While Dota 2 definitely revolves around its pool of 115 heroes, its collection of 155 purchasable items is just as important to learn and get used to. After all, a lot of heroes get enhanced strength and power from a select few items, while some heroes are nothing at all without their core equipment.
In fact, items are a large part of why each hero’s “net worth”—their total value in terms of both items and gold in hand—is added up and used as a measure of how far ahead one team is compared to the other. When watching professional Dota 2 games, you will often hear the shoutcasters looking at the net worth graph in order to help them tell the story of the game, and how the team with the net worth deficit can hope to mount a comeback.
Not all items are created equally, of course. Some items are designed to be good only in the hands of certain heroes, and borderline useless on some others. Knowing the difference between what items are useful to your chosen character and what would otherwise be a total waste of money is crucial to winning Dota 2 games—and is a big part of the decision-making that makes Dota 2 so complex.
Thankfully, IceFrog and Valve have gone out of their way to help guide new players somewhat with regards to which items belong on which heroes, by categorizing each item under a label. For example, items that would benefit support heroes are aptly labeled “Support” items. On the other hand, items that would better suit a hard carry that needs to deal physical damage in the late game are placed under the label “Weapons”.
Of course, just because an item is placed in a category that goes well with a certain hero type, doesn’t mean that every item in that category is immediately a good fit for all heroes of that type. It still boils down to each hero’s design and how well their kit synergizes with certain items. The set of specific pieces of equipment that form a hero’s optimal inventory, therefore, is called the “item build”.
Dota 2 Item Build
As mentioned above, a hero’s item build largely depends on their design, attributes, natural strengths and weaknesses, and set of unique abilities. For the most part, a hero’s item build will seek to enhance their strengths, augmenting their given abilities further or adding a certain mechanic that would make their abilities extremely devastating. A good example of this is Ember Spirit, whose Sleight of Fist ability is made incredibly powerful by the cleave mechanic of Battle Fury.
Just as often, though, a hero’s item build also looks to shore up any glaring weaknesses. Melee hard carries in particular come to mind in this regard, due to their natural tendency to get kited around with slows, stuns, and disables. To address this weakness, carries can purchase protective items such as Black King Bar, Linken’s Sphere, and even Aeon Disk. These items allow them to rampage through the enemy team unimpeded, for the most part.
It is also worth noting that, more often than not, heroes should gradually go through their item builds rather than save a huge pile of gold in the early game to skip ahead to their endgame equipment. This is highly recommended, due to the fact that not getting any other items in between that provide utility or otherwise help your hero survive (or farm faster, in the case of carries and other core positions) means that your hero is extremely vulnerable to gank attempts.
Remember that gold loss is a thing in Dota 2, unlike in competing titles such as League of Legends. The more your hero dies, the less gold it will have overall, which will delay your item progression quite heavily. This will, eventually, cause you and your team to fall behind significantly, making victory a much more difficult thing to attain.
For the most part, beginners can consult in-game guides for the most common, cookie cutter item builds for each hero. The in-game guides can be accessed through the shop window, which includes an area where you can select the most popular guides. We recommend turning to Michael “Torte de Lini” Cohen’s item guides, which are updated every patch by the man himself. Though they may not have the most optimal builds for every situation, they are a good place to start nonetheless.
* FirstBlood® is NOT AFFILIATED, AUTHORIZED, LICENSED OR ENDORSED by Dota™, Dota 2™, Steam™, Dota 2™, the Dota logo® and Steam™ are trademarks of Valve Corporation.