case of excessive spell damage, a Pipe of Insight. 

If you are playing a more self-sufficient game, you should have a Solar Crest or Bloodstone, and pick fights with enemies with your team. Regardless of your build, take teamfights with your allies and try to push some towers. Enemies may still now have the needed items to punish you.

Late Game

You are now at the stage of pushing or defending high ground. You will not only need to be tanky, but your contributions to the teamfights must be more noticeable. Defending high ground is much easier for you than most, as your Quill Spray will help clear attacking creep waves quickly. 

Picking up an Aghanim’s Scepter will help turn your Viscous Nasal Goo into a high-cast range AoE slow and armor reduction perfect for your carries to utilize. Having a Lotus Orb, Shiva’s Guard, Assault Cuirass or Heart of Tarrasque really helps you last longer in fights. Lead the charge with your team and try to keep the focus on you while your other cores take down objectives. 

Dota 2 Bristleback Counter

Even the brave and brutish Bristleback fears a few particular foes who always have the upper hand against him. 

  • Anti-Mage – His Mana Break ability drains your Mana quite quickly, preventing you from using your abilities in lane. His Blink ability also lets him easily escape from you due to your lack of proper disables.

  • Doom – His namesake ultimate disables all your spammable abilities and your Warpath’s buffs. Furthermore, his level 25 talent allows Doom to break your passive, and we know break is your hardest counter.

  • Faceless Void – His Time Dilation freezes Bristlebacks abilities, significantly reducing his damage and effectiveness. Furthermore, his Chronosphere allows him to reposition to your front and bypass your Bristleback’s defensive bonuses.

  • Hoodwink – Her Sharpshooter ability allows her to break Bristleback from a safe distance and for a long time. Furthermore, her Scurry and Bushwhack ability allows her to kite Bristleback effectively. 


If you're new to Dota 2 and looking to enhance your game, the abundance of Hero guides available can provide the necessary boost for your matches, whether they are ranked or casual, taking your gameplay to the next level!

Dota 2 Bristleback Guide
The Old One
When he's not sighing at sub-standard teammates in Dota 2 and CS2, The Old One is writing about those two games (among other things). If you see his name around the site too many times for your liking, well, the guy just never stops writing. Yes, we've tried an intervention.