I'm Sp12 -- I write guides here and can be found streaming at http://www.hashd.tv/sp12; if you have any questions/comments feel free to post at either. I'm regularly in the top 10 pages in the watch tab -- maybe you've seen my play.
This is a collection of playstyles/builds for Spectre. Spectre is not only my most played but also my most successful hero, and these are some alternative builds to the largely outdated Vanguard --> Phase Boots --> Radiance. Each one will get it's own minisection for you to check out, so consider this an anti-alt-tab guide. They're sourced from a variety of scenes and forums, and they're all well tested. They're also for my benefit as well so I have an external collection of builds.
Spectre can be one of the hardest carries in the game, but not all of these guides will build her as such. All the builds start with similar items to safely get you to phase+RoH to secure your laning stage. I pick up an early level of dispersion on all builds since level one dagger is pitiful as a nuke and dispersion will always be useful in lane, but there's certainly an argument for dagger at level one to avoid a first blood attempt. Since most builds don't have a timing window to hit like we would have with Radiance, if your early laning phase is going well Hand of Midas is good to start stockpiling reliable gold for buyback, plus it accelerates your level gain as Spectre is deceivingly level dependent. It also adds attack speed which helps with farming and synergizes with desolate. Midas is your call.
Spectre is tanky, strong teamfighter with a global presence and amazing late game. She has a very strong single target initiation spell in the form of Spectral Dagger, which also helps secures early ganks every time haunt is off cooldown. Haunt lets her destroy teams in the lategame with her global presence, and is a large part of her amazing hero damage stats. She has really poor stat gain compared to other carries, with a fun skillset to compensate. She is not an early tank, but can come online before several other carries and carry hard late game.
Note that for time calculations these guides assume around ~350 gold per minute. Early less is expected and later more, but this will help you identify the time constraints you're under for certain builds without having to run them multiple times.
Another important note is that skill and item build are not a one-size deal. If you're getting free farm in lane and your team is ganking heavily maybe early desolate levels should take priority; maybe you need stats early against a trilane. There isn't a way for me to offer alternative skill builds, but know that you can be successful with many different ones.
I'm not going to list out skills/whatnot, there's a lot of excellent videos and replays of how to play Spectre. An easy way to get better is to watch replays on player perspective -- filter recent games for Spectre and very high skill level. I will cover some of the points I don't see people execute consistently, even at higher levels.
Go look at replays you. It's almost impossible to share all the nuances via text.
Spectre is a hard carry, but really isn't quite as weak in lane as a lot of people think. Your base movespeed/armor/damage are pretty mediocre, as is your level 1 contribution; however, both of your passives along with your ult scale incredibly with items.
You really do need to play cautiously in lane until and even after you have tranquils+poor man's shield. Desolate can be pretty strong if they try to dive you at tower/side shop/in jungle, but otherwise trading hits is typically unfavorable. You will need support in almost any matchup. Remember your escape mechanisms and don't die.
Once you have haunt keep your eye out for ganks/dives where you can contribute via haunt/reality/dagger. Even if you don't reality in the vision, illusion to tank, and damage from haunt can be significant. If a gank is favorable you can haunt in for it, but make sure it's worth the time out of lane -- haunting in for a kill on their level 3 Crystal Maiden is probably not worth it over just letting your team get it with your haunt illusion there to put you in the assist gold pot, but a kill on their carry is pretty huge. Spectre has serious mana issues, so try to be there for arcane boot activations and don't be freaked about going back to base occasionally, especially if haunt is coming off cooldown and you know you'll want to use it. Huanting out of base will give you a few seconds of fountain buff to heal/regen mana after you reality, making your haunt and followup dagger effectively "free" in terms of mana. Keep farming, though the laning phase will typically collapse at this point so you'll have to jungle or split push -- keep your eye on the minimap and watch for missing heroes. That probably means a gank.
Once you have a significant item start playing as per the playstyle description for that build. Make sure you're playing as a carry and farming when nothing is going on. Abuse haunt for split pushing and farming, it's one of your few ways of outfarming other heroes. If haunt is not up your team should avoid forcing fights. During fights you should probably reality in on the target that is either squishiest or most out of position. Remember that reality has a slight cast animation so don't wait too long to reality in to crucial fights. Also remember that if you have aegis/buyback save haunt for your second life. Itemize towards what the enemy has, though the order given here is typically going to work fine.
This is a Skadi-Manta build that is the evolution of the 2010 era drums build. A lot of factors (desolate buff, Skadi buff, Skadi becoming an accepted item on Spectre, more emphasis on early game) have made this the go to build for high level play. It offers great tank, chase, some DPS (~400 with manta alone), with a crazy annoyance factor.
Manta is a ridiculous item on Spectre giving her stats for her illusions, bulk, movespeed, and an amazing active that literally melts isolated heroes.
Aim to finish your manta by 25 minutes, though 30 is OK as well. You now blow up lone targets and have all the utility from manta stats and illusions. Much like a void, play based on your ultimate CD. Force fights with haunt up, play more passively and farm when it's down.
A Note on Skadi
Skadi offers over 700 HP, solves your mana issues, while adding enough DPS/armor/annoyance to be a real alternative to heart. In fact, once you have over ~1700 HP Skadi ends up giving more EHP than Heart against physical, and it only scales from there. If you can justify a diffusal+vanguard build Skadi costs the same and just offers more in all areas -- chase, DPS, durability, while also solving your mana issues and not blocking lifesteal from your orb slot. Plus Spectre has real issues with BKB carries, which Skadi helps solve.
There's two lines of thought from here -- build illusions or build yourself. For illusions grab stat heavy items like butterfly, halberd, heart, satanic. For yourself build non-illusion helping items like Mjollnir, AC, Basher, or satanic. I think the best is some combination, since even if you go illusion heavy you can use basher and satanic well.
For you you go Skadi+Bfly and become an icnredibly disruptive teamfighter in the front lines, blowing up lone heroes and pushing down their base.
Alternatively, you can go diffusal 2+heart and maximize your teamfight potential.
Regardless, you'll want a refresher after you have some damage and one HP item in order to seal your lategame.
Blademail if you don't have the farm for a damage item or have the chance to shut down a carry that delays BKB. Pipe gives you lots of magical EHP and a great teamfight active. Halberd gives some HP/evasion/damage/chase with a great active.
This build is the modern take on the radiance build, now very strong with the 6.79 gold changes. One of the big issues with this (and all rad builds) is deciding whether or not you can complete it on time, as well as if you need to go vit. booster before relic or not.
The Phase, RoH, and maybe a potential drum allow you to be very useful before 10 (or 13) minutes where a vanguard/phase/rad spec would be contributing almost nothing, though from 10-18 minutes you should focus on finishing your Radiance, popping in via haunt as needed. You need to finish your radiance. Play safe and don't die.
Radiance comes online at ~8.5K gold in this build (or earlier!), or about the same time as a Vanguard/ Radiance. You have great farming and some teamfight with the radiance burn, so get your next items up fast. I'm partial to a casual vitality booster to let you reality in on some riskier dives, then diffusal 2, then refresher. With diffusal, radiance, and refresher the enemy team has to play exceptionally and time their fights perfectly in order to stay in the game.
Mjollnir offers very strong pushing/farming power roughly equivalent to radiance, along with comparable teamfight damage via lightning procs with the benefit of the active to increase your AoE DPS when targeted. Not much less expensive than the Radiance build, but easier to build, better in some situations, and certainly more fun. The IAS opens you up to using on-hit modifiers like basher well, which also help you stick to your target. The DPS increase makes lifesteal valuable as well, even preferable to heart for durability. Hand of Midas is especially good on this build to synergize with chain lightning procs.
On the other hand, this offers nothing for illusions, which makes it more difficult to recommend now that refresher is such an essential part of Spectre's lategame.
Again, early Phase+RoH offer you lots of very cost efficient movespeed and regen. This build does not focus on teamfighting early, but you do come online with just Maelstrom and of course you're always there with Haunt + dagger. I like to prioritize desolate since the attack speed makes you work a bit like a bash hero, and 65 pure damage hurts early.
You have a lot of options after Mjollnir. I tend to like Skull Basher+blademail+ Satanic, but I'm a freak and most people would tell you to go heart or skadi then basher. If you know you want to build Halberd or early BKB, you can get an ogre axe in place of the vitality booster. If you want Skadi grab a point booster in place of a vitality booster.
The build up to Mjollnir costs ~7.5K (~22 minutes), but has a much nicer buildup than Radiance and saves the Vitality Booster/ Point Booster/ Ogre Club for your heart/Atos/Skadi/Halberd/BKB which can be up shortly after. Mjollnir is easy to use -- place the active on yourself during teamfights, supports die if you get clicked on. Rod of Atos is an interesting option for your early vitality booster, giving you some extra free durability and solving your mana issues, as well as giving you a gigantic range slow. I like to think of it as a diffusal alternative without charges and tank/mana rather than DPS (since Mjollnir gives lots of DPS and, again, doesn't block you from a lifesteal orb). Lots of options here.
This build is crazy fun and also crazy dangerous. It either pays off very hard with a huge snowball or leaves you with moderately irrelevant items, deaths, and a feeling of "could have gone radiance". It's not really as all in as it sounds as if it doesn't pay off you have very solid jungling ability to make a turnaround. It also lets your team apply very strong early Roshan and teamfight pressure.
It looks like a lot of items, but all the way thru to MoM, Phase, and your extension of choice is like 5.5K, and you can easily apply ~8-12 minute Roshan pressure (especially as dire) with lifesteal and an off-cooldown haunt.
This build is much more powerful if a support can pick up a Medallion of Courage/Vlads as you can take Roshan very quickly.
This build is very ganking oriented -- but, much like an exort invoker, you don't have to be roaming all the time to get kills as you have haunt. Do not go this build against teams with many hard disables/burst damage. Depending on how you roam a bottle can be an OK pickup. BKB is a must for this build after your core, while the IAS allows you to use a basher/desolate to transition into a carrying mode as you farm/jungle/teamfight quickly as well.
Get 1-2 mid-game items, then a Manta. Own people with your punches.
Originally a terrorblade build I faced in a clanmatch, I recently saw this exact build on a Naga Siren. This build focuses on a weird item for an agility carry -- Armlet of Mordiggian. It actually makes use of three of the most cost efficient items in the game (armlet, Vlad's, drums) to give you a strong midgame presence without the requirement of an early ganking phase of the all-in. Armlet/drums have solid synergy with spectre. The extra 500 health works well with dispersion, and her built-in illusions benefit from armlet health and drum aura -- activate your armlet before you haunt! The skillbuild tries to time having good levels in dispersion/desolate to synergize with your armlet timing.
Phase+HoIW give you a solid chance of laning well, while the fast armlet makes you very tanky early. A fast vlads, drums, blademail, or yasha gives you a really strong midgame whiel still leaving you ways to transition lategame. I really like picking up an early Orb of Venom here.
Manta is the obvious transition out of this, as you'll hopefully be winning teamfights with your armlet+1 midgame item haunt illusions and incredible EHP. Manta gives you more illusions to benefit from your items while also stacking movespeed and stats for them/you. Heart becomes an awesome endgame item as it lets you leave Armlet on all the time. Basher and diffusal are good extensions, while BKB always remains pertinent against teams with many disables.
That's a lot of builds, and there's always the cookie-cutter build to consider. You have two big concerns:
What role does my team need me to fulfill? and
What does the enemy team have?
If your team needs you to be your tank you should go for a Radiance/Mjollnir+Heart/Skadi build.If you have another obvious radiance carrier (probably shouldn't, but still), Manta first is very very strong. If you need a ganker or want to focus your power early/mid game either the all-in or armlet build give you very strong early game. If they're squishy with lots of supports radiance still makes lots of sense, especially with refresher.
I can't give you a list of every scenario and every pick, so here's an easy pro/con table for the builds to help you choose.
Good early contribution
Well above vanguard for survivability, while saving out the vitality booster
Early yasha and maxed desolate gives you real kill potential
Very open extensions
Easy timing window with Manta
Not as team oriented as the Armlet spec build
Open extensions require some thought
Good early contribution
On par (above?) with Vanguard for survivability, while saving out the vitality booster
Radiance forces them to focus you
Radiance offers good farming/pushing power
Diffusal+Refresher end the game
Squishy without another item
Costly initial buildup, forces you to play conservatively near 3800 gold
Little attack speed without an IAS item
Early damage output
Annoying split push
Comes partially online fast
Very decent farming ability
Good synergy with both desolate and dispersion
Transitions very well into basher/diffusal builds
Only moderate teamfight presence if ignored until BKB
Doesn't benefit illusions
No early HP, requiring early HP item (vitality booster, point booster, or ogre axe)
Early lifesteal, armor, and DPS
Fantastic early gank
Early teamfight with level 4 desolate and Vlad's aura is reasonable
Super strong jungling ability
No 'that's it' item finished that gives you a clear advantage/timing window
Leaves you open to getting disabled then either focused down or ignored until last in teamfights, relegating you to a cleanup/chasing role
MoM is a very double edge sword, requiring you to be actively hitting targets to make back the damage taken
BKB needed very fast
Easy to stop if you don't get kills and can't spend time jungling
Early HP and stats
Good teamfight auras
Comes partially online fast
Benefits illusions well
Great transition into diffusal/manta
No huge teamfight presence save auras
Not that good at farming or pushing
Armlet requires attention to turn off/on
Here's a list with some quick analysis of the major items you can buy for Spectre.
Blame your team.
Kidding, look at the game and figure out why. You can analyze your team's actions but your actions are probably the most important since you learning form your mistakes means you get better. Did you lose your lane early? Did you reality in on an unrealistic solo kill? Did your team get 5-man ravaged repeatedly? Figure out why you lost and get better -- you can access replays through your game history.
So, there's some fun builds. Try them out. I know they may seem out there -- try them. If you have any questions/comments/criticisms feel free to post them. At the very least I'd like a comment why if you feel like downvoting :P. If you're feeling adventurous you can mix and match -- maybe you want to build maelstrom but then grab Skadi before finishing Mjollnir? Or maybe dual lifesteal is your thing with radiance? If you feel it was worth the read a vote up helps get builds seen more, and I certainly would love to see some more Spectre play.
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