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A Beginner’s Guide to Dota 2 – Part 3.5: Situational Items

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I’m tired. It’s Gamescom week and I’m tired and the last thing I want to do is write anything at all, even a Dota 2 guide. I want to just curl up and sleep. Or possibly die.

But that wouldn’t be very useful, so HELLO. I’m Tim McDonald. I play Dota 2 very badly. This is a guide to playing Dota 2. Feel free to join the IncGamers guild. We like people.


We like people except you, voice in my head.

That’s just mean. So this week you’re talking about supports?

That was the original plan, but IncGamers Dota 2 guild member Samurai Turtle mentioned in the comments last week that I should probably have done the item guide in an entirely different way. I’m not about to rewrite the first part, but talking about situational items seemed like a good way of writing an article that wouldn’t be ridiculously huge, and because I’m interested in this thing you humans call sleep, I decided that was the absolute best idea.

So what’s a situational item?

It’s exactly what it sounds like, really. Most heroes have a set of “core” items with each build you can run for them – if you’re running a support hero you’ll probably want a Mekansm, for instance, as long as no-one else has one – but there are also a bunch of items that are useful in certain situations. Hence, situational.

Some of these items will be core for one or two heroes – we’ll talk about the Blink Dagger, for instance, and you pretty much always want that on Puck – but for most heroes, they’re things which you’ll only grab against certain match-ups, or when you’ve got certain problems, or when you’re forced to play in a certain way.

With Dota 2, it’s usually a bad idea to be anything other than fluid with your build. You might have a really stompy build for a burst damage monster like Lina, but in certain situations and against certain opponents, that build will get you stomped on. That’s where situational items come in – they’re the sort of things that give you a little extra “something” for your build, whatever it might be. You don’t always want them, but you should always bear them in mind.


Honestly, I’m actually having a bit of trouble writing this because I just looked through the list of Dota 2 items to work out which I should talk about, and wrote down nearly all of them. So I’ll tell you what: we’ll start with a few that I mentioned last week, but didn’t go into.

Like, um… Blink Dagger, Shadow Blade, and Blade Mail?

Ayup. Blink Dagger (2150 gold) is a really useful item on some heroes, and practically pointless on others. Every 12 seconds, it lets you teleport a short distance away – even through trees, or walls, or to areas normally unreachable.

There are two caveats, though. The first is that it offers you basically no stat boosts whatsoever, which makes it pretty damn costly at 2150; if you buy this, you buy it because you really need to blink. Secondly, you can only use it if you haven’t been hit by a hero within the last three seconds. Getting hit by a hero immediately sets its cooldown to three seconds, so… it’s not that great for escaping unless you’re much faster than the enemy anyway, or have a means of avoiding them for three seconds. Like, say, if you’re playing as Puck.

That still sounds pretty useful, though.

Oh, it is. It’s phenomenally good on some heroes, particularly initiators – Sand King can charge up his powerful Epicenter away from the enemy and then blink into the middle of them to start a fight, or Tidehunter can blink in and use Ravage to stun everyone. It’s really, really good for launching surprise attacks.

On a lot of heroes, though, you might want to consider Force Staff (2250) instead, which is… similar.

Force Staff gives you +10 intelligence and an extra +3hp regen, which is useful by itself, but its active ability automatically moves the target a little way in the direction they’re facing. You can use it to escape enemies by forcing yourself up a cliff. You can pull an enemy towards your team for a quick kill. You can help an ally escape from a load of enemies chasing them.

On the other hand, this requires a lot more skill to use effectively – it only sends people in the direction they’re facing, as opposed to Blink Dagger, which just teleports you to wherever you click. Equally, it only moves you half the distance a Blink Dagger can send you. Still, considering the other benefits, it’s definitely worth considering on a lot of heroes (and is better than Blink on a lot of heroes).

Shadow Blade, then.

Shadow Blade (3000 gold) indeed! This little bugger lets you turn invisible for 12 seconds, and – if you break invisibility by attacking – that attack does an extra 150 damage. While invisible, you can also move through units, and you move faster. And not only that, but just having the item gives you an extra 22 damage and 30 attack speed.

In short: buy this and you can turn invisible once every 18 seconds and murder the hell out of people. It’s good for both attacking enemies that aren’t expecting you, from angles where they aren’t expecting you, and for escaping from ganks.

It’s core for a lot of squishier heroes with high right-click damage, but most others don’t really need to worry about it. If you’ve got stealthers like Riki or Bounty Hunter on your team then chances are the enemy will be carrying Sentry Wards or Dust, so the invis won’t necessarily work that well and may actually get you killed – you think they can’t see you, so start moving into position… and then they destroy you when you get close.

Besides which, 3000 gold is a hefty chunk of money. If the invis isn’t that much of a bonus for you, you can easily use that cash to build towards something that’ll give you a lot more damage or attack speed.

It’s still a really good item (particularly in lower-level games!) and characters like Kunkka, Drow Ranger, Alchemist, and Sniper should definitely look into it, but a fair few others can safely ignore it in favour of something else.

Right. So… Blade Mail?

2200 gold. Any damage that hits you also hits the person that launched the attack. For 4.5 seconds.

I’ve had arguments with a few guild members about the usefulness of this item on particular heroes – it offers 10 intelligence, 22 damage and 6 armour, so even without its active ability, it’s still a half-decent stat boost.

On the other hand… well, that’s 2200 gold that you could put towards something even more overpowering. And on a lot of heroes, you’re either going to have sufficient damage reduction that 4.5 seconds of returned damage isn’t actually going to do too much, or you’re going to be so squishy that you’ll die to the people that attack you anyway. So yeah, it’s situational – it’s got its uses, but the damage reflection isn’t as amazing as some people think, particularly because things like “magic resistance” and “armour” are still taken into account.

Those are the ones you mentioned last week. What new fun things have you got for us today?

Here’s a list of the things I want to talk about:

Hand of Midas
Scythe of Vyse
Skull Basher
Divine Rapier
Orchid Malevolence

But I’m not going to talk about all of them, because that would be silly. I’ll leave out Desolator, because that’s pretty much just “buy this to murder enemy buildings and heroes, particularly if they have high armour.”

I’ll leave out Divine Rapier, because if you’re new then you probably shouldn’t even be looking at that – it gives an insane damage boost, but you drop it on death. Which means you’re paying a whopping 6200 gold for +300 damage… which will probably go to your enemies if you die. It’s great in Famous Last Stand scenarios, but you really need to think hard about picking up this one.

And I’ll leave out Skull Basher, because that’s “more damage, plus a chance to stun people on hit”. Very useful on certain heroes, particularly for chasing, but not essential on too many.

The rest… well, we’ll see what we have room for.

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Tim McDonald
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.