Abilities are unique skills that Heroes and Creeps have access to on the Battlefield. They range from simple passive effects, to devastating explosions of energy, to complex, terrain changing feats. All Heroes have four or more abilities, three or more Basic Abilities and an Ultimate Ability, that they can assign rank points to every time they level up. Every rank in an ability makes it more powerful, sometimes increasing its Mana cost as well.
Abilities can consume Mana, and may also be placed on Cooldown when used. Abilities that are on Cooldown can not be used until their Cooldown timer is up, at which point they can be cast again. Abilities with low Cooldowns are sometimes referred to as "spammable" abilities, because they can be used very frequently.
 Upgrading Abilities
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Every time a Hero levels up, they earn a rank point which they can use to upgrade any of their abilities, learn a new ability, or can be used to upgrade their Attribute Bonus. At the start of the game, Heroes know none of their abilities, but are given a free rank point to learn one. Abilities cannot be used and do not have any effect if they have not been learned. After an ability is learned, it can be upgraded three more times, for a total of four ranks. The exception is a Hero's Ultimate Ability, which can only be upgraded to rank 3.
Basic Abilities can be upgraded to a new rank once every 2 levels. This means that a Level 2 Hero cannot upgrade a learned ability to rank 2. The same requirement applies to Attribute Bonuses. Every 2 levels, a Hero increases his maximum ability rank by 1. Ultimate Abilities can only be upgraded every 5 levels, starting from Level 6. These abilities are usually more powerful than a Hero's Basic Abilities.
Upgrading abilities will make them more powerful, or capable of doing more powerful things. Sometimes, upgrading abilities will also increase their Mana cost. For example, each rank in Earthshaker's Fissure increases the damage it deals and the duration of its stun, but increases its Mana cost by 15/rank.
A Hero's last ability, which can be trained at Level 6, Level 11, and Level 16, with the exception of Invoker's Invoke(which can be trained at levels 2, 7, 12, and 17), and Meepo's Divided We Stand(which can be trained at levels 3, 10, and 17) is called an Ultimate. In general, Ultimates have long cooldowns due to their sheer impact and effect and often have the potential to be a game changer. Earthshaker's Echo Slam and Sand King's Epicenter are examples of such. Hero ultimates can be an active ability or a passive ability.
Among ultimate abilities, there are some ultimates which don't have a particularly long cooldown such as Sniper's Assassinate, Pudge's Dismember, Invoker's Invoke, and Slardar's Amplify Damage. Some ultimates, while being active abilities, don't even have a cooldown, such as Leshrac's Pulse Nova, Tinker's Rearm, Enchantress's Impetus, Storm Spirit's Ball Lightning, and Pugna's Life Drain as improved by Aghanim's Scepter.
Some heroes also have passive ability ultimates which greatly enhances the hero's capability in their role, such as Riki's Permanent Invisibility, Drow Ranger's Marksmanship, Meepo's Divided We Stand, and Tiny's Grow. Wraith King's Reincarnation is a unique ultimate where it is a passive ability by nature but has a cooldown and mana requirement typical of an active ability. Other ultimates have passive and active parts, like Slark's Shadow Dance which must be cast, but can also provide regen depending on whether the hero is in enemy vision.
Ultimates, unlike normal abilities, are usually able to target a unit under a magic immunity effect, such as Black King Bar. They will rarely damage such a unit, but other effects such as slows or stun will generally apply. This makes ultimates, especially those with stun effects, incredibly powerful, since enemy Heroes cannot block the effects. However, there are exceptions such as Tidehunter's Ravage which cannot stun enemy with magic immunity.
On many heroes, Aghanim's Scepter, when purchased, will give a strengthening effect to the hero's ultimate ability in addition to the stats it provides. Typical examples of the effects of Aghanim's Scepter on a hero's ultimate are an increased damage/duration, or a decreased cooldown/cost. In the instance of Ogre Magi, a new ability can be gained. Other times, heroes will gain the effect of one of their other abilities, such as Spirit Breaker's Nether Strike performing an AOE of Greater Bash, or Silencer's Global Silence applying the current level of Curse of the Silent. Rubick is the one hero where obtaining a Aghanim's Scepter is recommended based on the opposing hero line-up due to the fact that any stolen ultimate is upgraded, regardless of whether or not the target has Aghanim's Scepter.
 Ability Types
An ability's type refers to how that ability's effects are applied.
Active abilities must be used in order to apply their effects. Active abilities can consume Mana, have Cooldowns, and usually have some method of targeting related to them. Most abilities are active abilities. An active ability's effects can vary a lot. They may cause damage, apply Stuns, or buff a Hero or his allies. Active abilities are indicated by a bevel around the icon, which makes them look like a button. They can be activated by pressing their associated hotkey, and double tapping the hotkey can cause them to activate immediately on the caster.
- Examples of active abilities are Weaver's Shukuchi, Ursa's Overpower, and Necrolyte's Reaper's Scythe.
Passive abilities will apply their effects as long as they are learned. They can be applied on the Hero that uses it, as an aura around that Hero, or even globally. Passive abilities do not consume Mana and usually don't have Cooldowns. Most Heroes have at least one passive ability, though not all do.
- Examples of passive abilities are Wraith King's Vampiric Aura, Crystal Maiden's Arcane Aura, and Drow Ranger's Marksmanship.
Autocast abilities are special abilities that can be toggled on or off, or manually cast. When toggled on, the ability will apply when it can. For example, Drow Ranger's Frost Arrows will be used whenever she attacks a target. When toggled off, they will not be used and will not consume Mana. These abilities can also be manually cast for greater precision, in which case they fire off a single time. If the ability is a Unique Attack Modifier, it will be treated as a spell when manually cast, as opposed to a physical attack. This means that the user can cancel the animation earlier without nullifying its effect, while also giving it some other unique properties. For more information, see Orb Walking.
Examples of autocast abilities are:
- Morphling's Morph
- Huskar's Burning Spears
- Enchantress's Impetus
- Drow Ranger's Frost Arrows
- Clinkz's Burning Arrows
- Outworld Devourer's Arcane Orb
- Silencer's Glaives of Wisdom
- Lich's Frost Armor
 Targeting Types
Active abilities and autocast abilities are targeted in different ways, depending on the effects of the abilty.
Active abilities with the instant targeting type are immediately applied when their button is pressed or their hotkey is used. Instant abilities can apply a buff to the user or activate an effect around them. Instant abilities may require good timing and positioning to work successfully, as they cannot be corrected.
- Examples of instant abilities are Mirana's Leap, Slardar's Slithereen Crush, Pudge's Rot, and Ursa's Enrage.
Point abilities can target a unit or a specific point on the ground, and will apply their effect there. When they are used, the cursor turns into a crosshair that determines where the ability will be cast. Transportation abilities, such as Anti-Mage's Blink, are often point targeted. For most transportation abilities, double pressing the hotkey will transport the user as close as possible to their Fountain. Point abilities can also be used for linear projectiles, that travel in a straight path from where they are fired, in the direction of the target point.
- Examples of point abilities are Nature's Prophet's Sprout, Spectre's Spectral Dagger, and Morphling's Wave Form.
Unit abilities will target a specific unit, and cannot be used on the ground. These spells will apply their effects to, around, or toward the target unit. Abilities that apply their effect to a single unit are often called "single target spells". Most single target nukes and disables are unit abilities. If your hero is not in range of the target unit, they will continue to follow that unit until they become in range, at which point the ability will fire. Projectiles that use unit targeting can sometimes be disjointed by blinking or by using Manta Style.
Area abilties, or area of effect abilties, apply their effects over a large area, or to all units in that area. When used, the cursor is replaced by a targeting area that highlights the ground and shows its coverage. The area that these abilities affect is measured as "units AoE", where units is the diameter of the area affected. The effects of an area ability can either persist when a unit leaves the area, or will end if a unit leaves.
- Examples of area abilities are Riki's Smoke Screen, Death Prophet's Silence, and Faceless Void's Chronosphere.
 See Also