Dota 2 beginner guide

Dota 2 Beginner's Guide

An overview of Dota 2

Defense of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2) is the sequel to Defense of the Ancients, which was a mod for WarCraft 3. The first in a short line of quality Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games (MOBAs) to grace the internet. DOTA 2 is also the first major Esport and, boasts the biggest prize pool for any Esport tournament. The game is a true forefather of all Esports and is still kicking it today with over 750,000 concurrent players world wide, which while it is a fraction of it’s all time peak of almost 1.3 million, is seven times it’s player base upon its release in 2012. 

Some people look at numbers that high in Esports and often scoff, not realizing that their favorite game often has even smaller numbers, or forget that some games have been around for a decade or more. To have 750,000 concurrent players in 2019, a little more than seven years after its release is no small feat and proves a game is healthy and is due a long life.

Games that are proven to last, especially free games, are a sign of quality and should be picked up by anyone who likes a game that they can always come back to and not worry about sitting in long queue timers or suffering through other issues that games with shorter lifespans ultimately face. Free to Play games are not to be confused with pay to win mind you, this isn’t some mobile game that wants to suck your wallet dry, but there are plenty of in game cosmetic purchases and even some that may empty your wallet completely. This is merely to aid in the longevity of the game and honestly, feels like a great system to any would be collector.

This is the longest intro I’ve ever written for a game, and that's because whether you love it, or hate it because you’re a dirty League of Legends player, this game deserves respect and has earned its place in the Esports community.

How do MOBA’s work?

MOBA style games are inherently simple to explain, but difficult to play and learn. We will try to combine the best of both worlds in this guide and the others for more advanced players but what better place to start than the overall explanation. Dota was the first mainstream MOBA game of its kind and set the stage for the genre as a whole. There are three lanes (in DOTA they are called the Offlane, Midlane and Safelane) with neutral camps between each known as the Jungle. With two teams, each with towers in each lane and a base in the top right corner and bottom left corner of the map.

Being the child of the standard for MOBA games, everything in DOTA 2 follows suit with DOTA, and is the de facto representation of everything MOBA related. Creeps are the non Hero units that spawn for either side and drum into each lane to fight for their team, they are weak and offer gold to the enemy heroes that kill them. Creeps can offer be a reference to the Jungle camps as well but they are often called neutral camps or neutral creeps.

The Ancients in Defense of the Ancients are the endgame goal, destroy the opposing team Ancient to win the game. Often an overlooked part of the game to newcomers is that it doesn't ultimately matter how many kills and deaths you have, only that your Ancient is the only one standing at the end of the game. This is the same for the Nexus in League of Legends, or the castle in Clash of Clans. MOBAs are very formulaic in playstyle, the place where they differ is the playable characters they have to offer which still follow similar guidelines with statistics and itemization.

What are Heroes?

There are a few different roles that DOTA 2 Heroes fall into and then there are even more special roles that they can fall under that adds depth to each Hero and gives them various pros and cons to implementing them in your playable pool. There are three main attributes that Heroes fall into, Strength Heroes, Agility Heroes and Intelligence Heroes. In this guide we will only breakdown these three attributes as they are the main factor when looking at what Heroes fit into a composition.

Strength Heroes are just that, they specialize in being Tanks and have a higher chance of surviving in the thick of a fight. Some of them offer great on hit damage and others offer high defensive stats and abilities. These are mostly frontliners that can take a beating, important in any teamfight just for their sheer will to survive if for nothing else.

Some are a little less tanky and offer more upfront damage, they force enemies to scatter or hard focus them which can act as a distraction for those ranged attack Heroes to actually put out that consistent damage.

Some have the ability to solo carry a game like they were born to do it. I can remember a Dragon Knight just obliterating the enemy team all by himself once. Agility Heroes are the true threat in a team composition, they output the most DPS in their auto attacks and are capable of nuking the enemy team, again depending on the exact Hero it is their overall capabilities may change.

Most are ranged attackers, but some are up close and personal assassin types or fighter types that offer less consistent damage in larger bursts than their ranged counterparts.These are the Heroes you pick if you truly want to solo carry a game,  it’s your damage that matters and your teammates will often do their best to protect you so that you can get the best value out of your damage and abilities. They are weaker early on but make up for it with expensive late game items. High scaling attributes suit them well and they really put the “Terror” in Terrorblade..

Intelligence Heroes are almost split directly into two groups. Some offer another form of damage known as Spell Based damage where they rely on their abilities and their cooldowns to threaten enemy teams. Some are better known for their supportive tendencies and utility based abilities that help sustain friends and lock down foes.

Intelligence Heroes are necessary for a team comp to add a bit of variety to their damage arsenal, and their abilities are often able to swing fights in favor of their team. While the more utility based ones mirror that fact with a bit more toned down damage and some added sustain for their team. Another term for them is Magic damage Heroes. Some can put out consistent damage with high cooldowns, while others are reliant on hitting full combos to pop their enemies every 10 seconds. They are a little less reliable overall but still powerful Heroes.

The more supportive Heroes are absolutely necessary for a strong team composition. Being able to heal allies and stun up foes is something that brings a lot of players to play these less flashy Heroes, they are strong in their own right and offer some safety nets to their team. A good composition hosts all kinds of Heroes and picking one is going to be difficult. For first time players we suggest trying out whatever you think looks cool, there is a tutorial and AI games that can help you learn any Hero to any extent you like.

Ask your friends that play Dota what kind of Hero they think you would like. If they know you half as well as you think they do they should be able to pick one or two you may actually find interesting enough to learn.

There are some that are just, simply put, simple and easy to learn. These are the Heroes you should try out regardless of what anyone says. They are easier to learn and easier to memorize. Just keep in mind that the Meta changes and when you start taking the ranked mode a bit more seriously, these may not always be your best options.

Lina, Vengeful Spirit, Omniknight, and Windranger come to mind for me, though I chose to play things a bit more micro/macro oriented such as Meepo and Treant Protector as I have a StarCraft background that helped in my utilization of these Heroes.

The four I mentioned have aspects from the three main categories of Heroes that are basic versions of some of the more complicated ones. While you learn those Heroes it becomes easier to learn ones you may be more interested in. the hardest part I had learning Dota was the itemizations and I am a little embarrassed about it once I did figure it out.

How do Items work in Dota?

If you don’t have a background in other Moba games like League of Legends or Smite, then learning new items and seeing the store layout can be a little too daunting at the beginning. I can attest however that it is really more simple than one would think. Whether it be the Black King Bar or Shivas Guard, we may struggle at first, but stat boosters are ultimately, stat boosters.When you’re learning you’re chosen Heroes you should first learn what their overall strengths are and note that it is more important to capitalize on their strengths than buff their weaknesses.

If you’re playing a Strength Hero, then focus more on defensive stat boosters like the Refresher Orb or Guardian Greaves for a more flexible tank. Agility Heroes tend to like damage boosting and attack speed boosting items such as Daedalus or Moon Shard. Not all Heroes do well with the same items but a lot crossover to a variety of Heroes simply because, stat boosters are stat boosters.

Intelligence Heroes tend to do better when you increase their mana pools and Intelligence stats with items like Bloodthorn or Mystic Staff. There are a lot of items that offer boosts to a lot of stats, and some of them are must-haves for a specific group of Heroes while some are better off being ignored by other Champions. Try to keep a close eye on what other players are doing or consult your more savvy friends and pro guides for more optimal builds and build pathing.

Items are often built into or built out of other items, build paths are the most efficient way to increase your stats while you have the gold, and lowering the overall cost of a late game item over time. It is really more like incremental purchases of a bigger item.

There are secret shops that offer parts of items you can’t find at the main store in your base, and there is a courier that you can call to deliver your items that is shared by the rest of your team. Make sure to communicate when you are having an item delivered to you so your teammates don’t steal your power spike as often, but expect it to still happen every once in awhile.

The secret shops aren’t all that secret, they just follow a similar aspect from the game Dota was originally modded from. In WarCraft 3 multiplayer there were a few different places you could recruit units you wouldn’t normally be able to produce from your own factions production chains, offering a point of interest as well as a place to expand your available army composition. It probably stuck around as a way for players to have an option closer to them for purchasing items, at the cost of them being a bit more expensive than things they would find inside their base. Couriers can also deliver items from those secret shops.

Some items have Passive or Active effects as well, these are almost like bonus effects that change some of the dynamic around our Hero, debuffing enemies or strengthening our allies, or even just crowd control or damage effects when we use them.

These items can be even more confusing, and hotkeys are suggested when trying to use the Active ones. All the same, however, they are able to make us more versatile when playing and makes them generally powerful items. There are also Consumable items that often look to sustain our Heroes especially early one in a number of ways that ultimately come back to increasing our Health or Mana Regen.

Items in Dota can start off a little scary to look at and learn, but they ultimately only do one thing, increase your base stats. Just make sure to look at what the item your buying does and if it’s relevant to your Hero. Some of the late game items increase multiple stats for the Hero you are playing. This is never a bad thing but try to remember that some items are less optimal on some heros than other items may be. For a beginning player though, there is nothing wrong with testing the waters just to familiarize yourself with all the items available

What are some Basic Mechanics?

There are a few more things that MOBAs have that can be found in other game genres as well. The Mechanics of the game itself (not to be confused with player mechanics) such as kits, Status Effects, and the aforementioned stats, though they almost always differ from importance from Hero to Hero, they all dictate what a Hero is capable of at different stages of the game. There are Heroes meant to be threatening earlier on in the game and fall off in relative scariness later in the game, and those that pose the opposite, scaling hard into the late game and being the ultimate game ending Heroes. Anyone can get ahead early on and be a major player by the games end, but some are more adept at that than others, and this is just about sheer Hero reliability not individual player talent.

Stats are all a part of the Attributes mentioned before, Strength, Agility, and Intelligence. These three dictate a majority of the Stats at a bigger scale but there are a number of individual parts in each. Dota is a complicated game so bare with me and of course, we will only be touching the edges in the Noob Guide. There are a wide variety of stats that each Hero has, Armor, Magic Resist, Mana, Health, Mana and Health Regen, Attack damage, Attack Speed, Spell Damage, and Movement Speed. These are the core stats that are all mostly immediately affected by the Heroes respective Strength, Agility, or Intelligence.

Every Hero has base stats that they just have from the beginning of the game with no items, as we increase our Stats our Heroes tend to scale along with them, making our Hero stronger and stronger as we buy more items. The trick here is to buy the right items for our Hero to as efficiently increase their most important Attributes and Stats. This improves their innate abilities and makes their less gifted base Stats a little stronger as well most of the time. Each Hero has different base Stats and that is because they are all meant to be unique, with natural counters and naturally countering other Heroes. This is where the depth of the game ends at a mechanical level, and starts at the independent skill level of the people playing the Hero.

Kits are the most common word for explaining MOBA character’s personal abilities. Their “QWER” among other things. Whole kits include the specific names of their abilities and their base stats. This is part of what makes the MOBA games unique not as a genre but from each other, while they all achieve similar goals, they are still all very different from game to game, even when characters closely resemble one another between games, their background and abilities are often very different from each other.

A lot of Heroes are borrowed from traditional Mythology anyway, and there is no real way to say one is a copy of another, but that makes them even more unique in a sense.

Some other Mechanics in the game are Crowd Control Effects, Lifesteal/Spell Lifesteal, and Abilities. Abilities are the things we love about playing a Hero, they inhibit our opponents and buff our teammates and make the game more intuitive than just simply right clicking everything all the time. Life Steal and Spell Lifesteal can be considered stats more than anything else, but they are less prevalent than their more widespread counterparts in the stat lineup.

Crowd Control is the bane of any player who thinks a tad too highly of themselves, often referred to as simply, CC, Crowd Control is anything that ties up enemy Heroes and stops them in their tracks whether it be movement or silencing an enemies chance to use abilities for a short time. Debuffs often border on the CC side of things but they are more or less different enough to be considered under the guise of Debuffs rather than CC.

Abilities are again, a set of unique powers each Hero has that no other Hero has. Some of them do similar things to other abilities but the are known to not overlap.

Learning how to play Dota

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what is in the game, let's cover how to get into the groove of playing it. There are many ways to take your time and practice everything you could ever want to. There is a tutorial that walks you through the most basic elements. There is also a few different ways to play against AI players at various difficulties and with various strategies. Other than that, once you’ve got the hang of things, there is a casual mode you can play to get a real understanding of the challenges PvP has to offer.

The tutorial can be played more than once if we didn’t quite figure it out the first time. Though there really is only so much we can take away from it. Go through it once or twice and move on to bot matches. If you have friends that play make sure to ask them to show you the ropes and ask them plenty of questions, even if they aren’t the best of the best they’ll have a pretty decent explanation for things you don’t quite understand.

The tutorial is pretty bare bones but is relatively more fleshed out than some of the other tutorials that games offer. It is worth more than one playthrough just to embed the information in our brains. The bot matches can be as difficult as you want them to be, which is good for those of us who like a challenge but really don’t know what's going on. 

Play these to your heart’s content. They will be very different almost every time and offer you some insight into every Hero which will allow you to make more informed decisions when going into casual games.

It isn’t really in your best interest to venture into ranked matches in the first week or so. The people that we will face are generally going to be a lot better than ourselves and we won't learn much just getting stomped every game or winning because our teammates were just that good. Take your time trying to learn whatever it is you want to learn. Pick the Heroes you want to try and learn and then learn as much as you can about them and when you think you’ve finally got it, try out the ranked matches to find out where you are on the skill list.

There is always going to be someone better than you and being new to the game that is going to be the case more often than not. Make sure you understand that you’re still learning and make the best of it all while you can. Because once we are more confident, it’s harder to remember that we aren't the best of the best, yet.

If you come from another MOBA or have a background in MOBAs then Dota may come a little easier to you than others. Dota 2 however, is a MOBA that has a much deeper system than newer MOBAs. The experience of course will help, but it won't all transfer as gracefully as we would like to believe it will. Take it with a grain of salt and appreciate Dota for what it is, the first of a genre that we all love above all other games.

What is the next step?

Dota 2 is only seven years old as of the writing of this guide, but it is a sequel in a series, so some people have been playing for more than 15 years. If we took it upon ourselves to learn this game and play it pretty frequently, we are pretty behind. That being said there is so much depth that we are learning new things every day and the Meta changes so frequently that we can catch up to the veteran as quickly as we let ourselves. If you want to take on the Ranked mode and move up in the Dota world, make sure to check out our other guides as we will be with you every step of the way.

Cameron Carr image

Cameron Carr

8 November 2019

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