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Your 800GPM Asshole Carry - A Guide to Spectre - 7.02 updated

March 16, 2017 by Terathiel
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Standard Spectre

DotA2 Hero: Spectre

Purchase Order

Starting Items

Early Game


Extensions - Standard

Extensions - Physical Damage

Extensions - Magic Damage

Why can't I hold all this money


Hero Skills

Spectral Dagger

2 13 14 16


3 4 5 7


1 8 9 11


6 12 18


10 15

Hero Talents

-10s Spectral Dagger​ Cooldown
+400 Health
+30 Attack Speed
+20 Strength
+8 All Stats
+20 Movement Speed
+20 Damage
+5 Armor


Next up on my list of 'guides to update to 7.00' is this one, the Spectre guide I first wrote as a Padawan, and now I'm like on the Jedi Council or some ****. I saw Star Wars for the first time like a month ago, OK? Cut me some slack with the analogy.

So, what *is* Spectre? Well, Spectre is a hard carry, one of the hardest in the game. This defines her playstyle and the kind of people that pick her. She has a horrific laning stage and is probably the worst laner in the game, but makes up for this with a terrific midgame and a terrifying lategame presence that can carry the game through three counterpicks.

Spectre is that rare but engaging thing, a hero that really rewards in-depth mechanical analysis and mathematical theorycrafting. Don't worry, you don't have to run simulations and find statistical weights to construct the perfect item against their team - I've already done that and that's what the guide's for.

7.00 wasn't overly kind to Spectre, but that's less of a thing with the hero (indeed, she was considerably buffed by her talents) and more to do with the meta being too fast for her to shine in most games. Still, she's a very potent situational pick, and in pubs especially, is a solid carry against most lineups.

As of writing, I have 117 games on Spectre with a 64.96% winrate, on top of all the hours I've spent on theorycrafting. She's a fascinating hero to examine from a mechanical perspective, and the time spent on that analysis can easily be rewarded.

Mercurial Temperament: Spectre's Characteristics

-Good solo kill potential with some core items
-The highest EHP in the game come lategame
-Quite fun, not a simple right-click and forget carry
-Global presence, able to Haunt into any teamfight
-Good escape in Spectral Dagger - even though it's not great
-Farms assists like no other

-Lack of laning presence
-Mediocre base damage
-Farms quite slowly and lacks sustain
-Vulnerable early on; easy to shut down

With that in mind, let's look at Spectre's abilities.

Spectral Dagger is her Q. As the description states, it is a 200 magic damage nuke with a slow attached. It's fairly straightforward, but there a couple things to note.
1) It is a point target spell. This means that you can use it in lane to get last hits and harass at the same time. You can also skillshot fleeing enemies, especially useful against invisible targets like Clinkz.
2) If an invisible unit is hit, it still trails the path. This allows you to see where the unit is going, although it doesn't reveal them.
3) While on the Spectral Path, you have free pathing. You can walk over terrain unimpaired, allowing you to dagger into trees and TP away from ganks.


Desolate causes your attacks to deal 65 pure damage to enemies that are alone - ie, more than 325 dotameters away from an ally. This is a LOT of damage, and works in a similar way to Anti-Mage's Mana Break. Illusions get this ability, hence why Manta Style is popular on Spectre.


Dispersion is your main source of lategame damage alongside Desolate, and what makes you so insanely durable. Calculated before reductions, which is very important regarding itemisation. This ability is so powerful because of its property that converts durability into damage. Its damage decreases linearly from 300-1000 units, meaning you inflict more damage the closer you are to your enemy. This spell increases your EHP (effective hit points) by 28% when maxed.


Haunt is Spectre's ultimate and gives her a terrifying global presence. Synergises with a lot of other global Heroes and Spectre is a mainstay in the global team. Great for chasing fleeing enemies, for assisting allies in ganks, ganking on your own, or for dealing massive damage in teamfights. While Haunt illusions get Desolate, they do NOT get Dispersion because that would be ******edly overpowered. Maybe in an Aghs upgrade. While its actual damage in the lategame is mostly negligible, it's one of the best utility ultimates you'll find and can create absolute havoc in fights.

Reality is an important sub-ability to your ultimate. It allows you to switch locations with the targeted Haunt, effectively jumping on a single target. This allows you to avoid kiting in teamfights and switch to a high-priority target - or leap on a squishy backliner like Sniper (who even picks that scrub anymore lol).


Skillbuild and Talents

So, looking at the skillbuild, you've likely noticed some differences from your standard, Torte de Lini approved Spectre guides, namely in maxing Desolate first and in some of the talent choices. Therefore, I'm putting in a small chapter to justify this.

Maxing Desolate?

In simple terms, Spectral Dagger doesn't scale particularly well. It starts off as a really good value point, as the duration of the shadow path and the cooldown remain constant. However, its mana cost goes up, taxing Spectre's poor early-game mana pool. The slow starts at 8%, and scales up by 4% each level to 20%. The damage at all levels is negligible, and considerably worse than both your other abilities for killing things. Due to it being such a good value point, it can be left at level 1, since Spectre gains levels quickly anyway.

Maxing Desolate takes its damage from 20 to 65 - and this is pure damage, not magic damage as the dagger is - and will accelerate your farming considerably, since the skill works on creeps. It gives you a lot more kill potential in tandem with any disables your teammates might have, and enables you and your Haunt illusions to wreak havoc on any enemy standing still for a channel.

Dispersion after Desolate is for both safety and farming reasons - you'll be entering a time when the enemy team is really looking to gank you, and shut you down, and the added 28% EHP of a maxed Dispersion will often save you. Additively, you'll be Dispersing more damage on your attackers, providing a rapid increase to your jungle farm.


Yeah, the general rule with talents is "offence is better than defence", but in Spectre's case, defence IS offence because that's how Dispersion does things. 20 damage vs 5 armour at level 10 is a choice that 9 times out of 10 goes to the armour. At level 15, +8 all stats very handily beats out 20 movement speed.

Level 20 becomes more situational - 30 attack speed is a lot, but then again so is 20 Strength (400 Health, guys, it's strictly better than your level 25 talent for some reason). This just comes down to whether you need more damage to kill a vital target, or whether an extra 2k EHP will turn you unkillable.

Level 25 is a very easy win for 400 Health.

Early Farming

As a Spectre you will want to go into the safelane and amass as many last hits as possible. To ensure this, you will want to lane with a support, and a trilane is preferable to zone your lane enemies out and allow you to freefarm. Iron Talon is a good item to get in order to help offset your poor base damage, and Ring of Aquila is also not a bad choice. An Iron Talon also enables you to rotate into the jungle if you so desire, or if the lane is untenable. After that, you shall be working on boots.

Your choice of boots is between Phase Boots and Power Treads. Generally, I advocate Treads due to its synergy with both Desolate (via the attack speed) and Dispersion (via the HP/armour). However, Phases are arguably better for farming, and definitely better for chasing, so it's a situational or personal preference thing. Don't leave your boots un-upgraded to rush Radiance, because that's game-throwing and physically painful to watch.

After boots, you're going to be looking to get Radiance. However, rare is the game when you can rush it, since it's a big investment and you'll be severely lacking in other departments when you get it. The game will usually force you into an intermediate item, of which you have two choices - Helm of the Dominator or Vanguard.

Of the two, Vanguard is more mathematically perfect and offers more for sustain and durability, but Helm of the Dominator offers actual offensive benefits and is less one-dimensional. Spectre is one of the few heroes on which the item's active is somewhat irrelevant, as you will usually join into fights by Haunting in from the other side of the map, leaving the creep behind. However, it can be used in fights for huge plays like this by Arteezy (note how he used his Helm to steal Lycan's Mud Golem and stun the wolf. 9k Dota boys).

This choice is a game-dependent one, or personal preference, but both are equally viable.

When farming the jungle as Spectre, kill the smaller creeps first, so you can Desolate down the last survivor. Iron Talon usage is as standard.

She's So Much More Radiant

After those preliminary steps - Radiance time. 20 minutes or slightly earlier is the time you're looking for. After getting Radiance, immediately try to pick a teamfight and start taking objectives, as the burn damage is considerable at that stage of the game. Haunt into teamfight, win fight, burn enemies, chase stragglers, take tower, go back to farming. It's very methodical.

Split-pushing is also on the menu, especially after your next item, which in most cases is Manta Style due to its synergy with Desolate and how well it allows you to chase enemies. Manta is an item that you use basically on cooldown, mana allowing, and sending the illusions across the map to farm and split-push. This accelerates your item progression and is a common skill shared by other heroes such as Naga Siren and Alchemist.

The game somewhat pilots itself from here on out - you have a terrific farm accelerant, and what's left is... item extensions. Oh boy, this is going to be a long one.

Lategame: Playstyle

Before I get into items and tremendous amounts of MATHS, I'll briefly discuss how to play Spectre in the lategame.

Step 1, and this is critical, save buyback. An enemy team will be struggling to kill you once, let alone twice, especially if you enter a fight, die, buyback, and use Haunt to immediately rejoin. Unless the other team is very far ahead, or has exceptional tankiness and sustain, Dispersion alone will likely kill them. Not to say that this is encouraged - dying and buying back is something you want to avoid, but this can be used as a killing blow on an enemy team that's already struggling to hold you off.

In a similar manner to the above, getting Roshan and the Aegis is also an exceptional idea, for the same reason, except you don't die or buyback and prevent a 3k swing in team networth. The downside is that it takes up an item slot, but there is no item that will outweigh the benefits and safety of having an Aegis.

When not fighting or going for objectives, keep farming. Use Manta on cooldown to split push, ideally sending the illusions to separate locations (micromanage your units, you slovenly bastards!). This also fosters confusion in your opponents and, by sending illusions into dangerous places to farm/push/harass, means that you're creating space while not putting yourself in danger of feeding.

Lategame: Items

TL;DR, referring to the builds listed above:

Against a variety of damage types, go for Eye of Skadi.

Against heavy magic damage, go for Pipe of Insight and health/magic resist.

Against heavy physical damage, go for Assault Cuirass and armour/damage block.

Against heavy pure damage, go for Heart of Tarrasque and raw HP.

To provide mathematical basis for these statements, I'm going to go into detail on the mechanics of Dispersion, and also introduce the concept of stat weights.

Dispersion is easily Spectre's most complicated ability from a theory perspective, and so you quite often see people playing Spectre... not necessarily incorrectly, but inefficiently. As mentioned in the Characteristics section, Dispersion reflects damage before reductions, which is a very important note. Were it to reflect after reductions, it'd be more beneficial to build raw HP. This is where Heart of Tarrasque became such a popular item, as prior to 6.85 this was the case with Spectre. People just haven't updated their builds.

So, now to explain on how to maximise your EHP. Let me introducte you to:

Stat Weights

Stat weights are a concept that applies both offensively and defensively. A stat's weight is, in simplest terms, how much DPS/durability you gain per point of that stat. Usually, they are normalised, with a constant base expressed as '1' and other factors falling in around it.

In the case of Agility heroes, the baseline stat to weigh around is their primary stat, because it gives both damage and attack speed, which are the other two stats. On a hero with 1 damage and 1 attack speed, Agility's normalised weight is 1, and damage and attack speed are both weighed at 0.5. However, getting more damage increases the weight in terms of DPS gains of attack speed, and vice versa - they scale off each other, whereas Agility remains constant. This can also be modified by hero passives. Desolate, for example, increases the weight of attack speed relative to damage, due to it applying to each attack as a separate instance. This is why it's seen as a good idea on most heroes to balance attack speed and damage.

As you can imagine, this also works defensively, but the stat weights are heavily reliant on what form of incoming damage you are taking. This is why it's important to closely consider what item you're going to purchase.
Physical damage is mitigated by a mix of armour, damage block, evasion and Health. Since there's only one source of damage block ( Vanguard) in the game, this isn't worth weighting since Abyssal should pretty much always be built on Spectre anyway. Evasion, likewise, isn't really worth weighting, as Butterfly is another excellent Spectre item for both offence and defence perspectives and none of the other evasion items really make much sense on her. Armour and Health scale off each other at various not-exact breakpoints, which I will outline now:
  • At 2k Health, it becomes more efficient to stack armour.
  • Upon reaching around 28-30 armour, it becomes more efficient to stack Health.
  • Upon reaching 3k Health, it becomes more efficient to stack armour.
  • Upon reaching 35-8 armour, it becomes more efficient to stack Health.
  • Upon reaching 3.5k Health, it becomes more efficient to stack armour.

And that's about as far as any hero can reasonably build. Conveniently, Spectre's full cadre of items have her sitting at 3.9k Health and 42 armour, so she's at the absolute peak of these EHP calculations by default. What this does affect is purchase order. It's really quite easy for Spectre to reach 2k Health, not so much 30 armour without getting...

Yep, AC. That's your go-to item against vast swathes of physical damage, and comes with a juicy 55 attack speed for Desolate and provides teamwide resistance to the currently popular negative armour strats. An Assault Cuirass after Manta Style does wonders for your survivability.

Magic damage is a similar idea, with your EHP scaling off magic resistance and Health. While there aren't commonly known breakpoints, the logical best item against huge magical damage?

Another fairly obvious one, though a much rarer purchase since magical damage is a lot less threatening than physical damage since it's a lot harder to stack enough to make Pipe worth buying over Eye of Skadi.

Speaking of Skadi, it's your go-to item after Manta Style. Providing both a large chunk of Health and some armour, it's an excellent boost to your EHP that gets you comfortably above 3k HP and into armour-stacking territory. Most games, I advocate getting this, since Heart of Tarrasque gives nothing in terms of physical mitigation (which, as said earlier, is much more common than mass magic damage, which is the other situation in which raw HP is a good idea). This isn't even saying anything of the offensive benefits - the incredible slow, and +25 Agility isn't a joke either.

Lesser-Bought Items and Potential Justifications

So I've gone over Spectre's core items and when and why to get them. Now it's time for the more situational ones.

When activated, Blade Mail gives you what essentially amounts to a supercharged Dispersion for a short duration. It has huge synergy with Spectre's defensive skillset, but doesn't really provide enough offence or defence to justify a purchase every game. If, however, you are behind and low on farm, properly leveraging a Blade Mail can be completely devastating and swing fights against enemies who suddenly can't blow you up and ignore Dispersion.

Against evasive heroes and spellcasters, consider this. It makes Spectre's single target burst particularly scary, and Dispersion is amplified by the active... on top of all illusions gaining its passive small crit. Quite an excellent item, if you need a pure damage item. The mana regen is mostly wasted, but not entirely irrelevant.

While against most lineups, Mjollnir is an inferior DPS item to Bloodthorn, against other illusion heroes - especially Phantom Lancer - this item is an excellent purchase. 80 attack speed causing teamwide Desolations during Haunt is no joke, either, even if they don't get the chain lightning.

You know, I've never bought this item on Spectre. I don't think it'd be particularly good, but if there's a passive you really, *really* need to disable... Haunt, activate, Break. The stats aren't awful, but for Gaben's sake don't get this so you can escape ganks or some ****, you have Spectral Dagger for that.

How to Counter Spectre...

Help, it's 50 minutes in, Spectre's 6-slotted and is slaughtering us. How do we stop her?
Yeah... you don't.

Countering Spectre is basically how you counter any hard carry - end the game before they come online. Poor coordination in pubs and Spectre's tendency to punish that has led her to have an extremely high winrate in pub matches, but you can deal with her. If it gets to the stage where Dispersion will kill your team before Spectre herself dies, you're pretty boned, but before then, try and take down Spectre early in fights to limit her gold and experience gain from them. Push hard, and limit map space for her to farm. Shut her down in lane (this is rather easy), force her to rotate into the jungle, and then gank that jungle.

Should all this fail, there are two very noteworthy counters to Spectre...

This guy is very, very good at dealing with our purple ghost here. Death Pulse provides constant sustain against AoE damage, while Heartstopper Aura is not flagged as actual damage and so will not be subject to Dispersion. Reaper's Scythe can take a Spectre out of a fight instantly, and keep her down for a long, long time. Furthermore, Ghost Shroud makes it awkward to get in and attack him before those other three abilities become relevant.

A well-played Terrorblade will wipe the floor with Spectre 9 times out of 10. He excels in the early push that she so despises dealing with. Additionally, Desolate is negated by the presence of one of his many illusions (and he should be sending them to stand near his allies as well), and he's one of the heroes you will not exceed in armour, rendering him considerably resistant to Dispersion. On top of that? Sunder. If he's slow, and you're not, guess what happens? >swap< and that's not damage either, so it won't be Dispersed. Finally, Reflection will copy Radiance if you have one, which is just the **** icing on the cuck cake of not wanting to play against this edgy **********er.

...and how to play with Spectre

Spectre does need some space early on, so heroes that can make that space are very valued. Once Haunt is online, it can be used to assist ganks and teamfights, but until Radiance will not have a huge impact. So, until that item is acquired, do not expect a huge level of commitment from your carry and play around that fact.

Heroes that work well with Spectre include;

The Queen of Pain is the queen of space creation. There aren't any specific interactions that make these heroes click, aside from a frankly disgusting amount of AoE damage, but as a teammate, she works well on a macro level.

Can help with securing a decent lane for Spectre, and Ice Armour provides a solid boost to her EHP.

Grave + Dispersion. If the enemy's dumb enough to fall for that, they deserve to lose, but the skill allows Spectre to become a lot ballsier with plays at all stages of the game. A nice safety net.

And who to play Spectre against

Poor Mortred, doesn't really stand a chance against her possible-future-self-if-you-hear-that-silly-theory. You don't care about Blur because of Desolate, Spectral Dagger tracks her even after she blinks away, and lategame Dispersion is going to kill not only PA, but her entire team, if she's (un?)lucky enough to get a crit.

Squishy, vulnerable supports who don't like to be in the middle of things are easy prey for Haunt.

So are squishy, vulnerable carries. Haunting on top of them equates to issuing a death sentence, as they'll quickly fall to your damage. Sniper's dreaded high ground defence is equally useless, as you can bypass completely the narrow chokepoints he excels at holding.

Split-pushers that are most often on their own live in perpetual fear of an imminent and painful (but very quick) death. Tinker's laser beam doesn't even stop the incoming damage, as Desolate once again cannot miss.


I hope my math-filled writing hasn't yet driven you away, because Spectre is quite a fun hero once you get to know her and has quite a nice set of cosmetics to play hat simulator with.

All in all, the hero is easy to play, but the real draw is the macro decisions, the theory behind what you do. Maybe it's just me. After some buffs she definitely didn't need in 7.03, we may be seeing a bit of Spectre around the place.

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