Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer

How to Play DOTA 2

My main bragging right in DOTA 2 is that I’m not the absolute worst player on Steam. Worst player in my hemisphere? Possibly. Worst player on my team? Almost always. But at any specific moment, there are at least one or two Neanderthals desperately banging their mouse and keyboard together in clueless determination who rank lower than me on the ladder.

Given my track record, I’m probably the least qualified person to be dispensing advice on DOTA 2. However, as a gamer who is desperately trying to improve his fortunes at Valve’s hugely popular multiplayer online battle arena, I think I can point prospective players in the right direction.


Do Your Homework

Multiplayer online battle arena games are a notoriously difficult genre to dive into. The task of learning how to play and counter each hero in DOTA 2’s impressive roster is a daunting one, and the game employs many complex mechanics that a new player would be hard-pressed to master on their own. Last hitting and creep stacking are particularly vexing.

Finding this article was a good start, but there are far more comprehensive guides to DOTA 2 on the internet. The quintessential foundry of knowledge for the game is DOTA Cinema. This popular Youtube channel produces high quality strategy videos specifically for the game at a staggering pace. These include introductions to new heroes, guides to existing heroes, and sample games with live commentary. The specific hero guides are especially useful, as the multitalented Purge goes into great depth explaining what items to buy, what skills to level up, and who your best friends and worst enemies are.

Another handy resource is the DOTA 2 wiki. If you don’t have time to commit to watching a video, or if you’ve randomly selected a hero and need to deduce an item build on the fly, you can’t go wrong with this resource.


Don’t Play a Carry

A carry hero is a hero that is expected to carry their allies in the latter parts of the game. Backed up by devastating damage potential, these heroes generally score the highest number of kills and secure the win for their team. (You can learn more about hero roles here.)

Beginners are inevitably drawn to carry heroes due their badass nature, but such heroes are a poor choice for someone learning the game. Although carry heroes have the potential to be the most valuable member of a team, this potential requires a great deal of individual skill and team coordination to fulfill. The late game power of a carry hero is offset by their fragility in the early stages of the game. They often possess low hit point pools and are specifically targeted by opponents to prevent them from snowballing out of control. Inexperienced players helming carry heroes will find themselves being killed early and often, and a carry hero deprived of gold and experience is dead weight to their team.

I advise new players to be more frugal in their choice of heroes. Playing a support hero may not be as glamorous as a carry hero, but buying the courier, dropping sentry wards, and disabling opposing heroes are all just as important as landing a lot of kills. Many support heroes also require less farming – a great benefit to inexperienced last hitters.


Listen to Your Teammates

DOTA 2 has an extremely enthusiastic community to say the least. Most players who play, play often, and are more than willing to share their encyclopedic knowledge of the game with you during matches.

You’re doing yourself no favours by being headstrong. If an ally suggests an item or skill build to you, take it into serious consideration. If they tell you to switch lanes, get your ass across the map. Multiplayer online battle arena games require a unique skill set that isn’t really transferable from any other genre. Don’t assume any level of competence at DOTA 2 before you start playing, even if you were a champ at Starcraft 2 or Counter-Strike. It will be dozens of games before you can hold your own in a match, and you should accept any advice that might ease this bumpy ride.


Don’t Listen to Your Teammates

At the same time, multiplayer online battle arena games are notorious for attracting some of the most toxic individuals on the internet. Such players hold no scruples against dispensing insults, belittling your inexperience, and even resorting to racial slurs. The shroud of anonymity the internet provides coupled with the frustration of losing a game result in a vitriol waterfall of language that many new players have difficultly coping with.

Try to keep things in perspective. I know saying this makes me sound like your third grade guidance teacher, but letting these trolls upset you only goads them on. Develop a coping strategy. Personally I like to imagine each troll as one of those 800 pound rednecks from the TLC specials who are so obese they can’t walk anymore. I may lose the game, but at least I can leave my house without the assistance of a crane.

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By Mathew
Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer