DotA II – The Basics

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Dota 2 is a five versus five team game. You win the game by destroying your enemy’s Ancient building also known as the Throne before the enemy team destroys yours.

At the start of the game every hero is weak, with little experience and little gold. Experience gives you levels and access to stronger skills, and Gold buys you items that make you do a variety of things, like run faster, do more damage, and cast special spells.

Your goal is to spend your time gaining exp and gold as fast as possible, or assisting your team in doing so while limiting and reducing your opponents’ exp and gold gain. If you gain a significant exp and gold advantage by the later stages of the game, it usually allows your team to destroy all heroes in your path, followed immediately by buildings, and ultimately finish killing the enemy Ancient, upon which you win the game. How you go about doing this is playing Dota.

Lets start off with some more basics.

Creeps

There are three lanes that spawn creeps every 30 seconds at the :00 and :30 mark for the entire game. These creeps run down each lane for both teams and attack each other until they die. You want to be close by for that because when your enemies’ creeps die, they release experience for your team in the area.

To move your hero to go to these lanes, you select your hero by left clicking on your hero and then right click the ground to move your hero to that position. If there is an enemy where you right click, you will issue an attack command, which means your hero will move to that target and attack when in range. All heroes have a basic attack that is often called a right click or right clicking. This is the main way that you do damage, especially in the early game. Most heroes do a low amount of right click damage in the early game because their levels are low and you have little gold to purchase expensive and strong items.

If you are the hero that does the final damaging blow to kill a creep (called the last hit), then you also get gold! If you do not get the last hit, you only get experience, assuming that you are close enough. This is the first thing that you will have to practice to become a better than average Dota player. Learn to get the last hit on a creep so that you get gold in addition to exp. In addition to last hitting, every player gets 5 gold every 3 seconds just by being in the game. However, last hitting is still extremely important because if you can last hit more often than your opponents, you will help your team get the gold advantage that allows you to buy the items that win you the fights that wins you the game.

This may make you think that this allows you and your opponent to stand in the same lane, but your opponent can attack their creeps when they get below half of their Health Points (HP) by pressing the ‘A’ key for attack and then left clicking their creeps. If they last hit one of their creeps instead of you, it’s called a deny and an exclamation(!) point will appear over their head, showing that the creep was denied. When a creep is denied, it gives less experience than it would have, and there is no chance to receive the gold bounty. You don’t get the gold yourself from denying, but preventing them from getting full exp and any gold is worth the effort.

This creates a scenario where the player who is better at last hitting will get more gold and experience than their opponents, so do your best to focus and last hit for the first advantage in the game.

Being in one of the 3 lanes in the early game is important because of the gold and exp gain, but there are more places you can farm such as neutral camps, which are the many areas where neutral creeps spawn and sit. They can be farmed by either team, and the main locations of these neutral creeps are in the heavily forested regions on the map also known as the Jungle. There are very few heroes in Dota 2 that can gain gold and experience in the jungle at the start of the game because the creeps are stronger than regular creeps, but if your hero is one of those heroes, it’s often worth it to put 1 hero in the jungle to start the game.

To sum up the very beginning of the game, heroes are distributed to each lane depending on their role and then do their best to get last hits and exp while limiting their opponents last hits by denying as well as some other advanced methods.

My favorite advanced method to deny your opponents of gold and exp gain while enhancing yours is to Kill Them.

You will get opportunities to attack enemy heroes (called harassing) while you are laning, but that mostly depends on the hero matchups. Matchups in reference to the laning stage (early game) means what heroes you are playing, and what heroes your opponents decided to put in a lane against you.

If your opponent is playing a melee hero (a hero whose right click is very short range) and you are playing a ranged hero (a hero whose right click is a long ranged projectile like an arrow) then you have many opportunities to harass your opponent when they go for last hits. If you harass your opponent enough and his HP becomes too low, it may give you an opportunity to use your skills to slow, damage, or stun (preventing any action) your opponent and Kill Them. If you are the one getting harassed, make sure that you use your consumable HP regeneration items that you purchased at the start of the game to keep your hp full after you take damage so that the damage required to kill you is increased.  I’ll tell you which ones to buy later.

If you kill your opponent in lane or throughout the game, you accomplish a few things. First, your opponent isn’t in lane anymore because all dead heroes are removed from the map for a set time depending on their level, and after they respawn, they have to walk back to the lane from base. Any exp and gold from creeps that die while they’re gone is wasted. Second, you gain exp and gold for being present at their death, and that should make you a higher level, making your skills and right click stronger than your opponent.

With that advantage you just got, it becomes easier to kill them again, and again. This is called snowballing. You gain a small advantage, and you use that to take another advantage, and another advantage. One way to stop snowballs is by killing the player who is snowballing since you get extra gold from a wealthy hero, or a hero who is on a kill streak!

Keep in mind that snowballing might be because of you. If you repeatedly die (also known as ‘Feeding’ your opponent gold) then you are allowing your opponents to get an advantage and snowball. DO NOT FEED. You want to maximize kills on your opponents, get last hits and exp from creeps and in the meantime minimize your deaths. To avoid feeding, if your opponents are trying to kill you and you think you will lose the fight, it’s generally best to throw your stun or slow (if you have one) and IMMEDIATELY run straight towards the nearest tower.

My second favorite advanced method to deny your opponents of gold and exp gain while enhancing yours is to Almost Kill Them.

By Almost Killing Them, you put their life at such a low point that they will be forced to run back to their fountain (which regenerates your health points (HP) and mana points (MP)). They will only go back if they are out of regen items, so it’s much better if you kill them instead. If they do run back to their fountain they are wasting time, as creeps are dying without giving exp, creeps are not being last hit, and no one is around to deny you while you are last hitting, which gives you more gold and exp. This is not nearly as good as when you Kill Them, but it’s better than nothing.

Look How Far They Have to Run Back When You Harass Them

The best way to harass your opponents is to attack them if you have a ranged advantage, or use your spells to do damage while you get last hits. If you do disable them with a slow or stun, it’s important that you also right click them while they are disabled.

Another version of this is called zoning, or in a sentence, ‘yo go zone that offlane hero’. What that means is you put yourself between your opponent and the creep wave to make sure that they stay out of exp range. This is a bit advanced for a new player because you’ll more often than not just feed your life away, but that should better teach you your hero’s limits, 40+ minutes of pain at a time. You should attempt this when there is only one hero in the lane and you are equal levels. This will often turn into your two heroes auto attacking one another, but as long as you both use regen like a Tango you are gaining advantage because you keep them from exp.

Here is an example video showing this. Spending mana is often worth it to zone as well:

Before I throw more words describing lanes at you, here are the generic descriptions of places on the map. Things that I didn’t point out that are worth recognizing, are the super strong Roshan and his icon near the Dire offlane, who can be accessed through the river, the Radiant(green) jungle which is between their Safe Lane and their Mid, and the Dire(red) jungle, which is between their Safe Lane and Mid.

The option to zone your opponent is mostly dependent on the position of your creep wave. A creep wave is where the two spawning creeps on each side of the map meet to fight. Creeps do a very consistent amount of damage, so if no one does any outside damage, it often takes a very long time for the creep balance to get out of whack. If you do extra damage, your wave will have more creeps left over, which does more damage, which kills theirs faster, which results in your wave building up creeps and pushing closer to the enemy’s tower and safety net. Unless you are trying to take a tower, you do NOT want to push a wave,ESPECIALLY in the early game. You should NEVER auto attack, or attack constantly, the creep wave. You should only be attacking their creeps when you are last hitting, and occasionally denying yours (can only attack below 50% hp) if the balance is off. The best rule to follow to keep creep equilibrium (stationary creep wave) is keep the same amount of creeps on their side as on your side.

The reason creep equilibrium is so important is because in the Offlane, or dangerous lane, you want your opponents to be as far away from the safety of their tower as possible. If your creep wave is close to your tower (but not inside the tower’s range) then it doesn’t take long to run back to the safety of your tower. If they are VERY far away from their tower, it gives you more time and opportunity to chase your opponents and get a kill. It ALSO gives your hero a chance to zone the Offlaner, like we discussed above.

Sometimes Killing Them and Almost Killing Them comes unpredictably, like when one of your allies walks over to your lane from a different lane and helps to kill your opponent. That’s called a gank.

Someone setting up a gank is ganking, or is described as a ganker. Ganking is integral to games because it allows you to throw imbalance to lanes, or to hurt your opponents’ ability to predict where heroes are. If you show up mid briefly with two extra heroes to gank the enemy mid, this gives your mid hero an advantage that will allow him to lane better because his opponent dies, or almost dies. Ganking is one of the ways a player can control where the game is going. You want to ensure your lanes are collecting more gold and experience, and sometimes that’s done by killing enemy heroes and creating pressure on the map.

If your ally on the mid lane plays terrible and has a bad laning stage, you can help him by ganking the enemy mid. Sort of like teaming up on him. If one of your opponents is snowballing, you can use a few heroes to gank them so that they don’t get out of control. Always remember that two to three weak heroes is almost always stronger than one fed or snowballing hero because you can team up on him.

The last advanced method is called pulling. To pull, you attack a group of neutral creeps and then run away so they follow you (this is called pulling aggro). While they are following you, they run into YOUR lane creeps, who have no brain, will see the enemy, and follow them back into the jungle to attack them. When you do this, the lane creeps are helping you kill the neutrals, and the neutrals are helping you kill the lane creeps. When the neutrals die, you and anyone nearby get experience. If your lane creeps end up dying to the neutral creeps, then the enemy doesn’t get exp for them! If you get the last hit on the neutrals, you ALSO get gold!

I’m sure that was a little confusing, so watch this quick clip for a demonstration of pulling on each side of the map.

Radiant Single Pull:

To expand on pulling a bit, a regular pull camp will not be enough to clear your wave. In fact, it usually takes 2 neutral camps. You can get your creeps to fight more neutral camps , but first let me explain how neutral creeps come into the game.

At the :00 second mark of every minute (with the exception of the first minute of the game), the game checks to see if there are any neutrals in their spawns. If there are no neutrals in their spawns, a new set of neutrals is spawned. To trick the game, all you have to do is pull the neutrals at the perfect time and run away (:53) and by the time the clock hits :00 a new set of neutrals will spawn, and the previous set will walk home to realize they have neighbors. This is called stacking, and this is one of the ways you can get your creeps to fight extra creeps. Keep in mind that stacking camps also makes farming gold and exp much faster for heroes with strong Area of Effect (aoe), so if you’re ever running by a camp on your side of the map, make sure to attack the camp at :53 and run away!

Back to pulling, if you stack your pull camp so that a second camp spawns, you now have two times as many creeps attacking your pull camp. This is by far the easiest way to pull safely, but it isn’t the fastest way for your hero to gain levels. The reason is because two camps attacking your creeps at the same time is too much damage. If you use this method for pulling you’ll deny your enemy’s exp, but you won’t get very much exp yourself because few neutrals will be dying each wave. You’ll get more or less depending on which creeps spawn because they do different amounts of damage. When you stack pull, I recommend auto attacking so that you can clear more creeps, unlike I did in this clip.

Stack and Pull

The better way to pull, though more difficult, is to CONNECT the pull. To connect a pull, you’re imitating how you originally got your lane creeps there in the first place. Once the neutral camp is almost finished, you need to have already pulled a different close-by neutral camp into the previous one. If you can accomplish this, then you can clear about two full neutral camps with every creep wave. The time to start the pull is at the :13 second mark or the :43 second mark for both sides of the map, but you may need to adjust the time slightly if you are early or late. Connecting the pull is much harder and will require some eyeballing and practice. Usually when 1 full hp creep and 1 half hp creep are alive is when you should start to pull the second camp down. Each neutral camp is slightly different, so practice on this will make perfect!

Here is a video of a connected pull on both sides of the map. You can practice this in an empty game, if you’re afraid to try it in a real game.

Radiant Pull Through

Dire Pull Through


Make sure that you don’t mess up your pull connect! If you do, your lane will push, which messes up the lane equilibrium. Messing up the lane equilibrium will give your opponents more exp, more chances at last hits, and it makes it harder for you to gank them.  It’s much harder to connect the pull on the dire side, so be extra careful on dire.

If you DO want to push, doing a single pull without stacking or pulling through is fine, but it’s rare that you do this on purpose.

Pulling is a really good way to get levels in the early game, and an okay way to get gold. The most important part is that you have two people in ‘one’ lane getting levels, and it denies your opponent from levels because some of the creeps die in the jungle!

Keep in mind that all exp gained by killing enemies is gained by your team in an area, so one hero standing in lane gets all the exp from the creeps in lane, and one person pulling gets all the experience from the neutrals that die near them. If you both stand in lane, you split that same exp equally. One hero pulling and one in lane is much better for exp gain overall for your team.


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