This guide is designed to help you pick the right Carry hero in various situations. As always, trying to fit heroes into particular categories is tricky and some simplifications have had to be made to allow this. There are a limited number of colours available, and hence a natural limit to the categories. Things will be left out, hopefully people will still find this useful.
Easily the most contentious part of this guide will be the numbers for each hero's late game rating. Again, this is an attempt to let you see at a glance roughly what that hero's late game power is - this assumes the hero has had a reasonable game, is going for reasonably standard items etc...it DOESN'T cover every game, underfarmed heroes, unusual builds etc.
Also, it's MY OPINION, which won't necessarily match up with yours! I've given a brief explanation on each hero, please feel to convince me to change my opinion in comments, but don't take it as a personal slight if I don't!
How to Use this Guide:
You can flick directly to various sections by clicking on the index below. Alternatively, use the "Questions to Ask Yourself" to guide you through the process of picking an appropriate hero. Bear in mind, the sheer number of possible heroes in Dota and the nature of this guide make it impossible for me to mention all possible synergies - by all means ignore the categories if there are particular heroes you will have great synergy with, or counter hard on the opposite team.
This index allows you to quickly skip to the various hero types and see at a glance which heroes belong in the various categories:
* Later in the Game
* Escape at level 6
*Passive Stun +Both
*Can hard lane solo
Does my bum look big in this?
Picking the correct carry is more of an art than a science, but we can apply some general rules to give us a better idea of who to pick and when. Obviously you also need to be aware of any particular synergy or enemy-counter that can neuter your hero choice.
Does my team already have 2 or more carries?
You probably shouldn't pick a carry at all. There's only so much farm to go around and other roles that need filling - pick something else.
Where am I going to lane?
Most carries want a nice spot in the safe lane with one or more supports to help them out...sometimes this isn't possible! Wherever you end up laning, you need to be able to farm or you'll rapidly fall behind.
If you can't get the safe lane, you will need to look at your other options - heroes with good Lane Presence can often go mid or safe lane solo. You will also want to potentially consider a Jungler or Solo if the rest of your team can accomodate this.
Do your allies have good team fight abilities?
There are two situations you really need to strongly consider a Team Fight carry - either your team is very weak in this area compared to the opposition, or your team has a lot of it, and you can further stack on top of it to give an overwhelming advantage.
Is your team badly lacking in stuns?
A team without stuns can really struggle to win games - although a carry packing a Stun isn't the ideal solution, it can at least ease the problem. You may also want to consider a stun if you're going to have a very aggressive lane support and think you might be able to bag some kills.
Does your team or the opposition have a lot of early pushing heroes?
Carries can be very weak against strong pushing lineups, as you simply won't have time to get your farm together. Avoid Hard Carries. Look at heroes with good Push/anti-push, and potentially at Gankers who can do more in the early game.
When should I pick a durable carry?
Durable carries are very useful when the opposition team has a lot of nukers, or when your team has several squishy heroes who will need someone to tank for them. Be aware that you may struggle later on against agility carries.
When should I pick an illusion hero?
Illusion heroes are great when the opposition lack AOE or multi-target damage, as they will struggle to track down the real you - wasting their powers and damage in the process. Avoid when they have these abilities.
When should I pick a hard carry?
Hard carries really need the team to be built around them, possibly running a tri-lane, or at least able to defend their towers and slow the game down while you farm. The main thing is to be against other heroes who need farm too - usually you'll be able to outfarm them and dominate late game. It's also a lot easier to play a hard carry when the opposition run a solo against your lane.
Your team has picked a Pudge (mid), Shadow Demon (support), Lion (support) and Anti-Mage (safe carry). Lets work through our questions:
- The team only has 1 carry, albeit a hard carry.
- We already have a mid and a safe lane carry, and no hard lane solo capable hero.
- This means we're going to be in the hard lane, either as a solo, or with a support.
- The team is badly lacking in team fight abilities.
- The team has enough stuns.
- We're not particularly push focused, and want a longer farming game.
We'd need to ask our team at that point whether we're running a trilane, or 2x carry + support. If it's a trilane, we'd need to pick a hard lane solo capable hero:
Out of those heroes, only Mirana really offers us much in terms of team fight, so would probably be my choice. We might also look at other non-carry solo heroes who can give us some team fight.
If we're running 2x carry + support lanes, then we have some different options. First of all, we need a hero with team fight:
2 hard carries in one team is usually a really bad idea, so lets take them out. Next up, we could use somebody with reasonable lane presence and survivability to make the best of the hard lane. An escape would be nice, but not a necessity. We have a ranged support so it doesn't matter whether they're ranged or not. They need to be able to semi-carry and ideally have some pushing power to keep the team ticking over until Anti-Mage comes online.
Kunkka could be a good choice for his durability and lane presence, Juggernaut has an escape and good early game presence, while Gyrocopter also offers good teamfight and pushing power.
Hard carries need a lot of farm before they fully come online and can be truly effective. Many require additional farming equipment such as Battle Fury, Hand of Midas or Maelstrom. They thrive in long games and when they have time to farm efficiently.
They generally have strong passive skills that provide exceptional bonuses in the late game, but minimal help in the early game. They're strong against other carries who want to farm, but weak against pushers and teams with very strong early game.
All of the heroes mentioned here have extremely minimal utility early-mid game - the odd skill, say Assassinate or Chronosphere may net kills or help the team, but generally they are weak at this point, almost regardless of build.
+ Very strong late game
+ Good choice when played with support against solo enemy
- Needs time and equipment to be effective
- Limited involvement early-mid game
Durable heroes are often (but not always) strength based. This extra survivability usually makes them a bit easier to lane with, and can compensate for when your team needs a hero who can both soak up and inflict damage.
They sometimes lack DPS (mostly through slower attack speed) compared to other types of carry, but this can be somewhat compensated by buying the right items.
To a degree any hero with enough farm can make themselves durable by buying items like Heart of Tarrasque, Assault Cuirass, etc.
+ Your team is squishy and need someone who can take damage
+ Enemy is strong early game and you need to survive lane pressure
- Can sometimes be outcarried late game
All of these heroes provide some kind of ability (usually their ultimate) that can be very effective in team fight situations. This is great when your team is either lacking team fight ability, or you're trying to stack it across your team.
The only "downside" to these are that generally you want to avoid items like Aghanim's Scepter and Refresher Orb, as they're relatively expensive and don't add much to your damage potential. Occasionally you might be able to look at them once you have plenty of farm.
+ Hero selections lack teamfight abilities
+ Hero selection will allow teamfight stacking/synergy
These heroes all offer increased lane presence that might make them dangerous to opponents, or able to potentially dominate their lane through harassment. Obviously you need to know the individual heroes to know which situations suit them!
+ Picking the right kind of lane presence increases farm and chance of kills
+ The right presence can reduce enemy farm/levels
- Getting this wrong can reduce your farm/xp and make you more vulnerable to ganks
Although all carries can push, what we're looking for here are heroes who are extra effective at pushing towers, either through quickly ripping through waves of creeps, soaking up damage or doing rapid damage to towers.
+ Can potentially take down poorly defended towers early game
+ Can destroy bases faster late game
- Pushing early can lose you lane control/farming space
Some other heroes can jungle to some degree, or may well hit the jungle to farm up later on, but these guys can do it pretty efficiently from the start.
Jungling is a useful option when other heroes on your team prefer a solo lane, or the enemy team has an inoffensive early game and you want to maximise income.
+ Can increase overall team xp and gold income
+ Uncontested income compared to lane
- Can leave your lanes under-staffed
- Vulnerable to roaming strats and gankers
Illusion heroes are an interesting sub-set of carry. They have the ability to create copies of themself to inflict additional damage, cause confusion and soak up enemy attacks. Particular items stack very effectively on illusions and can cause huge problems for some enemy heroes. Any hero can get part of this effect by buying Manta Style.
Illusion heroes are very effective against enemy teams who are heavy on single target abilities - e.g. Lion, Bane or Phantom Assassin. The illusions will really bog them down and make it difficult for them to target their abilities effectively. However, you will find life far more difficult against teams with lots of AOE damage, possibly even boosting the effectiveness of spells like Echo Slam.
+ Extra damage and some item effects
+ Cause confusion and can soak up enemy attacks and abilities
- Weak against AOE powers
Many carry heroes have an escape to help them survive in the early game. Some of these escapes can be used so often they become mobility aids and can also help with farming speed. Good escapes are invaluable, as you can't farm when you're dead, and if this keeps happening you'll get massively behind the enemy on farm. Some escapes also provide a way of initiating.
The trick with escapes is to have the right one to counter what the enemy can throw at you. Fissure is a good example - it will block heroes from running through it, even if invisible or moving at maximum speed. However, many of the escapes here will allow you to bypass it in some way.
+ Increases survivability
+ Allows initiation in some cases
+ Can boost farming speed
- Usually comes at the cost of general durability
- Must be appropriate for enemy abilities
- Don't rely on it alone, or become complacent
While some of these heroes are capable farmers and can get big that way, usually they play a more semi-carry style, trying to get gold and experience by killing enemy heroes and "snowballing" (rapidly growing out of control).
These heroes are exceptionally dangerous if "fed" a number of kills by the enemy team - they can grow far more quickly than a traditional farming carry, and can dominate the game if it ends relatively soon.
+ Give your team more power early/mid game
+ Can get quickly very strong if it goes well
- Generally drop off late game
- Unspectacular performance without kills
Perma-Bash: (Passive bash skill can cause huge problems with enough attack speed)
Having a stun is extremely useful for a carry - it gives you a way of setting up or potentially escaping from trouble without having to rely on your allies to be present. Generally it makes you a much more dangerous laning opponent, and also gives you the chance to pick up easy gold/xp with the occasional gank.
The most important time to look at carry's with stuns is when your team is generally lacking them. Perma-bashers deserve a special mention, as their ability to lock down a single opponent (once they have enough attack speed) makes them exceptionally dangerous, both as late game gankers, and in a carry vs carry fight where they can often punch far above their weight.
+ Allows more ganking opportunities
+ Can also help you escape
- Mana cost generally makes it difficult to use it much
No doubt they'll be a lot of disagreement about these ratings! I did struggle with many of them and am still not certain they're all placed correctly. It's actually a very difficult exercize as some "higher ranked" carries can be beaten by a "lower ranked" carry who counters them effectively - so these are very general.
Please don't take them as set in stone or get upset if one of your favourites isn't where you want. This is primarly to give newer players especially some idea of roughly how they line up. Please feel free to post up your thoughts in the comments section, but be sure to explain WHY you think that.
Lone Druid - Two sets of inventory slots allow a huge amount of farm to be applied
Faceless Void - Incredible passives combined with a great AOE disable
Medusa - Incredible tankiness, multi-target damage and a great ultimate
Spectre - Incredible tankiness, damage reflection and a great ultimate
Phantom Lancer - Illusions run out of control with enough attack speed and effects
Lifestealer - % based damage and lifesteal scaling
Alchemist - Incredible attack speed with his ultimate can proc effects excessively
Sniper - With enough attack speed can almost perma-bash an opponent from long range
Morphling - Ability to switch stats gives him incredible potential
Troll Warlord - Ungodly attack speed for the whole team with his ultimate
Naga Siren - Illusions, a great ultimate and effective armour reduction
Doom Bringer - Incredible strength gain, auras and ultimate
Lycanthrope - Fantastic ultimate and passives combine to make him extremely dangerous
Phantom Assassin - Huge crit potential with effective dodge skill
Tiny - Incredible damage output once he has sufficient attack speed
Slardar - Great stat gains, potential perma-bash with enough attack speed
Wraith King - Strong passives combine with a free Aegis of the Immortal
Sven - Incredible strength and crit output from Ultimate
Anti-Mage - Usually outcarries through superior farming speed, still has excellent skills
Gyrocopter - Great agility gain and multi-target attack
Ember Spirit - Poor stats gain but Sleight of Fist is deadly with sufficient items
Dragon Knight - Free Eye of Skadi with Elder Dragon Form
Luna - Great presence throughout the game, multi-target attack
Shadow Fiend - Incredible DPS, even if he fades a little towards the end
Weaver - Double attack can give great DPS, vulnerable to detection/disable
Chaos Knight - Strong all rounder, illusions keep him competitive late game
Kunkka - can throw out huge AOE crits and has good teamfight abilities
Nature's Prophet - Not the most damaging, but mobility can win games in unlikely situations
Ursa - Great attack speed and damage output, but reliant on CC from team
Drow Ranger - Great damage output, but vulnerable to space closers
Bristleback - Extremely tanky and has good extra damage from his ultimate
Clinkz - Good damage output, but squishy and vulnerable to detection
Spirit Breaker - Limited carry, but with enough attack speed can perma-bash
Outworld Devourer - Great damage output (including pure damage Orbs), and ultimates, but squishy and begins to lose out against magic immunity.
Silencer - Can stack intelligence effectively, but skills offer little else late game
Templar Assassin - Great damage output, layered protection and armour busting...but starts to lose out late game
Meepo - can level extremely quickly, but vulnerable to losing a single weaker clone
Mirana - Good agility gain and skills, but little else
Viper - Passives still useful, but begins to drop off
Juggernaut - Flexible but lacks total damage/health to fight big carries
Razor - Static Link is still useful, but begins to be outscaled or escaped
Riki - Fantastic DPS, but very squishy, vulnerable to detection
Slark - Useful anti-carry and stat steal, but otherwise lacking
Broodmother - lacking stat growth and skills help less in the late game
Huskar - Lost some damage but still dangerous
Tinker - relatively low right click damage, but active items can provide a lot of utility
This guide doesn't contain all of the semi-carry heroes, although a few that can also be played as carries have been included. Semi-carries need to get early farm and levels so they can then get on with their real job - killing heroes to gain even more levels and items. If they do well enough, they'll be able to carry the game fully provided it doesn't go too late. They usually don't spend too much time farming once they are big enough to get kills.
E.g. Storm Spirit, Night Stalker, Queen of Pain
A rare group of heroes, sometimes they can even start off as supports before farming heavily in the mid game to attain carry status. They often have an unusual set of skills, and/or can farm well enough to get utility and active ability items.
E.g. Nature's Prophet, Tinker, Necrolyte
Very farm and level reliant, they need to spend most of the game farming to get strong enough to be fully effective. While the list at the top of the page covers the conventional ones, many heroes can be played in a hard carry "style" by investing in farming items early on and trying to get big for the late game.
E.g. Faceless Void, Spectre, Medusa
A wut Window?
Timing windows refers to the usual point in the game where a particular hero is at their strongest, or when you need to buy particular items to make them effective.
Juggernaut is often referred to a midgame carry. He starts off able to get kills from a very early level (with the right backup) and can gank effectively with his ultimate. This usually gives him a headstart over more conventional carries, allowing him to outgun them in the mid game. After this, he sometimes starts to drop away as other heroes become effective in the late game.
Anti-Mage is usually refered to as a hard carry. He needs plenty of gold and items to become truly effective, but can be very hard to stop if he gets them. Anti-Mage is somewhat different from some other hard carries in that if he can get a Battle Fury, Blink allows him to farm incredibly quickly. If he can get that BF quickly and uses it effectively, he grows extremely fast and can get big items before many other carries. However, he can still be outgunned later on by even harder carries or multiple carries who have had time to catch up (at the end of the game, you can still only carry 6 items). His most effective time is when he's accrued a significant farm/level advantage over the opposition.
Faceless Void is possibly the hardest carry in the game, his passives are that good. However, he needs lots of levels and equipment to be able to kill opponents while they are under the effect of Chronosphere, or perma-bash them using Time Lock. He doesn't have the same farming speed as Anti-Mage, but is much harder to stop as the game goes later and later.
Most farming items need to be bought ASAP, as the sooner you get them, the longer you get the benefit of owning them, and the more gold they'll get you. There's really little point at buying a Hand of Midas at 30 minutes as you've missed out on the opportunity to get much from it.
Depending on skill levels:
Hand of Midas - needs to be bought by 7-10 minutes.
Radiance - needs to be bought by 20 minutes
Battle Fury - needs to be bought by 12-15 minutes.
Maelstrom - less time dependent, but you still want it ASAP.