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

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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 heroes whose Aghanim's Shard upgrades are better than the ones they get from Aghanim's Scepter, starting with Strength heroes.

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

Mars

Mar's Aghanim's Scepter ability slows him down. (Photo: Valve Software)
Mar's Aghanim's Scepter ability slows him down. (Photo: Valve Software)

Aghanim's Shard upgrade:

Upgraded Spear of Mars: Spear of Mars impales up to two units and leaves a fire trail behind that deals damage over time and slows movement speed.

Aghanim's Scepter upgrade:

Upgraded Bulwark: Creates invulnerable soldiers around Mars' front while Bulwark is toggled on. Soldiers move alongside Mars, dealing his attacks that have bonus damage and slow enemies. An enemy can only be attacked by one soldier at a time.

The God of War kicks off our list with a versatile Aghanim's Shard upgrade, which allows Spear of Mars to catch two targets and double its the stun value. The upgraded spell also leaves a trail of fire that slows and deals damage to enemies.

The additional slow and damage added is relatively modest, but thanks to the 10-second duration of the fire trail, Mars can use his Spear to defend the base and greatly improving his value in a base defense.

The Aghanim's Scepter upgrade, on the other hand, is an odd choice for Mars. Bulwark is a great defensive ability for the hero, but it also reduces Mars’ movement speed by 20% when activated. It makes no sense to chase enemies with Bulwark active.

With the Scepter upgrade, Mars’ Bulwark summons soldiers that hit enemies once every second. The soldiers deal bonus damage and slow enemies down. Those are nice upgrades, sure, but does Mars need a second slow that costs 4,200 gold when his Shard provides a better one for a third of the cost?

While both of the Aghanim's upgrades provide value, the Shard’s ability to stun two enemies and the added versatility of the fire trail vastly outshine the upgrade that Bulwark receives.

Io

Io is back to support. (Photo: Valve Software)
Io is back to support. (Photo: Valve Software)

Aghanim's Shard upgrade:

Upgraded Overcharge: Increases Overcharge Spell Amplification, and Io gains Spell Lifesteal and can now share Spell Lifesteal with its tethered target.

Aghanim's Scepter upgrade:

Upgraded Spirits: Spirits now passively spawn around Io constantly every second up to the max. Spirits colliding with enemy Heroes slows them briefly.

A few years ago, Io’s Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade allowed OG to win their second-straight Aegis of Champions in The International 9 (TI9). But that was three years and several patches ago.

Nowadays, it’s the Aghanim's Shard that is a core item for Io. The Shard nearly doubles Overcharge’s spell amplification from 14% to 24% while also giving both Io and the Tethered ally 10% spell lifesteal.

Io can now work with heavy magic damage cores such as Leshrac, Pugna, and Death Prophet thanks to his new Shard upgrade.

Aghanim’s Scepter is still a solid upgrade for core Io, but that has been entirely phased out in the current Dota 2 metagame.

Io is firmly back in his original support role these days, and that’s why his Shard overshadows his Scepter upgrade.

Magnus

Magnus' Shard may have gotten a nerf, but it's still great. (Photo: Valve Software)
Magnus' Shard may have gotten a nerf, but it's still great. (Photo: Valve Software)

Aghanim's Shard upgrade:

Horn Toss (new ability): Magnus tosses any enemies in front of him, launching them to his rear. Enemies take damage, spend 0.6 seconds in the air, then and are heavily slowed upon landing.

Aghanim's Scepter upgrade:

Upgraded Shockwave: Increases Shockwave's width and range. The Shockwave line erupts after a short delay, dealing an additional percent of Shockwave's damage, slowing enemy movement speed and reducing their armor for a brief time. Armor and movement speed are slowly regained until the debuff expires.

Magnus' Horn Toss is arguably the most iconic Aghanim's Shard upgrade in Dota 2, as Team Spirit offlaner Magomed "Collapse" Khalilov made good use of the ability as he helped Spirit claim the Aegis of Champions at TI10.

Magnus was a big reason for Spirit’s success in TI10, and it's all thanks to the insane value of his Aghanim's Shard upgrade. IceFrog decided the spell was just a bit too good and Horn Toss has been nerfed since then.

The current Horn Toss no longer stuns enemies and instead applies a slow. This means enemies can use Black King Bar while being Horn Tossed to avoid the effect of the spell.

Regardless of the nerfs, Horn Toss is still an incredible upgrade for Magnus that gives him a powerful repositioning ability to catch enemies.

Horn Toss was incredibly overpowered during TI10 and, even after the nerfs, remains among the best Aghanim’s Shard upgrades in all of Dota 2.

Magnus’ Aghanim's Scepter upgrade, on the other hand, is far less impressive. It provides Shockwave with longer range and width, while also increasing the slow duration and reducing the enemy’s armor.

It’s not a terrible Aghanim's Scepter upgrade, but it’s better for Magnus to get a Blink Dagger, Aghanim’s Shard, Force Staff, and Refresher Orb before going for the Scepter upgrade.

At that point, the game is usually over and the Scepter won’t really be of much help.

Pudge

Pudge in Dota 2 (Photo: Valve Software)
Pudge in Dota 2 (Photo: Valve Software)

Aghanim's Shard upgrade:

Upgraded Dismember: Decreases cooldown, and allows targeting an ally with bonus cast range to swallow them and heal them for a percentage of their max health per second.

Aghanim's Scepter upgrade:

Upgraded Rot: Increases Rot radius and damage, and causes it to reduce enemy health regen.

The Aghanim's Scepter upgrade for Pudge is pretty underwhelming for the hero, as it only increases Rot’s radius and damage while reducing enemy health regeneration.

All that sounds good on paper, but in reality, Pudge is best used for his ability to Hook enemies out of position or save allies. The hero also isn’t as tanky as he appears, with low base armor and no extra magic resistance from Flesh heap.

The Aghanim’s Shard upgrade for Pudge is significantly more impressive. It reduces the cooldown of Dismember by five seconds, allowing it to be used every 15 seconds — twice in your average teamfight. The cooldown reduction by itself makes the Shard superior to the Scepter, but there’s more.

Aghanim’s Shard also allows Pudge to Dismember allies and store them in his… stomach, we assume. Allies are also healed for 15% of their total health, and cannot be damaged for three seconds.

The Shard gives Pudge another tool to save and heal allies while also enhancing his offensive abilities. It’s an incredible Shard and a core item for the hero in every match.

Tiny

Tiny's Shard is a must-have. (Photo: Valve Software)
Tiny's Shard is a must-have. (Photo: Valve Software)

Aghanim's Shard upgrade:

Upgraded Tree Grab: Causes Tree Grab to have no charge limit.

Aghanim's Scepter upgrade:

Tree Volley (new ability): Tiny channels to throw random trees within range towards the targeted area. Deals Tiny's attack damage to enemies in that area with each tree thrown.

This is another Aghanim's Scepter that got heavily nerfed due to OG. During TI9, one of OG’s best weapons was the mid Tiny for Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen. Tiny’s Tree Volley could proc item effects such as Critical Strike and dealt 120% of Tiny’s damage every 0.4 seconds for 2.4 seconds. It was an absurdly powerful upgrade for the hero.

Since TI9 though, Tree Volley has taken a few nerfs. The spell deals less damage, has a shorter cast range, and increased cooldown and mana cost. It’s still a good upgrade for the hero but it’s now a late game luxury item.

The Aghanim's Shard for Tiny, on the other hand, is absolutely mandatory on the hero and almost always bought as soon as it's available.

The Shard upgrade provides Tree Grab with infinite charges, no longer forcing Tiny to grab a tree every 10 seconds. That's basically a Battle Fury for just 1,400 gold.

With infinite Tree Grab charges, Tiny is able to farm faster, deal more damage during teamfights, and cleave grouped-up enemies. It’s a core item for the hero that should not be skipped in any game.

This piece is the first of a three-part series on Dota 2 heroes whose Aghanim's Shard upgrades are better than their Aghanim's Scepter counterparts. Look out for our lists for Agility and Intelligence heroes coming out soon.

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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