A Beginner’s Guide to Dota 2: Part 2.5 – The Heroes (Continued)


    Last time, Tim talked about a few ways to classify heroes, as well as giving details on a couple of fairly easy heroes you might like to try out. Today, he’s… actually, he’s going to do much the same thing. And maybe throw in a few tips for beginners, too! Also: join our guild.

    Are you back and happy to answer more questions now?

    Sure, as long as I can be flippant and sarcastic.

    Fine. So what if I want to play someone stealthy, skilled in going behind enemy lines and taking out their squishier members in a single strike?

    Take Drow Ranger, and buy a Shadow Blade?

    What’s a Shadow Blade?

    Oh, right, I haven’t talked about items yet. That’s next week, I guess. Well, there are a fair few stealthy heroes and you could get away with the permanently invisible Riki, who makes regular appearances in low-level games. The problem is that his presence heavily changes the way the enemy team plays (if they’re any good) and you need to learn how to counter them doing that, so of all the stealthy types, I’d probably recommend the simpler Bounty Hunter. Not least because he’s visible most of the time, so newbie enemies often won’t bother buying Sentry Wards or Dust of Appearance, making his escaping from bad situations a lot easier.

    Does he have a jetpack? Has he been told NO DISINTEGRATIONS?

    I’ll make the crap references around here, thank you. No, Bounty Hunter is a melee hero who is exceptionally good at doing huge amounts of damage in a single hit and getting his team loads of gold.

    His bread-and-butter abilities are Shadow Walk and Jinada. Shadow Walk turns him invisible and lets him move through other units until it times out (15 seconds at level 1, 30 seconds at level 4) or until he attacks or uses an ability. If he attacks to get out of Shadow Walk, then he also get bonus damage.

    So he can turn invisible and then stab people in the face for massive damage?

    Yup, or he can turn invisible to run away from fights he’ll lose. You can even turn invisible, wait for the cooldown to finish, hit someone, and then turn invisible again to escape. He’s a bit of an elusive chap, that Bounty Hunter.

    Jinada is even more nasty, though. Every time it’s off cooldown, his next attack will be – for free – a critical hit that also slows enemies. Fancy doing a guaranteed 225% damage every six seconds? Bounty Hunter’s your man.

    His other two abilities are also pretty nasty. Shuriken Toss does exactly what you’d expect, lobbing a Shuriken that ministuns (doesn’t really stun for more than maybe a tenth of a second, but breaks any channelled abilities like a town portal spell or a few ultimates) and does a bit of damage. It’s also a good finisher in case a target’s trying to escape.

    Then there’s his ultimate, Track, which is what can win you games. This… well, for want of a better explanation, it sticks a homing beacon on the target which gives you full view of them, even if they turn invisible, and all allies within a certain range of this target get a movement speed boost. You can see where they are, and move faster when chasing them down. And if that’s not enough, if the target dies while Track is active, both Bounty Hunter and any nearby allies get bonus gold.

    In short: he can turn invisible, roam around enemy territory, find a weak target, drop Track on them, hit them with Jinada, finish them with Shuriken, and pick up a princely sum in return. And he’s a stealth character who works really well to counter anyone else who can stealth.

    That seems a bit br… oh, I said that about Lich.

    And I said that pretty much everyone is broken in one way or another.

    Two last questions then. First: what about tanks?

    What about them?

    Well, what if I want to play as a tank?

    As the comments are doubtless going to indicate (and already have, in the previous article) tankiness isn’t really a role in and of itself, but I do understand the desire to play a hero who’s maybe a bit harder to kill in the early stages. So, two suggestions for more durable heroes who can take a bit of pounding early on and survive. The first is Skeleton King: he’s big, he’s hard to kill, and if he’s equipped right he can do quite a lot of damage. He takes a bit of explaining, though.

    Oh, here we go.

    Shush. Two of his powers are pretty easy to understand – Hellfire Blast launches out a big flaming skull that hurts and slows people, and stuns them for awhile; it’s pretty good for chasing people down or finishing them off. The other one, Vampiric Aura, gives lifesteal (the ability to regain a percentage of damage dealt as health) to him and nearby allies. As you’d imagine, this can make him rather tricky to kill. Not a good idea to get Vamp Aura early though – it works on creeps so it will push your lane further forward, and because it’s based on a percentage of your damage, it takes awhile before it really helps you out at all.

    Is that why he’s hard to kill?

    Hahaha no. Skeleton King is hard to kill because he has an ult which is pretty much perfect for beginners: Reincarnation. If he dies (and has at least 140 mana when he dies) then he will respawn where he stands, with full health and mana, after three seconds. In short: he’s got extra lives.

    I know I’ve said this twice before, but that seems horribly broken.

    He can’t do it constantly. When it’s levelled up to full he can do it once every 60 seconds, but it’s a lot less regular at earlier levels. Anyone with mana drain can drop him below 140 mana, and if he’s not cautious and uses Hellfire Blast too many times, it simply won’t work because his mana’s too low. It’s also worth noting that if the rest of his team is down or fleeing, no-one can help him out – he’ll just respawn and get mobbed by the enemy team.

    What’s his fourth ability?

    Mortal Strike, which is the one that takes some explaining. Basically… well, if you use this on an enemy, King steals a percentage of that hero’s max HP for 7 seconds. Useful either to give him a bit more health to escape, or to soften up a target – assuming you can kill them within 7 seconds.

    That doesn’t sound very confusing.

    I’m getting to that. If he’s not using it, then it gives him a chance to do critical hits, which obviously work really well to boost his damage and improve the healing he gets from Vampiric Aura. So… if you use it, you temporarily get a bit of health. If you don’t use it, you inflict more damage. It can be a bit hard to wrap your head around.

    Rrrrrrright. So who’s the other?

    AXE! As far as tanky heroes go, Axe is one of the few I’ve found thoroughly enjoyable to play. He’s pretty much based around running into combat and forcing everyone to kill themselves.

    Wait, what?

    Yeah, he’s great.


    Well, it comes down to his abilities. His most amusing one is Counter Helix: whenever Axe is hit, he has a chance to instantly counter-attack by doing a big swirly hit with his axe that hits all nearby enemies. One person hits him, he hits everyone. What makes this hilarious is that one of his other abilities – Berserker’s Call – gives him bonus armour and forces all nearby units and heroes to attack him for a few seconds. Run next to enemy hero when there are a bunch of creeps around, use Berserker’s Call if you have it, laugh hysterically as you Counter Helix them to death.

    This works even better if you get Blademail and Blink Dagger, so that you can teleport right into an enemy group and force them to take damage every time they hit you, but we’ll get to items next week.

    His other abilities are also pretty excellent. Battle Hunger slows an enemy (and gives Axe bonus movement speed) and forces that enemy to take damage until it either kills something or the duration runs out. And by kills something, I mean “gets a last hit on something.” If an enemy is low on health and trying to run away, pop Battle Hunger on them, and there’s every chance they’ll die. Or just use it to harass people in lane – if they’re having a hard time getting last hits, or their creeps are right by your tower or something, stick Battle Hunger on them. They’ll either have to take the damage, or run in and risk getting hit by creeps/towers to even get a chance at a last hit.

    Then there’s his ultimate, Culling Blade. This doesn’t do much damage… unless the targeted hero is below a certain health threshold, in which case it instantly kills them. Completely. Even if they’re under Dazzle’s Shallow Grave.

    Okay, he sounds pretty great.

    He is! I’ve only ever played him in one public match when I wound up getting him as a random hero, but it was so much fun.

    One more question, and then you can go back to playing Dota 2. Which heroes should I avoid?

    I’m actually going to answer that and another question, you lucky person. There are a lot of tricky heroes in the game that you should stay well away from, but two of the ridiculously hard heroes are Invoker and Meepo. Invoker is pretty much a Magicka wizard; he has 10 abilities, and you need to remember what they all do and which combination of reagents activate which abilities. In the right hands, he’s a terrifying force with unparalleled utility. In the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing and focuses solely on things like Sun Strike and Chaos Meteor, he’s a free-for-all buffet of xp and gold for whoever’s fighting him.

    Then there’s Meepo, who’s basically an entire team by himself. In the right hands, he’s capable of gangbanging anyone to death all by himself. In everyone else’s hands, welcome to micromanagement hell!

    Other names you should probably avoid including Chen, Rubick, Broodmother, Io, Storm Spirit, Enigma, Templar Assassin, and probably a few dozen others. In terms of ones you might be tempted to try but shouldn’t… well, a few people would suggest Vengeful Spirit and Crystal Maiden, and Vengeful is actually in the Limited Hero mode the game has in the tutorial section.

    The reason people might suggest these heroes is that they both have excellent auras that make life a lot easier for your teammates even if you’re terrible, but I’d still suggest learning most other characters first. Crystal Maiden is one of the slowest heroes in the game, is incredibly squishy, and using her ultimate without getting killed requires miraculous play. Vengeful Spirit doesn’t require much gold and has some great abilities, but playing her badly can screw up your team, and playing her well requires a good amount of map awareness, situation control, and – in tight games – team communication. Neither are even close to being the hardest heroes in the game, but they’re occasionally suggested for complete beginners and I’d generally argue against that. When you’ve racked up 20 hours, sure. As your first hero, no.

    You may also want to stay away from Sand King in the Limited Hero pool. He’s useful, but I don’t tend to see beginners doing particularly well with him.

    As for other heroes you might want to try… well, basically anyone else in the Limited Hero pool. Honestly, though, once you’ve gotten the hang of how the game works, I’d suggest you try anyone who strikes your fancy. Give Riki a go. Try doing some burst damage with Lina. Annoy the hell out of your foes with Luna. Go jungling with Lifestealer. Hell, try Invoker if you want to. Do whatever; it’s all good experience, and even if you hate playing as them, you’ll get a measure of how they work which will help when you come up against them or have to lane with them. Just remember to try them in botmatches first.

    One more question, actually…


    Any general tips and bits of advice? You did say you’d include some, this week.

    Alright, we’ll go over a couple of very minor points which are useful to newbies. Firstly: you can ping the minimap to alert people to things. Hold down Alt and left-click on the map, or the minimap, and all allies will see a “ping” there. You might use this to demand people defend a tower, or attack or tower, or to point out a hero who’s ripe for a ganking. Conversely, holding down Ctrl and Alt and left-clicking the map produces a “caution” ping, which you might use if you spot lots of enemies grouping up and heading out.

    It’s also worth noting that, in botmatches, the bots will respond to pings.

    Secondly – and I’ll reiterate this next week when we talk items, but I still see people who should know better doing this so I want to get it out there now – almost all high-level items are built from combinations of lower-level items. If you decide you want a Manta Style, which costs 5050 gold, you don’t have to save up 5050 gold to buy it. If you left-click on the item in the shop window, you can see which other items combine to make it up.

    In the case of Manta Style, that’s an Ultimate Orb, a Yasha, and a Manta Style recipe. When you have all three of these items, they will immediately and automatically turn into a Manta Style. So rather than save up 5050 gold to buy it outright (and risk losing money due to death), you can save up 2100 and buy the Ultimate Orb to get some immediate stat boosts, and then save up another 2050 for the Yasha (which is itself made up of a Blade of Alacrity, a Band of Elvenskin, and a recipe, so that can also be bought in instalments), and then buy the recipe with your next 900 gold.

    If you want a big item, find out what little items it’s made from and buy them separately. It’s exactly the same cost, but it’s less risky and it gives you stat boosts faster.

    Finally, you can hold shift and left-click any item in the shop. Doing this puts all the components for that item (or the item itself, if it doesn’t have components) in they “quick buy” window in the bottom right of the screen, letting you buy them without having to root around in the shop menu. Better still, when you have enough gold to buy an item, you’ll hear a noise and that component will light up. Do this with everything you want to buy, and you’ll always know when you’re able to afford it.

    Next week, we’ll talk about items: what they are, how to build them, which ones to get early, and what to build towards. Until then, don’t forget to join our Dota 2 guild if you haven’t already and come play some matches with us.

    1 Comment

    1. I really have only one thing I have to correct you on this one 🙂

      Axe.. Blademail..


      Blademail’s damage is based on the damage you yourself will take. Axe has high physical damage mitigation and Blademail itself gives him more. So while it might seem that it would be a good choice, Blademail really isn’t all that efficient on him.

      You can spend that 2200 gold to get him a Blink Dagger – which is a great item for an Initiator (which Axe is).. or even a Vanguard – which is generally a bad item, but Axe’s great damage mitigation makes him one of the heroes that can actually make good use of it..

      1. I’ll acquiesce to your superior knowledge, but I’d argue it’s still got uses – squishy ranged types, maybe? You need Blink Dagger first, obviously, but Blink + Blademail + Berserker Call is a fun way of getting someone like Lina to kill herself. If you’re going to get hit anyway, you might as well force some extra damage onto them.

        You may have a point that Vanguard would be more useful, though, and a simple damage increase might work better. Out of interest, why do you think Vanguard’s generally a bad item? I haven’t heard that one before.

        On the plus side, that’s less complaining than last time :p I’ll consider that a step up!

    2. As with most Dota decisions, the Blademail on Axe rule will always have exceptions.

      When the enemy has Orb-attackers like Outworld Destroyer or Clinx perhaps, then Blademail suddenly jumps up in viability for Axe. Against Lina, I would argue that it serves more of a deterrent rather than added firepower.

      Regarding Vanguard as a sub-par item.. it really all boils down to gold efficiency – to how much the effect to goldcost of the item actually is.

      The thing is Vanguard really does not offer much but simply the sum of it’s parts. It adds +250 HP, same as just the Vitality Booster. +6 HP regen, just 1 higher than a Ring of Health. And a 70% chance to block 40/20 physical damage, which is probably the biggest jump from the 30% to block 20/10 from Stout Shield.

      The chance to block damage might seem like a big deal at first.. until you realize that most damage done in the early-mid stages of the game come from skills, not physical attacks. And come mid-late, physical attackers will simply laugh at it.

      You’ll actually have more survivability if you had a plain Vitality Booster, a Ring of Health, and a Plainswalker Cloak.. (and if you get 2 Rings of Regen afterwards, you can upgrade that Plainswalker Cloak into a Hood of Defiance)

      Now, if Vanguard was a disassemble-able(is this even a word) item.. it’s viability would skyrocket. Sadly, it is not.. so the general consensus is that it’s not worth it.

      There are however, off the top of my head, at least 3 heroes that it remains a good item on. Axe, Timbersaw, and Bristleback. These 3 heroes have amazing physical damage mitigation, that in some cases if that 70% chance to block 40 from Vanguard procs, they might as well have cancelled out that instance of damage. Also, their killing power does not come from rightclicks, but instead from their skills – which is also indirectly boosted by their survivability.. which is why I did not include Dragon Knight on the list, since while he does have high physical damage mitigation as well, his primary role in a match is a rightclick damager and would be better given a BKB and damage items.

      1. in addition to this ^ to further illustrate the point

        Vanguard used to share the distinction of least viable item with Sange and Yasha. (henceforth, the SnY)

        It boiled down to the same thing.. SnY really does not offer anything aside from combining the effects of the Sange and the Yasha into one slot. And while it does offer good stats, it is simply overshadowed in utility by a lot of items in the same price range. There is also the fact that both the Sange and the Yasha have another upgrade path which is a whole lot better than going the SnY route.

        But now, it is considered to be a pretty good situational item to pick up and has actually seen some playtime in TI3.

        What happened?

        They made it disassemble-able. (this really sounds awkward in my head)

        Now you have the option to get a reasonably effective mid-game item (SnY) and still have it effective late game by disassembling it and getting a Manta Style (from Yasha) and if you so choose, a Heaven’s Halberd (from Sange).. Which is actually my default pub build for Razor 🙂 (Phase boots -> Drums -> Sny -> Manta -> Halberd)

    3. That’s some extensive Turtle knowledge ;).

      Have to agree on the vanguard and blademail being situational.

      The TL:DR on Vanguard is essentially if you can get it really quickly its worth it but if you’re at 30 minutes and thinking of buying it then it’s going to be a REALLY bad choice. Personally I wouldn’t bother with it beyond 15 minutes.

      Also a suggestion/request on a future article if I may:

      The importance of support!

      So many games where people take support and there are no wards on the map after 30 minutes, no detection against invis and trying to take every last hit off of the carry in their lane. The support role is so important but so many people just don’t see the bigger picture with it.

      Also…I’ve got 1100 hours and I still don’t think I can handle playing Meepo…;)

      1. Hmm.. I would really suggest skipping the Vanguard altogether unless you’re one of the 3 heroes I mentioned.

        As I’ve said, Vanguard is a “dead-end item”.. once you get it, you’re stuck with it.. it doesn’t upgrade to anything else, nor can you disassemble it to create other item combinations.

        That’s 2300 gold for an item that doesn’t really give you all that much survivability over the 1100 gold Vitality Booster. It is much more efficient to just get the casual Vitality Booster, and if you really want the Ring of Health, you can use it to build a Battlefury/Linken/Hood/Refresher/Soulstone instead.

        The damage block from Vanguard is not very helpful past the laning stage.. Even if you manage to get enough money to get one, it quickly becomes obsolete and you would have been much better off building something else.

        Axe, Timbersaw, and Bristleback remain viable users of the Vanguard simply because their inate physical damage resistance makes the damage block a lot more potent than with other heroes. But, this is where what you’ve said applies, it really shines on them when gotten very early – when Vanguard + Berserker’s Call/ Bristleback/ Reactive Armor can effectively bring physical damage to near zero.

        1. Well I would only use it on Axe and Timbersaw, don’t play a lot of Bristle but what I meant was if I can’t get it by 15, sometimes sooner depending on the game then I wouldn’t bother at all.

          Definitely not saying it’s viable on a number of heroes if you get it by 15, was referring to those that you…referred to 😀

    4. I still want to find a way to make a viable Crystal Maiden build with tank items, a BKB, and a blink dagger for some Freezing Field fun. I can only see that being a very situational “joke” build, though, and I’ll now strike Vanguard from the list of stuff to grab on that. Will also remove it from my tanky Death Prophet build, I think, in favour of other stuff.

      Thanks for the info, though 🙂 Getting a much more experienced perspective on things is much appreciated. (I’d argue that a lot of this is of more use to middling players – like myself – transitioning to a slightly higher level of play, rather than out-and-out beginners, but it’s all good stuff nonetheless!)

      fsj: You read my mind – I’ve been half-planning an article about playing a support role. The next piece will probably be on items, so there’ll be some support talk when it comes to Wards/Couriers (and the importance of TPs), but I do want to devote an entire article to the importance of that role and how to do it right. Or at least, how to do it not-terribly, since I’m not sure I’m doing it “right.”

      That might be the fourth one, depending on how well I can lead into it and how much of this I cover when talking about items, and we’ll see where we go from there. I’ve actually got something special planned for the “final” part, but I don’t know when that’ll be – there’s still plenty to discuss, after all!

      And yes, guildies, your contributions are much-valued in these comment sections – even when you’re contradicting or correcting me 🙂 A lot of you know more than I do, so I’m more than happy to see alternate opinions and get some extra eduction.

      1. Hehe if you ever get the luxury of being in a position to try something like that get a shadow blade. Cast your ult then press shadow blade and you will stay invis whilst the cast continues (as long as you stand still). Also works as a handy get away mechanic.

        Same goes for witch doctor ulti.

        The opportuniy for a build like this is so low though cause of the farm you will need as support. However it’s fun to mess around with stuff like this every now and then.

    5. Oh, and for what it’s worth, my first attempt at playing Meepo came when I went to take those screenshots. It went horribly. I might give him more of a chance later, though; I’m not too bad at microing to the extent that I quite enjoyed Lone Druid when I randomed him, and I can normally take control of a second hero if someone abandons, but Meepo still made me weep salty tears of regret due to inexperience.

    6. You should try Visage, he is like a meepo-lite and with a lot of utility and very item independent (but becomes a monster with the right tools). My current fav hero 😀

      1. Which makes me wonder why you hate trilanes.. As Visage is one the best trilane supports!

        1. Trilanes are RUBBISH. Just STOP DOING THEM. Starting off in 2-1-2 and transitioning to 3-1-1 I can understand; 2-1-1 and one jungle I can understand; but starting at 3-1-1… unless you’re getting a fair few early ganks or a fast tower push, it’s just less experience and less gold 🙁 My poor, underfarmed spider 🙁

          I do want to try Visage properly – him and Leshrac, really. Had a fun game with a randomed Leshrac, which I believe you spectated 🙂

          1. I’m not a big fan of the trilane. It should be MORE situational than people make it out to be and not just something people do cause they see pros doing it. People do it far more than necessary.

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