Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hero Guide: Visage

Visage is a micro intensive hero. Typically you will find him being played as a Support at the Pro level. His forte is Trilane vs. Trilane play because his ability "Soul Assumption" will gain charges much faster, making him more lethal.

In match making, he makes for a decent semi-carry and pusher.

Pro Players

If you're looking for some Pro Replays of Visage, here are some to check out:
  • Kaipi - ComeWithMe
  • LGD - DDC
  • Liquid - FLUFFNSTUFF
  • Vici Gaming - Fenrir



  • Grave Chill
    • Function
      • Gives you 64% Attack Speed & 32% Move Speed
      • Reduces target's 64% Attack Speed & 32% Move Speed
    • Leveling
      • Pros: Increases Duration (+1 sec/level)
      • Cons: Increases Mana Cost (+10/level)
  • Soul Assumption
    • Function
      • Powerful Nuke on a Low Cooldown (when charged)
      • Gains charges when nearby heroes (allied or enemy) take damage (every 110 damage)
    • Leveling
      • Pros: Decreases Mana Cost (-10/level), Increases Max Charges (+1/level)
      • Cons: N/A
  • Gravekeeper's Cloak
    • Function
      • Gives you 4 layers of Armor & Magic Armor
      • Taking damage (>2 from player owned source & not self-inflicted) temporarily removes a layer
    • Leveling
      • Pros: +1/2/1 Armor per Level, +3%/6%/4% Magic Resist per Level, -2 Recover Time per Level
      • Cons: N/A
  • Summon Familiars
    • Function
      • Free moving minions
      • Deal damage that decreases per attack (can be restored by turning them to Stone Form)
      • Able to stun when shifting into Stone Form
      • Have massive gold bounty of 100g for whoever kills them
    • Leveling
      • Pros: +150 HP/level, +1 Armor/level, +10 Move Speed/level, +42/56 Max Bonus Damage/level, -20 Seconds on Cooldown/level
      • Cons: N/A 


Your build will change based on how your team is playing. However, you're generally going to emphasize levels on Soul Assumption.

My personal favorite (general build):

  1. Grave Chill
  2. Soul Assumption
  3. Soul Assumption
  4. Gravekeeper's Cloak
  5. Soul Assumption
  6. Summon Familiars
  7. Soul Assumption
  8. Grave Chill / Gravekeeper's Cloak
My reasoning is that Soul Assumption is by far your best early game ability. When fully charged and levels, you're doing about 400 Magic Damage EVERY 4 SECONDS.

Leveling Grave Chill is good, but the mana cost becomes very intensive for only an additional second of slow at each level.

Gravekeeper's Cloak is pretty powerful as well, but it's also very defensive. At level 8, you'll have to decide what you need more: survivability or aggression.



There are really a lot of good choices for Visage.

  • Arcane Boots - good for support and mana intensive teams
  • Tranquil Boots - good early game and can be disassembled and put to use in Ring of Basilius and Mek/Pipe
  • Phase Boots - good for semi-carry builds; the damage synergizes with Grave Chill and allows you to catch targets to place Grave Chill on
  • Power Treads - gives you survivability and adaptability, both are great for Visage


Visage is great for carrying items that help with team survivability. The longer he sticks around in battle, the more Soul Assumptions he can get off. Some options are:

  • Mekansm - survivability, good overall support item, can build out of Tranquil Boots, and helps your Familiars sometimes
  • Pipe - survivability, good support item
  • Rod of Atos - Visage can use all the stats it gives because he benefits from Tankiness, Mana Pool, and the active isn't bad either
  • Heaven's Halberd - gives you a lot of extra HP, a chance to slow on attack, and a huge amount of Evasion, allowing you to stay in battle longer and get more Soul Assumptions off. The active ability Disarms targets, which is huge after the enemy carry has used BKB.
  • Scythe of Vyse - if you're able to get it, Scythe (a.k.a. Sheep Stick) is always a great pickup.


If you snowball, Visage can turn into a monster at mid game. His familiars help him push and DPS, and Grave Chill also aids in DPS & Teamfighting.

  • Desolater - the armor debuff helps with pushing as well as giving your Familiars additional DPS if they target the same hero as you


  • Aghanim's Scepter - if you can handle the additional responsibility, Aghs is excellent in terms of Stats and DPS. However, you can also feed an extra Familiar if you mess up
  • Necronomicon - gives you a lot of stats that you need. The Warriors also help with pushing, team fights, chasing, and at level 3 have detection.
  • Orchid - gives you a lot of DPS and regen, as well as a 5 second Silence that increases damage taken by 30%. This can be a pretty huge pickup against heroes that can blink away (e.g. Anti-Mage, Queen of Pain). The bonus damage is no joke either.
  • Shiva's Guard - the armor is useful, as is the bonus INT. The active ability can be used in a lot of ways. Also, given Visage's natural durability from Gravekeeper's Cloak, he can keep the aura going for a while in a fight.



  • Generally Support (Aggressive at that)
  • You can Semi-Carry (he can snowball pretty hard in early/mid game)
  • Fairly low item dependence
  • Decent Pusher


  • Very good for aggressive lanes because of how quickly Soul Assumption charges up
  • His forte is Trilane vs. Trilane
  • Grave Chill is a pretty cheap slow and somewhat spammable


  • Familiars can be used to pick off heroes, or push towers
  • Familiars need some set-up to easily hit their stun (e.g. Grave Chill)
  • Be very careful with Familiars because they can quickly turn into 100g bonuses for your opponent
  • I've found binding all your Familiars to one hotkey works best. Use [TAB] to cycle through them (needed so you can recharge their auto attack damage or chain stun)
  • I tend to leave the familiars off to the side (e.g. in the trees bordering the map) so they don't get picked off and can quickly pop out to surprise an opponent with extra DPS and stuns

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Counter Play: Bloodseeker

Bloodseeker is a well known pub stomper, especially in the lower tier brackets. In truth, he's not that powerful of a hero, but you have to know how to play against him.

The good thing is that you don't need specific heroes to "counter" him, just use smart play and pick up a few items.

Bloodseeker's Playstyle

  • Early Game / Laning
    • Typically seen at the MID LANE
    • Relies on being able to regenerate HP from Bloodbath
    • Low ability to control the lane (i.e. cannot quickly push it for rune control)
  • Mid Game
    • Moving between lanes and ganking
    • Able to solo kill many heroes who start at a lower HP than him (i.e. will die if they try to 1v1 him and are left with only running)
    • Able to tower dive due to Bloodbath
    • Able to find low HP heroes and intercept them due to Thirst
  • End Game
    • Has snowballed into a carry
    • Becomes more of a support hero using Bloodrage to buff the carry or silence a support
  • Strengths
    • Bloodbath enables him to engage in riskier plays due to HP regen after a kill
    • Bloodrage makes Bloodseeker more adaptable (buff himself/a carry, or silence a support)
    • Laning - as long as he can kill creeps, he's hard to zone out
    • 1v1 Hero Kills
    • Ganking
    • Clean up - finding heroes that escaped a fight and finishing them off
    • Pseudo-Gem - reveals invisible heroes when they are low HP
  • Weaknesses
    • Lacks crowd control (especially stuns)
    • Kiteable - he has speed, but not really DPS (Bloodrage can help though); also no gap closers
    • Escapes - lacking in this department unless another hero is low HP around him
    • Rune Control - nothing to clear the creep wave quickly in order to get there first
    • Unreliable Skills - Thirst is only useful when a hero is low HP around him, it's very conditional as opposed to Nightstalker's ability (you know how long it will be night), or something like Bounty Hunter's Track (hero activated speed increase while around them)
  • Role
    • Semi-Carry - he can snowball into a carry role, but is less effective than other carries in late game
    • Ganker - has a good kit for ganking
    • Utility - he has a decent silence or buff (depending on what you want) and a spell that keeps many heroes in one place temporarily (5/7/9 seconds)

 Countering Bloodseeker

Despite being a new player's worst fear, Bloodseeker is actually not that hard to deal with. Most people just need to wrap their head around the fact that Bloodseeker's power comes from moving while his ult is active on you.

At Mid


Bloodseeker can actually be zoned out fairly easily. The simple trick to it comes from one tidbit:

He needs to kill creeps to be viable at mid.

How do we take that away from him?
  • Use spells early on to force him to use all his regen (preferably before he gets Bottle - which would be around 1:30-1:50 if he's bottle rushing)
  • After that, keep hitting him every time he comes close
  • Eventually, he will have to choose between killing a creep and potentially getting killed, or going back to base (giving you a huge lead in XP & GPM)

Rune Control

One thing Bloodseeker is really bad at is Rune Control. Many prominent mid heroes have an ability that allows them to burst down the creep wave. This allows them to get the rune while the other player chooses between farming under the tower, or contesting the rune (while losing XP & Gold opportunity).

With Items

Item choices are pretty simplistic. The common mantra you hear amongst DotA players is:

His Ult is countered by TP Scroll.

That's really it. If he ults you, just start teleporting. He has nothing that can stop your teleport (unless he's with allies). NOTE: Force Staff does not cancel TPs (it does in some other similar games), so if he goes that gimmicky route, you're still safe.

Other items that can be useful:

  • Mekansm - a quick burst heal
  • Heaven's Halberd - more HP, evasion, and the ability to disarm him
  • Wards - information collecting is a huge part of strategy games. Knowing when Bloodseeker is on his way gives you a heads up to go get a TP scroll or hide in tower range
  • Blade Mail - to some extent, this can be used if you're against him 1v1. Discourages him from attacking if you have more HP
  • Tranquil Boots - always stay close to full HP
  • Ghost Scepter - immune to physical attacks (however, his ult is Pure Damage, so you can't run, but you can stay still unless he has Radiance)
You get the idea. Anything that lets you withstand his ult, prevent him from getting you singled out, etc. They all work well. Forms of Stun/Hex can be useful too. I'm sure there are plenty of others. However, most of the time it's not worth building specific items to counter a Bloodseeker other than TP Scrolls and Wards.

With Hero Picks

A WORD OF CAUTION: Do not pick a hero to counter another unless you can fit it in your lineup. Making sure your lanes are solid is much better than countering a single hero.

  • Mid Heroes
    • Any popular mid will most likely be able to outlane Bloodseeker (e.g. Queen of Pain, Templar Assassin, Batrider, etc.)
    • Axe - this is a special case. Sending Axe mid against Bloodseeker means that he has to face Axe's Counter-Helix in order to attempt creep kills. Combined with spells like Battle Hunter, Axe quickly becomes hard for Bloodseeker to go head to head with
    • Huskar - the lower he gets you, the more DPS you have. His ult is a pseudo-buff to Huskar's natural abilities
  • Misc
    • Disruptor - able to send Bloodseeker back by 4 seconds. At high movespeeds, it really hurts his ganking potential
    • Heroes with heals - Omniknight, Chen, etc. that are able to help teammates, or bait tower dives
    • Beefy Heroes - Bloodseeker usually can't 1v1 them, and his ult isn't as effective against them
    • Ancient Apparition - his ult prevents Bloodseeker from healing temporarily (if hit with it)

With Strategy

The strategy is pretty simple: don't allow yourself to get picked off. Move in groups, mount team pushes, etc.

Bloodseeker thrives on ganking heroes that are alone. Don't give him that opportunity. Or, at the very least, carry a TP scroll in the event he comes after you. But in reality, just do things as a team. Keep pushing towers together, or moving as a group to gank heroes. Bloodseeker really does not offer much to team fights.

Utilize good wards to see him coming in advance.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Counter Play: Phantom Lancer

There has been a bit of a rise in Phantom Lancer lately. He's a hero that is hard to gank due to his Illusions, slows, and invisibility. If the game is left to play out for too long (usually about 40 minutes), Phantom Lancer becomes nearly unbeatable.

Before delving into how to beat him, let's break the hero down.

Hero Breakdown

Play Style

Typically you'll see Phantom Lancer in a 4-Protecting-1 type of strategy. By this I mean his four allies create turmoil to distract the enemy while Phantom Lancer farms up and pushes towers. To some extent, you can consider Phantom Lancer a split-push carry as well.

Ganking him is also very difficult. You must have some form of detection and you must also be able to solo out the real hero. Often, Phantom Lancer may be pushing lanes with his Illusions alone, or jungling two spots at once, making it hard to tell where the real Phantom Lancer is.


Early game, Phantom Lancer is very susceptible to any form of detection. On his own, Phantom Lancer cannot do much damage (low mana pool, despite high damage nuke/slow). He is also very squishy, though he has an escape mechanism in Dopplewalk.

Therefore, in early game, we can say his weaknesses are:
  • Detection (Dust, Gem, and Sentries to some extent)
  • Burst Damage
  • Mana Burn (low mana pool with high mana cost abilities)
When you reach mid game, he becomes more difficult to deal with as he starts to build items like Diffusal Blade, which can Purge Dust. Manta Style will also dispell debuffs like Dust. Around mid game, you'll also see Phantom Lancer start to be off on his own more.

Therefore, mid game, we can say his weaknesses are:

  • Detection - you just need to be smarter with it. Force him to Dopplewalk before using Dust so he cannot Purge it and use Dopplewalk to escape. If you have Sentries or a Gem, this is less of a problem.
  • Anti-Split-Push - he will be farming the jungle, lane, and pushing towers on his own. Using heroes that can take out split pushers become valuable here. TPs are a must. Do not give up towers.
Late game is when he'll probably be seen more with his team. By this point in time, he should have farmed up a Heart. In team fights, you need to either get rid of his Illusions quickly or prevent them from spawning.

Therefore, in late game, we can say his weaknesses are:

  • Cleave Heroes - auto attacks that hit an area
  • AoE Spells - less effective for the damage, but still might help hurt the Illusion count
  • Protection from Physical Damage - via spells, Ghost Scepter, Evasion, etc.
  • Crowd Control / Disarm / Attack Slow - prevent him from spawning Illusions

Countering Phantom Lancer

There are many routes to countering a hero like Phantom Lancer. You might be able to make some of these decisions before play (e.g. Captains Mode), but in pubs you might not have that advantage.


As we've talked about, Phantom Lancer needs his farm and needs the game to go on for a while. He can get aggressive early with support from Keeper of the Light, but that doesn't necessarily seal the game as a loss.

The main strategy would be: do not give him time to farm.

  • Push Early - force him to come help his team defend, he does not pose much of a threat in early game. Take advantage of that.
  • Occupy his Jungle - ward his jungle up, do not let him find farm anywhere
  • Gank him when you can - use the wards to see when he's farming alone and use Smoke of Deceit to sneak over and gank him. Make it so he's not safe farming anywhere.


Some heroes help to play against Phantom Lancer. They fall into four general categories: AoE Spells, Cleave Damage, Anti-Split Push, and Smart Play.

  • AoE Spells
    • Leshrac - as long as you don't get focused down, your ult can help clear out Illusions
    • Earthshaker - a classic counter due to his Ultimate triggering off of Illusions as well
    • Darkseer - a generally good hero in any case, but also good for grouping up the enemy team + Illusions. Not 100% sure, but his Ult clone of Phantom Lancer might spawn Illusions on hit as well.
    • Magnus - another hero capable of grouping heroes up. The long stun duration on his ult helps to quickly focus down Phantom Lancer.
  • Cleave Damage
    • Sven - paired with a hero like Magnus, Sven's Ult + Cleave can rip through Phantom Lancer. He also has an AoE stun and an AoE armor buff for the team.
    • Luna - her Glaives, paired with naturally high DPS make her easily able to cut through Phantom Lancer. She does not have high mana dependency, so the Mana Burn on Diffusal Blade is not as large of a threat to her. She is squishy, so making sure Phantom Lancer does not focus her is a must.
    • Gyrocopter - Flak Cannon is an amazing ranged cleave. It only lasts for 6 attacks, but splashes in a 1000 AoE. Paired with Farm and his AoE Ultimate, Gyrocopter can make quick work of Phantom Lancer.
    • Tiny - after getting Aghanim's Scepter, the cleave is huge against Phantom Lancer. Early game, Tiny is also very good at comboing Phantom Lancer for a near instant kill.
    • Kunkka - Not necessarily as effective as other cleave heroes, but Tidebringer + Crits has the potential to wipe out Illusions quickly.
    • Dragon Knight - in his ult form, he has splash damage and his 3rd level ult also slows enemies. If you can get the Phantom Lancers grouped up, Dragon Knight can put a dent in them.
  • Anti-Split Push
    • Nyx Assassin - high tier solo killer right now. Mana Burn, plus the damage from your ult and stun can easily kill a solo farming Phantom Lancer, as long as you know which one is real.
    • Bounty Hunter - not as good at solo kills anymore, but still potent. Nevertheless, track is still useful against Phantom Lancer.
    • Wisp - paired with a good hero, Wisp can quickly gank Phantom Lancer (provided good wards), then return to help the team with whatever they were doing. Basically, an excellent hero for playing against 4-protecting-1 teams.
  • Smart Play
    • Shadow Demon - by using Disruption on Phantom Lancer, Shadow Demon is capable of spawning his own Phantom Lancer army.
    • Faceless Void - if you can capture the original Phantom Lancer in your Chronosphere, he'll be done for quickly.
    • Spectre - by tanking up, Spectre can kill Illusions (and the enemy team) with just Dispersion damage
    • Omniknight - not necessarily a counter, but his Ultimate (Guardian Angel) can help keep your team alive long enough to kill Phantom Lancer. Degen Aura also helps by slowing Phantom Lancer's movement and attacks.
    • [Untested] Naga Siren - I have not tested this, but my theory is that if you use the Naga Ult, then by the end of it the Illusions will have disappeared and you can lock Phantom Lancer down with Net.
There are also some heroes that are double-edged swords. Basically, whoever gets the jump first will probably come out on top. These would be:

  • Axe - early game to mid game, you'll generally have the advantage. Using Call, you can keep Phantom Lancer pinned down while his Illusions cause your to Spin more. However, after the armor buff from Call wears off, Phantom Lancer has the potential to melt you.
  • Tinker - March of the Machines is a great spell for dealing with Phantom Lancer. Laser also reduces his ability to land hits (i.e. less chance to spawn Illusions). However, if he gets the jump on you first, Diffusal Blade will melt your mana pool and you will not win the fight.
  • Medusa - Mystic Snake, Stone Gaze, and Split Shot are all great against Phantom Lancer. Mystic Snake does a ton of damage to Illusions (1500, if I recall), and Stone Gaze slows Phantom Lancer so he has a harder time attacking and spawning more Illusions. The problem is that if he jumps you first, Diffusal Blade will destroy your Mana Shield.


Some items can be good for playing against Phantom Lancer. None are really "hard counters", but every little thing helps.

  • Shiva's Guard - AoE damage plus a passive AoE attack/movespeed slow. The armor will help you live longer, but you'll also have additional mana which can be burned by Diffusal Blade.
  • Halberd - Evasion is excellent against Phantom Lancer. The active ability to Disarm is also great if you can get it on him before he starts spawning Illusions.
  • Butterfly - on the same note as Halberd, it provides evasion which is incredibly helpful in surviving against Phantom Lancer.
  • Battlefury / Mjollnir - both are types of cleave. Any kind of cleave will help to clear out Illusions
  • Detection - Sentries, Dust, Gems, etc.
  • Ganking Items - Observer Wards, Smoke of Deceit, and TPs
  • Force Staff - able to get allies out of the mass of Phantom Lancers
  • Ghost Scepter - immunity to Physical damage can help survive as well

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to Win Solo Queue

Solo queue is intimidating at first because you do not know what to expect from your teammates. But there is also a lot to exploit because of the amount of disorganization.

We'll walk through the following:

  1. Picking Phase
  2. Game Sense, Awareness, and Communication
  3. Item Guide
  4. Warding
  5. Pushing and Defending

Picking Phase

This is arguably one of the most important parts of the game. You can recover from a bad lane composition. But, I've found it much harder to win with a bad team composition. There are a lot of things to consider in a team composition:

  • Farm Priority / Requirement
    • High Farm Carries
    • Low Farm Supports
  • Hero Roles / Strengths
    • Crowd Control
    • Initiation
    • DPS
    • Number of Invisible Heroes
    • Early / Mid / Late
  • Lane Composition
    • Who is going to mid?
    • Are you going to Trilane?
      • Jungle Trilane?
      • Aggressive/Defensive Trilane?
      • Is anyone on your team capable of running Suicide lane (i.e. soloing the hard lane)?
Also, let's lay some general rules:

  • Do not "counter-pick" if it will hurt your team composition
    • Example: You have 2 hard carries. They pick Riki. DO NOT PICK SLARDAR AND TRY TO CARRY WITH HIM. You have 2 heroes that need a lot of farm, another hero needing farm will hurt you badly.
  • Avoid picking multiple invisible heroes
    • This is an invitation for the other team to get a Gem --> "Killing 2 birds with 1 stone"

Farm Priority

I wrote about this a bit in The "Chinese Number System". All it really does is specify who yields to the other player when multiple heroes want to farm a lane. Obviously there are exceptions, but it's still a good rule or thumb or a tie breaker.

Picking heroes around this system is a very good place to start. If your team has an Anti-Mage and Faceless Void (both considered #1 high priority farmers), your team will not benefit from you picking even more carries or high farm heroes. You might want to wait and see what others pick. If you get, for instance a Rubick and a Chen, then you'll want to stick with probably a #5/Hard Support. In this scenario, you'll want to encourage the Rubick to take Mid (#2), the Chen to take #4/Jungle Support, then Trilane with either Anti-Mage or Faceless Void. Both carries have an escape mechanism, so they could theoretically run solo suicide lane.

However, you have to be prepared for your team defaulting to a 2-1-2. In either case, you'll probably want a babysitter type hero with some good stuns and low necessity for farm/items. Otherwise, too many of you will be fighting for farm and none of you will have the items to carry.

Hero Roles / Strengths

You want to have a good spread of heroes. For pub games, doing "all-in" strategies (e.g. fast push) are usually bad ideas because people are uncoordinated.

A pub team needs three-four things (generally) to be "balanced":

  1. DPS - magic DPS can work, but Physical is usually the safer option because BKB can totally screw over a magic DPS-er
  2. Initiation - pubs are afraid to start fights. You need someone who can go in and stun the entire team or just get everyone else to feel safe going in
  3. Crowd Control - you need some way to manage the fight. Crowd Control usually comes from a support, but it can easily come from Faceless Void (Chronosphere) or something similar.
  4. Mid Hero - not as necessary, but mid lane is generally going to be 1v1. You want to grab a hero that can handle it effectively, otherwise that's one lane that will be a guaranteed loss and there's no reason to sacrifice that (in a pub)
Sometimes, it's not very clear though. Here's an example match I played in:

Our Lineup
What My Team Saw
What I Saw
Crystal Maiden

#4 Support
#5, Support, Team Fight, Minor Crowd Control, Roaming Potential

#2 Tank + Initiator
#3/4, Initiator, Crowd Control Ult, Roaming Potential
#1 Carry, Farmer
#2, Semi-Carr (DPS dependent upon proximity to ult and Static Link), Ganker
#2 Magic DPS
#2, Utility, Magic Damage, Minor True Sight, Global
Their Lineup

#1 Carry
#1, Hard to Gank, Needs lots of farm, annoyance
#2 Jungle Carry
#4, Jungle Ganker, needs lots of farm, probably going to AFK in the jungle because it’s a pub
#1 Carry
#1, DPS, easy to kill early, will win if this goes late game
Shadow Shaman
#5 Support Pusher
#5, Crowd Control, Support, Push, Team Fight, Roaming
Centar Warrunner
#2 Imba Ult
Somewhere between #3-#1 farm, Tanky, Global Presence, Crowd Control, Initiation

I picked Riki. My team flamed me, but I felt good about my pick because he was what we were missing. He might not have been the best pick, but you only have so much time to pick. My logic was:

  • We didn't have any reliable DPS. Yes, Razor can DPS, but it's too easy to break Static Link
  • We needed some more Crowd Control (Riki has smoke)
  • Heroes like Weaver, Sniper, and Shadow Shaman can be picked off quite easily by a Riki
  • Using Riki to scout, we can line up good Tidehunter initiations
  • Riki is perfect for killing AFK jungler Axe's or split-pushing Weavers
  • Sniper can outcarry late game, but if Riki can approach Sniper undetected, he's not as big of a threat (i.e. Riki "counters" Sniper's need for positioning)
  • Plus, Riki is a pub stomp hero because no one buys dust
We did get crushed in the lane, but I reassured my team that once I hit level 6 and could gank, everything would turn around. It did. Part of the fail in lane was due to my pick and not effectively communicating who would be in each lane. However, part of it was also terrible lane composition (Tide and CM laned together which made no sense because both have lower farm priority than Riki and Razor).

Important Note: Role Switching

Sometimes you'll have to switch what role your hero is taking up. Some heroes are better at this than others, but it's something that happens a lot in pubs. If you're playing Rubick and someone picks Tinker, you might need to yield and let Tinker mid because Rubick can be played effectively as a support whereas Tinker is pretty much rubbish at it.

Same goes with other heroes. Mirana, in a pinch, can be played as a roaming support, utilizing her arrow and ult to set up kills while buying wards and such.

If you pick Vengeful Spirit to support, but have no carry, she is a very viable semi-carry or even hard carry.

Peak in Game

Heroes peak at different times. A hero like Phantom Lancer is really late game. Crystal Maiden does a lot of damage early on.

In theory, you could say every hero is a carry at a different point in the game.

If you stack too much of one thing it will make the match more difficult. Everyone has felt that. Early in your DotA career everyone has a game with 5 late game carries and it makes it impossibly hard.

However, you also have to take advantage of your lineup when it peaks. If you have 2 early game heroes and 3 mid game, then go wild mid game. Gank, push, etc. You need to exploit that window of opportunity.

Lane Composition

Figuring out who is going to what lane is another big ordeal and very important. You want to spread out farm priority as well as make sure your lanes have synergy.

To do this you need to communicate. If someone picks Leshrac, find out if they're planning to run him as a Mid (#2) or as a Roaming Ganker (#4). That will affect what you pick. For instance, if he says Roaming Ganker, you might want to pick a hard support or carry to combo with him (e.g. Naga Siren's net makes Leshrac's stun a guaranteed hit).

When people don't reply, I assume I'll be in suicide lane (i.e. solo hard lane) because no one want to be there, so I pick a hero that fits there and whatever role we need. For instance, Wind Runner can play in suicide lane without much risk, plus she can fill in as utility, support, and sometimes semi-carry.

Game Sense, Awareness, and Communication

This is incredibly necessary all throughout the game, not just the laning phase. You need to watch everything like a hawk. The more information you have, the better your decisions are.

General Rules of Thumb:

  • Blame everything on yourself
    • There's always something you could have done better
    • You can make up for another player's poor map awareness by communicating 
  • Constantly check the minimap
    • Don't expect MIA calls
    • Call MIAs from other lanes
    • Check for number of enemies on the screen
    • Figure out trajectories 
  • Constantly check other hero's items (allied and enemy)
    • Prevent your allies from building poor items choices for the given match
    • See what your enemies are building or what they have (e.g. Gem is a big one, BKB can be a game changer, same with Blink Dagger)
  • Communicate everything
    • It's very hard to over communicate in DotA
    • Most people don't know what they should be doing, communication helps them make those choices
  • Keep everyone positive
    • Being rude sets your team up for failure (you already have 5 enemies, why create more?)
    • Complement your teammates
    • Forgive people that mess up, everyone makes mistakes (plus, you play worse when you're upset/angry/feeling bad)
    • Generate an environment of fun, that keeps everyone relaxed. You play better relaxed.

Map Awareness

This is something you have to be on top of for both yourself and teammates. Call out ALL MIAs. MIA calls are a crutch. Rise above that and be aware of every lane. This will benefit you going forward if you play heroes like Nature's Prophet and Ancient Apparition. You need to see everything to make your global presence known.

Watch the other lanes. People miss a lot of easy gank opportunities because they don't pick up early TPs and don't watch the map. Sometimes, you can TP to another lane and turn a enemy tower dive into a double kill for your team.

You need to watch movement too, not just whether a hero is missing. Sometimes you can spot a hero clumsily running through a warded area and tell your team to back up before a gank occurs (which can also result in an easy kill because now your team is against 1 hero that was sneaking around).

Watch your towers all the time too. Losing towers for no reason is stupid. A lot of people tunnel vision on a push/gank/whatever and miss that Leshrac is taking out a tower where a Fortification or TP could have stopped him.

Game Sense

Game sense, in short, is knowing what to expect, what action would have the biggest impact, etc.

This is also where Hero Awareness comes into play. Watch allies and enemies to see what they're building.  A Sand King with Blink is a lot scarier when you're pushing than one without it. Knowing that information will change how you play, where you ward, and how you approach a scenario.

Same goes for allies. Don't expect your Pudge to have a Pipe. Maybe he thought Force Staff would be more effective, despite the mass amounts of magic damage the other team does. If you check this stuff, you'll know whether it's safe to engage a team fight, or if you should hold off.

Use this sort of information to make educated decisions about what your team should be doing right now. Some examples:

  • You're ahead and the other team is turtling - Rosh might be a good option because they're playing so defensively. The Aegis will make a push safer because your Carry has two lives.
  • You're jungling alone, no wards are up and the enemy team has a Bounty Hunter who has not been seen in a while. You might want to back up, buy yourself some wards/dust, and farm cautiously.
  • Ursa is level 7. You hear his roar/ult, but have not seen him go to the Rosh pit. You might want to check Rosh because there's a good chance Ursa used Smoke to sneak past your wards.
  • Your team is pushing a base tower, the other team is pushing your Tier 1 (furthest from base) tower. It's not worth it to port back and defend it. You're trading them for something worth a lot more. You have the opportunity to take a Barracks, they don't.
  • Your team is ahead, but the other team has more hard carries and some of them are doing decently well. Then get your team to end the game early. You can't just mindlessly charge a Barracks though, get a strategy in place, make sure people aren't dicking around and farming when the item is unnecessary.
  • You're Anti-Mage. Your team is pushing a T1 tower and 3 enemies are there contesting it, you can see that one is still at mid. You have Battlefury and basically a lane to free farm. Best choice is probably going to be split push. You get a lot of free farm as the carry, they'll have a tough time defending two towers. You know their mid isn't at top, so it will at least be a 4v4. If anyone comes for you, Anti-Mage can easily blink to safety.

And remember, if your team ever argues with you (e.g. in last example: "AM, get the fuck to top and help push"), just calmly explain your logic. If it's sound logic, most people will back off and say "oh, ok".

Important Note: Address Failures

Don't let failures repeat. If someone is doing bad at mid, GO GANK MID. Anyone can gank any lane. It's not mid's sole purpose to be the only ganker. Hell, half the time when you gank mid, then gain a lead and then gank other lanes. Domino effect.

Likewise, if you're dual laning hard lane and it's not working out, you might want to try:
  • Ganking other lanes
  • Stacking
  • Jungling
  • Asking to switch lanes
  • Asking for a gank
If your team is giving up towers for free, tell people to carry TPs. Carry one yourself as well.

If you are getting caught out, then start traveling with people, carry dust, put up more wards, etc. Fix problems.

Communication (& Leadership)

Obviously, communication is important. But a lot of people leave it at just "MIA".

When you have any team of 4+ people, someone has to be leader. You need to make the calls on what to do. Most of the time, people just meander around and farm without any sort of direction. Ping heroes you want to gank and explain what you're going to do. Ping towers and tell people to defend or attack. You have to give your team direction or the game will stagnate.

Letting others what you intend to do is another big piece of this game. I see a lot of people TP to defend a tower alone, then flame their team "WTF no TPs guys". Well no shit, you didn't ask. I'm sure people would have come to help if they had known someone else was going to go. This goes back to the concept of blame yourself for everything. Yes, perfect world, your teammates would have been watching the minimap and you all would have ESP and TP at the same time. But this is a pub MM game. You have to talk to people. You aren't going to all be on the same wavelength, the same skill level, etc. But talking makes up for this. You can spread your awesome game sense and map awareness through a mic or a keyboard.

There are a lot of ways to help get people on board with what you're doing in addition to talking. Sometimes they won't feel safe pushing. Buy some wards and place them in spots so that you can see ganks coming. After that, all it takes is a simple "Hey, I'm putting up some pushing wards, let's go take mid".

Item Guide

Picking items that suit the match can be pretty difficult to do, but it's also important.

General Rules of Thumb:

  • Be able to explain WHY you picked an item (and it better not "it's good on so-and-so")
    • This should be a simple question, if you can't answer it, then odds are the item isn't good for the match
  • Give up on big items if you're not doing well
    • Knowing when to give up is very hard
    • Sometimes you need to do this or you'll keep dying 
  • ANYONE can buy "support/team" items
    • They benefit everyone, even you, so sometimes it's best to pick them up yourself
    • Sometimes other players are having trouble even farming enough to get those items, so give them a hand. It's a team game. Not a dictatorship. 
  • Try to get items that benefit you/your team in every way (stats they give, actives they provide, etc)
    • Ideally, you want items that complement you in every way
    • Don't let active/passive abilities go to waste (looking at you Shadow Blade users) 
  • Fill in the "blanks" on your team
    • Items are there to adapt, get things you're missing
    • Use items to address failures (e.g. Mek is great for team fights against big AoE nukers)

Farming Items

I wrote about this a bit in the past: Item Guide: Farming Items 

The big four are:

  • Battlefury
  • Radiance
  • Hand of Midas
  • Mjollnir/Maelstrom
These are great items if you can get them early enough. However, it's not as useful to get them after loose "benchmark" times. If you get your Battlefury at 40 minutes, how much time do you think you'll get to farm with it? Not very much. At that point, you're mostly teamfighting and pushing.

That's not to say they don't have uses late game (well, maybe not Midas), but you miss out on one of the huge benefits by not getting them early.

Invisibility Detection

This is another topic I've talked about before: Item Guide: Invisibility Detection 

The cliff notes version is:

  • Sentry Wards
    • Good for counter-warding
    • Good for location-based activity
      • Pushing: gives you vision of invisible heroes trying to start the fight at the tower
      • Defending: gives you additional vision to prevent initiations
  • Dust
    • Good for ganking heroes with invisibility
    • Good for team fights / baiting / counter-ganking
  • Gem 
    • Good for preventing a ganking invis hero from killing you
    • Good for counter-warding
    • Good for ganking
    • Be careful because
      • It drops on death
      • It's a money investment
      • There is a cooldown on buying another one

Utility and Crowd Control

  • Orchid
    • See this - Item Guide; Orchid Malevolence 
    • Good for ganking blinkers
    • Good for ganking crowd control heroes 1v1
    • Good for heroes that need DPS and Mana Regen
    • Good against heroes that rely on casting spells to be useful
    • Pretty easy to build (small components)
    • Note: it deals bonus damage at the end of the silence
  • Sheep Stick
    • Great late game pick up, pretty self explanatory item
  • Eul's
    • Great for mobility and mana regen
    • Works as a "get out of jail free card" to heroes that get initiated on
    • Good for stalling a hero while your allies catch up
    • Helps supports survive battles
    • Gives you a bit longer for abilities (e.g. blink) to come off cooldown
  • Drum of Endurance
    • Good item for general scenarios
    • Excellent for catching up (Bracer = survival, plus some int)
    • Active is great in team fights
    • You should generally have one per team
  • Urn of Shadows
    • Good for gankers (heal between ganks, secure kills)
    • Good for stats (cheap item with STR and mana regen)
  • Medallion of Courage
    • Good for ganking
    • Good for Supports that have low armor
    • Good for early Roshing using minons (armor debuff works on Rosh)
    • Good for jungling (take out jungle creeps super fast)
  • Necronomicon
    • Good for team fights (people accidentally kill the creep that deals Pure Damage to killer on death)
    • Good for chasing
    • Decent against Invis heroes
    • Great for pushing
    • Works well with:
      • Nature's Prophet - works with Sprout, aids in his split pushing, utility in fights
      • Lycan - more push power, invis detection, the minions gain his buffs
      • Bane - more utility, pushing, creeps can attack the hero he is ulting
  • Rod of Atos
    • Still considered a very niche pick up
    • Good for heroes that need HP and INT
    • Can be disassembled (don't know what you'd do with 2 +10 INT items though, Vit Booster is useful in other places)
    • Natural Synergies:
      • Ancient Apparition - works better than Eul's for guaranteeing a stun (Cold Feet + Rod of Atos = stun, plus they continue taking damage whereas Eul's makes them immune)
      • Keeper of the Light - he needs HP, the slow helps him hit his nuke
      • Silencer - good stats for him, gives him more utility
      • Outworld Destroyer - good stats, better able to auto attack due to the slow
  • Force Staff
    • Get this if the other team has a hero like Nature's Prophet (Sprout), Clockwerk (Cogs), etc.
      • Sometimes it's worth it to get one if your teammate is one of those heroes and has bad Sprouts/Cogs
    • Can be used to help someone escape (use it to get up on cliffs)
    • Can be used to clear trees when pushing (more vision = harder to gank)
    • Can be used to push an enemy out in the open during a stalemate (e.g. enemy is sitting in base to defend)
    • Good for positioning
    • Stats work well on supports (Int and Regen)

Magic Protection

  • Black King Bar
    • Good for fighting the KNOWN (e.g. you're planning to initiate)
    • Good for escaping
    • Good for team fights
    • Good for carries (especially ones that need the STR/HP and Damage)
  • Linken's
    • Good for the UNKNOWN (e.g. a fed Tiny now cannot blink and insta-own you with a combo)
    • Good for initiation (able to initiate with less risk of being caught by a fast disable)
    • Good for Regen/Stats
    • Good against single-target spells that you're usually the target of (e.g. Doom, Laguna Blade)
    • Bad if they have Lion (Mana Drain is the best Linken's popper in the game)
  • Pipe
    • This is a Team Item (usually seen on anyone other than the Carry)
    • Good against high Magic Damage teams w/ lots of AoE
    • Good for initiating (use Pipe before going into a team fight)


NOTE: Lifesteal DOES NOT work on Illusions. The animation plays (otherwise it would be obvious which was real), but if you look at the HP, the lifesteal does not work.
  • Vladamir's Offering
    • Good for early Roshing (e.g. Ursa, Lycan)
    • Late game, supports can carry this item (it's an aura)
    • Can be picked up on carries, but usually it's better to have a support get it
    • Generally not good early on because the damage and lifesteal work better after you have more stats (damage is a bonus based on primary stat/base damage, lifesteal is a percent based on your attack damage)
  • Mask of Madness
    • Good if you have appropriate timing and positioning
    • It's a double-edged sword, so usually not something you want to rush (you take bonus damage)
  • Helm of the Dominator
    • Good if you're going to use the creep you can control (e.g. stacking)
    • Good if you're ranged and need the lifesteal
    • Builds into Satanic lategame


  • Monkey King Bar
    • Get this to counter high evasion heroes (examples below)
      • Phantom Assassin (passive evasion skill)
      • Riki (smoke causes miss)
      • Night Stalker (fear causes miss)
      • Brewmaster (multiple abilities to cause miss chance)
    • Get this to counter Butterfly or Heaven's Halberd
    • This does NOT work against Faceless Void's Backtrack
    • Good for the mini-stun too
    • Mostly gives you damage, but some DPS
  • Daedalus
    • Giant increase in expected damage output ("expected" due to crits)
    • Basically get it for raw damage
    • Works with the bonus damage from Shadow Blade
    • Some heroes have natural synergies with this
      • Kunkka - Tidebringer
      • Earthshaker - Enchant Totem
  • Sange & Yasha
    • Most would say to avoid this as it is a "Jack of All Trades, Master of None" item
    • Can be good if you're behind on farm / need easy build up items
    • Main problem is that Sange is not a guaranteed slow
    • You can split this apart to make Manta Style and Heaven's Halberd late game
  • Heaven's Halberd
    • Good against Right-Click carries (e.g. Phantom Assassin, Faceless Void, Anti-Mage)
    • Good for support, STR carries
  • Butterfly
    • Good for DPS on AGI heroes
    • Good for increasing EHP (effective HP, chance to evade attack means you take less damage which is like having more HP to some extent)
    • Bad against Monkey King Bar
  • Bloodstone
    • First off: no hero NEEDs this item, but it can be beneficial
    • Item Guide: Bloodstone 
    • Pretty good on carries/semi-carries that rely on spamming
    • Good if you're ahead and getting charges via ganking
  • Eye of Skadi
    • Good hero fighting item
    • Good against auto-attack carries (slows attack speed)
    • Good on heroes that can be easily kited
    • Good on Sniper (he outranges heroes, so it makes him hard to even get to)
    • Great for stats
    • Pretty rare pick up because usually other Unique Attack Modifiers work better and are easier to farm
  • Manta Style
    • Good for survivability
    • Good for Pushing
    • Gets rid of debuffs (e.g. DUST - think about picking this up invis heroes)
    • Good for roaming
    • I believe there are some benefits that work on Illusions here (apparently Manta Style has a hidden buff or something)
    • Good for heroes that can auto attack from a range during team fights (e.g. Sniper)
  • Assault Curiass
    • Good for pushing
    • Good for team fights
    • Good for increasing EHP (Effective HP - due to Armor increase)
    • Good for heroes that need the attack speed
  • Diffusal Blade
    • Good for Illusion heroes (Illusions will get the mana burn effect)
    • Good for ganking heroes (Purge slows and removes buffs)
    • Can be used on allies/self to remove debuffs (e.g. DUST - again, look into this Invis heroes)
    • Good stats for AGI heroes
    • Natural synergy with Riki (Purge + Smoke = mega slow, more auto attacks in the smoke cloud while they're silenced)
  • Desolator
    • Good for pushing (works on towers)
    • Good for DPS
    • Good against low armor heroes (EHP scales linearly, reduction does not - it's confusing shit)
    • Can confuse an enemy because they won't know if you're going BKB, Maelstrom, or Deso
    • Note: This is a Unique Attack Modifier, you can only have 1
  • Heart
    • Good for Tanking damage and staying out in the field longer (heal a % while out of combat)
    • Good for STR heroes
    • Good for Illusion heroes (they inherit stats - makes them tankier and more annoying)
  • Shadow Blade
    • Good for Initiating (deals bonus damage on first attack out)
    • Can be used defensively (but DO NOT get it for that sole purpose, you're putting half the item to waste)
    • Good for ganking (can sneak past wards)
    • Good for putting your team further ahead (now the other team has to buy invis detection)
    • Not so good if you already have invis heroes on your team
    • Natural Synergies:
      • Kunkka - Damage on first attack out of invis works with Tidebringer
      • Shadow Fiend -  Channeling his ult won't break invis until there is too little time for the other team to react
      • Some people like this on channeling heroes because if you use it after channel has started, it won't break channel or invis (e.g. Witch Doctor ult, Crystal Maiden ult)
  • Skull Basher / Abyssal Blade
    • Decent on melee heroes
    • Abyssal Blade is a pretty good late game item due to the stun
    • Mostly a cheap-ish DPS item
  • Shiva's Guard
    • Good on initiators (initiate -> active for more damage & slow)
    • Good on tanky heroes (the aura slows attack speed, so you need someone that can hold it)
  • Armlet of Mordiggian
    • Item Guide: Armlet of Mordiggian 
    • Good early-mid game
    • Great for baiting (low HP -> switch on -> lots of HP)
    • Good on STR carries/semi-carries
    • Natural Synergies
      • Chaos Knight - if you activate before ulting, then your Illusions get the bonus HP, but won't lose HP over time
      • Lifestealer - the HP loss is negligible due to his regeneration from attacking
      • Nightstalker - great for ganking because you'll get massive DPS boosts and it doesn't need to be active long
      • Skeleton King - has natural lifesteal, so the HP drain is negligible
  • Vanguard
    • Generally good on junglers (able to tank creeps longer)
    • Good on melee heroes that need the HP, Damage Block, and regen - especially if they can split push (e.g. Anti-Mage w/ Battlefury)
    • Generally avoid on ranged heroes (Damage Block isn't  as good)
    • Some people opt to skip this and just get Vit Booster for a Heart later
  • Ring of Aquila
    • Usually unnecessary (Ring of Basilius is the key thing you want)
    • Can be OK on Suicide Laners
  • Poor Man's Shield
    • Good if you're taking a lot of harassment in lane
    • Usually only want to get this on Melee heroes (again, damage block isn't as good for Ranged)

Blink Dagger vs. Force Staff

Blink Dagger vs. Force Staff

Blink is generally more of an initiation item, Force Staff is more support-ish.


Item Guide: Boots

Orchid vs. Scyth (Sheep Stick)

Both serve similar purposes, but are also picked up for different reasons.

  • DPS and Mana Regen
  • Longer Silence (however, they can still attack)
  • 30% Damage Amplification (dealt at end of 5 seconds, I believe)
  • Easier to Build/Smaller Components
  • Lower Cooldown
  • You can dispell with Purge, activating Manta, etc.
  • More Support-ish (mostly get stats and regen)
  • Sheeping will stop hero from evading, dodging, gaining XP
  • Slows target


Having wards up is a problem in pub games. Having good wards up is even rarer to come by.

The thing is that just having wards up is not enough. You have to put them in the appropriate places.

The main things to consider:
  1. Offensive / Defensive
  2. Pushing / Turtling
If you're playing offensively, it means your team has an advantage in gold/levels/kills/etc. You put wards up in their jungle so that the other team cannot farm. In DotA, you want to take a slight advantage and exploit it as much as possible.

Defensive wards would be placed in your own jungle. These should show entraces that the enemy might use to gank your carry while they farm the jungle, trying to make up lost xp/gold. Be careful though, wards aren't always enough. Sometimes, you'll need sentries to watch for smoke ganks.

If you're Pushing, you want to cover your flanks. So Radiant pushing top lane might put a ward on the huge mountain near Dire's Tier 2 tower. Dire might place a ward near Radiant's Secret Shop if they're pushing top Tier 2 tower.

Similarly, you might place wards in those areas if you're turtling. This will give you vision so you can get outside your base a bit, watch for incoming ganks, etc.

Rosh Wards

For heroes like Ursa, you want to get a Ward and a Sentry Ward up on Rosh around the time he hits level 7. A good Ursa will smoke into Rosh so your wards will miss him.

If you're going to Rosh at any point, you want wards up that will allow you see the enemy coming in advance. These could be around the Dire Secret Shop, the Radiant Jungle entrance, etc.

Counter Warding

If you see a hero put up a ward, then get a Sentry Ward and get rid of it. Information is very important in a strategy game. Plus, Observer Wards have a cooldown between purchases. Getting rid of 1-2 wards severely hurts your enemy.

Sometimes you can tell they have a ward by the actions of the other team. Like if Nature's Prophet's ult hits you with seemingly nothing around to give vision, it's probably a ward (or an invis hero).

If you get counter warded, change up your ward spots. There are lots of ways to place wards so they give similar vision, but are in a different spot.

Anyone Can Buy Wards

People forget this. Everyone wants the supports to do it, but that's not always going to be the case. A lot of the time, if your support is kind of noobish, it's better to ward as the mid, 2nd support, etc. You at least will know how to recover from spending 150g, a newer player might be at a huge loss.

Frequently, I've found it is best to buy wards for myself. At least then I'll get the usage I need out of them (e.g. runes at mid, seeing ganks coming while pushing)

Pushing and Defending

This can be a tricky subject for players. Both highly tie into Communication and Leadership. I've found no one really pushes unless someone steps up and calls out where to push.


Basically, you want to be pushing when it generates some sort of advantage or you already have an advantage.

Pushing is incredibly useful because after a tower is gone, the enemy has less vision and less mobility (can't TP to a destroyed tower). You also get a pretty big gold bonus.

The problem can be that pushing too much can make it easy for the carry to static farm close to the base. However, you can counter that with Smoke Ganks and/or Aggressive Wards.

Some generally good rules:
  • Make sure you have good vision before doing so
  • Make sure you have a TP before you do so
  • If everyone is collected somewhere, it might be a good time to push
  • If you recently picked off a few enemies, it's a good time to push
  • If people are wandering aimlessly it might be a good time to push
  • If your carry is fighting for jungle farm with allies, it might be a good time to push (and the carry can split push sometimes if they have a good escape)
  • A lot of the time, it's good to just destroy towers in "shells" (i.e. get all the T1 towers, then the T2, etc.)
  • If a tower is close to 130 HP (the point where it can be denied), it's usually a good idea to gather people for quickly taking the tower down before it can be denied.

Split Pushing

Split pushing is very useful too. It can be done with heroes that have good escape mechanisms, pushing abilities, pushing items, etc.

  •  Good in a 4 protecting 1 strategy
    • have the carry (e.g. Anti-Mage, Morphling) farming/pushing one lane 
    • Have the other 4 pushing a different lane
    • Enemy has to choose between scaring off the carry, letting the carry farm, and which tower to defend
  • Good in some turtle scenarios (e.g. enemy is sitting in base but you can't rax)
    • Have a split pusher (e.g. Nature's Prophet, Broodmother) push one lane
    • The rest push the other
    • Hard to defend 2 base towers at once

Early Game Pushing

This is a iffy subject. The gold early on can be huge, but you can also give the enemy carry a lot of space to farm and/or put you out in a dangerous area.