Drow Ranger used to be thought of as a very situational pick. Often saved for the end of a draft for fear of being countered, her Precision Aura was valued primarily as a tool to buff an early game push strat. These days, Drow has shifted to become a strong all around pick no longer relegated to an end of the draft pocket pick, and the idea that she’s only strong in the early game has been thoroughly quashed.
Her popularity in pub games hasn’t changed much. This month she’s the 12th most played hero, which rises to 11th all time. She’s most commonly run in the safelane but is also a perfectly valid choice for the mid lane. It’s a bit of a waste to pick Drow in a roster with four melee heroes, but the days of almost always picking Drow with Visage, Vengeful Spirit and two more ranged heroes are behind us.
Drow has two active abilities, one of which has a 100 second cooldown and doubles as a passive. Her other two abilities affect her basic attacks. Here’s an overview of them as they appear in-game.
Frost Arrows (Q)
Adds a freezing effect to Drow’s attacks, slowing enemy movement. Lasts 1.5 seconds on Heroes, and 7.0 seconds on creeps. (Frost Arrows is a unique attack modifier)
Movement slow: 16%/32%/48%/64%
Releases a wave that silences and knocks back enemy units. Knockback distance is relative to how close they are to you.
Silence duration: 3/4/5/6
Knockback duration: 0.6/0.7/0.8/0.9
Precision Aura (E/Passive)
Adds bonus damage to the physical attack of allied, ranged Hero units based on a percentage of Drow’s agility. Affects creeps for 30 seconds when cast.
Range damage bonus: 20%/26%/32%/38%
Drow’s experiences in battle improve her accuracy and effectiveness in combat, providing a passive bonus to Agility. Grants no bonus if there are enemy heroes within 400 range.
Aghanim’s Scepter: Causes Drow Ranger’s attacks to splinter on the target, hitting nearby units with normal attacks that deal reduced damage.
Bonus Agility: 40/60/80
Search range: 400
Agh’s splinter count: 2
Agh’s splinter search range: 375
Agh’s splinter damage reduction: 50%
Drow Ranger’s first skill point almost always goes into Precision Aura, but as always you should hold taking your first skill in case there’s an opportunity for a kill before you get to lane. The movement slow from Frost Arrows could be enough to help your team secure first blood.
Choosing whether to max out Precision Aura or Frost Arrows first follows similar logic. If your team is fighting a lot early, Frost Arrows are your friend. If you’ve got plenty of space to farm, Precision Aura will help secure those last hits for you and any other ranged cores on your team. Don’t forget to activate Precision Aura. While the 100 second cooldown is quite long, it’s better to use it than to hold it solely for tower pushes only to forget it exists.
Take a point in Gust when it feels appropriate. It’s usually safe to hold off until Level 4 or 5 unless the enemy team looks like they want to dive you before that point. The first level of Gust is a value point, finish off Precision Aura and Frost Arrows before spending any more points on your silence.
Marksmanship should always be skilled at Level 6, since the bonus Agility makes your basic attacks significantly more powerful, not to mention the 5.6 extra armor which could be the difference between dying or living through a gank.
A fun extra “feature” of Marksmanship is its ability to detect invisible enemy heroes lurking nearby (but only if they’re within the 400 search range). It’s not easy to notice unless you’re looking for it, but Drow Ranger gains a glowing particle effect when Marksmanship is active, and that effect disappears when there is an enemy hero in range. If you check your agility when Marksmanship is active, you can also notice it deactivate when your base agility drops.
In the image above, Drow's Marksmanship is active on the right and deactivated on the left.
Slippers of Agility, Tangoes, Salve, Ring of Protection, Iron Branch
Ring of Aquila, Power Treads or Phase Boots, Dragon Lance
Helm of the Dominator, Hurricane Pike, Shadow Blade
Manta Style, Black King Bar, Sange and Yasha, Monkey King Bar, Daedalus, Silver Edge, Butterfly, Aghanim’s Scepter, Mjollnir
Drow Ranger’s item build changes depending on your team’s goals for the game, but there are a few items that are picked up most of the time. To start, Slippers of Agility and a Ring of Protection will build into your Ring of Aquila, which has great all around stats and has a little mana regeneration to let you cast a few more Frost Arrows.
Power Treads are the more popular boots on Drow, but Phase boots have their advantages as well. While Treads' attack speed helps you hit creeps faster and gives you a few stats to toggle between for an armor/health/mana boost, Phase boots let you travel between farming spots faster, kill creeps more quickly with bonus attack damage while also giving you an (admittedly limited) escape on an eight second cooldown. Both options have their strengths, so choose one over the other depending on the situation.
Dragon Lance is a fantastic item for Drow Ranger for several reasons. First up, it grants additional attack range. Since one of Drow’s biggest problems is enemies getting up in her face, this helps you to keep a safe distance from your enemies. If needed, it can be upgraded to Hurricane Pike, and used either to push an enemy away when they jump on you or simply as an escape, like Force Staff, while still offering the bonus range. It can also be disassembled and built into Manta Style and Black King Bar or Sange and Yasha, though one of the two Bands of Elvenskin used in Dragon Lance will go to waste.
Shadow Blade is useful for both ganking and escaping, though you may want to avoid picking it up if there is one or more invisible heroes on your team since the enemy squad will be more likely to carry Dust of Appearance and Sentry Wards. If you’re doing a lot of fighting, upgrading Shadow Blade to Silver Edge is an efficient way to add extra stats and utility. Make sure to carefully select the target of your first attack out of invisibility, because it will reduce their damage and disable their passive abilities for five seconds.
Helm of the Dominator allows you to stack camps with a Dominated unit, lifesteal on your basic attacks and tank up with +5 armor. It’s important not to have Frost Arrows on auto cast especially when using Helm of the Dominator, because the on attack effects of both are Unique Attack Modifiers, and do not stack. Don’t use Frost Arrows when farming creeps, and you’ll lifesteal. When attacking enemy heroes, manually cast Frost Arrows every second or so to keep the slow on them, but alternate with regular attacks, which will lifesteal. It can be built into Satanic in the late game if needed, or sold to free up a slot (since it isn’t a huge gold investment to begin with).
If you need a lot of single target damage in the late game, Butterfly, Daedalus and Monkey King Bar are all good options. If you’re focusing on pushing, or are faced clearing heavy illusion spam from the enemy team, the combination of Aghanim’s Scepter and Mjollnir will melt through everything in your path. Mjollnir is yet another Unique Attack Modifier, so if you have Helm of the Dominator or Satanic, you won’t lifesteal when the lightning procs.
Annabelle "Abelle" Fischer is a writer for theScore esports with a love for Dota 2, birds and cheese. You can follow her on Twitter.