The Birth of a Genre and Rise of Icefrog

With the advent of PC gaming countless game designers are pushing the envelope by creating new genres for the masses, and Dota 2 is no exception. While many players would love to tell you that Dota 2 is just a copy of League of Legends, this is in fact one of the biggest misunderstandings in the MOBA community in general. MOBA stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, and while Riot Games / League of Legends may have coined that term as a genre the style of game has technically existed all the back on Blizzard’s Warcraft  III: Frozen Throne as a custom game; they were just the first ones to bring the style to an upgraded platform engine. As Valve saw the huge popularity that LoL garnered as the first standalone, they decided to venture into the fray teaming up with the enigmatic Icefrog to stake their claim as the second. Eventually the direction and style of marketing strategies would prove to be the defining difference. Riot with a more “hands on” approach with their LCS leagues and Valve with a more community sourced “hands off” approach with later incarnations of The International after TI1’s $1 million prize pool which was unprecedented of at the time. The prize pool last year at TI8 topped $26 million with 1st place winning upwards of $10 million.

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Table of contents


Getting Started with the Basics

The basic concept of the game is pretty simple: kill the enemy’s Ancient before they kill yours. 2 teams of 5 players each have a pool of over 100 unique heroes to choose from when the game begins with 3 different “types”. Agility, Strength and Intelligence, each bringing different elements throughout the course of the entire game. Strength heroes are usually your tanky bruisers that want to absorb damage and be in the front setting up fights; Agility heroes want to buy items that efficiently increase their attack damage and attack speed though have generally lower HP; Intelligence heroes can vary between aggressive magical burst and defensive abilities mixed with some disabling skills that are essential to any lineup. Each hero has 4 skills to level up with their strongest being the “ultimate” which generally defines the hero and figuring out how to use them all in tandem with your team becomes the hard part.

On the left is a picture of the game map. There are 3 lanes with defensive towers that attack enemy units in range where waves of NPC minions are spawned and travel down, killing them nets you gold and experience points. Gold allows you to purchase items from the shops (of which there are tons to choose) and experience leveling up your character and abilities. This is also where hero tactics start to take effect, strategies are implemented and the game starts progressing.

Dota 2 map

One of its biggest problems is the fact that the game is not new player friendly. There is a huge wall memorization that must be internalized and understood if you want to start climbing the ranks, and even before that learning all the game mechanics can seem nigh impossible at times. Though this could also be looked at as a strength in a way, since one of its main appeals is just how much brainpower you need. Humans have, and always will, want to use their brains to the fullest capacity. Dota 2 requires such masterful mix of mathematics, timings, variables, problem solving, predictions, theory crafting, teamwork, and intuition. Much like how the best Go players are considered intelligent and noble, the best Dota players in some aspect are considered geniuses. Making decisions in the span of milliseconds, millions of dollars on the line, hundreds of thousands of people watching, pressure mounting but somehow prevailing despite all odds.

Following the stories of teams and players is another reason why the community loves this game so much, every year getting the chance to chase the dream of winning The International and seeing the soul crushing emotions of those teams that are eliminated. This past year was no exception and could be hailed as the best TI ever. If you’re new to the scene and need a reason to fall in love with the game, just take a look at this video by theScoreEsports as they do a fantastic job telling the story of the now legendary run by Team OG and beloved captain N0tail:

This guide aims to teach you the application of important mechanics that are essential to every DotA 2 player and give you an edge over other beginner players and prepare you for your calibration games. Just have an open mind and positive attitude from which to build your core skills/mechanics upon.

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Newbie Guide to Controlling Heroes

Heroes are the units controlled by each player to which there are 10 total in any given game. Each is unique and how they are utilized is up to the individual.

Hotkeys
Interface

This is a picture of how each heroes’ information will be displayed at any point in the game

  1. On the left is the portrait displaying the level which in this case is level 7/25. Each level-up allows you to increase the strength of your skills, 4 times for regular skills and at level 6 you can skill your “ultimate” ability at a maximum of 3 times. Skills cost mana or MP points to cast and have a waiting period between cast times called a “cooldown”. Working around these cooldowns is a big part of the game and figuring out when to use them at the correct times. A bit to the right are your attack damage, armor, movement speed and 3 attribute values (we will cover these in a bit). Most players use QWER for their 4 skill slot button hotkeys

  2. To the left of the skills you can see the “talent tree”. This allows you an option at level 10 and every 5 levels after to choose to between 2 talents that can provide more in-depth specialization that can bolster any number of things.

  3. On the bottom you’ll see 2 bars (green and blue) which show your Health Point and Mana Points, with regeneration values /per second slightly to the right

  4. At the top we have the “status bar” where you can see the icon for Crystal Maiden’s 3rd skill which provides global ally mana regeneration; positive buffs have the green circle, negative have the red circle around the icon.

  5. To the right are the ever-important inventory slots, of which you have 6, with the additional 3 backpack slots. Item usage has always been a huge part of the game whether it be activating them at the right times or even just making sure you adapt item builds to certain games. Setting up efficient hotkeys and creating the muscle memory is very conducive with playing at a higher level. Minimizing hesitation through confusion by pressing the wrong buttons; ironing these kinds of mistakes out takes discipline and practice more information below

  6. These are your hero values that include attack damage, armor, movement speed and attribute calculations. This was kept last as learning these exact values comes secondary to the previous numbers and will become more useful once you learn a bit more about the game

Making less unforced mistakes can give you an edge over other players through streamlined mechanics usage and improve at a much faster rate


Newbie Guide to Creeps and Towers

Learning the different NPC units in Dota is essential, not to say that you need to memorize every minute detail but a general understanding of them is necessary. For example being able to last hit them consistently or how to last hit them under a tower. Being able to consistently get gold and experience is the first step to improving your game as your journey progresses. Here is a list of the general ones:

Melee Creeps

  • 550 HP
  • 2 armor
  • 19-23 damage
  • 35-41 gold rewarded
  • 57 exp rewarded

Ranged Creeps

  • 300 HP
  • 500 Mana
  • 0 armor
  • 21-26 damage
  • 50-56 gold rewarded
  • 69 experience rewarded

Siege Creeps

  • 875 HP
  • 35-46 damage
  • 80% magic resistance
  • 66-80 gold rewarded
  • 88 exp rewarded
  • 250% extra damage to structures

Neutral Creeps

  • Random camps respawn every minute
  • Have abilities, auras and/or passives
  • Will attack when attacked
  • Sleeps at night

Ancient Creeps

  • Strongest neutral creeps
  • Magic resistant (few exceptions)
  • Highest armor
  • Highest HP
  • Have abilities, auras and/or passives
  • Will attack when attacked
  • Sleeps at night

Towers

  • +2 armor aura
  • Fortified armor type
  • Attacks enemies in range
  • 1,2,3,4 tiers
  • 110/152/152/152 damage
  • 17 / 19 / 19 / 29    armor
  • 100/120/140/160 gold rewarded to entire team
  • Provides no gold when denied
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Lane Mechanics Explained

Creep Score

When going to a lane it is important to remember that how fast you farm your favorite item is up to your timings also called a “CS” or Creep Score. Creeps you kill add +1 to the left side, denies on the right. Out timing enemy heroes is essential when attempting to acquire farm on core heroes and even supports.

What is a deny? When executed correctly an exclamation mark is animated over the head of the unit denied as seen on the right. This is meant as a confirmation that your timing was perfect, and that the enemy hero(s) received minimum experience points and no gold. You now get + bonus gold when denying your own creeps.

Getting denies is generally good but taking one over a creep kill or multiple creep kills is not wise. Creep kills provide much more gold and exp so when making the choice between the two it is advised to try and go for the creep kill, but when denies present themselves without the danger of missing a “CS”

Pulling

Occasionally you will sometimes see players doing this action, but beware as it is a double edged sword and can be implemented improperly thus ending up benefiting the enemy.

When the lane is pushed all the way to the enemy tower, it will greatly help your carry if you “pull” the lane back as it brings the wave back towards your own tower where it is much safer to farm.


Hero Strategy

As mentioned before there are 3 different categories that every hero falls into. All attributes give damage when hero attribute type matches

Strength – increases max HP and health regeneration as well as spell resistance

Intelligence – increases max MP and mana regeneration as well as spell damage

Agility – increases Armor and basic attack speed as well as movement speed

Picking a hero is up to the player! And it is encouraged that you develop favorite ones as the hero will eventually become an extension of yourself from which to make changes into a Dota game

Here are 3 in game hero guides by the well-respected Torte de Lini; 1 for each hero type. It is good to have backup heroes in case someone picks your favorite, being able to play 1 of each type will make you much more flexible than say someone who only plays intelligence ones. Another aspect of learning the game is knowing what heroes on the other team are capable of, so the ability able to predict what enemies will do is huge as well as learning the limits of each hero which will eventually allow you to push those limits.

Whether you want to play mid, carry your team, make plays from the offlane or support your team finding your best role is akin to a sort of spiritual journey so don’t be afraid to try them all and see which is your strongest affinity

To use these guides in game just click “SELECT” on the left-hand side

Sand King

A tanky hero with a stun and an escape tool on top of having a 2 button stun-ultimate combo, can go invisible and creates damaging seismic waves that damage the enemy.

Crystal Maiden

As nuke heavy disabler she also provides bonus mana regeneration for the entire team and double values for yourself for more spell casting, helping all 3 lanes at the same time while alive

Sniper

A long-ranged damage dealer with a slow, and an ultimate with even longer range that can snipe enemy heroes that are fleeing.


Put Your Skills to the Test Against AI Bots

Playing against computers for training has long been considered practice in multiplayers games, Dota 2 is no different. Whether they’re the Valve bots or even Elon Musk’s OpenAI bots the core idea is the same only one pushes the extremes of cutting edge technology and science. Acclimating to the average player skill bracket is like climbing a wall built by these bots to test your abilities. Building your basics will start here and putting into practice the cumulative knowledge from this guide.


The More the Merrier

If some of your friends play that can just add to the excitement when your stack of friends beats another stack of friends. Getting to practice with the same group of people consistently is another way to hasten your growth period a bit. It can be hard to sync up with random people all the time and already having those anonymous barriers broken down is a huge plus and also boosts communication. The best teams in the world have designated positions such a mid, carry, offlane or support; you should be on the lookout to see if you enjoy a certain position over others. Most players will have an affinity for at least 1 but that doesn’t mean you can’t play the others but picking and sticking to a role is the best targeted approach to improving. Having a friend who has a rank already can join your party as a coach and offer tips/advice to improve.


How to Get into Ranked and Unranked Games?

Take a look at some popular Dota 2 streamers and youtubers such as BSJ or Purge before playing your required 10 calibration games. These players’ insight can help you learn the ins and outs of certain heroes or positions and better prepare you for the hardships of ranked

On the right hand side click on Play Game.

Unranked and ranked options

After calibration you will be assigned a rank, but for some this takes the fun out of the game and should not be your main focus if you are still a noob at the game. Be objective about your skill level and rank should come later.

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Want to Play? Here’s What you Need to Know

Learning this game is still going to be hard. But after changing your settings to the guide’s, the overall goal to make it less frustrating and set you up with solid tested mechanics that make efficient use of the left hand cutting and lowering the chance for basic errors through unfamiliar button mapping. This is what will give you the ability to be able to better focus on what is happening on the screen and spend less time pressing wrong buttons.

It is also important when wanting to learn a hero, to use Valve’s provided (for free) learning tools. At the top click on HEROES and select one.

Then click DEMO HERO by the skill icons.

Here you can test heroes out on a simulated mid lane and practice your hotkeys. This is the perfect environment to practice last hitting creeps, casting your spells and targeting enemy heroes.

Practicing is crucial to improve at anything, especially Dota

Choosing Your Strategy to Win

There are 3 principles that we’re going to cover as a crash course before you finally start your games. Concepts and terminology that you will again need to know. Pushing, farming and ganking.

Pushing: A concept that seems simple but eventually can become a headache. Taking towers is a form of pushing as it requires a siege, thus requiring multiple waves of creeps; taking too long can allow the enemy to group up and take advantage of bad positioning. Pushing alone can sometimes leave you to be caught out so there are bad times to push as well if your team is on the other side of the map. Occasionally the enemy will be pushing at the exact same time as you, so what do you do?

Farming: Widely considered the act/period of time where heroes are last hitting creeps. Also when needing to accrue farm in lane before making moves

Ganking: The act when 2 or more heroes collectively kill another hero(s). The word teamfighting and ganking can sometimes overlap but function in the same meaning if substituted.

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Lineups and Team Compositions

  1. Carry – usually farming in the “safe lane” that needs items before becoming strong and taking over a game.

  2. Mid – solo hero that gets the fastest levels and gold, can take over a game early.

  3. Offlane – hero in the dangerous lane that barely gets any farm or levels without help. Can also be a solo lane like mid.

  4. Support – generally a hero that makes plays on the map, ie helping mid secure runes. Needs gold over 5 position.

  5. Support – dedicated support hero, buys wards and using abilities in a mostly defensive manner. Lowest farmed units in the game


How Do I become Pro? Try Watching Some Real Ones!

Before you can start to critique yourself and your replays, check out some professional games under the WATCH tab. You can also drop in on top ranked players and watch the game from their perspective. Even opening up a stream on twitch, there are tournaments going on all the time! Being able to see a Professional Player’s point of view will drastically improve your game if applied.

Even Pros Watch their Own Replays, So Should You

At the end of each game there will be a screen that shows the summary of most of the data in the game. Clicking on each hero will bring up different information so play around with it to fully understand just how much post-game data there is

Overview
Scoreboard

Gosu.AI Bot: The Next Evolution in Analysis and Macro-Data Breakdown

The end game screen only provides so much information about analyzing the game when websites like ours are pushing those limits through AI analysis and data collection. Signing up for access to the Gosu Bot is FREE! And provides a full blown account tailored spectrum of information from which to improve. Here is what you’ll see using the latest in replay analysis for just 1 game:

Another end game screen game summary

Game summary

Tips and advice for your hero to take to heart

Advice

Overview of all deaths and escapes

Death analysis

Optimize your ganking patterns and see exactly how the game progressed from gank 1

Kill attempts

Review if you’re killing the right targets and shorten stash/courier times

Lost time

Is your warding up to snuff? See how it matches up against other players’

Hero control maximization, micro control and attack moving analysis

Micro control

Gosu.AI is tailored to you. The player. Making it easier to be objective and is a great tool that you need to be using. AI has been changing the way we look at Dota 2, and even playing it!

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At TI8 Elon Musk’s OpenAI took on professional teams in a head to head 5v5 matchup and the results were jaw dropping to say the least. In the everchanging Dota landscape we are really able to make sense of all the Data and use it to our advantage, using every tool at your disposal is a no brainer for Pros and noobs alike. Check it out and see for yourself how Gosu.AI can explain in detail the areas you need to improve in.