Attack Speed: Part 1

This post comes to you, dear reader, from Friend of the Show Arian. This is the first of a three-part series on Attack Speed and Damage. Enjoy!

Ask yourself this: What is the most basic way of inflicting damage in Dota 2? My first answer to that question would obviously be Sniper. My close second would be the Auto-Attack. Casting spells interacts with the mana mechanic and spells also have different ways of dealing damage through their damage type. Each spell is unique and has a different twist to it. In short, spells are hard. Auto attacks, on the other hand, are literally just hitting a hero in the face. However, you would be mistaken if you think that Auto-Attacking is not convoluted – this is Dota, after all. Much like a martial arts, simply hitting someone in the face can become complicated very quickly.

To best understand the ancient art of Kung-Dota, I will try to break it down in following three sections: 1) attack time, 2) the relationship between attack speed and damage, and crits and bashes. We’ll only briefly touch on orb attacks, because they are slowly getting phased out of Dota. Armor is also hugely important but luckily that topic was already explained in detail by your favorite Coffee-Grinder. Since you now know that a load of mechanics is coming right at you, now is your last chance to run. For everyone remaining, stand tall, and let’s start learning some martial arts.

Attack Time

The attack time consists of the actual attack animation (also referred to as attack point), the so-called attack back-swing, and an idle period so the system can’t be abused (more on that shortly). Let’s take these one by one. The attack animation, according to Dota 2 Wiki, is the delay between when an attack command is issued and the damage is dealt. Let’s pretend we’re everyone’s favorite Ogre, Alchemist. If our theoretical alchemist decides to get punchy, . the animation is his arm punching right up to the moment the actual damage is inflicted. The ogre returning his arms to their original position is the back-swing, and the period between the end of the back-swing and the launching of the next attack is the idle period. Check out the picture below:

I know what you sly dogs are thinking. After I deal damage, why don’t I just cancel my animation and skip this boring, slow, back-swing bit? Well, IceFrog outwitted us newbs once again. The idle exists so you can’t improve your attack speed by cancelling your animation. If you cancel your attack mid-backswing, after your attack was launched, your idle period extends to the time your backswing would have taken to finish plus your normal idle period. This is also why people sometimes complain about bad attack animations. Some heroes have a very fast attack animation and backswing (Anti-Mage comes to mind), and a very long idle. That makes last hitting easier because the hero responds much faster to your attacking-command. Other heroes, like Zeus, have a very long attack animation and a short Idle. The Idle period makes it so that Anti-Mage doesn’t automatically have better attack speed than Zeus only because he has a faster animation.

Every hero has a base attack time, which is 1.7 seconds for most heroes. Base attack time is the default interval between attacks assuming 0 agility and no attack speed bonus. From base attack time, we can figure out a few important things: 1) we can calculate attacks per second 2) we can calculate how much time passes between each attack. For those of you who enjoy math (from Dota 2 Wiki):

How does this relate to the game itself? After the time between attacks is calculated, the length of your attack animation, idle period and back-swing is adjusted so they add up to whatever your time between attacks is. TLDR; This is why our buddy Alch’s animation gets faster and faster as he gets more items throughout the game. The lowering of base attack time explains the attack speed portion of Alchemist’s ult. His ult lowers his base attack time, meaning every point of attack speed he has improves his time between attacks even more, resulting in the ridiculous attack speed you sometimes see on that hero.

Your Base attack time is also what determines the maximum number of attacks per second (some call it the attack speed cap). If your base attack time is 1.7 you cannot go lower than a certain value of attacks per second. Some heroes have a better base attack time, like Anti Mage, which means his maximum attacks per second is higher. It also means he gets more value out of buying attack speed/agility items.

For all the lazy, immediate-gratification-seeking readers, here are the magic words:


  • Attacking Consists of Three stages
  • You can NOT increase your attack speed with animation cancelling
  • Your base attack time determines how much attack speed items improve your attack speed
  • Your base attack time determines your maximum attacks per second


Posted on March 15, 2017 and filed under commentary.