Oh, how the great late-game heroes have fallen.
Not since the 7.06 update have they been effective, or so we thought.
It's no surprise that planning for the late game has gotten a bit difficult. With characters who have the ability to become dangerous within the first fifteen minutes of the game, late-game heroes have been pressured to farm faster. Because of this, many of them haven't been able to work within the standard, with the exception of one. Despite the poor conditions of a match, Spectre has been a successful late-game hero. What does she have that the others don't?
Spectre the Resilient
Like most late-game heroes, Spectre isn't particularly strong early game. Should heroes dive on her, the time for her first item is lengthened. However, unlike most late-game heroes, she only needs one item to set her straight for the rest of the match: Radiance.
Without any modifiers, Spectre's ability, called Dispersion, allows her to take on multiple foes at one. Because it reflects damage taken, a prolonged fight with her will kill an enemy hero. With the addition of Radiance, she is not only reflecting damage taken but avoiding it, too. Because of Radiance's mischance passive ability, the enemy will spend extended time fighting Spectre all the while taking the additional passive magic damage from Radiance.
In the event that Spectre is diverted from her pursuit of Radiance, she can still pick up a Vanguard which will allow her to prolong a fight due to increased health and regeneration. To put it bluntly, she's a ticking time bomb who's severely resilient. While she doesn't guarantee a win, she is a hassle for the enemy team. Should she use her ultimate ability, Haunt, she could easily locate the entire enemy team, preemptively deal damage to them using Radiance, and then single out a hero to kill.
Other Late Game Heroes' Usefulness
What can other late-game heroes do?
Medusa, for example, is a hero who doesn't appear all that often. She can still be used, provided she isn't the first position carry.
As of now, the traditional build of Medusa doesn't do well for her. Most of the items she buys, such as Manta Style, take time to acquire and don't translate into damage. If she instead builds for utility, she can make some headway. A Maelstrom or Orchid of Malevolence can do her wonders. They provide early-game damage and mana regeneration for her Mana Shield.
For the more expensive items, a Linken's Sphere should still be effective and an Aghanim's Scepter would surely spice things up. With each bounce of her ability, Mystic Snake, on an enemy, the Aghs will petrify the hero for a short duration. It's great for interrupting the enemy team's ability and for chasing them down.
A great place for a late-game hero who isn't aiming to be position-one is the middle lane. While a late-game hero's abilities aren't efficient at handling multiple heroes at once, they can certainly deal with one. With some solo experience and moderate farm, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Also consider their Aghs ability. Since the hero isn't aiming to be the main source of damage for their team, it wouldn't be a crazy idea to consider an alternative build. Most items they typically buy are for the sake of endurance, but since utility is the name of the game, an Aghs could be of use.
Take Morphling for example. Under normal circumstances, an Aghs is a waste, but as a support Morphling, you could potentially make it a six versus five match. The Aghs grants Morphling's illusion all the abilities of the copied hero. With decent ability on the team, you could potentially copy game winning abilities.
Late Game Heroes' Worth
Overall, late-game heroes are not worthwhile, but anything might happen in the Twin Fates update. My expectation is that irrelevant heroes will receive a major boost to get them back in the game. As of now, Spectre is the only hero worth investing time into. While the others are useful, there isn't much they provide that another hero couldn't improve upon.