One of the smartest things Valve's done with Dota 2 is hook it up to Steam Workshop --the curated platform provided by Valve for players to create and submit mods for the game. The community can vote for the ones they like and, if Valve agrees, it'll get added to the game.
Once added, players can either earn the items by leveling up and playing games through the matchmaking system, trade for them with other players, or just flat-out buy them for cash from Valve.
Dota 2's community has only just begun to scratch the surface of the potential hero skins, ability mods, announcer voice packs, and courier upgrades. Here are my favorites of what's out there so far.
1. The Forgemaster's Tools Bundle
Category: Item bundle | For: Axe | Price: $2.99
This equipment bundle isn't the most spectacular looking or the most dread-inducing, but it's the best of the cheap low-priced bundles. It doesn't take a dramatic twist or a whimsical flair that morphs his namesake into a bundle of flowers or something. Axe is still about the axe with this bundle--but is portrayed as a humble blacksmith who wasn't trained for battle but picked up his weapon in a moment of desperation to fight for something he holds dear--family, home, or something else. I like the narrative this bundle creates more than the standard "one-man army grunt soldier" that's Axe's official backstory.
2. Morok's Mechanical Mediary
Category: Courier | For: All heroes | Price: $7.99
The official description may claim this wonderful mechanical spider-bot was born from frugality and laziness, but you're only going to need one of those traits to pick up this little guy. $8 isn't pocket change, but for the price of a large burrito you can bring this lovable robot butler into every match (as long as you're the one buying couriers for your team). Sure beats having that jackass courier follow you around.
3. Healing Ward of the Kuur-Ashiminari
Category: Ability mod | For: Juggenaut | Price: $5.99
This one's pretty niche: if you like Juggernaut, use his W ability frequently, and prefer the look of this marble lion over the floating banner-torch that comes as the default, then this is something you might be interested in picking up. If you like trolling by chasing enemy players with the ward (Juggernaut's W ability summons a healing ward that you can move independently of your character), it's even more entertaining with this item mod.
4. Wuldastron the Twin-Blade of Giants
Category: Weapon | For: Sven | Price: $4.99
Sven is one lucky knight-gone-rogue. He has a ton of awesome weapon options available in the Workshop, but this one definitely trumps the rest. Nothing says "Get out of my way, you fool!" like a massive red sword with a wicked blade on top. It's a bit pricier than the other options available to him but, unlike a lot of the rare items in the store, this one's worth it.
5. A la carte pirate
Category: Equipment | For: Kunkka | Price: $3.74
It's a shame there's no scurvy scallywag bundle for Kunkka. He's got some terrific pirate equipment mods, but until Valve bundles them with a discount, you'll have to pick up the pieces separately. Thankfully, they're all pretty cheap. This PCG-approved custom bundle includes the Captain's Hook ($0.75), Pride of the Crew bandana ($1.49), Pegleg of the Cursed Pirate ($0.75), and Sword of the Seventy-Seven Seas ($0.75). Kunkka makes the most convincing pirate in the hero lineup, with the possible exception of this silly/scary Tidehunter bundle .
6. Naval Mine
Category: Weapon | For: Tidehunter | Price: $0.75
Cheap and effective. For less than a buck you can replace that gross half-eaten fish Tidehunter drags around with this much more dangerous it-might-explode-at-any-second naval mine . It's not flashy, it's not particularly clever, but it's not seven bucks and it adds a fun twist without breaking the game's lore. If you like breaking lore, and see ol' Tidehunter as a big softie, you cold toss a cuddly squid plushy in that off-hand slot instead. Tidehunter easily has the best arsenal of items so far--if you play him regularly, you really need to check out all of his item mods .
7. Flower Staff of the Peace-Bringer (aka Hippy Stick)
Category: Weapon | For: Nature's Prophet | Price: $1.49
Confession time: I hate the Nature Prophet's head--his boring, weird face is absolutely offensive to my eyeballs. And since there are no item mods to completely cover up his face (although beards and large horns help hide it), the next best thing to do is distract from it. Enter the giant flower larger than half the heroes in the game . I dig the hippy vibe this powerful flower gives to the tree-huggingest hero around, and, as a bonus, it'll troll any particularly uptight players that want everything Dota 2 to be gritty and serious.
8. Fearless Badger
Category: Courier | For: All heroes | Price: $7.99
Logan would never forgive me if I didn't include this in the list. I'm pretty sure I don't need to convince you on this one. I'll let the official description of this particularly brave badger speak for itself: "Of all the creatures of the forest, the badger makes perhaps the finest courier. Fearless and quick, it bends its will to none save those who have earned its trust."
Have you received or purchased any items in Dota 2 yet? What are your favorites?