It’s been a week since Valve dropped Dota 2 Patch 7.27, the balance update that put an end to the summons-heavy “zoo” metagame that was ruled by Beastmaster, Lycan, and Chen. Although the patch isn’t quite complete yet (there will be a follow-up patch some time soon focusing entirely on hero changes), new builds to play with in the resulting metagame have already surfaced.
One of the most effective ones so far happens to be a build for Spectre, one of the hardest carries in the game. In fact, it’s a big part of what’s helped her shoot up the ranks to a 55.5 percent win rate this patch according to Dotabuff. In 7.26, she happened to be one of the best users of Necronomicon, as Spectre isn’t particularly great in lane and needs a way to farm creeps aside from just casting Spectral Dagger on every creep wave that comes in.
But now that Necronomicon deals way less damage to creeps than it used to, there’s a new Spectre-approved farming item in town: Helm of the Dominator. This build has been making huge waves in the metagame since 7.27 arrived, so much that it was nerfed in a mini-patch several days later. Despite the nerfs though it remains a very viable option, and is still better than going for something as risky as Hand of Midas which has a terrible buildup.
To understand just why buying Helm of the Dominator on Spectre works so well, we need to look back at the changelog for 7.27a. Balance master IceFrog removed the damage and regeneration aura from the item in the latest patch, compensating for the loss by making it so that any creep controlled by Helm of the Dominator becomes a lot stronger than before.
First up, the controlled creep has a minimum of 1,500 health — which means that even creeps from easy jungle camps get a huge boost in terms of durability. This is a very important point, which we’ll come back to later when we talk about which creeps to take over. Furthermore, the controlled creep gets +25 bonus attack damage, which is one point more than the bonus damage from Mithril Hammer (1,600 gold).
These two alone make the creep fantastic at mowing down jungle camps while making it so that you don’t have to replace the creep every time the helm comes off cooldown. If those weren’t enough, the creep also gets +12 health regen and +4 mana regen per second. The latter is really good for those with area of effect damage spells, which of course make farming camps that much faster.
Finally, there’s the new stats from the item itself: +6 armor, +6 health regen per second, and +6 to all attributes is definitely nothing to sneeze at. After all, Spectre is a hero that just appreciates raw stats due to her passive ability Dispersion, and the fact that additional agility is the best way to make her Haunt illusions strike harder. All in a package that’s just worth 2,350 gold — which is 300 gold more than Yasha but with a much better buildup.
Then there’s also the fact that the jungle is a much safer place than it used to be, thanks to the change that made Outposts impossible to capture without first taking down at least one tier 2 tower. This means that Spectre can take shelter in the jungle for a lot longer than before without having to fear getting ganked, since supports can easily TP to the tier 2 tower or the Outpost itself. This addresses Spectre’s weak laning presence and susceptibility to in-lane gank attempts and buys her a lot more time to get her Radiance.
Now when it comes to choosing creeps to use the item’s active ability on, it can be a daunting task — if you don’t play heroes that buy Helm of the Dominator as part of their core items, that is. But fortunately, there are only around three good options for Spectre, making it a lot easier to just pick up the item and go.
The first and most desirable creep to take over is the Hellbear Smasher, which the Dota community affectionately refers to as the “tomato creep”. It’s that red monster thing that spawns with the smaller yellow one. The reason it’s at the top of the list is because of its attack speed aura, which grants +15 bonus attack speed to itself and to Spectre. Combined with its Thunder Clap active ability, the Hellbear Smasher greatly accelerates Spectre’s farm immediately. Always be on the lookout for these, especially in the early game.
Another great choice is the Ghost, which is the big spirit that spawns in easy camps. Its low base attack time (BAT) makes it a prime selection if there are no Hellbear Smashers around, as it can easily pump out tons of physical DPS while staying tanky thanks to the bonus health from Helm of the Dominator.
Its only weakness is its limited day vision of 800 units, which is 1,000 less than most other neutral creeps. Thus, it can’t really be used to scout ahead for threats invading your jungle, so you’ll want to be careful when farming with it. It’s good for when you want to farm the safe lane at the same time though, since it shreds creeps even without accompaniment thanks to its Piercing type damage.
The final choice is the Alpha Wolf, for fairly obvious reasons. Spectre doesn’t really favor raw attack damage items when it comes to purchasing decisions, which is why Packleader’s Aura is so good on her. She can even leverage the aura’s benefits in the late game for some extra attack power, though keeping the wolf alive at that point is a bit of a challenge.
The order in which you should buy your items is fairly simple, and getting to the Helm of the Dominator itself is pretty much the only challenge considering Spectre’s almost non-existent laning presence. We suggest keeping it simple for the first five or so minutes, pulling creep aggro when necessary and minimizing unnecessary risks. This is because hitting the ideal timing for the helm is very important, and dying in lane delays the timing significantly.
For starting items, we recommend a Quelling Blade (now 20 gold cheaper thanks to 7.27!), two sets of Tangoes, and two Iron Branches. You’ll want to spend your first 200 gold after this on a Magic Stick, as it is one of the best laning phase items for Spectre especially when facing lane opponents that tend to spam spells early on.
From there, you’ll want to spend on absolutely nothing else until you have the gold needed for the Helm of the Iron Will. Yes, you read that right: you will be rushing the Helm of the Dominator. Of course you should send out additional Tangoes if the lane is particularly hard, but if everything is going according to plan don’t bother spending on additional regen. The Helm of the Iron Will gives you plenty of armor and regen to work with in the lane anyway, so if things go well you won’t have to buy more Tangoes.
Once you’ve got the whole recipe pieced together — ideally around the eight minute mark — you can immediately leave the lane and retreat to the jungle. Seriously, just get out of there and look for a Hellbear Smasher as soon as you can. Your support will thank you loads for it, too, as they can soak up solo experience and maybe even get some gold in the process.
But of course, if your support is looking to roam early on, you’ll want to farm in the lane with Spectre herself while sending the controlled creep to jungle camps on its own. There’s no point in letting all that gold and experience go to waste after all, and the dominated creep is capable of going into the jungle by itself without help from Spectre. It’s still going to be dependent on the outlook of the game, so be prepared to switch gears accordingly.
To optimize your farming pace, you’ll want to employ the usual tricks when jungling with Spectre. Stack camps by using your dominated creep, and position yourself such that you can hit two camps at once with Spectral Dagger for maximum efficiency. If you can stack and clear camps at a decent clip, you’ll hit your next item timing easily: that being the 22-minute Radiance. During this time, most cores will not have Black King Bars to help protect them against Radiance’s burn damage, while supports are not likely to have that many health-boosting items to help them survive the damage over time.
Note that you should generally be doing all this away from your team, as Spectre does have the luxury of not having to be close to her teammates in order to pose a threat. Haunt allows you to join fights from anywhere on the map, after all, so generally you want to leave your team so they can create space elsewhere or push waves in to keep enemy heroes from hunting you down.
From there, the rest of your inventory should be composed of the usual Spectre items. The newly-buffed Blade Mail is great against drafts with a lot of area of effect damage or huge burst damage spells like Laguna Blade or Finger of Death. Abyssal Blade helps against BKB users like Gyrocopter, Legion Commander, and the like — and gives Spectre a lot of strength and health which make Dispersion a lot more effective. Buying a BKB yourself is also a good idea against heroes with Break abilities like Viper and Nyx Assassin, as Spectre becomes very squishy without access to her passive.
Getting raw stats on Spectre is always a good idea too. Eye of Skadi adds a ton of health and mana, and is perfect against regeneration-dependent carries like Alchemist and Slark. For those that need to simply survive an initial salvo of burst damage abilities, Heart of Tarrasque is always reliable. Conversely, if you need to stand and fight through consistent damage, Satanic is your best bet. Against silence effects and other such dispellable debuffs, we suggest picking up a Manta Style, which has a nice balance of stats across the board as well.
As for damage items, Monkey King Bar is an excellent choice, particularly in this patch thanks to its awesome buildup and bonus attack speed. Butterfly is best for dealing with opposing high attack speed carries, though Blade Mail kind of serves this purpose as well. If facing an illusion hero, you can always buy Mjollnir, which shreds illusions like nobody’s business and makes it so that the enemy carry has to think twice about attacking you.
There you have it. Helm of the Dominator may have been nerfed to cost more in 7.27a, but the core concepts remain intact and it is very much still viable. It’s just not as overpowered as it was a week ago. You need one more full wave of creeps in order to get it, but it is still possible to put it together before the first ten minutes of the game.
Of course, in order for it to pay for itself as soon as possible, you will need to be efficient and methodical about the way you farm once you assemble the item. Always remember to maximize your mana usage by hitting as many camps with Spectral Dagger as possible, and stack camps whenever you can. Also, as soon as you hit your Radiance timing, you’ll want to make the most of it by taking a fight at the earliest possible moment.
Get out there, shred creep camps, and destroy your opponents with this safe and fast farming method!