Disclaimer: This article is for Dota nuts. You’re of course welcome to read it regardless, but I doubt it’ll be a good read if you’re not one of us crazies.
Hey buddy, sit down. We’re friends here. Let’s talk.
I play a lot of Windranger. Like, a lot a lot. I do my best to be a well-rounded player, but when I see her available it’s so hard to resist! Easily my favorite hero. And I can tell you she has one of the worst Recommended Items lists in the game. So, so bad. Easy to itemize poorly with her!
In my games, though, sometimes I see other Windrangers. Boy howdy, is it hard not to backseat drive. I shut up, because they’re here to have fun, and who am I to tell them how to play… but they drive me crazy sometimes. Especially their items. Such bad itemization! It would take me ages just to tell you!
So, let’s focus, on one item: the Mithril Hammer. +24 damage, 1600 gold, builds into three bigger items (one of which can then build into an even bigger item).
Please, please never let me see you playing Windranger with a Mithril Hammer in your inventory.
“Whoa!” you’re thinking. “Slow down! There’s no call for a statement like that!” Well, I think there is. Let me explain! Let’s talk about every possibility: every item you could be trying to make with that Mithril Hammer.
Casual Mithril Hamme
Minus armor? On a physical attack hero? Yeah, it’s the fuckin’ best. Multiply the damage of all of your hits. So good. I love hitting someone who’s been Desolated. But, uh, here’s the thing: it’s a debuff, right? It lasts for fifteen seconds. It doesn’t stack- the debuff is the debuff. If you hit again before the debuff has ended, you just refresh the duration.
Are ya seein’ the problem? You’re a machine gun. You hit like six times a second. On people with fast attack speeds, Desolator actually isn’t that good! And you have literally the fastest attack speed in the game, every time you hit R and click on a dude. So you’re paying for an item that works best on slow attack, big hit heroes, as the game’s fastest hitter.
If someone on your team gets Desolator, you are going to have a wonderful time. But don’t be the one to get it. It’s a bad call on Windranger.
Black King Bar
Yeaaah! Love it! BKB, what an item! Combine that with your Windrun and it’s 100% Evasion, and you can spend a few seconds almost untouchable every now and then! Against teams without any Monkey King Bars or Spell Immunity Piercing spells, you can be LITERALLY untouchable! Obviously, it’s pretty expensive for the stats, so only buy it if you need to defend against their specific team, but it’s a great item.
The thing is, though… why are you carrying the Mithril Hammer around? BKB is not your first item, no way. You probably have your Phase Boots and your Bottle, you’re not crazy so you have a TP, and decent odds you’ve got a Null Talisman from the start of the game, right? And boy I hope you have your Aghanim’s Scepter. You could go BKB before that I guess. You know, if you wanted to be spell immune for a few seconds, but too weak to do anything with that spell immunity. So you’re pretty short on slots.
Let me tell you something about Windranger- despite what your enemies may think with how annoyingly persistent you are, that lady’s pretty squishy. She is not a durable fighter. And one of the pieces of the BKB is an Ogre Club. That’s +10 Strength. Which means 190 extra HP. Boy, that sure is good to have. Like, really good to have. Carry the Ogre Club. Leave the Hammer in base until you’ve got the recipe as well, and then finish the BKB.
Oh, buddy. It’s one of those games? I’m sorry, man.
So let’s talk pure numbers here, for a second. A Maelstrom ain’t cheap. At 2800 gold, it’s a serious commitment. You’re not grabbing that just to make your lane easier- it’s too expensive for that. It’s an item you’re going to use for a while thereafter. But it’s also stuck in a weird limbo- it’s not a big item, either. It’s not one of those items that is just going to be in your inventory for the rest of the game (if things are going at all well). It’s not strong enough for that.
Obviously, you don’t care about its upgrade, the Mjollnir. That Static Charge active is nice- nobody would say no to that. But for the price, the only thing you’re getting stat-wise is a lot of attack speed- and as we said above, you’re a machine gun. Your ult literally gives you the maximum amount of attack speed (assuming something isn’t slowing you), and it’s available anytime you want it if you’ve got Aghanim’s (Which is really non-negotiable. A carry Windranger gets Aghanim’s, or they are playing like a fool.). So you aren’t going to upgrade this to a Mjollnir, it’s not powerful enough to be a late game item, and it’s too expensive to be an early game item.
If you are trying to build Maelstrom on Windranger, it’s probably because something has gone wrong. There are a few things you could want this for- farming, split push, or teamfight AoE. I’ll address each of these in turn.
Farming: Maelstrom is the ranged hero’s Battlefury, right? Well, not quite. Battlefury is nearly twice as expensive, and is a lot more powerful. +55 attack, cleave, regeneration, and bonus damage on creeps to boot? It’s a beast of an item. Maelstrom, on the other hand, is much less stats, much less AoE, doesn’t offer anything in terms of regen or defense, and just quickly becomes… outdated. It’s amazing for heroes who want to turn it into a Mjollnir. But for you, it’s spending a surprising amount of money for an item you’ll just have to sell and replace after a bit anyway. It rarely pays for itself, in farming.
Split push? You’re Windranger, dude! You’ve got Power Shot to mow down creep waves, and your Focus Fire eats buildings for breakfast! A little chain lightning action on creeps really doesn’t help that much. Sure, it’s nice, but again, it’s just not worth the price tag. You’ve already got so much to worry about- Phase Boots, Aghanim’s, Crystalys (and hopefully a Daedelus after that), some survival item, maybe a Blink Dagger to set up Shackleshots… you can’t afford to spend the money on an item that won’t help your split push that much, and again, one you’ll have to replace before too long.
That brings us to teamfight AoE, and this means you got counterpicked. That’s a fuckin’ bummer. Windranger is the queen of 1v1 combat. She is the empress of single target DPS. But what she’s not? A master of AoE damage. In fact, she barely has any, and you’re trying to fix that. You may be thinking I’m just rattling off the theorycrafting, that this is knowledge I picked up in the “lab.” Dude, I have been there. I have had that realization that Windranger just can’t be relevant against the enemy team. I have struggled against lineups that just made my life hell- and sometimes I’ve prevailed, but usually I’ve gone down in flames.
You can’t. A Maelstrom is not going to fix it. Like, go ahead and try- you’ve gotta, right? You’ve gotta do something. You can’t just hang your head and say “Whelp, we fuckin’ lost.” The Maelstrom has no cooldown- that chain lightning can proc as fast as the dice come up sixes. That means it works great with your ult. It could make the difference you need. It could do the AoE damage to stop that goddamn Phantom Lancer, or to synergize with your Enigma’s Black Hole to turn this losing game around, or whatever it is you need.
Just understand that it almost certainly won’t. The longer the game goes, the more that 2600 gold item is gonna be too weak- and if you drop it for something else, there goes all the AoE you needed so badly. You can’t drop it. Can you win before the Maelstrom is too weak to be relevant? It’s a hell of a challenge. I hope you’re up to it.
I can’t blame you for trying to save your flagging game with a Maelstrom. If I see that Mithril Hammer in your inventory, and you’ve already got your Aghanim’s, and you need the AoE… I’m not judging you. Then, and only then, do I understand. But I am sad for you. Because we both know how this will end. Not with a zap, but with a whimper.