At low levels of play, it's considered "imbalanced". People think that invisibility is immortality.
At mid tier, it's considered "the worst item". People think you spent 3000g on an item that's "countered" by 180g Dust or 200g Sentry Wards.
Both viewpoints are incorrect. Shadow Blade can be a powerful item when used appropriately. It can be a terrible purchase as well.
The key to the item is that it forces teamwork. You can't just go somewhere alone if a hero has Shadow Blade. If you want to beat the item, you stick as a group. You buy Sentry Wards for pushing or get a Gem. This is why you don't see it much at the pro level. Teams move together, they work together, they ward, they buy the items that would shut this item down.
Let's break it down.
- Claymore (1400g)
- +21 Damage
- Shadow Amulet (1600g)
- +30 Attack Speed
- Active Ability: Fade
Item as a Whole
- Shadow Blade (3000g)
- +30 Damage (Note: you get 9 damage essentially "free")
- +30 Attack Speed
- Active: Shadow Walk
- Duration: 12 sec.
- Mana Cost: 75 mana
- Cooldown: 18 sec.
- Invisible for Duration
- Can move through units for Duration
- +20% Move Speed for Duration
- +150 Bonus Damage on attack out of invisibility
- 0.3 sec. Fade Time
- Does not break channeling spells
- Damage is dealt as separate instance of damage (i.e. is not included into crits or similar)
Buying the Item
Going about buying this item can be tricky. The two components are largely expensive. If you get Shadow Amulet, players will know what you're getting next. If you get Claymore, it's easy to assume you're going Shadow Blade unless your hero can get Battle Fury.
Most of the time, you want the item to be a surprise. That way, the other team has little time to prepare and you can catch them off-guard. If they have not been saving for counter-invisibility measures, they have less time to gather that money.
In my opinion, it's best to buy the item all at once, or at least not to carry around the components (even if it feels like they're going to waste in your stash).
When to Get ItThe times it makes most sense to buy the item are:
- Your team is ahead (makes the gap bigger because now their support has to invest in counter-invisibility)
- You don't have any other invisible heroes (otherwise it's an easy choice for the other team to buy a Gem)
- You're ganking more than team fighting (it's still ok, but there are other items that might help more)
- You need it for initiation/scouting in addition to everything else it offers
- Early on (the active is more useful in the laning phase)
Who to Get It OnYou want this item on good gankers that benefit from the attack speed and the move speed while invisible. It's a great item for sneaking past wards and getting into position.
Here are some (i.e. a handful of examples) heroes where the item is situationally a good pick up:
- He lacks the ability to chase well
- He lacks attack speed
- He benefits from ganking (stealing int)
- He lacks an escape mechanism
- She's able to pick off heroes quickly if she can easily land her silence
- The DPS helps early-mid game (she is AGI, so eventually it won't matter that much)
- She's a great ganker, but needs good positioning
- She lacks an escape mechanism
- He benefits from the attack speed
- He needs positioning
- He's terrible at chasing
- Helps him sneak into Roshan's pit (replaces Smoke of Deceit)
- He lacks an escape mechanism
- Great initiation tool for him (get next to enemy -> deal bonus damage -> rupture)
- He lacks reliable chasing
- He benefits from the attack speed (early to mid game)
- Lacks a reliable escape mechanism
- Great for him to use during ganks to get into position and easily land his combo
- Benefits from the attack speed (he has high base damage, but slow attacks)
- Helpful for chasing
- Again, gives him something for an escape if necessary
- Shadow Fiend
- Works decently well with his ult (he doesn't become visible until it's too late for his opponents)
- Great for helping him get into position (i.e. landing razes when ganking)
- Early-mid game, he has a ton of damage, but not as much attack speed
- Yet again, it gives him something for an escape if needed
UsageThis is the part that gets people because they mostly see it used the wrong way. It's best used aggressively. You want to actively go ganking with it and make sure you make the most of that bonus damage out of invisibility.
You want to be using the item to:
- Initiate (ganks or team fights)
- Get into the middle of a crowd and start the fight
- Find a hero off alone farming and get an easy kill
- Sneak through the river and gank a lane
- Sneak past Observer Wards
- Scout out dangerous areas
Final Thoughts & Reiterations
- Get this to play aggressive
- This is an item that forces team work
- Hence why it is seen more in match making (and is more potent) than in pro matches
- If you can't get it early game, it's probably not worth the investment
- If you are team fighting a lot, it's probably not worth the investment
- It's not a bad or good item, it's a situational pick up