There are countless options when it comes to getting auto-attack damage. Getting the right items for the game can be difficult—your decisions should also take into account what items enemy heroes are potentially building. Moreover, with previous patches introducing several new items, as well as some major reworks to existing ones, it can get hard to keep track of the current item efficiency.
Physical DPS items
There are currently four items which fill the category of physical DPS items. They are Desolator, Monkey King Bar, Daedalus and Bloodthorn. Obviously, all stat items provide some DPS, but when talking raw bonus damage, only these four items fit the bill. Divine Rapier is also a special case and will not be discussed, as well as Battle Fury, which is primarily a farming tool on the majority of heroes.
Desolator is a rather cheap and surprisingly effective early game DPS item. The new Phantom Assassin build, seen during TI6 when played by dddd has showcased the potential of the item and how snowbally it can become. So what exactly are its main benefits?
The extra damage is rather lackluster without the backing of extra attack speed, but the burst potential coming from the reduced armor is a good way to control the game’s tempo in the early game, since it also greatly reduces the time required to take an objective.
There is a common misconception that this item is effective against targets with high amounts of armor, which is not the case. Armor Reduction is generally more effective against targets with high HP pool, since it deals a bigger hit to the EHP (Effective Hit Points) of the target.
Being a Unique Attack Modifier makes the item a very tough choice, since it prevents your hero from fully utilizing several other UAMs, but that is only rarely an issue for most heroes that do consider the item.
Daedalus vs Monkey King Bar
Perhaps the direct comparison of these items is wrong; after all, they fill rather different roles, but players continue to make a lot of mistakes on making the right choice.
The old Dota 1 wisdom was: Buriza (Daedalus) when you have a lot of Damage, MKB when you have high Attack Speed. This simplification still somewhat holds true to this day, but not in the same way it did previously.
Currently, Daedalus is always a superior option when it comes to physical DPS. Each individual hit from a hero with a Daedalus is expected to deal more Physical damage, compared to a hero with an MKB. Moreover, changes in 6.86 made MKB inferior on heroes like Gyrocopter and Medusa, since the flat increase in damage of the item was reduced.
What the item has gained, however, is higher bonus damage on the passive proc. Currently, it is 160 Magical damage and the magical part can be deceptively potent. On attack of a hero with more than 6 armor, MKB is actually expected to provide more damage from the proc! And there is also True Strike.
What it generally means is that MKB, while scaling worse and providing less DPS, can be a superior choice if you are facing an agility-based hero with lower amounts of raw HP, but higher armor. It so happens that these agility cores tend to often build Butterfly as well, or have an innate evasion ability. In almost any other case, go for Daedalus, if you need to add extra oomph! to your punch.
Unlike the currently popular items Hurricane Pike and Silver Edge, Bloodthorn is not an item you get in the early game. It is also neither an item you should get in the mid game, nor is it a must-buy in the later stages. The other two new additions, when upgraded from their respective “smaller versions,” gain a huge amount of utility that is often unconditional or simply more reliable, compared to what the transition from Orchid to Bloodthorn provides.
Bloodthorn, therefore, should be generally considered as a way of getting a bit extra power very late into the game, when the gold is devalued. On the way to said lategame there are simply too many better options.
In a famous EHOME vs EG Game 1, during the International 6, Universe went for the Bloodthron and used it a total of 4 times in 15 minutes after purchase. Moreover, looking at the combat tab of the match, we can see that the total duration of the silences from Bloodthorn have lasted for mere 2 seconds—they were either removed with aiblities or the target was killed. Did the target die faster because of the Bloodthorn? It is possible, but given the short total duration, it is highly unlikely the impact was that significant.
Even in the late-game, Bloodthorn still remains just an option. Compare Bloodthorn to the often-shamed Dagon 5. Sumail, in the match discussed previously, used it a total of 22 times, dealing almost 19k damage. It was reliable burst damage on demand with a relatively low cooldown. For extra ~600 gold on Dagon 5 as a late-game choice, it is clear why Bloodthorn is so unpopular. And how many tested and proved items are there in the game that are actually cheaper?
Late Game Stats Items
The biggest stats items currently in the game are the Heart of Tarrasque, Butterfly and Eye of Skadi. It is possible to include Scythe of Vyse in this list as well, since it provides quite a lot of auto-attack damage, but it is better suited for a discussion on utility items.
Heart of Tarrasque
The Heart is a rather inefficient item on a majority of heroes, especially when it comes to dealing damage. It provides very little DPS even on strength heroes, and the survivability from it, while undeniably great, does not scale extremely well, unless it is backed up by EHP boosters in the forms of Armor or Magic resistance.
What it does, however, is allow your hero to survive almost any burst from initiation and then start dealing damage. Moreover, it is also one of the most efficient ways of making your illusions tougher.
As such, the item is probably at its best either on illusion heroes or heroes with innate defensive abilities. Sven and Huskar are decent candidates for a relatively early purchase of the item. Both of them benefit from the added strength and HP and both have an ability which makes this raw HP a lot more potent.
At the same time, for the second type of heroes there is a potentially better alternative in the form of Satanic. It gives the same amount of damage for strength heroes. For 400 extra gold you lose 750 raw HP, but gain 5 extra armor and very potent lifesteal. Depending on the situation, it might be a more reasonable purchase.
Eye of Skadi
This item provides quite a bit of everything—it gives a decent amount of raw HP, some extra AS and Armor from agility and a significant mana pool increase. What it does not offer, however, is a meaningful amount of DPS.
The item is great against melee cores, especially when built on ranged heros. It will generally allow you and your team to kite the biggest threat of the enemy, slowly chipping them down. The added survivability of the item will allow you to either outlive the enemy burst or even ignore it.
It also fits heroes with an already decent damage who don’t mind sacrificing some potential DPS in favor of extra survivability. It is the reason the item is a great mid game purchase on heroes like Slark and Terrorblade.
Finally, illusion heroes with no innate unique attack modifiers should always consider the item as a potential progression. While the added mana aspect is frequently wasted on them, a supercharged Sange and Yasha can prove very beneficial, especially given how most illusions heroes opt for Manta Style in the early-mid game anyways.
With all that said, there are definitely cases when this item should be avoided, even if it fits the previous descriptions. As stated, Skadi does not provide a meaningful increase in DPS—it does give at least +25 Damage/AS, but for the price of 5675 it is a very inefficient expenditure. If at some point you see your team lacking in damage or unable to kill a priority target fast enough, do not go for the Skadi—most likely you still won’t be able to net a kill and will simply die slower.
On a non-agility hero the item provides 65 AS and 30 damage. On an agility one this rises to 65/65 AS and Attack damage. For a price of 5775 gold, Butterfly is easily one of the most cost-efficient DPS increases. Moreover, it provides some survivability through extra Armor and Evasion, making it a superb choice in a lot of situations.
While the item is great in terms of DPS and EHP boosts, it does not provide any increase in the raw HP of the hero. What it means, is that it is very inefficient in the early and even mid game, when the nukes are still one of the biggest factors in a teamfight. It is at its best when purchased as at least the 4th major item slot.
There are several misconceptions surrounding the item. The biggest one is that it should only be purchased on agility heroes. This is simply not true—it certainly benefits the agility heroes the most, but even strength right-clicking carries can benefit from extra Attack Speed. Losing 35 damage from one of the most efficient Stat/DPS item is not such a big deal for heroes like Sven or Tiny. Moreover, the enemy core is less likely to expect a Butterfly on a strength hero and will probably ignore MKB until after the purchase is made, giving you and your team a decent timing window, when the Evasion is going to have full effect.
Sometimes, even when the enemy does have a MKB, going for Butterfly might not be a bad idea—against a duo or tri-core lineups, it is less likely that all of them are going to have money to get a MKB in a timely manner, once again creating an opening for your team to exploit. Moreover, do not assume that the item becomes worthless once the evasion component stops working—as discussed previously, it is still a very efficient DPS item. The active ability on it is also quite underrated—35% extra movespeed, even if it is for only 4 seconds, can mean the difference between life and death for you or the target you are chasing.
Last, but not least—avoid the item if you already have heroes with Evasion (PA, Windranger) or Misses (Tinker, Troll Warlord, Brewmaster) on your team. As with many other game concepts (e.g. Invisibility), having more of the same on a single team will only make countering and adapting to it that much easier.
Once again, as with survivability items, being prepared matters a lot. DPS and stats items are generally more flexible, but there are cases when going for a wrong item can cost you the game. Always check what the enemy has and what he is likely to go for and don’t underestimate their survivability.
Fast and precise strikes are the name of the game, especially in this patch and while vision, map awareness, and good decision making are important for clean initiations, without the proper amount of damage your ganks are still likely to fail.
This is the 2nd article of a 3 part series. The final part will concentrate on core utility items.