A Beginner’s Guide to Dota 2 – Part Three: Items

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Clothes make the man, or so they say, and while that’s not strictly true in Dota 2 – both because lots of the heroes aren’t “men” so much as they are “floating radioactive lizard-penises” or “spirits of vengeance bound to this plane by pure rage”, and because the actual clothing options are entirely cosmetic – it’s certainly true that your items have a big impact on how well you’ll do.

Items can turn a game around. One carry wrecking your day? Scythe of Vyse can shut them down long enough for you to burst them down, take out the rest of the team, or retreat. A team of heavy physical damagers? Ghost Scepter turns them into kittens. Insane magic damage or far too many stuns? Linken’s Sphere or Black King Bar are your friends.

One thing you really, really need to know is something I closed with last week: big items are made from little items. Aghanim’s Scepter costs a grand total of 4200 gold, but you should not save up 4200 gold and buy it in one go. It’s made up of four other items – a Point Booster, an Ogre Club, a Blade of Alacrity, and a Staff of Wizardry. If you have all four of these items at once, they will immediately transform into Aghanim’s Scepter.

In short: instead of saving up huge amounts of gold for the big expensive items, and risking losing it on death, you can buy the individual items that build into it separately. It’s the exact same price, it gives you bonus stats and abilities faster, and it means there’s less chance of losing a huge wodge of gold to a gank. All you have to do is left-click on an item in the shop to see what makes it up.

Oh yes. And shift-click items in the shop window to add all of their components to your quick buy panel in the bottom-right of the user interface.


You know, I honestly thought – and hoped – I could through this week’s article without you popping up.

Nope. You subconsciously hate yourself far too much for that.

Brilliant. Fine, then. Ask me the questions, bridgekeeper; I am not afraid.

WHAT… are some of the more common items that people should know about?


There are a few that should really be bought at the start of every game. The first – and one of the most crucial for oh-so-many reasons – is the Animal Courier (150 gold).

This little beastie is responsible for one thing: ferrying items from the team’s fountain up to the team members in the lanes. With the tap of one button, he’ll pick up any items you have at the fountain and then trot along to you.

The Courier is essential for a number of reasons, the most obvious and most important being that it means team members don’t need to waste time running back to the fountain in order to get their items. He can also be used to visit the Secret Shop for you and buy items there, which is – again – very handy. Particularly if he’s upgraded to a Flying Courier (220 gold, plus the 150 for Animal Courier) which gives him a speed boost and means he can fly over terrain.

The others are Observer Wards (150 gold). There are a limited number of these available at any given time (only one set of two can be purchased at the beginning of the game, and someone should buy them) but they provide a team with wide-ranging vision of a region. They’re useful marking out the spots runes spawn, making sure that the enemy team can’t take on Roshan without you knowing about it, making sure no-one’s sneaking up behind you, or even just keeping tabs on the enemy team. And when placed, they’re invisible.

There are also Sentry Wards (200 gold) which don’t provide much general vision, but do detect anything invisible in the region. As such, they can be used for protection against stealthed or otherwise hidden heroes, as well as to find and destroy enemy wards. These don’t tend to be picked up early on (except in specific circumstances).

We’ll cover Observer Wards (and good locations for them) in more detail in next week’s guide.

Generally, at the start of any given game, the support players (who need less gold to remain useful) should spend at least part of their starting cash on buying a Courier, buying a set of Observer Wards, and – after a few minutes – upgrading the Courier to Flying.

How about common early-game items for non-support players?

Oh so many. I’ll go into more shortly, but there are two things you’ll regularly see players starting with. The first are Tangos (90 gold), which provide a bit of health regeneration if you, uh, use them to eat a tree.



Just bear with it, okay? Use a Tango in your inventory on a tree, get back around 100 health over the next 16 seconds. They come with three charges, so they’re cheap and effective, and the healing persists even if you get hit (which isn’t true of more powerful healing items like Healing Salves). You should pretty much always buy a set of Tangos with your starting gold – they’re really good for healing up damage from enemies harassing you, and they’ll let you stay in your lane longer without having to waste time running back to base.


The second item common to almost all stats is the Iron Branch (53 gold) which nets you +1 to all stats. Not the most effective items in the world, but considering the price, they’re really good for getting a few early stat boosts with your leftover gold and you can build them into a remarkably useful Magic Wand a bit later on. Because they’re +1 to all stats, this also means that squishy casters can get a bigger health bar without buying a strength item, while durable melee-types can increase the size of their mana pool without buying an intelligence item.


Two other items we’ll cover quickly are the Bottle (600 gold) and the Boots of Speed (450 gold, also known as “brown boots”). The Bottle is another healing item with three charges, only these charges restore 135 health and 70 mana, and they fill up whenever you visit your fountain or grab a rune. Grabbing a rune while carrying a Bottle will also “store” the rune, so that you can activate it whenever you like.

The hell is a rune?

Yeah, I haven’t really talked about them yet. Every two minutes, a rune will spawn in one of two locations on the river, helpfully marked on the map below:

There are five types of rune: Double Damage (doubles auto-attack damage), Haste (increases movement speed to maximum), Illusion (creates a pair of weak duplicates of your hero), Invisibility (makes you invisible), and Regeneration (restores up to around 3000 health and 2000 mana). These spots on the river are commonly warded so that the player in the middle lane knows where the rune has spawned, and can pick it up (to refill their Bottle, say, as Bottles are more common on mid-lane heroes) or at least stop the opponent from getting it.

Tim McDonald
About The Author
Tim has been playing PC games for longer than he's willing to admit. He's written for a number of publications, but has been with PC Invasion - in all its various incarnations - for over a decade. When not writing about games, Tim can occasionally be found speedrunning terrible ones, making people angry in Dota 2, or playing something obscure and random. He's also weirdly proud of his status as (probably) the Isle of Man's only professional games journalist.