Even pros need to go back to the basics sometimes
Dota 2 clearly needs no introduction among gamers. With over a million unique players every day, this massively popular MOBA is not only the most played game on Steam but also has the record for the highest prize pool in eSports, with cash prizes stacking up to $20 million. Even if you don’t play Dota 2, just going through your friend’s list on Steam will give you a general view of how popular this free-to-play game really is.
The Dota 2 community is filled with abusive language, noob-shaming and brutally racist people that will tear you apart for even the slightest mistakes you make. Before going any further, and for the sake of our own safety, we would like to mention that we are not professional Dota 2 players ourselves, and this guide is not targetted at players with higher MMRs.
This guide is targeted at players who are just getting started with Dota 2 or those who are stuck at a particularly low MMR and are unable to climb any higher. It’s also for those of you that want to try this game out because all your gamer friends keep rhapsodising about it and you are tired of being left out.
Dota 2 – Quick overview
Defense of the Ancients, better known as DOTA, is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game. Two teams – Radiant and Dire – of five players each, battle it out against one another on a common map to ultimately destroy the opposing team’s ‘Ancient’ while at the same time defending their own. You start off by a selecting a hero with the goal being to earn as much gold and experience (leveling up new skills) as you can by killing ‘creeps’ or opponent heroes while upgrading items to make your own hero stronger.
As of the 7.00 update, there are currently 113 different Heroes in the game that players can choose from. The heroes are divided among three main classes – Strength, Agility, and Intelligence. Each hero has its own unique sets of abilities, roles, and weaknesses. For example, Hero-A might be better off against Hero-B but weaker against Hero-C, likewise, Hero-B might stand better against Hero-C but is generally weaker against Hero-A…
To top it all off, Dota 2 has a very complicated ‘item system’ with roughly 150 different items that players can purchase and combine with the gold they earn in-game. These items can give your hero special secondary skills or just make them stronger passively.
The best part about Dota 2 and what really makes it intriguing is the fact that every action and mechanic in the game is well balanced and complex at the same time. The learning curve is steep and constantly changing. What one can say about this game is that it’s super addictive, fun, and easy to start, but at the same time impossible to master.
One at a time, Boy
The secret to getting better at any game (or even life) is by taking each step and mastering them one at a time. If you are someone just getting started at Dota 2 or is completely new to MOBA games, play the tutorials first. This will give you a brief idea of what the game’s concepts are and some basic tips about the heroes and purchasing items. Only after that will you be able to properly follow this guide.
Now that you’ve completed the tutorials; feeling good about yourself? Thinking that was way too easy? Are you itching to face off against real players now? Well, slow down buddy. See, we’re not here to discourage you, but in order to save you poor soul from all the verbal terror of the cruel community, it is highly recommended that you try a few (or 50, scratch that, 100) games against bots first.
NOTE: NEVER play against the ‘Easy’ bots in Dota 2. Even if you are just starting and it’s your first ever proper game, go against ‘Hard’ or at best, ‘Insane’ bots. This will give you a small window of experience showing what it’s really like to play against real (human) players. The easier bots are so stupid they will simply give you free kills and make you abnormally strong early game. Bottom line, you’re not learning anything that way.
Laning Phase and roles
On the main screen of the game in the Heroes section, you will see a list of all the heroes categorized into three main class – Intelligence, Strength, and Agility. Each of these heroes has different roles based on their abilities. You have Nukers, Disabler, Jungler, Durable, Escape, Pusher, Initiator, Carry, and Support. For example, carries deal the highest damage as the game progresses and ‘carry’ their whole team. Supports, on the other hand, are generally heroes with skills centered around utilities like healing, disabling opponents, and helping the ‘carry’ earn more gold and experience during the early game.
There are three lanes in the game – Top, Middle, and Bottom, which depending on the side you play are categorized as:
- The Mid lane – This is probably the hardest (also the most rewarding) position to play in Dota 2. Here, the distance between the Ancient and the Tier 1 Tower is same for both sides.
- Safe lane – The distance between your Tier 1 Tower and your Ancient is furthest. For Radiant this is the bottom lane and for Dire, it is the top. It is easier for a laning hero to protect itself under a tower against an enemy gank. Hence, the name ‘safe’ lane.
- Offlane (also known as The Hard lane) – Here, the distance between your Tier 1 Tower and your Ancient is closest. For Radiant, it is your Top and for Dire, it is the bottom lane. While playing offlane, you will most of the time be far away from the protection of your tower, so going for a ‘Durable’ hero that has better chances to protect itself against an enemy gank is recommended.
Understanding the laning phase in Dota 2 is an important step to getting better at game. You select your heroes and roles according to the lane you have to go to, whether the Mid, safe lane, offlane, or even the jungle.
Select about 5 different heroes and try to master them. There are just too many heroes in the game and each of them is so different from one another that it is better to perfect a few first than to blindly play with all of them.
By consistently practicing one hero at a time, you learn minute details in the skills and mechanics of that hero. This will also make you more aware of various situations and how to overcome them. By slowly perfecting at least one different hero of each role will make it much easier for you to follow up as you progress on to trying out more complex heroes.
As a beginner, force yourself to try and use each and every ability of your hero and other active inventory items you may have every team fights and use them accordingly. This will greatly improve your reactions in the game and also your reflexes.
Last hit and denies
Perhaps the most important skill a newbie needs to master. In the lane, avoid hitting the creeps randomly. Try moving around them and only when you see a creep that is about to die, go for the last hit. By doing so, you avoid over pushing the lane in the early game and get better creeps equilibrium (maintaining the creeps in the middle), which in return means more gold.
PRO TIP: Try to get at least a minimum of 25 last hits in the first 5 minutes of the game. A good Dota 2 player can get as high as 80 last hits in the first 10 minutes.
In the same way, you can also deny your own creeps to prevent your opponent hero from getting the last hit. By perfecting last hits, you get more gold and at the same time drastically reduce your opponent’s income.
If you are a beginner, you can start by going ahead with the recommended items in the shop. But don’t purchase them blindly. Read the descriptions, and pay attention to the abilities it gives your hero. Try to figure out the items your particular hero needs and purchase them accordingly.
There are over a hundred items in the game which you can combine differently to give your hero different abilities. All you need to do is go through them, try out and see which items fit best and when. For instance, you might be using an intelligence hero and find that you’re hero has many active spells and cost you a lot of mana. In the shop look for items that’ll give you more intelligence, increase your mana pool or regeneration rate of your mana or even items that will amplify your spell effectiveness.
Set goals to complete a particular item within the first 10 minutes of the game, or purchase ‘that’ item before the 20-minute mark, etc. Doing so will definitely increase your gold-farming enthusiasm and make you a more efficient player overall.
Being aware of your surroundings and always keeping an eye on the minimap is another crucial tip to getting better at the game. Opponent heroes missing from their respective lanes on the minimap could mean they’re preparing for an ambush or gank. With observer wards and good awareness, you can easily spot an oncoming ambush and take preventive/defensive measures accordingly. Placing wards can drastically improve your team’s vision.
There are generally two different kinds of runes that spawn at specifically 6 different locations in the game – Bounty Runes, which will give you a small amount of gold + experience, and Power-up runes that give the hero special power-ups for a short period of time.
The bounty runes spawn at the start of the game timer and then at an interval of two minutes after that at four different locations. There are two bounty runes on each side (Radiant and Dire) of the map. There is a single power-up rune which spawns at 2:00 in the game, randomly at one of two locations in the river. This rune will keep randomly spawning every two minutes, regardless of whether you claim it or not.
Make it a habit to keep tracking time and that either you or your teammate gets most of these runes every two minutes without fail.
Jungle stacking is the process of pulling out neutral creeps from their respective camps in the jungle so more creeps spawn from the same camp. This is a very effective method being practiced in the game as it can greatly increase the amount of gold
Neutral or jungle creeps spawn timings are 0:30/1:00/3:00/5:00/7:00/and so on. However, the creeps will not spawn if any hero or ward is within their boundaries. Using this as an advantage, a good support player will often place wards in the enemy’s creep camps in order to prevent them from spawning.
To stack a creep camp, simply attack the camp at around the 53-55 second mark before spawn time, depending on which camp you’re in, and get away as soon as possible. Make the creeps chase you and get away from their boundaries at the right spawn time. If you successfully lure the creeps away, new creeps will spawn in the same camp. This way, you can have multiple stacks of creeps in one camp, which can significantly boost your team or hard carry’s economy.
Now, you’re done doing all that stuff but still think there is something you might be missing? Or you already know and follow these, but still keep losing your rank matches? This is where you need to start watching replays. This perhaps might be the most important step for those of you that already know a lot about the game but are unable to win competitive matches and increase your MMR.
Watch professionals playing live in-game and study them in player-perspective mode. This will teach you a lot of new skills and tricks that you might not have known. Also, the best thing you can do to get better is downloading and watching your own replays. Watch your own gameplay in player perspective and see where you make mistakes. At the same time, also, watch your opponent’s play. Analyse what they do right.
Or, you can go ahead and blame your own team for losing. Of course, Dota 2 is a team game, but always remember, there are no secret tricks or tips to becoming a pro. All it takes is a lot of practice and self-reflection.
This article was first published in March 2017 issue of Digit magazine. To read Digit’s articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit e-magazine app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit’s previous issues here.