Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Item Guide: Starting Items

Starting Items can have a pretty big impact on the laning phase. Each item has a particular purpose and while many are good in almost all situations, some are situational.

Item Summary


  • Tangos
    • Keep you topped off on HP
    • Technically heal less total HP than a Salve
    • Are not cancelled by being attacked
    • Can be useful for juking, or against a Nature's Prophet (Sprout)
  • Salve
    • Restore a lot of HP quickly
    • Can be cancelled if attacked
    • If you live on the edge, use this while being chased and juking to turn the battle by recovering HP then surprising your persuer
    • Can easily be used on an ally
  • Clarity Potion
    • Slowly recovers mana
    • Good for restoring mana so you can play aggressively with your spells
    • Can be cancelled if attacked
    • Can easily be used on an ally
  • Observer Wards
    • Great use of early money because of the vision they provide
    • Can be used to block neutral spawns (good for anti-pulling and countering jungle heroes)
    • Nice to have one on the Rune Spawn for your mid hero
    • Prevent ganks
  • Courier
    • Always great because it helps the whole team, especially mid
    • Pretty cheap to get a ground courier (back in the day, it was 200g for ground, 200g for upgrade)
  • Dust
    • Awesome against heroes that get invisibility early (e.g. Broodmother, Bounty Hunter, etc.), they won't expect it --> Easy First Blood
  • Smoke
    •  If you get 3-5 heroes together, this is a great way to get an early first blood by roaming the enemy jungle (or your own in some cases)
    • Can also be used if your lineup allows for level 1 Roshing
    • Some heroes (e.g. Dark Seer) can use this to jungle harder creeps at level 1
      • Ion Shell --> Smoke --> Stand by Creeps (they take damage, but cannot attack you)
  • Sentry Wards
    • In some games, you know the other team will ward, so it can be a cheap way to immediately get rid of the enemy vision and hurt them bad in the lane phase
    • Great for counter-warding your pull
    • Generally best as an early item, but not as a starting item (unless you have courier + wards already)


Bottle is a highly controversial starting item. Most Pros would say its a "trash starting item". In my opinion, if used correctly (i.e. timing, positioning, etc.), any item can be good. Here are the pros and cons though:

  • Fast HP/Mana Recovery
  • More able to spam spells like Hook/Rot
  • Already have it at the 2 minute mark (to get rune)
  • Can ferry to and from the fountain if you have a courier
  • No Stats --> Harder to last hit, can take less hits, have less mana
  • Cancelled if hit
  • If ganked early, you'll probably have to immediately use all your bottle charges
The idea behind it is that you better be using the regen you get from it if you opt to go bottle first. In 99.9% of scenarios, that isn't the case. You also better have a good way of last hitting because early on, 2 damage you get from GG Branches can make a world of difference (as well as that 2 STR which is roughly 40 HP or something).

Stats Items

  • Iron Branch (53g)
    • Nicknamed the "GG" Branch for a reason - a lot of stats for only 53g. However, each takes up an item slot and they are built into a limited amount of early items (e.g. Magic Wand)
    • Excellent for Stats and Filler
  • Gauntlets of Strength / Mantle of Intelligence (150g)
    • I generally find these to be a waste because for a little more, you could have bought 3 Iron Branches and got +3 to all stats
    • Mantle can be decent on some Int Carries (e.g. Carry Silencer, Outworld Destroyer, Storm Spirit)
    • Gauntlets can be good for survivability or if you plan to go early Urn of Shadows / Drum of Endurance
    • Likewise, you can get Mantle for going early Dagon
    • Mostly, these are used for taking up less space and giving you more ability to last hit
  • Slippers of Agility (150g)
    • Situationally, these are good for better last hit ability as an AGI carry
    • Can be built into a Poor Man's Shield
  • Circlet (185g)
    • I also find this to be a waste. For 106g, you could have bought 2 Iron Branches and got the same effect (though they take up 2 spots in inventory)


  • Ring of Protection (175g)
    • Some people get this for rushing Ring of Basilius or Tranquil Boots
    • Provides +2 Armor, but that's usually not as valuable as stats or regen
    • Can be decent for jungling and then making into an early Ring of Basilius, but you also won't be taking most of the hits (your minions will)
  • Stout Shield (250g)
    • Generally useful as a melee hero in a lane where you expect harass
    • Can help you get last hits without taking as much damage
    • Can be built into Vanguard or Poor Man's Shield
    • Less useful for ranged heroes (60% chance to block 10 Damage vs. 20 for Melee)
  • Quelling Blade (225g)
    • Helps ensure last hits
    • Can cut trees down (good for juking or against Nature's Prophet)
    • Not really useful on Ranged Heroes (+12% Damage vs. Creeps, instead of +32% for melee)
    • Good in lanes where you're against a hero that has high base damage (e.g. 1v1 Tiny)
    • Can be useful for farming into mid-game
  • Magic Stick (200g)
    • Can be useful in a lane where you'll get a lot of charges (e.g. a Batrider that spams Napalm)
    • Doesn't give any stats
    • Doesn't give regen if no one is casting spells 
    • The hero that will charge it might not be in your lane

No Items (e.g. Rushing an Item like Ring of Health)

  • Generally not a good strategy
    • No Stats
    • No Regen (until you get RoH)
  • Once you have Ring of Health, you can take harass, but you'll have trouble with last hits, mana management, and be squishy

Ring of Basilius

  • Again, you get no stats
  • The Mana Regen can be nice if you're in a Trilane or something of the sort (applies to more heroes)
  • Odds are, you won't be using the aura for pushing THIS EARLY
  • Can be decent for jungling (aura applies to minions), but a lot of the time, Clarity Potions work better.

Sage's Mask + Ring of Regen (i.e. Rushing Soul Ring

  • Good Regen, but no stats
  • Also, the regen is slower than what you'd get from well timed consumables


  • This is seriously just silly. You get nothing from a recipe alone
  • A courier can bring this to you

Common Starting Combinations

General Laning

  • Wards/Courier (if Support Hero, or you have Random Gold in AP)
  • 1 x Tangos
  • 1 x Salve
  • 2 x Clarity Potion
  • 2-3 x Iron Branch

Melee Jungling (e.g. Axe, Lifestealer, Dark Seer)

  • Stout Shield
  • 1-3 x Tangos
  • 1-2 x Salve
  • 0-2 x Clarity
  • 0-2 x Iron Branch
NOTE: Dark Seer uses more mana, so more Clarity Potions might be useful. He can also use Smoke to jungle because of Ion Shell.

Heavy Harass Lane

  •  Configuration 1:
    • Stout Shield (250g)
    • 1 x Tangos (sometimes more)
    • 1 x Salve (sometimes more - e.g. they are a double stun lane)
    • 2-3 x Iron Branch
    • 0-2 x Clarity Potion
  • Configuration 2:
    • Stout Shield
    • Quelling Blade
    • Tangos / Salve
  • Stout Shield allows you to take extra harass
  • Quelling Blade allows you to last hit easier

Heavy Spam Lane (e.g. Zeus, Bristleback, Batrider, and sometimes Shadow Demon)

  • Can be worth it to get a Magic Stick because it collects charges
  • Lots of Regen otherwise (probably Tangos moreso than Salves)
  • Might not know which lane the hero that can easily charge it will be in

Minion Jungling (e.g. Enigma, Prophet, Enchantress, Chen)

  • Configuration 1
    • Tangos
    • Clarity Potions
    • Ring of Protection (for early Ring of Basilius)
  • Configuration 2
    • Tangos / Salve
    • Clarity Potions
  • Configuration 3
    • Ring of Basilius
    • Tangos/Salve
  •  Pub Stomp Build
    • Gloves of Haste
    • Clarity Potions
    • NOTE: This is for rushing Hand of Midas, usually just for Nature's Prophet. Not exactly a "serious" build.

AGI Carry

  • 2 x Slippers of Agility (300g)
  • 1 x Tangos (90g)
  • 1 x Salve (100g)
  • 2 x Iron Branch (or Clarity)
 This is good for increasing ability to last hit, as well as rushing Poor Man's Shield.

Mid Bottle Rush

  • 3-4 x Iron Branch (159g - 212g)
  • 1 x Tangos (or Salve) (90g - 100g)
This gives you good stats, some regen, and a lot of leftover gold to get an early bottle with.

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