So you’ve put in a decent number of hours into Dota 2, and are enjoying the game a lot. There have been wins, losses, moments of triumph, and heartbreak. You feel like you’ve hit a good skill level as a result of your growing experience as a player—but what if there were ways to further improve your skill and game sense?
There are some relatively straightforward tricks that higher level players use in order to gain an advantage over the less knowledgeable, but also to optimize the flow of their gameplay in each game. From the simplest of mechanical tasks to the most complex of moves, there are things that separate those that play for fun and those that play to win.
If you’re looking to take the next step towards bettering yourself as a player, check out these tips and tricks to get the most out of each game.
In most strategy games, Dota 2 included, each unit’s regular attack (usually assigned to the right mouse button or the A key) goes through an animation cycle with specific durations in each step. For Dota 2 regular attacks have an attack point, which refers to the time it takes for the attack to land.
For melee heroes, the attack point begins once the hero gets within range of the target, and starts to swing its weapon. The attack point continues until the blade or head of the weapon makes visual contact with the target. On the other hand, a ranged hero’s attack point ends once their projectile becomes visible and begins traveling towards the target.
After the attack point comes the backswing, which can be seen as a “delay” of sorts. To compare the backswing to fighting games, it refers to the amount of time that a character takes recovering from a move such as a jab or kick. The same concept exists in Dota 2—and it renders heroes that just finished the first half of their attack animation unable to take any other action.
A jig in between each step.
Unlike fighting games, however, heroes in Dota 2 can cancel their backswing by inputting a move command in between. That allows them to cast spells or move towards another point on the map. Doing so makes your attacks much more efficient. Cancelling the backswing will give you more time to chase your target down. Try to get into the habit of doing this, instead of just right clicking your target once and calling it a day.
Creeps in Dota 2 are programmed to switch aggro to units that issue attack commands against heroes that are aligned with them. You can actually use this to your advantage during the battle for last hits in the laning phase, as it pulls the creep wave slightly towards your side of the map.
Doing so also gives you some more breathing room to contest last hits in the first place. Your lane opponent will be less willing to harass and dive you under the protection of your tower.
The two Dire melee creeps try to attack Sven as soon as he tries to harm Axe.
To pull creep aggro, simply right click one of your lane opponents while within target acquisition range of the enemy creep wave. Cancel the attack command around half a second after, and start walking back in the direction of your tower. This will cause the creeps to follow you in hopes of protecting their hero. You can even do this if your lane opponent is missing by right clicking a hero all the way across the map.
Allowing your hero to mindlessly auto attack creeps in the lane is never a good idea. The extra damage output causes enemy creeps to die faster, thus pushing the lane towards the enemy tower. And when that happens, you open yourself up to getting ganked from the side or even from behind if you’re in one of the side lanes.
To prevent this, use the hold position command, which is bound to the H key by default. Alternatively, you can set your auto attack behavior to “Standard” in the settings menu. That will prevent auto attacks if you have recently moved, denied a creep, or pressed the stop (S) or hold position key.
Once you’ve settled on your choice in this regard, focus on just aiming for last hits without dealing extra damage to creeps.
In Dota 2, the health and mana gauges function a little less intuitively than in other games. When your hero’s maximum HP and mana values (the denominator in the ratio) increase, the current value (the numerator) also keeps up in terms of its proportion relative to the maximum value. In other games, the current value would instead stay at the same number rather than matching the ratio as it was before.
This mechanic is highly abusable when it comes to consumable restorative items. For example, imagine that you have an Enchanted Mango, which instantly restores 125 mana when consumed. Your hero also currently has 300 mana out of a maximum of 500, with the maximum being boosted from 400 by an item that gives an additional 100 max mana. If you pop the Mango as is, you would end up with 425 mana.
Gaming the system. Use this trick to get the absolute most out of your items.
But if you drop the mana-boosting item before eating the Mango, you would end up with a fully-topped up gauge. The best part? You would still end up with a full gauge after picking the item back up again. Cool stuff, isn’t it? Of course, you shouldn’t do this in the face of an enemy hero who could otherwise destroy your item while it’s on the ground, so either back off for a bit before dropping your item or just place it in the backpack for a while.
Orbwalking is a special kind of animation cancel which applies to heroes with attack modifiers—known to legacy DotA Allstars players as “Orb Effects”—as abilities. Picks like Outworld Devourer and Drow Ranger have access to this trick, thanks to their ability to manually apply their attack modifiers to their regular attacks.
Notice how Outworld Devourer does not draw aggro from the Dire creeps.
Apart from preventing creep aggro entirely, the biggest advantage of orbwalking is the same as regular animation cancelling: You get to skip the backswing entirely and input new commands as a result. To perform the orbwalk, simply use the hotkey of your heroes attack modifier ability, and left click the desired target. Cancel the backswing by issuing a move command, then rinse and repeat.
Try as we may, escaping death doesn’t always work out in our favor. Sometimes you just get completely caught off-guard, and in others you make a critical mistake that would have otherwise saved your life had it been the right call.
Gold loss upon death also happens to be one of the biggest aspects of Dota 2 that sets it apart from other MOBAs. League of Legends doesn’t have it, and Heroes of the Storm eschews the concept of an inventory altogether. And because sometimes there just isn’t a way out of a sticky situation, the quickbuy key comes in very handy.
Placing your next purchase in your quickbuy area is a good habit keep in the first place—but another thing to consider is using quickbuy whenever you find yourself facing the inevitable. You are bound to lose gold either way, so it’s usually better to buy out as much as possible before your hero kicks the bucket.
Take note of what your quickbuy hotkey is, and keep a trigger finger on it during engagements. It might just save you from losing a bit of money on the way to the respawn queue.