The best Dota 2 heroes for beginners

Master Valve’s MOBA with our guide to the best Dota 2 heroes for beginners

Lich looking triumphant - one of the best Dota 2 heroes

What are the best Dota 2 heroes for beginners? Getting started in Dota 2 can seem like a bit of a daunting task. 120 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. In it, we explain everything you need to know before you play – including the different roles each team must fill; support, mid, and carry.

Lich, one of the best Dota 2 heroes, in the Dire offlane jungle.

Lich (Position 5)

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 foes as you contest the bounty runes 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. You feel your mana being sapped at a rate of 10/15/20/25%. 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.

Suggested Items:

It’s generally a good idea to head out to the lane with a pocket full of regen, which you will be using to heal yourself after trading attacks with your opponents. This war of attrition is lost by whoever runs out of regen first, meaning they can’t assert their presence properly until they heal or ferry themselves some more regen. Two sets of tangos – at least – are advised, and we recommend filling your bags with a couple of juicy Mangos for an instant injection of mana.

Once you’ve earned some gold in lane, we suggest making use of your trusty courier to bring you items, depending on how your lane is going. Send your faithful friend to fetch your Magic Stick as soon as you can afford it, or stuff it full of Mangos so you can keep up the aggression. At lower levels your donkey pal is particularly vulnerable – before he gains wings at level 4, he can only slowly dodder toward you on stubby little legs, so you may need to do some babysitting to ensure he doesn’t run into any trouble.

  • Magic Wand

Buy a Magic Stick 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 after you’ve got your Brown Boots.

  • Boots of Speed (Brown Boots)

Sure, you look basic af, but Boots of Speed also make you faster. You can buy them 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.

  • 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.

Lich Alternatives

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.

Or have a go at Lion, who has a stun, a hex (turns enemies into frogs!) a mana draining spell, and a really big strong finger which hurts people when he points at them.

Spirit Breaker, one of the best Dota 2 heroes, snarling at the enemy from the midlane

Spirit Breaker (Position 4)

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.

  • Bulldoze

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.

Suggested Items:

Start with a couple of tangos and a healing salve, as well as an Orb of Venom.

  • Orb of Venom

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.

  • Bracer

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 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

When activated, Blade Mail makes you really spiky for 4.5 seconds, meaning anyone who tries to hurt you also receives the same damage you do. It also passively returns 20+20% of any attack damage you take. 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.

One of the best Dota 2 heroes, Bristleback, unleashes his quills

Bristleback (Position 3)

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.

  • Bristleback

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.

  • Warpath

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. 

SUGGESTED ITEMS:

You should start off with some tangos, a Ring of Protection for some extra armour, and a Quelling Blade, which increases the damage you do to creeps, making it much easier for you to last hit.

  • 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. Conveniently, it’s available at the secret shop.

  • 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
    OR
    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 o increases your passive health regeneration by 50% 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.

Bristleback Alternatives

If you liked playing Bristleback, we’d suggest other tanky offlaners like Axe, who can taunt enemies in a radius around him, give enemies a damage-over-time debuff, and has a chance to automatically swing his axe when he’s attacked, doing damage to all nearby enemies. Plus his ultimate instantly kills low hp enemies, which is satisfyingly brutal.

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.

The Dire team assemble - made up of some of the best Dota 2 heroes

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.

Warding

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.

Dire's Ancient, fated to be destroyed or defended by the best Dota 2 heroes

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 make the switch playing with and against real people as soon as possible.

Dota 2 is such a beautifully complex game, and it will take you quite a while to even learn the basics – but in exchange, you’ll be entertained for years to come, as every Dota match is a completely different challenge.

Congratulations on taking your first steps into Dota 2 – we fully expect to see you competing on stage at The International next year.

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