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The King’s Domain: How to Play Monkey King

Patrick Bonifacio

After the arrival of Patch 7.28 — also known as the Mistwoods Update – one hero has emerged as the preeminent carry of the new metagame. That hero is Monkey King, whose Aghanim’s Scepter and Aghanim’s Shard upgrades take center stage in the conversation of just why he’s so effective in the meta right now.

Monkey King Dota

The king reigns true once again, this time as one of the most effective carries in Patch 7.28b. (Photo courtesy Valve)

Prior to 7.28b (the most recent balance update) Monkey King enjoyed a win rate as high as 53.7 percent. This indicated not only a resurgence but a rapid rise to the top tiers of the public matchmaking metagame. His win rate has since been knocked down to just above 50 percent as a result of some nerfs. But most pros and analysts still agree that he is one of the best carries in the game right now.

But those who have experience playing Monkey King know that he isn’t easy to learn or master. His skill and talent builds in particular aren’t clear cut at all. This leads to plenty of confusion especially for first time Monkey King users or those just starting to hit their stride with him. We’re here to clear up that confusion and point you on the royal path to victory. So strap yourself in and get ready to learn how a king conducts himself properly!

Impenetrable Defense

Undoubtedly the most important buff Monkey King received in the Mistwoods Update is bumping his base armor from 1 to 2. That adds up to a whopping six points of armor once his base agility is factored in. This change alone made him way more playable in the lane as opposed to before, when he had a miserable base armor value of -3.

Monkey King Updates

As a result, Wukong no longer has to fear getting hit by physical attacks when pulling creep aggro or going up for last hits in the lane. He can now safely post up in areas that would have previously been impassable. Thus extending his overall reach and improving his staying power. The latter was especially absent from his game as a whole in the past. But now that he has plenty of it, Monkey King isn’t as much of a liability in the lane anymore.

This seems like it wouldn’t be a big deal in a vacuum, but anyone who tells you otherwise would be dead wrong. Sure, you still don’t want to just stand there while enemy creeps hit you for free. The additional armor greatly increases your effective health pool either way. Boxing melee heroes out in particular becomes much easier, whether or not you invest early skill points into Jingu Mastery (D).

The Wukong-Aghanim Connection

As mentioned earlier, Monkey King’s Aghanim’s Scepter and Aghanim’s Shard upgrades likewise make him a force to be reckoned with in the current metagame. While the Scepter upgrade has been around for about a year and a half now, the Shard upgrade definitely takes him to a whole new level as a carry.

Royal Army

But let’s talk about the Scepter first and what it offers to Monkey King. His Scepter upgrade spawns a Wukong’s Command (R) soldier next to him every four seconds. It attacks neutral or hostile units within its attack range. These soldiers function much the same way as in the regular Wukong’s Command. They apply on-hit effects that aren’t from Basher or Abyssal Blade. The soldiers also attack Roshan and enemy buildings. But only if Monkey King is within a 500-unit radius of any soldiers close enough to hit them.

Monkey King Soldiers

Now this upgrade doesn’t really sound like it would be worth 4,200 gold on paper, but it absolutely is. Not only does the upgrade increase Monkey King’s damage output, but it also speeds up his farming rate. This is something which he desperately needs as a carry. Aghanim’s Scepter allows him to farm even faster when combined with Primal Spring (E). This especially against magic resistant neutral creep camps like Ancient and Mud Golem camps.

Orb of Corrosion and Desolator, two great item choices for Monkey King, also benefit greatly from the Scepter upgrade. Anyone who walks into the soldier will have their armor reduced basically for free, which helps any other physical attackers on your team as well. The same goes for things like Eye of Skadi, Gleipnir, and other items with attack modifiers.

But what about Battle Fury? Simply put, Battle Fury is just too greedy of an item to get. It doesn’t give you nearly as many benefits compared to Scepter, either. Scepter gives you tower damage, teamfight damage, farm acceleration, and a ton of extra stats. Battle Fury only gives you cleave and some regen. Primal Spring is already more than enough for wave clear, while Monkey King doesn’t really need much in the way of mana and health regeneration.

All in all, the Scepter upgrade is worth every penny. It’s even worth rushing after buying Phase Boots and Orb of Corrosion in the laning phase. A good timing to aim for is somewhere between the 17 to 19 minute marks. Any time later than that is considered quite slow and could even be detrimental to your overall progression.

View From the Top

Then there’s the Shard upgrade. This one ranks among the best Shard upgrades in the entire game (if not the best) for good reason. Upon purchasing Aghanim’s Shard, Monkey King’s Tree Dance (W) gets its cooldown reduced from one second to 0.4 seconds, while its cast point (the windup animation) gets bumped down from 0.3 seconds to 0.1 seconds.

These reductions are a huge deal, especially when combined with the Tree Dance talent at level 15. Having the ability to traverse the map that quickly as a carry is invaluable. It far outweighs any sort of physical DPS gain to be had from the Jingu Mastery damage talent at that level. Of course, Tree Dance is also Monkey King’s only escape mechanism as well. That makes these benefits even more critical to his gameplay.

Put together, both the Scepter and Shard upgrades help Monkey King become a massive threat, while patching up a few of his most glaring weaknesses. Both are well worth the investment. The Shard timing can be placed much later into the game compared to that of the Scepter.

Regal Equipment

It’s Got The Word “King” In The Name

The rest of your items will be the usual Monkey King core pickups. Black King Bar is practically a must after Aghanim’s Scepter, because Monkey King just gets obliterated by heavy magic damage. You also do not want to get chain disabled in the middle of building Jingu Mastery stacks or after unleashing Wukong’s Command.

Do not get greedy by skipping BKB, unless your opponents’ draft somehow has no way of locking you down reliably. We guarantee that you will regret it if you let the allure of damage items get the better of you. Remember: Tree Dance is placed on cooldown whenever you get hit, so you will not have any way of escaping incoming magic damage without a BKB in your inventory.

Resplendence and Luxury

After BKB, you’ll want a DPS item or some sort of utility. Preferably from something that works with Wukong’s Command and your spawned soldiers. Eye of Skadi is the cookie cutter option, as it gives you even more stats and a passive slow on hit to keep your opponents inside your Wukong’s Command ring. The reduction in healing and regeneration from the passive is also quite valuable, especially against other popular meta carries like Alchemist and Wraith King.

Desolator is another good choice, though it is a very timing-dependent item. The earlier you get it, the better, considering that armor reduction (and by extension armor itself) scales logarithmically rather than linearly. Armor reduction also offers more value the closer the target is to an armor value of zero. But it is not likely to be the case late in the game. If you can somehow afford to delay your BKB timing — like when your team is snowballing and the opposing side is underleveled — Desolator may be a solid pickup. Oh, and it also stacks fully with Orb of Corrosion.

Abyssal Blade is one of the best late game items for Monkey King, for pretty obvious reasons. The magic immunity-piercing stun is just incredible for melee heroes, and combined with Boundless Strike can lock a key target down just long enough to remove them from the game before they can retaliate. Although Wukong’s Command soldiers won’t apply the passive bash, being able to stun heroes you’re hitting is never a bad thing.

There’s also Gleipnir which is very effective against heroes that rely on movement abilities to escape. The root shuts down heroes like Ember Spirit, Void Spirit, Anti-Mage, Mirana, and more — while the Chain Lightning passive is also applied by your soldiers. Tons of magic damage to be had as a result. By the same token, Mjollnir is likewise another option out of Maelstrom, if you need the attack speed and the Static Shield active.

A King’s Knowledge

Unlike most other heroes, Monkey King’s ideal skill build isn’t nearly as clear-cut. Maxing out Jingu Mastery in the lane used to be the go-to plan, but ever since its numbers were tuned down several patches ago it hasn’t been nearly as good anymore. It doesn’t help Monkey King farm any faster either, so it’s safe to ignore until the mid game.

Heck, it’s even safe to ignore until level 2 in fact, because Boundless Strike should be what you go for at level 1. Boundless Strike costs a mere 100 mana to cast but is very good at securing ranged creeps in the lane — something that will always be vital to success in the laning phase. Jingu Mastery meanwhile is just too insignificant in the laning phase to invest more than one early point into. Yes, this even with Orb of Corrosion factored in.


What we recommend instead is for you to invest more into Tree Dance early on. It is what allows you to farm for that 17 to 19 minute Aghanim’s Scepter that we mentioned earlier. Having access to that 350 AoE magic damage early on is important, because Monkey King just farms so slowly without it. This is not to say however that you should leave Jingu Mastery at level 1 for too long. It’s just that it should be left there in favor of Tree Dance and a second value point in Boundless Strike.

As for Wukong’s Command, we recommend leaving it alone until around level 9. This is because of the fact that it’s quite hard to activate safely and fight inside of the ring without some extra health to work with. Also because you should primarily be farming instead of fighting before completing your Scepter.

Recommended Skill Build

Keep in mind that the following skill build is not set in stone in any way. It will still depend on the matchup that you might encounter in the lane. For example, it may be worth investing into Jingu Mastery against slow melee heroes with no way to quickly disengage. But because Dota won’t always give you ideal lane matchups, generally speaking the one we’ll be listing here will be the most reliable.

  • Boundless Strike
  • Jingu Mastery
  • Tree Dance
  • Tree Dance
  • Boundless Strike
  • Tree Dance
  • Jingu Mastery
  • Tree Dance
  • Wukong’s Command
  • Level 10 Talent: +20 Attack Speed
  • Jingu Mastery
  • Wukong’s Command
  • Jingu Mastery
  • Boundless Strike
  • Level 15 Talent: +475 Tree Dance Cast Range
  • Boundless Strike
  • Wukong’s Command
  • Level 20 Talent: +350 Primal Spring Damage
  • Level 25 Talent: Additional Wukong’s Command Ring

With this, you now have the knowledge necessary to pilot Monkey King to victory in your own pub games. Now that you know what makes him tick in this new patch and metagame, the only thing left to do is practice and apply what you’ve learned. Remember the reasoning for the little details presented in this guide, and you’ll be just fine out there. Now show them just why Wukong is called “king”!

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick has been playing Dota since the dawn of time, having started with the original custom game for WarCraft III. He primarily plays safe lane and solo mid, preferring to leave the glorious task of playing support to others.

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