Dota 2 Amateur Guide

A Dota 2 Amateur Guide

How do we improve at Dota?

Dota 2 is a challenging game at every level of skill. This is especially true for new players that are making the grind up the ladder and dedicated to the game enough to consider ranking up. Being such an old game there are veterans at every level and Dota isn’t the easiest game to learn all the little nuances surrounding it. When making a move to get to the middle ranks, there are some things we need to sort out if we hope to succeed si whether you’re a seasoned Veteran who has more time now than you did before, or you’re a new and budding talent on the scene, lets go over what it is going to take to secure our rank up.

What is the ranking system?

To begin with, if you haven't broken the Rank of Guardian this guide will help you, but it will be things that are either harder to grasp without a basic understanding of the game or it will be information that you just don’t grasp because your ranking is too low. For the most part it doesn’t take too much to get to the Crusader rank, and that’s who this guide is for so take some time to really improve on your current ranking and maybe refer to our Noob guide before continuing. If you are Crusader already, then please take a seat and let's start with the whole ranking system in Dota.

Like any other competitive game, Dota 2 has its own ranking system. Ranks in Dota 2 are specified competitive tiers, in the form of leagues with and medals. There are 8 Leagues in the game which are, from lowest to highest;

  • Herald
  • Guardian
  • Crusader
  • Archon
  • Legend
  • Ancient
  • Divine
  • Immortal

There is a percentage from 0-100 telling you how close you are to reaching the next Ranked League and the Medals are to tell a story more than show current ranking as you accrue Medals per rank you finish. Matchmaking Rating or MMR in Dota 2 is also prevalent, beneath the player Medal is the MMR number showing the exact skill level of the player. MMR thresholds are what have to be met in order to reach the next League.

It is important to start paying attention to our MMR and percentage value of our MMR in order to easily track our path to the next rank. That being said it isn’t an exact science. MMR shows us an approximate value of our skill and the percentage is more reliable in relation to our rank up rather than actual MMR. It is however a good indicator even if it isn’t 100% accurate, we know that if our MMR increases than we are better than we were before, while it is reflective of our win/loss ratio more than individual talent like it once was, if we win or lose more frequently, we know where our MMR should stand.

How does vision work in Dota?

A really difficult thing to understand in Dota is the importance of Day vs Night, High ground vision vs Low ground vision, and Wards. Dota 2 is different from other MOBA games in the sense that the map is over all played differently. There are a lot of different ways that vision fluctuates in such small ways that you have an advantage one moment and the next you lose the advantage because you stepped into the river or just outside the main base. If you are really trying to rank up you need to pay a lot more attention to vision, and that means buying more wards.

Trees can be destroyed to open up new paths on the map, but they can also increase how far you can see or where your heroes line of sight goes. When there are less trees because of a Tango use or because someone burned down the forest. Wards are a very important tool in all MOBA games that feature them, being able to see the area around you leads to you being able to avoid more sticky situations.

There is a very intuitive high ground - low ground vision as well, if a unit is on a higher elevation than yourself, than you cannot see them unless you have the high ground warded. If you are on the high ground than you have unrestricted vision over the lowground near your position. Again, wards assist with a lot of the disadvantages or advantages that come with elevation related vision. Some Heroes are able to traverse high ground that others are not and some items can allow other Heroes to blink up to those same places. 

Day and Night vision are another factor, most of the time, all units see further during the day than they would at night and this is the same for wards as well. Some Hero abilities and items offer Heroes a way to see further at night and while this isn’t always the most important thing, they can help immensely in a situation where fighting at Night becomes a factor in a match.

Here wards don’t really help, Moon Shard does and it offers 400 vision to whoever has it in their inventory, and it can be consumed to give 200 vision at night permanently. Though this is a little inefficient money wise, you are probably able to consume one and purchase another for a total of 600 vision  buff at night and still be efficient with your money.

Generally, Heroes have 1800 units of vision during the day and only 800 at night. Some Heroes however do not, and some have scaling line of sight at night. 

There aren’t a lot of Heroes that break the mold here so let’s go over them;

  • Bat Rider has 1200 during the day and 800 at Night.
  • Bounty Hunter has 1800 during the day and 1000 at night.
  • Night Stalker is flipped with 800 during the day and 1800 at night
  • Slark has 1800 vision during the day and at night
  • Sniper has 1800 during the day and 1400 at night.
  • There are a few Heroes that are able to scale their night vision as they level up certain abilities or talents;
  • Luna’s night vision scales as she levels up Lunar Blessing, from 800-1600
  • Lycan gains 1000 night vision (1800) while Shapeshift is active
  • Winter Wyvern gains 400 vision (1200) at night during Arctic Burn and Talent can give +500.
  • Slardar gains 1000 (1800) for his talents.
  • Spirit Breaker gains 600 (1400).

It isn’t necessary to play these heroes exclusively just because they see better at night, but there are a lot of good reasons to play them when they are available because of  their night vision boons. There are more forms of vision but they are trickier to learn than this stuff, we will cover the rest in the Pro guide, so no worries.

How does farming work in Dota?

As there is no dedicated Jungler role like in League of Legends, it took me awhile to adjust to the Offlane and safe lane style of play. I tried taking Meepo into the Jungle and while it worked overall, it was not without detriment to my teams. Last hitting creeps is always beneficial as it gives gold, but if you aren’t the main carry in the lane you should focus more on denying farm from the enemy laners. In Dota you can hit last hit friendly creeps in order to deny the enemies from last hitting them, you get 7 gold but the enemy misses out on 37 or more. The Jungle in Dota is more there for extra farm for laners, traveling together is more beneficial than slinking around it alone just incase the enemy is rotating at an opportune time.

Gold is the keystone in every MOBA, items increase stats and better stats win. Last hitting creeps gives the player gold and therefore, is something that players should focus on doing more often than not. Supporting players should focus on denying farm from the enemies to help gain a gold advantage and because of that, an item and stat advantage. When a lane starts to lull, then take a trip into the Jungle to get a couple of Neutral camps and some extra gold in your pocket. There is the Roshan monster that requires the whole team normally to secure, so don’t try to take that one unless you’re trying to end the game soon after.

There is a reason to take the role of Jungler, and being able to quickly offset any lane at any moment is a great surprise factor, but in order to keep up with the rest of the players you’ll need to venture into the enemies Jungle in order to stay on par with enemies that aren’t Jungling. Again, it is important to note that most of the time people don’t Jungle, the disadvantages it brings to the lane in Dota is huge and without being a perfect player, there isn’t much of a way to stop the abuse that can ensue when the Laners realize they’re in a 2v1 situation.

The ability to teleport to friendly structures also sets up teams with a way to assist disadvantaged lanes, which again makes Jungling a little less optimal than running a 2-1-2 set up. Kills give gold as well as steal it away from the killed player. But there is much more money to be made in securing creep kills over risking death in taking repeat fights. This isn’t to say that there can be a bigger advantage in killing an enemy, it just comes with completely separate risks than simply farming and denying farm has.

How do I build my Hero?

The hardest part for me in Dota was learning the different itemizations and ways to build Heroes. There are optimal ways to build Heroes but there are less optimal ways that can end up being more suitable against a certain composition. When it comes down to deciding what to build, at this level we should just be building the most optimal build we can find. There are guides for every Hero readily available during the game, we would be remiss if we didn’t use them, because most of the time they were made by players better than we currently are.

Just to refresh your memory though, building to capitalize on our Heroes strengths is better in the long run. Early on we should buy sustain items like Tangos and magic wands to keep us in lane longer and getting more creep kills. There are some early pressure items we can build that give us some early stat boosts but we often have to trade off for less sustain which can be a tricky situation. Take note of the enemy composition and if you can outsustain them by being able to poke more frequently than they can, then definitely take that early stat booster and make your trades even more abusive.

Focus on building for the mid game, what items do you need to be a mid game threat, once we start seeing bigger amounts of gold in our pockets then we should look to buy the more expensive items that will bring us to late game relevancy. Of course we should be utilizing the Courier to get the cheaper items we need to get us through the early game without going back to the base shop, but sometimes it's more important to not die than it is to get a couple extra creep kills.

We will talk about the Courier more in the Pro guide as well as in the earlier ranks we tend to not fully grasp how to use the Courier. Just don’t let it get killed or put it in a situation where it can be killed and then there won’t be any reason to worry about it.

We all like the funny builds that let us do some troll or funny things rather than actually contribute to the team fights. Depending on who you are playing that can be just fine, for the most part though it tends to be detrimental to our odds of winning. Just build whatever is deemed most optimal at the time, you already like the Heroes you play, so try to show off what they’re capable of when you’re trying to climb the ranks.

What is META?

Everyone tends to forget that some Heroes are better than others, and some abilities are just stronger than others. Meta stands for "Most Effective Tactics Available" While not everything is cookie cutter or fits into every open space, there is an optimal way to play the game and some things you just shouldn’t bring with you to a game. Luckily for those of us that like to be One Trick Ponies when we play MOBA games, any Hero can fit in to any comp and be useful, you just may need to jump through some extra hoops in order to do so.

As it stands right now, Medusa is the least picked Hero at .88% in the Divine/Immortal ranks, and is followed by a measly 42% winrate. This doesn’t mean that Medusa is the worst Hero in the game, it just means that as it stands right now, Medusa is one of the least optimal Heroes to try and fit into a composition.

Sniper has the lowest win rate at 40%, but is played more than three times as often as Medusa, which unfortunately makes him the worst Hero to try and fit into a composition. In the right hands though Sniper can be a serious threat, and eventually he will find a way to swing back into Meta as things change and patches come out.

These numbers aren’t the best representation of the Meta, but they are the best representation we have available to us. Pickrates don’t immediately translate to power, and win rates don’t immediately represent Meta. That being said, we can gather a lot of what is being played at the highest level and we can take away what the best think is the best.

Mirana and Pudge are the most played at the same level, and have fairly high win rates. Mirana can flex into a supportive role or a carry one with some easy transitioning if a game starts to lead one way or another. Pudge is a tanky boy with a hook that offers picks not a lot of Heroes can offer to their team. 

All these stats are easily findable at: https://www.dotabuff.com/heroes and would be smart to follow as we become more and more dedicated to the game. Individual picks and win rates don’t offer a lot of insight into actual full team compositions. For the most part, you need a carry, a tank, some sustain, and some magic damage and some hard CC. What exactly fills all those roles is entirely up to the players and even then, some other compositions can trump the classic set up.

The key is playing what you like to play, the International Dota tournaments always have such a wide diversity of Heroes that get played. Just remember that what you like to play may not be the best available option to you. The Meta is what we should all be playing if we want to maximize our Win rates and increase our MMR efficiently. At this rank, though it is much more important to play a wide variety of Heroes to increase our understanding of what they all do. The Meta will always be trumped by knowledge, if you know what every Hero is capable of then you’ll be able to much easier assess any situation as well as pick the correct counter to what could have been the downfall of your entire team.

What is the best way to practice in Dota?

When you play games there are normally a lot of ways to practice, this is the same for Dota which means there is no excuse not to practice. Between the Arcade and Bot matches there are plenty of ways to practice for the Ladder. There are plenty of scripts available to change the difficulty and habits of the enemy AI, which means we can dictate what it is that we end up practicing. You can make the Bots impossibly difficult to test your decision making abilities or make them all focus on one lane to test defensive strategies as well as choose who they play so you can test out different counters and compositions into one. The availability of ways to be better and practice better that Dota offers players is immense and as long as we as players take advantage of the ways we can better ourselves, we will rise in the ranks indefinitely.

There is always the casual modes that pit players against other players without risk of losing MMR. This is always good practice because players are less predictable than even the hardest AI. Yes AlphaStar and DeepMind exist but they wouldn’t be good practice for us because we would just end up getting smashed anyway.

How do I go Pro in Dota?

Dota 2 is a very commendable but very difficult game to learn. When you know the most about the game you have the power to be the best in most cases. Practice makes perfect and understanding what we are practicing makes us better than perfect. Take the time to really learn everything there is to learn in Dota and you will be more easily rewarded in kind when trying to climb the ranked ladder. Make sure to check out our pro guide when you begin to approach the Ancient Ancient MMR threshold, as the ability to rank up from there is more difficult than you think it is to get out of Crusader.

Cameron Carr image

Cameron Carr

8 November 2019
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