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The Things I’ve Learned: 100 wins in DOTA2

100 wins DOTA2 header

When I decided to give DOTA 2 a try, I did so with what, in retrospect, was overly extreme trepidation. Several years ago I was a frequent DOTA player and the hundreds of hours I’d poured into it left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I really admired the design of the game, but the actual playing experience didn’t live up to brilliance of its potential. The community was, for lack of a better word, immature. I would spend 45 minutes trying to have a good time, find myself miserably disappointed, then do it all over again thinking I’d somehow, maybe achieve a different result.

Fortunately, DOTA 2′s community is a marked improvement on its predecessor. Sure, you still run into ragers, BMers, and outright assholes (it’s an online game, after all), but you also run into people who are genuinely interested in everyone having a good time. I’ve been shocked at how often I’ve randomly found myself with a friendly, cooperative team in a public game. It’s not perfect, of course, and there are definitely some language barrier issues (a byproduct of allowing players to queue internationally), but make no mistake, playing DOTA 2 =/= playing DOTA.

So I dove in, head first and legs flailing. For a long time I played random every game, trying to get a sense for the various different roles and play-styles that make up a successful team. Now, after hitting my 100th win and maintaining a semi-decent 54% win-rate, I feel like I’ve picked up a few good tidbits along the way. This isn’t a guide, there are plenty of great ones already. This is more like a series of observations that inform a playing philosophy.

K/D/A isn’t Everything.

DOTA2 KDA isn't everything For casual DOTA players, no stat holds quite as much undeserved weight as Kills/Deaths/Assists. How often do you hear your friend bragging about how he went 14/2/10 with Bounty or 8/0/5 with Lich? I obviously won’t say it doesn’t matter (deaths in particular are quite important), but it doesn’t take into account perhaps the most important aspect of DOTA: HOW kills were achieved. Did you get that kill because your team had well placed wards? A good draft? Eloquently timed disables? All of the above? Like in major league sports, there’s a lot more behind the numbers.

Aside from the obvious fact that some roles in DOTA are more prone to getting kills vs others (carry vs support vs pusher, etc), it’s important to remember that kills are a means to an end, not the ultimate goal. I’ve lost a game where I was 14/9/17. More importantly, I’ve been on winning teams where I’ve been 2/15/20. Getting a win is about a multitude of factors relating to XP, gold, hero and player synergy, and map control. Those methods allow teams that get demolished early in the kill ratios to fight their way back during team fights and pushing phases. Even if you’re getting stomped over and over as a squishy support hero, placing a sentry ward during a push because none of your allies were willing or able to buy one could mean the difference between wiping out the opposition or losing every hero you have.

Equally important is the ability to seize a moment when it presents itself. I’ve seen entire games turn around because one team decided to fight Rosh at the right (or wrong) moment. Ending a game with good K/D/A is certainly fun, but I’ve found it’s better to focus on all the factors that lead to a win, not just the glitzy stats.

Knowing Your Role is Important, so is Following Through with it.

DOTA2 rolesUnderstanding which hero should be doing what is a lot more complex than reading Valve’s descriptions. It requires understanding of your team’s chemistry, your opponents’ chemistry, and the likely situations that will arise when those two meet in battle. Once you’ve chosen your role (carry, initiator, support, disable, etc), it’s extremely important that you communicate it to your team. If you’re planning on focusing on just harassing/denying in lane, let your partner know he/she can farm freely. Building some aura items? Tell everyone. Need to stay out of team fights for a while and farm? Definitely say so.

Equally important is following through with your chosen role. When you’ve picked what you want to do, it should influence EVERY decision you make during the game. If you are a carry and the opposite team is pushing t1 towers, it may be worth it to let them do so, avoiding the risk of dying and the loss of valuable experience/gold from not farming. I recently played a game as DK where I really messed up by focusing on team fights and ganks instead of farming. Once we hit the late game, I was no where near as farmed as I needed to be to counter our opponents’ carries. Playing support? Keep an eye on the mini-map for areas that need wards at all given times. Don’t just throw up some obs wards at the start and then forget about it. Fighting invis heroes? Always carry counters for that. Giving your team vision can make all the difference in the world.

Always be thinking about what you can do to best help the team. If your ally wants to push and you’re 200 away from a Mekanism, or getting close to that pivotal BKB, let them know it’s probably better for everyone to wait until it’s finished.

Believe in Yourself.

If you are playing public games, you will have a lot of “advice” thrown your way. Sometimes it’s good advice. Sometimes it’s really, really terrible advice. Advice that’s less about teaching and more about ego. Remember, you’re not playing with people who are worlds better than you. Chances are, your MMRs are similar. So when someone starts yelling at you for making a decision that feels logical to you, don’t every assume they’re right. Instead, look at the situation yourself, read up on what professionals may be saying about similar circumstances, and make improvements based on what YOU believe, not some random guy who’s just upset that diving that tower got them killed because you didn’t dive with them.

Any online game can be unforgiving, but it’s important to remember that you’re there to have fun. Improve at your own pace, and remember that no matter how poorly you play, it’s just one game. If someone’s being a condescending jerk, just mute them.

Make some Friends, aka Don’t be a Dick.

Team games that they are, MOBA’s are always much more fun with friends. Don’t have any IRL friends who play DOTA? Make some in game. If you have a really good time playing with a few random people in a public match, ask if they want to play again. I’ve met so many people this way that have enriched my DOTA experience. I often have more fun losing with friends than I do winning with random people. It’s the nature of the game.

If you want to find people to play with who aren’t assholes, than one of the best ways to do so is to make sure you conduct yourself with respect. Congratulate your teammates when they make good plays, be forgiving when someone screws up, and if you want to trash-talk, do so with a light heart instead of blazing nerd rage. If you BM the living piss out of everyone you play with, chances are your friends list is going to be pretty slim. The friends you do make will be reflections of your behavior. In DOTA, opposites do not attract.

Consumables are Good. Really, Really Good.

DOTA2 ConsumablesI know I said this wasn’t really a guide, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this piece of advice. It’s so tempting for novice/intermediate players to ignore consumables and go straight for the big time, late games items. Do not do this. Please please please don’t underestimate the power of having regen in the early game, or having wards around the map, or setting up smoke ganks, etc.

These items make or break your team. Learn when and how to use them and do it frequently.

There’s Always more to Learn.

So even after 100 wins I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of all DOTA2 has to offer. I doubt even the most seasoned pro will profess to having complete mastery of the game’s every nuance. So what are some good ways to improve? Aside from constantly challenging yourself to try new things in game, plenty of casters, professionals, and former professionals stream frequently. Watch them. Personally, I’m big fans of Merlini and Purge. Both provide fantastic insights into the game whether they are playing themselves or watching other high level matches. There are plenty of other popular streamers out there as well. I encourage everyone to explore them (TeamLiquid is always a good place to poke around). There’s also tons of great reading material out there (see the links in the intro paragraphs).

Mostly, though, find some people you like playing with and just play. I will be continuing my DOTA 2 journey and documenting what I learn in our DOTA2 livestream. Feel free to join me for the ride. Good luck and have fun.

  • Orbit

    Love reading these!

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