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Attack Modifier

Attack modifiers are modifiers which apply an effect to a unit's basic attacks. These effects can widely vary, from healing, to damaging or even disabling effects. Most of these modifiers have their own rules. For example, some modifiers may not stack with others, some may fully stack, some may be for Melee melee units only and others for Ranged ranged or both for some abilities. Attack modifiers can be active, in which case they require to be used manually, though most have an Autocast option, but they also can be passive, proccing, or having a chance to proc on each attack.


There is no set rule of how attack modifiers stack, most different types of attack modifiers stack with each other, whereas for the same type, it depends on the mechanics of the modifier itself. Note that most attack modifiers' description are only a general outline and different abilities may have specific additional rules or exceptions hard-coded.

Besides the common attack modifiers listed below, many heroes, units and items have attack modifiers which are unique to them, meaning they can be only found on those units or items. To correctly understand and predict interactions between these various mechanics, on-hit effects have a different definition from attack modifiers.


Attack Modifiers[]

Attack modifiers are applied to an attack at its inception. In some cases this is visually apparent on the attack projectile for Ranged ranged heroes (e.g. Corruption or Cold Attack projectile), but not all attack modifiers have visual effects. As these modifications are calculated at the start of the attack, changes during the airborne time of an attack projectile (i.e. while picking up an item) will generally not affect these attacks that were launched earlier.

Therefore, attack modifiers are not applied if the attack is missed. Since the attack modifier is carried on the attack, if the attack fails, the modifier fails as well.

Multishot abilities that apply modifiers (e.g. Upgradable by Aghanim's Scepter. Marksmanship and Talent Split Shot) will generally apply all attack modifiers, but generally not on-hit effects. This is because most on-hit effects are specified to happen only on the "first" or "next" attack, and only the attack landing on the primary target will meet this condition. The other attacks will check for on-hit effects, but as separate instances.

On-hit Effects[]

On-hit effects are only applied at the time the attack arrives at its target. Since the projectile is airborne and the effect has not been applied and only applies on-hit, these on-hit effects does not have a visual effect. Conversely, value changes during the projectile airborne time can influence on-hit effects — In fact, the on-hit effect is not even tied to any particular attack, rather it is tied to an ability or item. The effect have an opportunity to perform actions before evasion, but it may still be coded to take evasion into account.

For example, the attack breaking out of Shadow Walk invisibility that disables passive abilities cannot miss; while Overload explicitly does nothing when the attack is evaded.

Common Attack Modifiers[]

Common attack modifiers are attack modifiers which are not unique abilities, but are seen commonly on many heroes and items. The only differences between them are their values and how they are activated or acquired, some being applied on each attack, others being chance-based.

Abilities which simply grant or reduce attack speed (e.g. Focus Fire or Overpower) or attack damage (e.g. Alacrity) are not attack modifiers, as they directly enhance the attack, instead of granting a modification.


Main Articles: Items and Talent Sources

Armor Corruption is an attack modifier with an on-hit effect. It reduces the armor of the affected target. Successive attacks do not stack the debuff, but refresh the duration instead. The attacks first apply the armor reduction debuff, then their own damage. Works against wards, buildings, and allied units. Fully stacks with any other items or other sources of Armor Corruption.

Critical Strike[]

Wraith King minimap icon.png Wraith King performing a critical strike.
The red number displays the resulting physical damage before reductions.

Main Article: Critical Strike

An attack that triggers Critical Strike has its total damage value multiplied by the given multiplier of the source of the Critical Strike. This means a critical strike is basically an attack damage amplifier, as it does not add extra damage on top of the attack damage, but directly increases the damage of the attack by multiplying it.

The multiplier is applied before any reductions or amplifications on the target or on the attacking unit. It only counts the unit's main attack damage, plus any bonus attack damage (percentage and flat bonuses) it has, meaning any damage instances (i.e. conditional attack damage bonuses) added to the attack damage which is separate from the attack damage itself is not considered by critical strikes.

Therefore, in short, if an ability adds its damage directly to the attack damage, then it may be considered by Critical Strike, though there are exceptions to this. See total attack damage for the complete calculation.

Critical Strike Multiplier is defined as:

With C being the Critical Strike value.

All chance-based sources of Critical Strike use pseudo-random distribution. If an attack procs more than one source of critical strike, only the highest multiplier is applied.

Cleave and Splash[]

Main Articles: Cleave and Splash

Sven minimap icon.png Sven cleaving through a creep wave.

Cleave causes the unit's attack to deal damage in a trapezoid in front of the attacking unit. The damage is based on the unit's total attack damage values. Cleave can only be used by Melee melee units, Ranged ranged units cannot cleave by default.

Cleave does not affect the primary target, and it cannot miss when hitting secondary targets. However, a missed attack does not cleave. Splash is in some ways the ranged version of cleave. It works similarly as cleave, with the main difference being the damage is typically dealt in a circle around the attacked unit, instead of a trapezoid in front of the attacking unit.

Splash does not affect the primary target, and it cannot miss when hitting secondary targets. However, if an attack misses, no splash damage is applied within the radius. Splash damage works with attack modifiers the same way as cleave does.


Main Article: Lifesteal

The amount of health a unit gains from lifesteal is calculated by a percentage of the total attack damage done to the attacked unit, and it heals for overkill damage. Therefore, lifesteal heals more on attack that crit, and if an attack's damage exceeded the target's current health and killed it, the heal is based on damage it would have taken if it would not have died.

With illusions, they are able to lifesteal but using their modified outgoing damage values. However, when attacking illusions, the heal is not affected by the illusion's incoming damage values.

Instant attacks hitting secondary targets can lifesteal as long as the instant attack can be affected by attack modifiers.

All sources of lifesteal stack additively with each other, and lifesteal manipulation sources stack multiplicatively.


Main Article: Bash

Bash is a passive ability that gives a unit a chance to stun its target on attack. Most bashes also include some extra damage upon proc. This damage is usually directly added to the attacking unit's attack damage. If it is directly added to the attack damage, the unit can lifesteal off of it and it is affected by attack damage reduction. However, it cannot crit or cleave and is not affected by attack damage increasing effects, damage block or magical damage barriers. Multiple sources of bashes do not stack at all.

Mana Break[]

Main Article: Mana Break

Mana Break allows the attacking unit to burn a portion of the attack target's mana, and deal additional physical damage based on how much mana was burned. The Mana Break ability can be gained via items, passive abilities or talents.

The mana loss is applied before the attack damage is applied, and the damage is directly added to the unit's attack damage, allowing the unit to lifesteal off of the extra damage dealt. However, the Mana Break damage is not accounted by crits or cleaves.

Even with mana loss manipulation, Mana Break abilities deal full damage, despite burning less mana and mana draining effects still restore the same amount, despite their targets losing less mana.

Attack Modifier Sources[]

Active Abilities[]

Active Abilities Attack Modifier Sources

Passive Abilities[]

Passive Abilities Attack Modifier Sources

Toggleable Abilities[]

Active Attack Modifiers abilities are attack modifiers must be actively used on each attack to apply its effects. They also can be set to Autocast, causing each attack to apply the effect if the hero can support their costs. Typically they use different attack range values if the cast range is different than the hero's attack range.

If the ability is cast manually, using the designated Hotkey, the ability uses the cast range. When using Autocast, it uses the hero's attack range. The cast range of these abilities can be further increased by other attack range bonuses based on the hero's range type. However, it is not affected by cast range bonuses.

When set to Autocast, these abilities count as a regular attack; when used manually, they partly count as an ability cast. Therefore, unlike regular attacks, casting these attack modifiers manually, also known as Orb Walking, neither draws aggro from lane creeps nor towers. However, they do not count as abilities in any other scenario, meaning they cannot be used when attacking is restricted (i.e. disarms) and do not proc nor trigger any on-cast effects. These active attack modifiers still uses the hero's attack speed and the ability's projectile speed unless stated otherwise.

1 Requires a Talent talent.
2 Requires Aghanim's Scepter icon.png Aghanim's Scepter.
3 Requires Aghanim's Shard icon.png Aghanim's Shard.

Units Abilities[]

Most attack modifiers on units are passive abilities with some exceptions.

1 Requires a Talent talent.
2 Requires Aghanim's Scepter icon.png Aghanim's Scepter.
3 Requires Aghanim's Shard icon.png Aghanim's Shard.

On-hit Effects Sources[]

On-hit Effects Abilities


Unique Attack Modifiers (UAM, or formerly known as Orb Effects) were attack modifiers that could not be used simultaneously with each other — one attack modifier always took priority, and multiple of them do not stack.

Unique attack modifiers did work simultaneously with other non-unique attack modifiers, with the following stacking priority:

In Ability Draft, the first drafted unique attack modifier ability always override later acquired ones. When obtaining multiple items with unique attack modifiers, only the one that has been continuously the longest in the inventory will proc or trigger the attack modifier. For illusions, it is prioritized by inventory slot in reading order.

When attacking units that were invalid targets for certain unique attack modifiers (such as spell immune units, buildings etc.) with an attack modifier set to Autocast, other unique attack modifiers that the target was vulnerable to would be used, even if they were lower in priority.

For example, spell immune heroes are immune to Arcane Orb, but if the hero was carrying a Morbid Mask icon.png Morbid Mask, it would proc instead. This did not apply to other non-autocastable unique attack modifiers (e.g. Mana Break) — they still followed the above priority order regardless of a target's spell immunity.

Orb Walking[]

In Warcraft III, unique attack modifiers are called orb effects. This is due to the items which grant the attack modifiers commonly being orbs (e.g. Orb of Venom icon.png Orb of Venom, Orb of Corruption etc.) and these orb effects do not stack with each other.

The items being portrayed as orbs serves as a metaphor, as stacking real sphere-shaped objects is very difficult to do. Since DotA is a custom map on Warcraft III, it made use of the abilities of these orb items, and the term "orb" was used to describe that attack modifiers based on those items do not stack. Therefore, unique attack modifiers are referred to as Orb Effects in DotA, just like how they are in Warcraft III.

The term was later changed to Unique Attack Modifiers in Dota2 while Orb Effects was dropped. However, many players which came from DotA still refer to these modifiers as orb effects. The term Orb Walking originates therefore from Warcraft III, describing the same technique as described in the active attack modifier section above.

Stutter Stepping[]

Main Article: Orb Walking

This technique which originated from Starcraft and carried over to various MOBAs, was commonly used together with the active attack modifier orb walking technique.

Because of how manually casting active attack modifiers behaves, as compared to regular attacks. During the cast time of a manually cast active attack modifier, the player can spam the move command, which does not cancel the ongoing cast, but the first move command after the cast point is reached cancels the backswing, so the hero moves almost immediately after the attack launched.

However, doing that during a regular attack does cancel the regular attack, causing the unit to move immediately, so the player must time the move command after the attack launched. This means stutter stepping was much easier to do with casting active attack modifiers, as timing for the move command was not required, allowing for much more effective stutter stepping.

Due to this, orb walking and stutter stepping were very commonly used together, so commonly that it is just referred to as orb walking, even though it was orb walking and stutter stepping together. Even though stutter stepping can be done with regular attacks as well. The term stutter stepping became less known as a result. However, outside of Dota, the technique is still called as stutter stepping.