The Ultimate Dota 2 Guide – Introduction and Fundamentals

Why we wrote this guide

Dota 2 is one of the most challenging games that you can learn. With dozens of settings, major elements and mechanics, 115 totally distinct heroes and around 150 items, Dota 2 simply overwhelms new players with its complexity.

Having spent many thousands of hours mastering the game, we decided to offer you a comprehensive guide filled with distilled knowledge, that would allow you to quickly get a solid understanding of Dota 2 and move into the top 3% of its players, which is roughly the equivalent of being Ancient 3 or above.

Who this guide is for

This guide was written for new and experienced players alike. It assumes almost no previous knowledge of the game and seeks to provide a solid foundation on top of which you can hone your skills and quickly become good at it. The notions discussed are properly explained, and most of the sections go very deep, offering valuable knowledge and wisdom that can be immediately applied to get improved results.

Structure of this guide

The guide consists of multiple sections. This is the main one, with links to all the others. Each section deals with a particular Dota 2 topic. If you’re completely new to the game you should read the guide from start to finish. If you already have many hours of play, you can read its sections in any order you like. Every one of them offers comprehensive explanations and great insights, so you would probably benefit from reading it even if you feel like you already know everything there is to know about the topic it deals with.

What is Dota 2

Dota 2 is a free-to-play MOBA game (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) developed and published by Valve Corporation, the same company that created Half-Life 2, CS:GO, Portal 2, Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead and the Steam platform. Being a stand-alone sequel to Defense of the Ancients (DotA), the game has a wonderful history and was released in July 2013. Since then, it has become a global phenomenon with more than 12 million players worldwide.

While outsiders may look at Dota 2 as being just another computer game, within the gaming community Dota 2 is viewed as an electronic sport (or eSport). And like other popular sports, such as Football, Basketball and Rugby, it has professional teams, coaches, commentators, analysts, competitions that are played in large arenas in front of tens of thousands of people and are streamed live to many others, with prize pools of hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars. Last season’s Dota 2 World Championship (named The International 2017) had a prize pool of almost  25 million dollars.

Dota 2 in a Nutshell

Dota 2 is a game that combines real-time strategy with RPG elements, is played in a 5 vs 5 format, and requires great team work and communication. Two teams, called Radiant and Dire, pick heroes (one for every player) out of a pool of 115 options at the start of each game. Then they proceed to confront each other on a two-sided map split by a river, with the goal of destroying their opponent’s Ancient (basically the main structure inside a team’s base).

Each hero has a unique set of abilities (usually four), as well as a talent tree, with a total of eight talents per hero. These talents come in pairs of two and the player can choose one from each pair.

Heroes grow in an RPG-like fashion, gaining gold and experience as they kill creatures and enemies on the map. Experience helps them to level up, while gold allows them to buy items. At every level, you gain a skill point that can be spent on any of your available talents and abilities. As you increase in level and buy various items, you become stronger and more capable of dealing with the enemy team’s heroes. This in turn allows you to put pressure on them, invade their territory, take away their map control, force favorable fights around key objectives and slowly move towards their base.

The two teams split their efforts and resources in order to defend or attack three different lanes (top, mid and bottom). Each of these lanes is a road connecting their bases, and is defended by friendly towers and creatures that spawn every 30 seconds.

Dota 2 Elements

Dota 2 is made up of a number of key elements that one needs to understand in order to know how to play the game. You can read about them below.

Heroes

Heroes are the first and most important element of Dota 2. Basically, the entire game revolves around them. And like other MOBAs, Dota 2 offers an abundance of heroes to choose from. Each of them has strengths and weaknesses and is suited for a certain playstyle. Some are very mobile, others are durable, others are great damage dealers and so on. Furthermore, some are excellent in support roles, others as midlaners, others as offlaners (or hardlaners), and others as safelane carries.

Heroes have three stat attributes: strength, agility and intelligence.

Strength increases your hit points by 20 per unit (so 20 HP for 1 strength) and offers a small boost to your health regeneration (0.07 HP/second per unit). It also gives you a 0.15% status resistance per unit, reducing the duration of effects like stun, silence, root, disarm and so on.

Agility boosts attack speed (1 attack speed for 1 agility), armor (~0.17 armor per unit) and movement speed (0.06% per unit).

Intelligence increases your mana pool by 12 per unit, boosts your mana regeneration by 2%, offers a tiny spell damage amplification (~0.07%) and makes you more resistant to magical damage (0.15%).

Each of these attributes increases by a certain amount whenever you level up. In addition to this, based on your hero’s primary attribute, every point you have in that particular attribute also boosts your main attack damage by 1.

Every hero has eight talents that come in pairs of two and are unlocked at level 10, 15, 20 and 25. It also has a number of abilities (usually four). Three of them can be skilled starting from level one, while the fourth requires level six and is called the hero’s ultimate. The first three abilities can reach a maximum level of four, while the last one can reach a maximum level of three. Abilities can be either passive or active, have cooldowns and usually cost mana.

When a hero dies, it loses a portion of its unreliable gold and stays dead for a number of seconds, based on its level. The higher the level, the longer the respawn time. Unlike other MOBAs, Dota 2 offers players the option of buying back into the game. This option has an eight-minute cooldown and costs a certain amount of gold, based on the hero’s level and the number of minutes that have passed since the start of the match. When used, your hero will instantly respawn and be able to rejoin the fight. However, it will suffer some temporary gold penalties as well as a respawn time penalty which will be applied after your next death.

Heroes have six item slots in their inventory, as well as three other slots in their backpack. The items in their inventory are immediately available for use, while the ones in their backpack must be transferred to the inventory and have a six-seconds delay before they become active and available for use.

Items

Items are another key element of Dota 2. They can be bought with gold and come in many varieties. Some give you stats, others mobility, others damage, others durability, others map vision and so on. Basically, the game puts at your disposal everything you need to make your hero useful and capable of dealing with the other team’s line-up.

Some items are basic and made up of just one piece, while others are composed of a number of pieces and sometimes a recipe. The more powerful the item, the higher its cost.

Items can be bought from three different shops on each side of the map. One of them is found in your base’s fountain (the place where your hero spawns), while the other two are close the top (on the Radiant side) and bottom (on the Dire side) tower. On each side of the map, the shop found between the offlane and midlane tier 1 towers is called the Secret Shop.

Some items can only be bought from the Secret Shop, while others are found only at the Main Shop (the one inside each team’s base).

Most items can be sold if you no longer need them, but you’ll only get half their price back.

Dota 2 has a very nice feature called the Animal Courier, which can be bought from the Main Shop. When activated, this item disappears from your inventory and turns into an animal that can be used to deliver items to your team’s heroes. The Animal Courier is automatically upgraded at minute 3. This upgrade transforms it from a slow, walking creature into a faster, flying one. If it gets killed however it gives a 175 gold bounty to every hero on the enemy team, and has a two minute respawn time. During this period, every item that was on it at the moment of its death cannot be recovered.

Buildings

The main objective in a Dota 2 game is to defend your own buildings and destroy your opponent’s. These can be:

Towers

On each side of the map, there are three lanes that lead to the base. Each of these lanes is defended by structures called towers. A lane has three such towers, which are very powerful in the early stages of the game when heroes are quite weak.

A tower will attack any enemy hero or creature that gets within its range, and so it takes a while until the two teams start sieging these structures. In order to bring down a tower, a team must first bring down the one standing in front of it.

Barracks

Barracks are structures sitting behind the tier three tower on every lane, at the entrance of a team’s base. And there are six of them in total, two on each lane: one ranged and the other melee. These structures cannot attack and when they are destroyed, the creatures spawning every 30 seconds from the opposing team’s barracks become much stronger, turning from regular creeps into super creeps. If this happens on every lane and no barracks are left, these super creeps in turn get even stronger and become mega creeps.

Shrines

Shrines are structures that can regenerate friendly units, having an ability called Sanctuary that offers mana and health to all allies sitting within their range. Once activated, this ability has a five-minute cooldown.

A team has two shrines outside its base, sitting close to the midlane and offlane towers. These shrines become available after the 5-minute mark, and cannot be damaged until at least one tier three tower is brought down.

Ancients

A team’s Ancient is the main structure inside its base. When this structure is lost, the game is lost.

An Ancient cannot attack and defend itself from enemy heroes. In front of it are two final towers called tier four towers. After these towers are brought down, the Ancient can be attacked and destroyed.

In relation to buildings, Dota 2 has a feature called Glyph of Fortification that teams can activate in order to make their structures and lane creeps immune to damage for 5 seconds. This ability has a five-minute cooldown and also gets refreshed every time a tier one tower is lost.

Creeps

In Dota 2, non-hero creatures that are naturally found on the map are called creeps, and killing them gives you gold and experience. These can be:

Lane creeps

They spawn every 30 seconds on each lane, and walk down the lane towards the enemy team’s base, until they encounter enemy creeps, towers and heroes. When they encounter such opposition, they simply attack it.

Neutral creeps

They spawn at the one minute mark, and then every minute, as long as their camp is empty. If it’s not empty, or if it’s blocked by a ward or a hero, the creeps will not respawn. There are multiple such camps on each side of the map. The creeps sitting inside them vary in strength and will attack anyone who attacks them or gets close enough (during daytime).

Roshan

On the left side of the river (looking from the Radiant’s perspective) there is a pit. Inside this pit hides a powerful dragon named Roshan, that can be killed in order to get an item called the Aegis of the Immortal, which basically grants its owner a second life. This item is held in a hero’s inventory and lasts for five minutes. Within those five minutes, if the hero dies, he respawns at the place of its death after a five-seconds delay. After these five minutes, if the hero hasn’t died, the Aegis expires and simply heals its owner to full HP and mana, as long as it doesn’t take damage from enemy heroes during the regeneration process (which lasts for five seconds).

Roshan gets stronger as time goes by. After one of the teams kills him, he has a random respawn time between eight and eleven minutes. Furthermore, after his second death, in addition to the Aegis of the Immortal, the dragon also drops an item called Cheese, that can be either sold for 500 gold or used at any time to instantly restore 2500 health and 1500 mana.

The third Roshan of the game drops a consumable Refresher Orb on top of the two items mentioned previously.

Roshan gives a bounty in gold and experience to the team that kills him. Because of this, and, more importantly, because of the items he drops, he constitutes a key objective for both parties.

Runes

Runes are another important element of the game, as they can offer important temporary advantages to the heroes who pick them up.

Runes spawn every two minutes. At four locations (two on each side of the map), the rune that spawns is always a Bounty Rune, which gives a small amount of gold and experience (except for the first time it spawns, at minute 0, when it only gives gold to the hero who picks it up). At the other two locations however, that are found on the left and right side of the river, the rune that spawns (starting from minute two) is a Power-up rune. This rune randomly spawns at just one of these two river locations (this changes after minute 40), and can be of one of the following types:

  • Arcane: Reduces all cooldowns by 30% and mana costs by 40%, and its effect lasts for 50 seconds.
  • Haste: Gives your hero maximum speed (550) for 22 seconds.
  • Regeneration: Quickly regenerates your hero’s HP and mana, as long as you don’t take damage from enemy heroes or Roshan in the process. The effect lasts for 30 seconds.
  • Double Damage: Doubles your hero’s main attack damage and lasts for 45 seconds.
  • Illusion: Creates two illusions of your hero that deal 35% damage (based on your hero’s damage) and take 200% (300% for ranged heroes) damage. These illusions last for 75 seconds.
  • Invisibility: Makes your hero invisible for 45 seconds.
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