|3.||You don't get rated on your Score|
|6.||Using your Resources versus Saving them|
|7.||Why Pool is usually better than Regen|
|8.||There's no point rushing|
|10.||Damage versus Survivability|
|11.||Just buy the damned utility items|
|13.||Pro Games Versus Pub Games|
|14.||Trilanes and Junglers|
|15.||AFK Junglers and Hard Carries|
|16.||Invisibility is NOT invincibility|
|17.||You win and lose as a team|
I see a lot of basic mistakes made in DOTA - it's a complex game to learn and there's so much to understand. Following on from one of my previous guides Levelling Up, this guide will attempt to help you avoid as many of these mistakes as possible, and get your game to a higher level, faster.
We'll be covering quite a lot of ground here, but I will be aiming it mostly at lower-intermediate players, but there might hopefully be a few bits in there for higher level players to chew on to.
This guide is brought to you in association with Captain Wraith King, the n00b's best friend:
Hey kids - I'll be pitching in with useful tips and non-patronising advice throughout the guide
- Experience is REALLY important in DOTA.
While Gold may be the "visible" currency of DOTA, there is another type of income that is just as important in a slightly different way. Experience is vital to all heroes and can have just as much impact on the game.
Many newer players simply don't understand how to manage Experience as a resource. It's vital that sometimes supports let their carry get some extra by leaving the lane temporarily, or for offlaners to ensure they're getting experience even if they're not getting gold.
- Denying resources to the enemy is REALLY important.
Many newer players wander through games only considering their own income. What level am I? How much gold and equipment have I got?
As they get better, they start figuring out it's important their team has stuff too - it's pretty handy when someone else has a Mekansm, Force Staff or Vladmir's Offering.
The big step however, is to realise that what the ENEMY team has is usually the decisive factor in the game. Denying them access to gold and experience can be as important as collecting them for your own team.
Many players are obsessed with their stats - KDAs, win%, GPM, XPM, AFK, LOL, YOLO, etc.
They use it as a benchmark for how well they've performed, and aim to improve them over time so they can see they've got better, and how they did in a particular game.
One of the most common mistakes I see is people making very poor choices with their starting items. Here are the matters you need to consider:
- Sustaining in the lane.
Having to leave the lane to return to the fountain is VERY BAD. Many new players don't really realise how experience works - or how vital levels are to almost every hero.
Unlike gold, you don't really see experience trickling in until you level up, it can be almost invisible to the beginner. Stay near the lane wherever possible, don't go back to the fountain unless you absolutely have to. And DON'T feed - it seems bizarre but some players believe the best way of regen'ing is to get killed! This is free gold and massive experience for the opposition.
Sustaining early on is about consumables ( Tango, Healing Salve, Clarity) for almost every hero - a few such as Bloodseeker and Broodmother get help from their abilities, but even they need something in reserve.
Consumables may seem to be "a waste of money" as they disappear once used - but they are very efficient early on (when everyone has low health/mana pools), and can even be useful into the mid game for some heroes. Look upon consumables as an investment - being able to stay in lane means experience, and being able to compete for last hits. A few last hits will pay for any consumable easily.
Hey kids - not everyone has a Vampiric Aura like me for sustain, and even I get peckish for an occasional Tango!
Following on from our last chapter, consider the wisdom of "renting" items. Some people will argue that renting is always less efficient than buying - once you've bought it, you've got it forever, right? Well yes, but renting can bring considerable benefits in the short term.
For example - I might buy two extra Iron Branches on my offlane Mirana, at a cost of 100 gold. I may not be buying a Magic Wand or Mekansm so eventually I will sell those branches at half price to make space. Overall, this transaction will cost me -50 gold.
I only need to get 1 extra last hit to break even on this deal - 2 or more last hits will mean I come out ahead. If those branches let me narrowly escape a death, or bag a kill or assist that I wouldn't have without them, then I'm already miles ahead.
Don't be afraid to buy items for a short term fix - especially when you're not a carry, but even if you are. Maybe I'll build a Magic Wand for approximately 500 gold, and then sell it for 250 later on when I need the space.
If that wand has let me survive a single gank, or get a single kill or assist, it's probably already paid for itself and your overall net worth will be higher than the 250 gold you lose from selling it.
In the same way, don't begrudge buying yourself consumables sometimes - especially if you're playing a support, but with other roles too. This is one of the most important things I've learned the more I've played - consumables are a good, cheap, short term fix.
Say I'm playing a hard support and struggling for mana after the laning phase - I've had to buy all the required items for my team - Observer Wards, Flying Courier and Sentry Wards. I've not been farming, just grabbing a few neutral creeps when pulling. Maybe I haven't even got boots yet. Maybe I was hoping to have a Soul Ring or Arcane Boots by now. It doesn't matter. Pickup a few Clarity pots ane ensure you have enough mana to get those vital abilities off - 1 last hit or an assist will easily pay for them until you can get something better.
Same, if I'm offlaning and I'm sitting on half health having already burned through all my consumables after some tasty engagements with the enemy trilane. I haven't got enough gold to afford a Ring of Health (or it simply doesn't suit my hero anyway), so have a few choices:
- Play passively, don't compete for creeps or denies, be potentially vulnerable to dives due to lack of health.
- Wait for the gold to buy the Ring, try to make it to the shop to buy it, then wait while I slowly recover HP.
- Buy a Healing Salve and have the Flying Courier bring it out to me. I can instantly heal and be back in the lane competing again. Hell, maybe I buy two thinking I'll need the second later.
Quite often the team that buys consumables will win the lane - the number of kills on enemy carries I've got with offlaners will attest to that. You keep buying a few extra consumables while they've used all of their's. They're so caught up trying to farm that Hand of Midas they leave themselves open to your combo damage and BOOM...
If you're in a tough lane and can't afford a Ring of Health yet, a Healing Salve might be just what you need to let you continue farming safely. 3 last hits and you're already back in profit, never mind an avoidable death.
It's a general rule in all strategy games that you should use your resources as quickly as possible after getting them. "Banked" resources offer you no benefit other than the ability to save up for a bigger item later on. Resources "in play" have an immediate effect on the game and can swing it in your favour.
For example, buying a Dagon on Nature's Prophet versus saving up for a Scythe of Vyse. The Dagon may allow you to get in and snipe kills that your team is setting up, earning you all more gold and experience, while reducing the income of the opposition. With enough success, this may even get you that Scythe of Vyse faster than if you'd saved your money and earned the rest through farming.
Even buying parts of an item can have this effect - you may be saving for a Vladmir's Offering, but the Ring of Basilius in your inventory is still helping you in the meantime.
Obviously there is a flip side to this - most of the "top end" gear in the game costs a lot of money, and intermediate items tend to drop off a lot heavier. If you don't get the benefit of your intermediate item (say your Nature's Prophet doesn't pickup extra kills with that Dagon) then this can leave you behind in the long run, or it may be that your team will benefit more from you just saving up.
This is somewhat like the "snowball versus hard carry" argument - successful snowballing will likely win you the game, but unsuccessful snowballing will probably leave you further behind.
What do I mean by this? By Pool I mean your total Health and Mana points - the maximum amount you can have. Regen (Regeneration) is how quickly those pools fill back up as you use them.
As a general rule, Pool is better. Why? Most "dangerous" damage in DOTA is burst - large amount of damage in a short time. Ganks and team fights. Small amounts of continious damage are relatively easy to deal with - you can run away, go back the fountain etc. This is the kind of damage you get from jungling for instance. You can just leave if it's too much.
Enemies heroes won't generally give you that option if possible - they want to kill you, and aren't bound by AI routines that stop them going after you.
Like nukes and physical damage, some items are worth rushing early on, and some aren't. Most nukes do a set amount of damage - say 300, while physical attacks tend to scale up throughout the game from a much smaller starting point.
Lets compare a Dagon with a Hyperstone. The Dagon does a set 400 damage when used, while the Hyperstone gives a big chunky +55 attack speed. Each of these is considerably better than the other, depending completely on your other equipment and levels.
At level 6, 400 damage is easily more than the extra damage the attack speed bonus would get you when your total attack damage is say 50. Once you're attacking at 150-200 damage a time, that attack speed bonus will easily outscale it.
So, always be aware of the game time/situation when choosing to buy items. A Dagon can be brilliant early game, but it's usually pointless later on.
The opposite applies to other particular items - I hate seeing players rushing a Butterfly or Heaven's Halberd - all that defensive evasion is pretty pointless when the enemy carries lack physical damage.
Get the right items at the right times.
Many items have an active component that expands their usefulness - e.g. Scythe of Vyse, Force Staff or even just the basic Magic Stick.
For beginner and intermediate players just keeping track of your 4+ abilities can be enough work, without having to remember which keys you've assigned to various item actives you've picked up.
Using item actives correctly is a big step forward in your DOTA play - using Power Treads swapping to get the most from consumables for example, toggling Armlet of Mordiggian or Magic Wand charges. All of these can be the difference in a tight situation.
However, take this slowly. Learning to remember all this stuff takes time and practice. Keep working at it, but don't overload yourself with too many active items, especially crucial ones.
Remember that a large part of the price of active items is their main ability, so you may be better off buying more "passive" items that give you the full benefit without you having to actively manage them. You're already carrying a Black King Bar and an Armlet of Mordiggian - maybe you could just get that Daedalus instead of upgrading your Skull Basher into an Abyssal Blade.
Be aware of your current skill level and limitations, and while pushing yourself to improve, don't try and do everything all in one go.
Hey kids - it's usually better to do something simple well than something complicated badly. Remember your old pal Capn' Wraith King when you want early kills and a tanky carry later.
This is another bugbear for me - players who can't or don't understand how to balance their items correctly. There are two extreme ends of this spectrum:
1) Carries who have no damage, so can't do their job properly.
2) Heroes who have tons of damage or utility, but no survivability.
Number 1 is probably the most heinous of crimes. Ultimately you need to kill enemy heroes and destroy their base if you want to win the game. To do either of those things - you need damage. Heroes who have the most gold on the team have a certain responsiblity to be able to inflict it. There's no point you surviving and escaping the team fight with your mega-defensive kit if the rest of your team dies to no effect.
Number 2 is a little trickier, but probably more common - and can be seen on almost any position on the team.
"Hey, I might be an int support with barely any strength gain or stats items, but I've got a Blink Dagger so I'm basically unkillable - I'll just dodge away. What do you mean there's an angry Lina or Nyx Assassin on the other team?"
"I'm playing Sniper so my range means that I can just sit away from the fight and won't be attacked, so I don't need any defensive items. There's no way I'll ever be caught out or surprised"
Basically having more HP, armour and other defensive equipment gives you more margin for error. We all make mistakes, we all get caught out sometimes, and live or die by small margins.
Hey kids - you can't cast any of your spells, use any of your items, or do any damage if you're dead already. Unless you're me :)
If the opposition have invisible heroes or items like Shadow Blade, then there is a TEAM responsibility to have detection. This primarily means the supports, but can and should extend to other heroes - including carries.
If you've got slots free, there's no reason you shouldn't be carrying some form of detection. If your supports suck or don't have any money, just buy the damned things.
Zeus doesn't sit in judgement over every game ready to disintegrate any non-support who ever grabs a Smoke of Deceit or Dust of Appearance when necessary. Hell, these players have been shown to have consistently better KDA ratios.
Necrophos hasn't put some kind of horrible plague on Observer Wards that will infest any non-support hero who places one. Maybe you taking 5 seconds out from farming the jungle to place one up in a dangerous spot is better than moaning at your support for feeding?
Sometimes you've got to make Sacrifices to support your team, right reader? I'd wink now if I still had eyelids.
While buildings like towers and barracks are easier to take down as the game goes later (and hero damage scales up), the rewards for doing so are decreased too.
The only team that can really afford to be passive about objectives is the one that has a much, much stronger late game than their opponents, and even then you have to consider how much you think you can slow the game down.
Failing to take objectives at the right times is a major cause of losing in many games. If you've successfully ganked or won a team fight, why not push and see if you can grab a tower? If you've got 5 heroes with ultimates and a gold/xp lead, why not push on the tier 2 tower if you've just taken the tier 1 uncontested?
I've seen so, so many teams that had a good early lead, took all the enemy tier 2's but failed to push on to take rax. This turns out to be their high water mark in the game - the point where things turned against them.
The real elephant in the room here is barracks. These are the real general indicator of who's winning and losing. While you have rax, there is hope. The only real excuse I can think of for not defending your rax is because you're busy knocking their's over.
Hey kids - never give up - the game isn't over until your ancient explodes!
One of the best ways to learn anything is to watch people who are really good at it - how they move, what they do and the choices they make.
This works very well for a game like DOTA, where you can not only see their picks, but put on options for following their vision, mouse cursor and even what the opposition might be doing that they can't see. Many pro's have an almost eerie pre-cognition of what's happening or about to happen, even when they have no vision - this comes from long practice and good instincts.
First of all - watch Pro Games, they're really helpful. You can see some of the potential of the heroes that may be hidden from you at your level. You get to see "the game as it's meant to be played" by a well co-ordinated team of expert players. HOWEVER...
1) Don't assume that Pro game builds and styles can be directly exported into pub games.
For example, EG are running a safe lane Storm Spirit with one support and a jungler. When they picked that, they will have had an extremely good idea of what they are trying to achieve, how they are trying to achieve it, and the knowledge that it's unlikely the opposition can stop them doing so. They will have tailored that build to an exact timing window and the heroes they are facing.
If you just try to copy this with a pub support without considering what the opposition are bringing to the table, you can run into a whole world of problems.
2) Don't assume that you or your team mates have the necessary skills to play like they do.
Pro players have countless hours of practice under their belts, plus excellent micro-skills and reflexes. Some of the dodges and skillshots you see come out are exceptionally difficult to do, especially against other good players.
Pro carries rarely miss a last hit, have stacked camps and know how to farm efficiently - they will accrue gold far more quickly than their pub counter-parts, giving them access to various items much more quickly.
Basically, just because you see a pro team or player do something, don't assume you or your team can just replicate it easily. This should inform your decision making.
3) This level of co-ordination takes a lot of practice, teamwork and communication.
Sometimes you'll play a pub game with randoms and everything just falls into place nicely - your laning partner and you will somehow form an almost telepathic understanding via pings and the chat wheel, leading to a number of great kills and a successful lane. Sometimes your team will just be on the same wavelength as you and great things will happen...
Mostly though, there's massive miscommunication in pubs, mistakes will happen, easy opportunities will be missed and a general air of farce will pervade the entire match. Well, what did you expect from a random group of strangers thrown together for a single game?
Even playing with your own 5 stack will take time to learn how to work well together - communication is really, really important and you'll find it's almost a different game playing against teams who share the same advantages.
Don't expect your average pub team to play like pro's. Adjust your expectations and risk thresholds accordingly. Be glad they turned up for the teamfight at all, even if they didn't time their power perfectly.
4) Take easy to execute combos and abilities
If you're in a pub game with a complete stranger who may not even speak your language, the last thing you want to have to try and do is execute a complex combination of abilities that requires the two of you to be in sync with each other.
You may understand that Disruption has a 2.5 second duration at all levels so makes a perfect setup for unreliable stuns, but the guy next to you may have never seen Shadow Demon before and is completely confused about what's going on or what they should be doing. Pick something easy like Fireblast instead - it's really obvious what you're doing, and what they should be doing.
Instead of Black Hole maybe you should just get Ravage?
When you first start playing DOTA, it's pretty usual to have a 2-1-2 formation - two heroes in each side lane, and one in the middle.
As you play more, you're bound to see changes to this - solo heroes offlane, with junglers or trilanes in the safe lane. It's what the pro's do, right?
Well, yes. Trilanes do make a lot of sense in higher level play, but it's really important to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Same with junglers, especially AFK ones.
Badly constructed/run trilanes and AFK junglers are probably two of the biggest causes of defeat in games I see. Trilane heroes struggle greatly if they can't get additional gold/experience to make up the extra man sharing the experience. To counter this, they need to do some or all of these things:
1) Kill the enemy offlaner(s).
2) Pull/kill jungle creeps.
3) Supports roam and setup kills in other lanes.
The first is probably the most important thing here, killing or at least largely zoning out the enemy offlaner is really important - it balances the lost experience of the trilane. It's also really important to do this right from the start, so that the enemy offlaner never gets the levels they need to contest the lane.
3v1 should be pretty easy, but it requires the right timing and combination of abilities to make it work. I see so many BAD TRILANE heroes played - people will just throw any old hero in and think it will work. Generally, it's much better to ensure you have the right tools to kill the specific enemy you'll be facing. This may mean particular heroes, or items like Dust of Appearance and Sentry Ward.
Number 2 is also important - make sure you know how to run the camps if you're a support, and that you do so successfully. This may well mean one of the supports will need Sentry Wards to ensure the camps are available.
If this all sounds complicated to you - DON'T play trilanes yet. Learn the game some more, and then come back to it. Or at least go away and learn what you need to do to make it work.
Junglers are almost the opposite problem. Many newer players want to play "AFK" (Away From Keyboard) Junglers - i.e. carries who stay in the jungle for a long time getting their items, and then emerging later on to win the game.
The main reason for this is because "it's easy". You don't have to compete with anyone for last hits, just run round fighting jungle creeps and buying items. You don't need any real teamwork, and usually won't interact with anyone in the game very much. If everything goes ok your team will have more gold/experience than the opposition, as you weren't in lane. You can claim the glory later on when you emerge to kick ***.
So what's the problem? Well, potentially there aren't any - it can work really well, especially at lower levels where people will basically forget you're playing until it's too late.
1) Your lanes will be understaffed. The rest of the team is basically playing 4 v 5 until you're ready. If they're correctly setup this can still work, but you're putting extra weight on them.
2) AFK jungling can be quite slow in comparison to laning. If the enemy carry does well, they'll potentially be ahead of you, especially if they pickup kills from your understaffed lanes...
3) AFK junglers can be very selfish or lacking in map awareness. They can miss easy kills for their team by being too focused on their own game. They can also become easy prey for gankers or have their camps blocked.
4) AFK junglers sometimes don't consider the enemy team's plan. If they have very aggressive early game heroes, they may well have out-ganked and out-pushed your team before you're ready to get involved.
5) Your team now has only 1 support. That's now 4 out of 5 heroes who may think they're in a farming role and don't need to contribute team utility and consumables. This is especially bad if the opposition has invisibility, or if the support hero needs items like Blink Dagger to be effective.
You should ALWAYS, ALWAYS consider both teams before selecting an AFK jungler - if the enemy are very strong early game, or your team looks likely to lose their lanes, it's a bad idea.
Hey kids - just because I can jungle doesn't mean I should, it's slow going at my age. And the least you can do is pop into lane occasionally and use my awesome Wraithfire Blast to get a kill or assist!
In low level pubs, it's very common to see invisible heroes like Riki stomping everyone with his massive OPness. How come higher level games rarely see him when he's so good?
Basically invisibility is very strong in games where players don't know how to deal with it, but pretty meh when they do. Many players also seem to think that invisibility makes them invulnerable - i.e. they can run into a dangerous situation, and then just hit their Shadow Blade before escaping easily.
This doesn't work once players start buying Dust of Appearance, Sentry Wards or a Gem of True Sight. Also remember that some heroes can attack ground or perform Area Of Effect (AOE) attacks that can still hit you. Don't ever assume that the enemy can't target you or see you.
This is such a basic point that seems to have to be hammered home at every opportunity.
1) You are not in competition with the people on your team.
2) You are trying to beat the players on the opposite team.
3) If you communicate well and work together, your chances of winning are much higher.
This may seem like a series of incredibly obvious, ludicrously stupid statements that should never need to be made, but the opposite happens in pretty much every game of DOTA to a greater or lesser degree.
DONT - critise your team in a completely negative way.
DO - make constructive suggestions about what could be better.
DONT - always focus on your own needs ahead of the rest of the team.
DO - think about decisions in the overall context of your team.
DONT - assume that you always know best or never make mistakes.
DO - be forgiving and supportive of your team.
Lich may spend half the game devouring units from his own team, but he's doing it for the greater good. All those slowly digesting creeps mean more money to spend on wards and less experience for the opposition.
It's definitely not just because they're delicious.
Sometimes I'll switch to a support role instead of carry if that means the team will work better as a whole.
For an item independent hero like me, I might help out with support items even if I'm playing solo offlane.
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