Dota 2 Basics
The basics of Dota 2 play out very similarly to your typical multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game: gather gold and experience by killing enemy units, build up items to fill your inventory and strengthen your chosen hero, then take down enemy towers in order to push towards the Ancient. The team that destroys the enemy Ancient first wins the game.
All enemy units, including both creeps and heroes, give gold and experience to the opposing team upon death. Creeps spawn from each team’s base and automatically run down the three lanes, attacking any non-friendly units along the way. In most cases, these units will also be creeps, or heroes should they be in their immediate sight radius.
Gold is used to purchase items from the shop, which is located inside each team’s base. Some items can be bought in one go, but others will require multiple parts that form a “recipe”. Such items are usually extremely powerful, with some of the more expensive ones easily having the ability to determine the outcome of a game. In fact, some heroes are completely dependent on a few of these items, and can swing the momentum of a game should they get their hands on them.
Experience, on the other hand, allows heroes to level up and upgrade their abilities. Think of it as kind of like your run of the mill RPG—enemy units dying around you means your hero and its abilities get stronger and more potent. Thus, keeping a healthy pace when it comes to experience gain is just as important as farming gold in most cases.
How to Play Dota 2 for Beginners
The first step in playing a game of Dota 2 is hero selection, also known as the “drafting phase”. It is as the name implies: each team takes turns choosing the heroes that they want to play. Like most MOBAs, once a hero is chosen in Dota 2, that hero will be on the team that selected it and will be unavailable for drafting for the other team.
If it’s your first time playing Dota 2, there is usually only one or two different game modes you will have to concern yourself with starting out. The first is Single Draft, where the game chooses three random heroes, one from each primary attribute (Strength, Agility, and Intelligence). You get to select from the three choices as opposed to 115 in most other modes, which takes out the daunting task of having to choose from such a massive pool of heroes.
We recommend going with Single Draft first if you’re a complete beginner, as it limits the number of choices you have to make going into each game. It also helps you learn a small set of heroes at first, instead of trying to take all of them in all at once.
On that note, however, we still highly recommend reading up on each hero’s skillset and playstyle, as doing so is an important part of playing the game. After all, you don’t want to have to look up what a particular ability does as its projectile is sailing towards your hero, so as you go along, try to memorize (and try out) all the abilities in the game. Don’t worry about your learning pace—there are just too many heroes to study all at once. Just take it slow and steady. You can read up on each hero on the fan-maintained Dota 2 wiki.
The other is All Pick, which gives players the chance to select heroes from the entire pool. All Pick is the most popular game mode for both ranked and unranked public matchmaking, since players can select any hero they wish as long as it hasn’t been chosen by the other team. While All Pick is certainly fun, we do not recommend it for your first several games, for the same reasons that we recommend playing Single Draft first. There are simply too many variables and matchups to consider, many of which will easily go over the heads of newcomers.
But whichever of the two modes you choose to play, the core gameplay will be the same. The game itself (after the drafting phase is complete) is divided into three distinct phases—these are known as the “early game”, the “mid game” and the “late game”.
The early game refers to the point that starts at the very beginning of the game (zero minutes in) to about 20 minutes of in-game time. There is about a minute of dead time at the start of the game before the creeps spawn, though all ten heroes are able to move around the map freely at this time.
Take this time to buy your starting items, which will often consist of Iron Branches for additional health and mana, Tangoes for health regeneration, and a Healing Salve for emergency use. For support heroes, you will also want to buy an Observer Ward or two in order to provide much-needed vision. Once you have your starting items, you will want to head out to one of the lanes, while staying on your team’s side of the map. Which lane you’ll be in depends on what hero you’re playing, which we’ll get to later in this guide.
Once the creeps spawn, the game officially begins. Each creep wave will meet in the middle of each lane, where they will automatically attack each other. In the early game, creeps are stronger than heroes, and will easily kill them in mere seconds. Let the creeps fight each other, while occasionally dipping in to score last hits. Heroes that land the killing blow on creeps earn gold, which is important for building up powerful items later on in the game. It is for this reason that practicing your last hitting is crucial, but we’ll be covering that in a separate tutorial.
Note that heroes can also attack their own creeps if they are below 50 percent HP—and score last hits on them as well. This is called “denying creeps”, and is a mechanic that is completely unique to Dota 2. Successfully denying a creep means that any enemy heroes in the vicinity will get absolutely no gold from the creep, because they will be unable to land the killing blow themselves. Moreover, they will receive a drastically reduced amount of experience from denied creeps, while the team that scored the deny will receive 30% of the experience. This can add up very quickly, and can be dangerous for the team that gets denied creeps often.
Of course, you will be sharing the lane with enemy heroes, who will do their best to harass you with their attacks and/or abilities, in an attempt to whittle your health down enough to go for a kill attempt. This is where those Tangoes and the Healing Salve you bought will come in. If your lane opponents are adamant about poking at you, don’t be afraid to use your consumables—they’ll help you stay in lane longer which means you soak up more experience and possibly more gold as well.
Naturally, experience points will grant your hero additional levels. Each level gives you one skill point to spend on an ability, or a talent if your hero hits level 10, 15, 20, or 25 (25 is the maximum level, by the way). Levels 6, 12, and 18 will also allow you to invest skill points into your ultimate, which can swing engagements in your favour if used correctly. Consult your hero’s in-game guide (found by opening the shop menu) for the best path to take when it comes to levelling your skills and talents up.
The mid game then begins after the first phase. Typically, this is when most heroes will have a core item or two in their inventories, and will be more emboldened to take fights. This is also when you’ll start to see teams engaging each other in full five-on-five clashes, in an attempt to gain more gold and experience and take down towers afterwards. Five-man tower pushes are also common in the mid game, as taking objectives becomes more important.
The late game is signaled by the arrival of the 40 minute mark, and continues until the game ends. The late game is all about winning teamfights and pushing towards the Ancient. It is normal to see teams destroy each other’s Barracks (the buildings responsible for spawning creeps) in order to make their own creeps stronger and less easy to push back. This helps deal chip damage to the two towers protecting the Ancient.
Mistakes also tend to be punished more heavily in the late game, due to the increased respawn timers for each hero. A single slip-up can change the complexion of the match, especially if the team that wins the engagement or gets a key pickoff can capitalize by pushing a lane. Roshan, the strongest creep on the map and the one that drops the Aegis of the Immortal (a single-use item that gives the hero that holds it a second life), also becomes a point of contention in the late game.
Dota 2 Heroes for Beginners
For absolute newbies, we recommend sticking mainly to support heroes for your first few hours. While they are squishy and tend to die a lot as a result, support heroes are less valuable targets due to the fact that they normally don’t serve as a team’s win condition in the late game. Carry heroes like Anti-Mage, Sniper, and Sven, on the other hand, require a relatively high level of mechanical skill to make the most out of them—which means that they are typically too difficult for newcomers.
We suggest starting out with these support heroes, whose ability kits and gameplans are obvious from the get-go:
- Lion: has high damage spells in the form of Earth Spike and Finger of Death, and a long disable in Hex
- Vengeful Spirit: long range, cost effective stun, and her ultimate allows you to save core heroes like carries and your solo mid hero from certain death
- Omniknight: has a potent healing spell, a buff that gives one hero magic immunity for up to seven seconds, and a panic button ultimate against physical damage
- Crystal Maiden: useful even when she’s just standing around thanks to her global mana regeneration aura, and has a powerful area of effect nuke that also slows targets down
- Lina: incredible damage output on low cooldowns, and an area of effect stun that combos well with her nukes
Dota 2 Item Guide for Beginners
Items in Dota 2 range from the innocuous—such as the consumables mentioned in the “How to Play” section, to the game-changing—like the critical strike-granting Daedalus and the magic immunity stick Black King Bar. All of these items can be purchased from the shop, which is located in each team’s base just inside the fountain. For those that aren’t aware, the fountain is an elevated area in the corner of each team’s base that provides quick passive healing to all heroes that stand inside it.
The most powerful items in the game are usually those that combine multiple components to form a single, more valuable piece of equipment. These are referred to as “recipe” items, taken from the group of items simply called “Recipes”. Recipes are required for some combination items, and the game will automatically merge the components together should it detect the requirements plus the recipe in a hero’s inventory. Not all recipe items need actual recipes, though.
Of course, not all heroes will find use in every single item in the game. Support heroes, for example, typically won’t buy DPS-increasing items like Monkey King Bar and Butterfly, since they do not coincide with their roles. Moreover, support heroes usually don’t get enough farm to afford truly high-end equipment, so they make do with cost-effective utility equipment that benefit their team more than themselves. Make sure to consult your hero’s in-game guide to find the ideal item build.
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