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A Dota 2 beginners guide: Get used to sucking

Looking to get started with Dota 2 but put off by the daunting amount of information? This is our beginner’s guide to the game.

You have read about this game with a massive esports scene. A yearly tournament called The International breaking record after record. You might have even seen some professional games being played already. The game is called Dota 2, and you want to give playing it yourself a try. People say it’s one of the hardest games in existence sure, but how hard can it really be?


After using steam to download the game for free you open up the game, where it immediately starts asking you questions. Like if you are familiar with similar games like League of Legends or Smite. If so, the game extends the courtesy to give you a special set of default settings. For example, League of Legends traditionally has its minimap on the right side of the screen, while Dota 2 has its on the left.

When you say you are familiar with League of Legends your minimap will be set to the right instead of left, so that right away you drop into a bath of familiar settings. Don’t have any experience with similar games? No worries the default settings are totally fine. Instead, you have bigger things to worry about.


Because you might see this big colorful play button you want to press it so badly. Yet, first we need to go over some basics in what you can expect when you start a game. First of all, you might want to start out by playing against the AI instead of real humans since most people have already put way too much time into this game and probably won’t be so patient with your mistakes. The AI has a bunch of different difficulties, and when you can beat all of those, you are more than ready to beat other humans. Select “Practice with Bots” and let us get ourselves into a game.

Who to play

Once again we face a hurdle in our quest to get into the game of Dota 2. This time it is the fact that we have to pick our character for the match, known as a hero. When you have more than a hundred different options, and don’t have any idea what these heroes are capable of, this is quite the daunting task. Our first piece of advice would be to press the first of the three complexity diamonds in the bottom of the screen. This will highlight all the heroes that have a low complexity. Heroes that a new player like you would be able to handle pretty well generally.

Is this still too much of a choice for you? Take our recommendation and pick Dragon Knight from the first row in the top. A simple hero with an AOE damage ability, a simple click to stun ability, a passive survivability ability and ultimate that makes you transform into an awesome dragon. Who doesn’t like dragons? For items you can just buy whatever the game recommends to you, we don’t have to worry too much about them for now.

The basics

We are in the game now, but we still don’t really know what we are supposed to do. That’s we will start off by going over the basics for a bit. At the start of the game every hero is weak, with no experience and a small amount of gold. Experience gives you additional levels, allowing you to unlock or upgrade your abilities and even get special talents from your Talent Tree. Gold allows you to buy items that improve your hero in a variety of ways, like running faster, dealing more damage, and gaining the ability to cast unique spells.

In Dota 2 your goal is to spend your time gaining experience and gold as fast as possible, or assisting your team in doing so, while limiting and reducing your opponents’ experience and gold gain. If you gain a significant experience lead and gold advantage by the later stages of the game it usually allows your team to destroy all heroes in your path, followed by their defensive towers and buildings, and ultimately killing the enemy Ancient, winning you the game. That is your end goal, to destroy your opponents Ancient, that giant building in their base.


The Dota 2 map is divided in three lanes. Typically referred to as Top, Mid, and Bot going from the North to South. When you are playing as the Radiant team your bottom lane will often be referred to as the safelane and the top lane as the offlane. For the Dire team this is reversed. Dire top lane is known as the Safelane, and their bot lane is their Offlane. When the clock on the top of the screen ticks down to 00:00 the horn will blow and the game will properly start.

This is the moment that every thirty seconds creeps wil spawn and start walking through these lanes. Your job is to go to one of these lanes and start collecting gold and exp. For your first time you might want to head to the middle lane, since typically you will only have to deal with one enemy in this lane. Your job now is to attempt to get the last hit on both your own and the enemy creeps. Since only a last hit will reward you with gold. Exp will be distributed to you even without a last hit, but when your opponent last hits their own creeps you won’t get as much exp.

Since you are facing an opponent in your lane it might be useful to know what they are capable of doing. For this reason you might want to press the F9 button, pausing the game for a bit. This way you have all the time in the world to click on your allies and opponents. So you can hover over their abilities and read exactly what they do. Of course, you are going to experience this as well when you unpause again and they start using these abilities against you. Just be careful not to die to your opponents damage, for getting killed will make you lose out on lots of gold and exp, while your opponents get rewarded for killing you. Instead look for an opportunity to kill your opponents. So it is you, who can claim the bonus.

This part at the start of the game is often called the laning stage. This phase of the game is integral to how you play the later stages of the game because it sets tempo and gold advantage. If one team has better hero picks, better hero counters or just plays better, they will “win” the early game, which should reward them with more map control, gold advantage, and experience advantage. All these things will help them in the later stages of the game, and makes it easier for them to grab the win in the end.

Mid Game

After about fifteen minutes the game will have generally started to progress from the laning stage to the mid game. The mid game is defined as the part of the game where teams move around the map and begin to push and destroy towers. At this point you will probably be over level 6 and have access to your ultimate ability. Your team’s heroes are getting strong enough to be able to group up and start pushing down towers together with the creeps.

Pushing towers is important for two reasons: the first being that your team gets a lot of gold when a tower dies. The second advantage that pushing towers gives you is map control. Map control is your ability to see your opponents’ movement, move undetected where you want, and use that tactical information to influence the game in your favor. Now is the time to move with your team, looking for towers you can push down.

Now that you are moving around the map more, you might start feeling the map’s big size starting the work against you. To travel around the map you can use teleport scrolls. You start with three of these and you can buy them for 90 gold a piece. So when you run out, don’t be afraid to use the courier to ship yourself some more of them. You are going to need them.

Late game

The last stage of a Dota game has by far the most teamwork, the most organization and the most team fighting, which means fighting five heroes versus five heroes. Where these fights happen changes due to a few factors, but generally the last fight involves destroying the enemy Ancient. To get there however, one of the biggest challenges will be to destroy your opponents tier three or highground towers. As you can see, their third tower will be on a higher position in their base guarded by walls to the sides. This means any team defending this tower has a great advantage in the coming fight.

Don’t forget to get as many items and lvls advantage over your opponents before taking this tower. And when you have taken the high ground tower and the barracks it protects, your own creeps will get stronger and you will have created a literal road to victory. The road to the enemy Ancient and is now open, so seize your opportunity. Kill the opponents one last time, destroy their last 2 tower guarding the Ancient and destroy the Ancient itself, and bask in the glory of winning your first match of Dota 2.

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Image credit: Valve