As Bonnie Tyler discovered, finding a real hero these days is a tough business. Perhaps Bonnie would have had better luck if she’d had her pick of the 94 playable heroes in Dota 2.
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In Dota 2 picking a hero can be a daunting affair, with a huge array of options and play styles quite often new players will pick heroes based on how much they like the portrait, or if they have cool sounding names - especially if they have no background with RTS, or Fantasy based RPG style games to draw from.
This is definitely not a sound approach to the business of picking. Picks like Invoker, Rubick, or Wisp may look interesting to play but if you pick these as a brand new player the end result will be, well… imagine if Vader had lopped off both of Luke’s hands in their first encounter and he then spent the rest of the series duelling with his light sabre clutched between his teeth.
So what are the right things to look at when picking a hero? Well firstly heroes are grouped by their primary attribute, which is either Strength, Agility or Intelligence. You can pretty much read this as tanky brute, fast moving damage dealer and squishy spell caster (although there are some interesting variants like the Ogre Magi, who is an intelligence based hero who alternates between throwing fireballs and hitting things with a large club)
The primary attributes are something you need to keep in mind when buying items in the game – you wouldn’t generally stack strength gear on an intelligence based hero - but they shouldn’t be your major consideration for picking.
For this purpose Dota 2 puts heroes into a whole range of other categories which give you some clues as to how a hero is played.
The various roles are something that can be discussed and debated at length and they are very situational, but for now I'd like to explain the two most important ones and then give you a quick run down of some of the others.
These heroes are vulnerable in the early game, but if they are protected and allowed to farm for the right items their damage potential scales well into the late game and they can ‘carry’ the team. If you think you have the stones to upfront and lay waste to the enemy team later in the game these are the picks for you.
Good Carries for starter players are the heroes with strong basic attacks (also called the a-clickers) like Sniper, Viper and Drow Ranger, build these heroes up with high attack speed and high damage items as quickly as possible and you can take the enemy team to pieces.
Slightly more advanced carries, but still relatively easy to get to grips with would be Nightstalker, Phantom Assassin, Sven and Skeleton King
The carry is very item dependent. They are often high mobility heroes with some form of escape
Support / Lane Support
These guys and girls are generally less item dependent than the carry heroes although many of them can definitely benefit from some core items In particularly the ones that rely on fast casting with high mana regeneration. will benefit hugely from items like mana boots and a bloodstone.
If you’re looking for a thankless job like buying the courier and you like placing wards to keep an eye on what’s going on around the map support just might be your thing, but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s the main responsibility of support.
Good Support is what wins most games and support heroes with their utility spells, heals, disables and spell nukes are the ones generally deciding which team walks out of an exchange with the upper hand.
Underestimating the importance of good Support
For your first outing as support I would definitely put Lion at the top of the list to learn, he has a stun ,a hex a mana drain which makes him a huge problem for other casters in the early game and makes him mana independent and his finger of Death Ulti is a massive nuke for early ganks.
Other great supporters to start with are Lina and Crystal maiden - both good support nukers and CM’s Brilliance Aura gives the whole team faster mana regeneration,
Venomancer is a great Lane Support and can also push towers. Shadow Shaman aka the Rhasta is also one that you must learn as early as possible – his shackle and hex combined with Serpent Wards are ridiculous early ganking abilities if used right.
HOT TIP for soloing an early target with Shadow Shaman: Hex them first so they can’t run, place your Serpent Wards either directly on them or in their path to block an escape and then shackle them in the wards’ firing line. Only the very lucky will manage to limp away from this exchange with a few hit points intact.
There are a number of other roles defined in Dota 2. It’s important to understand that many heroes fall into several roles at once and the role is also defined by the situation and the way you play.
Several Heroes can fit into this roll
Some of the other roles are:
This is one of those role definitions that could potentially come up for debate, because really most heroes can take part in a gank with the right skill and timing, Some heroes are just better at it in the early game though and these are those guys.
BloodSeeker with his Rupture at level 6, Riki once he gets invisibility, Bane with his brainsap and ultimate and Lina with her Laguna Blade Nuke are all very cable of taking down another hero early game in a 1v1 situation. Some Gankers can also be carries, however not all of their damage scales fully to late game.
These heroes generally have some form of ability that can start a team fight with a massive advantage for their side if timed correctly. Their job is to set up and initiate the fight for their team. Tide Hunter, Sand King, Naga Siren and Faceless Void are some of the most commonly used initiators – their ultimates can all put the team at massive advantage if used correctly.
Pretty obvious. These heroes have abilities that can stun and disable other heroes. Shadow Shaman, Witch Doctor, Jakiro and Wind Runner all have excellent disable abilities.
Again relatively obvious. Look for heroes with abilities than can push the enemy creep waves back and do high damage to towers. Enigma, Broodmother, Keeper of the Light and Dark Seer with his Ion Shell are all great Lane Pushers.
These are heroes who are able to farm the Neutral Creep Camps from very early on in the game, giving themselves an initial; gold boost which helps them to get core items up fast.. Doing this takes some practice as you need to know where the camps are and the spawn times of the along with a few other tricks, but this is definitely something worth learning for the player who feels they have moved on a little from the beginner stage. Lycanthrope, Lone Druid, Enigma, Lifestealer, Ursa and Axe are some of the Heroes commonly used to jungle early on in the game.
That’s it for now. I highly recommend that at this point in your Dota 2 career that you start getting in some reading and watching replays of good games to develop your understanding of the game.
Here are some great sites to get started on – I spent my first few weeks fo playing with Dotafire build guides open on the 2nd screen and tried to follow them like recipes. This will get you somewhere, but you will hopefully realize very quickly that no two games with a particular hero are the same and you must be ready to adapt your skill build and item purchases on the fly
http://www.dotacinema.com/ (Watch the fails of the week – they are hilarious and will show you some great skill use as well as some epic failures)
http://www.dotafire.com/ - look for the Hero Build Guides for a great way to start learning a new hero.
Finally a tournament heads up: If you want to watch the top teams in action you can pick up a spectator pass at the in game store for the The Defense Season 3 has just kicked off . The pass costs just $9-99 to view all the games and it comes with a free exclusive courier!