Spectre is typically considered a hard-farmer, given a quelling blade, and told to not stop ricing until the second coming of Christ. This can work – Spectre’s global presence, decent stat growth, and steroid skills allow her to carry pretty late into the game. However, this sometimes results in a closed-minded attitude towards her item build, which may not be justified. Have you ever seen someone still saving for Relic 30 minutes into the game? This guide is for them.
Section One: Introduction
First, though, let’s talk about Spectre as a whole and her intended purpose as a hero. She is an Agility melee hero. Her skillset gives her an escape and chasing mechanism, a pure damage bonus to attacks, a tanking skill which reflects damage, and a global ultimate which also spawns illusions to attack every enemy hero. Her stats are mediocre – average of 19.33 base stats, and 2.03 gain per level. With these stats and skills, Spectre is best suited to attack damage builds which also permit her to be up close and personal, often in the center of fights.
Next, let’s talk about farm priority. Spectre has decent scaling with items, especially in her two passive skills and her ultimate. Desolate does increasing dps as attack speed increases. Dispersion does more damage around Spectre as her HP pool increases. Haunt does more damage as her illusions gain damage and attack speed (only from stat gain, Feedback, and Radiance burn – other sources of bonus IAS or damage will not benefit illusions). Further, her weak intelligence, and therefore weak mana pool and regen, make it difficult for her to effectively utilize typical support items like Mek and Force Staff. As a result, it seems like Spectre deserves a higher farming priority in any given team composition.
How you go about building items with the farm your team allots you, however, can be different depending on how Spectre is laned. Because she has a strong escape mechanism, Spectre can do decently well in solo lanes, so long as there is another carry-oriented hero in another lane in case Spectre gets shut down. For instance, Spectre does well in one-on-one matchups against offlaners like Centaur, Nature’s Prophet, or Doom. She will not get protected farm, but will get enough gold and levels to have a strong impact with more midgame-oriented items.
For example, imagine a lineup like so: Tidehunter, Spectre, Lifestealer, Jakiro, and Undying. The presence of early-midgame heroes like Jakiro, Tide, and Undying means that Spectre may not get enough farm before these heroes pass their peak. However, by putting Lifestealer in an aggressive trilane with Jakiro and Undying, Tide mid, and Spectre in the safelane solo, Spectre can build up a few mid-game items like Drums and Diffusal to use her ultimate in conjunction with Ravage and Tombstone to do huge damage during a deathball push around level 10-11. This way, a hero that is normally considered viable only after the 30 minute mark can become a force to be reckoned with much earlier on, increasing her viability in different team compositions. This also gives your drafter the flexibility to get hero synergies he may not have been able to, and also gives your opponents a surprise when the lanes aren’t what they think they were going to be.
As a result, it makes sense to change your Spectre item build depending upon your team’s overall strategy. For example, if you have a lineup of midgame gankers, Spectre should choose items which help net kills in the midgame (Diffusal or Medallion, for example). If you have a lineup prioritizing a deathball push, Spectre should get some early-game pushing items (Vlads into SnY, for example). Or, if you are looking for a lategame teamfight, Spectre should focus on items which increase her physical damage as well as her Haunt damage (Radiance or Diffusal into Refresher, for example). With that method for choosing item builds in mind, let’s take a look at how specific items work with Spectre.
Section Two: Boots and Low-Cost Items
The Boots question for Spectre is relatively straightforward. Here are some stats to demonstrate:
The two best boots for Spectre’s purposes are Tranquil (for a farming Spec) and Phase (for everything else). Spectre’s low base damage and low movespeed (base 295) make Phase excellent for farming and chasing. Tranquil boots’ sole purpose is to give Spectre regen while she farms. It does this rather well, at a slight cost – you cannot farm and regen at the same time, as Spectre’s only farming mechanism is right clicks. The armor and higher movespeed are also welcome.
The other boots all have some uses. BoT’s are useful for opening up that fifth item slot in the late game, and for global farming. Threads can provide tankiness and a bit of attack speed, but the attribute switching isn’t as useful as on other heroes, and the IAS is wasted on Haunt illusions. Arcane might be useful if you want to build supportive items like Mek and Force Staff, or you want to buy Dagon for some reason, because you like suffering. In this case, the only way to have enough mana is Arcane Boots. Of course, if you are rushing xyz item, it is possible to keep brown boots until you have your rad/diffusal/dagon 5/abyssal blade.
Now, for low-cost items. In games where mid-game presence is important, brown boots and the 2.7k gold you’re saving for Radiance aren’t going to help your team, or save you in a gank. Depending on how your team wants to play during the first 15-20 minutes of the game, they may need more out of you than a walking sack of coin. In these cases, a small 500-2500 gold item can help you transition into bigger items. I’ve picked a set of items which I think can pack quite a bit of punch on Spectre in this price range. Here is their stat breakdown:
Of these, a few are excellent on Spectre. Drums deserves a special mention. It increases her abysmal mana pool, allowing her to cast her ult and her dagger more often. It increases her HP pool, meaning that Dispersion will deal more AOE damage around you before you die. It also increases attack and movespeed of both the main hero and any illusions, for synergy with haunt.
Ring of Aquila is another excellent item for its price. It provides +18 damage and +9 IAS for damage. It gives a decent-sized nugget of stats for utility. It gives an armor and mana regen aura for your creeps and team. And, it costs less than 1k gold. Further, you can disassemble it to make a Vlads later on. Great item.
The other items here are all decent picks, depending on the game. Poor Man’s Shield is mainly to mitigate harass when you have a lot of opposition in lane. Medallion gives armor and mana regen, and can increase your DPS on a single target. Midas helps you farm, and makes you attack faster. Vlads helps you push, helps you farm, gives you mana regen, and gives you lifesteal while leaving open your orb effect.
Now, Vanguard. A lot of people like it, since it greatly increases your tankability. I, however, am not fond of it. First, it has the largest cost of any item in this price range, while also not increasing damage or utility. Second, it actually decreases Dispersion’s DPS because the damage blocked by Vanguard is not reflected. Finally, it doesn’t scale with levels like other items do (for instance, Vlad’s percentage-based damage bonus, or Drums’ attack speed). Get it if you need to survive at all costs, and if you really want to, but I’m not a fan.
Section Three: Mid-Cost Items
The next section of items to consider are mid-cost items, between 2.5k and 4.5k. These items provide cost-effective power for a Spectre who needs to do something before the 40 minute mark. These would not be on a short-list for every game of Spectre. Instead, these are items which permit her to take a more early-game ganking or teamfighting role, rather than some kind of escatological fulfillment for the lategame. I selected these items based on cost-efficiency and their synergy with Spectre’s skillsets and needs.
The most important item here is Diffusal Blade. This item works wonders on Spectre. It gives attack speed, damage, a bit of intelligence for spell casting, and buffs her Haunt illusions immensely. The Feedback orb damage stacks with Desolate damage, and is added to Spectre’s physical damage. The Purge allows Spectre to slow a target during a gank, or cleanse an unwanted summon or buff. Good stats, excellent abilities… This is an excellent Spectre item. More on its synergy with Haunt later.
The other items here are more situational. Sange and Yasha gives IAS, stats, damage, and tankiness, for the highest HP and MS, and second-highest DPS in this price range. This item helps her chase more effectively with Maim and movespeed. It also adds a good chunk of HP so that she can deal more Dispersion damage before passing away. BKB is for games where magic is ruining your day. Orchid helps when ganking a hero with a spell-based escape mechanism, or where you need the silence on somebody because of a pesky enemy Invoker or something. It also gives solid IAS, clocking in at 3rd in this price range for DPS. Halberd increases Spectre’s tankiness and EHP by a good bit, while also providing the utility to shut down a right-clicking enemy carry. Keep in mind, however, that missed attacks won’t splash dispersion damage around. Pipe is here for two reasons, but is not very high priority. First, if your team desperately needs a pipe, it won’t kill Spectre to buy it. Second, magic resistance makes Spectre much tankier, and Hood at least is recommended in a good few other guides. Keep in mind, again, that reducing incoming damage also reduces Dispersion reflected damage.
Section Four: High-Cost Items
We’ve finally made it. These are the items that will define your Spectre game. These are the items that will cause your enemies to cower, in awe of your mighty DPS.
There are different approaches to buying big items on Spectre. Some, like Radiance or Manta, may be worth rushing from the get-go. In these cases, how quickly you can farm these items determines how your game will proceed. In other games, you may need to build smaller items first before transitioning into the bigger ones. In these cases, you need to take into account the various synergies between these items. For instance, the Feedback damage from Diffusal Blade will be greatly increased by the IAS from Butterfly.
Below are my selections for high-cost items for Spectre. I chose items that maximize her DPS or ability to teamfight, as those are most suited to Spectre’s playstyle. However, if you want to build Dagon 5 or Sheepstick, go ahead. I can’t stop you.
First, let’s talk about raw DPS. In the case of the hero alone, without any illusions, Daedelus is clearly on top, followed closely by Butterfly, MKB, and Radiance. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a decent portion of Spectre’s damage, as well as almost all of her teamfight presence, comes from Haunt illusion damage. And so, if you want to build a teamfighting Spectre, Refresh in addition to Radiance or Diffusal 2 kicks Haunt damage into the stratosphere (more on this later).
For utility, MKB counters enemy evasion heroes; Abyssal provides a BKB-piercing stun and solid DPS (illusions cannot bash, though); Skadi provides a slow (only from the main hero, not illusions); Manta provides extra illusions, a split to get out of nets, silences, or other negative buffs, Butterfly provides excellent evasion; and Heart provides insane regen. Get these items for those reasons whenever they are relevant.
Finally, tankiness to be reflected as damage through Dispersion. Heart gives the most HP, followed by Skadi, Manta, and then a negligible bit from Abyssal. Bloodstone also gives a bunch of HP, and the shorter respawn time can allow you to Haunt back into a teamfight in some cases, but the mana and mana regen is wasted, making a high-cost item lest efficient for it price.
Section Five: On the Refreshing of Haunt
A lot of times, players use Haunt like some kind of global teleportation spell. They frequently forget that once Spectre gets buff, her illusions do all kinds of damage. As a result, some theorycrafters on PlayDota forums, most notably GodlyKha, tried out Refresh Orb on Spectre to great success. The general idea:
- Farm Radiance or Diffusal 2
- Farm Refresh Orb
- Ult Again
Does this seem incredible to you? It shouldn’t. Here’s a chart showing how much damage a double Spectre ult can do to a single target with average armor and magic resistance in ideal situations:
As you can see, Diffusal deals the most damage of the two in an ideal situation. By “ideal situation,” I mean where the enemy hero stands still so that the Haunt illusion can attack as many times as possible. A lot of times, your illusion swill not be able to attack that frequently, because the enemy heroes are moving. As the average number of attacks your illusions get each second decreases, your damage decreases as well. Here is a chart illustrating this effect:
This chart also shows the relative value of Radiance and Diffusal Blade in your Haunt damage. As you can see, if you are able to get off a lot of attacks, Diffusal will always do more damage. This is especially true if the enemy is locked down during the entire duration, as illusions with Radiance are unable to do more than .92 attacks/second, effectively capping their damage at that point. However, as the number of attacks your illusions get off decreases, the constant Radiance burn stays the same. In most cases, however, Diffusal 2 does more damage during Haunt than Radiance.
Well, there you have it. A Spectre guide that is late, but hopefully still useful. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below. As usual, here is a link to the spreadsheet with all of the data. I hope this helps!