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I am DrfluffyMD
, a devoted Spectre spammer with 76\% winrate over 33 ranked matches last month
(that’s roughly 425 MMR gained
!) and 1200 overall Spectre games played. My highest MMR ever achieved was 5.2k at the height of the last spectre patch when Badman reigned, dropped to 3.8k after I stopped playing Spectre and calibrated at Legend 5, and now back to 5k / Divine 2. Subscribe to This comprehensive and updated Spectre guide
on steam! It weigh in at 6944 words and is twice as long as a scientific manuscript I’ve recently submitted based on a multi-hospital clinical trial on cancer research. This is an update with added formatting, TL:DR as well as skills and item section.
Table of Contents
TL: DR: Spectre has low skill floor and high skill ceiling, and is a great hero to spam if you like to hit a certain MMR goal. It will get people with even medicore mechanical skill but good game sense to Divine. Spectre is the worst laner in all of Dota but the strongest hard carry. The key to win a Spectre game is not to utterly lose her lane. Her laning strength (ha!) comes from her dagger slow as well as mobility/survivability. Her laning challenge comes from the fact that she auto-lose any lane she goes to, placing burden on teammates. She can have a strong lane by winning the war of attrition against offlaners. She can be played in the offlane with lich well. She is strong in early mid game with haunt and urn, weak in mid game, and the strongest in late game after two core items.Dagger should be maxed first, then desolate, then dispersion. Appropriate talents are almost always +15 desolate damage, +8 stats, +500 HP and increased dispersion.Early items are almost always Ring of Aquila plus/minus Urn, Power treads, Blademail into Radiance or Manta, then heart and Abyssal blade. End game items include refresh orb and Butterfly.
- Why Play Spectre
- Characteristics of a Good Spectre Player
- Drafting the Spectre
- Dual laning
- What if my lane is utterly lost?
- Offlaning the Spectre?
- Mid Game
- Late Game
- Carry one versus one
- Useful Tips and Peals
1. Why Play Spectre Spectre is a GREAT hero to learn and grow with Dota.
I've been playing spectre for the past 5 years and I still learn something new every day! She is a great hero for beginners as she rewards patience and careful play and punishes enemy hubris and careless positioning. She is somewhat mechanically demanding than other heroes to achieve a comparable MMR with, yet more demanding on cognitive skills/strategies to play well. She is an "old man's" hero in my opinion as playing her well is often more mental than reflex.Spectre is the quintessential Dota hard carry
. She is THE weakest laner in all of DOTA but is the strongest late game carry. In 7.15, it outcarries ALL other heroes under normal game conditions, 1v1 or team fight. She has a very low skill floor as position 1 play with spectre is mechanically easier than the other role, yet has a vast skill ceiling that extends beyond Divine 5. A spectre player can be impactful from level 6 to 3 hours in.And then...there is THE RUSH
. The feeling of overcoming incredible odds and in. The feeling of standing tall and achieve victory, from a humble beginning. The feeling of peace and comfort even with 10k gold deficit, knowing that your victory is just right around the corner. A spectre game is never lost as long as the player chose not to give up. If you are choosing a hero to spam, look no further than Spectre.
2. Characteristics of a Good Spectre Player
A great spectre player must be a great carry player. The MOST important thing when playing spectre is a healthy state of mind that can be summed up by ONE word: RESILIENCE
. Spectre players are masochists, because their hero is so weak early game, and often misunderstood. They will be berated early game. They will be dived upon, they will be called out by their enemy for being weak. Spectre is such a weak laner, that even the very best players can expect to lose laning stage for their team roughly 50% of the time. A won lane definitively translate into won game. In fact, if you won lane as a spectre but lost the game, YOU have thrown.A good Spectre player will never give up.
She will continue to play to her best until the throne is down. She will not sell items, walk down mid, or abandon. She will not be tempted to buyback unnecessarily or rage in all chat because early game disadvantage.A good spectre player is an appreciative, positive pla
yer. Spectre is NOTHING with her supports and her utility heroes. They will be thankful for each pull, each tp their supports provide early game, and they will be humble for each haunt used to save their support once they have grown into the unstoppable force they deserve to be.Lastly, a good spectre player is a cerebral player. They may be older, or just not the twitchiest player, but they plan each and every step, and put themselves first. While one must be self-less in teamwork, a spectre player MUST be greedy in game play. Take all the farm you can take. Take all the kills you can take. Spectre is one of the MOST effective hero in translating gold to useful hero damage. Your theme song is Frank Sinatra’s “My w
ay”.Mechanically, a beginner spectre player should be familiar with the following techniques
- Last hitting: Player should be able to last hit every single creep and deny some of the creeps in the last hit trainer
- Familiarity with terrain: Player should be able to abuse elevation and cliffs with spectral dagger.
- Minimap usage: Player should check the minimap at least once every 10 seconds, more frequently if teams are about to fight.
- Spell usage: appropriate use of dagger to farm.
- Usage of quick-buy: Buy components if you are certainly to die to use up unreliable gold.
Mechanically, an advanced spectre player should be familiar with the following techniques
- Dodging spells with unobstructed movement: each 300 damage spell dodged is equivalent to a 2000 to 3000 gold HP item, not to mention to break their stun.
- Familiarity with the limitation of a spectral-chase: spectre can chase harder than many heroes, but understanding how far you can chase without being out of position is vital. Comes with experience.
- Manta style based micro control: using manta style to farm as well as using manta to dodge spells. Remember you can assign control groups to your manta-illusions by control plus a numerical key of your choice. I recommend a group for spectre + illusions, a group for spectre herself, and a group for just her illusions.
- Juke spots and vision abuse: learn those spots to escape ganks while farming.
- Predict safe farming location by awareness of enemy locations.
- DO NOT DIE WITHOUT BUYBACK LATE GAME: It's vital to play conservatively when you don't know where the enemies are. Don't try to solo push if you have no idea where they are. Don't get caught by smoke.
- Haunt to escape ganks.
3. Drafting the Spectre
Laning is the hardest part of playing spectre. In a way, she's the hardest of all heroes to play from level 1 to 6 and the easiest of all heroes to play at level 25 (Just press R)
. Before going into the laning phase, there is the drafting phase.First, you must quickly figure out who is playing carry. I always roll, but I let my teammates know about my history with spectre (dotabuff profile and a high win rate helps). Spectre CAN BE played in the offlane but require specific setup and everyone must be on board with that. If people are tilted by spectre carry or offlane, don't pick her.Announce your intention early about your pick. If your support is kind enough to ask for pick suggestions, support with strong spell damage spam and ability to push lane is useful in a dual lane. Examples include
- Shadow Shaman
- Skywraith mage
In the safe lane, spectre maybe dual-laned or tri-laned. I personally prefer a dual lane in pubs. Trilanes are seen in higher bracket and pro games and can be very useful to secure spectre's farm. In my opinion however, a pub trilane can often create a "lose all lane" scenario if enemy counter with another trilane. Almost other trilanes are stronger than spectre based trilane. If they pick good laners vs. your other lanes that are now forced to solo, you can easily lose all lanes.Spectre should be picked as 4th or 5th unless the metagame picks up and she becomes second or third pick. As of mid-May 2018, Spectre is just "sleeper OP" and does not need to be picked early. In the current patch, spectre should be picked after enemy offlane pick is revealed.
4. Dual laning
I prefer dual lane. As mentioned above, support with strong damage spam and ability to push lane is useful. As I mentioned above, picking trilane for a spectre create a draft disadvantage. A strong spectre player, through the virtue of their strong laning skill, survive, and even thrive in a dual lane. This is INCREDIBLY powerful, because ANY lane with a spectre in it that is not UTTERLY lost is a won lane. Lane involving even trade, even against enemy carries, is a won lane. For example, say you are an offlane spectre with lich. You did not die at all, got your levels and 60% of safelaner last hits while the enemy gyrocopter free farmed. I can tell you right now that you have utterly won this lane.As the weakest laner of all DOTA, Spectre does not have great follow up damage for early kills. She does, however, have a great slow/utility spell in the form of dagger. Coupled with strong damage from support, spectre can potentially kill
. I find heroes that offer strong stun but weak damage less effective in laning stage due to inability for spectre to output enough damage to kill during the stun duration. Basically, spectre slows, and support do the damage, and spectre last hit in an early kill scenario.More commonly however, spectre dual cannot even kill. Your hope, is then, to outlast the enemy. This is where incredible amount of regen come in. I go to lane with THREE set of tangos and buy regen as necess
ary. Spectre dagger can also remotely interrupt healing salves. This is where your spammy dual lane come in. By utilizing the power of attrition, you turn your weak lane into a survivable lane where you can stay to get XP and gold. If you are even with the offlaner, you won.Playing aggressive to a degree is important. Just like a cat positioning herself to seem more intimating, if you aggressively trade with offlaner (backed by your ample regen), you can often win a psychological edge. Spectre loses in trades with most offlane Heros due to her poor stats, but if they are not familiar with that fact or show weakness and leave the safety of the creep, desolate levels can really wear them down. However, do not get into unnecessary fights. Gold and levels are the most important.A good spectre player MUST be incredibly good at controlling the creep equilibrium and last hitt
ing. You want it to be as close to your tower as possible. I do not like supports like lich in the safelane due to the creeps constantly pushing in, which create risk for her to be dove upon.In summary, the crux of laning a spectre in a dual lane is to do what it takes to get as many last hits possible. Aim to disrupt and wear down the offlaner to get them out of your lane, get them frustrated. Laning as a spectre is a game of survival and small chip damage to the enemy, while watch carefully about potential dives.
5. What if my lane is utterly lost?
First, let's define lost lane. As I mentioned earlier, any lane where spectre farmed more than 60% available creep score and did not die more than once before level 6 can be considered a won lane if the spectre player is a competent carry. But you can expect to lose lane worse than that roughly 50% of the time, depends on the current offlane Meta.All won lanes look the same, but lost lanes can look a bit different. There are few varieties of lost lanes, and here are some common ways to deal with it.
- The tri-on-dual (or tri-on-tri): typically made up by two strong support and one strong carry such as razor. Problem solve this lane by keeping the creep equilibrium close to the friendly tower and focus on farming as well as attrition. In general, if spectre is able to secure some farm, it would not be a lost lane. Alternatively, it may be beneficial to rotate the offlaner up early and dual or trilane their safelaner. The anatomy of this particular lost lane is a fed semi-carry or carry plus one support bully spectre out of lane (who probably died a few times) and another support harassing a different lane. At this point I often ask support to help the other lane in order to untilt my other lanes while I survive on offlane mode somewhere. It can be useful to give up T1 tower so you can safely farm in front of T2 tower.
- The lich-on-dual: typically involve lich or enigma by themselves or plus one, abusing denies. The anatomy of this lost lane is underleveled and slightly under-economied spectre and support. This is frustrating to play but not as utterly lost. In the early stage of this situation it can be useful to turn on the lich/enigma aggressively and try to go for kill by pushing the lane to their tower and enable dives. Later on, the spectre may just have to simply deal with the reduced gold available in this lane until the game progress further.
- The fed solo: one of the worst possibility. A trademark of this type of lost-lane is Timbersaw. I simply ban Timbersaw every game because the numbers of stars that need to align to deal with timber in a spectre lane. In a typical lost lane versus timber, a few ineffective attempts were made to zone him out, but he manage to gain levels and farm. Due to reactive armor he cannot be effectively damaged, and once level 6 hits he just absolutely bully spectre and her support off the lane. Meanwhile, the other lanes are won by the enemy due to the numerical advantage. If you had the misfortune of having Timbersaw picked, the job of surviving the lane is honestly dependent upon your support to spam him out. If he won the lane, it's appropriate to give up T1 early in order to secure safe farming in front of T2 by holding the creep equilibrium there.
In all lost-lane scenario, there are two schools of thoughts. One school rely on teammate to survive through mid-game via a 4 versus 5 approach while farm up extremely greedy item to survive, including the "come back Midas" and straight to radiance. In my opinion, this approach tilts your teammate and often do not have a good outcome. The other school of thoughts, which I subscribe to, rely on being in fights frequently in addition to farming as well as buying small items with good build up using quick buy, in order to catch up by AOE gold mechanic. It's often very effective. Spectres found themselves in this situation should build simple but useful items such as blade mail and diffusal blades. Take care not to be too aggressive when weak, otherwise you'll be straight feeding.
6. Offlaning the Spectre?
Yes, Spectre can be played in the offlane. It often tilts people because pro-players don't do it, but this is something I have personally attempted often. I personally have played 121 ranked match as spectre on the offlane with a 61.1% win rate. This is actually higher than my life time win rate of 60.6% overall.To explore why offlane as a spectre is viable, we must go back to the anatomy of a typical Dota lane again. The dominant Dota lane setup is 2-1-2 over time. Typically, this is made up by a safelane with support, an offaner plus/minus support and a midlaner. Focusing on the offlane, most offlaner are chosen for their superb laning ability.Now, look at spectre. In a way, ANY lane the spectre goes to is the offlane because she is such a weak laner. Again, the goal of spectre laning is to SURVIVE. Given equal skill, an offlaner with bristleback or Brewmaster will ALWAYS beat a spectre. As we know, whenever spectre is picked, the enemy offlaner often pick extremely strong laner to bully. This instantly cause a disadvantage.Meanwhile, as an offlaner, spectre absolutely cannot threaten the enemy carry, nor can she threaten the support. She does shine (weakly) in one thing: survival. She can dagger into trees to obtain levels, which allow her to fight early. She is level dependent and even small amount of gold translate well into hero damage due to design of her hero. She can survive moderately well.And this is the heart of why spectre offlane, one of the greediest approach in Dota, can actually work. I first ask my teammates to see if they are fine with me taking her offlane, and once I made sure that no one will be tilted, I will pick spectre as early as possible, creating the illusion of a greedy first pick carry player. Enemies often respond with Heroes counters such as necrophos that may not be even meta. Subsequently, our other lanes, completely normal and strong, are revealed.At this time the enemy is faced with a problem. They can devote a trilane to shut down my carry, but this allow myself and plus/minus 1 support to face their solo offlaner and turn their offlane into my safelane, while their trilane face a harder than expected proper dual or trilane. Even if I have to solo versus a hero, it's often their carry rather than their offlaner, which allow me to get away with more than expected amount of farm as the proper way to play for enemy carry is to mutually farm with me. Shall their carry try to zone me out solo, they are losing out in their position 1 farm. Shall they take their carry to the aggro-tri, they are often faced with a stronger aggro trilane, especially because people tend to pick late game carries to counter spectre in pubs, creating a weak trilane versus my own. Shall they pit their offlane against me, I still often come out better than facing a trilane.If they chose to dual or trilane their own carry against me, depends on skill level, I am often able to get away with moderate to low farm and decent levels and transition into a spectre full of smaller, fight now items like Urn or blade mail to help surviving through the mid game. The late game becomes easy as spectre becomes a position 1.5 or even position 1, completely outshine the enemy composition through greed.What can make this setup extremely strong is Lich. A Lich plus spectre dual lane, focusing on creep equilibrium and denies in the offlane, is extremely punishing to an enemy safelane dual or trilane. Most offlaner cannot reliably deal with this lane as well.
7. Mid Game Blade mail is key to the mid game spectre.
While many items like radiance and butterfly are "win-more" items, blade mail can potentially allow a heavily behind spectre to come back. It is especially good against heros that have unavoidable damage such as Luna. The key to use blade mail is either to activate it when unavoidable damage occurs (such as during Eclipse) or early in the 1 vs. 1 just after you haunt onto an enemy, making them hesitant to damage you while you damage them, creating an unfair exchange.Spectre has two major power spikes.
The first one occurs shortly after level 6, when you have two or three chances to snowball via haunt. My item build is designed to help you take advantage of this timing with smaller, fight now items like Ring of Aquila and Urn of Shadows, as well as blade mail. Those items also have great build up and help you not to lose money if ganked. Weave in and out of fights using dagger and urn heals.The first weak period after laning stage is mid game, when much of your net worth is being saved up for radiance. I am of the philosophy that "If you are dying from ganks and losing gold, you need this gol
d". Basically, if the game is in such a state that you are actually dying, even dying once will make radiance rush impractical as enemy will try to gank you again and again and you will fall further. If I am about to die once in the mid game, I will purchase diffusal or Yasha to prevent gold loss. I keep purchasing non-radiance items until I save up enough to get relic in one go without dying or the game goes beyond 50 minutes and radiance is no longer appropriate.Conversely, if you find yourself having 3800 gold before smaller items like Aquila or blade mail, get the relic! The earlier, the better.Contrary to popular belief, getting a radiance itself is not a major power spike in my opini
on. Actually, this is a perilous time as most spectre games are lost during this time. Spectre players often relax a little and play a little careless after obtaining such a landmark item. Buyback, by definition, is not available. Most of your net worth at this point is in an item that does meager magical AOE damage and offer no HP or magical resist. If a spectre is caught out at this time, a team with comparable farm and high ground siege oriented items can simply take the game. As a result, while it's fine to try to take a team fight immediately after getting radiance, take care to not overcommit, especially not to die, as radiance only spectre is weak.The second major powerspike, with spectre dominating the game after, is after achieving two big items (manta + radiance, manta + abyssal or manta + heart). At this time, simply press R.
8. Late Game
Press R. Don’t die without buyback.
9. Carry one versus one
Ah, the 1v1, the most blood pumping situation of them all. When I first started to play Dota, spectre, medusa and faceless void pre-rework were the holy trinity of hard carries. Faceless void was considered to be "the 1v1" hero. After many, many changes, I believe that now spectre late game is not only the best AOE team fight hero, but also the best one versus one hero as well. She has the best late game steroids: massive effective HP, ability to reflect damage and INSTANT gap closer. She has an edge of Medusa during 1v1 simply due to her ability to utilize melee version of the abyssal blade.Core of late game 1v1 is the abyssal blade. It's truly a game winning item. After its recent buff in stun duration, 3 seconds of unreliable stun (random stun followed by active) and at least 1.5 seconds of reliable stun can be achieved, not to mention the damage, increase health as well as damage block. Did I mention that the damage block is calculated after dispersion, making it especially effective on spectre?Most late game team fight begin with spectre haunting on support while enemy carry also cutting into the backline. So 1v1 scenario typically start as either a haunt based gank or team fight scenario.A haunt based gank can be useful if the hero in question is clearly isolated and has low HP, making the first reveal of abyssal blade a certain death. Example include haunt gank on sniper or ember spirit. Simply haunt, abyssal, and hope your damage and luck hold out. Don't haunt onto them if you are being jebaited, obviously.In a more team fight scenario, you are fighting against their carries one vs. one somehow while the supports are dead or off dueling to the side. One or both of you may be low in health. Unless you have buy back, I do not recommend 1v1 the enemy carry with no vision (that's how you lose games!). If you are reasonably sure that no one else is around can hurt you and you can take them (which needs experience that this guide cannot provide), you may want to use dagger to approach from an odd angle, giving you pathing to pull out over cliff if need be. I do not recommend 1v1 if you don't have at least one of the following: blade mail / manta active ready / abyssal.The rest is easy, just get on them, use manta. If they BKB, use abyssal. If they try to hit you, use blade mail.
10. Useful Tips and Peals
- If you can, always try to dagger more than one hero.
- Spectre + Keeper of the light is actually a really nasty lane. The key for that is Chakra magic powered dagger spam. The spectre dagger, if spammed, is an immensely powerful laning tool that most offlaner cannot withstand. Just simply spam them out of lane from 2000 units away.
11. Skills Spectral Dagger
The spectral dagger is your ONLY active spell. There are three aspects to this spell. They are: Offensive / Damage / Farming; Positional / Movement and defensive. An expert spectre must be well-versed in the movement and defensive aspect of this spell.Ability to use dagger to dodge spells are what differentiate the experts from the average players. Simply put, an average dota AOE spell has 150-250 damage and often stuns. Dodging even one of those spell is the equivalent of another 3000 to 5000 gold HP item.Desolate
An incredible ability for laning and damage, desolate make up much of spectre's damage output. A second level during laning stage can be considered if you need some help last hitting. You can drag the creep away from others in order to last hit with desolate.Desolate ignores BKB in the current version and is a potent 1 vs. 1 tool.Dispersi
onDispersion should be maxed last, even when using the tanky build with blade mail. This is because it has a percentage based effect. The first point is unusually effective, however. Dispersion enables early trades and dives by providing last damage even if you cannot physically go near your enemy.In very late game, tanking fountain shots is a viable (albeit a bit bad mannered) strategy to eliminate enemy heroes who have escaped to their fountain. This can be tactically useful to eliminate key enemy heroes.Hau
ntHaunt is what make spectre so powerful. During early game, you have about 1 to 3 haunts to snowball. Those haunts are especially important because they set the tune of the game. It's recommend to only haunt on nearly guaranteed kills. Be sure to have a TP ready to go right back to farming.Meanwhile, late game and ultra-late game haunts can wipe teams in its own right, especially with refresher.Orb of venom can apply -12% slow to any enemy heroes hit by the illusion, essentially an AOE slow for 275 goldTalent cho
- +15 desolate damage: This is my preferred choice. +15 desolate damage is a significant increase to her late game 1 vs 1 power and ganking prowess, especially useful with manta-style, a core item. I choose this ability 100% of the time.
- + 5 HP regen: Some pro and semi-pro players advocate for health regen due to the sustain it provides. I am just not willing to sacrifice so much late game DPS. Instead, my sustain is provided by urn, which can be hit and miss if you are very behind. But then again, if you are too behind to get urn charges from kills, you are too behind to rely on +5 regen to farm the jungle. I choose this ability 0% of the time.
- Spectral dagger cool down: This talent allow endless chasing via spectral dagger. Spectral dagger talent can be especially useful for the position 3/offlane playstyle where farm and items are limited and other team members can pick up the slack in DPS. This can also be great in a snow-ball situation when you are so far ahead, the stats aren't as important. I choose this ability 5% of the time.
- + 8 All stats: +8 all stats is my go to choice. +8 Stats provide her with +144 HP, 4.4% health regen amplification, 0.64% magic resistance, 1.6 armor, 10 attack speed, 0.5% movespeed increase, 96 mana, 14.4% mana-regen amplification, 0.56% spell damage and 8 attack damage. It's simply too good to pass up, as it's essentially a 1900 gold item for free. This talent should be chosen whenever you are the carry. I choose this talent 95% of the time.
- Spectral dagger slow: This ability is interesting because it has a higher win-rate. This is probably due to a confounding factor of people in massively winning games are more comfortable with forgoing + HP. This talent really enable chase potential, but I honestly consider it a little bit "throwy". I choose this talent 0% of the time.
- + 500 HP: An old Chinese adage goes: a hero that cannot stand on the battlefield cannot do damage. health point is your best anti-control and DPS tool. +500 health is half a heart and worth even more for a spectre with dispersion. I find this talent indispensable for a character who relies on tanking with only okay-ish strength gain. I choose this talent 100% of the time.
- Increase dispersion: This talent is so, so unbelievably good, it's right up there in one of the best level 25 talents. It provides both additional damage (to the tunes of near radiance level increase in AOE damage to certain scenarios), as well as additional effective HP, to the tunes of +250-300 HP in a typical late game spectre. In a way, selecting this talent instantly add you 5000-8000 gold networth equivalent of items, both offensively and defensively. I choose this talent 99% of the time.
- Increased Haunt damage: Choose this if you want to show off, but honestly I think this talent is a little bit throw-y. It can work well with specialized haunt focused build where a lot of agility and attack speed is built and a refresher is made, but what's better? A talent that's always "on" and add both HP and damage or a damage only talent that's only active for seconds at a time? I choose this talent 1% of the time.