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How to play Dota 2 - a strategy and guide for beginners

Updated on November 5, 2014

Tutorial checklist

  • Mechanics I: Davion, the Dragon Knight
  • Mechanics II: Sharpeye, the Sniper
  • Lane Introduction: Sniper vs Axe
  • Middle Lane Practice: Know Thine Enemy
  • Play Vs Bots: Training Skirmishes
  • Play Vs Humans: The War Begins
  • Last Hit Training
  • Last Hit Practice

Is this the guide for me?

This guide is aimed towards new players that have no clue what they are doing and need help.

Before you start reading, make sure you complete the tutorials the listed to your right. The in-game tutorials are REALLY well made, and will give you a good "feel" of the game. You will also receive free cosmetic items for Sniper by completing each tutorial!!

Welcome to Dota 2!

You are going to suck.
Yes that may seem harsh, but unfortunately, Dota 2 has a massive learning curve. Unless you have experienced either DotA, or Heroes of Newerth (HoN), and not so much League of Legends (LoL), Dota 2 is VERY hard to get your head around.

What you need to learn:

  • Heroes
  • Items
  • Laning
  • Ganking
  • Pushing
  • Advanced mechanics

Which type of hero interests you?

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The basics

You need to have a grasp of each hero and how they work. In order to do this, you need to learn and experience (either from playing or watching professionals) all the 104 heroes to have basic understanding of the power levels of each hero.

In the competitive scene, heroes are sorted into farm priority, but as a beginner you shouldn't be too worried about this system. There are main types of heroes you should know: supports, gankers, and carries.

Early game (0~15 minute mark)
Middle phase (15~30)
Late game (30~60)
Most effective
Less effective
Most effective
Less effective
Most effective

Quick tip: Choose a hero guide at the start of each game. Click on the book at the top left corner of the screen to pull up the guide system. Click the arrow to see a list of the most popular guides. Click on OK at the bottom to use the guide.

Special note to people who haven't played Warcraft:

Heroes are sorted into the following attributes (STR, AGI, INT):

  • Strength (each point increases maximum health by 19, increases health regeneration by 0.03 HP per second, and 1 attack damage IF it's a heroes primary attribute)
  • Agility (each 7 points increases a Hero's armor by 1, each point increases a Hero's attack speed by 1, and 1 attack damage IF it's a heroes primary attribute)
  • Intelligence (each point increases maximum mana by 13, increases mana regeneration by 0.04 mana per second, and 1 attack damage IF it's a heroes primary attribute)

Each hero has a primary attribute, and gains attack damage based on it's primary attribute. Heroes gain a certain amount of each attributes per level. So by example, Ogre Magi (Intelligence primary attribute) gains 3.2 STR, 1.55 AGI, 2.4 INT per level. Because of this inconsistency, not all Strength based heroes are tanky, not all Agility heroes are carries, and not all Intelligence heroes are supports.

You can find more information here.


  • to learn: 1/5
  • to play well: 4/5

To play a support well, you will need a lot of knowledge, such as warding, creep stacking/pulling, and making use of your low farm priority. Knowing positioning and timing is key to being a good support.

Supports are probably the hardest role to master in very high skill level.

Recommended supports for beginners:

  • Tidehunter
  • Venomancer
  • Vengeful Spirit
  • Lion
  • Ogre Magi
  • Crystal maiden
  • Lich

Supports: -

Supports are the backbone to your team. You may think they are weak pieces of shit that just die all game, but they themselves were probably the reason why you won that clutch game.

A supports performance peaks during the early stages of the game, that being said, their usefulness is still carried on into the late game, so they are usually heroes that:

  • perform well without much gold or levels
  • have heals, stuns, slows, nukes (spells that deal a large amount of damage)

Your main goal as a support is to help your carry stay safe in lane. One rule of thumb as a support is to ALWAYS let your carry get the gold from creeps and harass the enemy heroes using your normal attacks. But be careful while harassing, as the enemy creeps will target you if you click attack on enemy heroes.

If your carry is doing fine during the early to middle stages of the game, you should always try to help out other lanes (by using a teleport scroll) if needed.


  • to learn: 3/5
  • to play well: 2/5

Unlike supports, most ganker difficulties can range from easy to very difficult. A ganker such as Invoker is very hard to learn, while Night Stalker is fairly easy. In order to play a ganker well, map awareness is important. This usually comes from experience and constantly checking the mini-map.

Recommended gankers for beginners:

  • Night Stalker
  • Spirit Breaker
  • Bloodseeker
  • Bounty Hunter

Gankers: -

In terms of gold and experience needed for gankers to shine, they are some what in between carries and supports.

Gankers usually have slows or stuns that can kill enemy heroes easily, providing them with a ton of gold and experience.

However, unlike supports, if played correctly, gankers can scale well into middle or even late game through killing (or assisting) enemy heroes.

In some cases, gankers can transition into a role of a carry or semi-carry if given a large amount of gold and experience advantage.

Where gankers start to lose their presence is in the late game, when their skills can't scale as well as carries.

As a ganker you should kill enemy heroes (particularly carries) as much as possible.


  • to learn: 2/5
  • to play well: 3/5

In terms of abilities, most carries have quite simple point-and-click and passive abilities. This makes them quite easy to learn. The reason why most carries are not recommended for newer players is because they are required to know key mechanics that will allow them to gain gold fast, such as last hitting (which new players will find hard).

Recommended carries for beginners:

  • Skeleton King
  • Sven
  • Drow Ranger
  • Dragon Knight
  • Sniper
  • Lifestealer

Carries: -

To put it short, generally, carry heroes are weak at the start of the game, but gradually become a killing beast by the end of the game.
While the role of carry can be vague at times, it is usually labels to heroes that either:

  • have skills (and sometimes stats/attributes) that scale well into late game (Phantom Lancer, Faceless Void)
  • farm gold very fast (Natures prophet, Alchemist).
  • can kill heroes easily (Chaos Knight, Bounty Hunter), hence gaining an advance in gold.
  • or a combination of all of the above (Anti-Mage, Lifestealer)

Every team should only have a maximum of 2. This is because carries only excel later on in the game. So, if you are already getting destroyed in the early stages in the game, you are going to need farm up to catch up on the gold you (or your team...or both) lost by dying. And if you have more than 2 carries, it will delay your team's late game presence even further.

It is also important to note that if you're on the opposite side of this argument, and the enemy team has more carries, is it is best to win the game as soon as possible because you wouldn't want to deal with beefed up carries.

Extended "Picking the right carry"

Observer ward on high ground
Observer ward on high ground
Sentry ward on high ground
Sentry ward on high ground
No wards
No wards
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Town Portal ScrollObserver WardSentry WardIron BranchAnimal CourierQuelling bladeStout Shield
Town Portal Scroll
Town Portal Scroll
Observer Ward
Observer Ward
Sentry Ward
Sentry Ward
Iron Branch
Iron Branch
Animal Courier
Animal Courier
Quelling blade
Quelling blade
Stout Shield
Stout Shield

Animal Courier (150g) and Flying Courier (220g to upgrade)

  • Should be bought by supports, and later upgraded to flying.
  • Don't let courier die, provides 175g to all enemy heroes if it die.

Quelling Blade (225g)

  • Commonly picked up melee carries to help them last-hit in lane.

Stout Shield (250g)

  • Commonly picked up on melee heroes that will be taking harassment from a ranged hero in lane.

The basics

In Dota 2, items vary from consumables that heal HP and mana, to items with actives that provide magic immunity. Although different items are recommended on different heroes, you should at least know the basics:

Town Portal Scroll (TP scroll) (135g) (1 use)


Observer Ward (150g) (2 uses)

  • Supports should be buying these throughout the WHOLE game.
  • Provides map vision (if placed correctly), vital for control of the map, and to spot incoming enemy ganks, so always have these placed across the map as much as possible.
  • Ultimate guide to warding by Team Digitas.

Sentry Ward (200g) (2 uses)

  • Get these if the enemy team has invisible heroes
  • Can be used to see enemy wards and destroy them (de-warding/counter warding)

Iron Branches (53g)

  • One of the best and cost efficient early game items in the game
  • Provides 1 to each stat/attribute, which is equivalent to 19HP, 0.03 HP per second, 1 attack speed, 13 mana, 0.04 mana per second, and 1 damage.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Smoke of DeceitDust of Appearance Magic WandBracerDrums of Endurance Blink DaggerForce Staff Medallion of Courage Ghost ScepterMekansm
Smoke of Deceit
Smoke of Deceit
Dust of Appearance
Dust of Appearance
Magic Wand
Magic Wand
Drums of Endurance
Drums of Endurance
Blink Dagger
Blink Dagger
Force Staff
Force Staff
Medallion of Courage
Medallion of Courage
Ghost Scepter
Ghost Scepter

Blink Dagger (1900g)

  • Core item on initiating heroes that need the extra positioning to fully maximize their abilities.

Force Staff (2250g)

  • Sort of a cheaper version (even though its more expensive) of Blink dagger that mainly supports get that can't save up for a blink dagger.

Medallion of Courage (1075g)

  • Cheap and easy buildup. Easy way for a support to help boost their carry's damage on enemies.

Ghost Scepter (1600g)

  • Good for supports who need to survive against physical damage carries

Mekanism (2306g)

  • Every team should have one. The ability to heal after a teamfight also allows you to continue to push without having to return to the fountain to heal.

Important common items

Smoke of Deceit (100g) (1 use)

  • Used to move around undetected to gank.

Dust of Appearance (180g) (1 use)

  • Important item if you want to reveal and gank invisible heroes.

Magic Stick (200g)/Magic Wand (509g)

  • This item alone can save your life multiple times. Can heal up to 225 heath and mana once fully charged. Very cost efficient stat item as well. Great against enemy heroes that spam a lot of abilities.

Bracer (525g)

  • Cost efficient item for stats/attributes and especially health (6 STR = 114 heath). Also builds in to Drums of Endurance.

Drums of Endurance (1775g)

  • Very good stat items, cost efficient, and easy build up. This item is good on any hero, so when in doubt - get a drum.

3 lane creeps
3 lane creeps

What is auto attacking?

Auto attacking is when you just let your hero mindlessly attack the creeps.

What is last hitting? (Should be covered in tutorial)

Last hitting is waiting for the final blow to kill a creep, granting you gold for the kill. This methods helps you gain gold, and also prevents the lane from being pushed.

What is denying?

If you land the final blow on an allied creep (you can only attack allied creeps below 50% hp) then you deny (a "!" symbol is shown when this happens) your lane opponents lose the chance to last hit that creep, and enemy heroes get less experience as a result.

Denying a creep
Denying a creep

The basics

This is the initial phase of the game, and generally lasts between the first 10 to 20 minutes of the game. There are basic units (creeps) spawned every 30 seconds from each of the three lanes. There are 3 melee creeps and 1 ranged creep (deal extra damage to melee and ranged creeps). Catapults (deal extra damage to towers) are added every couple of minutes. Creeps will eventually push to enemy towers if left untouched.

One thing to note when laning, DO NOT AUTO ATTACK!

Why should I not do this?

  • Because you'll push the lane closer to the enemy's tower. When they enemy is closer to their tower, they are closer to being safe. This means it is much more difficult to gank these heroes when you can't sneak behind them AND it also puts YOU in dangerous area because you are further away from your tower.
  • Instead of auto attacking, time your attacks. You can do this by either: right clicking the ground and wait for a last hit, or constantly press "S" until they are low enough. If you have auto attack OFF, you just need to stand next to the creep and wait.

Why is the hard lane harder?

Because the creeps meet closer to the enemy tower, which means you are more vulnerable to enemy ganks. And as you can see from the map, the river wraps behind you, opening more routes for you to be ganked.

Who goes where?

Lanes are usually setup into 3 types:

  • 2 in safe/easy lane, 1 in middle, and 2 at the long/hard lane (recommended for beginners)
  • 3 in either safe or hard lane, 1 in middle, 1 in safe lane or hard lane (not recommended for beginners)
  • 2 in either safe or hard lane, 1 middle, 1 in jungle, 1 in safe or hard lane

It is recommended to have at least 1 ranged hero in each lane (besides middle).

In a normal setup for the safe lane, you want the main carry in this lane so he/she can farm without the fear of getting ganked and also a support to help him.

As for middle lane, a hero that can benefit from early gold and experience (usually gankers). Since you are in the lane yourself, you will gain all the experience for yourself. Middle is probably the easiest to defends yourself in because you are quite close to your tower. There are two reasons to consider when you pick a solo mid:

  • are you a ganking hero that can take advantage of level gaps?
  • is your hero going to greatly benefit from a level advantage AND a farm advantage from sitting in a lane generally undisturbed for 8-15 minutes?

And lastly for the hard lane, second priority heroes such as semi-carries or gankers with a support should be considered. Heroes with good escape mechanisms is also recommended as this lane is more dangerous than others.


  • As a CARRY, your main priority in this phase is to get as many last hits as you can. Your second priority is to kill enemy heroes if your support in lane can damage them enough.
  • As a SUPPORT, you should be harassing the enemy heroes and and trying setup possible kills with your spells. Your second priority should be trying to deny your ally creeps.
  • As a GANKER, much like a carry, you should focus on last hitting, but that priority shouldn't be above trying to snag some early kills. Every chance you have an opportunity, always do so. Every time you kill an enemy hero, you gain 250g and large sum of experience, moreover, the enemy that died will lose a certain amount of gold.

What is ganking?

Ganking is teaming up with ally heroes to kill enemy heroes, usually with an advantage in your favor. Not only does ganking allow you to gain gold, it also makes your enemies LOSE gold they die.

The basics

This is the phase of the game that usually comes after laning, but is also an ongoing phase throughout the game. When ganking, teamwork is huge, hence communication is key to a successful ganks. If you don't have a microphone or you're a slow typer, simple pings are just as effective. The chat wheel (default on hotkey Y) can also be effective. It is is also important to WATCH YOUR MINI MAP to see where your allies and enemies are so you can enter at the right time.

Quick tip: Never fight uphill. You have a 25% chance to miss when attacking uphill. Standing on stairs and ramps count as being downhill.

Example of juking through trees by SexyBamboe

Trees can be destroyed to manipulate vision
Trees can be destroyed to manipulate vision

On the receiving end of a gank

When the enemy heroes try to gank you, don't panic! Immediately stun or slow if you have an ability, and then you need to GET OUT. Keep running, don't stop for any reason, just keep running until you get to your tower.

To prevent these situations from happening, it is important to have wards up at ALL TIMES. With wards placed, you could easily have seen the enemy coming and got to safety in time.

Another way to lower your chance of this happening, is to call every time there is missing heroes in your lane simply by "miss *insert enemy hero name* *insert your lane*". This will let your team know the hero in your lane could be going to another lane to gank.

If there are missing heroes in other lanes and your lane is pushed toward the enemy tower, it is best to stay back and close to your tower (tower hugging). Wait till the creep wave pushes back towards your tower. You will lose some experience and possible gold, but at least you didn't die.

A technique called "juking" can be used to escape clutch ganks and save your ass. It basically involves you running in and between trees or cliffs, manipulating the vision of your enemy.

Radiant tower (left), Dire tower (right)
Radiant tower (left), Dire tower (right)

Quick tip: Make the tower stop attacking you. Attack one of your allied creeps, even one full on HP. Under most circumstances the tower will switch to attacking whatever is closest.

The basics

Pushing is important for gaining map control and also gold for your team. This phase is generally during and after the ganking phase when enemy heroes have died and is safe to push.

When an enemy tower is destroyed you will get a certain amount of gold depending on who destroyed it (450-600 if you get the last hit on a tower, 200 if your teammates or team kills it, 100 if the enemy denies a tower). You can also deny your own towers if they drop below 10% HP. This will deny your enemy team a total of 500-800 gold for each tower.

When pushing to destroy a tower, you should have at least 3 allies in lane to help (less if you have a hero that can melt towers easily). If the enemy team start to TP to that tower, and they out number you, it is best to back off since they have the advantage of the tower.

More information on buildings here.

What are barracks? (Should be slightly covered in tutorial)

Barracks are buildings behind the Tier 3 tower in each base. Each ane has 2 barracks; a melee and range. If your melee barracks is destroyed, the enemy will spawn stronger melee creeps on that lane. The same applies to the ranged barracks but with ranged creeps instead.

Radiant top barracks
Radiant top barracks

The base

Later towards the game, you and your team should be aiming to destroy a set of barracks (rax) of either lane. Destroying barracks should be your main goal when pushing and is the single most important way to put the game in your favor.

When pushing towards the base, STAY FOCUSED. Is your goal to focus down their carry fist? destroy their melee rax and back off? siege your way to their throne? Communicate with your team what your team's goal is! And one important note: DON'T EVER CHASE TO THEIR FOUNTAIN. DESTROY THEIR RAX OR TOWERS.

At the end of the game you will reach your goal of the game of destroying the enemy throne (Ancient).

Dire (left), Radiant (right) Ancients
Dire (left), Radiant (right) Ancients

Did you learn anything new from this guide?

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Advanced mechanics

There are a TON of things you will need to learn outside from this guide. So I will reference very well written guides below. One a final note: don't expect to learn just by reading guides, ACTUALLY PLAY. You will learn best from experience and playing. And on that note: have fun, don't give up, mute ragers and flamers, and ENJOY THE AWESOME GAME VALVE AND ICE FROG HAS DEVELOPED.


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