How to play mid Tusk like Tundra Esports' TI11 winner Nine - Item build

Tundra Esports midlaner Nine stood out with his mid Tusk during his team's dominant run to become the champions of The International 11. Read on to learn a TI winner's item build for mid Tusk. (Photos: Tundra Esports, Valve Software)
Tundra Esports midlaner Nine stood out with his mid Tusk during his team's dominant run to become the champions of The International 11. Read on to learn a TI winner's item build for mid Tusk. (Photos: Tundra Esports, Valve Software)

We previously broke down Leon "Nine" Kirilin's skill and talent build for his mid Tusk, which helped Tundra Esports to claim the Aegis of Champions over a week ago in Singapore.

His most-played hero in patch 7.32, Tusk had seven total appearances at TI11, six of them being victories.

The hero was picked or banned in five of the last six games between Team Secret and Tundra Esports, a testament to Nine's impact with the hero.

In part two of this guide, we will examine the item build Nine used and the order he purchased them to maximise his impact in every game.

What items did Nine buy for Tusk?

Nine's early items focused on keeping him active on the map and roaming from lane to lane. The less time players spend at the fountain the more impact they have on the game, and Nine's early items ensured he never had to make any trips home to regenerate.

After buying several early game items, Nine focuses on maximising his hero's damage and survivability. While Tusk is decent at dishing out and absorbing damage, he still needs items to scale into the late game.

If the games go long enough, Nine's final item purchases focus on mobility, both for himself through a Blink Dagger and through displacing his opponents using Aghanim's Scepter.

Early Game


There are very few mid laners who don't rush Bottle in the early game. It provides significant health and mana regeneration while also refilling itself from Power and Bounty Runes. Tusk is also a hero who guzzles mana and Bottle is the best option for keeping him active around the map.

Tusk is an exceptional user of pretty much all runes. A Haste, Double Damage, or Invisibility Rune guarantees a dead enemy and an Illusion Rune, while not ideal, provides an extra defensive layer for the hero.

Phase Boots

The best boots for chasing and bringing down opponents is Phase Boots. The item provides more raw damage than any other Boot option and the extra 20% Phase movement speed is perfect for ensuring enemies can't escape from Tusk.

Nine always bought Phase Boots in every game he played, it's the best option for a core Tusk aiming to make space around the map.

Falcon Blade

While Bottle is a great item to help Tusk with his early game mana problems, it isn't enough. Tusk won't get every rune refill, and in action-packed games, the hero needs a little more sustain to remain active.

Enter Falcon Blade.

Not only does this item provide 1.8 mana regeneration every second, it also gives the user 14 attack damage and 200 health, all for the affordable price of 1125 gold. Tusk fully utilizes every aspect of Falcon Blade and the item is an absolute steal for the hero.

Core items


Tusk deals mixed damage in the early and mid portions of the game, as a significant chunk of his damage output comes from Ice Shards and Snowball.

Once the game goes past 20 minutes though, most of Tusk's damage will be physical, whether it's from the hero's right clicks or his Walrus Punch ultimate.

Desolator not only provides up to 70 extra damage, it also reduces the enemy's armor by 6. A level 12 Tusk with no items deals an average of 275 damage to a Dummy target. With just a Desolator equipped, Tusk now deals 550 damage.

Nine almost always rushes a Desolator after securing his early game items, as Desolator gets stronger with each kill.

In a stream after winning TI11, Nine explained the logic behind his item build, saying "the [Desolator] build is way better. You can just go in and out, you just [Walrus Punch] one guy and he might be dead."

Black King Bar

Dealing damage is nice and all, but at some point, enemies will fight back. When they do, Black King Bar is often the best defense a hero can have.

BKB allows Tusk to trade hits with his enemies without worrying about pesky stuns or silences interrupting his combos. The item also provides some much-appreciated strength and damage for the hero.

Nine sometimes rushes BKB even before Desolator if the enemy has enough disables to lock him down. If the enemy has a lot of stuns, it's worth it to forgo extra early damage and focus on a fast BKB instead.

When Dota 2 was first released, many core players doubted the value of Black King Bar. Why buy an item that provides a few seconds of magic immunity when you can buy more damage to kill enemies faster?

Fast forward a few years and Black King Bar is a necessity on all core heroes, and even some supports such as Earth Spirit and Shadow Shaman.

Blink Dagger

Another item that allows cores to dish out damage is Blink Dagger, as it enables players to stay on top of their enemies. Blink Dagger also allows players to escape dangerous situations.

Tusk is one of the best Blink Dagger users in the game. He can use the item to Blink next to allies and protect them with Snowball or catch isolated enemies by surprise with Walrus Punch.

Why not rush Aghanim's Scepter?

While Nine did dominate at TI11 with his mid Tusk, he's not the exactly the first to run the hero in that role.

When the 7.31 update reworked Walrus Kick by making it a vector-targeted ability, players started playing Tusk mid and rushing Aghanim's Scepter.

With Walrus Kick much easier to use effectively, mid Tusk became like a pseudo-Batrider, initiating fights by kicking one hero way out of position to give his team the numbers advantage in teamfights.

Nine didn't use that build in TI11, saying it was "decent, but just doesn't scale as well as [the Desolator build.

"Once enemies have [Linken's Sphere], it's not easy to break it because you cannot use items while you're in snowball," Nine added.

Of course, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't build Aghanim's Scepter. Rather, get it if the enemy team doesn't have Linken's Spheres or Lotus Orbs and your team needs to isolate one target to win the fight.

With that said, consider Aghanim's Scepter a luxury item for mid Tusk that you should only get if you already have your core items or if Roshan drops an Aghanim's Blessing (and no one else on your team wants it).

Don't take it from me though, this is a TI winner's build we're talking about. Can't argue with that.

This is part two of our two-part guide on how to play mid Tusk like Tundra Esports' Nine. Check out part one here if you haven't already.

Otomo is a long-time gaming enthusiast and caster. He has been playing games since he was 10 and is the biggest Dota 2 fan.

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