I’ve been playing DotA 2 for years now, I’ve racked up over 1040 hours which means I’ve spent 42 complete days playing DotA. If you’ve already delved into the game, you will probably know that this doesn’t mean I’m a pro, or even necessarily good. I’ve learned a lot through the game, and I’m still learning more. It still surprises me how much better I am now than I was 2 months ago, and infinitely better than compared to a year ago (and so on, you get the point!).
DotA is a game that has quite a toxic community, and I can admit, I’ve been at fault for that. You’re stuck in a game for possibly more than an hour if you don’t want to risk an abandon, if you’re being let down by one person who keeps doing what you consider stupid things, unless you’ve the patience of a saint it will aggravate you.
As a new player, you’re the stupid one (bare with me here). It’s something I failed to realise when I came over from SMITE to begin playing DotA 2. I thought that if I’ve played one, I’ve played them all, I’d pick it up quick. So I was the toxic one who would feed and blame the team. Don’t. Be. That. Person. Learn from your mistakes. If someone shouts at you, get around the frustration and try to see the advice there. If there’s no advice in it, mute them. I’ve been known to rage at someone doing something stupid even now, I’ll admit it, but underneath the rage I’m still trying to tell you something. Yes it is a bad idea to rush under that middle tower alone when you’re level 4 and there’s two of them at level 5. It’s not going to work. Even if one of them is low health. You might not realise it, you might think that your respawn time is low enough for it not to matter, but it does. They gain experience, they gain gold, and you lose a small period of opportunity to gain both of the same. It also allows them time to do what we call ‘free-farm’ which means they’re last hitting creeps with impunity. This is bad. So listen to the rage, tune out the frustration and see if the person makes sense. It’ll help you get somewhat past the toxicity of the game. It never goes away, but the better you play the less it bothers you because you’ll know what you’re doing and understand it is purely frustration and nothing more. Water over a ducks back so to speak.
Now, on to the main mechanics. You’ll find similar information everywhere, but I’ll write this up in my way and maybe it’ll speak to someone where others haven’t.
The game breaks it’s heroes down into two basic categories. Carry and Support. These then break down into further categories of: Nuker, Disabler, Jungler, Durable, Escape, Pusher and Initiator.
Delving deeper into the game in this respect will take you into things that are a bit more advanced. Ideally, having a good team build will have a reflective aspect of all of these sub-categories, and 3 to 2 split of Carries to Supports. With one of those Supports generally acting as your ‘main’ support, picking up the majority of wards, while the other Support will be getting team-orientated items or pushing for endgame items such as Aghanim’s Sceptre or Refresher Orb.
Your Carry heroes are those who will; given time, gold and experience, become your end-game destroyers. These heroes aren’t the strongest in the early game, but as they progress, get last hits and farm their XP and gold, they will become very powerful. As such, it is extremely important that you allow the Carry to take last hits, on both creeps and enemy heroes. This isn’t to say that if you think a hero is going to get away you don’t go for it, but if a death of a hero is assured and you have a skill ready to quickly shoot in and nab the kill, if you’re not a Carry, don’t do it. You’ll suffer in the end for it. When you’re in lane you’re going to be looking to keep an eye on the creeps, waiting until they’re low health, and then attacking for that last hit gold bounty. Don’t sit there in lane attacking the creep from full health to dead. This is what we call Pushing the Lane and it will force you to fight under the enemy tower. At early levels, this will be devastating if you get caught under their tower and it also means you’ve got less opportunity to harass the enemy as they can just run under the protection of their tower.
The Support class is the opposite. These are heroes who can generally do well without buying the big items. Their spells are team orientated, and while having the bigger and badder items definitely are a positive thing, you’ll want to give priority to your Carry. You’ll find in the early game, if you go for it, you’ll do a lot of damage to enemy heroes, and you’ll feel like you’re the powerful one and your Carry isn’t doing enough. It’ll push you, as a new player, to snub your team mate and get farm yourself. It’s understandable. Don’t do it. A few last hits here and there, no one will quibble about, you need items, you need gold for wards, but if you’re consistently taking what we call ‘farm’ from your Carry, then you’re giving the game away. While in the laning phase, you’ll want to deny your own creeps, look for when they’re low health, tap the ‘A’ key and click on your friendly creep. This denies most of the XP to the enemy, denies them the chance to get the gold from the creep, and also gives you a portion of the XP of that dead creep. On top of this, harass the enemy heroes, don’t chase them too far, and try to avoid standing on top of the creep lane or your team mate, but the more damage you can do to the enemy heroes, the more likely they’ll stay back away from the creeps, severely limiting their farm capability.
Key point to remember! Do not chase heroes half way around the map in the early game. You’ll be laning 2v2 in your lane, and that’s enough to keep you at a close-to stalemate. Unless you’ve managed to buy 16 wards and ward the entire map, you wont have much advanced warning of a hero from another lane making a switch to come and attack your lane (which is what we call a gank). If you allow yourself to get lured under their tower, into their jungle, or inbetween their towers as a creep wave comes up, you will be in trouble. At the very least you’ll have no friendly creeps, two enemy heroes and a creep wave coming in at you. If they’ve got any skills ready to go, you’ve got a long, long way back to protection. At the worst, they’ve coordinated this with their middle or opposite lane hero, and you’re about to be 2v3 with a fresh and ready-to-fight hero coming down on you. This is the biggest frustration when playing with newer players, that they don’t know when to back off. If a game has gone to 20 minutes with only 5 kills total, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, it just means that no one has played stupid and neither team has really got lucky.
If you and your lane-partner get caught and killed, the game is now 3v5 until you can respawn, and either teleport (wasting gold) or leg it back into the fight. That can be a very long wait when your middle hero has more than half the enemy team coming at him.
As you start to move into level 6 and upwards (and remember, if you’re in lane and level 4, chances are the middle hero has already hit level 6 and has their ultimate ready to pop, be ready for the gank), you’ll see heroes starting to move between lanes and being more fluid with where they operate. As each tower goes down, the team will move focus to the next one, until all of your Tier 3 towers are dead. Or, if you’re playing well, it will be your team doing this. Avoid using your spells on random creeps, or popping your spells randomly at enemy heroes. You want to try and keep yourself ready to fight, keep in mind how big your mana-pool is, and how much your spells cost. If you have 3 skills to use at 70, 85 and 130 mana, each with fairly long cool-downs, you’re only going to be able to use them once in a team fight. Knowing this, you only need to keep around 285 mana in reserve, so if your mana pool is 400, pop one spell off, wait for your mana to regenerate and repeat. The last thing you want is to get stuck into a fight and only being able to right-click. On the opposite of this, don’t be afraid to use a spell to scare off an enemy you think is about to challenge and you’re not in a position for the fight. Use your stun, your disable or high damage spell and run like the devil is on your heels. Try to avoid using your Ultimate unless you’re either A) Guaranteed the kill B) Your team are in-bound and will be there soon enough to have a chance to finish the job or C) Your death timer is likely to be longer than your cool-down. Your ultimate is likely to be important for your team fight unless it has a ridiculously low cool-down (Sniper for example).
When it comes to what Items to buy, I suggest you use a guide. Every single hero has a pre-built guide on the system, select it. If there is more than one option, pick the one closest to the role you’re going to play. If you’re what the game client suggests is a support player, don’t pick the guide that says ‘Carry‘, it’s possible to achieve, and works really well when done right, but being new you’re unlikely to pull it off. Equally, your team mates will be expecting you to play a certain role unless you’ve told them otherwise, and their hero picks will work around that. A player called Torte de Lini has written a guide for every hero, and they generally work really well, with good advice on how to use certain skills, or when to pick certain items. The more you learn the game, you’ll begin to pick up different items dependent on who you’re facing, but that comes with time. (Again, listen to your team mates, if you’re playing Sniper and there is a Phantom Assassin on the other side and your team mates are screaming for Monkey King Bar, pick it up! You’ll devastate her.)
Beyond that, enjoy the game, try not to feed, and always carry a teleport scroll! Don’t use it to teleport back into the fight from the fountain unless there is a fight you need to jump into, keep it for when you need to teleport to save a tower, your barracks, or escape a gank.
I will try to begin writing up my own guides and thoughts for each of the heroes from the reduced selection pool for new players over the next few weeks. First up will be Sniper, who I keep ending up with, but who can be a very versatile hero. Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions please let me know!