60 Ways to get better at Dota 2
25. Have a game plan
Always have a game plan before you start playing. How will you win the game? The plan typically consists of three parts:
- How will you win the lanes? The lane setup is what matters most here. E.g. We’ll avoid the bad safe lane match-up by swapping the safe and off lanes. We’ll rotate our pos. 4 between the mid and offlane to search for kills and to pressure.
- How will you win map control? What are your key timings and tactics you’ll use? E.g. after the laning stage our pos. 1 Gyro will TP to the top lane and together with the supports and offlaner will take control of the enemy safe lane and jungle. Our pos. 2 SF will use the free space to flash-farm our jungle. Once the SF has BKB + some small stat items we’ll gather as 5 and start forcing 5v5 fights to take important objectives – mid towers followed by Roshan.
- How will you close the game?E.g. after a successful fight and one luxury item on our pos. 1 & 2 heroes each, we’ll take Roshan and use the Aegis to attempt to break the enemy base and take rax.
Of course, the plans can change. For example, if the game is not going well and you cannot execute your late game plan (how to close the game), it can change from the one above to something different: E.g. 4 people will stall the game and try to delay pushes while our pos. 1 will split-push to force reactions and buy time. We reach the super late game where the resource advantage the enemy team has doesn’t matter as much and we close the game when an important enemy doesn’t have a buyback.
Resource: DotaAlchemy planning to win a Dota Game
26. Use optimal item builds
It’s useful to approach item builds in two steps.
One: what is the standard build for that hero in that position in the current meta? You should understand it and use it as your starting point. It’s the default build for a reason. If there is more than one standard build, usually this entails more than one way to play the hero. For example, PA can easily go for a quick Battlefury OR for faster-paced aggressive items (fast Deso, etc.). The BF build means that PA plans to farm for longer, while the aggressive build means she plans to join fights fast and create space. Each build is better in specific situations, and you need to choose the right one for the game (that works best with your game plan).
Two: does the build need adjustments based on the specific game? E.g. the standard build goes for a BKB as a 2nd big item, but in this game, you’re facing a lot of magic damage and disables. It might be a good idea to get BKB as a first big item if you plan to fight. Another example – the standard build goes for a Daedalus in the late game, but in this game, your lineup has plenty of damage and not enough disables. Maybe it’s a better idea to get Abyssal/Scythe, etc.
Resources: The Dotabuff Guides is the best resource to get a grasp of the meta builds; To get a good grasp of the new neutral items, we have a Dota 2 Neutral Items Tier List article.
27. Use optimal skill builds
The logic is the same as above:
- One: what is the standard build for the hero and why? If there are variations, it usually means different ways to play the hero.
- Two: does the build need adjustments? This is rarer for skill builds compared to item builds which need some adjustments in most games, but it still happens. For example, let’s say the standard build for PA is to max Dagger + Blink and Blur last. In this game, however, you’re facing a lot of physical damage and you believe that maxing out Blur instead of Blink in combination with an HP item (e.g. S&Y) will make you extremely hard to kill and able to play very aggressively from early on.
Resources: Dotabuff Guides
28. Learn the basics of drafting
What makes any combination of 5 heroes a good or a bad draft? Theoretically, you can find a viable game plan with any random 5 heroes, but following a few basic rules of thumb can make your life a lot easier. Here is a checklist for you to follow:
Logical lanes: what lane setup will you go for? Who will be supporting in the lanes, who will be farming, how will you deal with the strong lanes of your opponents, how will you punish the weak lanes?
1-5 Positions filled out: there isn’t enough space for 5 farming heroes on the map. Some heroes need to have higher farming priority, others to spend most of their time creating space and supporting them in fights. So, do you have a hero who can do decently the job of each of the five positions – from hard farmer to hard support?
Damage: Winning fights is almost impossible without a good source of damage. Make sure that you have enough damage to win fights in the early and mid game, not only in the late game once you have luxury items. Moreover, burst damage and sustained damage output both have their uses. Nukes are great for securing a quick kill on a target, but might not be enough to win a prolonged 5v5 fight. Ideally, you need a bit of both.
Pushing and Roshan potential: How will you take the objectives? Do you have heroes who deal good damage to towers/Roshan? Do you have a frontline hero who can push the tower without fear of being instantly blown-up by the enemy initiation?
Wave clear: a large part of the battle for space in a game of Dota is actually about pushing the creep waves into enemy territory. If you have a lot of single-target heroes who kill creep waves slowly, you’ll have trouble keeping the creep waves pushed out and securing map control.
Control: if killing the enemy heroes is a part of the game plan, then you need to have control, otherwise the enemy team will be able to disengage unwanted fights easily. Disclaimer: killing heroes as a goal is often part of the plan, but doesn’t have to be in all cases. E.g. if you plan to force fights and take map control by pushing towers, you don’t need control that desperately – you can be successful at claiming the objectives regardless if enemy heroes die or disengage – they will have to commit to a fight at some point if they don’t want to lose their base. That said, control is still very useful in fights for a variety of reasons – keeping opponents from kiting you, etc.
Initiation & Counter Initiation & Saves: who starts the fights on your team? If you don’t have an initiator, you’ll have trouble starting a fight on your terms. Like the example with control, you can still force fights by going for objectives and forcing the enemies to fight into you, but this by definition means that they will start the fight on their terms. In such situations, it’s very, very helpful to have a counter-initiator with some form of AoE control and a mechanic that allows you to save the teammate(s) which the enemy team focuses on (ideally your tanky frontline hero).
Resource: Dota Alchemy Drafting in any meta
29. Think about player-hero synergy (comfort picks)
Even the highest level pros have a pool of comfort picks. Forcing a player on your team to play a hero they aren’t familiar with just because it fits the game well theoretically is usually a very bad idea.
Your pool of heroes for a game doesn’t actually consist of all heroes in Dota. It consists of the heroes your teammates can play well.
30. Think about lane synergy & counters
Lane synergy is how well your lane partner heroes work together. For example, a mid OD can work very well with certain roaming supports because he can set up for a gank with Astral Imprisonment. A core Ursa works very well with a support that can provide good control – slows and disables help Ursa stick to his target for as long as possible and increases his kill potential greatly.
Lane counters are all about lane matchups. For example, if the enemy team has a safe lane Ursa, drafting an offlane Dark Seer on your team will make Ursa’s lane much more difficult. Ursa has trouble out-pushing the lane against the Ion Shell pressure unless it invests more points in Earth Shock which is unusual, and Surge counters Ursa’s high kill potential because it disallows him to stick to his target. (Tip: after the picks are made, use the lane-swapping tactic to avoid bad lane matchups.)
Resource: DotaAlchemy laning stage drafting
31. Think about spell synergy & counters
Spell synergies are generally speaking powerful spell combinations that increase the impact of your individual picks.
- For example, Void has Chronosphere which is strong on its own, but it becomes even stronger if you have a powerful ranged damage-dealer that can secure kills during the Chrono duration (e.g. Skywrath, Witch Doctor, Clinkz, OD, Lina, etc.).
- Mirana’s Arrow is a great control spell, but it is very unreliable. A good setup, however, makes it much more reliable and easier to use. That’s why Mirana + Bane or Shadow Demon are classic combinations.
Spell counters follow the same logic, but instead of increasing the impact of specific abilities, they decrease it.
- To continue the example with Void – during Chrono, the enemy team will try to focus down one of your heroes. Having a long-lasting defensive mechanism (SD with Disruption, OD with Astral Imprisonment) or a long-range counter-initiation (Naga Siren with her song) will likely decrease the impact of Chronosphere and will make the game much more difficult for the Void.
Resource: DotaAlcehmy How to Counter Any Hero
32. Think about tactical synergy & counters
Much more abstract but equally important as the other kinds of synergies and counters. On this level, however, we’re not talking about individual hero interactions, but the interactions of the game plans of the two teams.
The tactical triangle is a useful tool here as well, but you need to think about it in the context of the game plan. For example, if you know that the enemy team will try to gank and find pick-offs, it’s a great idea to have a draft that can play 5-man Dota in order to invalidate the ganking game plan of the enemy team and to force them to play your game instead. The worse mistake you can make if the enemy team has strong gankers is to pick passive heroes that need a lot of space and time to farm in the early-mid game (i.e. they want to split-farm, and the enemy ganks will prevent them to do so).
33. Utilize easy to execute strategies in pubs
Not all game plans are made equal. Some require a lot of coordination and clutch execution, while others are quite straightforward. This is true on two levels – tactics and fight execution.
Hard to execute fights: Try to minimize the riskiness of not landing your spells. This means two things in general:
- Using easy-to land spells and setup for your skill shots. E.g. Mirana’s Arrow is a very risky spell if you don’t have great set up for it and relying on it alone as a tool for control and initiation will give bad results.
- Don’t have your whole fight plan revolve around a key skill. E.g. If you rely entirely on a very well-place Chronosphere, a single mistake by the Void player could easily cost you the fight and the game. Have backup plans: e.g. Chronosphere + Ravage means that if your Chrono is inefficient, you still have Ravage to rely on for fight control.
Hard to execute tactics: 5-man Dota Wins Pubs, Rat Dota loses pubs
In pubs, especially low to mid-level games, relying on split-farming and split-pushing as your default game plan is a bad idea. The reason is that it requires your whole team to avoid fights for long periods of time, and even one trigger-happy teammate can mess up your execution. Moreover, one bad over-extension by your split-pusher(s) can be very costly.
On the other end of the spectrum, 5-man Dota is quite easy to execute. You gather as 5 and start pushing towers together and fighting together. It doesn’t require coordination between your teammates all over the map and it doesn’t require that much map awareness. It only requires good positioning and spell-usage in the actual fights, which is more intuitive.
34. Use hard-to-predict picks and strats
Being unpredictable is a huge benefit in mid-high level Dota as it makes your strategy much harder to counter. This usually means two things
Position flexibility: heroes who could theoretically play different positions are a good way to confuse your opponents. E.g. Mirana is a great example of a hero who reveals very little about your strat – she can literally be played in all 5 positions. Of course, the metagame will make one or two positions much more likely, but you can still use her flexibility to throw a curveball at your opponents and e.g. to last pick an unexpected new carry hero.
Lane flexibility: we mentioned lane swaps a couple of times so far – a great way to avoid lane counters. Having cores who can do well in different lanes helps a lot in this regard. E.g. PA is usually played as a safe lane carry in dual or trilanes, but she is entirely capable of playing solo mid.
Tactical Freedom: a great way to avoid tactical counters and to change your game plan when needed. E.g. if your team is good at nothing else but 5-man Dota, you’ll have trouble dealing with split-farming teams. That’s why a good lineup is able to play all three play styles with some reasonable degree of efficiency – it gives you the opportunity to adapt to the game. Keep in mind that as the game goes late, items give you the opportunity to fill in the gaps in your lineup and make it flexible anyway. That said, having some flexibility before this point is quite valuable and will allow you to play around timings. E.g. split-farming until you get some important levels/items, 5-man Dota afterward, etc.
Resource: DotaAlchemy Flex Picks
35. Don’t over-commit to counters
Very generally speaking, having a synergistic lineup that your players are comfortable with is 80% of what makes a draft good. All the intricacies of drafting and high-level counters are the other 20%. It doesn’t make sense to sacrifice the 80% for the 20%. Make sure the 80% is covered, and only then think about the 20%.