The guide follows the principle of praxis. I believe that a good DotA player should have knowledge of the game, and have the mechanical skills from practice. One cannot exist without the other. A smart DotA player would not have the mechanical skills to execute strategies or even manage effective gameplay. A DotA player who just plays without understanding will most likely end up developing bad habits as a result.
What is this guide about?
Hard Carry is a term derived from the western world of DotA. The term describes a hero who is prioritized to farm the lanes and be taken care of by supports in order to "carry" the game in the later stages. The Hard Carry is generally (but not necessarily) a hero who scales better with items and levels than any other hero on the team.
In the Chinese number system, they are usually either a 1 or at least a 2. This translates to them having the most farm priority in the game.
Hard Carries are mostly effective late-game because of their abilities mostly being passive and favoring auto-attacking. Some carries would come online and cap earlier than other carries, but much like the rest of the guide who you choose and how you play them is completely situational.
This is just a rough list of heroes who can usually perform the hard carry role. Remember that some heroes peak earlier and some heroes can out-carry other heroes on the list given equal farm and equal skill.
In alphabetical order:
Note: This isn't an absolute list that only these heroes are considered carries. I chose these heroes because of how well they scale into-late game due to their skills. Some like Dragon Knight and Mirana can be considered more of semi-carries, but are usually built as late-game carries.
My personal belief is that there is no such thing as a set core item set that a hero should get in every game. I do believe that there are items that any hero, regardless of position or role in the team, should always get.
Boots of Speed
Not getting boots would mean every other hero with boots will outrun you. This means that they can kite you, preventing you from actually dealing damage effectively, or they can chase you, rendering your ability to escape minimal at best.
A magic wand is something that no other item can simply give you. An item that can heal your HP and MP for up to 225 points is nothing to laugh at. It increases your effective HP by giving you a source of healing during early team fights. It builds from Ironwood Branches which most heroes usually start from, and can often decide whether or not you live or die in certain engagements.
Town Portal Scroll
The ability to escape heroes such as Venomancer just because he has nothing to cancel your teleport. The ability to respond and counter-gank another lane by teleporting to their aid. Or simply to be able to get back in the lane after going to base for whatever reason. Having a teleport scroll, in any stage of the game, is invaluable to your success as a player in general.
A player will start with 603 gold if he/she chose the hero. 853 will be the starting gold for those who chose using the random selection. You will want to spend this gold in order to lane and farm more gold.
The first priority would be regeneration items. The bare minimum or ideal amount of regeneration would be 1x Tango and 1x Healing Salve
Tango will heal a total of 345 damage, with each Tango healing for 115. Tangos are useful for keeping your HP topped off so you can feel safe while farming creeps. The regeneration component is not canceled by damage.
Healing Salve will heal a total of 400 damage, while it heals more, it doesn't come in charges, so you need at least 400 points of damage to maximize the healing. It also gets cancelled by damage. You'll want to use this to regain HP after you've been bursted down a bit.
Total Cost: 190
Note: If you choose not to have any regeneration items, it would cause you to easily get harassed back into base, which would lead to you losing experience and gold. Regeneration items are there so you can continue staying in lane and continue to farm.
Honorable Mention: Clarity
Clarities are taken if you find that your hero, during the laning stage, is quite mana intensive. You can take some clarities with you, but you shouldn't exchange HP regeneration for MP or mana regeneration. Like the Healing Salve it gets cancelled if you take damage.
Iron Branch is the next item to consider. 2-3 of these would provide a decent boost to your stats early game, and builds into the Magic Wand. Iron Branches are the most gold efficient stat item, so getting them maximizes your stats early game which leads to a bit more survivability, a bit more of a mana pool, and makes last-hitting a lot easier.
Total Cost: 53 per Branch, 106 - 159 for 2-3.
Situational Starting Items:
Gauntlets of Strength, Slippers of Agility or Mantle of Intelligence
One of these three items are purchased to boost the primary stats of the hero you're controlling. As described earlier on, this contributes to your survivability, but most importantly improves your ability to farm and last-hit especially for ranged heroes.
This item is usually picked up when you expect your lane opponents to harass you during the laning phase. Compared to a Ring of Protection, Stout Shield provides a lot more effective HP earlier on. You will get more of a benefit from this if you're a melee hero.
This is the item usually picked by melee carries to help them last hit better, if used by a ranged character, the amount of bonus damage is diminished.
Ring of Protection
This is the item usually picked by more mana-intensive illusion based heroes like Phantom Lancer or Naga Siren because of how it builds into a Ring of Basilius. This is a useful alternative to Stout Shield, especially if you're a ranged hero.
Boots of Speed is one of the few items that a hero, regardless of role, should always have as soon as possible. The specific boots upgrade you want depends on who you're playing and the situation you're currently in right now.
This upgrade is popular with Naga Siren due to her mana problems throughout the game. Arcane Boots works well with mana-intensive heroes who want to make an impact early to mid-game by using their skills rather than right-clicking heroes down.
You see these boots with Lone Druid. This is usually if your hero has difficulty staying alive or staying healthy during the laning phase. These boots give your hero survivability through the Armor it provides, as well as sustainability through the heal-over-time. These boots are useful in order to stay alive and farm those items you need.
Some carries have incredible mobility such as Anti-Mage or Morphling. Some carries aren't gifted with such mobility skills, so most of them use these boots to have an easier time catching up to their intended targets. This also allows carries such as Drow Ranger or Sniper to be able to kite other heroes a lot better as well, provided they don't have gap-closers. If you feel that movement speed is the necessary element in winning the game, then grab these.
The "default" boots for most carries. It provides stats that most carries would need, a modest movement speed bonus, and attack-speed, a combination which other boots won't give you. This is useful if the other boots above isn't something your hero needs.
Note: Thread Switching is useful for getting the most out of your regeneration item. If the Threads are in STR, it increases your hero's maximum HP because it adds STR. The total HP is relative to your original HP in %. This means using a regeneration item in AGI, which has less HP, will heal more when you switch to STR because it functions relative to your hero's %HP.
Boots of Travel
Boots of Travel doesn't provide any form of regeneration, stats or bonus attack damage. However, it provides incredible utility by allowing you to teleport onto creeps and other similar entities in the map. It's more of a luxury because the other boots would have more of an impact early on, while Boots of Travel allows you to fight against split pushing or having the ability to return to the fight quickly after a Buyback. It's most useful during the later stages where being able to re=enter a fight could greatly affect it's outcome.
After you've gotten some gold, if you think that upgrading your boots isn't a priority, you have a few items that you can purchase early on.
Ring of Basilius or Ring of Aquila
These are usually picked up by non-INT heroes with mana problems such as Naga Siren and Phantom Lancer. It provides base regeneration instead of percent regeneration. This means that if you have less total mana, you will benefit from this more, however if you have a large amount of total mana, you will want to get percent regeneration items. Ring of Aquila is useful because you get the benefit of a Wraith Band and your Ring of Basilius without having to sacrifice 2 item slots. It can also be disassembled so you can, if necessary, sell your Wraith Band and acquire a Vladmir's Offering
Note: You can turn the aura on and off in order to not push your lane, the effects of the items will still apply to your hero.
Poor Man's Shield
It will still block the same amount of damage a Stout Shield will, however you will consistently (100%) block 20/10 damage from heroes. It will also add 6 more Agility which provides a small boost to your armor and possibly damage.
There are some heroes such as Dragon Knight and Naga Siren who are mana-intensive. Having a Soul Ring allows you to spam your respective spells at the cost of HP. This is generally paired with a form of regeneration in order to counteract the HP removal such as Tranquil Boots.
Bracer, Wraith Band or Null Talisman
A cheap alternative to increase your stats. Each item builds into a specific item which may help your hero such as Drums of Endurance, Ring of Aquila and Dagon. The usual reason why you'd want to get it is because it increases your stats, which increases your ability to last hit and increases your survivability.
Ring of Health
It's an expensive item to acquire, however it builds into a Perseverance which increases your hero's natural regeneration. The ring increases your hero's HP regeneration which helps when you're having a hard time sustaining in-game.
Released Unfinished Guide due to site error I was personally experiencing.
10/3/12 Finished Chapters on Starting Items, Early Game Items and List of Heroes