A Beginner’s Guide To Watching Dota 2 Matches

You're sitting comfortably in your chair, not knowing what to do one day and then you have a light bulb moment. Why not check out a game of Dota2? Only one thing stands in your way, you have no idea what the game is about, let alone how it's played. If you are one of these people, you may find the following article helpful as a way to follow what's going on for the first time.

The Basics

Dota2 is at it’s core, a very simple game. Ten people, divided into two teams of five players each battle on the map until one of the team’s destroys the other team’s Ancient (hence the acronym, Defence of the Ancients) which is the giant building behind all the towers and in front of each team’s fountain. The two sides are named Radiant (the brighter team in the bottom half of the river) and Dire (the darker team in the top half of the river). The map is split diagonally, and is divided into three lanes. The top, middle and bottom lane’s each contain three Tiers of towers. and after the third one is a Ranged Barracks and Melee Barracks where lane creeps are spawned for both teams. There are also two Tier 4 towers in front of the Ancient. Know however that before advancing to the next Tier of towers, you have to destroy the previous one. For example, in order to attack the Tier 2 tower on the top lane, you have to destroy the Tier 1 tower on that same lane.


Creeps are uncontrollable units that are designed to attack enemy creeps, towers, and heroes. Divided into three categories, melee, ranged and siege, creeps give a gold bounty to players who kill them. Melee creeps come in larger numbers, have larger HP, and lower damage. Ranged creeps have less HP, spawn in lesser numbers, have a mana pool, and deal more damage than melee creeps. Siege creeps spawn every seventh wave and deal the most damage, while having 80% magic resistance. Every seven minutes and thrity seconds, melee and ranged creeps receive damage and HP bonuses until three minutes and forty-five seconds or after all enemy barracks are destroyed. Upon destroying a barracks, super melee and super ranged creeps spawn. They have more HP, deal more damage and give 50% of the bounty that they gave before. If all barracks are destroyed, mega creeps spawn. They have the most HP, damage, and carry the same bounty as super creeps. Siege creeps also receive an additional bonus damage at this time.



Near safe lanes (for Dire team that is the top lane, for the Radiant team that is the bottom lane) there are jungles. Jungles are used for additional farming possibilities, especially if one of your teammates is slower on his gold or item progression. There are several types of jungle creeps, each with its own type of ability, HP, damage and gold bounty. Aside from just farming gold from them, you can also pull creeps to the lane, which I’ll explain a bit later.  There are also ancient creeps, which have one camp per side of the river. These creeps wield the most bounty and are hardest to kill.

The most important creep is Roshan, and it’s pit is located on the Dire side of the river. Upon killing him, each player of the killing team gets 200 gold, and the hero who made the last hit gets 150-400 gold, giving him effectively a 350-600 gold bounty. Roshan also drops two very important items: Aegis of the Immortal and Cheese. Aegis of the Immortal gives you a second life upon being killed, or it expires after five minutes when it grants you full HP and mana. Cheese drops from the third Roshan spawn and restores 2500 HP and 1000 mana. It can also be sold for 500 gold.



The Roles

Since there are five players on each team, they “should be” divided into roles. Carry (Position One), Solo midlaner (Position 2), Solo offlaner (Position 3), Farming support (Position 4) and Hard support (Position 5). That means that lanes are usually distributed at a 3-1-1 rate (three players on the safe lane, one on the mid lane, and one on the off lane). The first three roles are called core roles, and each of the other two are called support roles. Some teams also like to choose a jungler (Position 4), a hero who can easily farm jungle creeps and make the most of the jungle itself. Usually, these types of heroes can either be utilized as secondary support or as a second carry if your team needs more damage dealers. Unlike professional games, public games are usually played with 2-1-2 lane positioning, with one support on every side lane. With that said, let’s break down the roles and what makes them different.



Carry is the main damage-dealing hero in a Dota2 team, which is usually positioned in the safe lane with at least one support hero by his side. Carry heroes are weaker at the beginning of the game so their main objective is to kill many creeps in order to earn gold to purchase their items (known as farming), since their success is very item dependent. Last hitting is the most important thing about farming. It is actually what it’s name says. You score the last hit on an enemy unit to kill it, and are therefore rewarded with their gold bounty in doing so. In order to properly do that, you have to calculate how much damage you will do and if it will remove all of the enemy’s HP. Most of the game, carry should spend their time farming, and only come into battles when the whole team is present. You will often see (especially during the early stages of the game) supports try to set up kills for their carry, because killing enemy heroes is also a great way to farm gold. As the game progresses and if everything goes as planned, carry should be the most powerful hero within their team. Sometimes during the late game carry’s can sometimes kill an entire enemy team by themselves if they are farmed well enough.

Most notable carry heroes in the current 6.85 metagame are: Anti-Mage, Juggernaut, Phantom Assassin, Spectre



Midlaner is a hero who occupies the middle lane. It is usually a 1v1 matchup in the middle lane, so it is very important that heroes who are picked in the middle lane excel at last hitting creeps and properly harassing the enemy mid player. They are usually the most important and most farmed hero during the first 15-20 minutes because they are alone in the lane. Therefore they achieve many last hits, gain experience quickly, and usually get hero kills very early because of their set of abilities. They are usually equipped with a Bottle, which is an item that has three charges that provide you with some health and mana regeneration. The Bottle can be refilled by going to the team’s fountain, which also contains a shop and HP/mana regeneration. Or by picking up Runes which spawn on each side of the river every two minutes and can be one of the following six types: Bounty, Invisibility, Double damage, Illusion, Regeneration and Haste. Bounty provides a player with 50+ (5* minute) experience and 50+ (2*minute) gold. Invisibility grants you invisibility for 45 seconds. Double damage also does what its name says: doubles your base damage for 45 seconds. Haste gives you a 522 movement speed for 25 seconds. Illusion spawns two copies of your hero that deal less damage and take more damage that last for 75 seconds. Regeneration regenerates your full HP and mana.

Most notable mid lane heroes in the 6.85 metagame include: Windranger, Queen of Pain, Invoker, Alchemist, Shadow Fiend


Shadow Fiend


Offlane heroes are usually called hardline heroes, because they are placed alone against an enemy carry and two supports. Their main purpose in the early stages of the match is just to simply survive and gather as much experience possible in order to progress to level 6 and earn their ultimate ability. Heroes chosen to go into the off lane role usually have devastating ultimate abilities which are meant to be most beneficial in team battles. They mostly have the role of being the hero who is tanky (meaning he can sustain more damage), which takes the focus off  the carry and mid lane players, leaving them to deal damage. In the early game, their role also consists of trying to keep pressure on the enemy carry hero to slow his farming and potentially set up kills on that hero as well.

Most notable offlane heroes in the 6.85 metagame: Clockwerk, Dark Seer, Tusk, Doom



Support heroes can be divided into two roles: Farming Supports and Hard Supports. Support heroes are ones that dedicate themselves to helping their core players gain as much advantage as possible. They are usually situated on the same lane their carry is, and try to zone out the enemy Offlaner while protecting their carry in order do secure farming. In pro games you can often see supports rotating on the mid lane to help secure kills on that lane, which can sometimes prove as pivotal moments for their team. They are equipped with abilities that help the team, such as healing, stuns, armor reduction for enemy heroes, etc.

However the most important thing that supports do in the game is provide vision, which is done by wards. There are two types of wards in the game, Observer and Sentry wards. Observer wards provide unobstructed vision of the area, while Sentry wards provide True Sight in the same area. True Sight means that you can see invisible heroes and wards in that area, which allows you to set up kills or deny the enemy their vision of that part of the map.

Supports also make use of Couriers. A Courier is an uncontrollable delivery unit which transfers items from the fountain/shops to any player on their team in two forms, normal and flying. The flying courier is much faster than the normal one, and has a speed boost ability for a small duration. Killing enemy couriers at any part of the game can be key to victory, especially if they are delivering high-value items.

Most notable support heroes in the 6.85 metagame are: Dazzle, Witch Doctor, Ancient Apparition, Disruptor



As previously mentioned, the Jungler’s role is to farm up on the jungle creeps as fast as possible. Junglers are often good to pick if you need to level up your safe lane heroes faster, so that the Jungler can have his own experience and gold gains, sometimes making it a fourth Core if needed. That also leaves space for the jungle to get breached by enemy heroes (especially ones with invisibility spells) who can disrupt an enemy Jungler’s experience gain in a fashion that their ultimate ability is delayed. In a professional Dota2 game, Junglers don’t get picked very often, because having two supports is much safer than having one that has to constantly worry about the other four players.

Most notable jungle heroes in the 6.85 metagame: Legion Commander, Enigma, Lifestealer, Chen



Simple Mechanics


This is done by using one of several different items or abilities. The Teleport Scroll is a basic item that allows you to teleport to friendly structures. This is an item every hero should own at all times, especially players in a support role during the early game stages. The reason for this is to teleport to one of your core heroes that is in trouble, or assist them to kill the enemy. It can also be a quick route to your fountain if you are low on HP or mana. Important to note is that the Teleport Scroll costs mana and has a cooldown, meaning you cannot teleport around whenever you wish to.

Another item that can provide teleportation are the Boots of Travel. They are a special type of item that grant you a movement speed increase and remove the need for carrying a Teleport Scroll. Level 1 Boots of Travel enable you to teleport to any friendly non-hero unit or building, while level 2 Boots of Travel allow you to teleport to anything or anyone that is part of your team, including heroes. Aghanim’s Scepter is another item which provides teleportation, and also upgrades certain heroes ultimate abilities.
There are also heroes that have a teleport ability. “Nature’s Prophet” can teleport himself to any part of the map, “Keeper of the Light” has a Recall ability that teleports friendly heroes to his location, and “Chen” teleports heroes to the friendly base.  Teleporting to the base to heal is usually not preferred if you have healing/mana potions on the field (since you’re losing experience), but only if you are too low and vulnerable at the current positon.



It is the action when one or multiple heroes from the same team ambush the enemy team players in order to kill them. Usually, you can see mid players use this tactic when they reach level 6 and gain their ultimate ability. This is because they have the experience advantage over the other two lanes, leaving other players vulnerable to easily kill. Wards, that were mentioned in the support section, are one of the means to detect where the enemy is and prevent Ganking.

Ganking can be effectively accomplished by using a special item, called Smoke of Deceit. This spell encloses all players in a small range into smoke, granting them invisibility and additional movement speed while disabling ward detection. Attacking, or moving within 1025 range of an enemy hero or tower breaks the invisibility granted by the item. It is most commonly used for conducting five man ganks on enemy core heroes, or for secretly taking down Roshan. This tactical invisibility can mean winning or losing the game in some cases, it is that important.



What makes for exciting plays?!

You know the basics of the game now, but what makes the commentators scream out in excitement during a match? To give you some perspective let’s look at some of my most memorable plays from past matches, so that next time everyone is out of their chair, you can join them!


The $6,000,000 Echo Slam

In my opinion, this is one of the best plays in recent history which happened during the final game of The International 5 tournament. In a matchup that featured Evil Geniuses and CDEC Gaming, CDEC had killed EG-s mid player, “SumaiL”. They moved on to attack the Roshan and secure the Aegis of the Immortal for themselves, thinking that EG could not contest it without all five heroes present. Since Evil Geniuses had some vision of the river with wards, they decided to try and disrupt them anyway. From the 11th second, you can see their support player (“ppd”) cast a spell called Ice Vortex, which slows enemy heroes and reduces their magic resistance by 30% followed by his ultimate ability, Ice Blast. “Universe” then used Blink Dagger to get in and Echo Slam all five CDEC heroes, along with his Fissure finisher. This combo wiped out 4 of CDEC’s heroes, leaving only “Agressif’s” Phantom Lancer alive. Evil Geniuses would take the Aegis, and ultimately the TI5 event along with their $6,000,000 prize money.


The $6,000,000 Echo Slam

The $1,000,000 Dream Coils

Two years back, at The International 3 Finals, Game 5. The series was tied, and both Na’Vi and Alliance needed their best effort for the final game. Alliance was then widely known for their RAT style (main focus is taking objectives, not fighting), which their offlane player, “Admiral Bulldog” excelled at. In multiple instances, their mid player, “S4”, who is playing Puck, stops Na’Vi players from returning to base to defend their barracks using his ultimate ability, Dream Coil. This allowed Alliance players to take down objectives, which gave them their victory at TI3.


Na’Vi turnaround

This one really shows how casual gamers can turn into Esports fans. Invictus Gaming’s five heroes all gathered to ambush Na’Vi’s roster using Smoke of Deceit and then “Naga Siren’s” Song of the Siren to put the whole Na’Vi team to sleep. Then, “Dark Seer” would use Vacuum to put them all together, finishing with “Tidehunter’s” Ravage. “LightofHeaven” returns it with his Black Hole, while “Dendi” has stolen Ravage from “Tidehunter” to give iG taste of their own medicine. This immediatley killed four of iG’s heroes, leaving only “Chuan” alive for few more seconds.


The Roshan Bait

While Alliance was still known as “No Tidehunter”, they still dominated the game even before winning TI3. In a game where Alliance had laid something down that is still talked about to this day, one of their players, “Admiral Bulldog”, suicided in the Roshan Pit ON PURPOSE! The Evil Geniuses team thought that “No Tidehunter” was attacking the Roshan, while in reality, they were waiting in the Radiant jungle to jump on them. The bait was successful and Evil Geniuses ended up losing two heroes in the first moments of the game, while Alliance lost virtually nothing. “Bulldog’s” death did not give EG any bonuses, since the killing blow was inflicted by a neutral character.


I hope that this quick guide has given you the tools you need to enjoy watching a Dota2 game, and perhaps even jumping into one yourself! If you are looking for a daily dose of Dota2, you can watch our resident streamer “Lizzard” on his Twitch channel.

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