Dota 2 Spectre has always been a well-liked hero in pub games, often finding herself on top of win rate charts across all brackets — a trait that makes her unique in Dota 2. But, as viable as the hero is in pubs, the main gripe with Spectre remains with her unviability in pro games because she’s either overrated, easily countered, or a tad too inconsistent.
“The stats don’t lie.”
That’s the main gist of Spectre as a hero in Dota 2. Or at least, in pub games. As the 18th-most picked hero in Dota 2 with the highest overall winrate (60.02%) and a 57.67% winrate in Divine and Immortal bracket, it’s safe to say that Mercurial thrives in the chaotic, uncoordinated environment in the pub games of Dota 2.
Spectre may not be the only hero to enjoy such a high winrate among the most-skilled players in Dota 2, but she’s one of the few to consistently do so while also enjoying a >50% winrate against all but one hero in Dota 2.
Having said that, it’s only fair to wonder just why and how exactly Dota 2 Spectre is so effective in pubs, but largely ignored in pro games? Is the answer as simple that coordination just outrights counter the hero?
The Fifteen-Minute Conondrum
Generally, hard carries are heroes who have a hard time during the laning phase and whose power spikes are much later on in the game. But, when it comes to Spectre, the power spike comes much, much later.
You could argue that Spectre isn’t a hero for the first 15 minutes of the game. You might as well consider the hero a creep, one that farms, but largely a non-factor. This is because she’s arguably the weakest laner in the game, and the reason why, as many will tell you, that the key to winning is to make sure that the hero doesn’t have that bad of a time for the first 15 minutes of the game.
You don’t even need to make sure that Spectre wins her lane. Of course, if that happens, great. Congratulations, you’ve already won the game. But, remember, there’s a reason why she’s a weak laner, and it’s because everything about her starts out weak.
Spectre has below average starting stats, stat gain, base damage, base movespeed, and even turn rate. Not to mention Spectre has a very underwhelming set of abilities from Level 1 to 5 that doesn’t help her until much later in the game.
So, instead of focusing that Spectre wins the lane, your goal is to merely make sure that she doesn’t fall behind that much.
That very specific timing window is the problem with Spectre. If you don’t hit it, the hero has a hard time coming back if she’s heavily pressured during the first fifteen minutes of the game.
How the 2-1-2 Meta Helps Spectre
There are two ways teams generally deal with hard carries. First is by putting a trilane against the hero. Second is by constantly rotating and ganking the hero.
That’s why, during the 3-1-1 laning meta where trilanes prevailed, Spectre was never really considered in pro games because she was such a huge burden during the laning phase. A Spectre trilane just couldn’t keep up against opposing trilanes.
Prior to that, the fighting meta also didn’t do Dota 2 Spectre any favors. As a hero that needs to bide her time farming for pretty much, the first half of the game, Spectre just doesn’t deal well with pressure. The constant rotations and ganking made it near impossible for Spectre to find any space to farm up the items that she needed to make an impact.
Now that we’re back to the 2-1-2 lane meta where teams are encouraged to stay in their lanes for a few minutes longer because early rotations are no longer worth as much gold and exp as surviving in the lane is, Spectre has a chance to thrive.
How Pros Play Dota 2 Spectre
Spectre is not exactly what you’d call a successful hero when it comes to pro games —Spectre has had a 42.22% winrate in 45 games since Patch 7.14, the 24th-lowest during that span — but when played by a good team and a good player under the right circumstances, the hero can succeed.
For example, let’s take a look at the two games Spectre was played in a pro game, by OpTic Gaming and Virtus.Pro respectively.
In both games, Spectre had the luxury of having a lane support babysitting her and ensuring that she had a fair chance of farming. OpTic Gaming laned her with Bane, while Virtus.Pro laned her with Warlock. Meanwhile, the rest of the team had heroes that could pick fights all over the map without Spectre, giving her enough space past the laning stage while also allowing her to jump in any time, which is one of the key strengths of the hero.
The supports chosen to lane with her, though, was the key factor. You can’t just lane Spectre with any support. You have to make sure that the support she plays with enables her, and that’s possible with Warlock and Bane. The former provides sustain by healing using Shadow Word and the latter has a single target nuke in Brain Sap as well as Enfeeble that significantly lowers an opposing hero’s damage, which allows Spectre to last-hit better while in the lane.
Warlock, in particular, also pairs well with Spectre because of the synergy between Fatal Bonds and both hero’s ultimate skills.
How You Should Play Spectre
Like other heroes defined by their ultimates, Dota 2 Spectre is Haunt. If it’s on cooldown, you’re a creep that farms. If it’s up, you’re the savior of the world.
Once you’ve reached Level 6 around the 6-minute mark (if you take longer than 9 minutes, you’ve probably lost the game), be constantly on the lookout for an opportunity to use it. Now would be a good time to have at least a Phase Boots and an Orb of Venom. If you have Ring of Aquilla already, even better.
Either way, with a 3-minute cooldown and only a 5 second uptime, your first two to three haunts will make or break your game.
While farming, make sure to check the map for potential targets and threats. That Witch Doctor might just be a disable and a few hits from dying, making a kill worth diving a tower for, but check first if the other players on the opposing team are possibly close by or has a chance of helping out.
Your goal when using Haunt early on is to secure kills and go back to farming as soon as possible. Thanks to Spectral Dagger, you can do just that. But, if you’re going to die anyway after using your ultimate, then no kill is worth it. You and your team will be better off if you’re farming happily halfway across the map. If you can’t use Haunt to secure a kill, at least use it to break smokes and prevent ganks, or to teleport around the map as a pseudo-TP to avoid dying once the other team inevitably rotates to you.
The truth is, Spectre just thrives in pub games. It doesn’t matter how high your MMR is. To counter Spectre, you need good team coordination, and that’s hard to accomplish when you’re playing with total strangers. But, against pro players, whose decision-making and chemistry are worlds away from even a team composed of the highest-ranked players in a pub setting, Spectre will have a hard time.
Spectre needs ample amounts of space, which is something that no pro team will be willing to give her. Picking Spectre puts a huge target on her back, and it’s up to her team to make sure that the enemy team has minimal chances of pressuring her and ending the game early. Because, if that doesn’t happen, Spectre can and will come online later on in the game, and her impact from using Haunt is game-changing with even just a few of her core items.
If you can find a way to at least break even in your lane and find a way to make the game last longer than 30 minutes with most of your towers still up, Dota 2 Spectre is an incredibly powerful carry that has an ultimate that can literally kill enemy supports in a few seconds late in the game.
What do you think of the viability of Dota 2 spectre in pro games? Do you believe we’ll see more of Mercurial at The International 2018? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.