When someone says “position once carry” most players immediately assume something along the lines of Phantom Assassin: right-click heavy, late-game oriented character with a lot of physical damage coming from right-clicks. Some might also consider heroes like Outworld Destroyer or, depending on the patch, Silencer, with their pure damage attack modifiers. However, very few players will think of heroes like Leshrac or Pugna and that’s something we would like to talk about.
We can’t talk about late-game magic damage potential without touching upon one of our most favourite topic: Armor and Armor Scaling. For twenty numerical patches, from 7.07 to 7.27 this mechanic was being heavily modified, but in the end it returned to almost the same exact spot it was in the old days: every point of armor is still 6% extra EHP against physical damage, but now you get one point of armor for every six agility instead of every seven.
This seemingly trivial change, as well as significant periodic increases to Agility growth on agility heroes resulted in a very noticeable increase in late-game Armor values. For example, over the same period Terrorblade’s Agility gain went from 3.2 to 4.4, and the latter change is a very recent nerf from 4.8.
In terms of armor, it means that a late-game level 25 Terrorblade with no items whatsoever went from having around 14 armor in the old days to almost 29 currently. This corresponds to ~85% extra EHP against physical damage against ~175% respectively. Naturally, the difference is even more pronounced on a six-slotted Terrorblade, given how Terrorblade typically builds agility. Getting through this with physical damage alone can be quite problematic.
Whether armor is currently inflated, especially on several select heroes, is a topic of its own, but there is another semi-recent change worth keeping in mind: spell amplification. While the effects of spell amp are not immediately apparent, they do contribute quite heavily to the outgoing damage even in the later portions of the game.
Considering how magic resistance remains mostly static, while armor tends to increase considerably over the course of the game, it should come as no surprise that when attacking the same target you frequently have mages out-DPSing physical cores. At least in situations where the target in question is the enemy agility carry.
From our own experiments, heroes like Leshrac and Pugna with just Kaya and Sange, when attacking a ~40 armor dummy target are not significantly behind a Phantom Assassin with the regular 6-slotted build of Power Treads, Battlefury, Desolator, BKB, Skadi and Satanic. In fact, they can be ahead of her when Decrepify from Pugna or Nihilism from Leshrac are applied, and there is also potential Veil of Discord to consider.
Black King Bar is the most iconic Dota 2 item and whole metas have been based around it. Valve tried to address it with the introduction of Status Resistance but after a bit of experimentation it is perfectly clear now that nothing beats full Spell Immunity. For most core heroes it is their second or third slot in any given game.
That naturally goes against the previous ideas: while Spell Immunity does not provide 100% Magic Damage resistance, most Magic Damage effects do not go through BKB and that means there is a very strong counterplay to magic burst.
We believe this is a correct understanding of the situation, as is the understanding that Ghost Sceptre and other Ethereal Form options can be considered the BKB against physical damage. Naturally, Ethereal form does not provide the bearer with the Immunity against most negative effects, but it is also much easier to get early on.
There is no doubt there is more counterplay against late-game magic DPS, however the damage factor typically does not require as much investment into items, so on a Magic-DPS hero you can have more utility and more survivability. Right now the game is well balanced around both magic and physical damage sources and their interaction.
For that reason we urge everyone to keep an open mind when it comes to the late game scaling of magic-based characters. They might be harder to execute well and their itemization and gameplay might be considerably more complex, compared to a typical right-clicking cores, however their peaks are as potent and are as scary as even the hardest of physical carries.
What do you think of non-rightclicking cores in the later stages of the game? Would you trust Leshrac or Necrophos to carry the game in the 50+ minute match? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.