Anti-Mage is a melee Agility hero whose roles are Carry/Escape/Nuker. After a bad experience with rabbits being pulled from hats, this fellow decided that the only answer to magic was murder. Anti-Mage was educated among the monks of Turstarkuri, shortly before they became thralls for the Dead God. Now, he enjoys hunting necromancers, hunting magic users, and long walks on the beach. What’s so interesting about Anti-Mage is his indiscriminate code of ending magic and magic users. His strong unwavering values put him solidly into Lawful Neutral.
Like always, let’s start with looking at what we’ll have to tackle in this build.
Anti-Mage’s first ability is a passive buff to his attacks. Mana Break burns mana on hit and deals a percent of that destroyed mana as extra damage.
Anti-Mage’s next ability is Blink, a simple teleport.
Another passive ability, Counterspell, gives Anti-Mage magic resistance. Counterspell also has an active use that reflects spells back to the original caster.
Finally, Anti-Mage’s ultimate is Mana Void. This attack deals damage in an AOE for all the mana missing from the initial target and mini-stuns the initial target as well. I’ll be upfront and tell you this: You will not be able to recreate this ability. It is awesome though, so go ahead and homebrew something stupid if you really want to.
Anti-Mage is clearly focused on taking out mages. It’s literally in his name. Despite this, it’s exceedingly hard to find a class combo that can excel in this role and meet this skill without using magic themselves… or so I thought. This guide will show you how to recreate Anti-Mage from DotA 2 in Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition.
Anti-Mage is more human-like than previous characters, so for this build I recommend one of two race choices. The first option is Half-Elf. Fey Ancestry provides a minor bonus to beating magic (Magic Resistance is a rare trait that no near-human race gets). The second option is, ultimately, more useful for starting the mage-slaying at early levels. For this option, play a Variant Human and, of course, pick Mage Slayer as your feat. I’ll talk more about this feat and the bonuses it provides in the feats section later on.
What was most difficult for me was finding a class combination that allowed for something like teleportation and spell reflection without getting a single spell slot. This guide is Multi-Ability Score-Dependent (M.A.D.) to a wild degree in order to achieve this goal. You’ll want to multiclass Ancestral Guardian Barbarian and Shadow Monk. When you split the levels between these two, you’ll end up with 14 levels into Barbarian and 6 levels into Monk. You may think to choose Barbarian at level 1 for the weapon proficiencies, but it is not worth your time (which I’ll tell you more about later). I recommend starting with Monk for Dexterity saving throw proficiency, which many spells require. Starting as a Monk is also lore friendly, I guess. Speaking of which…
This multiclass fits the lore of Anti-Mage in some truly amazing ways. Firstly, Anti-Mage was not actually admitted into the monastery before the monks of Turstarkuri fell. In fact, he escapes with only a few “dogmatic scrolls” of the monks. So, he isn’t that well-trained of a monk in the lore, but where does Barbarian come in? Two things shape Anti-mage: the rage he feels towards magic users and the tragic death of his mentors (close enough to ancestors). It all fits together stupidly well.
The 6 levels into Shadow Monk give us two things. Initially this gives us some excellent disabling spells (casting with Ki, not spell slots) such as Darkness and Silence. The next bonus happens at level 6: Shadow Step. This teleport doesn’t require any magic and gives advantage on the next melee attack: effectively, Anti-Mage’s Blink. How wonderful. If you chose the Half-Elf race, you’ll see some early benefit with your darkvision while shadow-hopping (though you won’t be able to see in your own Darkness spell).
Other Monk benefits include the use of monk weapons for the unarmed strike bonus action, Slow Fall, Deflect Missile, and Stunning Strike. These are all really good but not as notable as the teleport.
Being a Barbarian is living a life of rage, a feature we get access to at Barbarian level 1. While you can’t cast or concentrate on spells while raging, you can still use Shadow Step. Use this to your advantage. Other Barbarian features are very nice, but the Ancestral Guardian subclass features shine much brighter.
Ancestral Protectors, the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian level 3 feature, gives us our first way to single out a target. Hitting a caster first in rage can give the rest of your party resistance to the damage of that caster’s next AOE spell, or can give the caster disadvantage on the next attack roll against anyone other than you. This can be a very powerful buff until your next turn.
At Barbarian level 6, Spirit Shield provides us with the Counterspell magic resistance that Anti-Mage holds so dear. While it does cost your reaction, the ability to reduce the damage taken can save you or an ally against a big target. At level 14, similar to Anti-Mage’s Counterspell, the Spirit Shield even reflects back damage that is blocked.
To be honest, the Barbarian level 10 feature of Consult the Spirits is absolutely worthless in the sense of recreating Anti-Mage. Do note that, in a strange bit of M.A.D. synergy, these spells use your Wisdom modifier.
You need no armor. Even pants are optional. You only need two shortswords and the general direction of the nearest Magician’s Expo. In all seriousness, Anti-Mage’s two blades are the real essentials. If you find an enchanted cloak that protects against magic or some other defense against magic, scoop that up, too.
Pick up Mage Slayer as soon as possible. This will give you advantage on saving throws if the caster is within 5 feet of you (working like Counterspell). Additionally, when you hit a target maintaining concentration, they have disadvantage on the saving throw (the closest thing to Mana Break we’ll get). Even more additionally, if a creature within 5 feet casts a spell, you can attack them with your reaction: because screw mages, that’s why!
If you chose to be a Half-Elf, you could look into Elven Accuracy for when you get advantage after using Shadow Step. Do be warned that this extra advantage would require you to make use of the finesse trait of your shortsword, which means you wouldn’t get bonus damage from raging as a Barbarian. Finally, it might do you good to pick up Resilience for Wisdom saving throws every so often.
Ability Scores: Managing the M.A.D.ness
Like I said, this multiclass is M.A.D. in absurd ways. Firstly, both Monk and Barbarian get Unarmored Defense. Let me be clear: these two unarmored defenses DO NOT STACK. You must pick one or the other to use. Second, Barbarians get a bonus to damage with Strength-based weapon attacks while raging, and their reckless attacks only apply to Strength-based weapons. Monks, on the other hand, use their monk weapons to instead be Dexterity-based. Both classes also get Extra Attack at level 5, which also does not stack. In fact, the only think that does stack is Monk’s Unarmored Movement and Barbarian’s Fast Movement, which is pretty neat.
So how do we handle this? First let’s deal with unarmored defense. Both classes benefit from high Dexterity for the sake of armor, so we’ll keep that high. The benefits we get from a high Wisdom are nothing other than a higher Monk DC, so you could keep that at the bare minimum 13 for multiclassing. Strength should be high for dealing damage: remember that Anti-Mage is a carry, not a tank. For this reason, Constitution could be a bit lower than you might like. This means that it’s really your choice for whether you use Wisdom or Constitution for determining your AC. The bottom line is that you need Strength to be your highest score, followed by Dexterity. Whether you choose Wisdom or Constitution as your next highest is up to you.
Now let’s move on to the issue of maximizing damage. For this, I’ll set up a hypothetical. You’ve used your rage and just closed the distance on a filthy magic user with your +25 movement speed. It’s your next turn and you have an action, bonus action, and reaction left: What do you do? How do you make the most of this? Assuming you’re level 20 in this scenario (14 levels into Barbarian, 6 levels into Monk) and have 20 Strength; here’s the best option:
The Mage-Ending Combo
First, use your monk weapons. You could theoretically have picked up the feat Dual Wielder and use longswords instead, but those are not monk weapons. You’re going to use you action to attack twice with your shortswords but choose not make use of their finesse trait. By using your Strength modifier on this attack, you’ll be dealing 2d6 initial damage, plus 8 damage from rage, plus the 10 damage you get from your modifier.
After this, use your bonus action to make an unarmed strike, again using Strength as your modifier. If you were to use Dual Wielder and make an attack as a bonus action with a longsword, you wouldn’t get the bonus damage from your modifier. Keep in mind that an unarmed strike can be a headbutt, kick, elbow to the chest, or anything else: it does not require a free hand. This makes our total for this one turn 3d6 + 27 damage. This averages out to 37 damage.
Now, you’ve just delivered a crushing blow to the mage, and they have a choice to make. Their first option is to run. If they run, you can hit them with an opportunity attack: another 1d6 + 9 damage. Alternatively, they can cast a spell to escape, like Misty Step. This also triggers a reaction attack thanks to Mage Slayer. Again, 1d6 + 9 damage. Maybe instead they decide to cast a spell on you. You could go for the reaction attack, yes, but you could also tank it a little bit using your Spirit Shield. They attack you and you block 3d6 damage, dealing that as force damage in return. Okay, well maybe they instead make an attack against a weak ally. Big no-no, as this not only triggers an attack from you, but they also have disadvantage on this attack (assuming this mage is the first target you’ve hit after raging) until your next turn.
I can’t express how happy I am with the absolute destruction that this build can bring against mages. Close the distance quick and laugh as the mages flee in terror. Watch out Penn and Teller: Anti-Mage is here and he is not messing around.
So, if you’ve ever gotten tired of the same magic classes casting the same spells bragging about how good they are at this or how much damage they can do to that, pull out Anti-Mage as your next character and teach them a lesson. Let me know if I missed anything or if you’ve found a better combo in the comments. And as always, I renew my oath to defeat all sorceries!