dota 2

Beginner’s guide to DOTA 2

DOTA 2 has established itself as one of the most watched and played PC games. Its largest tournament, The International 2018 (TI8), had a prize pool of U$25.5 million. The premise of the game is enticing and matches are an exhilarating combination of RTS and MOBA, but there’s one problem – the game itself. It isn’t the easiest to learn and takes time to get to a level where you won’t annoy other people with your lack of skill. It just isn’t new-player-friendly. Thankfully, we’ve put together a quick-fire guide to equip you with the basics.


DOTA 2 follows similar mechanics of a MOBA, whereby gold is accumulated to purchase items which help you increase your hero stats with the objective of destroying the enemy’s base. In this case the bases are called the Ancients and the team that wins is the one that destroys the other’s Ancient.

Throughout the game, Creeps (NPC units) spawn at given times and auto-walk down one of the three lanes attacking anything they come in contact with. Heroes controlled by players then accompany these Creeps and occupy the three lanes. Upon death, both Creeps and heroes reward gold which you gain if you kill them, which you then use to buy items from the shops located in your base and in middle of the map.

Some items are bought complete from the shop, whereas more powerful, game-deciding items can be acquired by buying items in recipe format – then combining them to create a stronger one. Some heroes rely solely on these items to have an impact on the game.

The other key currency in the game is experience, which is gained from killing Creeps and heroes. Experience is vital for levelling up your hero (like in a standard RPG) and for upgrading your abilities. So, the overall aim of DOTA 2 is to accumulate both gold and experience to destroy the enemy team’s Ancient.

The Map

The map is made up of two Ancients (Dire and Radiant sides) at either end, connected by three lanes called Top, Middle and Bottom. Normally you’d have two heroes on bottom and top, and one in the middle lane. However, depending on your strategy and when you become more adept at the game, you can experiment with different numbers of heroes in each lane, but stick with the 2:1:2 format to begin with. This means you contest each lane against the enemy heroes that populate your lane.

The map has camps of neutral Creeps which can be killed by either team for extra gold and experience, and are located in the jungle on both the Dire and Radiant side. The ultimate neutral is located in the centre of the map, called Roshan, and can be killed for the highest amount of team gold, experience and a resurrection like item for one of your teammates.


Heroes and Abilities

DOTA 2 has a pool of 100+ heroes you can play, all of which have unique skills called abilities. On the whole, each hero has four abilities – three are standard, each with a low cooldown, and one powerful Ultimate ability with a longer cooldown. As you level up your hero, you can put a skill point into an ability your hero has, with the more level-up points you add, the more powerful it becomes (the Ultimate ability can only be skilled at Level 6). In general, the maximum skill points you can put into an ability is four, three being the max for an Ultimate ability.

(Sari ONeal / Shutterstock.com)

Handy Tip:
Start off as Witch Doctor because he is a great starter hero with a good stun, heal and an easy-to-use, powerful Ultimate.

Within the game there are four roles which heroes fall into. They are:

: Helps your teammates gain gold and experience safely, and are involved in the early game fights.

: The hero who will be the main damage dealer towards the end of the game but is vulnerable at the beginning.

: The hero who occupies the middle lane and is in charge of establishing dominance early in the game by helping teammates in other lanes.

: The hero who can occupy a lane on their own, are self-sufficient and can have a large impact from gaining levels quickly.

These roles are not restrictive and pro players often experiment with different roles and hero combinations. However, the format above is good to follow when starting out to give you an understanding of what the roles do and why each one is vital to winning a game.


Items can be bought from shops in-game located in your base, one on your side of the map and another on the enemy’s side of the map. A wide variety of items can be bought and all contribute to your hero’s stats and enhance your abilities. More expensive, more powerful items combine multiple items and a recipe, and provide the highest level of stats – often the acquisition of one item can turn the tide of a game.

Each hero is limited to having a maximum of six items (apart from some special heroes) and so you’ll want to try and fill all of these slots with the most powerful items, relevant to hero, as you can.

Handy Tip
: Each hero has suggested items you should buy, so stick with those ones in the beginning to get used to the item mechanics.

Last Hitting

Last Hitting is a massive part of DOTA 2. It’s what secures you the gold for killing a Creep or hero. This is the best skill to practice as the better at last hitting you get the quicker you gain gold and the quicker you can buy those big items. Practice getting last hits with the heroes you want to play in a bot game as different heroes have different attack animations.

Handy Tip:
Remember to kill the neutral Creeps in the jungle for an extra boost in gold as they respawn over time.

That’s a very brief introduction to the mechanics and gameplay of DOTA 2. It is without doubt one of the most intricate games you’ll ever play, and you can never stop learning. This is one of the best aspects of the game – you can always improve. Your journey starts here!