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Spectre is always at the top of win rate charts for pub games and her prowess doesn’t diminish even in higher level matchmaking. However any discussion of the hero soon devolves into how she is virtually untouched in the professional scene and how she might be overrated, easily countered or is an inconsistent pick.
Stats don’t lie and statistics for Spectre tells how not only is she one of the strongest carries in the game right now, but is possibly the strongest hero in the pub environment. She wins more than 60% of her games in Divine+ pubs and is the most successful hero in the game in the last month.
There are many “ifs” and “buts”, however it is futile to argue against this hero: Spectre is a consistent pick, she is not overrated and while she can be countered, the same can be said about every single other hero in the game. Should you pick Spectre? Absolutely. How do you play Spectre effectively? The answer is a little bit longer.
There’s always been a split between two distinct Spectre builds: one revolving around Radiance and one revolving around early fights and stats. Both of these builds are viable in the current patch, with the latter no longer completely overshadowed by the former after the changes in 7.14.
Radiance build is the default build for Spectre for a reason. She benefits from the Radiance aura perhaps the most out of all heroes in the game, giving her global presence and counter-initiation potential along with massive amount of spreaded damage.
The typical progression in this build involves Ring of Aquila and Power Treads for early tankiness, situationally followed by either Vanguard, Drum of Endurance, Blade Mail or even Urn of Shadows. Though the last option is no longer as common, since the changes to the stats Urn provides.
This Spectre build wants to complete Radiance as early as 20 minutes, with 3-5 minutes added if the situational items are purchased.
The reason this subsection is named “Slow and Steady” is because this build doesn’t maximize the hero’s effectiveness in killing the enemy during teamfights. The spread damage is massive, but it doesn’t burst down a single target, but rather makes the whole enemy team lose their HP slowly.
It is Steady, because it maximizes farming efficiency of the hero. Without access to any meaningful AoE or waveclear, Spectre without Radiance farms excruciatingly slow. Given the downtime between ultimates, period when Spectre really doesn’t want to fight, it allows the hero to progress through her items and slowly but surely guarantee herself the dominant position in the late game.
Spectre is not the hardest carry in the game when it is her 20k net worth vs. 20k net worth of the enemy carry. She is among the strongest carries in the game when it is her 40k vs. 40k of the opponent.
By building towards late game, slowly purchasing all the most slot-efficient items Dota offers, she can almost guarantee herself teamfight victories and even though winning a fight doesn’t always means winning the war, it certainly helps.
The other build, slowly gaining momentum in both Pubs and Pro scene is the one revolving around early Phase Boots into Yasha, Manta Style and Diffusal Blade. Sometimes it is even complemented with Mask of Madness.
Yasha and Diffusal Blade are the two most cost-efficient DPS items for Agility Cores. They increase both their Attack Speed and Attack Damage, while Phase Boots ensure the extra movement speed to prevent kiting and loss of damage associated with it.
This type of Spectre tries to carefully participate in as many engagements as possible, getting last hits on kills and earning her gold through ganks and skirmishes. Whereas the Radiance Spectre is often the prey, stalked by the enemy team whenever her ultimate is on cooldown, this type of Spectre isn’t as reliant on Haunt and is much stronger when it comes to pick offs, since she doesn’t need to commit her ultimate.
Unlike Radiance Spectre, this build also goes for the Desolate damage talent at level 10. It doesn’t increase Desolate damage by much, but skipping Radiance means earlier Manta Style and since all illusions benefit fully from Desolate, the potential effect is 45-60 extra pure damage on each attack.
So far this build might sound superior to the Radiance Spectre and in certain scenarios it is, however this Spectre can’t farm at all. Despite having decent agility from the items, hence decent attack speed and damage, clearing neutral camps becomes a very inefficient, but often the only way for the hero to get gold.
You can’t show in lane alone, since it will immediately prompt a gank and this Spectre really doesn’t want to be initiated on. You also can’t clear stacks efficiently, so the only option for you becomes finding solo enemy heroes, preferably alongside one or two of your teammates, and killing them for their bounty.
It is also worth noting that this Spectre is often a desperate measure, “Hail Mary”-type of commitment. We’ve all been in a situation where it is 25+ minutes into the game and you just barely have enough gold for Sacred Relic. You can try to finish your Radiance by 28-30 and then slowly attempt to crawl back into the game, or you can right-click purchase Diffusal Blade and attempt to catch the enemy carry off-guard, allowing comeback gold mechanic to do its job.
One other thing worth noting is that “Fast and Furious” Spectre also generally goes for highly specific items that work best against core matchup she is presented with. Unlike Radiance Spectre, who often simply tanks up and gets as many stats as possible to have the ultimate teamfight presence, this Spectre wants to be able to kill the enemy hard carry as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Spectre hasn’t been considered overpowered in the last couple of years. There weren’t constant Reddit threads about how broken she is or how it is annoying to see her win every game she’s in. In fact, community would complain about Slark (50% win rate) or Tinker (49% win rate), but would mostly dismiss Spectre and all discussion about this hero would end with “she’s not played by the pros so she must be bad”.
The reality is, no matter how high your MMR is, your team coordination in a pub game will be a far cry from what good professional teams have. Every team decision will have a delay and even when every single member of a pub team knows his job and agrees to play as a team, you would still take at least a minute to achieve the same goal as a pro team would do in 45 seconds.
These 15 seconds every minute is more than enough breathing room for a Spectre player. She will be ganked, but she will be ganked later and will have a chance to survive. The enemy team will pressure her towers, but they will do it later and it will give her the chance to come online. Ultimately, she is a lot more likely to get to the later stages of the game and at this point her impact from pressing a single button would probably be comparable to the impact of half the enemy team.