Correct itemization is absolutely essential in a match of Dota Underlords. This wasn’t always the case, but starting with the August patch, when we saw the transition from a “legendary” to a “3-stars + alliances” meta, having access to the right items could make the difference between a top 3 and a bottom 3 placement.
Before, 5-cost units were so OP that it mattered less whether you had items to complement their abilities. Now, heroes are more and more balanced, which means that there is no longer one fool-proof recipe for success. Almost all alliances are sustainable, but only if they are played correctly and, in most cases, if their key units have the items that make them shine.
For instance, it’s not that you can’t get a high placement with Savages regardless of your itemization, but the task is nearly impossible in the absence of Summoning Stone, Bracers of Desperation or Refresher Orb for Lone Druid, and some kind of damage item for Lycan.
An Overview of Items in Dota Underlords
Dota Underlords is one version of auto-chess where itemization is not as random. Rather than having a slight chance to obtain an item from a kill during creep rounds, you are guaranteed a choice of 3-4 items after rounds 1, 2, 3, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, and 50. The selection of items offered to you still implies some randomness, but at least you know for sure that you’ll get something.
Items are categorized into 5 tiers, with tier 5 items being the best in the game. If you win the creep rounds, you have a shot at tier 3 items starting with turn 15. Tier 4 items begin to show up on turn 25 and tier 5 items have a chance to drop beginning with turn 40. If you lose a creep round (which can happen quite often since creeps were buffed in the latest patches), your selection of items is pushed back one tier. If you have the global item “Smuggler”, on the other hand, your selection of items is pushed up one tier.
Some items are “global”, which means that they apply to your entire squad. Most items, on the other hand, are for single use only. They must be equipped by a hero in order to work and cannot be stacked on a single hero.
The Best Tier 1 Items
Tier 1 items are not extraordinarily impactful once you move past the early-game. However, some of them scale better than others. Our favorites include:
Embarrassment of Riches
This one is not as valuable as it used to be before the August patch, but if you get it on either turn 1 or 2, it’s still worth taking. It not only boosts the odds that you will get a decent item on all subsequent loot rounds, but it also increases the chance that you will get a legendary item after turn 35.
Gloves of Haste
Of all the offensive/defensive tier 1 items, this one scales the best throughout the game. Especially useful for heroes whose ultimates you want to charge as quickly as possible.
Armor is very impactful this early in the game and Chainmail can help you win clutch rounds in order to start and maintain a win streak.
Other good options – Blight Stone, Hood of Defiance, Vitality Booster.
The Best Tier 2 Items
Many tier 2 items are already highly situational. Almost all of them can be good picks if you have the right heroes on the board:
Aegis of the Immortal
Great early pick in the current meta. You should only forgo it if you have a much better option at hand.
Fall from Grace
Great for the full 6-Knights comp (link to “Dota Underlords: How to Win with Knights”) and absolutely amazing for Hunters. Can help you get the 4-Heartless alliance bonus early on, which drastically increases all physical damage.
One of the best items in the early game if you have Venomancer, Nature’s Prophet + Enchantress, Lycan, and/or the 2-primordial alliance. Must-have for the Savages/Druids build.
Instant pick on turns 1-3, unless a much better option is available.
Absolutely needed for the Blood-bound build; otherwise, pretty bad.
Generally bad, but extraordinary in the Brawny + Hunters build.
A solid choice. Works great with Terror Blade, Disruptor, Axe, and many other heroes. Can be countered by placing a 2- or 3-star Anti-Mage in the bottom right corner, alone.
Brooch of the Aggressor
Great for mages; otherwise, fairly weak.
Great for mages; can still make a decent choice otherwise, but only if no better options are available.
Helm of the Undying
A fantastic item when paired with high DMG units such as Bloodseeker, Shadow Fiend, Terror Blade, Morphling, and even Keeper of the Light.
The Best Tier 3 Items
With tier 3 items, we’re moving into some fabulous, high-impact choices. Although all items are worth considering in the right builds, we generally prefer the following:
Bracers of Desperation
Must-have for Lone Druid; also good on some mages, as well as heroes with high-impact abilities like Tidehunter.
Fantastic on some mages (like Puck or Lina), but also on Morphling, Venomancer, Tinker, and others.
Mask of Madness
Must-have for Phantom Assassin, Slark, and Luna. Also works well on Sniper and Juggernaut. Equipping it on the correct 3-star unit can be game-changing.
Great for your tanks. Prevents mages from charging mana quickly.
Perfect choices for units with high attack speed such as most Hunters.
Other good options – Sacred Relic, Mekansm, Dawning of Ristul (when you don’t use healing in your comp).
The Best Tier 4 Items
Tier 4 items are already highly specialized. Some of your best options include:
Pipe of Insight
Can turn the tides against any comp with high magic damage and especially against mages.
A game-changing item, if placed on the right hero. Goes especially well with Lone Druid, Tidehunter, and Kunkka.
A solid damage item that can transform your top damage dealers from mediocre to excellent.
Friends and Family Discount
Great for your economy. Especially useful if your comp uses a lot of high-cost heroes and you still haven’t found most of your 3-stars yet.
Other good options – Black King Bar, Battle Fury (with melee units), Dagon, Eye of Skadi (with Medusa).
The Best Tier 5 Items
Tier 5 items are fairly rare when you don’t have Smuggler. Most of them are worth picking right away (unless your comp needs some other, specific item), but if you have to choose between multiple options, we recommend the following:
Adding one extra unit to your comp can, in some situations, add massive value through synergies.
Fantastic item all around. Buffs all adjacent units and debuffs adjacent enemies. Extraordinary with Knights and Brawnies/Warriors.
Possibly the best tier 5 item. Deals massive damage and slows the attack speed of affected enemy units.
Other great options – Radiance, Heart of Tarrasque.
We’ve said it time and again in our other guides: almost everything is situational in Dota Underlords. The guidelines above are a good place to start when you’re trying to understand the importance of correct itemization in this version of auto-chess, but it is only your personal experience with each item that will ultimately teach you how and when to use it best.