Hi guys, SlashStrike here (not the same person as slahser), and this time I’m bringing you an analysis of the item Aghanim’s Scepter. I still haven’t stopped writing guides on heroes, this is just an analytic piece inspired by the recent addition of many Agh’s upgrades. Here’s a strawpoll (http://strawpoll.me/4074849) – I posted this in my last guide as well and I got a fair amount of responses, but since the top two are so incredibly closely tied, I’m hoping to reach a more decisive result with a few more opinions.
Since I’m not making any money by writing this, I’m shamelessly plugging my stream over at http://www.twitch.tv/slashstrike – it’s got an arcana contest, follower and donation notifications, a moobot, cool music and of course some high 6k – low 7k gameplay! If you enjoy this or my other guides, make sure to tune in.
Patch 6.84 increased the list of heroes with an Agh’s upgrade to a total of 76 out of 110. Some upgrades are great, some heroes still have Agh’s as part of their undisputed core, some upgrades remain bad, and a few, including the newly-added Legion Commander upgrade, are absolutely useless.
Far too often I see players (occasionally even pros) build an Agh’s when it is far from the best choice. I believe this is because the item’s stats are well-rounded and the value of the ultimate upgrade cannot easily be deduced, rendering the item deceptively better in people’s eyes than it actually is.
People that argue for why an item is good will commonly use reasoning such as ‘it gives you a little bit of this and a little bit of that, which is nice on x hero’. An item is always ‘decent’, because it provides you something, it will obviously not make your hero weaker. In the case of Aghanim’s Scepter, HP, Mana and stats are never ‘bad’, but the item of choice should always be the best possible for the given situation – if it is not, then the item-choice is incorrect.
Table of Contents
- The stats that Agh’s provides
- What makes an Agh’s upgrade good?
- Examples of core Agh’s
- Examples of good Agh’s
- Examples of situational Agh’s
- Examples of bad Agh’s
- The few absolutely useless Agh’s
- Closing Words
Some of these are of course slightly debate-able, especially the ones that were recently added and have not been sufficiently experimented with (we can’t really already determine whether Morph’s upgrade is ‘Good’ or ‘Situational’), but it should give you a clear general idea on where each hero stands with their respective Agh’s upgrade, and therefore how commonly the item should be purchased on them.
- Witch Doctor
- Treant Protector
- Ancient Apparition
- Earth Spirit
- Faceless Void
- Queen of Pain
- Night Stalker
- Shadow Demon
- Nyx Assassin
- Keeper of the Light
- Shadow Shaman
- Wraith King
- Ogre Magi
- Bane Elemental
- Dark Seer
- Elder Titan
- Naga Siren
- Lone Druid
- Outworld Devourer
- Spirit Breaker
- Sand King
- Nature’s Prophet
- Vengeful Spirit
- Skywrath Mage
- Legion Commander
- Crystal Maiden
Heroes Without Aghs
- Dragon Knight
- Chaos Knight
- Drow Ranger
- Phantom Lancer
- Templar Assassin
- Bounty Hunter
- Troll Warlord
- Ember Spirit
- Shadow Fiend
- Phantom Assassin
- Death Prophet
- Winter Wyvern
- Storm Spirit
2. The stats Agh’s provides
Before discussing the upgrade itself, it’s very important to look at what the actual stats are that the item gives you, and for what cost. This is something that must be understood about the Aghanim’s Scepter: the stats it gives you are absolutely terrible for the cost. For reference, a Skadi costs only 35% more but gives you nearly 3x better stats. If you want just mana and HP, pick up a Rod of Atos for 1100 less gold, and so on.
The stats are an okay boost for most heroes, HP is obviously never useless, but they are simply an extra, and should very rarely contribute to justifying the purchase. Many core int heroes (QoP, Lina, Zeus, Puck) have good upgrades, but almost never buy Aghs as their first major item because it only increases their manapool, not their mana regen. This means that it doesn’t help them speed up their farm like a Euls, Orchid or Bloodstone would.
3. What makes an Agh’s upgrade good
An Aghs upgrade is good if it adds a new element to the ultimate that is effective and can be relied on, enabling a new playstyle for the hero, or simply improves the ultimate’s numbers by a huge amount. However, once again, the hero that the Aghanim upgrade is for largely determines just how good the upgrade needs to be to make the purchase worth it. Most great Aghanim upgrades are for supports who are fairly item independent. While many carries have arguably stronger Aghanim upgrades, they are foregoing a damage / stat item by buying the Aghs, meaning that it is often not worth the money on them despite the upgrade itself being good, because they are sacrificing right-click damage output, which is usually what their role is.
4. Examples of core Agh’s
Taking a look at the 20 heroes in the ‘core tier’, about half of them are most commonly played as supports, whereas the other half are often cores. The reasons why these upgrades are good enough to make Aghanim’s Scepter considered ‘core’ are different.
For the support heroes, it simply allows them to scale and stay relevant in the lategame.
- WD turns from a walking cask with a heal into a monstrous physical damage dealer that can easily provide more DPS than your carry.
- AA’s ultimate only gets its duration increased, but unlike damage, HP freeze becomes more relevant the later the game goes due to the increasing number of sources of healing (most notably Lifesteal)
- Disruptor’s ultimate goes from being countered by BKB’s to preventing BKB’s, making him a huge threat as well.
- Treant provides incredible vision, gives him global presence, etc.
In the case of Tiny, Meepo and Windrunner, Aghs just happens to be the best way for them to increase their physical DPS, giving them a similar amount or more than other damage items, while also providing them with a decent stat bonus (that they wouldn’t get from an MKB/Daedalus/Deso).
5. Examples of good Agh’s
These upgrades are quite powerful and provide a unique boost that cannot be provided by any other item, so it is often a solid choice. However, the hero can definitely also be built and played equally if not more effectively without ever getting an Agh’s, therefore it is not a must-buy. This is arguably where all Agh’s upgrades should ideally be.
- Razor’s Agh’s upgrade allows his ult to hit buildings, turning him into a powerful pusher. However, if the team already has strong enough building damage (e.g. carry Lycan, supports Rhasta and Leshrac), Razor can also be built as a durable anti-carry / ‘tank’ that simply sits on the front line and creates space in fights, going for items such as Mek, AC, Drums, S&Y, Skadi, BKB, etc.
- Puck’s Aghs upgrade turns his ultimate into a powerful counter to melee BKB-carriers, strong versus heroes such as PA, Antimage, Tiny, Lifestealer, etc. However, it is not as effective versus carries with longer range that are less reliant on positioning, or those that can break the coil without getting stunned (e.g. Slark, Void, Morph, Storm), in which case the Puck is better off going for other items like Scythe of Vyse, Shiva’s Guard, Dagon, Ethereal Blade, etc.
- Queen of Pain’s Agh’s Upgrade drastically reduces the cooldown on her ultimate and improves the damage slightly, making it good in a line-ups that wants to fight often. However, building into Orchid, Scythe of Vyse, BKB, AC, Necronomicon, Shivas, Refresher, etc. also results in a powerful QoP, with the only drawback being a longer cooldown on which to wait before looking for a fight.
6. Examples of situational Agh’s
This section is for upgrades that are usually not worth the Agh’s purchase, but can sometimes be the best choice in order to counter a specific hero/line-up or when playing the hero in an unusual position.
- A carry Juggernaut is often better off going for damage items because they will inevitably increase his Omnislash damage as well as make him far more powerful when it is on cooldown. However, a Juggernaut played in a 2nd/3rd position as a tanky front-liner, maxing his Blade Fury and Healing Ward, can make great use of the stats as well as have a better up-time on the Omnislash, which would be his main damage source in fights.
- The Naga Siren Agh’s upgrade can be quite powerful but obviously only fits her if she is being played as a support, as it is a defensive team-oriented upgrade.
- Lion’s upgrade is quite underwhelming because in most cases, heroes will not be clumping up so incredibly narrowly so as to allow you to hit more than one target. The damage increase is also quite small, meaning you’re better off going for a Veil or Ethereal Blade if that’s your main motive, whereas the cooldown going from an already low 40 to 20 seconds can hardly be made use of considering how incredibly much mana the ultimate costs, even if you are spamming mana drain. However, if you have a Magnus/Darkseer/Enigma on the team, it is a great choice because the likely-hood of hitting multiple people is increased a lot.
7. Examples of bad Agh’s
These are upgrades that are so incredibly niche you’d only find yourself considering the purchase once every 100 games, and even then there would probably still be a better choice.
- Sand King’s strength lategame comes from his powerful short-cooldown AoE stun, so it makes more sense to build utility items that allow him to survive and get more stuns off in one fight. While a well-timed Epicenter can be devastating, it hardly becomes stronger with Agh’s since it only boosts the damage by 220. Furthermore, that damage is not instant and requires your enemies to be standing in the radius for 2.5 seconds, turning the spell into more of a DoT than a nuke. The -20 second cooldown is all right but again something you would rarely want to spend 4.2k gold on when that could be a Forcestaff/Eul’s/BKB/Veil etc.
- Luna, Lifestealer, Gyro, Sven and Nature’s Prophet are all going to get much more value out of carry / damage items. They all have skillsets that scale well with increased attack speed and damage. Even if you run them as supports, they’re better off going for utility items because that Agh’s will be coming very late, and while an upgraded Luna ult deals decent damage, it’s nowhere near as strong as an upgraded WD ult for example.
- In Invoker’s case, the Aghs stats as well as the upgrade aren’t necessarily bad, but there are simply better item choices in almost any case. A mana regeneration item is mandatory to sustain the multiple mana-costly spells, i.e. a Eul’s, Orchid or Scythe of Vyse. Furthermore, as soon as he gets to level 17, Invoker is limited by his long spell cooldowns and not by the 5 second cooldown on Invoke. Getting utility items allows him to land those spells more effectively, or getting damage items lets him transition into a physical damage dealer.
8. The few absolutely useless Agh’s
These few heroes have upgrades so terrible that there is no game in which you should buy Agh’s on them.
- Earthshaker’s Echoslam is all about the instant stun, and high damage potential in the case of many units. Agh’s only increases the damage from heroes, but barely. A good Echo hitting 3 enemy heroes will deal 120/165/210 additional damage if you have an Agh’s, i.e. literally nothing. If the enemies are clumped up enough to allow you to hit 5 of them, chances are you’re going to win the fight whether you have an Agh’s or not (even then, the extra damage is only 350 at max level). If you’re facing a Meepo, it’s still not worth it because he builds tanky and has extra base magic resistance – you’re better off building mobility and utility items and countering him by disabling and kiting him. Illusion based heroes that face Earthshaker are not going to clump up with their team.
- The only time Legion has trouble killing the target during the duel is in the very early game, exactly when you will not have Agh’s. The entire point of Duel is locking someone down and picking them off quickly – there is no reason to build Agh’s with lackluster stats so you can win a 10 second duel when you can just build a damage item, farm faster, hit harder and win the duel in <5 seconds.
- Crystal Maiden’s ult is strong enough, the problem is actually getting to channel it and not getting immediately blown up.
9. Closing words
That’s it for the analysis! I hope you found it informative – if you did and wish to see more from me in the future you can support me by following me on this blog, twitter, facebook, youtube and of course twitch.
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Good luck and remember – balance, in all things.