Dota 2 has dozens of items. Learning and deciding which items to buy can be overwhelming to new players. This guide is designed to give some brief descriptions of all the important items and which items you should be looking to get based on your role.
The next two sections contain all the items a player should be familiar with for the laning and early phases of the game, regardless of their role.
The four sections after that contain descriptions and notes about items with partial listings of notable heroes that get them. The sections are roughly divided by categories the items fall under.
After that there's a walkthrough of the items a player should get based on their role and then a section listing items every team should have.
Starting and Early Game Items
Dota 2 has dozens of items which can overwhelm players. But based on the hero you're playing and the phase of the game, you can narrow down your item choices based on a few simple decisions.
Map Control Items
These items should be bought throughout the game as needed.
Smoke of Deceit - Used to move around undetected to gank or kill Roshan.
Town Portal Scroll - Essential for teleporting quickly to the Fountain to heal or to a building to defend.
Dust of Appearance - Important item if you want to reveal and gank invisible heroes.
Observer Ward - Provides vision on the map which keeps your team safe and lets you know where the enemy is.
Sentry Ward - Used to reveal invisible heroes or wards in an area.
Gem of True Sight - A mobile version of a sentry ward. Allows you to always detect invisible heroes and wards around you.
Starting and Early Game Items
These are basic stat items, regeneration consumables, and other utility tiems that can help you in lane. Buy these at the start of the game, or in the side lane shop during the first couple minutes.
Iron Branch - Most cost efficient source of stats. +1 to all stats for just 53 gold.
Gauntlets of Strength - Good source of early game strength. +3 strength for 150 gold.
Slippers of Agility - Good source of early game agility. +3 agility for 150 gold.
Mantle of Intelligence - Good source of early game intelligence. +3 intelligence for 150 gold.
Circlet - Equivalent to 2 Iron Branches, but takes up just one inventory slot. However, costs more than 3x the amount of an Iron Branch. Good in the early game if you have an inventory slot and gold to spare and plan on upgrading it into a Bracer, Wraith Band, or Mantle of Intelligence.
Tango - Good early game heal over time. A typical starting inventory contains at least one set of tango. Good for recovering from enemy harassment and allows you to stay in lane.
Healing Salve - Good quick burst heal. It's good to have one of these when starting the game. Can be used after taking heavy harassment in lane or if you've just barely survived a gank attempt.
Clarity - Good for heroes that use a lot of mana in the early game.
Bottle - Good for mid heroes that need to control runes. Buying bottle first is almost always a bad idea, unless you have random gold. Buy a standard set of starting items (cheap stats and regeneration) for your hero, then buy a bottle with your first 600 gold in lane.
Animal Courier - Someone on the team should always buy this at the start of the game.
Flying Courier - Someone on the team should always upgrade the animal courier into a flying courier within the first few minutes of the game.
Stout Shield - Good on melee heroes that know they're going to be taking harassment in lane from an enemy ranged hero.
Quelling Blade - Good on melee heroes that need the extra damage against creeps if they are trying to farm in a tough lane or just need help last hitting because of low starting base damage.
Magic Stick - Good item on every hero, especially when up against heroes with spammable abilities like Zeus or Batrider.
Initial Upgrade and First Purchase Items
Boots and their upgrades are one of the first items you should look to get after your starting items. Choose the right boots for your hero.
Boots of Speed - One of the first items a player should buy after their starting items. Phase Boots - Good on heroes that benefit more from damage rather than stats from power treads and if you need the unitwalking active to get into position and chase down heroes. Power Treads - Good on heroes that benefit from the stats more than anything else. Tranquil Boots - Good on heroes that need more regen in lane if they're getting harassed. Arcane Boots - Good on supports and heroes that need the mana. Boots of Travel - If a game goes on long enough, players will start to trade their boots in for these, since it will save the hero from having to use a slot on a TP scroll. Core on Tinker, but other boots are generally better for other heroes.
Early Game Items
These items give cheap stats and/or utility and are most helpful in the early stages of the games and are the first items you'll be looking to build towards after getting your starting items.
Magic Wand - Active can save your life throughout the game. Very good cost efficient source of stats since it's made from 3 Iron Branches. Good on any hero and especially good against enemies that spam abilities like Zeus or Batrider.
Orb of Venom
Lone Druid, Slark
Ring of Basilius - Good early source of armor and mana regeneration which is particularly helpful in the laning phase. Keep the active off when you don't want the lane to push. Keep the active on to help early pushes.
Wraith Band - Good source of early game stats for agility carries. No more than one is needed.
Bracer - Good source of early game stats, particularly health from the strength bonus. Good on strength heroes and supports for extra survivability. No more than one is needed. Hard supports may get another if they are extremely poor and need anything they can afford for stats.
Null Talisman - Good source of stats for intelligence heroes. No more than one or two is needed.
Poor Man's Shield - Good on agility carries since it uses two Slippers of Agility. Helps in lane against hero and creep harassment.
Urn of Shadows - Good on gankers and supports. Active can be used offensively and defensively providing either damge over time or heal over time.
Ring of Aquila - Good on agility carries that make a Wraith Band for stats and a Ring of Basilius for the armor and mana regeneration.
Soul Ring - Good on heroes that need a cheap burst of mana to cast their abilities. Particularly good on heroes that also have some kind of burst heal or build Tranquil Boots to make up for the health sacrifice.
Tinker, Enigma, Omniknight, Bane, Dark Seer, Skeleton King, Broodmother
Support, Utility, Intelligence
Drums of Endurance - Gives very good stats for its cost in addition to its good active and passive ability. Easy buildup and upgrades from a bracer. Good on pretty much every hero and every team should have one.
Mekansm - Essential team item. Armor aura and active heal can help win teamfights. The ability to heal after a teamfight also allows you to continue to push without having to return to the fountain to heal.
Pipe of Insight - Essential against teams that do a lot of magic damage. Can give you the protection you need against magic damage during teamfights and when pushing.
Medallion of Courage - Cheap and easy buildup. Easy way for a support to help boost their carry's damage. Use it on Roshan to help kill him faster.
Ghost Scepter - Good for supports who need to survive against physical damage carries
Force Staff - Good utility item that lets you position you and your team better. Can be used to push enemies out of position and to gank or to save yourself and teammates as an escape mechanism.
Scythe of Vyse - Best disable item. Intelligence heroes benefit most from it, but it's good on virtually any non-carry if they have enough farm for it.
Necronomicon - Aggressive pushing and hero killing item mostly for casters and intelligence heroes. Minions are great at pushing and doing damage to heroes. Notable on heroes with long disables such as Beastmaster Primal Roar or Bane Fiend's Grip or auras and minion buffing abilities such as Lycanthrope.
Bane, Beastmaster, Lycanthrope, Furion, Clockwerk
Eul's Scepter of Divinity - Utility item with an easy and cheap build-up. Can take an enemy out of a fight for a few seconds and gives good mana regeneration.
Aghanim's Scepter - Improves the ultimate of some heroes. Some Aghanim's Scepter ultimate upgrades benefit heroes more than others. For example, Doom would benefit from other items and Faceless Void is better off buying damage items.
Tiny, Invoker, Witch Doctor
Dagon - Burst damage for ganking heroes like Nyx. Better if gotten early and isn't worth the upgrades later in the game. Must be able to constantly get kills to justify buying this situational item.
Veil of Discord - Good on heroes with powerful AoE magic nukes or if your team has them.
Rod of Atos - Good item for health and mana and ability to kite enemies. Notable on Silencer, because he benefits from the health since he's a squishy hero and also benefits from the slow because he lacks the ability to chase down enemies. And since he's an intelligence hero, he benefits from the intelligence stats.
Orchid Malevolence - Good silence if team lacks disables. Easy build-up. Good on heroes like Clinkz who benefit from the attack speed and damage and can go around silencing and quickly ganking enemies.
Refresher Orb - Good on heroes with great initiation and teamfight ultimates like Tidehunter or Magnus if they can get the farm for it.
Blink Dagger - Good on initiators with a good teamfight ultimate that need to be able to jump into a fight and good on gankers that need the extra mobility to jump their victims and quickly kill them.
Black King Bar - Good against an enemy team has a lot of disable and magic damage, especially if you need to channel an ability and don't want to be interrupted or need to gank without getting disabled.
Linken's Sphere - Good when you need to block powerful single target abilities. Heroes like Weaver, Storm Spirit, and Queen Of Pain make the most out of the spellblock passive because of their high mobility and escape abilities and also benefit from the health and mana regeneration and stats. Medusa benefits from the mana regeneration and stats.
Weaver, Storm Spirit, Queen of Pain, Medusa
Heaven's Halberd - Active used to disarm an enemy for a few seconds. Good for countering an enemy carry.
Shiva's Guard - Gives a lot of armor and intelligence, so it's good on tanky casters or intelligence carries. Good against melee carries and high attack speed carries in the late game. AoE makes it good in teamfights and for chasing down enemies.
Silencer, Outworld Devourer
Bloodstone - Good on intelligence heroes that use a lot of mana and need a lot of mana regeneration.
Storm Spirit, Death Prophet, Leshrac
Blade Mail - Good on tanky initiators when up against high dps squishy heroes.
Vanguard - Popular item in the past, but fallen out of favor after being nerfed. Better options exist such as Tranquil Boots and Vitality Booster (which can be turned into a Heart of Tarrasque later), Drums of Endurance, or Poor Man's Shield.
Assault Cuirass - Good on strength heroes and makes them tankier. Good source of attack speed. Aura benefits the entire team and armor debuff works on enemy buildings which helps in pushing.
Heart of Tarrasque - Generally purchased after a big damage item or two on strength or illusion-based carries. Best source of life and health regeneration. Good on illusion heroes, because illusions benefit from the increased health.
Anti-Mage, Chaos Knight, Spectre, Phantom Lancer
Hand of Midas - Either get this as early as possible or not at all. Takes about 10 minutes to pay itself off, so it will delay your items. Benefits carry heroes who need to farm faster and get levels quickly, but don't benefit from an item like Battle Fury.
Battle Fury - Cleave only works on melee heroes. Gives good damage and regeneration which allows heroes to quickly clear jungle camps and push creep waves.
Faceless Void, Anti-Mage, Juggernaut
Radiance - Good on tanky heroes like Lone Druid or Doom and illusion-based heroes like Naga Siren, Spectre, and Phantom Lancer.
Maelstrom/Mjollnir - Good on heroes that need the attack speed and damage. Chance to cast chain lightning also speeds up farming.
Skull Basher - Good on high attack speed melee carries if your team lacks disables and stuns and you need to stay on target and not get kited. Enemies with Black King Bar activated can still get bashed.
Abyssal Blade - Luxury upgrade from Skull Basher. Stun goes through Black King Bar active.
Armlet of Mordiggian - Strength hero carry item. They benefit most from the +strength stat.
Lifestealer, Skeleton King, Huskar, Chaos Knight
Diffusal Blade - Good on illusion based carries (due to mana burn and damage) and ganking carries (active for chasing)
Phantom Lancer, Naga Siren
Shadow Blade - Gives hard hitting but squishy carries like Drow and Shadow Fiend an escape mechanism which they lack. Also allows Shadow Fiend to get in position to use his ultimate. The crit when attacking out of invisibility combos well with Kunkka's Tidebringer cleave ability. Activating Shadow Blade does not interrupt channeling abilities either.
Furion, Kunkka, Drow Ranger, Shadow Fiend
Sange and Yasha - You can forget this item exists. There's only a few heroes where it's viable, but for most heroes there are much better options.
Manta Style - A good pickup on virtually any carry, especially ranged ones. Provides movement speed, attack speed, and damage from illusions. Activating illusions provides a nice DPS boost and also purges debuffs and silence which is good for heroes like Weaver and Riki to remove dust or silence. Good on Anti-Mage because illusions get his passive Mana Break allowing him to drain mana from the enemy faster.
Crystalys/Daedalus - Good first damage item on cleave heroes. Good second item on carries after Manta Style when you're just focused on increasing damage.
Monkey King Bar - Good against heroes with Butterfly or high passive evasion heroes like Brewmaster, Windrunner, Phantom Assassin. Does not work against Faceless Void's Backtrack. Sniper's high attack speed and passive bash makes MKB a viable pickup on him.
Desolator - Damage item that works best with heroes that have some -armor abilities or if your teammates have -armor abilties like Dazzle, Templar Assassin, and Slardar. Good on mid-game semi-carries because it is relatively cheap. Also note that Desolator is a Unique Attack Modifier, so other UAM's cannot be used. And in the late game, carries generally benefit more from an Assault Cuirass over a Desolator, since they can stack a lifesteal UAM with an AC.
Shadow Fiend, Templar Assassin,
Maelstrom - Upgrades into Mjollnir
Mjollnir - Increases a hero's farming speed because of the chance to cast chain lightning. Good on heroes that benefit from more attack speed, such as those with passive bash abilities, i.e. Sniper's Headshot and Lone Druid Bear's entangling claws. Also viable to get rid of enemy illusions if your team lacks AoE to kill them.
Alchemist, Sniper, Lifestealer, Lone Druid
Helm of the Dominator - Good early purchase for the armor and lifesteal. Definitely use the active ability to dominate a creep and use them to stack Ancient camps. In the very late game, can be used to make a Satanic.
Huskar, Luna, Gyrocopter
Ursa, Lycanthrope, Meepo
Vladmir's let's heroes like Lycan and Ursa be able to solo Roshan early. The lifesteal being an aura benefits Meepo's clones. Lifesteal aura only works on melee heroes. It's a good item a support can buy to help their melee carries later in the game.
Mask of Madness - Should only consider this on tanky heroes that have a passive bash, e.g. Spirit Breaker. Viable on Faceless Void. Avoid this item if the other team has a lot of ways to disable and nuke you.
Situational, Luxury/Late Game Items
These items you'll mostly only see in very long games. They're usually bought as the 5th and 6th items in a player's inventory after a player has finished buying their other core items.
Ethereal Blade - Best utilized by Morphling, because has high burst magic damage abilities which make use of the active and also benefits from the agility.
Eye of Skadi - Gives a lot of stats since two Blessed Orbs are components. Good on heroes that need to chase down the enemy. Skadi stacks with lifesteal so it can be used with a lifesteal attack modifier.
Satanic - Best late game lifesteal. Needed for the super-late game when you need to go head to head against the enemy team's carry.
Butterfly - Luxury agility carry item. Good as a later item choice after other items. Good against a physical damage team because evasion allows player to survive much longer against physical damage.
Abyssal Blade - Luxury upgrade from Skull Basher
Boots of Travel - If a game goes on long enough, players will start to trade their boots in for these, since it will save the hero from having to use a slot on a TP scroll.
Divine Rapier - Only consider this if you're extremely far behind, you have the gold for it, and you're going all or nothing in the next teamfight. If possible, get an Aegis before making a divine rapier.
Item Suggestions by Role
This section is to give you a general idea of what your item progressions and choices should be depending on your role.
Magic Wand - One of most cost efficient and best stat and utility items. Useful on every hero. Get this early. Drums of Endurance - Another extremely cost efficient stat item with a very good active and passive. Observer Wards - Vision is important for everyone. Town Portal Scroll - Always carry one of these.
or Power treads for stats. Phase boots for damage.
or or or or or Drums are an extremely cost efficient stat item and good utility from its passive and active ability. Midas and Battle Fury speed up your ability to farm and Shadow Blade allows you to move around, escape, and farm in more dangerous places. Helm of the Dominator if you plan to Ancient Stack. Radiance burn speeds up farming and is also good in teamfights, but it should be bought as early as possible because it loses effectiveness later in the game.
or BKB prevents the enemy from disabling you during a fight and also gives some damage and health from strength stat. BKB is preferred over Linken's on most heroes and against most teams, but it does give good stats, mana regeneration, and the passive is good for avoiding single target abilities making it more appropriate on some heroes.
or or or Strength carries should get an armlet. Illusion-based carries and Riki should get a diffusal. Desolator is good for semi-carries, heroes with -armor abilities, and heroes that want to be able to quickly kill fragile support heroes in a few hits. Manta Style is a good all-around carry item that provides good utility and stats and can be bought in addition to any of the other three items. Armlet and Desolator is also a good combination for strength carries like Lifestealer and Skeleton King.
or or or or or or or or or or These luxury items are your choice. You should take into account what you need and what would be best against the enemy team. Mjollnir, Daedalus, and Monkey King Bar are good for damage. Butterfly, Assault Cuirass, and Heart of Tarrasque are good if you need more survivability, but also provide a lot of damage depending on your hero. Basher and Abyssal Blade if you're melee with high attack speed and need to lock down a hero. Satanic for the lifesteal. Skadi if you need the stats and the slow. Heaven's Halberd if you're more worried about shutting down the enemy carry.
Also be aware that Unique Attack Modifiers do not stack (except Skadi), so that should influence your choice of items. For example, if you opt for a Desolator, then you shouldn't get a Satanic or a Diffusal Blade.
If the game goes on long enough, you'll eventually want to sell your boots and buy these. It frees up an inventory slot since you'll no longer need to carry a Town Portal Scroll.
Gives you the mana you need to use your abilities and also supports your teammates by giving them mana.
Can be used to aid in a gank by casting it on an enemy, or to support a teammate by healing them.
Armor aura and active heal which can help your team win teamfights and push.
Generally your support heroes will be too poor to buy all the items a team would benefit from, so several different players should be responsible for buying them. For example, have someone on your team buy urn, a different person buy mekansm, and another buy pipe of insight. The following are common items that benefit certain support roles.
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These are items the least item dependent heroes with the least farm will be looking at throughout the game. Note that these items are very cheap since the hard support role should be buying most of the wards and gets minimal farm.
Important Team Items
These items benefit your entire team and generally have auras or AoE actives.
Items every team should have
Urn of Shadows
Drum of Endurance
Medallion of Courage - Good if you want to kill Roshan early and fast.
Pipe of Insight - Against a heavy magic damage team.
All these items are made of cheap components so they have easy buildups and can be purchased by virtually anyone on the team.