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Dota 2 patch 7.31 introduced multiple sweeping changes to the game, including scaling heroes and items, new neutral creep abilities, and, perhaps most importantly, changes to the Aghanim's Shard.
Aghanim's Shard was made available earlier at 15 minutes in the game, five earlier than before, and was even reworked for multiple heroes.
These changes shook the metagame and allowed several heroes to make their mark on the competitive scene.
With that said, let's look into the five most commonly bought Aghanim's Shard upgrades in the 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) Spring Tour and how much they impacted pro games.
*The list will not include games in Eastern Europe as the region was unable to have a Spring League.
Grimstroke (acquired in 86% of games)
Upgraded Ink Swell: Causes Ink Swell to deal 40% more damage and heal the target for 40% of the damage Ink Swell deals. Upon expiration, the target will receive a strong dispell.
With the Aghanim's Shard upgrade, Grimstroke's Ink Swell deals 55 damage a second with 360 burst damage after 3 seconds, stuns enemies for 3.5 seconds, increases movement speed of the targeted ally by 16%, heals the target by 40% of damage dealt, and dispels the target.
To sum it up, Ink Swell provides allies with a a ton of buffs on a 10-second cooldown. Enemies will have a hard time controlling a hasted core that can dispel debuffs and stun them for 3.5 seconds.
Grimstroke is also significantly more popular this patch, thanks to buffs to melee carries such as Tiny and Chaos Knight.
Neither Grimstroke nor his Shard upgrade received any significant changes in the 7.31 patch.
However, the change to the meta along with the earlier Shard timings made the hero far more viable than he was during the Winter Tour.
Pangolier (acquired in 86.6% of games)
Roll Up (new ability): Pangolier curls into an immobile protective ball, gaining magic immunity and allowing him to turn. Can be cast during Rolling Thunder to temporarily hit the brakes. Can cast Rolling Thunder and Shield Crash during Roll Up. If enemies attack Pangolier during this, he will roll away from the attacker, applying Rolling Thunder damage/stun if there are enemies in the way. Cooldown: 30.0
Roll Up has one of the longest descriptions for an ability in Dota 2 and that's due to how much utility the spell provides.
It turns Pangolier magic immune and removes debuffs on him. Roll Up can be used during Rolling Thunder and helps the hero turn during the ultimate.
Finally, the Shard ability rolls Pangolier away every time he receives damage from enemies, stunning enemies he rolls over.
In our list of Agility heroes with better Aghanim's Shard upgrades than Scepters, Pangolier made it to the list because of the versatility his Aghanim's Shard provides.
It helps Pangolier escape, stun enemies, deal more damage, and turns him magic immune. It's the perfect ability for an initiator trying to create more chaos during teamfights.
Ancient Apparition (acquired in 88.9% of games)
Upgraded Ice Vortex: Causes Ice Vortex to deal damage over time and slow enemy attack speed in the area.
In our list of Intelligence heroes with Aghanim's Shard upgrades that surpass their Scepter counterparts, Ancient Apparition was the number one candidate, and pros agree that the hero's Shard is incredibly useful.
Ice Vortex dealing damage allows Ancient Apparition to farm creeps, defend his base, and cancel Blink Dagger, among many other things.
Ice Vortex is the hero's most spammable spell and with the Shard Upgrade enemies will be severely punished for standing in the spell's area-of-effect.
It's cheap, has a 1500 cast range, it's online 15 minutes in the game, and it deals damage in an area.
Honestly, we're more surprised the Shard was only purchased in 89% of the games.
Phoenix (acquired in 95.5% of games)
Upgraded Sun Ray: Allows Sun Ray to be cast during Supernova, and slows affected enemies by 12.0%.
Phoenix has arguably one of the strongest Aghanim's Shard upgrades in the game. With it, the hero is capable of dealing 1,008 + 56% of the hero's max health as damage when Sun Ray is used along with Supernova. With the level 20 talent, Sun Ray deals 70% of an enemy's max health in damage.
To put it simply, Sun Ray is an absurdly strong spell that also heals allies. The problem with Sun Ray is that it's relatively easy to cancel.
Any stun or silence prevents Phoenix from channeling the spell. The other issue with the ability is that players have to choose whether they use Sun Ray for the damage and heal or Supernova to put enemies on a timer.
It's difficult to decide which of these two spells is best to use in every situation, which is why the Aghanim's Shard upgrade is so powerful for Phoenix.
Combining the two spells into one makes Phoenix an even bigger menace during teamfights. Enemies can no longer cancel Sun Ray when it's channeled inside a Supernova.
Aside from the upgrade to the hero's already impressive teamfight capabilities, the Aghanim's Shard also allows Sun Ray to slow enemies. A 12% slow isn't a strong one by any stretch of the imagination, but it can be enough to allow allies to catch fleeing enemies or allow a friend to escape.
In the 44 games the hero was picked, the Shard was purchased in 42 of them, showing just how much value the pro scene places on the upgrade.
Dragon Knight (acquired in 96% of games)
Fireball: Ignites an area, dealing damage over time that lingers on enemies in it. Has reduced cast range when melee.
Dragon Knight's Shard was originally seen as a pretty weak upgrade for the hero. At one point, Fireball dealt 60 damage a second, cost 150 mana, and was only usable when Davion used his ultimate.
Since then, the spell has received multiple buffs to make it a core upgrade for the hero.
Fireball now deals 80 damage a second, a 33% increase from its 7.30 iteration. Now the spell costs 100 mana, can be used when not in Elder Dragon form, and still damages enemies who leave its area-of-effect for two seconds.
Fireball allows Dragon Knight to defend the base adequately during sieges. The spell lasts 10 seconds on a 20-second cooldown, which means it's always available to clear out creeps.
Fireball also provides Davion with a much-needed farming tool. Dragon Knight can use Fireball on an incoming creep wave and then leave the area.
With several buffs to the spell and the earlier availability of the spell, it's no wonder that Dragon Knight's Aghanim's Shard upgrade was almost universal during the DPC Spring Tour.
Otomo is a long-time gaming enthusiast and caster. He has been playing games since he was 10 and is the biggest Dota 2 fan.