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

Right. So: boots?

Brown boots are what pretty much every hero will wind up getting as one of their earliest items that isn’t an actual starting item.

Why don’t players get them as starting items?

Mostly because, at level 1, stats and health regeneration are far more important than base movement speed, as are other components that you’ll build into future items. Boots can be grabbed from the sideshops on the top and bottom lanes, so they’re not nearly so much of a priority as anything that lets you harass/stay alive/last hit creeps early on. Brown boots quite literally do only one thing: increase movement speed.

Now, this does become useful after a few levels when you might need to run away from a gank attempt, or chase an escaping low-health foe, and the Boots of Speed themselves can be upgraded into all sorts of other, more useful boots. Phase Boots make you move really fast and give you an extra boost to speed every eight seconds. Arcane Boots let you restore mana to yourself and nearby allies once every minute. Power Treads give you a big fat stat boost. Etc.

Any others?

Stout Shield (250 gold) and Quelling Blade (225 gold) deserve mentions. Stout Shield give you a 60% chance to block a certain amount of damage (more if you’re melee than if you’re ranged), which is great if you’re being harassed by enemies or are duking it out with creeps in the jungle. Quelling Blade, on the other hand, lets you destroy a tree… or gives you bonus damage against non-heroes. Which makes it a lot easier to last hit if you’re not great at doing that, or – again – helps your jungling. These generally are starting items for a few heroes, particularly those who need farm but are susceptible to harassment, but most can (and should) skip them unless you really need the help surviving harassment or last-hitting.

Also, there’s one thing we really, really need to talk about. Voice in my head, would you jump in so that I’ve got a nice, bold headline for this?


Thanks! Town Portal Scrolls: have a Town Portal Scroll on you at basically all times (except at the very beginning of the match).

I cannot stress this enough. It’s destroyed on use, but a Town Portal Scroll (135 gold) lets you teleport to any friendly structure with a cooldown of 60 seconds. If a tower is under attack, you can appear there to defend it within a few seconds. If you get caught out and need to get back to base quickly, you can appear back there to heal up very quickly. They’re amazing for manoeuvrability. They will save towers. They will contribute significantly to wins. Carry Town Portal Scrolls, or at least be very near to a shop that sells them if you’re likely to have to move lane in a hurry.

Okay, so second question. WHAT… is –

This isn’t your second question. This is your seventh, and I’m even being kind and not treating “what” or “huh?” as questions.

WHAT… are some of the more common items later on, smartarse?

Well, there are a few I want to go into – Blink Dagger lets you teleport a short distance if you haven’t been attacked in the last three seconds; Shadow Blade lets you turn invisible and gives bonus damage on an attack that ends your stealth; Blademail returns the damage you receive back to your attacks – but I should probably talk about a few of the more important items.

And there are a few items of fair importance to most teams. You’ll generally see Vladimir’s Offering (2050 gold) and Mekansm (2306) turn up in most games – Mek heals everyone around on use, and generally raises health regen with its aura, and Vlad’s gives you (and all allies nearby) a degree of lifesteal on your hits, amongst other things.

That sounds amazing. Why doesn’t everyone buy this as their first item?

Because it is both expensive and terrible in the early game. Do not rush to buy Vlad’s, people. The damage it gives and the health it steals are based on a percentage of your total damage, and early on, basically every hero does next to no bloody damage. It’s also worth noting that because it’s an aura, the aura affects all allies around you too – which means that there’s little reason for, say, a hard carry to get it. There are much, much better items they can get, and a support can pick it up later on if it’s really needed.

Equally, the aura doesn’t stack. If someone else on your team has already bought one, do not buy another, because that equates to a waste of 2050 gold in every single teamfight that both of you are in.

You pretty much just mentioned Vlad’s so that you could tell people not to buy it, didn’t you?

It’s a useful item in some situations and it’s often worth picking up, but a fairly common beginner mistake is to rush to buy Vlad’s as soon as possible because, clearly, a bonus to damage and lifesteal is a game-winning combination… if you forget that it gives 15% extra damage and 16% lifesteal, which equates to exactly Sod All for the early game. As this is a beginner’s guide, I want to make sure that this does not happen to you.

So what about Mechanism? You spelled that wrong, by the way.

It’s called Mekansm, and you spelled it wrong. This is worth grabbing (on a support hero), because the health regen aura is fantastic and so is the ability to heal all allies around you for 250 health at the push of a button. 250hp on everyone, plus 4 extra hp regen a second, equates to quite a lot of bonus health. Again, we’ll likely talk about this more next week when I delve into support heroes.

We’re running on a bit and there are just over seven billion items in Dota 2, so I’ll only talk about a couple more before we wrap up with some generalities. The first is Black King Bar (3900 gold), more commonly known as BKB. Other than giving you bonus strength and bonus damage, this little wonder has one other useful effect: when you activate it, you get a few seconds (4 to 10, decreasing each time you use it) of magic immunity.

Very, very few abilities work against someone using BKB. All the magic damage from the enemy team? All the stuns they have? All the disables that lock you in place and preventing you from hitting them? BKB laughs at these. Of course, it also means that your Dazzle won’t be able to heal you, but for the most part the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

The last item I want to talk about is a bit of a bizarre one, but it tickled me when I started out and I suspect it’ll do the same for you. That’s Aghanim’s Scepter, and besides offering a bunch of useful stat boosts, it improves the ultimate ability of a load of heroes.

I want it.

I’m not surprised. With this, Clockwerk’s Hookshot can be used every 12 seconds, instead of every 40. Pudge’s Dismember does extra damage based on his Strength. Shadow Shaman’s Serpent Wards do nearly double damage. Warlock summons two golems instead of one. Etc.

And yet, for some strange reason, I can feel a “but” floating through the breeze…

But I’d still caution you about using it, because – while this might seem like a must-have – it’s pretty situational on most heroes. Yes, Windrunner could use it so that she can Focus Fire every 15 seconds, but in most circumstances she’d be better off with items that raise her damage, or manoeuvrability, or even just something that’ll help the team out more. Crystal Maiden’s Freezing Field will do more damage and have a bigger slow, but considering that thing’s nearly impossible to use without dying anyway, in most cases she’d be better served getting basically anything else at all.

Any general advice?

Other than “use the quick buy keys” and “buy component items rather than saving up huge amounts of money to get a big item in one go”? Well, my suggestion would be to read the item text. A lot of guides will tell you that you should be getting Armlet of Mordiggian or Hand of Midas or Scythe of Vyse on certain heroes, but any item with an active ability is borderline useless if you don’t know what it does. If a guide tells you to build Hand of Midas, make sure you know what Hand of Midas does.

Building the right items is only one part of it – knowing why you’re building them, what they do, and when to use them is another. Much of that will come with time, but you might as well give yourself a headstart by checking up on these things and figuring out why you’re getting them.

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