[Skill Build Analysis] Spectre

It’s been a while since I’ve done a SBA, so I thought I’d take a look at one of the more unusual cases from Dota 2 Hero Winrates by Game Duration.  Spectre stood out as the only hero with an extremely favorable late-game profile in the top 15 heroes in VH win percentage (5th in late-game skew; 12th in overall win percentage) while also boosting the single highest win percentage in the sample in games with a duration lasting longer than 42 minutes.  For all the negativity I’ve seen thrown her way, Spectre has actually been a rather solid carry in pub games since the 6.75 buff to desolate.  This success hasn’t quite translated to the competitive scene, her win rate there in 6.78 has only been 43%, but she’s still an actually viable hard carry option for standard matchmaking games.

Let’s start by looking at her skill builds.  First for reference:

Q: Spectral Dagger— Nuke that slows target while speeding up Spectre and allies.  Allows Spectre to pass through impassable terrain.

Scaling: Damage, Move Speed, and Mana Cost go up.

W: Desolate — Spectre (and illusions) do bonus pure damage every time they attack an enemy hero with no nearby allied units.

Scaling: Damage goes up.

E: Dispersion — Reflects a portion of incoming damage to her enemies.  This damage is not taken by Spectre.

Scaling: Percentage of damage reflected goes up.

So first the build breakdown.


As an experiment, I also made a chart detailing the raw number of games observed of each build in the sample (Normal is slightly inaccurate in raw numbers, but is proportionately accurate).


The big trend here as you move up out of Normal towards Very High is a trend away from Dispersion builds and towards either Spectral Dagger or Desolate builds.  As usual Split builds also become less common.  Now let’s add in win rates.


And unsurprisingly, those two builds (Q->W and W->Q) are also the two best performing builds in High and Very High.  They’re close enough that I’d leave it up to personal preference on which to max first.  Dispersion is definitely a huge portion of Spectre’s late game presence, but Spectral Dagger and Desolate combined with smart ult usage is what gets you to the late game.  You can add a point in Dispersion somewhere between levels 2 and 4, but past that you’re really better off skilling for aggression.  Incidentally though, builds that entirely skip Dispersion in the first 8 levels don’t actually do so bad, so full on Dagger+Desolate appears to be a relatively viable option as well.

Incidentally, 75% of VH Spectres skill Spectral Dagger first compared to only 50% of Normal Spectres.  Probably the right call there VH players.

Moving on to items, we have what will probably be a pretty unsurprising set of findings for many of you.


Let’s start with the boots.  Spectre’s Desolate benefits from attack speed, so Power Treads seem like the obvious choice, but Phase Boots are actually the hot pickup in Very High and are actually more successful overall (56.86% vs 53.54%).  Like Lifestealer, players are often emphasizing mobility over raw DPS.

As far as core damage items go, we see Manta Style, Radiance, and Diffusual Blade as the standouts in Very High.  My impression from the stats is that the two most prominent build paths for Spectre are Radiance into Manta or Diffusual into Manta, with the Diffusual build being slightly more likely to sidetrack to Drums of Endurance.  Meanwhile, on the Normal end of things we have Crystalus (Daedalus came with only a -3.9% decrease) and Sange and Yasha.  Daedalus can be passable as a late-game luxury here, but it appears to be outclassed by Heart and Butterfly given the way they synergize with Dispersion and Desolate respectively.

I’m actually a bit skeptical on Drums.  The observed win rate for that item in Very High is 56.03%, while the observed win rate for Vanguard is 57.79%.  It could be that Spectre is just highly likely to sell them off in winning games, but a similarly priced item getting outperformed by Vanguard is troubling, and I’d honestly prefer to look at what’s going on here more in depth sometime in the future when mass parsing is a possibility.

So to sum it everything up.

1.  Spectral Dagger -> Desolate and Desolate -> Spectral Dagger look like strongest builds overall.

2. An early point in Dispersion is fine, but it should not be maxed before your other two skills.

3. At least two of Radiance, Diffusal, and Manta should be considered core.  Heart is the standout luxury purchase.

11 Responses to [Skill Build Analysis] Spectre

  1. Kooder says:

    I would be interested to see if there is any correlation between win rates and when an item is purchased, specifically seeing how much drop off there is on Radiance, and when it occurs. How much better is a 20-minute Radiance versus a 30 or 40 minute one?

    • big hat fred says:

      It would be interesting, but it has some problems.

      Items are usually built in a specific order. A 40 minute Radiance is probably a sign that you are already losing, so the data would be greatly skewed by that.

      If you take build order into account, ANY expensive items built towards endgame are probably going to have high winrates anyway since it’s usually the team that was already winning that continues to progress with proper items anyway.

    • vikhik says:

      I definitely agree with Kooder, I’d love to see what the drop off on return is for things like a radiance.

    • phantasmal says:

      Stuff like Radiance timings and Drum selloffs is actually possible now, in theory, but there are some pretty significant hurdles to overcome before it’s feasible to do on a large enough scale.

      • BLUEPOWERVAN says:

        I’d like to see what numbers look like with an overall correction for the “already winning” phenomena.

        Just like 6-slotting a daedalus could be unduly increasing its win %, drums could be held down by being a more affordable choice in a bad game. I.e. start going for radiance, lose team fights, give up radiance and go drums.

        The correction I am thinking about is displaying win% given inventory total price. I suppose you’d have to band the total inventory, maybe by 5000 gold increments? Though I suppose some tweaking would let you see the most reasonable bands, by thirds or quarters.

        So, for instance, you could look more deeply into the Vanguard vs Drums issue. Hypothetically, maybe vanguard is only an item that gets finished in very positive early games, while drums are instead characteristic of poor early games and failed radiances.

        Here, you could test this by checking their relative win percentage by gold bracket — drums would be overrepresented, and might have a higher win % in 0-5000 values, and similarly you might in turn see that vanguard is over represented in higher total inventory games?

  2. aqeded says:

    Vanguard is actually really good on Spectre. Every time I try to replace it with Drums I end up regretting it, and I usually hate Vanguard and love Drums. With just a Vanguard, Spectre needs nothing else to hold her over for the 3800g relic. The Vanguard->Radiance->Heart build may seem long outdated, but it works wonders for Spectre. She becomes an unkillable monster in late game team fights with a Heart and Butterfly. Vanguard allows her to start contributing as soon as she picks it up.

    Spectre is a team fight carry; she gets big by making an impact in team fights. This is in contrast to carries like Anti-Mage who get big by efficiently farming and split pushing. I’ve had over 40 games with Spectre and I’ve found she does not need lots of farm at all, just experience. The other day I had a game where a Spectre on the other team went mid so we had Wisp and Necro dual mid and completely shut hum down. He had NO last hits, just experience. But that’s all he needed; he was able to contribute so much as soon as he reached six and got Haunt. He ended up going 7-0-26 with only 89 LH in a 32 minute stomp while using a Vanguard->Radiance build. This was in VH as are all my matches. Spectre farms VERY slowly, but her ultimate Haunt does let her farm safely without having to worry about missing a fight. Why try to AFK farm just because she is so good lategame, when she also has such high early killing power? Whenever her teammates are ganking someone, she can come in to help from anywhere. If your mid had trouble in the lane and is not strong enough to gank alone, a Haunt is just the difference needed. So Vanguard not only lets her be aggressive, but her allies can be more aggressive with her. Likewise, players in pubs on the team opposing Spectre underestimate the danger of diving against her team; Haunt can easily turn it all around. Similarly to Wisp ganks, what looked like a good engagement is totally backfired with Haunt.

    Vanguard gives Spectre much of what she needs: longevity while farming and durability in the early-mid game, before she has her Radiance, to be able to survive ganks and participate in them. Spectral Dagger, Dispersion and Haunt are also all great tower-diving skills and it’s common for Spectre to often be aggressively diving towers, which Vanguard helps so much with. Again, she’s not an AFK-farming hero like Medusa and cannot come anywhere close to Medusa’s farming rate with Splitshot. Spectre needs to participate sooner and her skills are still strong with just a Vanguard. The fact that Spectre is a hard carry that has a strong early and mid game with snowballing potential is the reason why her winrate is so much higher than other hard carries.

    • Nucky Thompson says:

      Why not just sell the stout shield and keep the RoH and Vit booster while you farm your radiance? That way you have an easier time getting your heart instead of having to farm another Vit booster?

      I don’t play Spectre at all – but if I did, this is how I’d do it.

  3. pudicus says:

    Rushing Radiance makes on sense, if you are getting stomped. It’s much better aiming for Yasha -> Vitality Booster -> Heart/Manta. That way you might not be able to deal as much DPS, but you will deal more damage overall and should be able to survive a gank (unlike having Radiance only, which won’t help you at all). I kinda like the Drum comparsion, though. Normal bracket players have no idea an item such as Drum exists :P.

  4. nardraug says:

    That would be interesting. Same with what items get sold off. Like you said, it’s likely that winning Spectre games eventually sell drums. I know I’ve sold mine when running out of space and already getting manta/diffusal.

    The phase vs treads thing is interesting too. I can see getting phase if rushing radiance, but my typical build has me going treads with drum and diffusal then yasha-manta, so the move speed really isn’t needed there. I’m curious what the builds are for phase vs treads. phase/radiance makes sense…

  5. sage says:

    No Poor Man’s Shield vs Vanguard analysis? Pretty please?

    • phantasmal says:

      It’s impossible to say much on the comparison without being able to identify which Spectre’s are selling off their Poor Man’s and Vanguard. I will say that while VH players are significantly less likely than Normal players to end the game with a Vanguard, they’re twice as likely to end the game with a Poor Man’s Shield. But Spectre’s that end the game with a PMS in VH only win 39.45% of the time, which goes back to needing to be able to identify which players bought these items instead of which players happened to end the game with these items.

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