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The active ability of the ring is

Toggle controls only whether armor bonus applies to non-Hero units.

I tried turning it off and on, but it did not affect its effect on my hero.

Is there a downside to leaving it always on? When should I switch it off?

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As stated there, the ability toggle only effects non-Hero units (creeps) in an area around you so you'll always get the ring effect even you turned off the active ability of the ring. –  Samir Izmier Chong Feb 11 '13 at 19:49
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1 Answer

up vote 10 down vote accepted

There are three main reasons.

  1. When you are giving an armor bonus to your creeps, you will end up pushing your lane towards the enemy, which is something you do not want to do as you're granting them improved safety and risking a gank to yourself.

  2. Sometimes, you may want to toggle it on and off randomly when in lane to mess with the enemy hero timing in their attempts to last hit your creeps.

  3. As AdamP pointed out in the comments, the aura may give you away if you are invisible or hiding nearby.

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@No.2 Pro player here –  Samir Izmier Chong Feb 11 '13 at 19:51
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Also note that when trying to gank while stealthed or in an otherwise sneaky fashion the aura on your creeps can give you away. –  AdamP Feb 11 '13 at 20:16
    
@AdamP thanks for pointed that out, I just tested it to confirm that's the case and the aura can indeed give you away. –  z - Feb 11 '13 at 21:30
    
@spartacus It was significantly more noticeable in WC3 Dota because the creeps showed auras without being selected. Not so big a deal, anymore. –  Decency Feb 12 '13 at 16:34
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