One of Dota’s most prized traditions is the post-TI super patch. After last year’s The International 9 crowned OG as the first double Aegis winners, 7.23 introduced the entirely unique Neutral Items system. Although TI10 is still a ways away, Valve has blessed the Dota 2 player base with a crazy new item called Aghanim’s Shard.
The 1400 gold item becomes available for purchase after 20 minutes and grants a unique bonus for every hero in the game. These bonuses range wildly, but the vast majority fall into one of two categories; ability upgrades and new spells.
The first category are Aghanim’s Shard effects that boost or alter a preexisting ability. Mars’ Spear of Mars, for example, will pierce two units and leave a trail of flame that deals 35 magic DPS and slows for 20%. Tidehunter’s Anchor Smash gets a 90 damage increase and can affect towers. Heroes with ability upgrades shouldn’t treat Aghanim’s Shard as a game-changer item; they mostly just help the Hero do what they’re designed to do.
The second type are brand new abilities that grant synergy to a hero’s existing kit. Many of these are utility options like Magnus’s Horn Toss, which chucks any enemies in range right behind him for a big Reverse Polarity. Others provide something entirely new to the hero, like Clockwerk’s wacky Jetpack that grants him flight for a few seconds. These shards open up brand new item builds or playstyles.
Interestingly, a handful of abilities are actually old Dota abilities reintroduced to the game. Troll Warlord’s Battle Trance will grant a global attack speed buff to his allies, something that was included in the base ability before Patch 7.20. Tiny’s infamously frustrating Craggy Exterior also returns, which has a 20% chance to stun any enemies who dare attack him within 400 range.
Lastly, there seems to be a handful of joke Aghanim’s Shard abilities. These aren’t necessarily useless or underpowered, but they’re definitely more entertaining than good. The most obvious one is Dark Seer’s wonderfully descriptive Normal Punch, which spawns an illusion of the enemy hero along with an anime-esque sound effect. Windranger’s new global Powershot was likely inspired by memes about the spell’s range, though the Hero Hoodwink also takes a page from that concept.
The main takeaway from the Aghanim’s Shard mechanic is that heroes now have an alternate route to find counterplay. Not every hero needs one every game, but the wild effects of the Shard should be kept in mind for rough matchups or awkward situations. Undying’s Shard, for example, spawns zombies on Heroes affected by Decay. This provides a cool new slow and damage option, but a zombie could also snag an initiator and disable his Blink Dagger right before a teamfight. Batrider’s new ally-targetable Flaming Lasso can be used to snag a carry out of trouble, but it can also be used to drag your offlaner to a perfect initiation spot.
Dota has always rewarded creativity, and Aghanim’s Shard has granted 120 new tools to play with. It’ll take a while to learn everyone, though thankfully all Shard effects are displayed on the Hero’s HUD. The mechanics added in the Mistwoods Update will hopefully be covered in the “upcoming” New Player Experience that was teased earlier this year.