Vengeful Spirit is a real rarity in DOTA - a support agility hero. However, this unusual status also makes her extremely flexible in terms of role. She has a very aggressive (occasionally suicidal) playstyle, based around ganking and clever setups.
Most of her skills remain useful as the game goes late, providing a strong boost to allied base damage with Vengeance Aura and the BKB-busting Nether Swap.
+ Strong overall stats growth
+ Effective Stun/Nuke
+ Good auto-attack damage
+ Boosts damage for all nearby allies
+ Surprisingly effective pusher
- Low attack range
- Limited mana pool
- Stun can be dodged
- Needs the right allies to be effective
Magic Missile is a fantastic early game stun, immediately weighing in with 1.45 seconds of stun and 100 damage at level 1 - making it ideal for first blood. The damage scales up nicely, while the stun time increases only slightly with each upgrade.
It does have a slightly limited range (only slightly longer than your auto-attack), but is 95% reliable - it can be dodged by various skills such as Leap, Shadow Walk, Pounce and Blink. Be very aware of your likely opponents when deciding whether to pick Vengeful Spirit.
Ideally you want an aggressive laning partner (or partners) who can follow up your stun with slows, nukes and further stuns. While not especially expensive itself, Magic Missile uses a lot of your limited mana pool, so be careful not to waste it.
Wave of Terror is a cheap and useful spell, mainly used for pushing and scouting. Although the damage is very limited, it inflicts HP Removal so does not lose anything to magic resistance.
Even more useful is the armour reduction it causes: 20 seconds worth combines very nicely with your Vengeance Aura to really help your team inflict as much physical damage as possible. Try to hit as many enemies as possible with it at the start of a team fight.
Generally you have to be a little careful with this while laning - the damage may be minor, but the armour reduction will mean that your creeps will start pushing forward decisvely. You can even use it for long range last hitting with a little skill, although this isn't particularly your area.
Wave is very, very helpful as a scouting spell - if you want to check what's in the fog of war you can quickly send it out and avoid walking in to serious trouble. This can be a big help when warding, checking the jungle for ganks, etc.
This is the skill that really defines why you pick Vengeful Spirit - as the game progresses it can super-charge your carries, giving them a decisive advantage in their DPS. If you could buy an item that gave your entire team an extra 36% damage, that would surely be overpowered - right?
However, Vengeance Aura is not quite so straightforward. It offers a 36% increase in BASE and PRIMARY STAT damage, not all damage. So if you bought a Butterfly on her, you would get:
30 item damage + 30 item agility + (30 x 0.36 = 10.8) agility x vengeance aura = 70.8
This works the same for any of your allies - they get bonus damage from stat boosts, but NOT from straight damage items, such as a Desolator or Crystalys.
This generally makes it much more helpful to some carries than others, and it can even be worth them modifying their item builds a little to gain the maximum benefit. Another point well worth remembering is that you need to be ALIVE in order for your allies to benefit from the aura.
Nether Swap is a very odd skill - it has a huge number of possible uses, and can be both almost useless or incredibly effective. It does no damage, has no stun or slow, it simply swaps your position with another hero - interrupting their channelling, but causing no other effect.
It has the great advantage of going through magic immunity - so Rage or Black King Bar do not stop the effect. It can be blocked by Linken's Sphere however.
Lets run through some of the most common uses:
- Ganking. You can swap an enemy hero into an extremely bad situations - under a tower, into a pack of your allies, into the middle of a Mass Serpent Ward trap, etc.
- Saving an ally. You see one of your allies in big trouble, maybe your carry is chain stunned and getting the snot kicked out of him. You can swap position with them, getting them to safety.
- Saving yourself. Sometimes an enemy an enemy may have tried to cut you off from another direction while you're being chased - thanks! Swap with them and get further away. Occasionally you may have an ally with a good escape who will swap with you so both make it out - be very careful with this however.
- Initiating a Fight. This can be distinctly suicidal unless you have something to help you survive. Even if you die, the trade-off can be well worth it - give your team some "quality alone time" with the enemy carry for the cost of a squishy support.
- Kiting. If the enemy has some dangerous but mobility limited carries like Ursa, Lifestealer, etc, then you can wait at the side of the fight and swap them out, forcing them to waste valuable DPS getting back in to range.
- Being annoying. Once you have a Force Staff you be a real pain to the opposition, force your way up onto impassable terrain, and then swap an enemy. Laugh evilly and rub hands together.
Venge has 3 primary roles that she can perform: Support, Roamer and Semi-Carry.
You really don't need much equipment to be able to perform your role here - you have good stats gain and don't need anything specific to able to use your skills effectively. This means you can forgo farm and spend your gold on team and utility items.
Your early game killing power means you can be an effective roamer straight for level 1. This playstyle is potentially very effective, but also high risk. Generally you need a bit more equipment to work with (a Bottle really helps), but you can transition to a support or semi-carry role as required.
With such strong agility gain and the extra damage from Vengeance Aura, you can actually be quite an effective carry - perhaps not the ideal choice, but much more capable than almost any other support hero. Don't just farm, your team needs to be aggressive.
There are essentially two ways you can approach team fights - either as a semi-suicidal initiator, or a more standard "stay at the back" type support.
In the first case, your job is to swap a member of the enemy team who is more valuable than you, and drop them in the middle of your team. The best target for this is usually the enemy carry or semi-carry, who can be rapidly focused by your team. You need to be very careful with your choice of target however - e.g. a Faceless Void with good reflexes may be able to turn the tables.
Focus on items like Force Staff and Eul's Scepter of Divinity, as they boost your chances of surviving, or at least wasting more of the enemy team's time.
In the second case, your job is to get a good Wave of Terror across as many heroes as possible, hit somebody with Magic Missile, and generally stay alive and auto-attacking so that your team gets the benefit of your aura. Survivability items like Mekansm work well here.
If you're playing against a team who have strong channelling powers (such as Black Hole), hang around at a safe distance to interrupt using Nether Swap.
You're likely to need to provide either an Animal Courier or a set of Observer Wards to the team, so our starting budget is somewhat limited. Several Iron Branches are pretty much essential - your starting strength and intelligence both need all the help you can get them.
You actually have quite a lot of choice here - you may want to use your initial starting branches to make a Magic Wand, or save them for a Mekansm. Bracer is a good choice if the enemy team has a lot of nukers/burst damage, and can be built into Drum of Endurance. Ring of Aquila is also a nice item, offering a lot of useful effects for a low price and single inventory slot - however it doesn't do a massive amount for your survivability.
Many people choose to take Power Treads on Vengeful Spirit due to her potential damage output, and this is valid in some situations. However, we're approaching this from a team perspective so Arcane Boots not only help solve your mana problems, but also your allies. Get them unless at least two others heroes on your team have them already.
While this may seem like a fairly standard list of support hero items, I think there are a few that deserve a special mention. Force Staff is great when combined with Nether Swap, opening up all sorts of options and increasing your initiation range. It also helps with your mana problems.
Eul's Scepter of Divinity is one of my favourite items on Vengeful Spirit, it gives you more speed, another disable, and completely solves your mana issues. It works very well when initiating - you can swap and then Cyclone yourself, leaving the enemy team split between rushing in to help their carry, and leaving behind an easy to kill enemy.
Medallion of Courage is a dangerous item for you to carry - both personally, and for the opposition. It offers yet more armour reduction to max out the physical damage your team can inflict, plus a bit of mana regeneration.
Vladmir's Offering is another slightly unusual choice - Ring of Aquila makes more sense on Veng, surely? You'd only really consider this if you have melee carries on your team who will benefit from the lifesteal, but the extra 15% damage aura on top of Vengeance Aura stacks up nicely.
Aghanim's Scepter is nice on Veng, but by no means essential. Taking the cooldown on Nether Swap right down means it's nearly always available, but this is by no means a necessity.
The rest of the items mentioned here are all carry items that can boost your damage output substantially. We're most interested in armour reduction and agility increases (this means we get bonus damage from Vengeance Aura).
Vengeful Spirit isn't a particularly good babysitter as her limited attack range and aggressive early play style make her much better in a kill lane. Ideally you want to be with other heroes who have good early kill potential, and it's fine if they have unreliable stuns. Tri-lanes also work well with her.
Chaos Knight, Razor, Kunkka, Alchemist, Slark, Tiny, Slardar etc. You want a lane partner who can make the most of Magic Missile, and secure the kill.
Slardar, Dazzle, Naga Siren, Tidehunter, Shadow Fiend, Razor etc. Stacking armour reduction generally makes it even more effective.
Shadow Fiend, Beastmaster, Doom Bringer (with Alpha Wolf aura), Drow Ranger, Elder Titan, Luna, Lycanthrope, etc. Teams who combine multiple auras get increasingly high returns from the stacking effects.
Vengeful Spirit is unfortunately fairly vulnerable to most heroes due to her relatively poor movement speed and average starting strength. However, you do begin to bulk up reasonably well with more levels.
Your biggest problems to start with are gankers and burst damage heroes. The likes of Nyx Assassin and Night Stalker can eat you for breakfast if they catch you unawares.
Later on you're potentially vulnerable to strong carry heroes, especially any with good mobility who can minimise the impact of Nether Swap.
Heroes who can dodge your Magic Missile are also worth avoiding - contenders include Mirana, Slark, Queen of Pain, Storm Spirit etc.
Vengeful Spirit suits teams who specialise in physical damage, and especially carries who have strong stat gains, or favour items which boost their primary stat over just damage.
She's most suited to aggressive lanes who will get early kills, and generate assists for her. This could be with a single aggressive carry, or as part of a trilane. With some early assists she's very capable of roaming to other lanes and causing further problems for the opposition.
She's one of the least farm dependent heroes in the game, although can also benefit greatly from more equipment. Her aggressive playstyle and relative vulnerability mean that you have to play on a knife-edge, requiring good skill and judgement.
Dying is an occupational hazard when playing Vengeful Spirit, but you must ensure that even your deaths bring an overall advantage to your team.
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