There are a lot of guides on PlayDota. Some of them are even quite good. However, most guides - especially hero guides - suffer a fatal flaw: they are only useful in certain situations (namely, when you're actually playing the hero in question). That's not to say that hero guides aren't important: they are. However, all the DotA knowledge one can absorb can't be fully utilized without doing the little things that help to bring everything together. The aim of this guide is to give the reader the tools to apply everything else he or she learns in DotA to greater effect. For a lot of you, especially the more experienced players, this is stuff you are already doing. As such, this guide is primarily aimed at low to mid-level players, but there should be enough information that even experienced players can learn something. Screenshots will be added as I have time and/or stop being lazy (or when Valve lets us look at replays again). This guide is slanted toward DotA 2 because that's what I play now, but heroes are heroes, items are items, and tips are tips. The information is valid regardless of which game you play.
Yes, this guide requires reading. Try not to get too frightened.
One more warning: do not attempt to apply everything you read here all at once. Instead, focus on mastering a few things at a time, and you'll find that you'll master key concepts of the game a lot faster.
Purge's writing style is less vulgar than mine. I probably would have buffered that sentence with at least one additional word. Nonetheless, he put to words what every DotA player knows...although whether or not every DotA player will admit it is debatable.
You suck. You're the worst [insert hero here] I've ever played with. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?
DotA has a somewhat steep learning curve. When you start out, you'll suck at it. As much as some players like to deny it, everyone sucks when they start out. Here are some tips to prepare yourself for taking the dive:
Read, dummy! As I previously stated, there is a lot of good reading material on PlayDota. I know reading can be scary, dangerous, and time-consuming, but for the most part there are guides for just about any aspect of DotA one could want to learn. Reading will also educate you on the terminology that DotA players use.
Use the bots to learn core mechanics. Some people debate the effectiveness of bots. True, bots don't think like humans. That having been said, playing against bots does allow you to experience game speed at any time. If you're just starting out, it's a great way to learn about hero abilities and how they're utilized. It's also important to start learning where stuff is in the various shops. The less time you spend trying to dig through menus to look for an item, the better off you'll be. Bots handle the laning phase with ease and can chain stuns and other spells with pinpoint accuracy. Whether you're playing DotA or DotA 2, if you have eyes, it should be easy enough to find a way to play with bots (hint: look at the navigation!).
If you've ever played on Xbox Live, you already know what to expect. If you haven't, well, you're in for what basically amounts to a visual and - if you're playing DotA 2 - aural holocaust. If you're reading this from the beginning, Purge and I have already insulted you. Once you start playing with people, get ready to find out that not only has your mother been filled out like an application, but you're also probably a homosexual black Jew. With a vagina.
The preparation above is the appetizer to the main course. Now we dive balls deep into actually playing some DotA. As playing DotA is the most important aspect of playing DotA, this section will necessarily be divided into sections. Some of it will be more pertinent to new players. Some of it won't. Read on.
Your mood is more important than you probably realize. Have you ever noticed that, regardless of what you're doing, your performance tends to suffer if you're upset or under a lot of stress? Games are no different. If gaming tends to pick up your mood, odds are simply playing will improve your performance. If you are the type who gets frustrated easily, though, one or two mistakes can easily put you in a tailspin that makes you play even worse. If music tends to relax you, turn on some music while you're playing. If you need your surroundings to be quiet, make it happen. You'd probably be surprised to see how much better you will play simply by approaching the game with the proper mindset.
Try to make a well-rounded hero pick. If your team already has three Agility heroes, don't pick another one. If your team has all melee heroes because collectively you have a learning disability, pick a ranged hero. Even if your team is picking a squad of all gankers or pushers doesn't mean you can't still be flexible. If your team wants to gank and has already picked Spirtbreaker, Jakiro and Lina, you can easily fit in with a hero like Bloodseeker or Bounty Hunter. If your team has a hole, such as no way to initiate a teamfight, pick a hero who fills it. If you're still unsure, ask a teammate. Oddly enough, asking a teammate what hero you should pick is one of the few questions a new player can ask that rarely causes people to get angry.
If you don't know a hero at all, don't pick that hero. The more comfortable you are with a hero, the better. Obviously, you need to play a hero at "game speed" against players at some point, but if you're never played with - or against - Slark or Ember Spirit, a game against players is not the time to break one in...at least not if you're expecting decent results. If you're awesome with Pudge, pick Pudge. Otherwise, pick a better time to practice.
If all else fails, pick a hero with stuns. Perhaps your teammates are no help. Perhaps you're uncomfortable with the hero they recommend. Whatever the case, even experienced players may be unsure of what hero to pick from time to time. Regardless of skill level, stuns are about as close to a Universally Good Thing as DotA gets. Especially for new players, it's a great way to ensure your hero is always useful. Assuming you skilled your disables first, a Level 9 Rhasta has the same disabling power as a Level 25 Rhasta. True, your damage output will suck. True, you won't have much survivability. That having been said, new players will generally die a lot and fall behind in both levels and farm. For a carry, this is back breaking. For someone with a stun, though, it's an inconvenience. Even heroes with huge amounts of farm will succumb when subjected to long periods of being helpless.
So now you've picked a hero and lane assignments are being handed out. It's time to grab some items and get into a lane. Now what?
Stats and regen. Stats and regen. Stats and regen. This cannot be stated enough. At early levels, hit points and mana are scarce. If you lose either, well, it sucks to be you. You need to survive, and stats and regen are what enable you to do that. Remember how I said that there are guides for everything? Well, I wasn't kidding. Here's a general rule of thumb, complete with pictures:
And some combination of:
DotA is about being flexible, however, so there are a few other items that also merit consideration:
Some people dismiss Quelling Blade as a newbie item. Some people are idiots. There's far more to the item than being a mere crutch to help out people who supposedly can't last hit creeps. Enemy heroes will do their best to ensure that you get as few of those last hits as possible by either attacking you directly or killing the creep themselves. Ranged heroes are especially good at both, but they suffer from a common flaw: generally speaking, their starting damage is low. A Quelling Blade can easily add 20 points of damage to a melee hero. What this means is that while ranged heroes can only last hit creeps with, say, 30 to 40 hit points, you can last hit creeps with something more along the lines of 50 to 60. You need money. You need to be able to make that money as quickly and safely as possible. Even an advanced player can make good use of it, and that's without considering its other, seemingly innocent ability: chopping down trees presents a number of interesting tactical situations.
Remember how I said hit points and mana are scarce in the early stages of a game? Taking 20 less damage from a hit may very well reduce the damage you take by half. If you're taking roughly half damage from attacks, that means you can take roughly twice as many hits as you otherwise could. While that's not a license to be stupid, it can help keep you in a lane.
Do your best to identify unfavorable lane matchups. If you're a brand new player, it might not immediately be obvious to you that your lane does not match up well to your opposing lane, but a quick way to identify what could be a tough lane is to count the number of ranged heroes and disables each side has. If your side comes up on the short end, it may be a good idea to request a lane change. Even good players may find going against, for example, a Lina/Windrunner lane to be too much to handle. In any case, if you're Huskar or Skeleton King and you're staring at an opposing Silencer, it would probably be a good idea to farm somewhere else.
You are weak. Remember that. New players tend to take lots of hits in a lane. I know: you graduated sixth grade, and you - and your hero - don't have to take shit from anybody. Unfortunately for you, creeps, towers and heroes do more than enough damage to make short work of you in the early game. If an enemy creep or hero is hitting you, move out of the Goddamn way. Time you spend not in your lane, whether because you retreated or died, is time you're spending not gaining experience and gold. It's a quick way to both piss off your teammates and become useless as the game goes on.
Understand why last hitting - and only last hitting - creeps is so important. Anyone will tell you that whoever delivers the killing blow to a creep gets its bounty. It's immediately obvious that getting gold is good. What most players won't tell you, though, is the other half of why that is so important.
What happens when there is nothing for your creeps to attack? They move forward until there is something for them to attack. The faster the enemy creeps go down, the faster this happens. The further your creeps move, the further away they are from your tower. Remember, you're weak early on: fighting near an enemy tower and taking tower hits is extremely painful. Moreover, if your creeps are not actually damaging the tower, they're effectively being wasted. If your team is about to destroy a tower, then by all means get your creeps there as quickly as possible. At the beginning of the game, though, this is highly unlikely. Also, at the risk of stating the obvious, the further away from your base you are, the more vulnerable you are to not only tower hits but to heroes who swoop in to gank you. New players generally overextend themselves and fall prey to easy ganks. Chances are this behavior will account for most of your deaths when you're first learning to play.
The minimap is your friend. Again, you're weak in the early game. Not only are two heroes more dangerous than one hero, early on two heroes are almost always enough to kill one. Don't count on your teammates to quickly and effectively communicate when a hero leaves a lane. If you glance at your map and see less than five enemy heroes, something may be up. Now is the time to be more cautious. Can an enemy easily get behind your hero? Do you have an ally with you? Can the heroes who are with you stun enemies? Do you have a skill that allows you to escape? Unfavorable answers may mean that it's a good time to back up. Discretion is the better part of valor, and again, time you spend not in a lane is experience and gold you aren't getting. This never stops being true, so get used to checking it during all phases of a game.
Before you know it, heroes will start leaving lanes to begin ganks and pushes. Now you need to start working toward building the items that your hero needs to be effective.
You now need Boots. To new players, 55 move speed may not seem like a lot. After all, you start out with somewhere between 285 and 330 move speed. Do not be fooled. At the risk of stating the obvious, heroes who are faster than you will eventually close the distance on you. Add in the fact that heroes will have slows and stuns to slow you down further and this only magnifies that speed difference. Speed really does kill. If you can't defeat heroes outright, you need to be able to escape from them. If you fail that, you're just food. Make the investment.
Carry a Town Portal Scroll. Or two. On the surface, there's definitely not much appeal to a TP scroll. It doesn't give you stats. It doesn't give you hit points. It takes up one sixth of your inventory. Yet there may be no item that is more important. Is the enemy team attacking one of your towers? In a few seconds, you're there. Did you overextend and now the enemy team is ready to beat on you? In a few seconds, you're gone. Did you walk back to town - or die - and want to get back to a lane more quickly? In a few seconds, you're there. Are you low on health and need to get back to your fountain quickly? In a few seconds, you're there. Don't leave home without one.
Call out ganks. Communication is an important theme that will be revisited throughout this guide, and a quick example of how important it is can be found when it comes to ganks. Whether you're requesting one or attempting to deliver one, make sure your teammates know not only when, but who to gank. You might know that Mirana is getting tons of farm since you laned against her, but that doesn't mean your teammates do. Request a gank: maybe you won't get one, but what else can you do? When multiple heroes are present, it's also vital to let everyone know who the priority target is. Maybe Dazzle is with that Mirana. Which is more important: risking a Shallow Grave to go for Mirana, or taking out Dazzle - who almost certainly would be the easier of the two to kill - at the risk of Mirana getting away?
Most percentage-based items still suck. Rushing Vladimir's Offering is a surefire way to elicit scorn from your teammates if they're prone to getting angry. It's easy to see why it's so popular: it has relatively inexpensive components and gives your teammates a bunch of auras. Why, then, does it suck? Consider what a percentage is: a defined part of something. Your damage is probably still low. A percentage of low is, well, a number that's smaller than low. Sure, in the long run percentages become more advantageous, but early on "flat" boosts to stats - especially damage - is a lot more useful.
Consider Tiny as an example. At Level 1, Tiny has a pathetic 182 mana and a .6 mana regeneration. Each point of Int only increases that regeneration by .04. Assuming you spent 875 on a Void Stone, you'd only be up to 1.2 regen per second. This is exactly why Ring of Basilius is such a good item on these heroes: for a mere 500 gold, you're not only getting 3 Armor - a resource these heroes are otherwise usually low on - but you're also getting .65 mana regeneration, which is actually slightly more than the Void Stone would have given you, at a much cheaper price!
Don't cross the river alone.
The river is powered by your tears.
For new players, this may be the best survival tip anyone can give you. Unless you know what you're doing, crossing the river by yourself is just asking for trouble. You leave yourself open on basically all sides, and if you're by yourself, well, there's not much you can do to protect yourself if you get attacked. Again, this is a leading cause of newbie deaths. Don't do it!
Keep an eye on every hero's inventory. Yes, it's important to know what you want to make. It's even more important to know what everyone else is doing. If one of your teammates is working on a Mekansm, you don't need one. Is someone building an Assault Cuirass? Again, that's an indication to work on something else.
Knowing what enemy heroes are planning is most important of all. If their team has an initiator, does that hero have a Blink Dagger? Is anyone carrying Wards? Are they carrying an odd number of Wards? What about Dust or a Gem? At the risk of stating the obvious, item choice is a pretty clear indicator of what the other team is trying to do. The flow of information is vitally important in DotA, and it's a theme that will be revisited repeatedly over the course of this guide.
Never, ever, EVER leave an unwanted or undesired Rune. Even experienced players do this constantly and it's actually really irritating. Don't get me wrong, I understand the line of thinking: if you don't need it, and a teammate doesn't need it, it's not needed. Many players will pass by without a second thought. I'll make this easy for you: this is bad.
The only bad Rune is the Rune your opponent gets. If no one on your team wants the Rune, pick it up! Not only will it spawn another one at the next even-numbered minute, but it keeps the other team from taking advantage of it! Maybe now that Shadow Fiend can't fill his Bottle. Maybe now your Doom Bringer won't accidentally Doom an illusion. Maybe now that obnoxious Anti-Mage who ran out of mana won't be able to heal to full and escape. Whatever the case, no Rune is truly useless, even if that use is simply stopping the other team from using it.
Don't use your Glyph if your team can't take advantage of it. One very common mistake players of all skill levels make is immediately using Glyph when the enemy team is about to take down a tower. If no one on your team is in position to deny the tower or, at the very least, fight off the enemy heroes pushing it, what have you just accomplished? Oh noes, it took another five seconds before the tower went down!
The right time to Glyph is when your team can deny a tower, fight off a push, or defend a barracks. Trust me, it really sucks when your team loses a battle and you lose one or more barracks because you couldn't Glyph.
Towers: they're that important. One thing new players often fail to grasp is the importance of taking towers. In fact, at first glance, it may seem as though there isn't much of a point: killing heroes is always important, and pushed lanes mean it's harder for you to farm safely. As with a lot of things, this couldn't be much further from the truth.
It's not about the pushed lanes: it's about the gold your whole team gets. Have you ever wondered why that Crystal Maiden on the other team has Blink Dagger, Aghanim's and Black King Bar while you're trying to build a Sange? Odds are it's because of the bonus gold that Crystal Maiden got from destroying your towers. That 200-some gold per tower seems pretty innocent until you consider that all five heroes get it. That's a 1000-plus gold swing per tower.
So clearly, the solution is to pick a pushing lineup to knock towers down, right? Well, not necessarily. All strategies have their weaknesses. In the case of pushing, some heroes are very difficult to push against. Pushers who over extend often fall prey to gankers. Pushing teams who fall behind early will find it very difficult to recover.
In any case, your team needs to make destroying towers a priority while preventing your opponent from doing the same. Never forget that a denied tower cuts the gold reward in half, and never forget that a tower can be denied when it is at 10% HP or lower. While tower denies are rarely worth dying over, towers are a huge component of a team's gold advantage.
Understand how tower aggro works. It's not immediately obvious, but towers do not pick their targets entirely at random. Why is it important to know this? Because towers can do a lot of damage to a hero, and obviously taking said damage is a great way to earn a respawn courtesy of the other team.
The exact specifics of how towers determine their targets is a little complex and beyond the scope of this guide, but there is a very good - and simple - rule of thumb that you can follow to determine what the tower will do next. Generally speaking, towers choose their targets in this order:
Units attacking allied heroes and/or the tower itself
What this means is that if you're paying attention, you can often determine when it's safe to continue to attack a tower and when you need to move. A Clinkz who's trying to take down a tower can generally stay there a lot longer than, say, a Skeleton King - at least in the early game - as SK will almost always become a target before Clinkz will.
However, it gets even better. These rules can actually be bent, and tower aggro can, to an extent, be controlled.
To transfer aggro from your hero to another target, issue an attack command (as in, press "A" on the keyboard and left-click) on a friendly creep with at least half health. If done correctly, the tower should reconsider its targets and, provided there are other valid targets, change to one of them.
To pull aggro off a target onto yourself, or to put it in MMO terms, to "taunt" the tower, issue an attack command (again, A + left click), on the tower's current target. This should result in the tower changing its target to you. If you're a beefy Strength hero, your Lion might very well appreciate not being target practice.
In summary, you generally should never be the target of a tower if you don't want to be.
Take what the other team gives you. Every plan has a hole that can be exploited. Teams that are attempting to push or roam do so while leaving their own lanes unguarded. Especially if you're playing a carry hero, unless you are absolutely needed in a certain place at that moment, the best thing you can do is go to that lane and farm it. Even if you're not playing a carry, you need to make sure your team is taking advantage of this. Most players can farm just fine when they're not being harassed, and you'd be surprised how much gold you can get when nothing is around to stop you. Maybe - instead of playing aggressively - the other team is content to play for the late game. In such a case, your team will almost certainly be able to have greater map control: specifically, Runes. Once again, this can be exploited.
This principle also applies to teamfights. Inevitably, some heroes will be prioritized over others. In such a case, your job is to punish the other team for not paying attention to you. How you do that, of course, is up to you.
Items have been acquired. Heroes have leveled up and are not so fragile anymore. It's the late game, where the final outcome is decided:
Know your role. That was terrible. I apologize. Horrible reference aside, it's the truth. By this point, you need to know with 100% certainty how you fit into the rest of your team. Are you tanking? Your item choices need to reflect that. Are you supporting? You should have utility items. Are you carrying? You'd better be able to do so. If you're still figuring this out now, it may already be too late.
Now is the time for big ticket items. When one fight can make all the difference, you can no longer be content with cheap-to-build items with low potential. If there's anything you can do to make your hero big and scary, you need to buy it now. Butterfly, Heart, Satanic, Rapier...whatever your poison, you need to be ready.
Push, push, push!
Stop looking at her boobs for a minute. I know it's hard, but try. As I stated before, one push can end it. Did your team just win a teamfight? Do not take this opportunity to go back and finish your 70 minute Vanguard*. Unless creeps are kicking in your door, you need to push as hard as you can to do as much damage as possible before the other team can fight back. The extra power big creeps give you is immense. Gun for those barracks! If you're really pushing well, then now's the time to Throne It!
Right Rax? Right Rax. When gunning for an enemy barracks, the melee barracks is easily the more important of the two. Why? Simple: you get way more melee creeps than ranged ones. More big creeps equals more damage, and more damage is good. The melee barracks is the one further to the right. Make sure everyone is hitting the right rax, because you may not get a second chance!
* This actually happened to me once. For me, there is one guy who I will never forget. It was 70 minutes into the game. The Scourge had Mega Creeps knocking on our Ancient. We had somehow just won a team-fight 5-0. Obviously, you have to immediately push if you're dealing with Megas. I was Storm Spirit that game, and my items were Bloodstone, Guinsoo's, Assault, Skadi and Orchid. I was seriously considering selling my boots to buy a Crystalis. It was that sort of game. I mention this not to make myself look awesome, but to set up the punchline. Sure, Storm Spirit can carry, but he's woefully far from hard carry. We did, however, have a Troll Warlord. The following sentence says more than any book ever could:
"Hold on a second, I have to finish my Vanguard."
At 70 minutes in. With Megas in our base. After we killed the whole enemy team. As Troll Warlord. In case it wasn't obvious, we lost.
I've mentioned that you should be buying items to compliment your hero's role throughout the course of the game, but there is far more to buying items than simply reading a guide and buying what it tells you to. Even the best guides can only cover so many situations, and every game of DotA is unique. Your gold needs to be spent on something, but what? Read on.
Just because something worked in one game doesn't mean it will work in yours. Maybe that Spectre you watched was able to transition straight from Power Treads to a Radiance. Maybe then his or her team was able to rape face. So what? You aren't that Spectre player. You're almost certainly playing with different heroes. You're almost certainly playing with different players. Boom! Different situation. In fact, most of the time rushing a big-ticket item immediately won't work. If you're new, it almost definitely won't work. This is the common pitfall with hero guides, and my guides are no exception. If buying one item was an "I Win" button, it would almost certainly be changed in a patch. The game has enough balance where skill is still of paramount importance.
Make your gold work for you. Remember, gold you're holding onto is gold that is currently not helping you. Okay, so you picked Bloodseeker and you're supposed to work on a Radiance. Well, that first piece is 3800 gold. Let's say you have 3400 gold right now. You could have any other item in the game except for the Sacred Relic you need. Oh shit, now you just died. Well, now you're probably closer to 3000 gold. Did you buy a Town Portal scroll? That's another 135. Hopefully you don't die again!
As always, there are exceptions to every rule. But unless you're farming ridiculously well and/or your team is absolutely dominating, you're not helping yourself by holding onto your gold. Unless it's the late game, you're much better off spending that gold to buy items that give you an immediate, if lesser, benefit. Remember, a small benefit is infinitely better than no benefit. The less experienced you are, the more likely you are to die and fall further and further behind. Contrary to what you may believe, taking 30 minutes to finish a Radiance is not ideal.
Think of it like this: at some point you will come across a game where you'll be getting stomped so badly that you will still be trying to finish your Power Treads at 22 minutes. While it's true that the odds of recovering from such a beating are slim, trying to save up for a big item isn't going to cut it when you're dying as soon as you get to 250 gold. In such a situation, you may need to opt for my trusty "Loser Build", which I will get to shortly.
Learn to embrace unappreciated items. Just because an item is popular doesn't mean it's the optimal choice for you. Some items have subtle effects and these are often passed over in favor of items with more obvious effects. The following guide-within-a-guide covers six of the most unappreciated - but extremely useful - items money can buy:
Why it's worth your money: The first thing one should notice when examining Tranquil Boots is that they are extremely inexpensive. The second thing one should notice is the +80 move speed. In a word, that's huge. And oh yeah, it has health regeneration and a decent self-heal. So what if it can break? At that point, you're at roughly the same speed as everyone else, and if you keep getting hammered, you'd probably die regardless. In the mean time, you can stay away from your fountain longer and get where you need to go more quickly.
Heroes who should consider it: If someone has already purchased Arcane Boots, supporters and gankers - especially those with a slow base move speed - who are not overly dependent on their auto-attack.
A quick sampler of heroes who can use it well:
Why it's worth your money: It may not be obvious, but no item has a higher potential damage output than Blademail. It reflects any damage you take - whether from a physical attack or a spell - and is not reduced any further than your own damage reduction would allow. Even simply having it offers an advantage: your opponents have to consider the damage you can put out when you activate it. More importantly, your opponents have no control over when you activate it. By having it, you're forcing your opponents to make decisions with incomplete information, and that's a huge advantage.
Heroes who should consider it: Any hero who tends to be focused in a teamfight, regardless of reason (ie, because they initiate, because they carry, because you're ahead on farm, because you're behind on farm, or whatever else).
A quick sampler of heroes who can use it well:
Why it's worth your money: Simply put, it's the Butterfly for Strength heroes. Literally speaking, this is obviously not true, but it's an item almost any Strength hero can use. The Sange portion is relatively easy to put together and the evasion is great. The Disarm is also extremely powerful: it's basically a stun against a physical damage carry. Agility carries tend to outdo their Strength counterparts, and this is a great way to even the odds. It's also a lot cheaper.
Heroes who should consider it: Strength carries, Strength heroes who could use some chasing power and anti-carries.
A quick sampler of heroes who can use it well:
Why it's worth your money: Any player can tell you that a Desolator is a good item. This produces the -6 armor effect of a Desolator at a quarter of the price. By the time this item can be farmed, a -6 armor hit will reduce almost any hero's armor to zero or negative, amplifying damage by a huge amount. The fact that it reduces your own armor is meaningless since the +6 armor bonus it gives you zeroes it out. The 800 cast range is very nice and it can literally be active whenever you want it to be.
Heroes who should consider it: Any hero who can gank. Even if the ganker in question doesn't rely on an auto-attack to kill heroes, Medallion helps carries take part in ganks and get the ever-important early kill.
A quick sampler of heroes who can use it well:
Why it's worth your money: The potential power of this item is insane. The 12% move speed penalty makes it extremely easy for melee heroes to keep up with whatever it is they're attacking, especially if anyone has another slow to add onto it. While the speed penalty for ranged heroes is hardly noteworthy, the poison damage can still keep heroes from getting away with Blink Dagger.
Heroes who should consider it: Quite literally any melee hero with an open item slot.
A quick sampler of heroes who can use it well:
Why it's worth your money: I can almost hear people grown at how seemingly anti-climactic picking Bracer as the most unappreciated item is. Well, guess what? It is. Many heroes can't do much with a small boost to attack speed and armor. Some heroes can't do a whole lot with additional mana. Every single hero in the game can use more hit points. It is just about impossible to have "enough" hit points in DotA. More importantly, if you're getting rolled, saving even 500 gold can be tough.
Bracers are the key component in the "Loser Build" I mentioned above. It works like this:
1. Buy a Bracer. 2. Are you still getting rolled?
If yes, go to 1.
If no, go to 3. 3. Buy another item.
Heroes who should consider it: Every single hero in the game.
A quick sampler of heroes who can use it well: No, really. All of them.
Items don't matter if you don't survive long enough to use them. This is probably most applicable to carries, although it still applies to every other hero in DotA. Getting a Desolator or Monkey King Bar is awesome...unless your enemy can tear through your 800 HP before you can use it. A lot of damage dealers are called glass cannons for a good reason: if you can get to them, the rest doesn't matter. Think of it like this: if it is the difference between surviving long enough to deal your damage or dying immediately, a Black King Bar may effectively do more for your damage than even a Divine Rapier.
When in doubt, help your team out. Buying a Courier sucks. Upgrading it to a Flying Courier sucks. Buying Wards sucks. Buying Dust sucks. Buying a Mekansm sucks. Buying Arcane Boots sucks.
But guess what? Someone has to. If you do not understand how vitally important these items are - and Wards in particular - I have this to say to you:
The big problem, though, is that maybe you aren't the support hero. Perhaps that Witch Doctor on your team has decided rushing items like Lothar's Edge/Shadow Blade and Aghanim's is more important. Unfortunately, that sucks. If your teammate is anything but absolutely awesome, you will probably lose. I don't care if you're Rikimaru or Spectre: buying support items on these heroes is still infinitely better than going without them. Even items like Guinsoo's or Orchid Malevolence are only marginally more exciting, but someone on your team still really needs to be building these items.
Lest we forget, DotA is a team game. There are four other people on your team who are - presumably - trying to win. There are five people on the other team who are trying to do the same. At some point, that teamwork is going to make a difference. Accepting the fact that you are playing a game with other people, learning to work with them is key.
Don't be a dick. I'm not even trying to usher in a kinder, gentler generation of DotA players. Not being a dick is actually sound advice. If you just read that sentence and still think being a dick is a good idea, try this experiment:
Go to work. Or school. Go about your business until you encounter a situation where you need someone's help. Once that happens, pick a random person. Call that person a motherfucker. Insinuate that he or she is a homosexual black Jew. Tell that person that he or she should commit suicide and/or die in a fire. Be creative. Do this as loudly as you can. Once you've run out of ways to yell at the person, ask for a favor. Record the results.
After doing the above, repeat the process until you encounter a situation where you need someone's help. Once that happens, pick a random person. Politely ask if he or she can assist you. Return the favor if necessary. Record the results.
The best part about not being a dick? Every once in a while, you might even make a new friend! Even if it's just a DotA buddy, you might be able to jump into public games with people you've actually played with before! Crazy, I know.
If you're playing DotA 2, buy a Goddamn mic. I honestly do not understand how about 80% of the people I play DotA 2 with do not have microphones. You can buy one for, like, five dollars. I'm not even kidding. I don't care if you can type as fast or faster than I can (about 120 WPM error-free...that's actually kind of depressing): you can convey information more quickly by speaking than you can by typing, especially if the information is complex.
There is no such thing as too much communication. The key word is communication, here. Chatter is not communication. Nobody cares how drunk or high you are: in fact, if you're talking about how drunk or high you are, you're probably a huge pussy with a low tolerance for weed and alcohol, or else you wouldn't be bragging about it. Nobody cares that your mom is a total bitch who beats you daily. If your teammates want to shoot the breeze with you, that's fine. If you're talking about things that no one else on your team understands - or cares about - shut up.
What is communication? Telling your team a hero just left your lane. Letting your team know Enigma has his Blink Dagger at 8 minutes in. Letting your Bounty Hunter know that three different heroes are carrying Dust. Letting your lane partner know that if the two of you tower dive, you'll get a kill and be able to get away safely. Information wins you games.
Just because you see something doesn't mean your teammates do. This kind of ties in with the above. Everyone sees the game a little bit differently. More importantly, everyone plays a little bit differently. Sure, you like to be aggressive and gank, but that doesn't mean your teammate does. Maybe you know that Nightstalker just left mid with an Invisibility Rune in his Bottle. That doesn't mean your teammates do. You might think ignoring Tidehunter and gunning down Anti-Mage is more important, but maybe your teammates think stopping Tidehunter from using Ravage is more important. This is especially critical if you decide to retreat from a fight that doesn't seem to be going well. The worst case scenario is that you're conveying information your teammate(s) already know(s). At best, you may have just made a huge play that swings the game's momentum in your favor.
Even most shitty plans are better than no plan. The only thing worse than having no plan at all is something along the lines of obvious suicide. Even if you "know" what the correct play for your team is, if your team doesn't follow it, what have you accomplished? Team cohesion is incredibly important: five is better than four, three, two or one. Even if the plan is shitty and you'll probably lose, five players just doing their own thing is basically a guaranteed loss.
Example 1: I played a game with a Leshrac who decided he was the carry. He refused to support, rushed Bloodstone and Aghanim's and stole kills with Lightning Storm. I was Slardar and the closest thing to a carry we had. I switched to a more supporting role and tried to let Leshrac get all the kills. We still lost, but it was actually a very close game. Had I done my own thing, the game probably would have ended much sooner.
Example 2: I played a game with someone who I had played with multiple times. He announced at the start of the game that he was going to rush a Rapier as Keeper of the Light. We gave him mid, picked all stunners, and ganked our balls off. We won the game within 25 minutes. Now granted, it was a player I was familiar with, but the cohesive - if risky - plan paid off in spades.
No matter how clever you are, team flame wars are almost always a bad idea. So your teammate is a dick and is saying all those things that makes you wish you could punch someone through the Internet. Maybe you've managed to twist his or her insults into something that's actually kind of funny (to you, at least). So what? At best, you might get a few laughs. At worst, you may have just alienated the rest of your team. Yeah, it sucks playing with an asshole. Thankfully, if you want, you don't have to play with that person again. Even if you're the kind of person who finds verbal warfare to be entertaining - instead of frustrating - it takes your mind away from the game and you're much more inclined to make a mistake; a mistake that results in you dying probably isn't going to make your teammate think any better of you. Yeah, I know: it's always your team's fault. Regardless, it doesn't do any more to help you win the game to pass the buck. Why make things harder than they need to be?
Treat hero kills as though they belong to the carry as often as possible. To put it a different way, if you're the carry, treat every hero kill like it's yours. The general gameplan for any team is to get their carry farmed enough to where the team can be carried to victory. Makes sense, right?
Granted, this is not always possible, but it's a very effective line of thinking. If there's any way you, as the carry, can kill a hero, do it! Likewise, if there's any way you can pass a kill to your carry, make it happen. The quicker your carry farms, the quicker you win.
Of course, if you're say, Nightstalker and you get fed early, then you've probably become the carry. In that case, again, adhere to the mindset that every kill is yours.
I've left an example of this in the spoiler. Since I was in the game, I'll also walk you through my mindset as the fight progressed.
First, a little background. I'm Dragon Knight and I'm farming top lane fairly well. I'm laned against a solo Clinkz, but between Dragon Blood and Lion's babysitting, I'm holding my own quite well. Lion has done a good job of pulling creep waves to keep me as safe as possible.
I notice that Lion has crept back toward the lane. He wants to gank. Clinkz can be tough to pin down due to his low-mana invisibility, but a kill would be great. I start to move toward Clinkz.
I get there first, which isn't terribly surprising, and introduce Clinkz to the business end of my shield. It actually isn't all that important that I initiated instead of Lion, although since Lion was out of sight, it meant that it was less likely Clinkz would realize something was up and use his invisibility to escape. In any case, we're committed to this gank.
Lion waits for a moment before using his Impale. Though you can't see the momentary delay, it's extremely important that he did this. Stuns do not stack: they overlap. Two two-second stuns used at the exact same time results in an enemy who is stunned for exactly two seconds instead of four. You may not be a stopwatch, but waiting even a moment helps ensure that your target stays stunned as long as possible. I decide to activate my ultimate for two reasons: first, in case Clinkz does end up a little away from me for any reason, and also so I can push the tower after this gank is finished.
Again, Lion waits a moment before using his second disable. At this point, Clinkz's health is pretty low. As Lion is Level 6, I have to wonder if he has enough mana to use Finger of Death and, if so, if he's going to use it to get the kill. A lot of beginning players will use skills like that and Laguna Blade to killsteal targets with low HP. Besides stealing a kill from a carry, they do too much damage to use to take 100 HP off an enemy. I'm reasonably certain Lion isn't going to do this since he's shown competence as a support, but it's a factor I have to consider.
I activate Soul Ring to get some mana and I get the kill with a nice Breathe Fire. I would have used it as a finisher regardless, but it helps that it still would have killed Clinkz even if he managed to use his invisibility the moment he got out of Lion's disable. Even better, it was literally just enough damage to finish him off.
Though this all happened over the span of a few seconds, we worked together and our mindsets resulted in not only a kill, but the right hero getting the kill.
Now that we've covered teammates, it's time to focus attention on those other guys: you know, the ones with the same goal as you. At some point, you have to deal with them.
Develop your thought process. As you continue to play DotA, your understanding of the game will obviously improve. This is nowhere more apparent than in teamfights. Ganks and pushes are important, but eventually, a five-on-five will happen, and the team that does better in those fights is usually the one who wins the game. Basically, it works like this:
A newbie thinks, "What the hell is going on?"
A novice thinks, "What do I need to do in this fight?"
A player with basic understanding thinks, "What does my team need to do in this fight?"
A player with intermediate understanding thinks, "What does the other team need to do in this fight?"
A player with great understanding thinks, "How do we stop the other team from doing what they need to do?"
There's no easy answer, and only time will teach you. Eventually, you will learn what each hero can do and how they're supposed to go about doing it. Once you know that, come up with a counter. In this sense, DotA is like competitive sports: the winning team is not the one with the better gameplan going in, but the team who makes the necessary adjustments to stop the other team.
Force your opponents to make uninformed decisions. Adapting is one thing: knowing how to do that is quite different. For the most part, you can control a lot of what your opponent sees. Your opponent doesn't know what item you're building if all of the items are in your base. Even when you do have the item, certain items like Blademail still force your opponents to use incomplete information. Sure, you have it, but when are you going to use it? Can Huskar get away with using Life Break on you? Are you going to initiate and then activate it? The more decisions your opponent has to make, the more likely he or she is to make a mistake.
Even your movement can be disguised to a degree. If you are in the middle lane fighting creeps and decide to go up or down the river, any remotely observant opponent will notice not only that you're gone, but where you were going. Now let's say you're at your first tower and you back into the fog. An opponent might notice that you're gone, but you could be going anywhere. Your teammates could be pushing bottom lane while you could be lurking in the woods, waiting to jump on the single hero who tries to cut across the river to save time.
As a general rule, assume your opponent makes the correct play. Basically, this means to assume the worst. By doing so, you've given yourself the best chance to make the most of what may be a bad situation. Let's assume Tidehunter is on the other team and that he has Blink Dagger. Okay, Ravage is a problem. How much damage can the other team deal, assuming an ideal Ravage? If they can demolish you, then you need to play to either pick them off before Tidehunter can initiate, or simply focus Tidehunter and try to keep him from landing a solid Ravage. If they aren't that dangerous, or if your team doesn't rely too much on auto-attacking to deal damage, then you're probably better served to simply ignore Tidehunter and leave him to trying to deal damage with Anchor Smash after he uses his ult. The benefits of planning in this way are threefold. First, it teaches you to never underestimate your opponents: after all, as I mentioned, a Level 9 Rhasta can have the same disabling power as a Level 25 Rhasta. Second, it gives you a better grasp of how to approach any inevitable teamfights. Third, if your opponent doesn't play ideally, it dramatically increases your chances of taking advantage of that.
If only one thing can save you, play for that one scenario. This is especially important when it comes to getting ganked. Sure, when multiple heroes gang up on you, survival is unlikely. But perhaps there is an out if you look hard enough. Maybe your only chance is running around in the fog and trying to TP out. If that's your out, play for it. Maybe your only out is if Pudge lands a great hook to pull you to safety. If that's your out, run straight for him. No matter how unlikely it is, I guarantee that, at some point, that improbable escape will happen. And if it doesn't? Well, you were expecting that.
Here's a visual aid with commentary:
Riki gets the jump on Prophet. The Cloud comes out, and stabbing happens. Already things don't look too good for Prophet, but before he can really make any decisions, he has to get out of the Cloud.
Prophet is out of the Cloud, but the odds are heavily against him. At this point, he has a few options. He can continue to run toward his base until Riki carves him up. He can stand and fight Riki, which will get him a few auto-attacks at the most until Riki carves him up. He can attempt to teleport back to his fountain; even if Riki can't Blink onto him, Riki will almost certainly be able to get close enough to finish him off. He can attempt to use Sprout on Riki, but more than likely Riki will be on top of him before he finishes the cast. Lastly, he can attempt to lose Riki in the trees. Most new players would probably do one of the first two things I listed. Let's see what Prophet does.
Prophet chooses the last option, which incidentally is his only out. The odds are still heavily against him, however. Let's see where it goes from here.
Prophet makes a beeline for his tower. The Yellow dot on the minimap is Riki. Though it may not have been immediately obvious, weaving behind that single tree in the previous picture actually caused Riki to lose sight of Prophet, meaning Riki had to guess what Prophet's next move would be. Prophet has actually put a little bit of distance between himself and Riki, but he's not safe yet.
Prophet continues to the top edge of the map, using his Treants to open enough of a path to get as far away from the lane as he can. At this point, he starts to cast his Teleport. Based on the minimap, it's pretty clear that he managed to ditch Riki.
Prophet arrives at his fountain no worse for the wear. Though his survival was unlikely, he went all in on the only thing that could save him; sure enough, it worked.
If all else fails, make your opponents earn the kill. At some point, no matter how good you are, you're gonna get ganked. At that point, no matter how good you are, your death may be guaranteed. Perhaps Bloodseeker has sight of you. Perhaps you're about to feel the wonderful sensation of being perma-bashed. Whatever the case, stall for time. Even if Pudge is about to get you, he still has to actually get to you. Run in a weaving pattern. If you delay him by even a few seconds, perhaps your teammates or a tower can come in and clean up for you. Or, as above, perhaps he'll make a mistake and you can get away. If you're Venomancer and you have your ult, use it! If you're Vengeful Spirit and your carry is about to die, swap him! Even if your team is unlikely to take advantage of it, if you force your opponents to go back to the fountain or kill the less-important hero, you've made the most of a bad situation.
The only truly wasted skill is the unused one. Yes, burning three ultimates to kill one hero is far from ideal. However, dying without using yours is far, far worse. Maybe Echo Slam wouldn't have made a difference. Maybe it would have. Maybe it would have saved the life of one of your teammates. If you survive, trading one ultimate for one hero kill is usually an acceptable trade. But if you're about to die, you might as well enjoy the fact that you'll have less of a cooldown once you respawn.
No matter how much you want to, you won't become a good player overnight. Even if you are a good player, you can always stand to be better. Applying the small tips this guide offers to what you already know can go a long way in making a good player into a better one. If you have tips in a similar vein to the content in here, feel free to comment!