It is time for The International 2 - the biggest Dota 2 tournament ever. Sixteen teams from around the world, representing the top echelon of Dota 2 players, will compete for a huge $1.7 million prize pool and the honor and glory of being the trophy holders for The International until next year's tournament.
The International 2 coincides this year with PAX, and as such, the League of Legends North American championships. Benaroya Hall, the place where The International 2 is being held, is only a few blocks away from the PAX hall, so I STRONGLY encourage anyone who is in the area to go check out The International 2's venue, just for a few hours or so.
The aim of this blog is to give a crash course in Dota 2 observing for anyone that will be looking to check out some of the cast games while The International 2 is running for whatever reason. It won't go heavily into the mechanics of the game that aren't relevant, but it serves to hopefully explain some of the differences you'll see between the two games.
Where to watch? Streams and the client.
The official Dota 2 site will have a link to all of the streams of the games as they come up throughout the weekend. For those of you who don't have access to the client or wish to just browse the game at a cursory level, this is great for you.
In addition, you can watch through the Dota 2 spectator client which is available on Steam to everyone for free. Once you download the client and launch it, clicking on the Watch tab, going to Tournaments and then The International will pop up a list of all the games, and joining them will pop you into Dota TV.
Dota TV has a number of options for a great viewing experience. There's a great Directed Camera, the ability to control the camera yourself, the ability to follow a player and see exactly what they're doing down to the mouse movements, or the abliity to just follow one of the commentator's cameras. You get access to all the ingame stats at the push of a button, including things like the gold graphs and experience graphs. You can choose between any number of commentators that are streaming the game with the quick flick through a menu.
Where will the battle take place? A quick look at the map of Dota 2.
The two factions that face off in Dota 2 are the Radiant, which spawns in the bright southern half of the map, and the Dire, which spawns in the dark northern half of the map. There are a number of things to notice about the map that are pretty important for pointing out differences.
1) The river isn't a diagonal. This causes the lanes to be longer on one side than they are on the other side relative to the river and gank paths, often leading to laning asymmetry. For further reference purposes, I will refer to the longer lane (Top for Dire, Bottom for Radiant) as the "safe lane" and the shorter lane (Bottom for Dire, Top for Radiant) as the "hard lane".
2) There are three different shops on the map. Each base has a shop, where all recipes and composite items are sold, in addition to low-mid tier stat and utility items, as well as all consumables. Each team's safe lane has a side shop close to the river, where a smattering of items that would help in the laning phase are sold. The third shop is what is referred to as the secret shop, and is located next to the river on the north side for Radiant, and the south side for Dire. The secret shop contains the high tier stat and damage items that are required for many of the top tier recipes.
3) There is only one major neutral objective on the map - a giant beast that resides in a pit near the Dire middle tower. Roshan spawns when the map first loads, and he gets more powerful as time goes on. Killing him grants gold and experience to the team that kills him. Upon death, he drops the Aegis of the Immortal, which, upon death, restores you to full life and mana after a short delay. On the third death and every death afterwards, he drops a Cheese in addition to the Aegis, which is a one-use consumable that heals 2500 HP and 1000 Mana.
4) Powerup runes spwan in the river every two minutes starting at 0:00 unless they haven't been picked up yet. They come in five very self-explanatory flavors: Double Damage, Haste, Illusion, Regeneration and Invisibility. They become extremely important for lane control, especially in mid lane, as they can be stored in a Bottle and used later.
5) Each lane in Dota 2 ends in either team's base, where the Barracks stand. They are the primary targets for anyone looking to push their way to victory. They come in two flavors per lane, one for melee creeps and one for range creeps. Killing the respective barracks in a lane will cause your creeps of that type in the lane to gain HP and damage, and more importantly, give less gold when killed.
6) Trees in Dota 2 are dynamic and able to be interacted with. They serve as line of sight blockers, and can be destroyed by certain items and skills. They provide topography for players to juke and escape from enemies, as the amount of sight even a single tree can block can make it difficult for a player to get the vision to get a single attack or skill off.
7) Dota 2 features a day/night cycle. Each day in Dota 2 lasts 12 minutes, with six minutes of day time and six minutes of night time. Most heroes have a longer day vision than night vision, but there are exceptions to the rule. The lower vision at night in Dota 2 leaves players open to more ganks.
8) High ground, in addition to blocking line of sight up into higher ground, also has an affect on auto-attacks. A unit on low ground attacking onto ground higher than they are suffers a 25% miss chance. This is extremely important in middle lane, where the lane dips down into the river, and when pushing up into the enemy's base, as the tower is close enough to be hit from the low ground, but teams may opt to risk standing on the high ground to ensure more damage.
Mechanics: Gold, denying, towers, the courier, buyback, TP scrolls, wards
Gold - Each player receives ambient gold just from being in the game at a rate of 5 gold every 4 seconds. Other than that, the ways to gain gold are creep kills, hero kills and tower kills. Upon death, you lose an amount of gold based off of your hero level. In addition, assists in Dota 2 don't give gold themselves. However, when an enemy hero dies, nearby allied heroes will gain gold. Managing gold for buying items, consumables, Town Portal scrolls and buyback is a core tenet of Dota 2 strategy, and it can separate an all-in strategy from a more defensive strategy.
Denying - Denying is one way Dota 2 players exert lane presence over their enemies. Whenever an allied creep is below 50% HP, a player can attack it. If the allied player scores the last hit on the creep, it is counted as a deny, which prevents the enemy from getting the last hit gold and reducing the amount of experience the creep gives. Towers can also be denied when they are at less than 10% HP, and denying a tower greatly reduces the amount of gold the enemy receives from it. Heroes can also be denied if they are under certain damage-over-time effects, and denying a hero prevents the enemy from getting any gold and experience off of the kill, although the denied hero will still lose gold from death like normal. Denying also serves as an ability to control the position of creeps in lane. Denying pulls the wave closer to your tower, where you are safer, but more susceptible to pushes.
- Since items are a core part of Dota 2, it is necessary for each hero to actually be able to retrieve the items they can buy. Purchasing an item while you're in lane ordinarily puts it in your stash, where you must retrieve it from by either going back to base or using the courier to transfer it to you. The courier has the same six item slots as a hero has and is used to deliver the items back and forth. It is extremely fragile, and when killed, it gives the enemy team global gold and is out of commission for three minutes.
Towers - Each lane in Dota 2 has three towers - one that protects the Barracks, one early on in the lane, and one farther out, in addition to the two towers that protect the ancient. They do a lot of damage early on in the game, but their damage falls off quickly. Protecting towers and pushing towers is the primary objective for players in the early to mid game, as killing a tower grants your entire team gold, and the person who gets the last hit on the tower gets the lion's share of that gold. All towers except the tier 1 towers possess backdoor protection, which grants them strong health regeneration while enemy creeps are not attacking them.
Buyback - Heroes in Dota 2 can buy an earlier respawn at the cost of gold. Because gold is lost upon death, and buyback costs additional gold, this is used sparingly and using a buyback is often either a desperation move for defense or used when the player believes they can get kills and assists to make up for the buyback cost. Players will often have to make the choice between going all in on an item or saving for buyback gold in case things go wrong. Buying back has a long cooldown, so late game situations are sometimes determined by whether or not the team has buyback.
Town Portal Scrolls - Town Portal scrolls are the primary way for players to move between points on the map quickly. Sold for 135 gold per from either the side shop or the main shop, they can teleport the player to any standing building, towers included, after a 3 second channel that is interrupted by stuns, hexes and any other sort of hard CC. In addition, there is a mechanic in Dota to prevent multiple teleports to the same tower, increasing the channel duration for each recent allied teleport, in order to prevent 5man teleports onto a tower to defend it.
- Wards in Dota 2 come in two flavors - Observer (Sight) and Sentry (Vision). Both types come in stacks of 2 and cost 200 gold each. Observer Wards have a stock of two in the shop and restock one every six minutes, and have a six minute duration, which greatly limits the amount of wards any team can have on the map at any given point. Sentry Wards do not have a limit, but they function differently than Sight Wards do in League. Sentry Wards have a very small natural sight range, but give true vision in an area that greatly exceeds their natural sight range.
Heroes: How do they work, and what to expect?
Click here to be taken to Dota 2 Wiki's hero page!
Heroes in Dota come in three variants - Strength, Agility and Intelligence. Each hero has a primary statistic, which increases their damage as it increases. In addition, for all heroes, Strength increases health and health regeneration. Agility increases armor and attack speed. Intelligence increases mana and mana regeneration.
All heroes in Dota 2 use the mana mechanic for their abilities. Mana serves as the limitation by which heroes cast their abilities. Early on, especially, spell costs are extremely high relative to mana pools and mana regeneration. This means that, for the early game, spell usage is a lot more conservative than it is late game. Some heroes, who focus on spell casting, will buy items such as Arcane Boots, Bloodstone or Scythe of Vyse to increase their mana regeneration, while others, who focus on normal attacks, will focus on other items.
Because of non-scaling spell damage, Dota 2 spells often find their use in the form of some sort of crowd control, debuff or buff effects. This means that burst damage, or the ability of a team to instantly kill the other team, is rather low, and team fights can be drawn out as players jockey for position and look for openings. This has the indirect result of increasing hard carry potential, as carries can be extremely tough to take down and output a huge amount of damage in an extended fight. It is not uncommon to see carries be able to fight evenly when they are heavily outnumbered.
Heroes can be split into six different flavors. There are many heroes which overlap in roles but for the most part, they can be split into... (Click on the image to be taken to the Dota 2 Wiki page for the hero!)
Carries - These guys exist in two flavors - ranged and melee. Their primary job is to farm early and deal the majority of damage in team fights throughout the mid and late game. Some heroes you might see in this role a lot during the The International are...
- Although not nearly as popular as he once was, Anti-Mage still shows up occasionally as a result of other carries being banned frequently. Still one of the most mobile heroes in the game with his Blink ability and one of the fastest farmers in the game as a result of this mobility, Anti-Mage is capable of ending a game by himself if you leave him alone for too long. Expect to see him in the hands of extremely strong carries, such as the Chinese carries, farming a ridiculous amount of items quickly.
- Morphling is a ranged carry who is extremely hard to kill. With the ability to trade his health for damage or vice versa at any point in time, he can become either extremely resilient or one of the most powerful glass cannons. He is capable of dealing a large amount of burst damage, in addition to pushing extremely quickly with his Waveform ability. He is currently one of the most popular picks in The International preliminaries, and the Chinese teams have been using him to great success.
- Naga Siren is one of the most banned heroes currently in Dota 2. She provides amazing utility to her team in the form of an Ensnare that goes through magic immunity, and an Ultimate that freezes the enemy team in place for a whole seven seconds, combined with an armor-shredding nuke and resilient illusions, she is able to fit into any team lineup. She can do a lot of damage while being relatively item-independent, but that is not to say that she doesn't scale well - a farmed Naga Siren is fearsome.
- The Lone Druid is anything but lonely, with a very powerful bear summon that is capable of holding items. He is extremely mobile, and with points in his ultimate, extremely tanky. The ability to send his bear in to deal damage and disrupt a teamfight without risking himself makes him an extremely hard hero to deal with for certain teams, and with a bit of luck, he can deal a ton of damage and disable. He's chosen a lot for his powerful laning phase and quick pushing with his summon.
- Chaos Knight has a very self-descriptive moniker. One of his signature skills, Chaos Bolt, does a random amount of damage and a random length of stun. Getting hit by a 4 second stun is almost guaranteed death, but a 2 second stun might be just short enough to let you escape. Chaos Knight also possesses an unreliable Crit and the ability to close the gap and disrupt the enemy with Reality Rift. His ultimate, Phantasm, creates multiple images of himself that all do full damage, making him an excellent pusher, carry and ganker all in one.
Supports - The "hard support" has fallen out of favor since Dreamhack (when I first posted this blog). These days, you're about as likely to see one of the following heroes in the support role as you are to see a ganker or a pusher like Leshrac, Shadow Shaman or Rubick. Some popular picks from Dreamhack, such as Crystal Maiden and Vengeful Spirit, are almost absent this tournament. Nonetheless...
- Shadow Demon has a very strong disable that also creates images of the hero disabled, which is an excellent way of turning the enemy's carry against them or just getting more copies of your own carry! Combined with the ability to amplify all damage on a single target, a large AoE nuke that can do absurd amounts of damage if landed consistently, and a single target purge that slows the enemy down to a snail's pace, Shadow Demon is great at turning the situation in your favor throughout the entire game.
- Lich is a strong support chosen for his absolute dominance in lane. With an ability that freely denies a creep and restores mana, and a nuke that becomes spammable due to his high mana pool, he's a nightmare to lane against, often shutting down an enemy from precious gold and experience. His ultimate, Chain Frost, shoots an extremely damaging nuke that bounces between enemy targets. If done well, it bounces between enemy heroes and completely obliterates them. If not, it fizzles uselessly on enemy creeps.
- The Crystal Maiden is one of the best early to mid game supports, being both an excellent babysitter and roamer. With a large powerful AoE slow and a single target stun early on, she exerts powerful lane presence and can turn even the smallest sign of weakness into a sure kill. Her mana regeneration aura is a huge boon to her team, and her ultimate has the potential to do a ton of damage in a teamfight.
- Venomancer is one of the strongest laning supports in the game. With a long-range AoE slow that does a large amount of damage over time and the ability to poke down an enemy in lane with his passive poison auto attack, he can be a nightmare to lane against. The ability to summon a numerous amount of Plague Wards with a short cooldown can be a nightmare to push against or to defend a push from, and he can even use them for vision. His ultimate spreads a huge DoT in the AoE around him, making killing him not often an optimal decision as you are sure to take a ton of damage while doing so.
- Vengeful Spirit is a great hero for screwing up the enemy's position in a teamfight. With a large damage single-target stun in the early game, she is one of the strongest roaming supports. Her Howl of Terror not only gives vision over the huge area in which it's cast, but also reduces the armor of all enemy targets hit. Her passive aura greatly increases the damage output potential of your team through the mid and late game, and her ultimate swaps her position with that of an enemy instantly, pulling them out of position so your team can pick them off. She often sacrifices her own life to save an ally or to pick off an enemy, but sometimes that's all that's needed to win a teamfight.
- Keeper of the Light is a popular support hero for disrupting teamfights and counter pushing. His Illuminate skill has a huge range, and when channeled to completion, deals 500 damage to all it hits. Chakra Magic restores mana to the target, whether it be KotL himself or an ally, and Mana Leak causes the enemy to lose mana any time they move. His ultimate, Spirit Form, grants him two abilities - Blinding Light, which pushes enemies back and causes them to miss attacks, and Recall, which brings an ally to him after a short duration, allowing him to save an ally or turn the tides of battle in his favor. It also lets him channel Illuminate and then move, letting him support his allies while charging a huge nuke.
- Although at this time last year, Shadow Shaman was chosen as a farming solo mid hero, seeking to push the lane quickly and help his teammates, as of recently, he's been relegated to more of a supporting role. Ether Shock is a lot of damage, and between Hex and Shackle, he is capable of disabling a target for a very long time, leading to easy kills in lane and a strong start for your ally. Mass Serpent Wards is still the same, and offers fantastic pushing power once Shadow Shaman hits level 6.
Junglers - While not every game will necessarily have a jungler, the jungle is an excellent source of experience and gold for the hero who spends time in it. Trilaners or supports will often be found pulling jungle creeps into their lanes to be able to farm them well, but some heroes have their home in the trees. You may see...
- Lycanthrope is an extremely strong carry and pusher, with two powerful summons and a passive that increases attack speed and damage of him and his controlled units. His ultimate grants him the ability to move at max movespeed unhindered and a strong critical strike. He is often found in the jungle with the ability to tank jungle creeps with his summons, and he can even solo Roshan at very early levels with few items.
- The happy-go-lucky Enchantress is able to temporarily convert the creeps in the jungle to her aid. Whether it be the tornado-summoning Wildkin, the stunning Centaur, the trapping Troll Warlord, the mighty Ursa or the Satyr Hellcaller, she can use the creeps in the jungle to not only be a strong pusher but an excellent ganker as well. Her powerful heal makes her and her allies tough to take down, and her ultimate, Impetus, is capable of dealing a ton of damage in teamfights so long as the Enchantress is safe.
- Chen, much like his counterpart the Enchantress, is able to turn creeps in the jungle to fight for his own side. However, he does so permanently, although he is only able to take a maximum of three creeps at any one time. He has the ability to amplify damage done to a single target, and his Test of Faith can be a surprisingly large amount of burst damage for those caught unaware. His ultimate is one of the best teamfight abilities in the game, instantly healing every hero on your team for a large amount, saving them from the brink of death and turning the teamfight in your favor.
- Enigma is a powerful jungler, with the ability to instantly destroy a weaker jungle creep, converting it into three damaging Eidolons by his side. Combine this with a strong single target disable in his Malefice ability, and one of the best team fight abilities in the game in Black Hole, which can potentially be a 4 second disable for the entire enemy team if placed properly, and an Enigma who gets the levels and gold from a jungle early on is something that the enemy team must always be wary of when engaging in any fight.
Gankers - While they come in a variety of flavors and show up in a variety of lanes, they are all good at doing one thing - finding a hero and making them dead. They have some combination of strong nukes, excellent chasing potential, or strong disables that lend them very well to picking out a target and killing it dead. Some heroes you'll see here are...
- Queen of Pain is often found either on a mid lane or side lane solo. Her Shadow Strike is a powerful single target nuke, damage over time, and slow. She also possesses a low cooldown, long range Blink like Anti-Mage, and her Scream of Pain and Sonic Wave do an absurd amount of AoE damage, giving her not only an excellent burst damage gank, but huge damage output in teamfights as well.
- Night Stalker is often found in the mid lane, where his high HP, high base damage and spammable nuke gives him strong lane presence. His passive greatly increases his attack and movement speed during the night time, and as soon as the first nightfall hits, he becomes a roaming, ganking machine with a strong slow and a long-duration silence. His ultimate allows him to create an artificial nighttime for a long duration.
- Windrunner is one of the most slippery heroes in the game. With her Windrun ability, she's able to position herself in a teamfight, dodging all physical attacks while she's doing so. Her Powershot gives her the ability to deal a lot of damage from afar on a relatively low cooldown and mana cost. Her Shackleshot may look like just a short duration stun, but if she manages to catch two enemies in a line, the duration increases and stuns both enemies. Her ability to position herself and her strong nuke and stun make her a great ganker and team fighter.
- The jolly Storm Spirit is one of the most mobile heroes, with an Ultimate that allows him to travel for as long as he has mana to sustain it. His ability to jump on a target in a fight, do a quick burst of damage, and jump out makes him both an excellent ganker as well as a strong pseudo-carry. If he is chosen, be sure to hear him pop in and out of fights often in his trademark jolly voice and witty quips.
- The mighty Beastmaster is in possession of one of the best single target disables in the game. His ultimate, Primal Roar, is an extremely long duration stun that goes through all types of magic immunity. His Wild Axes do a large amount of AoE damage in a line, and his Call of the Wild summons two nature allies to aid him - a hawk that can go invisible and grant huge vision to him and his allies, and a quill beast armed with a poison that heavily slows enemies it hits. His aura drastically increases the attack speed of allies nearby, making him one of the strongest gankers and team fighters.
- Bounty Hunter has recently gotten a lot of popularity. A favorite of Chinese players, he's chosen because of his ultimate, Track. When cast on an enemy hero, Track reduces their armor and gives the entire allied team a speed buff. If a Tracked hero dies, all allied heroes who participated in the kill gets extra gold. This makes Bounty Hunter a very strong pick in aggressive games, as the amount of gold you get from Track snowballs out of control. He's relatively item independent while still being able to put out a surprising amount of damage.
- The Templar Assassin is capable of amazing amount of burst damage, with an armor shredding Meld and a damage bonus on Refraction. Her Refraction skill also provides her a damage shield, making her a strong laner and team fighter. The low cooldown makes her surprisingly tanky, as well. Psi Blades increases her range and gives her a large splash radius, and her Psionic Traps give her an extremely powerful slow and strong map control.
Initiators/Team Fight Control - There are some heroes out there whose job is to create mayhem in team fights. They may not do a ton of single-target damage, and they may not be the most threatening heroes in lane, but when all goes down in a team fight, they are capable of causing huge mayhem. A lot of these heroes are great initiators and tanky, and getting hit by one of their initations may just spell the end for your team. Some heroes you'll see here are...
- Tidehunter is one of the best teamfighting heroes in the game. With a humongous AoE stun as an ultimate, and the ability to shrug off crowd control via his passive, you can almost be guaranteed that any fight you're in against a team that has a Tidehunter will involve getting your entire team stunned. Top that off with an extremely powerful slow, and an AoE that greatly reduces the attack damage of the enemy team, and you have an excellent initiator who can be instrumental to winning a teamfight.
- The chaos dunker himself, Earthshaker can do a ton of damage and stun throughout a teamfight. His Fissure is a long range AoE stun that creates impassable terrain in a line, often able to sequester off a key enemy hero from his allies. His ultimate, Echo Slam, does more damage the more enemy units that get caught in it. When playing against an Earthshaker, you better be spread out, otherwise he'll bring a ton of hurt.
- The Sand King is another extremely powerful AoE hero. His ultimate, Epicenter, channels for a short period, after which Sand King summons extremely powerful pulses of damage around him. His Burrowstrike is a medium-range linear stun that is great for getting him into the fight where his Epicenter can damage. He has the ability to cloak himself in a Sandstorm, making him invisible and dealing damage to nearby enemies, and his passive, Caustic Finale, gives him great lane control if he needs it. With the ability to do a ton of AoE damage and a good way of avoiding the heat himself, he can devastate enemy teams.
- The Brewmaster is one of the strongest initators and teamfighters in the game. He has an AoE nuke and slow, the ability to give a single enemy hero a staggering 75% chance to miss on auto attacks and a strong natural evasion and crit. However, the true power of this hero lies in his ultimate, which splits him into three smaller versions of himself, each with different abilities. The Earth spirit has a 2 second stun on a short cooldown and is permanently magic immune. The Wind spirit has an immobilizing Cyclone to force an enemy out of the fight. The Fire spirit has maximum movement speed and does a huge amount of damage, although it is particularly fragile. When Brewmaster has his ultimate active, he becomes one of the best disablers, and a nightmare for any hero to face.
- Invoker. This guy. He has ten spells. Let that sink in. Ten. Spells. From anything between a giant tornado that extends a screen and a half in length to a global 400+ damage nuke, to summons that push super quickly, to an invisibility skill... this guy does it all. A lot of his spells have huge AoE and have a debilitating effect on of some sort, leading him to be an often banned teamfight champion. With a plethora of crowd control, and even some buffing effects, Invoker can be played in a multitude of different styles - all effective, all deadly.
- The Dark Seer is a peculiar Intelligence hero. He's one of the few Intelligence heroes with melee range, and he's surprisingly tanky. His Vacuum ability sucks all enemies in a large AoE to a single center point. His Ion Shell can be placed on an allied unit or himself, causing them to deal damage to surrounding units. His Surge ability can be cast on an allied unit or himself, increasing them to max movespeed for a period of time. His ultimate, Wall of Replica, places a giant illusory wall down. Enemy heroes that pass through the wall create an image under the Dark Seer's control that deals damage. The Dark Seer can force an enemy team to fight themselves, and combined with the ability to pull units back through it, can quickly turn a teamfight on its heads.
Pushers - While hero kills may be nice, and all, everyone knows that the primary objective is to kill the big building in the enemy base. There are some heroes that are particularly well suited for the job, and some of them you may see are...
- Nature's Prophet can be found... well, pretty much anywhere. He has a home in any lane and even has a home in the jungle. His ability to sprout a ring of trees around the opponent is great for ganks in combination with his ability to teleport anywhere on the map with a relatively short cooldown. He can summon treants to help him push, and his ultimate is a global chain nuke that grows in damage the more targets it hits. Overall, a very strong hero that farms extremely well and can exert his presence anywhere.
- The Broodmother is one of the quintessential lane pushers. Her Spawn Spiderlings ability spawns up to four spiderlings from a corpse if it kills the enemy, and is a pretty strong single target nuke otherwise. The spiderlings even have the ability to spawn additional, smaller spiderites. Her webs grant her and her spiderlings invisibility as long as she's within them, along with increased movement speed and health regeneration. Her passive is a powerful slow and miss chance that makes it difficult to escape from her, and her ultimate gives her a huge damage boost and absurd amounts of life steal.
- Leshrac is the king of AoE. All of his abilities do some sort of massive AoE of some sorts, making him one of the best creep wave clearers in the game. His Split Earth is an extremely powerful, but difficult to land AoE stun. His Diabolic Edict does a ton of damage split up among all targets in an area, and more importantly, it hits towers. A high level Edict will cut down a tower's HP in no time. His Lightning Storm is a bouncing nuke that does a lot of damage at a relatively low cooldown, and his Ultimate, Pulse Nova, creates pulses of pure energy that destroy enemies that stand close to him.
- Tinker has gained a lot of popularity recently, and for good reason. His Rearm skill refreshes not only all of his other skills, but most items as well. Notably, when combined with Boots of Travel, this allows him to teleport anywhere on the map and push the lane with his March of the Machines spell, which creates a giant stampede of damaging robots. Catching a Tinker is hard, and if you don't shut him down early, you'll find all of your lanes being pushed straight to your base. Not only that, late game, once he gets a good amount of items, he can unleash a salvo of lasers, missiles and pain on you, Rearm, and then do it again, whittling your team down into nothing.
Banning and Picking: Strategy!
Before each game, the captains of each team must play a strategical game themselves. With a total of 90 heroes in Dota 2, the amount of possibilities is staggering. To turn the tides of battle in their favor, each team bans a few heroes that they do not wish to see before picking their army with which to go do battle.
A common system by which people split the heroes that are chosen in the banning and picking phase are by assigning them numbers 1 through 5, which correspond roughly to how much gold or experience the hero is expected to earn throughout the game.
For example, a hero in the 1 position is expected to get the most farm, and they are often paired with a hero in the 5 position, who gets the least farm. That way, they can lane together - the 5 player uses their abilities to protect the 1 player and ensure farm early game until the 1 player can stand on their own.
This numbering system is dynamic, and often changes throughout a game. A hero may need to start off in a 1 or 2 position, as they require one strong item or a lot of experience, and then as the game goes on, they may slide down to a 3 or 4 position to give more room for a stronger late-game hero to shine.
Ban phase 1: The first banning phase goes like this in a 1-1-1-1-1-1 order, for a total of three bans per team. Heroes you will see often banned out in this section are overall strong heroes with good map or teamfight presence, such as Prophet, Invoker, Chen, Lycanthrope, Rubick and Naga Siren.
Pick phase 1: After the first banning phase, the teams get to pick their first set of heroes in a 1-2-2-1 fashion, with the team that has first ban also getting first pick, for a total of three picks per team. At this point, you may see certain strategies evolve in the teams - some teams opt to choose their strong carries early, while others try to get good supports or good pushers to complement an overall team strategy.
Ban phase 2: After the first picking phase, the teams get to ban more heroes in a 1-1-1-1 fashion, upping the total number of bans on each team to 5. You will see a lot of counterbans in this phase based off of the team compositions - locking an enemy strategy out of some of their strong heroes or banning heroes that are particularly good against your own strategy is done here, trying to solidify your team composition's advantage.
Pick phase 2: And finally, each team picks their remaining two heroes in a 1-1-1-1 order, for five heroes total per team. This is where the team compositions are fully fleshed out, and it's where some teams might just have to make due with having their otherwise preferred picks banned out in the second banning phase. In some respects, the second half of the picks and bans phase can heavily swing the outcome of the game.
Items! What do the players spend their shiny gold on?
Click here to be sent to Dota 2 Wiki's Items page!
A soldier is nothing without an arsenal to equip him with. If the heroes are different and daunting enough to learn, there's a huge trove of items just waiting to be purchased with the gold that clinks around in the pockets of heroes.
Items come in all varieties. Some of them heal. Some of them burst you down. Some make you faster, some make you stronger. Choosing the correct items for your situation is important, and can make or break your effectiveness in the game.
Items in Dota 2 can be split into a number of categories as well. They are: (Click on the image to be taken to the Dota 2 Wiki page for the item!)
Consumables - These items are the ones you carry to lane and use in order to restore your mana and health. There are some other ones, but other than the aforementioned TP Scroll and Wards, there are...
- Normal healing consumables. Almost all heroes will start with a smattering of these to keep them in lane, and additionals may be ferried in via courier.
- The Bottle has three charges, each of which restores health and mana. After running out of charges, it can be refilled either by picking up one of the rune spawns or by refilling it at fountain. The bottle will store a rune for up to two minutes and can activate the rune at any time. Often picked up by heroes in the middle lane, as they have access to both runes. Middle lane heroes will often jockey for the runes when they spawn, and rune control can often determine who comes out ahead on that lane.
- More specialized consumables, the Dust of Appearance reveals invisible units in an area around the caster, and the Smoke of Deceit turns nearby allies invisible with some restrictions, making it useful for ganks.
- While not technically a consumable, the Gem of True Sight is grants the owner the ability to see as though they were a Sentry Ward for as long as they hold it. However, upon death, the owner of the Gem of True Sight will drop it onto the ground, where anyone, including the enemy, can pick it up for their own use. The Gem of True Sight also has a rather long restock time in the shop, so it's best to purchase it if you know you can hold onto it.
Small Items - Smaller items that are often bought early on for stats or survivability purposes. Sometimes sold in the late game.
- The Magic Stick and Magic Wand both grant the ability for the user to restore burst health and mana in a team fight. The latter is an upgrade from the former and comes with some bonus stats.
- The Bracer is the go-to cheap HP item for supports in the early to mid game. It gives a bit of all stats and is made from relatively cheap components, making it an easy buy even for the most gold-starved of supports.
Boots - Boots increase your movement speed, allowing you to traverse the map and the battlefield more swiftly.
- The default pair of Boots costs 500 gold - not a pittance, but not terribly expensive, and increases their owner's movespeed by about 1/6.
- Upgraded Boots come in five varities in Dota 2. Arcane Boots grant the user an AoE mana restoration on a cooldown. Phase Boots give damage and an active that increases movement speed. Power Treads give stats and attack speed. Boots of Travel are the most expensive, increasing movespeed by a lot and giving them the ability to teleport to any allied unit on the map. Tranquil Boots give the user the ability to heal themselves, and also give a rather hefty movement speed bonus.
Major Team Items - These are the two main team items in the game that will make or break team fights.
- Mekansm grants an active AoE heal to its wielder. It has an internal cooldown that prevents the team from getting the benefit more than once in a short period of time, but the burst heal you get out of it can save allies or turn the tide of a teamfight, or it can just refresh the team during a long push.
- The Pipe of Insight gives your allies a shield that protects against a large amount of magical damage. By using it before a team fight or push starts, you can mitigate a large amount of the enemy team's damage right off the bat. It's the most expensive support item by a large margin, so it's usually seen in the mid to late game.
Major Carry Items - Some big items you'll see on carries that is a good indicator of how well their farm is doing are the following.
- Black King Bar is the iconic defensive item. It grants strength and damage, and most importantly, when activated, gives the user magic immunity. Every time it's used, however, the duration of the magic immunity decreases, causing it to be most effective when first bought, and gradually lose effectiveness as the game progresses. Certain spells also go through the magic immunity, notable ones being Vengeful Spirit's Nether Swap Ultimate, Beastmaster's Primal Roar Ultimate, and Enigma's Black Hole Ultimate.
- Manta Style is a very strong carry item for a multitude of reasons. In addition to just increasing stats all around the board as well as movement speed and attack speed, its active creates two images of the caster which deal less damage and take extra damage, often causing a lot of confusion. Creating the images also removes many impairing debuffs on the wielder, giving the carry the ability to once again freely move around a teamfight. The images aren't always easily taken down, and combined with a now free-moving hero, can output serious damage and be a pain to fight against.
Big Caster Items - Gankers and sometimes supports will get these items, often some sort of major disable or positioning benefit.
- Bloodstone greatly increases the wielder's HP, Mana and regeneration, in addition to possessing charges that restore whenever a nearby enemy dies. Each charge increases the passive mana regeneration, and when the wielder dies, one-third of the charges are expended and converted into healing for nearby allies, in addition to reducing the respawn timer and gold lost. Orchid Malevolence gives the wielder a long-duration silence that amplifies damage done to the target, making it great for singling out a high-priority target. The Scythe of Vyse grants very long hex (think Lulu) that is invaluable for disabling a gank target or the enemy carry in a team fight.
Big Tank Items - These items increase your survivability massively, and are often gotten on carries who need extra survivability.
- Linken's Sphere is somewhat similar to Banshee's Veil - it has a low cooldown spell block and gives HP and Mana, in addition to some stats. Shiva's Guard is a strong aura item, decreasing all nearby enemies' attack speed and also giving the owner an AoE nuke that heavily slows all hit. The Assault Cuirass not only gives its wielder and all nearby allies an attack speed and armor bonus, it also reduces the armor of nearby enemies. The Heart of Tarrasque greatly increases the HP and HP regeneration of the wielder, and further increases the regeneration when the wielder is out of combat.
Big Damage Items - Sometimes, a hero just needs to be able to kill his opponent before he gets killed. These items help.
- Radiance gives a ton of damage and a passive 40 damage/sec immolation aura. Monkey King Bar makes its wielder unable to miss, while giving the wielder a chance to deal a damaging ministun. Daedalus increases the wielder's damage by a lot and gives them an extremely powerful critical strike. The Butterfly increases the wielder's damage, attack speed, and agility by a lot, in addition to granting 35% evasion. The Abyssal Blade grants the wielder a castable stun that goes through magic immunity, as well as an on-hit chance to stun the opponent.
Big Utility Items - Sometimes heroes need a different way of affecting the outcome of a battle. Some items they would get for this would be...
- Force Staff gives the user the ability to push a unit in the direction their facing, making it easy to set up good positioning in team fights or to mess up the enemy positioning. Blink Dagger gives the user the ability to Blink a long distance, making it a very powerful initiation tool for heroes like Tidehunter or Earthshaker. However, it is not as useful for escape as the Blink Dagger is disabled for three seconds if the hero takes damage from an enemy hero or tower. Necronomicon summons two warriors to fight for the caster - the melee warrior burns mana on hit and deals heavy damage to its killer, and the ranged warrior has a castable mana burn and a speed aura. The Necronomicon can be leveled, and at its highest level, the melee warrior gains the ability to see invisible units. Aghanim's Scepter powers up many heroes' ultimates, and getting one can sometimes drastically change a hero's damage potential or otherwise affect the battlefield.
Strategy! What will the players actually be doing?
So now we know where the players will be playing, how the game is set up, and who we're likely to see. But what about strategy? How does all of this factor into the way the game is played?
One can argue that, for the most part, a Dota 2 game is split up into four parts.
Laning phase - This lasts for about five to ten minutes on average. Hero damage in this phase is relatively low, as the heroes have not gained levels in their damaging abilities, and they don't have strong damage-dealing items. Ganks do happen in this phase, however, usually by either the jungler or dedicated roaming supports. Damage is low, but hero health pools are also similarly low - just because it doesn't seem like much is going on does not mean you are safe. Laners will tend to stay in their lane for this entire phase, which tends to end shortly after the mid lane hits 6.
Because of the asymmetry in lanes, the heroes in one side's safe lane will be against the heroes in the other team's hard lane, and vice versa on the other side of the map. The safe lane for each side is often where you will see the carry and support go, along with either a third support who roams or a jungler. The hard lane for each team is usually manned by a single hero, either with a long-range, safe farming tool or a powerful escape mechanism. They will sometimes sacrifice levels and gold early just to make sure they don't die.
This is where junglers will spend their time in the jungle, and what is commonly seen as the jungle pull happens.
The jungle pull - Creeps in the Dota 2 jungle are vicious, and once attacked, will follow you for quite a distance before they give up. Players in Dota 2 can pull the jungle creeps out to their lane and draw aggro from their lane creeps, dragging them into the jungle. You will often see supports do this, as it forces the enemy team to push into the tower, where they lose lane presence, and it allows the supports to farm a bit of experience and gold in the jungle.
Stacking - With the exception of Roshan, creeps in the jungle spawn on a timer - the first spawn is at 0:30, and they spawn at every x:00 afterward. By pulling the neutral creeps away from their camp when shortly before the creeps are supposed to spawn, you can make it so that one creep camp has multiple spawns. This is useful for heroes to farm the camps without losing a spawn.
Blocking - Jungle camps can be blocked from spawning if a unit is already in them when the :00 timer hits. Sometimes, teams will place wards in the jungle camp of their enemies, preventing them from farming them until they are dewarded by Sentries or until they run out.
Ganking phase - This is the early to mid game phase of the game which usually happens shortly after the mid lane hits 6. Teams begin jockeying for dominant position in lanes, picking off weak laners and towers as a result. Carries during this period still seek to actively avoid team fights, teleporting to unoccupied lanes or turning to the jungle for farm, while supports, gankers and pushers find themselves looking for kills. When kills are achieved, the team that scores the kill seeks to cash in on the advantage by pushing. Low to mid-tier items are bought in this stage, but none of the major items that contribute to huge teamfights have happened yet. Teams will use Smoke of Deceit, runes and counterwarding to try and catch enemies off guard.
Teamfight phase - This doesn't necessarily have a set time to happen, but usually happens after a number of towers have been taken down. The team with a gold advantage at this point usually has some major support and teamfight items on their side, such as a Mekansm, Pipe, and perhaps a Blink Dagger or on their initiator. The team that's behind has two options at this point - they either focus on avoiding fights, or they seek to win a major teamfight with superior teamfighting heroes. Teams will often split push here, trying to take down towers while avoiding confrontation, forcing the enemy to commit to defense when they would otherwise want to attack and force teamfights. The team that's ahead may look to Roshan with their advantage, or the team that's behind may try to sneak Roshan to make up for being behind. This is where a majority of the games tend to take place and are decided. Teams will often move as five, sometimes in Smoke of Deceit, to try and catch favorable situations to engage. If the game gets past this point, we reach...
The hard carry phase - At this point, the carry on one or both of the teams has gotten super beefy, with multiple top tier items. The game becomes incredibly volatile, and buybacks become an extremely important part of strategy at this point. While teamfights are still the main focus of conflict, the hard carries become an increasingly powerful aspect of them, at this point able to take on three or four people by themselves depending on the hero. Roshan becomes a major point of contention because of the power of getting your hard carry a second life. Teamfights in this phase are not always conclusive because of extremely long respawn times.
There are many varying team compositions. Certain teams have different preferred playstyles, and depending on the way the picks and bans play out, there can be all sorts of differences. Some of the main general team compositions you'll see are -
Pushing - This strategy involves strong pushing heroes such as Prophet, Leshrac, Broodmother and Enchantress to take down towers extremely early and cement an early gold advantage for your team. While the power of this team falls off in the late game, they seek to manage it by snowballing in the early to mid game with tower gold.
Ganking - Characterized by heroes such as Queen of Pain and Night Stalker, ganking-heavy lineups are often focused on making the most important target on the enemy team have trouble farming or positioning themselves. By taking out the main source of damage in a team fight, they seek to essentially force all engagements to be 4v5 in their favor, translating that advantage into offense.
Teamfighting - Heroes you will see here are Tidehunter, Dark Seer, Enigma, and Leshrac. Reminiscent of an old League of Legends style "push R to win" composition, their primary focus will be to wipe the entire enemy team in a team fight. They are strongest in the mid-game where they can build up the major items such as Blink Dagger, Pipe of Insight and Mekansm to swing fights into their favor.
Turtle/Hard Carry - Some teams will focus all of their efforts on to making sure their carry gets farmed. This is either done by aggressively ganking, taking pressure off of their hard carry, or turtling extremely hard and letting their carry move out and get farm. They focus on the long, 40+ minute game where the farm of their carry can be the strongest. You'll see many supports in this lineup along with one flagship carry like Anti-Mage or Morphling.
The Teams! - We know how to play, now who will be playing!?
joinDOTA has done an excellent job of going deeply into all the teams at The International. You can find Mouz's entry here and all the other links at the bottom of the page. (mTw and M5 don't have pennants, so I did not put their pennant images up)
The defending teams of the first International, Na'Vi is back to defend their title. After a rather shaky Day 1, where they did not perform their best, they managed to claw back in the remaining days of the preliminaries, landing them an upper bracket seed in the tournament. Na'Vi has an aggressive playstyle that focuses on punishing mistakes and converting it into quick towers, snowballing the game out of control. Right now, it seems that their efforts have been somewhat stymied by the consistency and mechanics of the Chinese teams, but if there's one thing to know, it's to never count Na'Vi out. They are in the upper bracket, facing off against their rival team DK.
mortal Team work
The winners of the Western Qualifier to the International 2, mTw has been looking extremely strong recently. Although they recently went through a very large roster change, they are one of the most solid teams out there. Characterized by an extremely safe and calculated playstyle, mTw knows exactly how to extend any advantage in the game, no matter how small. Currently, in The International, they've had trouble adapting their playstyle to their opponents, something that is rather uncharacteristic of their team. They are currently 3-11 in the tournament, and will be facing off against...
Counter Logic Gaming
CLG's Dota 2 team is a force to be reckoned with. Although they recently went through a small roster shuffling, they have not let it affect their play, always placing well in the online cups they participate in. They have two main playstyles - a heavy team fight focused playstyle that perfectly exemplifies the experience that the individual players have on the game, or a turtle-based hard-carry focused playstyle on the back of Pajkatt. They came out of the gates with a strong 6-0 start, but foundered afterwards, going 0-8 in their remaining games and falling to the lower bracket. They face mTw in the first round.
One of the teams representing America is team Evil Geniuses. Although they went through some major team changes recently, changing their roster to a heavily American-focused team instead of the international team they were before, they are known as a powerhouse in Dota 2 just like they are in other eSports titles. Their playstyle is extremely aggressive, and they are not afraid to make sacrifices in the middle of a game for the greater good. Although they originally started off with a very weak record, the later days were kind to them, and after beating CLG on day three, they secured themselves an upper bracket berth where they face off against iG.
Mouz is one of the most well-known teams on the scene, thanks largely to their solo mid/ganker player SingSing, who is notorious for his antics on stream and in game. Their play is extremely aggressive and sometimes chaotic, and at their best, Mouz is capable of taking advantage by disrupting the enemy's team and gameplan. Originally, they were not scheduled to play in The International, but because team MUFC was unable to attend, they had another chance. The day before the preliminaries, they faced off against the Chinese team WE to determine who would get to play, and they won 3-0. However, since then, they have not looked strong, going 2-12 in their group and landing in the lower bracket, where they face Chinese team EHOME.
Darer has been a team that has gone through many roster changes. However, this has given them the opportunity to take some of the best players from the remnants of old Na'Vi and M5. However, unfortunately, it seems that they still have not managed to capture a strong team dynamic, proving that in Dota, individual skill only goes so far. They have gone 3-11 in their group - a disappointing result, and have landed themselves in the lower bracket, where they face Absolute Legends.
The other team representing North America, Complexity has not been the most consistent team results-wise. However, in the recent past months, Complexity has looked extremely strong and solid, and they had consistent and disciplined play. They were considered one of the strongest teams going into The International. They lived up to this expectation, going 9-5 in their group and securing an upper bracket seed against team Zenith.
League of Legends fans are sure to know this team as well. Moscow Five has been a staple of Russian Dota, and they have one of the most legendary Dota players on their team in the form of Vigoss (or vVv as some know him by.) Their results have thus far been very inconsistent and plagued with instability, both in terms of gameplay and the team organization as a whole. Unfortunately, this was reflected in their preliminary standings, as they went 2-12 in their group and are slated to face TongFu in the lower bracket.
Coming all the way from Australia and Southeast Asia, Absolute Legends is one of the premier teams in the Asian Dota scene. When they first emerged onto the scene, they immediately started showing good results and placed themselves in the highest echelon of teams. Although recently their results have been lackluster compared to their explosive start, they are not a team to be taken lightly. Their preliminary rounds were decent, but not quite good enough to grant them an upper bracket seed. After going 5-9, they were placed in the lower bracket against Darer.
Orange is a team that has come out of Malaysia, featuring some of the strongest players Southeast Asia has to offer. Under the leadership of Winter, with superstar players such as YamateH and Mushi, they have adopted the strong and disciplined mechanics of the Chinese teams they face off frequently against while adding a bit of Southeast Asian flair to it, resulting in strong results and interesting games. They advanced from their group with an 8-6 record, placing them in the winner bracket against powerhouse LGD Gaming.
Zenith comes out of Singapore with an all-star lineup, featuring not only Singaporean allstars such as Hyhy and iceiceice, but also one of the strongest Dota players of all time - Loda. Zenith is known for playing off-the-wall strategies and heroes and somehow making them work. In the preliminaries alone, they chose Axe to resounding success, and they even tried a hand at Alchemist, although they were not as successful there. Nonetheless, they still advanced with an 8-6 record, and they face Complexity in the first round of the winner bracket.
EHOME are the runner ups from last year's International, but since then, they have disbanded and reformed with a largely new roster. The current roster has three of the five players from The International team, and have added KingJ and PCT as strong support players to complement their roster. The roster instability has reflected in their play, however, since they have not had nearly as much time to gel as a team as others have. They went 6-8 in their group, and will be facing off against Mouzsports in the lower bracket.
TongFu was a team formed by former players from a number of other Chinese Dota teams. Their current roster was not solidified until early 2012, but the individual strengths of their players was enough to carry them through the Eastern Qualifier and land them a spot in The International. However, much like EHOME, the instability of their roster has not allowed them to form a strong team dynamic, and they also went 6-8 in their group. Their lower bracket match will be against Moscow Five.
DK's roster has been stable since the "Great Chinese Reshuffle" of 2011, although at the time, they were still a DotA 1 team. They have been practicing Dota 2 a lot since early 2012, and the team stability since then has allowed them to produce strong results. Their captain BurNing is one of the strongest carry players in China, and the rest of the team knows exactly what to do to support him. Their team is characterized by a very strong 4-protect-1 strategy, although BurNing is known to get his hands dirty. They went 11-3 in their group and are slated to face Na'Vi in the winner bracket.
Invictus Gaming was formed when the son of a wealthy businessman bought out the team CCM for $6 million dollars. They participated in the first International, but due to lack of practice, they did not perform well. Since then, they lost xiao8 and ddc to team LGD and picked up Awoke and Faith. The current iG team is formed as an amalgamation of the two teams that iG had before, and through a rigorous practice schedule and stone-cold seriousness, they have managed to go 13-1 in their group. They face Evil Geniuses in the winner bracket.
LGD is another team that was invited to the first International, but due to a Chinese reshuffle in which iG acquired four of LGD's players, they were unable to participate. Since then, Chinese legend player ZSMJ created a new LGD under him, but shortly after, he retired, being replaced by LGD's current carry player Sylar. Although upon creation, they had some unstable results, no one is doubting their play at The International - they've gone an undefeated 14-0 in their preliminary groups and are set to face Orange in the first match of the winner bracket.
Well, this was a much longer project than I originally anticipated. This is my first sort of major eSports article or writing of any sorts, and I definitely wasn't prepared for the amount of work it ended up being. As an avid League of Legends and Dota 2 player myself, and an overall fan of all sorts of eSports, I always encourage players to spread their wings and explore new space. There's just too much awesome stuff out there to limit yourself on what you should see, in my opinion.
For those of you who want to learn more and may want to even have a crack at the game yourself, Mylmyzz has created an excellent video series to acclimate yourself to the new game.
HUGE shoutout to TeamLiquid for picking up Dota 2 as an official title for coverage. Hearing this news inspired me to update the blog for The International, and I look forward to amazing things coming from TL in the Dota 2 scene. Maybe I'll take my hand at becoming a writer myself!
I would like to thank /r/dota2 and /r/leagueoflegends for giving me support with this project. Huge thanks to dota2wiki.com for providing the item pages and images, and also to joinDOTA.com for insight into teams and being an awesome site for keeping up on the state of competitive Dota 2. If you've made it all the way down here and read all of what I've written, and it has convinced you to maybe take a look at Dota 2 this weekend when you wouldn't have otherwise, then I have succeeded. Thanks to you, the reader, the observer, and the eSports fan.