Dota 2: Intelligence heroes with better Aghanim's Shard upgrades than Scepter

·9-min read

Aghanim's Scepter and Aghanim's Shard are two of the most game-changing items in Dota 2, as they can either greatly improve a given hero's abilities or grant them a new one altogether.

Once a hero acquires an ability upgrade from an Aghanim's Scepter or Shard, they'll hit a massive power spike that can secure their team a victory or spark an unlikely comeback.

With Aghanim's Scepter being the more expensive item at 4,200 gold, compared to Aghanim's Shard at just 1,400, most would assume that the Scepter ability upgrade is better due to its price. But that is not always the case — some Shard upgrades are equal or even outright superior to their counterparts.

Let's take a look at all the intelligence heroes whose Aghanim's Shard upgrades are better than the ones they get from Aghanim's Scepter. You can also check out lists for strength and agility heroes.

(Note: This information is for Dota 2's 7.31 update)

Ancient Apparition

Aghanim's Shard or Scepter? For Ancient Apparition, that answer is obvious. (Photo: Valve Software)
Aghanim's Shard or Scepter? For Ancient Apparition, that answer is obvious. (Photo: Valve Software)

Aghanim's Shard upgrade:

Upgraded Ice Vortex: Causes Ice Vortex to deal damage over time and slow enemy attack speed in the area.

Aghanim's Scepter upgrade:

Upgraded Chilling Touch: Removes cooldown and reduces manacost by 50%.

Ancient Apparition has one of the best Aghanim's Shard upgrades in the game. Ice Vortex has a massive cast range of 1500 with a low cooldown and mana cost. The spell’s ability to reduce the enemy’s movement speed and magic resistance makes it worth spamming during teamfights.

Buffing it with bonus magic damage and an attack speed slow makes a good spell even better.

Ancient Apparition can also cancel enemy Blink Daggers and provide substantially more damage for the team. Additionally, the Shard’s versatility allows Ancient Apparition to farm creeps and defend the base more effectively.

The Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade for Ancient Apparition is an odd choice for the hero.

It removes the cooldown of Chilling Touch and reduces its manacost by half. Chilling Touch is a good spell for Ancient Apparition in the early game but loses its value as the match draws on.

During teamfights, Ancient Apparition will generally focus on using his low cooldown spells for maximum impact while staying out of the enemy’s range. Chilling Touch reveals the hero’s position and has a lower cast range than all of the other hero’s spells unless the level 20 bonus attack range talent is taken.

Aghanim’s Scepter is far too expensive to purchase on support Ancient Apparition. But is it worth buying on the hero in a core role?

Not according to Tobias "Tobi" Buchner. During a Dota Pro Circuit match between Nigma Galaxy and Entity, Tobi’s offlane Ancient Apparition ignored his Scepter and bought a Shard along with defensive items.

It’s no contest for Ancient Apparition, he has one of the best Shards competing against a mediocre Scepter upgrade.


(Photo: Valve Software)
(Photo: Valve Software)

Aghanim's Shard upgrade:

Upgraded Split Earth: Causes Split Earth to repeat in the same location 3.0 additional times, with a 5.0 second delay between each one. Each time the radius increases by 75.0. Split Earth echo location is visible to both teams.

Aghanim's Scepter upgrade:

Nihilism (new ability): Causes Leshrac and all nearby enemies to turn ethereal, preventing them from attacking, slowing them, and making them take more magic damage. Increases Leshrac's speed rather than reducing it. Does not cause Leshrac to take amplified damage.

Leshrac is one of those heroes with a strong Shard and a decent but very situational Aghanim's Scepter upgrade.

When Leshrac’s Aghanim's Shard was first released, players were unsure how strong the upgrade was. It seemed unlikely that enemies would walk into a Split Earth, especially if they could see it and had three seconds to avoid it.

It turns out that the Shard is amazing at defending the base and during teamfights.

Leshrac can use the spell near his towers to force enemies to move around to avoid the stun and the damage. The Shard also provides Leshrac and allies with a “safe zone” they can stand in during team fights, forcing enemies to disengage or receive a nuke.

Leshrac has a versatile Shard that is only limited by the players’ creativity. The Aghanim's Scepter upgrade, on the other hand, is a decidedly more mixed bag.

Nihilism is an interesting ability, turning Leshrac and all enemies ethereal, which can be a great defensive option for Leshrac to have. Affected enemies are slowed and receive bonus magic damage.

The spell is designed for Leshrac when he is in one-versus-five situations against the enemy team. Leshrac becomes immune to physical damage while his immense magic damage is greatly increased. However, Nihilism neuters the physical damage of Leshrac’s own cores, which can lead to Leshrac saving in some situations.

Leshrac’s Aghanim's Scepter can be situationally great or terrible, making it a risky and difficult item to use to its full potential.

The Shard, on the other hand, is always a core purchase for the hero and rightfully so.

Death Prophet

(Photo: Valve Software)
(Photo: Valve Software)

Aghanim's Shard upgrade:

Upgraded Spirit Siphon: Increases Spirit Siphon charges by 1.0 and causes enemies to be feared for 2.0 seconds if they are siphoned for 3.0 seconds consecutively.

Aghanim's Scepter upgrade:

Upgraded Exorcism: Whenever an enemy is affected by Death Prophet's spells or when she attacks an enemy, a ghost will fly out, slow and hit the enemy for an increased bonus of its usual damage then return to her with life.

This is perhaps the smallest gap between a hero’s Shard and Scepter upgrades, though Death Prophet's Shard comes out on top.

Both upgrades are worthwhile for the hero to aim for in every game, but it’s the Shard that has the spotlight.

Spirit Siphon is arguably Death Prophet’s best spell. It deals percentage damage to enemies while healing the hero. Death Prophet can Spirit Siphon multiple enemies, making her absurdly difficult to bring down.

With the Shard, Spirit Siphon fears enemies if it is channeled on them for three seconds. This causes enemies to run away from Death Prophet for two seconds, giving the hero an excellent way to disable others. Death Prophet already wants to keep Spirit Siphon going on as many enemies for as long as possible, this makes it even more rewarding to do so.

The extra Spirit Siphon charge is the cherry on top of an already excellent Shard upgrade. Death Prophet is unlikely to use all five charges in one teamfight, but the more charges the hero has, the better.

The Aghanim's Scepter upgrade is almost as good as the Shard. Almost.

Death Prophet summons a spirit for every auto-attack she lands and every enemy affected by her basic spells. The summoned spirit deals 50% bonus damage and heals her when it returns.

It’s a good Scepter upgrade as it makes the hero deal more damage and harder to bring down.

However, unlike the Shard, it doesn’t provide Death Prophet with something new. The hero is naturally tanky and deals significant damage with her spells without the need for the Scepter.

The Shard makes Death Prophet a menace to deal with, while the Scepter provides more of the same, and that is why it pales in comparison to the Shard.


(Photo: Valve Software)
(Photo: Valve Software)

Aghanim's Shard upgrade:

Upgraded Poison Touch: Causes Poison Touch to hex affected targets for 1.8 seconds.

Aghanim's Scepter upgrade:

Upgraded Good Juju: Good Juju reduces all item Cooldowns by 50% and becomes an active ability that can be cast on allied units to refresh all item cooldowns.

How strong is an area-of-effect Hex in Dota 2?

Most players would say that an area 1.75-second disable on a 15-second cooldown is extremely powerful. And that’s exactly what Dazzle’s Shard provides.

In Dota 2, being able to do multiple things with one hero is usually better than being exceptional in a single area.

That is why a lot of the Shards that have been highlighted provide heroes with something they didn't have before. Such as a Fear for Death Prophet or damage on Ancient Apparition's Ice Vortex.

Dazzle not only gets the ability to disable multiple enemies, but the hero becomes one of the best at fighting against illusion-based enemy heroes. Naga Siren, Phantom Lancer, and Terrorblade suffer when playing against a Dazzle with Aghanim’s Shard.

Dazzle’s Scepter upgrade does two things, it reduces the cooldown of Dazzle’s item’s by 50%, and it can refresh an ally’s item cooldowns. This means that Dazzle needs to have at least a couple of items with active abilities in order to justify purchasing the Scepter for himself.

Using Good Juju on allies comes at a pretty hefty cost. The spell has a tiny 250 cast range, which means Dazzle must put his life at risk to refresh a carry’s Black King Bar. Good Juju also has a 3-minute cooldown and costs 250 mana. Lastly, the spell does not work on Refresher Orb.

All this adds up to a Scepter upgrade that is only worth getting if it drops from Roshan. Otherwise, most players will avoid it while rushing the far superior Shard in every game.

Witch Doctor

(Photo: Valve Software)
(Photo: Valve Software)

Aghanim's Shard upgrade:

Vodoo Switcheroo (new ability): Turns Witch Doctor into a Death Ward briefly with reduced attack speed. He is hidden during this time.

Aghanim's Scepter upgrade:

Upgraded Death Ward: Death Ward attacks have True Strike and bounce between nearby enemies.Witch Doctor’s Shard upgrade gives him the best-named skill in the game. How cool is Voodoo Switcheroo? The whimsical name perfectly fits the hero’s personality.

Witch Doctor’s Shard upgrade gives him the best-named skill in the game.

How cool is Voodoo Switcheroo? The whimsical name perfectly fits the hero’s personality.

On a more serious note, Voodoo Switcheroo provides the hero with an excellent defensive and offensive ability all rolled into one. A level two Death Ward deals 980 damage in the spell’s two-second duration.

Voodoo Switcheroo allows Witch Doctor to run in front of his team and turn invulnerable should enemy heroes engage on him.

With a couple of seconds of invulnerability that also deals significant damage, Witch Doctor has one of the best hard support Shards that provides the hero with much-needed utility late game.

Witch Doctor’s ultimate does an impressive amount of damage at level one and scales well into the late game. The spell deals 386 DPS at level one and 886 at level three. With the level 25 talent, Death Ward can do 1159 damage a second.

That’s a lot of damage. In fact, that’s a heck of a lot of damage. So if we multiply that damage with an Aghanim’s Scepter, that makes Death Ward the best spell in the game, right?

The problem with Death Ward is that it’s a great spell on a weak late game hero. Witch Doctor is a position 5 support who has trouble farming. It’s almost impossible for him to buy an Aghanim’s Scepter in normal games.

Should Witch Doctor manage to get his hands on his Scepter upgrade, another problem opens up.

Witch Doctor is a fragile hero and his ultimate can be canceled with any disable. It’s a horrible feeling to spend 4,200 gold to improve a spell that gets instantly canceled.

To avoid that problem, Witch Doctor needs to buy a Black King Bar, another expensive item for a hero with weak farming ability. Turning magic immune doesn’t protect the hero from physical damage, either.

With his Shard, Witch Doctor gets an easy-to-use utility spell that saves him and damages enemy heroes.

The Scepter significantly buffs the damage from Death Ward but it requires multiple expensive items to fully utilize, which is why the Shard upgrade is the better Aghanim's upgrade.

This piece is the third of a three-part series on Dota 2 heroes whose Aghanim's Shard upgrades are better than their Aghanim's Scepter counterparts. Check our previous lists for Strength and Agility heroes.

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.

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