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Dota Etiquette - How to win games and have fun

April 19, 2016 by Sando
Comments: 16    |    Views: 73256    |   


xCO2 suggestioned that an etiquette guide for DOTA could be a useful thing for many players, and this struck me as a good idea that could help improve the generally dismal view of the community.

DOTA is unusual in that it can lock you into a game with 9 complete strangers for roughly 45 minutes and relies on a high degree of teamwork on co-operation. This is one of the great attractions, but also what puts many people off - it's not just like a shooter where you can immediately jump out and onto another server if things aren't going well.

DOTA can have a bad effect on almost anyone - it's quite rage inducing at times. However, I believe that overall the DOTA community is not so bad - there are plenty of nice people around. The secret is that there are a wide range of people from easy going to trolls and egomaniacs, and everything in between.

Most people will be reasonable and nice with you with a little encouragement, some "problem" players can be managed to make them work for the team - only a small minority are genuinely irredeemable.

This guide is designed to provide a basic framework - a starting point for discussions about how people should treat each other during games. It is obviously heavily influenced by my own opinions, and not everyone will agree with every point...but it could at least be worth considering.

The Golden Rules

1) Work Together

2) Communicate

3) Be Polite

4) Have Fun

5) Remember, no one is perfect

6) The team wins, not you

7) You're not always right

Picking and Deciding Lanes

Yes, the game does start this early! I've been on teams several times where two players have got into a blazing row about who's mid before the first creeps have even spawned. Instant -30% to your chance of winning.

Sure, lots of people want to play mid - but only one person per team gets to do it, just like only one person gets to be the safe lane carry. Get on with it. You don't know the skillset or ability of the other players on your team, so you can't just assume you're the best player for that role.

Generally the rule here is very simple - first come, first served. Whoever calls/picks the position first gets it.

At the same time, try to be a bit flexible where possible - if your mid pick could potentially offlane as well and the rest of your team has made daft picks which require that formation...just do it. If your mid pick is badly countered by the enemy mid pick, let someone else take it if they can.


This isn't complicated, there are a few easy rules that make this all work smoothly:

1) Don't take farm off the carry.

2) No, REALLY, don't. No excuses.

It doesn't matter if the game hasn't gone well, whether you fancy 300 to finish your item or whatever, DON'T. Without that carry getting farm, your team is screwed - and that goes double if you're behind.

The easy way of working out who should take farm over who is to split the team into 5 positions of priority. The most farm dependent heroes are in positions 1, 2 and 3 - support go into 4 and 5. If you're farming a lane and someone with a higher priority comes along, you gracefully let them farm it instead. If you're a lower priority, you leave it to them.

A few exceptions do apply:

1) If you're desperate for a few last hits to buy some essential item (say a set of Observer Ward, or 100 to finish your Mekansm receipe) AND YOU ASK FIRST!

2) If someone has started farming a jungle neutral camp, it's theirs. Even if they're a lower farming priority you shouldn't go in and take it off them. It's just rude and annoying. At the same time, the lower priority hero should leave the rest of the jungle for them.

3) If you're jungling, don't take the pull camp early game. The support hero needs that to control the lane, there's plenty of other camps for you to farm. At least ask first.


This is probably the most contentious issue in public matchmaking. There are a whole host of issues around it, both good and bad.

Good communication is a huge boon for any team that makes use of it. At the same time, arguing with each other is very destructive to team moral and performance. Hell, I've even been killed while trying to type a message back to someone!

Here is my list of top suggestions for how to communicate well with your team:

1) BE POLITE. I really can't emphasise this enough. People are far more likely to take on board your suggestions if you ask them to do it nicely. Even just adding "pls" on the end of the message can make a difference - although typing "you effing useless n00b motherfooba get some wards pls" is unlikely to get the response you want :)

This suggestion goes double if you're annoyed. Try to remain calm and keep asking in a reasonable manner. This is far more likely to get you the result you want.

2) Don't expect people to know if you haven't told them. Many otherwise good people get slowly wound up by another player - say they're playing a support type hero and not buying Observer Ward. The first person doesn't say anything, but gets more and more annoyed every time they have to buy the wards...until they eventually explode into a diatribe of abuse.

Viewing it from the perspective of the other player, they're suddenly presented with a wall of abuse for no apparent reason. They're not necessarily going to check everyone's inventories every few minutes just in case. Maybe every time the other player goes to buy wards they're already on cooldown. If the team is warding properly, what's the problem? What's this guy's problem?

As you already know there are certain items that don't stack well on the same team - two players both buying a Mekansm or Assault Cuirass can become a point of conflict.

This isn't strictly anyone's fault - if nobody is communicating, people don't know. And the solutions are easy:

- If you feel somebody isn't pulling their weight with support items, ask them nicely if they could help. The more politely you ask, the more difficult it is for them to be rude to you.

- If you're going to buy a "non-stacking" item, mention it to your team before you start. "Going AC", "Building Mek", etc. It takes a second and avoids all sorts of problems.

3) Make suggestions, not demands. Another obvious suggestion, but incredibly common. Nobody likes being bossed about. Many people will do the exact opposite if somebody demands they do something. Who appointed you as the supreme leader of this team?

Ok, so trying to order people around doesn't work, but the team does need to co-ordinate or you end up wandering about making half hearted attempts at objectives instead of committing to them. How do we get round this?

Well, my view is to make suggestions - "Hey guys, do we push mid or go rosh?". "Guys, we could do to take out that Phantom Lancer before he gets big". You're not bossing anyone, but it starts people working together and sharing objectives.

Same with item choices - there's a lot to remember in the course of a game, and suggestions from other players can be useful. Telling somebody they're a n00b and have made stupid choices will not get the response you want, even if you're right.

4) Language barriers. No doubt we could fill an entire website with the various gripes of playing with people who don't speak your language - especially if you ticked the boxes!

Basically, this ain't gonna change any time soon, so you may as well make the best of it when it happens. You can't tar an entire group of people on the basis of how some of them behave - give everyone a fair chance at the start of the game, and if they act like idiots see the advice from later in this guide.

Obviously you might not be able to understand each other if you're speaking or typing, so try to use other tools to do the basics. Draw an arrow on the minimap, use the ping tool effectively, use the comms wheel (it translates to the local language of other players).

When things go wrong

The first thing to remember here is that "no one is perfect". We all make mistakes, misjudgements and oversights. We're human - it's what we do. There's a certain element of luck in all games - you may unknowingly move outside a ganker's vision radius at just the right moment, get on the wrong end of an Ogre Magi Multi-cast, be unexpectedly focused by enemies who should be doing something else...the list is endless.

In short, Murphy's Law applies. Don't have unrealistic expectations of your team mates - if you're not pro standard they're not going to be either. Don't get on somebody's case the first time they miss a last hit or miss a skillshot - they won't have wanted to miss it, and you'll probably make them more self-conscious about it.

Even the world's top players can make incredibly silly mistakes...

So, things going wrong during games is inevitable. It's a pressure situation and people aren't always on the same wavelength. Sometimes they random heroes they don't know well and still try to play them. Sometimes people have limited or incorrect game knowledge. It happens.

So how do we deal with the inevitable when things go wrong?

1) Criticism never helps. It really doesn't. Usually it just starts an argument, makes people upset and destroys team moral - and this is even when the criticism might be completely fair and valid.

So what do we do instead? Be constructive. You can get your point across without being negative. Instead of "OMG ES YOU NOOB that Fissure just got our whole team killed" try "We can do better at the next team fight, ES can you try to cut off their carry with Fissure, then I'll hit him with Fiend's Grip". Remember rule 3, be polite!

2) Arguing never helps. Same as above really, arguments never improve team performance. Even if you're right, the other person isn't going to listen and the rest of the team will probably be wishing you'd both just shut up. If you follow the advice above you'll find you're much less likely to get involved in an argument to start with.

The best advice I can give you if the team starts arguing is along the lines of "guys, we're all on the same side", "we need to move on if we're going to win this", etc. Most arguments start when things are going badly, most are resolved or forgotten when the team pulls together and starts doing better.

3) It's natural to blame someone else, but it doesn't make it right. This is hard advice to take on board - it was obviously that guy's fault that we lost. I'm not saying that another player is completely blameless, but that it's easier to blame someone else than it is to take responsibility for your own mistakes. If you're not honest with yourself, you'll struggle to improve in the long run.

4) Apologise if you mess up. Another difficult thing to do - and don't get me wrong, I'm no saint. Really it depends on your team - if they're unpleasant and blamey from minute one, you really don't want to give them any ammunition.

However, on most teams, a quick "sry" can go a long way in keeping the team together - you're acknowledging you made a mistake and will do better next time. A good team will accept it, possibly even have a laugh about it and move on. You feel encouraged, you want to do better and redeem yourself in the eyes of your team.

Pauses and Delays

Unfortunately any online game is at the mercy of the gods of technology - connection problems, PC crashes, family streaming movies, etc. At the end of the day we all want a close, fun game, and that means occasionally being patient and waiting for a few minutes when someone has a problem.

The difficulty here is that some people do abuse the pause option, either with "tactical pauses" (i.e. mid-gank or team fight to try to gain an advantage) or just being inconsiderate and expecting everyone else to wait for them indefinitely.

There's a few points of etiquette I try to follow here:

- Only pause if you really need to

- Try to offer an explanation of why you're pausing, if at all possible

- 2 to 3 minutes is a reasonable amount of time that you can expect 9 strangers to wait for you or a team mate. After this point people are well within their rights to ask for the game to resume

- Pauses should work the same for both teams. If one side provides a shorter or longer pause then that standard should apply for both teams for the rest of the game (e.g. if they don't wait for you, you shouldn't wait for them either - if they wait 5 minutes, so should you).

Building Trust

Any group of people who need to work in close co-operation to achieve a goal will best do so by forming a good team.

Forming a team nominally has 4 stages: (Tuckman et al, 1965)

- Forming (Meeting each other)
- Storming (Having conflict about roles)
- Norming (Agreeing on how to work together)
- Performing (Actually getting the benefits)

This is quite a lot to pack into 45 minutes of DOTA! Luckily some of the work is already done for us - players roughly understand what the roles normally are, so you can take various shortcuts to dividing responsibilites.

Usually conflicts arise when people don't follow the "norms" of those roles (e.g. Carry Crystal Maiden), or disagree about interpritations ("Your Lina should ward instead of my Earthshaker"). Communication and some common sense will usually resolve these, but building trust will help a lot.

Psychologically DOTA is a demanding game. To play optimally you rely on some players deliberately making themselves vulnerable in order for their allies to become stronger (supports and carries). You have to trust other players in situations like ganks where you're potentially going to die. Performance is constantly measured and you have to make key decisions in a very short space of time.

Building trust helps tremendously with these situations - if you trust your team mates to be doing their jobs correctly, you're much happier concentrating on your own. You'll sometimes take selfless actions for the greater good - and in doing so improve your team's chances of winning markedly.

Doing this isn't always easy however - most DOTA players will have had bad experiences at some point and can be naturally wary until they figure out some of the others on the team. Trust takes time, and you don't have a lot of it.

Some ways to build trust:

- Start simple, communicate a little about lanes, picks etc (being polite and not bossy). This breaks the ice, and others can feel more comfortable talking.

- Throw in a quick "Ty" (thanks) or "GJ" (Good Job) when your team does something well. This is an easy way of making people feel good and encourage everyone.

- Especially if you're in a support role, help out your team with an Animal Courier, Observer Ward, share consumables if necessary. This role is ideally placed to raise the morale of the team by playing selflessly and setting a standard for everyone else.

- Be forgiving if someone makes a mistake, apologise if you make one

- Be constructive if things go wrong, instead of "OMG YOU NOOB..." try "Next time could we..."

- Be positive and make suggestions as the game progresses

- Success breeds success. If things keep going well you'll have no problems. Even if things are going badly, one good team fight or smoke gank can start turning things around.

- Throw in some jokes, they can really reduce the stress people are feeling if done right way.

For example, as Vengeful Spirit I might have swapped out and saved our carry and ended up dying in his place. If he doesn't say thanks afterwards I might say something like "Great save VS! Yep, no problem Morph! :)". Quite often this will get a smile, and makes your point without annoying anyone.

Intractable Problems

All the chicks dig my KDR...

Unfortunately any large (and anonymous) group of people is going to have some weirdos, trolls and egomaniacs in it. Sometimes you might be ingame with people much younger and/or less mature than yourself.

Some people love to cause trouble, feed or abuse abilities just to annoy others and spoil their fun. These are sad, pathetic people. Unfortunately you might have to put up with them from time to time. Fortunately if you stay out of low priority then you'll hopefully have minimal contact with them.

If one or more of your team starts causing trouble fairly early on, try some of the techniques described above in the hope they might work. If you're obviously wasting your time then you're left in a difficult position. Every win or loss effects your stats as much if you have a nice team or a horrible one.

Misery loves company...

My advice is simple:

- Mute problem players if they become abusive or irritating, don't waste time and energy arguing with them

- Try to play the game as best you can, you may still be able to turn things around even if half your team are muppets - it's quite possible some of the opposition are too :)

- Reporting should be a last resort

My personal thought is that I'll report people for being extremely abusive to anyone on either team, or if they DELIBERATELY feed or abuse abilities to annoy their team. Making a mistake or dying stupidly is not the same if someone is genuinely doing their best, even if they're doing it badly :).

Finishing the Game

The best games usually go right to the wire and end with a nailbiting teamfight or base race. Unfortunately this is never going to happen every game, and you will occasionally be on one side or the other of a total beasting.

There's also a whole range of scenarios inbetween. I've been in games where our team has had a complete pasting early on, and still come back later on to win. Even in the worse cases teams sometimes get cocky and make stupid mistakes which let you sneak a win from nowhere. In the late game, a lot of things can happen when heroes have big damage and long respawn times.

Saying that, there are also situations where your team is completely and totally gone. Maybe you've lost every lane AND you're outcarried. If several members of your team decide to retreat to fountain and AFK then you should too really as you're just wasting everyone's time otherwise.

General Advice:

- Don't give up until at least you've lost rax. Even then you might well have a chance to comeback

- Don't assume just because you've had a bad game that the whole team isn't in a position to turn things around

- If you want to quit, ask the other team to "finish fast pls" or "ff". This means that you should stop actively trying to stop them, even if you can't speak for the rest of your team

- If the other team are messing about and trolling rather than pushing home the win, the best thing to do is simply not be there. Smoke out of the fountain and/or cut your way into the trees around the map edge. If there's nobody to kill they'll soon get bored

Fountain Camping:

A traditional part of the DOTA end game, and it can be a bit of fun for all concerned. The attackers can net some ridiculous kills, or the defenders might be able to grab back some respectability. Even if you've given up and said "finish fast pls" you are still completely entitled to defend yourselves in your fountain.

Fountain camping can go too far if it's more than a few minutes, so don't take the mick just to pad your K/D ratio. Remember what it's like to be on the receiving end of that kind of behaviour.

GGs and WPs:

There are differing views on this within the community - some people say you should say it every game as a mark of respect. Personally I don't subscribe to this view - if it's been a completely one sided borefest I'm not about to lie about it. You should say "GG" (Good Game) if you've enjoyed it.

If you've had your collective ***es handed to you by the opposition you may not have enjoyed it, but you can still say "WP" (Well Played). They've earned it. If you've hated every minute of it, the opposition were terrible, but your team even don't need to say anything. Go out with a bit of dignity, not slagging your team and the opposition off!

Common Mistakes and Annoyances

These are the most common mistakes that each role tends to make that will annoy team mates and potentially cause problems. They're bad gameplay, and also terrible for team morale.


- Not providing essential items like Animal Courier, Observer Ward, Dust of Appearance etc

- Taking or competing for farm with allies

- Buying selfish items instead of ones that can be shared by the team


- Not helping nearby allies when you could make a difference

- Missing important team fights (maybe not early game with hard carries etc)

- Being more concerned with your items and K/D than winning the game. (e.g. going shopping when you could be taking rax)


- Don't waste your big team fight powers when the rest of the team isn't there to help

- Don't wait until so late in the fight that most of your team is dead before getting involved

- Let the rest of the team know when your Ult is off cooldown if it looks like a team fight is approaching


- Don't just farm, it's your job to kill heroes when possible

- Communicate, don't just expect allies to notice

- If you're going to need backup, make sure allies can provide it rather than moaning afterwards that they didn't

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