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Basic Survival



When your hero dies in DotA, several things happen: You have to wait a designated time (your level x 4 seconds) until you revive at your base fountain, the opponents gain experience and gold from killing you, and your allies lose a valuable asset temporarily. Dying in DotA can be an unpleasant experience, even more when it happens to less experienced players. These are a few fundamentals that you can learn will help you to stay alive when facing better opponents.

Starting the Game

Basic Items

A lot of newer players tend to go right for items like Boots of Speed or Gloves of Haste in the beginning of the game, and tend to ignore cheap ways of increasing your survivability dramatically; some even give you an offensive edge!

  • Regeneration

    Ancient Tango of Essifation: Tangoes provide uninterrupted healing so you can get right back to the middle of the action.
    Healing Salve: Interrupted upon receiving damage, stay back after using. Salves heal about 1/2 to 3/4 of your life early on.
    Clarity Potion: Interrupted upon receiving damage, stay back after using. Allows you to cast more spells.
    Bottle: Heals HP and mana. Empty bottles automatically refill when you return to your fountain, making them useful all game. They can also store runes. For more information about rune powerups, visit here.
    Magic Stick: Accumulates heal/mana on standby, this item is great against opponents who use spells frequently.
  • Statistic-Increasing

    Gauntlets of Giant Strength / Slippers of Agility / Mantle of Intelligence: These items give you very minor +3 bonuses to a specific attribute
    Circlet of Nobility: +2 Rounded attribute bonuses usually if you intend to make Bracers, Wraith Bands and Null Talismans
    Ironwood Branch: +1 to stats, Cheap and effective, these fill out slot spaces nicely


Keep an eye on the timer at the top-right corner of your screen. When it counts down and reaches 0, that is when the first wave of creeps will spawn from your base and at your three towers and walk outwards. They will continue walking along the lanes until they reach the enemy creeps or tower. It is a good idea to stay near and behind these creeps because they can provide you with safety from enemy attack.

Creeps and Towers


While you can easily kill one on its own, their strength lies in their numbers. A common mistake many players make is to engage multiple creeps by themselves. Stay behind the safety of your own creeps so that you can fight them at your leisure. Creeps spawn every 30 seconds.


The primary defensive measure for both teams, standing in the safety of your tower is a strong incentive for enemies to back off. Towers deal a sizable portion of your hit points in damage, making them powerful unless there are other targets already in their attack range. Try to figure out how far this distance is so that you do not take unnecessary damage.

Both creeps and towers will change their targets to attack you if you have chosen to attack an enemy hero in the vicinity.  This can be seen clearly in our first example.



Example: In the first part, the creeps are content to attack each other until Sniper starts attacking the Priestess of the Moon, at which point they switch to attacking him. Note that the creeps do not go for the Priestess when she attacks the Sniper back because she is too far away from them. In the second part, the tower  stops attacking the creeps  in order to attack the Sniper when he attacks the Priestess.


Dying to spells is very common to new players who might not understand the individual effects or mechanics of the many heroes in DotA. There are hundreds of unique abilities in DotA, so it would appear to be very daunting to have to learn and read about EVERY single hero. Instead, try to place the spells that you have seen your opponents use into major categories so you know how to react to them in the future:


  • Direct Damage
    These spells often deal lots of damage quickly to an opponent, great for harassing and/or finishing them off. Try to be careful of these spells by keeping your current HP relatively high.
    Examples: Laser (Tinker) and Culling Blade (Axe)

  • Area of Effect
    Affect only the area specified by your opponent. These spells can sometimes be avoided if you can be unpredictable as to confuse your opponents or keep your distance so that the spells do not reach you.
    Examples: Sonic Wave (Queen of Pain) and Macropyre (Twin-Headed Dragon)

  • Damage Over Time
    Rather than instant damage, these abilities do their damage in segments but can come with extra effects, such as slow. While this will prevent Healing Salve and Bottle from healing you, regeneration items and specific abilities or items such as Mekansm can still be used.
    Examples: Venomous Gale (Venomancer) and Ignite (Ogre Magi)

  • Disable/Stun
    These spells stun you or prevent you from responding in some way - movement, attacking, casting spells, or sometimes in combination. Generally you have to watch your distance or have an ally to assist you in case this happens.
    Examples: Shackle (Shadow Shaman) and Fiend's Grip (Bane Elemental)

  • Buff/Debuff
    These spells either make you or your allies stronger or opponents weaker in some way such as increasing damage, armor, prevention of status effects.
    Examples: Repel (Omniknight) and Frost Armor (Lich)

Just be careful because sometimes certain spells fall under more than one category: the best way of dealing with these spells would be from gaining experience, learning from your mistakes, and good teamwork.

Buying Items

While it can be tempting to go for huge damage items like Buriza-do Kyanon and Radiance, it helps to know that buying items in a certain order can really help a lot for improving your survivability. Here are some tips:


  • Bracers/Wraith Bands/Null Talismans
    Sometimes it can be useful to make 2-3 before going for more expensive items. They provide useful bonuses that help you survive and use more spells or deal more damage.
  • Power Treads/ Phase Boots / Boots of Travel
    Upgrading your footwear will also give you both a movement speed boost and may come with useful abilities. Power Treads are good if you want the attack speed, Phase Boots give you a little more damage and armor, and Boots of Travel gives you a teleportation ability to any allied unit.
  • Buying order
    Sometimes players tend to purchase items in the wrong order, so in order to explain this more thoroughly, let us look at the components of an item, the Linken's Sphere, which is comprised of:
    Perseverance (Ring of Health [875] + Void Stone [875]) + Ultimate Orb [2100] + Recipe [1325]
    It is a good idea to start with the ring of health or void stone to help provide regeneration in the lane. This will help you survive and save up the 2100 for your Ultimate Orb. Of course, if you were fortunate enough to get that much gold early then feel free to buy the more expensive component. NEVER BUY RECIPES FIRST.
  • Scroll of Town Portal
    The reason this item deserves special mention and its own category is because it is one of the most important items that EVERY hero gets.While you do not have to buy one at the beginning of the game, this item is extremely useful and provides you with the ability to escape from enemies or to defend your buildings. Be wary of its channeling time, because it can be interrupted by some spells and items. You definitely want to be carrying at least one of these at all times, especially later in the game.

The Map

The map terrain and features are not only for decorative purposes, something that newer players will understand very quickly when they are facing opponents who do have the knowledge to make use of the environment and playing field: Here are several aspects of basic understanding that will help you to learn about the static features of the DotA map:


  • Elevation
    Players in low areas cannot see enemies located above them: They also suffer a 25% miss chance when fighting higher targets. Players often get surprised when they seemingly get attacked without warning near a ramp. In short, the higher you are, the better.

  • Terrain
    There are many small pathways and little areas of trees that obscure vision and provide perfect hiding spots for your enemies. Sometimes it can be a good idea to run into the trees if you are trying to escape from them.
  • Time
    You will have less vision at night, making it easier for opponents to close in and surprise you. Bonus fact: Some heroes like Drow Ranger and Nightstalker have higher than normal vision at night. More information here.
  • Crossing the River
    The River divides up the territory between Sentinel and Scourge. Please be extremely cautious when you decide to travel across to the other half of the map. One of the most common mistakes for less experienced players to make is to fight creeps too far into the other side and eventually get killed as a result of this. Unless you are extremely confident in your abilities to escape, or bring allies with you, entering enemy territory alone will always result in an easy target for the opposing team to exterminate.



Example: Look at the trouble that Sniper gets into from crossing the river alone! This play by Sniper is doubly bad because he also goes uphill into the fog, which severely limits his vision. He can't see the enemy team lurking above him until it's too late.



Hopefully, after reading this guide and learning more about some fundamentals, you were able to pinpoint some of your mistakes as a newer player to DotA. Learning how creeps and towers function, dealing with spells, which items are useful, and understanding the map itself will allow you to better survive against players who have learned this through their experiences. Dying happens to everyone, use the knowledge gained by those deaths to improve as a player and you will be a great asset to your team in the near futur
I would like to come to a close by reminding you that DotA, while full of individual play and customization, is still a team game. Nothing gives you more survivability than the 4 allies fighting alongside you, so having coordination and teamwork can often be the difference between surviving together, or dying alone.