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

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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.

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Tim McDonald
Tim has been playing PC games for longer than he's willing to admit. He's written for a number of publications, but has been with PC Invasion - in all its various incarnations - for over a decade. When not writing about games, Tim can occasionally be found speedrunning terrible ones, making people angry in Dota 2, or playing something obscure and random. He's also weirdly proud of his status as (probably) the Isle of Man's only professional games journalist.