Dota mechanics is always an interesting topic to discuss. Fundamental understanding of the game doesn’t directly translate to skill in game, but it helps players make more informed decisions and sometimes find a way out of a seemingly impossible situation. It can also be quite fun.
In one of our previous blog posts we went over how patch 7.20 changed the way armor works, but omitted a further analysis on negative armor and the bonuses it gives to the attacker. Today we are going to fix this.
Negative armor follows the same progression as a positive one, but in reverse. Its effectiveness similarly diminishes at higher negative values, providing less and less bonuses for the attacker with each extra point of negative armor. As previously, you can refer to the table to see how things work. Second sheet contains negative armor values.
Keeping in mind all of this information is not practical, so instead we will simply give you five simple numbers and urge you to memorize them. They are an approximation, but should still come in handy in a lot of decision-making processes.
Five armor is ~25% physical damage resistance for positive values and a 25% bonus damage for negative armor values. Quarter of damage is either mitigated or added as a bonus.
Nine armor is ~33% physical damage resistance for positive values and a 33% bonus damage for negative armor values. One third of damage is either mitigated or added as a bonus.
Sixteen armor is ~50% physical damage resistance for positive values and a 50% bonus damage for negative armor values. Half of damage is either mitigated or added as a bonus.
Thirty armor is ~66% physical damage resistance for positive values and a 66% bonus damage for negative armor values. Two thirds of damage is either mitigated or added as a bonus.
Forty Two armor is ~75% physical damage resistance for positive values and a 75% bonus damage for negative armor values. Three quarters of damage is either mitigated or added as a bonus.
This should be simple enough to memorize and use in your games when calculating approximate amount of attacks needed to kill an enemy or how valuable negative armor will be vs. simple extra damage.
In the first blog post regarding armor we somewhat arbitrarily separated armor into “high-value” and “low value” for armor values of under and over twenty respectively. There isn’t much math behind it, except for the general idea of armor having diminishing returns at extreme values.
Armor reducing effects, therefore, are at their best when they fully strip the enemy armor and get them into negative values. In case of Slardar, for example, applying level three Corrosive Haze on a target with exactly ten armor is going to change the damage multiplier applied to attacks from 62.32% to 137.68%—an almost 75% change.
Same effect applied to a target with 42 armor will change the damage multiplier from 25.10% to 41.51%. In this case the difference isn’t as drastic, with a ~16% change to the modifier applied to the damage.
It is easy to understand, therefore, that when facing enemies with massive amounts of armor (e.g. Morphling, Terrorblade, Naga), armor reduction effects are not very effective. You should either understand that the armor reduction won’t allow for high physical damage bursts on these particular targets, or commit all-in with multiple sources of armor reduction during the draft or when purchasing items.
There are two heroes in the game that have abilities that either ignore or reduce the enemy base armor. Elder Titan has Natural Order aura, while Drow now pierces through base armor with Marksmanship.
The way Natural Order works is it checks how much Base Armor the target has and then simply subtracts the same amount from the target’s armor total. It means that items like Desolator, Assault Cuirass, Medallion of Courage or Solar Crest will fully work with the armor reduction from the aura. In fact, they are more likely to cut into “high value” or even result in the enemy having negative amount of armor.
e.g. Enemy has 20 Base Armor and 5 Bonus Armor for a total of 25 Armor. Under the effects of Medallion of Courage and Natural Order aura, his 25 armor will be reduced by 20 from the aura effects and by 7 from Medallion effect, to a total of negative 2 armor.
Marksmanship checks the enemy armor before resolving the attack, once again simply subtracting the enemy base armor from the total amount of armor the target has for damage calculations. It similarly means that Desolator, Assault Cuirass, Medallion of Courage or Solar Crest work fully and might be surprisingly effective in certain cases. Probably not on Drow Ranger herself, but on one of the allies. Keep in mind that Marksmanship proc is also physical damage and while it is resolved separately, the same rules of damage mitigation or amplification apply.
e.g. Enemy has 25 Base Armor and 10 Bonus Armor for a total of 35 Armor. If attacked by Drow Ranger with Desolator, on proc the damage will be calculated as if the enemy has 3 armor: 35 (total armor) - 25 (Base Armor reduction of Marksmanship) - 7 (Desolator effect)
Now we get to the fun part. We love how certain things in the game of Dota interact with each other, prompting us to sometimes write about janky, low-probability but hilarious and “absolutely amazing when they actually work” things like recently highlighted Grimstroke+Warlock Combo.
Elder Titan + Drow Ranger probably won’t look as flashy or, quite frankly, won’t be as effective, but it 's fun nonetheless. Because, as attentive readers might have guessed already, the way Dota is coded allows for effects from both Drow Ranger and Elder Titan to stack.
That means that a target affected by Natural Order will first get their armor reduced by their original base armor value and then, on Marksmanship proc attack resolution, the same base armor value will be subtracted again for damage calculations.
In practice, it results in enemy base armor actually working against them. A hero with 42 base armor will get attacked on Marksmanship proc as if they had -42 armor, effectively changing the damage multiplier from 25% to 175%. Or, in simpler terms, it is a 7x actual damage output increase. With 120 extra physical damage that also benefits from massive negative armor values. With a 50% chance to proc.
It is hard to say whether it will ever get into play or whether it is going to be as effective in practice as it can theoretically be on paper, but the idea of the enemy being punished for having a lot of armor is certainly fun.
Naturally, there is a problem of Elder Titan being in a weird limbo. Drow isn’t as strong or as popular as she was in the previous patch either, while the whole concept only truly works on heroes with tons of base armor. But there is a chance we might see this in play someday and it will be glorious.
For now, keep playing, keep learning and don’t hesitate to share your own janky concepts with us.