Want to slowly crush your opponents? Be the king of the late game? Then check out our guide on how to build and play Spectre.

Spectre is a timeless classic when it comes to Dota 2 carry heroes. While she may not be the flashiest, her global ultimate and powerful scaling is what makes her a fan favorite. Now that she finally looks as good as she feels to play thanks to her Arcana, we thought it might be a good time to teach you everything you need to know about playing (and winning) with Spectre.

Spectre looking fancy in her new Arcana

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The Core Principle of Spectre – Playing Around Your Timings

Spectre – The Queen of the Late Game

When someone mentions carry heroes, there’s a few things that usually come to mind: big damage, flashy plays, pushing fast and so on. Spectre is not that kind of carry though. The best way to think of her is like a slow moving snowball. If the snowball continues to roll, it becomes an unstoppable avalanche that can engulf anything. 

The most important thing to know about playing Spectre is the concept of playing around timings. While this is a very common term, it’s doubly important for Spectre players to understand. The idea is that you want to fight around when you are strong – namely when your Ultimate is available or whenever you hit an item powerspike.

Thanks to her kit, Spectre is a hero that doesn’t necessarily need items, but benefits a TON from each new item she gets. Speaking of her kit, let’s get into her abilities.

Spectre’s Skill Build

Don’t be fooled by the passives – Spectre’s abilities are definitely in the “easy to learn, hard to master” category. If you want to find out exactly what they do you can check out the Dota 2 Wiki Page. On our end though, we’ll be giving you a run down of how to get the most out of her skills.

Spectre's Q Ability - Spectral Dagger
Spectral Dagger (Q)

Spectral Dagger (Q)

This is Spectre’s only non-passive basic spell, and just like the rest of the hero – it seems basic but there’s quite a lot of nuance.

On top of the damage and the slow, Spectral Dagger creates a trail of darkness that Spectre can run along. This isn’t just for show though, Spectre gains extra movement and unobstructed movement. Use this to weave in and out of terrain or get out of sticky situations.

The Dagger also applies a debuff that grants Spec and her pals vision of the target – perfect for chasing down squishy backliners. 

Just in case you didn’t know this – dagger hits every unit it goes through. When farming, be sure to angle it to hit the entire creep wave for sweet sweet efficiency. Make sure to use it to secure those ranged creeps in lane!

Spectre's W (passive) ability - Desolate
Desolate (W passive)

Desolate (W passive)

Passive numero uno – and a criminally overlooked ability at that. This is part one of where Spectre’s unorthodox damage comes from.

Desolate doesn’t SOUND like it does a lot, but when you take into account that her illusions can proc the passive as well – it’s absolutely bonkers. Do keep in mind that it only works on isolated targets.

Don’t forget that Desolate works on Rosh too, allowing Spectre to sneak an Aegis surprisingly quickly once she has Manta.

Spectre's E (passive) ability - Dispersion
Dispersion (E passive)

Dispersion (E passive)

Imagine if your hero simply took 20% less damage from all sources, AND reflected it all back onto your opponents. Yup, that’s the passive.

It’s a bit of a tricky spell, but here’s what you need to know. The amount of damage reflected depends on how close opponents are to Spectre, so foes at the edge of the radius will take less damage.

Unlike other forms of damage mitigation, Spectre literally ignores all the damage “absorbed” by Dispersion. There’s not much to think about in terms of “utilizing” this ability, but your opponents will definitely feel it.

Haunt (R Ultimate)

Haunt (R) and Reality (D) (Ultimate)

Spectre’s ultimate, Haunt, is a straightforward one. You spawn an illusion chasing each enemy hero and you can jump to them at any point. These illusions benefit from Desolate and items like Radiance as well. 

While other carries have to find means to take out priority targets, Haunt simply allows Spectre to get on top of whoever she pleases. The global factor also allows her to be part of any fight no matter where she is on the map. 

Finally, Haunt is extremely powerful as a scouting tool, as it instantly reveals the location of all the enemy heroes. This can be useful as it allows heroes like Storm or Batrider to get vision of the target they want to jump. 

Reality (D Ultimate)

With great power comes great responsibility – the ultimate is on a whopping 2 minute 20 second cooldown at level 3, so use it wisely. 

Keep in mind that Reality (the second part of the ability used to swap places with an illusion) can be used more than once. This is what allows Spectre to bounce around a teamfight at will. While not optimal, it can also be used as a pseudo-escape, allowing Spec to jump away from a gank or important ability.

How To Level Up Spectre’s Skills

As Spectre you will always max out Spectral Dagger first no matter what, as it’s your only real damage ability (you can’t KS with a level 1 Dagger!). Next, the most common way to skill is to completely skip Desolate and max Dispersion. Although this is not set in stone, if you feel like you have some kill potential in the lane – feel free to put 1 (or even 2 points) into Desolate. Take your Ulti whenever it is available.  

Spectre’s Talents – What talents to pick and why?

Spectre’s Talent Build

Lvl 10: +5 All Stats vs +5 Health Regen

We generally found that the +5 All Stats is the overall better choice as it’s simply more impactful – it makes you tankier, have more mana and farm faster. However, if you find yourself doing a lot of jungling that leaves you on crippling low HP, give the +5 Health Regen a shot. 

Lvl 15: -8s Spectral Dagger Cooldown vs +12 Desolate Damage

We highly recommend the -8s Dagger Cooldown talent as it HALVES the cooldown. This allows you to throw daggers out for kills and farm much more freely. +12 Desolate Damage isn’t going to do much if you can’t hit your target anyway.

Lvl 20: +14% Spectral Dagger Slow/Bonus vs +400 Health

Spoilers: This guide is not going to tell you to build any real ‘tanky’ items, so take the +400 Health! It synergizes extremely well with Dispersion and once you have Skadi / Basher, you won’t be struggling to stick on a target.

Lvl 25: +5% Dispersion vs +32% Haunt Illusion Damage

While both talents are pretty damn strong, the +5% Dispersion is simply more useful more often. The ability to simply ignore 25% incoming damage is always going to be nice, especially when man-fighting other carries or when enemies try to burst you.

Spectre’s Awesome Scepter and her Not-So-Great Shard

Spec’s Aghs Scepter adds a new ability called Shadow Step (F).

Aghs on Spec is a relatively new innovation which has come from the Chinese Dota scene. This essentially gives Spectre a second, single-target Haunt which only a 30 second cooldown! This turns Spec into a Nature’s Prophet type ganker and allows her to save her Ult for teamfights. Additionally, the stats are pretty nice on Spectre too.

Pick this up if your team is ganking a lot and you want to get involved. We recommend only buying it after you’ve completed your Manta and if you don’t need other items more urgently.

Dispersion (Aghanim’s Shard Upgrade) 

This upgrade allows Dispersion to be cast on a hero that damaged Spectre in the last 8 seconds. Spawns an illusion that attacks them for 5 seconds (25 second cooldown). It’s very rare to see Shard on Spectre as she is extremely item dependent and the 1400 gold is best used on getting her core items. We recommend only buying this if you have literally nothing else to spend your gold on.

Playing Safe and Smart As Spectre: Getting the Snowball Rolling

Laning Phase

The early game is one of Spectre’s biggest weaknesses – as she is quite a weak laner and has low potential to secure kills. To compensate for this, you generally want to play Spectre in the safelane alongside a strong laning support (e.g., Undying, Snapfire, etc)

It’s important to note that Spectre does not jungle fast early on – making it extra important that you don’t get harassed out of lane, and get as much from the lane as possible. This shouldn’t be too difficult, with her decent attack animation, and Dagger to last hit anything too tricky. The damage mitigation from Dispersion and Spec’s naturally high HP regen adds to her lane stay-ability as well.

Don’t be afraid to ferry out some regen, or ask your support for some. Spectre can trade decently fine – but be wary of getting too low!

Surviving The Early Game As Spectre

Spectre has a relatively simple game plan – farm creeps and contribute whenever Haunt is ready. This does not mean that you HAVE to press Haunt if a teamfight is happening – sometimes having it up can pressure opponents more as well. 

With that said, don’t be afraid to jump in and snipe kills if the fights are looking favorable, as the cooldown isn’t as important earlier on. As Spectre with Haunt up, you should always be keeping an eye out for engagements your team is taking on the map.

In line with the slow moving snowball idea we explained earlier on – any small halt to your momentum can really hurt your strength. On top of that, Spectre isn’t a hero that can really flash farm, so it’s generally better to farm safer and slower than risk your life for a juicy extra creepwave.

How To Maximise Your Farm As Spectre

  1. Clearing Ancient / Jungle Stacks With Blade Mail

This is probably the ideal scenario for a Spectre. If you or your team are able to stack some camps (or even better ancients) – Spectre can use the Blade Mail Active to clear them rather efficiently. 

Try to encourage your team to stack whenever possible – or simply do it yourself. (Stacking ancients for yourself is a great habit to get into on almost all carry heroes!)

  1. Clearing Waves with Spectral Dagger and/or Blade Mail

While Dagger does pretty low damage, one well-placed Dagger will bring a whole creep wave to about half HP – allowing Spectre to get all the last hits and move back on.

Whenever possible, try to farm creep waves instead of jungle (especially if you do not have Blade Mail completed yet). 

However, there is a delicate balance here – as farming creep waves is generally more dangerous than farming jungle. You want to push the limits as much as possible without dying, but get greedy at your own risk!

  1. Play In Your Offlane (if possible)

This is true for any carry. Generally, the safest and most efficient area to farm on the map is your offlane. This will give you access to a few jungle camps, creep waves and the option to fall back to your ancients. Try to arrive in this area around the 10 minute mark.

Your biggest priority should be to complete your first farming item as soon as possible. This usually is either a Blade Mail or Echo Sabre. The faster you get them, the faster you can get into the game.

It’s no secret that you’ll have a giant target painted on your back, and your opponents would love to trade their lives for yours. Stay patient, and play it slow – your time will come.

In summary, farm safely, try to stack and help out with kills when it’s convenient (for you!).

Spectre’s Mid Game: FARM. THAT. MANTA.

Come mid game is where you’ll be able to farm a bit more aggressively. Having Haunt up allows you to get involved anytime you want, so it can be a good idea to farm away from your team. Generally, your opponents will know this, and they will be looking for you. Make sure to assess at all times where your enemies could be, and stay clear of danger.

In the same vein as the early game, while you may be considerably stronger now, any unnecessary deaths should be avoided like the plague. Your next goal is a Manta Style – so focus on that. The item is perhaps the most “core” Spectre item there is and bumps you up a HUGE notch. With Manta completed, it’s time to play Dota.

Got Your Core Items? It’s Time To Actually Play Dota!

From about 30-35 minutes onwards – Spectre becomes a beast. With just a few items Spectre becomes very hard to kill and can do a lot of damage in the right scenarios. 

In the late game, you should start playing closer to your team – as getting picked off becomes more likely and much more costly. You can still use Haunt as the teamfight starts in order to jump on the squishy backline heroes. 

At this stage, you should ideally have your farming item, Manta Style and one more item completed. With these items, jumping a hero and popping Manta will deal an insane amount of damage very quickly. This is the ideal scenario. So, in the teamfights – try to find a somewhat isolated hero and burst them with your combo.

How you play Spectre in the late game will vary slightly between games. If the enemy team lacks serious damage – you might want to just run straight into the middle of the teamfight, absorb lots of spells and damage – and dish out a ton of Dispersion damage. This will generally be a good idea if you are ahead.

In games where you feel squishier – you want to play on the sidelines of fights. Use your Dagger, Manta (and/or Abyssal) combo to kill isolated heroes then fall back. If you get targeted, Dagger a path to safety and kite away. Use this method to dip in and out of teamfights, but don’t commit too hard until the very end of the fight. 

Crazy Haunt Plays: In some situations, you can use Haunt in a different manner. If your team is  behind, it can be a good idea to save Haunt for when you use buyback – and then re-join the fight. This will effectively make the teamfight 5v6!

Similarly, if you get brought down to low HP at the start of the fight – it can be a good idea to quickly TP back to fountain – heal up – and Haunt back in to fight.

These situations are rare and should not be relied on. If your game has gone relatively well, you should be the strongest hero on the map. Use Haunt to jump on key heroes if necessary, otherwise just get in there and hit stuff!

What items to build on Spectre?

Starting Items:

You have two different options when it comes to Spectre’s starting items.

Depending on your opponent, you can choose either of these starting items.

Option 1: The Magic Stick.

Start with this if you are going to be laning against heroes who cast lots of abilities or predict that your lane will be difficult. Note that last hitting will be slightly harder since you start with less stats. 

Option 2: Max Stats.

Start with this if you don’t feel you need the Magic Stick (you can always ferry one out anyway). This build is recommended for newer Spec player as it will let you last hit that little bit easier.

Both options include a Quelling Blade, a set of Tangos and some Ironwood Branches. 

Early Game Items:

Spectre Item - Early Game
Spec Early Game Items

(If you went for the early stats items in your starting build, complete the Wraith Band.) Then complete your Magic Wand ->Power Treads -> farming item.

There are some efficiency tricks you could employ here – such as buying the Sage’s Mask (to build into Echo Sabre later) early on for the mana regen. Some people even like to skip Treads and go straight for the farming item. In summary, get to Wand, Treads and farming item in whatever way feels best to you!

What To Build For The Mid/ Late Game

Spectre Item build - Mid / Late Game
Spec Mid / Late Game Items

Manta Style -> Skadi -> Skull Basher -> Abyssal Blade

Spectre Item Break Down – What to Buy and Why:

Why Build Power Treads?

Power Treads are simply the best option of boots for Spectre. The Stats are nice, the ability to tread swap helps with farming and fighting. Lastly, the attack speed is good for farming and does more overall damage late game compared to Phase Boots.

Which farming item to buy? Blade Mail vs Echo Sabre

Blademail or Echo Saber?

Blade Mail: can be either extremely good or just kinda meh. In games where Blade Mail’s active ability ‘Damage Return’ has the potential to return lots of damage, it can be very nice. For example, if the enemy team has a lot of uncontrollable damage like Sand King’s Epicenter or a Leshrac – it can be great.

But if that’s not the case, Blade Mail can simply act as a decent farming tool which lets you clear camps and ancient stacks faster. 

Honestly, Spectre’s options for farming items are very limited in the current meta – so Blade Mail (even now that it does not give any intelligence) is still one of the better options.

Echo Sabre: on Spectre is a recent innovation popularised by Nigma’s ILTW at the AniMajor. Importantly, it gives some mana regeneration which helps Spectre keep farming. The extra stats and double-attack are also nice as they let Spectre participate in team fights a little earlier than usual. 

If it’s NOT a good Blade Mail game, build Echo Sabre instead.

Gabe “TCGDota” Phillips

Note: In dire situations, you can build both Blade Mail AND Echo Sabre if you don’t feel like you can’t make it to Manta Style before being forced to fight. Not ideal, but sometimes necesary.

Spectre’s 3 Best Friends: Manta, Skadi and Basher

These three items are core on Spectre’s late-game.

Manta Style: is absolutely core on Spec and you will build it in 99% of games. It gives you a little bit of everything and it’s just generally great on Agility carries. 

Manta is especially good on Spectre because her illusions benefit from Desolate.

Eye Of Skadi: another very common pick up on Spectre, this will be your next pick up after Manta most of the time. The stats synergise well with Dispersion and the slow effect helps Spec chase people down. Lastly, while Skadi does not provide a ton of damage – this is not really a problem for Spec as she already has so much damage from the Desolate Manta combination.

Skull Basher / Abyssal Blade: since Spectre excels at killing isolated heroes with Manta, having a bash on top of this is super nice. Basher or Abyssal will help guarantee the kill before the enemy gets back to the safety of their team. 

Less importantly, the Vanguard component of Abyssal synergizes really well with Dispersion (I won’t bore you with the confusing maths) but simply – you get real tanky against Physical damage! 

Adding Insult To Injury

Butterfly: the agility makes you and your illusions hit faster – which means more Desolate damage. The attack speed also synergises nicely with Basher. Finally, the evasion makes you even tankier and your illusions very frustrating to deal with. A great item if you can afford it and don’t need something else more urgently.

Diffusal Blade: is becoming more and more popular these days and Spec has always been a great Diffu user. It’s cheap, synergises nicely with Manta and gives you a little extra catch. If you aren’t too concerned about tankiness – swap out Skadi for a Diffusal for some extra damage.

Nullifier: As Spec your job is often to kill the supports. Nullifier will allow you to do this regardless of their pesky Glimmer Capes and Force Staffs. It also adds a ton of damage and a smidge of armor which doesn’t hurt either. It’s often perfect as that final 6th slot item.

Black King Bar: This item is very useful against heroes that have Break mechanics (Viper, Hoodwink, etc). It can also be a necessity in some late game scenarios where you find being kited or stunned too much in teamfights.

Essentially, if you can’t do your job (which as Spectre is hitting people) due to the enemy team’s spells – it’s time to build BKB. However, we don’t recommend building BKB early as it will hurt your overall game plan. If you need a BKB, aim to get it after your Skadi or Basher.

Radiance: The old school Spectre build. Radiance’s AOE damage is amazing with Haunt (especially because it cancels the enemy team’s ability to use Blink Daggers). Radiance has fallen out of favour as it’s build up is too slow. Only build this if you have tons of space to farm or desperately need to cancel Blink Daggers. 

Becoming The Unstoppable Ghost

Playing Spectre is not for the faint hearted. The hero takes time, patience and a lot of good decision making. The reward? An unstoppable late-game eventuality that can carry against all odds. Just remember that while it may feel like the early game is out of your hands – the fate of the game usually rides on your shoulders. Your Haunt is the biggest beacon of light that your team will rally around, and it’s up to you to illuminate the way to victory.

While the hero may not seem all that flashy – we can assure you that once you have it down, it sure as hell is rewarding. If you follow the tips in our guide, you should be piloting Spectre to success in no time. Enough chit chat – get out there and ruin the lives of some squishies already!

Stay tuned to esports.gg for more guides for all your favourite heroes.

This guide was written by TCGDota and Permasneeze..

Gabe

Gabe "TCGDota" Phillips

| Twitter: @TCGdota | Twitch: tcgdota

TCG is a 7k MMR dota player from Australia. His special skills include staying positive in solo queue and playing the Maracas.