Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Let's Play (Part 1) - Spectre


Every week or two I generally try to play a new hero to discover what it’s like playing it, and in this series of blogs I will make a post on my experiences with it. I generally play in the High / Very High skill bracket.

The Ephemeral Haunt Spectre set created by Don Don


The Spectre, also known as Mercurial, is based off the Warden hero in Warcraft 3 that hunted down Illidan Stormrage. The Wardens are jailors, assassins and bounty hunters, fierce combatants employing a variety of supernatural abilities to hunt their prey.

Spectre is an unpopular hero at present, as she is requires a lot of farm to become useful. She has received steady buffs over time (Desolate damage increase, Haunt persisting after Reality) to remedy this. She has a consistently high winrate according to DOTABUFF (currently 13th highest winrate out of 101 heroes) yet a consistently low usage statistic (currently 76th out of 101 heroes) and so gets my vote for being a "secret overpowered' hero.


Very safe and reliable initiation into combat – Haunt allows her to enter combat perfectly positioned from anywhere in the map. This is the lever upon which the entire strength of the Spectre turns - the ability to farm continuously, yet instantly join teamfights and be positioned perfectly whenever and wherever it happens.

Ability to leverage HP much better than other carries, becoming very difficult to kill lategame. (Most other carries need to build DPS items at the expense of survivability)

Disrupts enemy supports, initiators and ranged dps during teamfights, reducing enemy combat effectiveness.

Vision afforded by Haunt is a huge advantage in ganks and teamfights.


Has a weak laning phase, and is very item dependant. If her farm gets shut down early, she can be a liability to her team later on.

Primarily designed to pick off back line supports - she has difficulty holding her own in duels against some other stronger carries.


One point is taken early for the 10% damage reduction but it’s usually maxed last. Each point after the first only gives 4% additional reduction, which isn’t useful early on.

At early levels, even a point in stats (2 strength = 38HP) gives you more survivability than a 4% damage reduction when you typically have about 700HP (4% is 28HP).

At max rank, the 22% damage reduction is roughly equal to 7 points in armor against physical damage, and better than a Cloak (15%) against magic damage.

The damage reflect becomes relevant later when you get a Heart of Tarrasque. You will typically have about 3000HP so killing you will reflect 660 pure damage in a close AOE, reducing to half that (330) by a range of 650. Reflecting 660 pure damage to a melee target is roughly equal to a max rank Finger of Death, which is a significant amount of unavoidable damage.


This ability is most useful for its psychological effect in teamfights when used as an initiation tool.

Haunt instantly reveals all the enemies on the map, giving your team the information they need to make a decision whether to fight or retreat. Say your team is going to dive 2 enemies at their tower: by casting Haunt, you can reveal the location of the other 3 enemy heroes - your team can now see if they're waiting just behind the tower ready to ambush you, or if they're out of position halfway across the map. This effectively swings the outcome of teamfights in your favour even if you never leave your farming position, and it can be done every 2 minutes.

There are negative psychological effect on the enemy as well. They will feel exposed and vulnerable knowing that your team knows their exact position, and that if they ever fall into a position of weakness the real Spectre can use Reality and kill them outright.  The enemy’s first instinct is to fall back to avoid the Desolate damage, and it can cause them to abandon a fight they could have won.

It also cripples the enemy's initiation ability - Haunt damage disables Blink Daggers, preventing initiators from positioning themselves properly in the fight.

It forces enemies to move - they can't stand still to cast or attack, because the Haunt illusion damage really hurts, especially once Spectre’s core is finished - each Haunt illusion will do over 1000 damage (before reductions) if the victim stands still. This can cripple the DPS of ranged heroes like Drow or Sniper, and punish heroes with channeling ultimates like Witch Doctor or Crystal Maiden.

Timing is crucial. You want to use Haunt before the enemy initiates on your team with their Blink Dagger - if their Magnus has already jumped into the fight and used Reverse Polarity, you're too late. You want to have Haunt go off first to disable his dagger. Yet if you use Haunt too early, it might be wasted entirely, as their team will fall back immediately and take very little damage, and you won’t have Haunt ready when they re-engage.


Spectre can be a good complement to AOE initiator heroes that force the enemy to spread out – heroes like Magnus, Faceless Void, Enigma, Tidehunter, Treant Protector, Dark Seer, etc. When the enemy is spread out, they become vulnerable to Desolate and Haunt initiations. The chances are better your team will be able to catch one enemy on the edge of their team, then you Haunt to disable their initiator's Blink Dagger and delay their entry into the fight.

Spectre can counter specific enemy heroes like Templar Assassin. Dispersion and Radiance burn her Refraction charges, and generally cripples her playstyle of using Meld and Blink Dagger for mobility. Due to her easy positioning with Haunt, Spectre can also counter fragile but high damage heroes like Drow or Sniper which rely on positioning themselves in the back out of harms way.


Spectre does poorly in fights with strength based duellers like Skeleton King, Ursa Warrior, Naix, etc. Her Dispersion is negated by lifesteal and she doesn't have enough burst damage to end the fight quickly. She has to use her asymmetric advantage to win these matchups (having better farm, and more able to disrupt their supports and initiators).

Item build

Radiance and Diffusal are her DPS items of choice, as they both work in conjunction with Haunt.

Spectre traditionally picks up Heart of Tarrasque after the first DPS item, in order to benefit from the survivability and increased Dispersion damage. There is an alternate build where the Spectre builds a Refresher instead of a Heart, which can also be very effective, however it means she can only participate in teamfights every 160 seconds. The second Haunt is devastating, because all the creeps will have been cleared by the Radiance burn of the first Haunt, and all the enemy hero escape mechanisms will be on cooldown - allowing the Haunt illusions to strike for maximum damage. I have scored one of my few Rampages as a Spectre with the Refresher build.

Hand of Midas is a debated pickup. It seems worth it if you're going for Radiance first - a "typical" safe lane farm will give you 300gpm in the early game, netting you a Midas by 8 minutes, and the roughly 100gpm boost it provides will get you your Radiance by 23 minutes. If you never bought Midas and saved directly for the Radiance you would have gotten it about 1 minute earlier. I particularly like it because it's a slightly safer option as it gives reliable gold, and enables jungling so you're not so reliant on laning.

Her last item slot is normally a Manta Style, as her extra two illusions also benefit from Desolate, and even the Haunt illusions benefit from the extra movespeed.

In games where you are starved for farm by an aggressive enemy lineup, picking up an early Vanguard and Orb of Venom can allow you to come online much earlier.

Currently in DOTA2, Tranquil Boots are bugged on all illusions (including her Haunt illusions) where they start off in a “broken” state and only provide 25ms. While stating with Tranquil Boots is still common, it is recommended that you disassemble them into Power Treads after you get your HP regen item (Heart, or the Ring of Health in Refresher).