“Core hero” is a broad definition. It includes a variety of heroes with very different playstyles. While in general the cores of the team are expected to be the primary damage dealers, it is not always the case. Utility cores are equally as important—having some farm priority will allow them to get their hands on more expensive items, which do not necessarily increase their DPS, but rather help their teams in engagements.
“Utility items” is an equally broad definition. Some of the items discussed previously, such as Bloodthorn and Linken’s Sphere, could easily fit this category as well.
Utility items provide very different benefits, ranging from strong auras to actively cast disables. They can be both offensive and defensive and picking the right item for the occasion on the correct hero is a good skill to develop.
The earliest available strong aura is definitely nothing to scoff at. There is a reason why this item has been recently increased in price—the benefits it provides might be imperceptible in the earlier stages of the game, but in the late game it is definitely one of the best auras in the game. There are many reasons for that.
First and foremost, the item provides a non-UAM (unique attack modifier) lifesteal. It allows certain core heroes have a strong UAM of their own, while still benefitting from the lifesteal. Anti-Mage is among the first who comes to mind, but the item is equally as potent on Phantom Assassin with Desolator as well. Later in the game there are more expensive and slot efficient items, however, so having a support build a second Vlads might be a good idea—selling and changing items as the game progresses is a must in the longer games.
The item also provides sustained bonuses in the form of flat mana and HP regeneration. The latter aspect is less important, since the item does give your hero lifesteal after all, but the flat mana regeneration is certainly very handy, especially on heroes who generally don’t benefit too much from the percentage-based buffs.
Finally, there is +4 armor. While it doesn’t look like much on paper, in games where you are facing multiple auto-attacking heroes, this aura will save lives. More importantly, it will also make your potentially underfarmed teammates slightly tankier, allowing them to live longer and potentially use more of their spells. On a 800 HP support, +4 armor provides almost 200 extra EHP, which is usually at least two extra hits from the enemy.
Once again—AC has a very strong aura with a ton of extra survivability against physical attacks for the bearer and a decent amount for his teammates. For agility heroes, when it comes to teamfights, this item might not necessarily be the most cost-efficient, especially in terms of DPS. As a survivability item it also loses a bit to the previously discussed Butterfly, unless the enemy has an MKB. As such, on these heroes, the item should be generally only purchased when you are facing heroes who directly counter agility-based builds, such as Elder Titan and potentially Underlord. However for strength heroes, it is almost always a good purchase.
Strength heroes, on the other hand, generally lack armor and AS (attack speed), and this item solves both of these problems. It also has an added benefit of providing some potent bonuses to the teammates. We have already discsussed the importance of extra armor on your allies and the same principle works against the enemy team—with less armor they become a lot squishier. Perhaps even more importantly, this aura applies to the enemy structures as well, making them a lot faster to take.
The new addition to the Dota 2 items was met with mixed responses. Using the item while the enemy spell projectile is in the air or predicting when the enemy is going to cast a spell can be rather tricky after all. However, slowly but surely, players have discovered how this defensive item should be used and learned to play with it reactively, rather than relying on low chance of success with proactiv plays.
The active component of the item—Echo Shell is a dispel. It is not a strong dispel, hence it will not get the allied hero out of stun, however it can help you and your team deal with silences and hexes, as well as a variety of other status effects.
This ability comes in very handy when there is a mobility-reliant hero on your team. It is natural for at least one enemy hero to build an Orchid Malevolence or Scythe of Vyse later in the game. Previously, on squishier mobile heroes, this was countered with either Eul’s Scepter of Divinity or Black King Bar. Both of these items can still be a necessity, depending on the game, but they are never the optimal choice—they offer little damage, and their utility only truly shines on a handful of heroes. An early Lotus Orb on an allied hero can be the saving grace of the whole match. And against strong silences it can even be built on the hero himself.
The item is incredibly potent later in the game—when built on an allied hero it counters the previously premium disable from Scythe of Vyse. Echo Shell, while not actively defending the hero, also serves as a deterrent from enemy spells for a short period of time. It does leave enemy the options, but it makes these options cost a lot more.
And do not forget about the armor the item provides. The pure stats Lotus Orb gives are pretty nice.
The item used to be fully in the domain of intelligence core heroes, but recently more and more heroes have found a use for it. It is now frequently built on heroes like Doom, Razor and Alchemist, to name a few.
Once again, it is the combination of strong stats and strong aura which makes the item a very good choice in a lot of situations. Extra armor and mana pool are never a bad thing, unless, of course, you are facing an Anti-Mage, but even he should not always be a deterrent.
The AS decreasing aura is much harder to quantify—it is an armor stat that has a calculable and clearly visible effect on your teammates. However, in the later stages of the game, it can surpass the extra armor in terms of survivability it provides to your teammates.
And there is also a very strong active component to the item. A massive AoE slow with some damage can allow you to finish off and chase fleeing enemies, or retreat yourselves. More often than not it will also allow you to bait BKB charges from the enemy.
Scythe of Vyse
Once a premium disable, this item is currently a lot worse than it used to be. There are a lot more ways to deal with hex, and the hex itself no longer provides some benefits it used to—you can no longer ignore the enemy evasion while they are hexed, for example.
Still, the item is almost always worth purchasing on intelligence cores and can be even built on a variety of non-intelligence ones. It is a long range disable that will give you extra time during an initiation. The instant cast point means that it can be used with Blink Dagger or some other mobility spell for an immediate lockdown of the target, without giving it time to react and use BKB.
While the item mainly provides intelligence stats, it should not be completely ignored on other heroes, as stated previously. It is still a great item for solo pick-offers such as Ursa and Clinkz. The former might benefit more from the Abyssal Blade now, but it is slightly more expensive, while providing only marginal increase in HP and DPS and less disable time.
No longer an auto-purchase in the late game, the item has been considerably changed in the last several patches. It is a DPS item no more, falling strictly into the domain of utility items.
450 HP and 20 extra damage (10 for non-strength heroes) is rather underwhelming. Especially for an asking price of 6400. So it is the side-benefits one should look for when determining the effectiveness of the item.
The damage block is very niche—it might be an absolute best thing to have in terms of survivability, for example against Windranger, but it can also be quite worthless, especially against heroes who rely on attack damage rather attack speed for DPS. It also does nothing against spell heavy lineups.
The chance to proc a bash is a little less situational—a disabled enemy cannot escape or fight back, and that makes the item potentially good. Once again, however, it is a question of whether your hero and your team can actually utilise these several precious seconds. To have a meaningful utility from the item you have to have good DPS—otherwise the enemy hero will just brush this damage off and keep fighting, while the bash is on cooldown.
Now, the active component is certainly great. It is 2 seconds of almost unconditional disable—currently only Press The Attack and Aphotic Shield are capable of dispelling a stun, however there are definitely workarounds against it in the form of potential Disruption or [missing skill: outworld-devourer-astral-imprisonment-5392]. And, once again, you need to actually have DPS for the Overwhelm to be effective.
There is no clear winner in the Scythe of Vyse vs. Abyssal Blade duel. One is easier for the enemy to deal with, but can potentially last longer and has a longer cast range. The other is more reliable when cast, pierces spell immunity, but can get problematic to actually cast it, because of melee range. And both of them definitely need either a team follow-up or high enough damage from your hero to be good. While they can be used defensively, unless you actually utilise it to deal free damage to a hero, none of them are effectively better than Euls.
There is no denying that Dota is a complex game. Perhaps it is the most complex competitive online game out there—with the increase in the amount of options comes an increase in the amount of decisions a player has to make, and a lot of these decisions are in the grey area. It is easy to identify a decent choice and a very bad one, but identifying the absolute best choice is something that requires a lot of experience.
All roles in Dota are important, but later in the game it is the cores who bear the most responsibility, so if you are playing core—act like it and dress up for the occasion.