What are the best Dota 2 heroes for beginners? Getting started in Dota 2 can seem like a bit of a daunting task. 117 heroes staring at you from the pick screen, arranged in all sorts of categories, grimacing at you unattractively. Learning the game is complex enough without having to narrow down your hero choices, so we’ve done all the hard work for you – we advise picking one of the following.
All of the heroes play a very specific role in battle. Some of them can be played in multiple roles, sometimes even within the same game. To do well at Dota 2 it is important to understand what these roles are and how they interact with each other. But it is equally as important to realise that a hero’s role should inform how you play them and the items you purchase.
If you’re finding these basics a touch confusing, don’t worry: so did we when we started playing. But now we’ve learned the strategies behind a great team, we can provide you with advice to help you choose the right character, and understand their position in the five-player team.
The best Dota 2 heroes are
Before you jump into your very first game, take some time to get acquainted with the basic ideas of Dota 2 with our How to play Dota 2 guide, which will explain lanes and the different phases of the game.
With recent matchmaking changes, players’ matchmaking rating (MMR for short) has been split into two values, one for Core and one for Support, and when you queue for a ranked match, you’re asked to choose which role(s) you’re willing to play. You can’t play ranked until you’ve clocked up 100 hours of unranked, which might seem like a lot – but it’s probably for the best as Dota 2 can be a very tricky beast to figure out. You don’t need to specify your role when queuing for unranked or turbo matches but once in-game you’ll be working with your teammates to make sure all the positions are covered. Let’s go through those roles now and explain exactly what they entail.
Players sometimes describe roles in terms of their farm priority, effectively this means which hero needs to obtain the largest share of the gold and exp so they can become powerful and have a big impact on the game, or ‘carry’ the game (Position 1), and which hero is going to take a relatively paltry amount of gold and exp and spend their time making sure their cores can secure these resources (Position 5). These positions usually correspond to specific lanes, but like everything else in this game, people can and do play it differently. For a new player, though, this is what your fellow players will probably mean.
Dota 2 Roles
Hard Support (Position 5)
The hard support typically supports the safe lane player during the laning stage, making sure their carry can safely last-hit, whilst also trying to prevent their opponents from doing the same. They help out with denying the opponents’ creeps – particularly if the hard support is a ranged hero and the carry is melee – and also help to keep the creeps fighting a nice distance away from the tower by pulling and stacking jungle creeps. The hard support allows the rest of the team to safely take the gold and exp from the map and so they tend to be weak and poor. Sorry. The little money you do have will probably be spent on wards, since a large part of your job is providing vision for the team.
Even though playing hard support isn’t particularly glamorous, it’s a great place to start for beginners. In lower skill games the success or failure of your team largely depends on how well your cores can last-hit and farm, and the mechanics of last-hitting take a while to figure out and finesse. In your first games, while you’re still getting a feel for everything, you should really just focus on using your abilities and items properly and learning what the heroes do, and as a support you can still have a positive impact on your game with a few pennies and a pocket full of lint.
Soft Support (Position 4)
The soft support hangs out with the offlaner, in – you guessed it – the offlane (more on this later). In the offlane, you want to ruin your opponents’ laning as much as possible. If the hard support is a babysitter to their core, you’re a bullying older brother who wants to use stuns and disables to put the opponents’ safe laner in their place. The offlaner you’ll be laning with is also generally tougher early game than a safe laner, so the enemy should be scared of you. You want to block their jungle camps so they can’t pull, stop them from pulling, and generally make their lane miserable.
Often, the position 4 roams around the map, especially to the midlane, to lend them a hand by attacking – or ‘ganking’ – the enemy midlaner. You’ll usually have abilities that are useful in team fights, but might also be well placed to help push lanes.
Offlane (Position 3)
Offlane can be tricky, but it can also be liberating. You’re trying to secure the last-hits and denies (how many you’ve secured is your CS, or Creep Score) in the lane, so you can win the lane and put your enemies at a major disadvantage. While you do want to fight and be aggressive, don’t underestimate the value of securing the CS over everything. Work with your support to coordinate plays – notice when you have a power advantage over the enemy, perhaps you have an extra level on them – and be proactive. Your level 6 is probably more of a significant power spike than your opposing safelaners’ level 6, because those heroes are built to be strong later in the game, whereas you peak earlier. Similarly, know when to hang back safely – sometimes you’ll be on your own as your support pays helpful visits to other lanes.
Once the laning stage is over, you should be focusing on objectives and shutting down the opposing team’s plays. Hanging out in a squad with your supports is recommended, as is keeping an eye on the minimap so you can respond to pushes by defending towers while your cores farm. You should make sure the waves are pushed out as much as possible, to take control of the map for your team. Item wise, you’ll be best served by items that benefit your team as well as yourself.
Mid (Position 2)
Mid is daunting because you’re exposed and alone, and everyone is looking at you, much like that recurring nightmare where you’re 13 and show up to school naked – just us? Psychological implications aside, to succeed in the middle lane you just need to be very careful, watch your positioning and manage your resources correctly. You don’t have to be perfect, your task is only to beat the enemy midlaner – who is probably also new, so that’s very possible.
In the middle lane, you are vulnerable to ganks by players from both top and bottom, you don’t have trees to hide in, you usually don’t have a buddy to hang around with, there’s no shop nearby – and your carefully balanced approach can be completely upended by the power runes that spawn in the river every two minutes. Sadly, your supports probably aren’t going to buy you a ward for mid, but it does make a big difference so you should buy yourself one. Feel free to use the courier to bring yourself whatever your heart desires. If you have a ranged spell, it’s worth using it to secure last-hit on the ranged creep, because the mid lane really is about CS above all else.
The upside of playing mid is you’re not sharing the lane exp with anyone else on your team, meaning throughout the whole laning stage you’re probably going to be the biggest dog in the yard, and you can and should use that advantage to help out your other lanes. Keep an eye on your minimap, and remember it’s not the end of the world if you lose mid – just try not to lose too badly.
Safe Lane (Position 1)
Ooh, look at you, Position 1, you’re a rock star, but actually at the beginning of the game you’re a weak little baby. You’re a baby who will grow up to become a farmer and later a serial killer. If you identify with this trajectory, you certainly belong in position 1, and maybe jail.
Playing safe lane carry is both boring and flashy. Boring because you literally only need to kill creeps, farm lanes, and farm the jungle as efficiently as possible to win the game. However, it’s flashy because at some point you’ll emerge from the jungle to show off the high impact item you’ve just acquired and kick everyone’s collective ass.
To begin with, stay safe, invest in items that help you farm, and let your teammates distract your enemies elsewhere on the map while you get gold and exp. Feel free to contribute to fights if you can get there in time to swing them in your team’s favour, but otherwise concentrate on your personal development – hustle before tussle, as they say, or they would if they were as hamfisted as we are.
So now you’re ready to play your first game of Dota 2, and you’re wondering which hero to play. We’ve given you a list of the best heroes for beginners, but if you’re looking for a curated, streamlined experience, I’d suggest playing the following three heroes in order, getting comfortable with each one before moving on. We’ll start with a hard support and move up to soft support, and then offlaner – three roles you should try out to get started in Dota 2.
Lich is a ranged intelligence hero, a blue skeleton boy who harnesses the power of frost to protect his teammates and harass his enemies. He’s a support hero, traditionally played as a hard support, and is great fun once he reaches level 6. If his foes cluster too close together, he launches his devastating ultimate – Chain Frost – which bounces between them, doing a hefty chunk of damage that might just kill them all if they’re squishy enough.
- Frost Blast
Target an enemy and cast Frost Blast to dump ice on their heads like that charity bucket challenge. This does both direct damage and additional damage in a small radius of the target. The foe’s attack and movement speed is reduced for 4 seconds, and the cooldown is pretty short. Skilling this first and blasting any enemies trying to take your bounty rune is the way to go – using it as often as possible on a squishy hero combined with some right clicks can even secure a kill.
- Frost Shield
Cast on your allies, yourself, or your buildings to apply a shield that gives the target resistance against attack damage. The shield lasts for 6 seconds and releases a pulse of ice magic every second, damaging, and slowing any enemies in range. The cast range on this is pretty large, and you should use this to protect your carry or yourself in case of particularly intense negative attention from your foes. Alternatively, coordinate an attack with your lane partner – they go for the enemy, you cast Frost Shield on them and they can withstand much more retaliation, and as they chase, the pulses from the shield slow the enemy down.
- Sinister Gaze
Your eyes meet from across the bar. You feel the magnetism immediately – as if some powerful force is drawing the two of you together. Your feet, as if they’ve a mind of their own, carry you forward, you can’t look away; you’re literally incapable of breaking this spell. Now you’re face to face with him – Ethreain, the frost mage. He dumps a bucket of ice on your head.
- Chain Frost
Lich hurls the most painful of snowballs, one made entirely of ice. This projectile bounces between enemy units on impact and will bounce up to ten times. In the early game, while your enemies are still relatively weak, the impact can be devastating – just try to avoid casting it while there are too many enemy creeps in the vicinity because it’ll bounce to them, too, which is a waste.
It’s generally a good idea to head out to the lane with a pocket full of regen, as much as you can afford after buying the courier and at least one observer ward. Two sets of tangos – at least – are advised, and it’s generally expected you share a couple with your midlaner, and give them the ward too while you’re at it. But hey, you’re new, so you can just keep that stuff for yourself and get away with it. No, but really you should share them – get into the self-sacrificing mindset necessary for playing support; this is who you are now.
- Magic Wand
Buy a magic stick from the side shop as soon as you have 200 gold – it can give you the little boost of health or mana you might need to secure a kill or avoid dying. Upgrade it to a Magic Wand next time you take a trip home, if you have the money after buying wards and an extra TP scroll.
- Boots of Speed
Sure, you look basic af, but Boots of Speed also make you faster. You can buy them from the side shop for 500 gold, and the extra movement speed is really going to help, so get them as soon as you can afford it. So what if Lich doesn’t have feet, that’s none of your business.
- Bracer (x2)
This very helpful and relatively cheap item gives you 6 strength, 3 agility and 3 intelligence, as well as 5% magic resistance. Lich is pretty squishy but with a couple of bracers strapped to his bony arms he can withstand way more punishment, making him a much bigger threat in the early game.
- Aether Lens
Next you’ll want to grab an Aether Lens, which increases the range of your abilities and gives you more mana. If you buy the Energy Booster from the secret shop first, it will upgrade your boots to Arcane Boots which can be activated to give you and your nearby allies a boost of mana. When you’re ready to make your Aether Lens, right click and disassemble your Arcane Boots, then right click on your Energy Booster and select Unlock Combining.
- Glimmer Cape
As well as being incredibly fashionable, Glimmer Cape makes you invisible for a short time, and increases your magic resistance, allowing you to get out of sticky situations in a pinch. Being invisible in low skill games is great because your enemies probably won’t be carrying the items necessary to find you, so you can laugh at their confusion while you make a hasty retreat. You can use it on your friends, too, if they need to avoid an awkward encounter.
- Force Staff
Have you ever had someone shove you really hard in the back and you go flying in the direction you were facing? Seriously, just us again? Well if you buy a force staff, you can shove yourself in the back. Trust us, that’s a good thing. You can also help your teammates by shoving them, too.
Enjoyed playing position 5 but fancy trying something else? Try Witch Doctor – he has a fantastic set of abilities – a stun, a heal, a percentage based damage over time spell, and a high damage single target channeled ultimate, meaning you can take down an enemy hero all on your own if the conditions are right.
Spirit Breaker is a rampaging cow, the worst fear of countryside ramblers everywhere. Picture this: you’re strolling along the riverbank when, like a foghorn, an almighty ‘Mooooo’ pierces the air. A huge blue cow barrels toward you and conks you in the noggin. Bam. That’s Spirit Breaker.
He’s a melee strength hero, and is best played in the offlane as a position 4 – he’s useful without items and doesn’t farm very well, which is pretty ironic, really. Spirit Breaker is what’s known as a roamer or a ganker – he wants to catch vulnerable enemies unawares and headbutt them straight into the afterlife. In the lane, against a melee carry you can play pretty aggressively – skill bash first and punch ‘em. Then once you get Charge of Darkness, you can start to make your presence known across the rest of the map.
- Charge of Darkness
Spirit Breaker charges toward an enemy target, passing through all objects on his way. Any enemy he hits on the way to his target, along with his target, are affected by Greater Bash (see below). The cast range on this is global, which means anyone SB can see can be targeted from anywhere on the map. See vulnerable enemy, charge them, secure kill, moo triumphantly.
Activate this to gain movement speed and status resistance for 8 seconds. You’ll want to activate this mid charge to ensure nothing can stop you in your relentless pursuit of the target. This is one of the few things you can cast while charging, alongside items like Shadow Blade and Phase Boots.
- Greater Bash
When your high school rival holds a party on the same day as yours, you’ll feel the sting of a Greater Bash. Sigh. Anyway this is a passive skill, which means you don’t have to activate it yourself – it’s always on. When attacking, Spirit Breaker has a percentage chance to Greater Bash, which stuns the target, knocks them back, and increases your movement speed. Greater Bash also does damage based on your movement speed.
- Nether Strike
Spirit Breaker’s ultimate ability. He slips into the nether realm and when he comes out, he headbutts the target really, really hard – a Greater Bash with extra damage and knockback.
Start with a couple of tangos, a healing salve and some iron branches which you’ll later use to make a magic wand.
- Stout Shield
Buy this with your starting gold. It blocks damage, meaning you can get right into the opponents’ faces when trying to harass and deny, without being hurt too badly by the creep wave. This is important on melee heroes like Spirit Breaker who need to get up close and personal.
- Orb of Venom
If you get the chance to pick this up really early, Orb of Venom adds a nasty sting to your attacks, poisoning the enemy for 5 magical damage per second over 3 seconds and slowing them too. Ouch.
A bracer on Spirit Breaker is great because as a strength hero, he really benefits from the extra stats. The bracer makes SB able to withstand a little more and become even more of a threatening presence early.
- Boots of Speed -> Power Treads
Get your brown boots from the side shop as soon as you can afford them. Spirit Breaker loves shoes because they make him faster and thus make him do more damage. Upgrade them to Power Treads, which you’ll want to switch to Red (Strength).
- Urn of Shadows – > Spirit Vessel
Urn of Shadows can be cast on either your friends or your foes, in which case it heals 240 health over time or does 200 damage over time, respectively. During the early game when enemies are weak, 200 damage is a big deal, so cast it as soon as you arrive on the scene to add extra damage to your ganks. Later on you can upgrade it into a Spirit Vessel, which will do much the same thing but with percentage-based damage, making it a must against tanky heroes.
- Blade Mail
Blade Mail makes you really spiky for 4.5 seconds, meaning anyone who tries to hurt you also receives the same damage you do. Spirit Breaker is often the first one on the scene in team fights, so for the first few seconds is expected to soak up the brunt of the enemy’s attacks. Popping your Blade Mail will ensure they’re weakened by attacking you, swinging the tide of the battle in your favour.
Spirit Breaker Alternatives
Enjoyed Spirit Breaker? If you like taking a more active role and playing around the map, we’d recommend trying Bounty Hunter, who uses invisibility to run around, steal gold, and track enemy heroes, ruining their farm.
If you enjoy being a Big Boi, try Undying, who steals strength from his enemies, harasses them with zombies, and transforms into a monstrously large flesh golem. I know you’ve always felt like there was a flesh golem inside you, waiting to break free.
The most aggressive hedgehog you’ve ever met, Bristleback will sneeze on you and then turn you into a pincushion. Bristleback is pretty simple to play – he shoots out quills, which do more damage the more times an enemy has been hit by them. This means the longer Bristleback hangs around in the fight, the more damage he can do – and his abilities mean he’s really difficult to kill. Items for Bristleback focus on turning him into a formidable tank who is hard to kill and hard to escape from.
Bristleback is a great offlaner to start off with because his tankiness makes him more forgiving to play in case you go out of position as you learn the game, and his quill spray makes farming super easy.
- Viscous Nasal Goo
Cast this on your foes to reduce their armour and movement speed, and also to disgust them. The effect stacks, so if you sneeze enough you can seriously slow your enemy down.
- Quill Spray
Shoot out your quills in a radius around you, dealing additional damage based on how many quills are already stuck in your foe. Since it hits everything in a circular radius, this is a great skill for pushing out lanes or for farming creeps in the jungle. To make the most of this, you should stack camps so you can farm super efficiently – we’ll explain stacking later on.
Bristle got back, and you can’t touch. When attacked from the side or the rear, Bristleback takes reduced damage. The rear is better protected than the side, and when he receives a certain amount of damage to his derrière, he automatically unleashes a retaliatory quill spray which costs no mana. This makes pursuing a retreating Bristleback very difficult and potentially painful, especially if you have low HP teammates around, who will be incredibly unhappy if the extra dose of acupuncture provoked by your attack causes them to die.
The more stacks Bristleback has built up, the more movement speed and attack damage he has. Basically, you are encouraged to spray and sneeze as much as possible – advice you should absolutely leave in the game world.
You should start off with some tangos, a stout shield for defensive purposes, and a few mangos so you can have the mana to use quill spray over and over.
- Boots of Speed -> Phase Boots
You know the score by now, buy shoes for your little hedgehog feet so you can walk faster. Phase Boots give Bristleback even more movement speed, so he can hunt people down more easily.
- Ring of Health
Extra health regen, making you tankier to begin with, and also builds into two items you’ll want later on, Vanguard and Hood of Defiance.
- Soul Ring
Gives you strength and even more health regen, and also allows you to sacrifice some of your health for mana, which will allow you to quill spray even more.
- Magic Wand
The wand is basically great on all Dota 2 heroes, especially heroes like Bristleback who can really use the periodic injection of mana to great effect.
- Vanguard -> Crimson Guard
Hood of Defiance -> Pipe of Insight
Which one of these you want basically depends on whether you’re facing physical damage (Vanguard) or magic damage (Hood of Defiance). You probably have no idea which one you’re up against because you’re new to the game, but as a general rule, most abilities do magic damage, and right clicks do physical damage. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of reading what your enemies’ skills do anyway, so do your homework before you decide. Both of these items protect your team as well as yourself when upgraded, so your buddies will thank you.
- Solar Crest
Solar Crest provides extra stats, mana and movement speed for Bristleback, and when cast on an enemy, removes some of their armour and reduces their movement speed, whilst also removing armour from Bristleback himself. This is great to use in combination with your nasal goo, which also reduces their armour and movement speed, meaning the physical damage of your quill spray will really hurt.
- Shiva’s Guard
Shiva’s Guard gives you even more armour and mana, and when activated emits a freezing wave that damages and slows enemies. This in combination with your goo will slow them to a crawl, leaving them unable to escape from your pointy wrath.
- Heart of Tarrasque
The Heart makes you super tanky – on top of the stats it gives you, it also makes you regenerate 5% of your max health per second if you haven’t taken damage recently. If you’ve taken a bunch of damage, retreat for a little while then turn around and charge right back in at full health again.
There’s also Abaddon who casts a painful mist, a powerful shield, a debuff applied on every fourth hit, and whose ultimate causes him to heal from damage instead. He’s particularly powerful at the moment, so playing him can be very rewarding.
Dota 2 Tips for beginners
So now you have a selection of heroes to try out, we’re going to give you a couple of extra tips that will give you the best chance of winning those early games and hopefully start the dopamine reward cycle that gets you hooked on Dota. These Dota 2 hero tips are primarily for supports, but if they’re not being done at all, they should be.
Pulling and Stacking
So you know how there are camps of neutral creeps hanging out in the jungle, who mind their own business until someone comes up and interferes with their picnic? We’re going to interfere with their picnic. We want the lane creeps to fight each other pretty close to our tower for safety, so if for whatever reason the party is taking place too far away from the tower and your carry is looking uncomfortable, you can go and round up the squad from the jungle, antagonise them into following you and lead them straight into the path of your incoming friendly lane creeps, who then follow the jungle creeps back into the jungle and start attacking them.
Then the enemy creeps will have to travel further toward your tower to meet their counterparts in the lane, and so your carry gets to hang out in safe territory once again. This is called pulling. This can give you a huge advantage, and if you’re playing against other new players they will probably let you get away with it. Even if your enemy tries to stop you, you’ve just distracted them from causing trouble in the lane, so it’s worth the effort.
One camp of jungle creeps isn’t strong enough to take care of a whole creep wave, so to deny the whole wave, you’ll need to either pull through or stack the camp. Stay with us here, very few new players will know this, so you’ll be the coolest and cleverest, promise. You can pull through by aggro-ing the other jungle camp and walking towards the fighting lane creeps just as the last jungle creeps from the first camp die. This takes practice and timing and is easy to mess up, so I would suggest stacking the camp instead.
Creeps spawn in the jungle camps on the minute mark, provided the camps are empty. If you wander past and aggro the creeps about 5 seconds before this happens, the creeps will be outside the camp following you when the minute ticks over, meaning the empty camp will replenish itself even though its previous occupants are still alive. The original creeps then get bored and go back to their home which is now full of strangers, remaining there in a double occupancy situation.
You can then drag some of them out to meet the next creep wave at about 15 seconds past the minute, and the combined forces of a stacked camp will be enough to deny the entire wave.
If you can get the entire friendly wave to die to jungle creeps, then you’re doing a fantastic job. This is actually a really big deal! You’ve essentially denied your opponents an entire wave’s worth of exp, which matters a ton at the start of the game. Remember these little advantages you give to your carry are everything, because they’re going to take them and snowball.
An eyeball on a stick is arguably one of the most powerful items in the game. Powerful in a kind of philosophical zen master kind of way – you can’t actually hurt anyone with it, you just stick it in the ground like a little flag in a sandcastle and it tells you what it can see. Information is power, and knowing where the enemy heroes are – or aren’t – will dictate where your team can safely farm, where the enemies are trying to sneak up on you, and where a vulnerable enemy is hanging out.
There are two types of wards, observer wards and sentry wards. Observer wards are yellow and give vision – enemies can’t see where you’ve put them, unless they put down a sentry ward. Sentry wards are blue and reveal invisible units in a radius around them. If you think the enemy has an observer ward down somewhere, you can deward it by placing a sentry and attacking the enemy observer. Killing it gives you a small amount of gold and exp bounty, and is very satisfying.
There are some frequently used ward spots across the map, usually on cliffs, marked with an eye painted on the ground. Because they’re high up, wards placed here have unobstructed vision – but because they’re so convenient, they’re often dewarded by the enemy team.
Congratulations, you have filled your brain completely to capacity with Dota 2 knowledge. Now it is time to apply everything you’ve learned, or the random snippets you can remember, by jumping into a real match. You may want to practice against bots just to get used to casting spells, buying and using items, and other basic mechanics. However, once you feel comfortable we suggest you jump in to playing with and against real people as soon as possible.
Dota 2 is such a difficult, complex, and occasionally beautiful game, and it will take you quite a while to even learn the basics – there’s no getting around it. What’s more, some new players have found their reception to be a little less than friendly. You may well receive some choice expletives from your teammates in the process of learning, but take our advice – just mute them. Explain you’re new and if people aren’t helpful, just mute them. They don’t know anything about the game either, they’re just being mean.
Conversely, there are a ton of people out there who’d be eager to help out a new player, and if you have a microphone, I’d encourage you to communicate with your team and maybe pick up some friends to queue with. Make use of the plentiful resources and guides available to you, such as Purge’s Learn Dota series.
Congratulations on taking your first steps into Dota 2 – we fully expect to see you competing on stage at The International next year.