While Dota didn’t create the MOBA genre, it was the mod that turned it into a juggernaut. Dota 2 is a superb reinvention of that mod, and it’s going to attract League of Legends fans by the tens of thousands, if not millions. If you’re new to MOBAs, or moving across from LoL, there are things you need to know about Dota 2: it is a considerably more complex, and because of that complexity far more unforgiving than League of Legends; but at the same time, it’s far more skillful and deep. We’ve put together a guide to what League of Legends players should know before they start playing Dota 2.
The Valve connection
Dota 2 is an extremely respectful port of the original Dota game, from its maps to its heroes, all built upon the Source engine (the technology that powers Half-Life 2 and Left 4 Dead), which means it has incredibly high production values, far in excess of anything else in the genre. It’s also powered by Steam, which means that you’ll share your friends list across other games. This slavish attention to bringing everything across from the original games means Dota 2 has mechanics from Dota that were removed by Riot in development of League of Legends - mainly the art of ‘denying’.
The Dota 2 map
The map and objectives in Dota 2 retains the same structure of DOTA and Summoner’s Rift in LoL. There are three lanes, each with a series of towers. Creeps spawn from bases at either end of the map - the five heroes must then push through the map killing creeps and the enemies towers to reach the other side’s base. The game is won when the base is destroyed.
The key difference between the maps is the size: Dota 2 map is considerably larger than League of Legends. It’s wider, deeper, and there’s more jungle on either side of the outward lanes. It means that the walking distance to the front-lines is far longer - making Town Portal scrolls absolutely essential. Don’t leave home without one, or two, or preferably at least four. Seriously. The size of the map also means that map awareness is far more important - there’s much more space for players to disappear into the jungle and reappear behind you to gank. That means team communication is vital: call out when enemy heroes disappear from your lane.
In League of Legends, there’s only one item vendor - at your base. In Dota 2, there are multiple shops, one in each jungle and one at each of the edges of the map. These shops vary in contents, with the ‘side’ shops having some special items, and the ‘secret’ shops, hidden in the jungle, having the truly good stuff.
Dota 2 mechanics
In Dota 2, heroes level up in exactly the same way as in League of Legends; by killing minions, by killing enemy heroes, or by killing towers. In the case of minion and hero kills, experience is granted to all heroes within the range of the kill. In the case of tower kills - all heroes on a side are granted experience gain. However, unlike League of Legends, you can limit experience gained by the enemy team from minion and tower kills, by killing the minion or tower yourself. This is called denying, and it’s a vital tactic to understand.
Last hitting in LoL is the way that you earn your keep, and the main way that you’re going to control your lane; if you get more last hits than your opponent, you’ll have more money, buy better items, and gank them over and over, laughing the laugh of the righteous. In Dota 2 last hitting is still incredibly important, but you’ve also got to worry about denying the last hits of your opponent, stopping them from getting gold, and reducing the amount of XP they receive. In the side lanes, where you often have two players, having one farming gold with last hits and one denying is par for the course, although you’ll soon find that relying on any one player to do any one thing is going to get you killed quickly. Everyone has to adapt.
League of Legends introduced the concept of mastery trees, runes and summoner spells that players retain between matches, in an attempt to add a separate level of stat-crunching and tactical depth. Dota 2 currently has no between-game meta-game or persistence, instead relying purely on what happens between the game starting and the Ancient crumbling into dust. The only thing that you retain between matches is your ELO ranking.
Dota 2 buffs
In League of Legends, you take Blue and Red buffs from the mobs in the jungle, or, once you’ve got a bit of breathing room after slaughtering the enemy team, from taking out Baron with your entire team. In Dota 2, that’s not possible, because no monsters, jungle or otherwise, have buffs to steal. Instead, they’re earned by picking up a rune that spawns every two minutes, at either end of the river that separates the two sides. While they spawn at regular intervals, a second rune cannot spawn if a first rune is still present on the map, meaning you have to maintain visibility if you want to know when and where the next rune is going to appear. The runes can be bottled and used within the next two minutes - if they’re not bottled they’ll activate automatically the second after you pick them up.
Which rune appears is also random, adding an extra tactical element to the game; do you want to grab that Haste rune since you’re right next to it, or should you wait for Pudge to come along so he can pick it up, as he’s got the bottle and he’s also a better ganker? Or do you want to steal that Regeneration rune even though you’re at full health, because it’s better you waste it than the enemy team gets some use out of it?
Dota 2 stats
Unlike the melange of stats in League of Legends, Heroes in
Dota 2 only have three attributes that you need to worry about: strength, agility and intelligence. Each hero has a primary attribute that grows faster than the others, and which defines that hero’s role. Strength affects a heroes maximum health and melee damage, and is the primary stat for fight initiators and tanks. Agility is a measure of the character’s deftness in combat, and affects a character’s attack speed and armour. Agility heroes tend to fall into carry and ganking roles. Intelligence defines a character’s mana pool size and regeneration - intelligence heroes tend to be magic users in a gank, support and pusher roles.
There is also attack damage and armour, which, while affected by those base stats, is also targeted specifically by certain items. You might have something that boosts your attack damage while leaving your agility alone, making it objectively less useful than something that goes straight for that straight stat boost. And you can improve those stats across the board when you level up, instead of levelling specific skills, if you want to. Typically though, it’s only after you finished maxing everything out that you start pumping points into stats, although they can serve as a useful health and damage boost if you’re struggling in your lane.
Dota 2 Items
In League of Legends every build has a little room to maneuver when it comes to items; to spec yourself to deal with a magic heavy team, or maybe an attack-damage heavy team. You buff your armour or your magic resist, and you perhaps grab something to slow the enemy down like Radiun’s Omen if they’re a team of ranged champions and you’re having trouble closing the gap.
Dota 2 isn’t like that. At all. While you still build for certain things, beyond your starting items you have to buy on the fly, improvising as you go, to match both which champions the enemy team has picked, and which items they’re buying. If they’re going for Blink Dagger (allows you to ‘Flash’ once every three seconds for a fixed mana cost) then you’re going to want to grab a Scythe of Vyse so that you can turn them into a harmless, teleportless sheep for a few seconds while you lock down the rest of the team.
It’s about being able to react to the game, rather than locking yourself into a routine.The way you buy items, too, is vastly more involved, requiring you to manage your flow of money on the battlefield, rather than just occasionally going back to base to pick up a shiny new sword. As you accrue money, it gets put in an ‘Unreliable’ pot, which is in the precarious position of being stealable, should you be slayed by an enemy champion. The more money you have, the more money you lose on death.
Luckily, to counter this, you’re allowed to buy items in the field, which are then put in a stash that’s kept back at base for you to go and pick up when you’ve got a spare moment.This means that you always want to have something in your ‘Quick Buy’ slot, so you don’t have to faff around with the shop interface in the middle of managing your lane, instead just quickly right clicking on the icon to get rid of that terrifying lump of money, and get yourself a pair of boots, or a Vanguard, or whatever it is you’re building towards.
The most immediate thing you’ll notice about the items is that they’re more powerful than those found in League of Legends, to a surprising degree. Things that might be the Ultimate of a League of Legends champion are just thrown on an item that anyone can buy, meaning that knowing the hero you’re playing against is only half the game; knowing what they’re buying can avoid some nasty surprises too.Finally, there’s a brilliant feature where you’re able to customise and save item builds, with options, so that you can save time once you’re in game instead of having to search manually for the items you know you’re probably going to buy anyway.
Dota 2 Courier
Which brings us to the Courier, perhaps one of few genuinely new mechanics that you need to master coming across from League of Legends. The Courier is a donkey (or Demon Donkey if you’re on the Dire side) which ferries items from your base to you, on the battlefield. Incredibly useful if used well, game changing mistake if you use it badly. If it’s slain while carrying your items, while you don’t lost them, they are in limbo until the courier respawns in three minutes, and three minutes without that thing you desperately needed is a rather long time.It can also be upgraded to have wings, which makes it vastly more useful and much less vulnerable. You can fight over who has to pay for that upgrade once you’re in the game.
Dota 2 Jungling
Dota 2 has junglers, they’re not nearly so cut and dry as in League of Legends, and they’re not nearly as essential. There’s no such thing as a ‘jungle path’, as the way that jungle mobs respawn works on an entirely different metric. Instead of having a set timer from the moment they’re killed, all mobs respawn on the minute every minute, with the proviso that you don’t have direct line of sight on them.That sounds like a little thing, until you realise that you can place an Observer Ward in the enemy jungle, looking at three or four different mob camps, and provided you clear them out, they won’t come back as long as that ward is up. It’s an advanced tactic certainly, but that’s a lot of gold that you’re denying.
The mobs themselves are a little more esoteric, too. They’re semi-random, within the three tiers that they occupy. At the bottom tier, in two of the jungle locations, you could have wraiths, goblin shamans or wild dogs, while at the top you alternate through giant Anklosaurs, Dragons and Rock Trolls, all of which have different abilities and buffs. Some heroes will be better at taking out certain jungle mobs, meaning that sometimes you’re better off leaving one set to your teammates, and waiting for one you’re better suited to. Or that would be the case if
Dota 2 ever gave you a chance to properly take your time thinking about anything.
Dota 2 Trees
Trees are just trees, right? Well yeah, but they’re also trees. The trees in
Dota 2 are physical, destructible objects, and are used in a whole range of ways. Nature’s Prophet, for instance, can turn them into ent-like minions to do his bidding, or create a ring of them around an enemy hero. But then there are items like Quenching Blade, which lets you chop a tree down, or Tango, that destroys a tree to give you a regeneration buff.
It’s also a tactical consideration to take into account. When jungling, cutting a hole in the trees lets you quickly move from camp to camp, rather than having to go the long way around, and when you’re fleeing the enemy team, if you’re quick enough you can make your escape by chopping down an escape route that they weren’t expecting, fleeing through the jungle and out of sight.
Dota 2 Metagame
As good as League of Legends is, it’s a game about reacting to an event. At some point in the first twenty minutes or so, a turret is going to go down. It’s only then that the real game begins, and you move from your rigid structure of Solo Top, Jungler, Nuke Mid, and carry & support down the bottom. If you deviate from that, you might as well surrender at the twenty minute mark. Dota 2, on the other hand, is much more loose with such things. While you have a similar structure, it’s much less focused, with different kinds of players being just as viable in different places. In the middle lane it’s much more important to have someone who can sustain themselves on their own, rather than needing someone to babysit them in the early levels. And jungling itself is much less common, with it focused around the hero that you pick, rather than being a staple of every game.Adherence to these locations, too, is considerably less essential. It’s almost necessary to deviate from it before you can break up the rhythm of the game, and force your opposing team onto the back foot. With a map as large as
Dota 2, leaving your lane to go gank another can be the difference between victory and loss, as the instant you take out the opposing lane it’s open season on the towers, which are both less powerful and have fewer hitpoints than their League of Legends counterparts. Although it’s usually at exactly this time that your opponents will trigger Fortify, the only spell at your disposal, that’s on a global cooldown for the team. It makes your buildings nigh on indestructible for the duration, and buys you a precious few seconds when the enemy are at your gates.
Dota 2 Spectator Mode
League of Legends finally received its own spectator mode a few weeks ago, and while it’s an excellent and arguable essential addition to the game that the fans have been clamouring for for at least a year, it’s still a few steps behind what’s available in Dota 2 at the moment.In addition to being able to spectate any game that your friends are playing, you can also see the progress of the game from the lobby, both in terms of kills and deaths but also how many towers have been destroyed, from a simplistic readout of the battle map. Once inside the game, you can chat with other spectators, and there’s also a powerful suite of Broadcaster features available for those with an eye to stream.
It’s going to be a massive boon once Valve starts to target the eSports scene, especially when the second International tournament rolls around.League of Legends isn’t Dota 2. That much should be obvious. But they are on a similar spectrum, and where LoL is welcoming (for a MOBA), and relatively easy to get a grasp around, Dota 2 is an entirely different beast. There is so much more to worry about, and the game itself unfolds in such a vastly more fluid manner, that to come into it with LoL in mind is going to get frustrating fast.The skills are transferable, by and large, but the key difference, and the best way to think about it, is that in League of Legends you spend your time learning how to play a champion.
It’s why the constant release of new champions is so exciting; something new to master and dominate with. But in
Dota 2, you’re learning the game. It doesn’t really matter who you play with, you’re going to need an intimate knowledge of every hero, from their skillset to how they work with the items they can buy. Just by playing it, you’ll get proficiency with all the heroes, even the ones you don’t play. It’s a global difficulty curve, rather than an individual one. Just bear in mind that it’s going to be frustrating, and difficult, and it’s going to take a long time to master. League of Legends is going to give you a headstart, but it’s by no means going to win you the race, and it’s going to feel like you’ve had your ‘reset’ button pushed for your first few games, while all these new mechanics and tactics start to parse their way into your brain.
But once you’ve started to figure it out, and learn how the heroes work, you’ll be rewarded by a depth of play that’s unrivalled except by the original incarnation of the game. The space for emergent play is incredible, and the slight random nature with which the map and its denizens work make sure that every game, no matter how similar the makeup of the heroes and players is, is going to be wholly unique.