The lore behind every Dota 2 arcana and persona

Kenneth Williams • December 4, 2021 8:23 am

Arcanas and hero personas are the biggest lore development for almost every Dota 2 hero and they also add lore to each hero.

Dota 2’s most prestigious sets show a brand new side of their hero. Hero personas and arcanas completely rework a hero’s look and present a new twist on them. Each one comes with its own backstory for how the hero earned their flashier form. Here’s the story behind every Dota 2 arcana and persona explained. 

Phantom Advent Spectre

Mercurial the Spectre’s original identity is a mystery to everyone, so it makes sense that the Phantom Advent arcana hints towards her original form. The Phantom Advent arcana represents a new form for Spectre where every person she kills returns a small amount of her original identity to her. The Phantom Advent itself is a cursed set of armor, though how and where Spectre got it is still a complete mystery.

Several players have theorized that Spectre is the eventual evolution of Phantom Assassin due to several lore connections involving Phantom Assassin’s arcana and Oracle. As Phantom Advent Spectre gets kills, daggers appear that signal her returning identity.

Considering Phantom Assassin also uses plenty of daggers, the Phantom Advent seems to all-but-confirm Spectre’s identity status as a forsaken Phantom Assassin.

Davion of Dragon Hold Dragon Knight

Dragon Knight’s lore is mostly explained by his name. He was a valiant knight tasked with slaying the dragon Slyrak. While he expected a fight, Slyrak was already an elderly dragon who was already close to death.

Davion chose to grant Slyrak a warrior’s death, but Slyrak managed to critically injure Davion in the fight. The elder dragon’s blood fused with Davion’s through the wound, granting the knight various dragon-related powers.

Dragon Knight’s arcana is based on the DOTA: Dragon’s Blood Netflix show. Davion of Dragon Hold is a knight who winds up working with Slyrak to defeat a demon. He then earns his powers in a slightly different way.

The voice is the biggest change in the Dragon Knight persona. Davion’s original Dota 2 voice is revealed to actually be the dragon Slyrak, showing that the dragon’s influence grows stronger over time. The different equipment represents the different armor and weapons Davion wields in the show.

Compass of the Rising Gale Windranger

Windranger’s backstory is incredibly dark for such a bubbly character, but her arcana seems to focus on the future instead of the past. Windranger’s arcana shows an alternate timeline where she attempts to revive the legendary Order of the Rising Gale.

Though her appearance is that of a human, she is actually a wind elemental hybrid. This is discussed in some of her new voice lines as well.

Windranger was orphaned as a baby when her village was attacked by wind elementals. The wind monsters, who apparently felt remorseful, granted her mastery over their magic as a strange form of reparations. It’s always been hinted that Windranger wasn’t aware of the tragedy. Her arcana confirms it. After learning her true origins, she decides to embrace her new guardians and begin a new Order of the Rising Gale.

Toy Butcher Pudge

Toy Butcher Pudge is probably the wildest persona in all of Dota 2. Instead of expanding on his complex lore as possibly the most important character in Dota 2 or reaching deep in his backstory, Pudge’s persona is just a fun little take on his design. Instead of torn flesh with bones and gore sticking out, Pudge is shown as a beat-up ragdoll that’s poorly put together. Maybe it’s some kind of analogy for how all of Dota 2 is really just a fantasy toybox?

Unlike the other Dota 2 arcanas and personas on this list, Toy Butcher Pudge is very clearly a non-canonical take on the iconic Butcher. The set description states that he maintains his frightening reputation in some kind of magical toy box.

Pudge’s arcana Feast of Abcession does a better job of explaining his lore, which is probably why Valve decided to launch a less-serious persona for the most popular hero of all time.

Disciple’s Path Anti-Mage

Anti-Mage is one of Dota 2’s most loved and hated heroes, but most players have a softer spot for his apprentice.

The Disciple’s Path replaces Anti-Mage with his protege, Wei. She uses the same pair of blades and uses the same technique to hunt down magic users. The skin’s lore text uses the word “adopted” to describe their relationship. That could either mean that Wei is his chosen sole successor or that Anti-Mage is literally her parental guardian.

As the last of the Turstarkuri monks, Anti-Mage’s techniques would go completely extinct without an apprentice. There’s no indication as to how he found Wei or why he decided to train her, but she is clearly a capable warrior in her own right. She keeps the Tibetan monk aesthetic but drops the English accent, which is probably for the best.

Notably, some of Anti-Mage’s lore has either been transplanted into Wei or retconned to involve her instead. The best example of this is voice lines that suggest she teamed up with Windranger at one point, suggesting that she has taken his place in the “A Dark Purpose Served” comic from years past.

Eminence of Ristul Queen of Pain

Queen of Pain spends the vast majority of her time wandering the mortal realm, where she presumably does what succubi do. The Eminence of Ristul arcana depicts her finally returning to the seven hells only to discover her kingdom has been usurped in her absence.

The description doesn’t specify if Shadow Demon, Terrorblade, Doom, or any of the other demons stole her throne. It only states that Queen of Pain is hellbent on getting it back.

She allies with an exiled demon prince, Knogh, to gain new powers. The Eminence of Ristul has an upgraded version called Royal Decree that turns her normal red into baby blue. The only way to unlock it is to hit 1,000 enemies with her ultimate ability Sonic Wave. Maybe the new color scheme represents her inevitable return to the throne.

The One True King Wraith King

This Dota 2 arcana lore is actually a reference to a real-life copyright dispute between Activision Blizzard and Valve.

Wraith King was Skeleton King for many years after Dota 2’s closed beta, but he became a wraith during a special event called Wraith Night. Blizzard allegedly contacted Valve and asked them to change the character to something more original. The majority of Dota 2 heroes are based on character models from Warcraft 3, which played host to the original Defense of the Ancients custom game.

Wraith King is far from the only Dota 2 hero to receive changes at Blizzard’s request. Windranger was previously named Windrunner and Necrophos first went by Necrolyte.

To this day, the official credits for Dota 2 gives a special thanks to Blizzard for allowing many characters to remain in their original forms. Many players felt nostalgic for the old Skeleton King model, so Valve made the obvious move of locking it behind a time-sensitive paywall.

Flockheart’s Gamble Ogre Magi

Ogre Magi is the definition of dumb luck. Ogres are extremely dumb in the Dota 2 universe, sometimes even to the point of forgetting to eat and attempting to mate with rocks.

Ogre Magi’s “intelligence” and good fortune come from a prophecy where one ogre every generation is born with two heads. This gives them just enough IQ points to form complete sentences and cast spells.

The unnamed Goddess of Luck has always taken a shining to the prophesized two-headed ogre. In the case of Flockheart’s Gamble’s lore, it seems an errant firelark named Flockheart wandered away from its pack only to wind up as a mount for the Ogre Magi. It’s also revealed that the hero was originally supposed to watch over the firelark herd only to shirk his duties and ride to the battle of the ancients.

Acolyte of the Lost Arts Invoker

Acolyte of the Lost Arts is proof that Invoker has always been a total jerk.

In this persona, Invoker is shown as a young child still learning magic at a wizard’s academy. Even after being praised for his aptitude, he still wants more and escapes the academy around the age of 10. Young Carl wields the same combination of Quas, Wex, and Exort, but they’re now shown as friendly elemental creatures rather than just colored balls of light.

He still has Invoker’s iconic shivering hands, but they’re much steadier than his older form. Maybe the fan theory of Invoker having Parkinson’s is true after all?

Invoker’s Acolyte of the Lost Arts was the very first persona added to Dota 2. To date, it’s also the only persona to get an alternate version after its release. The Dark Artistry Throwback grants young Invoker the infamous Dark Artistry set with lore to go with it. The black armor is the formal battle dress of his wizarding school, which no one in living memory had worn until he decided to steal a set for himself. 300 Sun Strike kills reward an alternate style with the Goku-esque Apex hair immortal.

Planetfall Earthshaker

Earthshaker is the living personification of the Dota 2 world, but the many alternate timelines have changed his interpretation of the mission to defend it.

In the Planetfall arcana lore, Earthshaker meets with another self from an alternate timeline where he failed to protect the earth from a destructive otherworldy invader. Newly motivated by his theoretical failure and warned of future threats, Planetfall arcana Earthshaker harnesses the power of celestial bodies to boost his abilities in combat.

Earthshaker’s appearance undergoes a ton of changes in the Planetfall arcana lore. He sprouts a new set of glowing horns and gains a majestic beard to match. His new blue color scheme is titled Celestial Summons and represents his new relationship with the void surrounding his precious earth. The upgraded form titled Burning Descent restores his musty orange and brown after getting 500 kills or assists with Echo Slam. This could indicate the complete synthesis of his earth and space powers.

Magus Cypher Rubick

Rubick’s arcana is probably the most elaborate cosmetic set in all of Dota 2.

The Magus Cypher changes almost every spell in the game into a green version inspired by Rubick’s trickster magician aesthetic. Players unlock new styles as they win more games. Flashy spells like Chronosphere, Meat Hook, and Epicenter are saved for last. The sheer number of upgradable spells makes the Magus Cypher an insane arcana even without the lore.

In the Dota 2 world, the Puzzle of Perplex represents the ultimate challenge for any magic user. Rubick is one of the few to solve it, as demonstrated in his immortal Staff of Perplex. However, the Magus Cypher portrays the trickster mage coming to a different conclusion. Now imbued with omnipotent powers, Rubick is able to refine his opponent’s spells instead of just copying them. It’s implied that he is able to make changes to the very basic rules of magic itself, though his current mastery probably limits his ambition.

Feast of Abscession Pudge

Dota 2’s most iconic hero also has one of the game’s most intense makeovers. The Feast of Abcession turns Pudge into a horrifying eldritch abomination complete with a set of hooked tentacles emerging from his back.

The hooks and chains are remnants of an ancient construct meant to bind servants of the Dead God. They somehow gained sentience and ravaged the homeland of its creator. Eventually, they found their way into the hands of Pudge, who is more than willing to serve the Dead God, intentionally or otherwise.

The Feast of Abcession connects Pudge to several other characters in Dota 2 lore. Fellow Dead God devotee Dirge the Undying is mentioned by name in the arcana description. In Pudge’s original lore, he guards the Field of Endless Carnage where dead bodies inexplicably rise up to continue fighting. Perhaps Pudge was in the Dead God’s servitude from the very beginning. A few voice lines indicate that Pudge views the Dead God as more of a friendly rival than a subject of worship.

Benevolent Companion Io

Wraith King’s arcana was a reference to a real-life copyright dispute, but Io’s exclusive arcana is a lore reference to an entirely different game. The Benevolent Companion arcana is based on the Weighted Companion Cube from Valve’s puzzle franchise Portal.

Io’s spherical shape turns to a cube with defined corners and hearts on each side. Io came in second place in The International 2016’s arcana vote, but Valve probably noticed a great marketing opportunity and drafted up the Benevolent Companion for The International 2017 battle pass.

In Portal, companion cubes are meant to act as therapy objects for Aperture Science’s test subject. They’re more often used by the player to activate buttons or create staircases to solve puzzles. Since Io always sticks close to a friendly hero, it’s easy to draw some comparisons. Under certain circumstances, Io can even beep out some bars from the Portal credits song Still Alive.

Bladeform Legacy Juggernaut

The Bladeform Legacy’s lore portrays Yurnero the Juggernaut in an entirely new way. Instead of being the sole survivor of his race of masked swordsmen, Juggernaut is now the physical embodiment of his entire race.

The souls of his fallen comrades swirl in and out of his head, guiding both his blade and his path to the enemy ancient. The Bladeform Legacy also has a completely new voice pack featuring the talents of WWE wrestler Samoa Joe.

The most defining feature of Juggernaut’s arcana is his cracked mask. The souls of his fallen brethren were trapped inside it all along according to the lore description. This arcana also comes with an upgrade that restores his usual color palette after getting 10 kills with Omnislash.

Fans requested the original coloration after it was released, so Valve made it easy to achieve but made future upgrades harder to acquire. Many fans were hoping that Juggernaut’s face would finally be revealed in his arcana, but Valve is saving that opportunity for another day.

Great Sage’s Reckoning Monkey King

Monkey King is one of only a few heroes to debut with an arcana. The Great Sage’s Reckoning is a complicated reference to Journey to the West, which is arguably the most influential story ever told in east Asia.

The saga details the adventures of the Monkey King across the heavens and the mortal realm. This arcana also evolves as the game goes on, taking on a new color every time Monkey King upgrades his ultimate Wukong’s Command.

The first phase represents when the Monkey King was still trapped under the decree of the gods. The second phase is a reference to how he acquired the Jingu Staff. The level 12 upgrade represents how he acquired his immortality, even making a reference to Razor’s Narrow Maze. His final form makes references to surviving a path through fire. He even gets to ride his signature nimbus cloud outside of combat.

Tempest Helm of the Thundergod Zeus

Zeus’ arcana has some real-life lore of its own. Year after year, Dota 2 players begged Valve to remodel the thunder god. Seeing an opportunity with the 2015 arcana vote, fans forced Valve’s hand by voting en masse for Zeus.

To this day, Zeus is one of the least-decorated heroes in Dota 2. As of patch 7.30e, Zeus has a grand total of just four cosmetic sets and two immortals. Equipping The International 2015 immortal Righteous Thunderbolt even updates several arcana animations to make them look more divine.

Tempest Helm of the Thundergod came out at the same time as a complete visual overhaul for the hero. His old model more closely resembled Mario than anything out of a fantasy game. Zeus’ taunt is also a reference to Nintendo’s mascot, and his Aghanim’s Shard upgrade even grants him the ability to jump. Don’t expect to see Zeus get the Skeleton King treatment anytime soon, though.

Frost Avalanche Crystal Maiden

Crystal Maiden’s arcana transforms her from a lowly sorcerer’s apprentice into a true master of ice magic. As for the lore, even the Frost Avalanche item description is unsure.

It suggests that her new clothing was once the wedding gown of an ancient queen of Icewrack. It also suggests that it was the battle cloak of a ghastly frost ogre. All we know for sure is that it amplifies ice magic and allows her to float through the frozen air.

The real selling point of Crystal Maiden’s arcana piece is Aurora the wolf pup who follows her across the lanes. It comes with an upgradable style to turn it into a husky. Valve later experimented with more pet cosmetics but has since abandoned the pet slot. Crystal Maiden has always shared an unfriendly rivalry with her sister Lina, so it only makes sense that they both flex arcanas.

Manifold Paradox Phantom Assassin

Manifold Paradox was the first arcana to really expand the lore of its wearer.

Phantom Assassin’s arcana came with a whole event centered around the hero’s relationship with Oracle. The pair form an unlikely bond where Oracle marks assassination targets and Phantom Assassin carries out the deed. Many fans believe that this process is what eventually turns her into Mercurial the Spectre.

A blacksmith’s family took 11 generations to forge the Manifold Paradox blades. They are so sharp that they can cut through the fabric of reality itself.

When the creator tested it out, he saw himself in another dimension about to perform the same test. He killed his alternate self in a fit of jealousy only to be cut down by another self from an alternate dimension. This process created a pair of blades instead of just one. Every time she kills an enemy, another blade forms near their corpse as a reference to their origin.

Demon Eater Shadow Fiend

Shadow Fiend usually feasts on human souls, but his arcana shows what would happen if he decided to prey on other demons. The Demon Eater corrupts Shadow Fiend even further, permanently setting his body on fire.

Shadow Fiend is technically able to consume demon souls any time he’s up against a demon on the enemy team. But according to Valve’s rules, you’ll need to shell out $35 to acquire the visual upgrade.

Fans can only guess which demon Shadow Fiend consumed to earn his ascended state. Terrorblade and Doom seem too powerful for Shadow Fiend to overpower, and Queen of Pain doesn’t spend much time in the seven hells to begin with.

That leaves Shadow Demon as the likely victim. He is already known for corrupting souls with his demonic presence. Perhaps the demonic soul collector rebelled against his master to achieve his enlightened form.

Swine of the Sunken Galley Techies

Techies is another Dota 2 hero that was released with an arcana. The Swine of the Sunken Galley replaces the measly Techies cart with a massive cannon.

In the Sunken Galley arcana lore, Techies designed a cannon to be the most powerful weapon ever created. It was named The Swine and sold to a group of sailors who attempted to test it at sea. The force of the shot was so powerful that it flung the cannon right back onto the shore, coincidentally right next to the Techies workshop.

Swine of the Sunken Galley created controversy on release because it gave technically gave access to a new ability. Valve responded by making Minefield Sign a base ability for Techies.

Nowadays it even has gameplay implications thanks to Techies’ Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade. The sign turns any nearby mines completely invisible and immune to true sight. What was once a source of complaints has now become an even bigger source of complaints.

Fractal Horns of Inner Abysm Terrorblade

As a demon among demons, Valve had to go all out when it added Terrorblade to Dota 2. Fractal Horns of Inner Abysm changes Terrorblade’s humanoid look to something completely alien and foreign. Metamorphosis pushes it even further, replacing the hollow void with a terrifying set of abstract facial features.

The Fractal Horns also marked the first time a Dota 2 hero debuted with an arcana. Valve did this for several heroes but appears to have stopped after Monkey King.

After committing crimes against demonkind, Terrorblade was sentenced to imprisonment in the demonic pit of Foulfell. He became trapped in his own mind and forced to confront himself from alternate timelines.

The Fractal Horns of Inner Abysm represents Terrorblade in the most demonic form possible across the entire multiverse. His theme of parallel dimensions is reflected in the arcana’s prismatic gem slot. Terrorblade can glow red, blue, purple, white or any color the owner wishes as long as they have the prismatic gem for it.

Blades of Voth Domosh Legion Commander

In Legion Commander’s original lore, she led the Bronze Legion against a demonic horde attacking the city of Stonehall. They fought valiantly but were unable to protect the city from such a massive threat. She is able to defeat the enemy commander in single combat, but there were few survivors.

After rallying her remaining forces, she declares her intent to wipe out all of demonkind. The Blades of Voth Domosh arcana lore flips that story on its head.

The Legion Commander sought out the acclaimed smith Qwyth, who offered her a pair of blades with no equal. The Blades of Voth Domosh were powerful, but they came with a deadly price. Her soul was slowly but surely corrupted by the weapons, which eventually turned her into a unique hybrid of human and demon. When wielding her arcana, Legion Commander even speaks in the demonic language Ozkavosh.

Fiery Soul of the Slayer Lina

The Fiery Soul represents an ascended form of Lina the Slayer. It replaces her long auburn hair with an eternal column of fire. The description explains that Lina’s hair only becomes fire when she is extremely angry, though she maintains her cool composure due to a lack of altered voice lines.

While it’s definitely cool and flashy, the Fiery Soul arcana doesn’t really show any new lore for the floating firebrand. In all fairness to Valve, the company still figuring out exactly what an arcana was when it was released.

As the very first arcana, Fiery Soul of the Slayer is generally considered to be the least extreme makeover of any arcana or persona. It also occasionally breaks, which humorously leaves Lina completely bald.

The set hasn’t aged very well compared to more recent flashy skins. Due to that reputation, fans have asked Valve to remodel the Fiery Soul several times to no avail. Of all the heroes on this list, Lina is the most likely to get a second arcana sometime in the future.

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