Understanding the 3 main damage types in Dota 2

Understanding the three main damage types in Dota 2 is crucial, especially if you’re a beginner. Knowing which abilities to focus on can help you play more efficiently. The following information will help you understand the three main damage types and their characteristics.

In Dota 2, damage refers to ways that the unit’s health can be reduced. Everyone is capable of dealing damage, including heroes, creeps, towers, and fountains. Damages are classified into 3 main types are Physical, Magical, and Pure.

Before delving into damage classification, it will help to know about damage sources. You can deal damage by attack, abilities, and items. 

Attack damage refers to the damage dealt per attack. It is displayed on the sword icon in the head-up display (HUD). Heroes of Dota 2 begin with basic damage and 1 extra damage for every point of a primary attribute. They gain primary attributes as they level up, allowing them to gain damage. 

Regular physical attacks are used to deal with attack damage. A number of factors influence attack damage, such as damage’s value and type, armor, and armor type, damage block, and others.

Spell damage is not dealt with by physical attacks. Spell damage is broken down into magical, physical, and pure damages. Damage dealt by attack modifiers is considered spell damage. Such is the case as long as the effect deals the damage in another instance and is separate from the attack damage.

You can amplify spells with the following:

  • Null Talisman 
  • Kaya 
  • Kaya and Sange 
  • Yasha and Kaya 
  • Bloodstone
  • Bloodstone’s Spell Lifesteal

These damage amplification sources stack additively. Besides spell damage dealt against enemies, amplification also causes damage to allies or the own unit in order to get amplified.

Items that grant increased damage also increase attack damage. They do not affect abilities and items. Abilities and items also deal damage, and these are fixed. Still, there are numerous abilities that can be upgraded by using Aghanim’s Scepter. Others scale with hero stats, conditions, enemy health, or others.

Damage Classification

Every form of damage in Dota 2 can be classified as either Physical, Magical, or Pure damage.

Physical damage – can be reduced by Physical Armor or Damage Block.

Magical damage – can be reduced by Magical Damage Resistance.

Pure damage – cannot be reduced by either armor or magical damage resistance.

All of these damage types interact with other damage-related game mechanics. Damage may have the Health Point (HP) Removal Flag. This causes the damage to ignore a number of mechanics that would otherwise manipulate it.

Game MechanicDamage Type and Game Mechanic Interaction
Physical AttacksPhysical AbilitiesMagicalPure
Damage Blockreducednormalnormalnormal
Magic resistancenormalnormalreducednormal
Etherealno effectno effectamplifiednormal
Evasionpotential missnormalnormalnormal
Damage amplificationamplifiedamplifiedamplifiedamplified
Damage reductionreducedreducedreducedreduced
Damage negationno effectno effectno effectno effect
Magical damage barriernormalnormalno effectnormal
Invulnerabilityno effectno effectno effectno effect
Spell immunitynormalcase-to-case basiscase-to-case basiscase-to-case basis

Key factors to remember for Damage Type and Game Mechanic interaction

The only exception for Physical Abilities-Damage Block interaction is the ability effect Moon Glaives, whose damage is blocked.

In damage types’ interaction with Damage amplification, only certain ability effects are counted. These are the ones that directly manipulate damage through reduction, amplification, or complete blockage. They include Bloodrage, Bristleback, and Refraction. 

However, abilities such as Counterspell, Corrosive Haze, and Battlecry are not included. This is because they amplify or reduce damage by increasing/reducing magic resistance/armor of units.

It is also important to remember that spell immunity does not interact with any damage type. Spells are rated based on the fact of whether or not they can pierce spell immunity on their own, independent from their damage type. Therefore, spell immunity governs if it has an effect. The amount of damage it inflicts is not relevant.

To render a spell ineffective, the spell should not pierce spell immunity. The target would require spell immunity and complete damage reduction of the damage type that the spell inflicts. 

An instance of 0 damage would still register and may proc on-damage effects unless it is flagged as HP Removal. In a case where a spell does not pierce spell immunity, then it means that it would not attempt to damage the target at all. Thus no 0 damage instance takes place.

Physical Damage

Physical attack damage

Regular attacks from all units and certain abilities can inflict physical damage. Armor and Damage Block both modify physical damage. This type of damage is also unaffected by magic resistance, and cannot affect ethereal units. 

Abilities such as Guardian Angel and Cold Embrace cause their targets to be entirely immune to physical damage. However, they can still be targeted by attacks and abilities.

Physical spell damage

Most of the time, physical damage from abilities is unaffected by armor type. 

Exorcism and physical damage abilities that directly add damage to the hero’s attack are exceptions. They have the hero attack damage type which deals 50% to structure armor type and 100% to all other types. However, they are not affected by evasion and Damage Block; except for Moon Glaives.

The following table contains hero abilities that deal physical damage.

Abyssal Blade – BashAlchemist – Acid Spray
Alchemist – Unstable ConnectionAlchemist – Unstable Connection Throw
Anti-Mage – Mana BreakBash – Bash
Battle Fury – CleaveBrigand’s Blade – Dark Mercy
Bristleback – Quill SprayCentaur Warrunner – Retaliate
Chipped Vest – PassiveCleave – Cleave
Clinkz – Searing ArrowsDazzle – Poison Touch
Dazzle – Shadow WaveDeath Prophet – Exorcism
Diffusal Blade – Mana BreakDragon Knight – Elder Dragon Form
Drow Ranger – Forrest ArrowsDrow Ranger – Marksmanship
Drow Ranger – MultishotElder Titan – Earth Splitter
Elder Titan – Echo StompFae Grenade – Shadow Brand
Kunkka – Tidebringer Lifestealer – Feast
Luna – Moon GlaivesMagnus – Empower
Mirana – Mana BreakMoney King – Wukong’s Command
Razor – Eye of the StormRiki – Cloak and Dagger
Shadow Blade – Shadow WalkShadow Shaman – Mass Serpent Ward
Silver Edge – Shadow WalkSkull Basher – Bash
Slardar – Bash of the DeepSlardar – Slithereen Crush
Sniper – HeadshotSven – Great Cleave
Templar Assassin – MeldThe Leveller – Demolish
Tiny – Tree GrabUrsa – Fury Swipes
Weaver – Mana BreakWeaver – The Swarm

Damage is directly added to the unit’s attack damage for the following:

  • Bash
  • Mana Break
  • Marksmanship
  • Feast
  • Cloak and Dagger
  • Shadow Walk
  • Bash of the Deep
  • Headshot
  • Fury Swipes

Damage from the following is also affected by armor type:

  • Bash
  • Cleave
  • Exorcism
  • Mana Break
  • Marksmanship
  • Elder Dragon Form
  • Tidebringer
  • Feast
  • Cloak and Dagger
  • Shadow WalkBash of the Deep
  • Headshot
  • Great Cleave
  • Fury Swipes

Magical Damage

Magical damage is mainly caused by spells, though not all spells do magical damage. It is reduced by magic resistance. It also deals higher damage against ethereal units. Most of the abilities on Dota 2 deal magical damage. Abilities that are not listed in the Physical damage section and Pure Damage section all inflict magical damage.

The following are the characteristics of Magical damage:

  • Deals 75% Damage to heroes
  • Deals Bonus Damage to Ethereal Units
  • Cannot go through Black King Bar, except for a selected few
  • Some have disables

Pure Damage

Pure damage is not reduced by armor or Magic Resistance. Likewise, it is not amplified by magical damage amplification abilities. Armor and Damage Block are ineffective. Pure Damage also does not affect invulnerable units. 

Numerous sources can manipulate Pure Damage such as Dispersion. Since spell immunity does not block damage, Pure damage affects units with spell immunity. However, that does not mean that an ability that deals pure damage is capable of targeting immune units. For instance, Laser deals pure damage but cannot be cast on units with spell immunity.

The following is a list of abilities that deal pure damage.

Abaddon – Mist CoilAxe – Counter Helix
Bane – Brain SapBane – Fiend’s Grip
Bane – NightmareBloodseeker – Blood Rite
Bloodseeker – BloodrageBloodseeker – Rupture
Doom – DoomEnchantress – Impetus
Enigma – Black HoleHuskar – Burning Spear
Invoker – Sun StrikeJakiro – Macropyre
Leshrac – Diabolic EdictLina – Laguna Blade
Meepo – PoofMeepo – Ransack
Nyx Assassin – VendettaOmniknight – Purification
Oracle – False PromiseOutworld Destroyer – Arcane Orb
Pudge – Meat HookQueen of Pain – Sonic Wave
Silencer – Glaives of WisdomSpectre – Desolate
Templar Assassin – Psi Blades Timbersaw – Chakram
Timbersaw – Second ChakramTimbersaw – Timber Chain
Timbersaw – Whirling DeathTinker – Laser

Remember the following information about Dota 2’s abilities that deal Pure damage:

  • While Mist Coil deals Pure damage to the caster, it deals Magical damage to the target.
  • Burning Spear only deals damage with Huskar’s level 25 talent and Magical damage for others.
  • Laguna Blade and Macropyre only deal pure damage when they are upgraded by Aghanim’s Scepter. Otherwise, they deal Magical damage.

The following are the characteristics of Pure damage:

  • Deals 100% Damage to heroes
  • Deals no Bonus Damage to Ethereal Units
  • Cannot go through Black King Bar
  • Have no disables of its own