Thursday, October 24, 2013

Resources in DotA 2

One aspect that is important in Real Time Strategy (RTS) style games (DotA being considered an Action RTS, or ARTS) is resource accumulation and usage. There are some very obvious resources in DotA 2, but there are also some hidden ones, as well as actions directly linked to resources.

In short:
  • Obvious Resources
    • Gold
    • Experience
  • More Subtle Resources
    • Intelligence / Vision
    • Gold - Reliable
    • Gold - Unreliable
    • Inventory
  • Linked Resources
    • Time
    • Structures

The Obvious Resources

There are two resources that should become apparent very quickly:

  1. Gold
  2. Experience
These resources are directly linked to your hero and your team, to some extent. There isn't a huge amount going on at the surface level here. You want to accumulate a lot of both of these resources and eventually use your advantage to win the game.

To most new players, it should be pretty clear that you want to be in experience range, denies help you build an early level advantage, etc. Similarly, you want to get last hits, hero kills, tower razes, etc.

Because of how important Experience is, you see heroes like the 6.79 incarnation of Lich making quite an impact on the pro scene. Now that Sacrifice gives you XP for your own creep, you can build an advantage a lot faster. If you Sacrifice far enough back, you also deny your opponent the XP and the change to get the last hit (and therefore Gold).

More Subtle Resources

Some resources are just less obvious because there is no number associated with them, while others are hidden by less apparent mechanics.

Intelligence / Vision

This is an invaluable resource that there is no number or score for. It's something that over time, players pick up on the common sense that the more they can see, the better decisions they can make. Vision is important across all RTS rooted games. For instance, StarCraft players constantly scout and collect information about their opponent.

In DotA, this is important enough that Observer Wards have a cap and restock time, or how the 6.79 tweak to Night Stalker's ult limiting vision propelled him into a top tier pick.

Vision isn't just important for seeing enemy movement, it also allows you to inspect their inventories and make better judgements on what build you should use or gauging what kind of strategy they are aiming for.

Alternative Forms of Intel

From a different angle, you can learn a lot from the Intel you don't have too. For instance, when you only see one hero farming a lane on the other team, the 4 that are missing can give you a big hint that something else is in the works, be it a gank, Roshing, or what have you. Regardless, having good Vision tells you a lot even in this case because you know all the places they are not at.

Good Vision can also lead to good Counter-Intelligence (i.e. Counter-Warding). You'll often see top tier teams like Alliance put up wards even before Rune Spawn so that they can see when the opposing Supports go to Ward and where they Ward. This allows them to knock out their Vision and take advantage of the opposing team's lack of knowledge.

One other important way to collect knowledge is from getting caught out, killed, or failing a gank due to the opponent backing. Often, this tells you that they had Vision of you, like getting ganked at the Secret Shop, or seeing an opponent back as you sneak up on their flank.

Heroes and Intel

A number of top tier picks are valuable because of the Intel they provide. This also becomes an integral part of the balancing process because that extra utility needs to be factored in.

Some major examples:
  • Batrider - gives flying vision while using Firefly. This allows you to scout out areas like the Rosh pit, or find heroes juking through the jungle
  • Clockwerk - Rocket Flare allows you to scout as it moves, but it also gives you 10 seconds of vision at the impact site.
  • Templar Assassin - Psi Traps are good for monitoring high traffic areas like ramps, gank paths, Runes, and Roshan
  • Slark - his ultimate's passive will deactivate if they have vision of you. Often, this is a good indicator that an enemy ward is nearby.
  • Luna - Lunar Blessing will passively give you better than average vision at night

Reliable Gold

This is a mechanic that many newer players overlook, but it is incredibly important. Reliable Gold is gold that is absolutely safe when you die. That means it is safe and available for Buy Back, or that you can play riskier if more of your money is Reliable.

Reliable Gold is earned basically by achieving "objectives" or playing aggressively. You can earn it from:
  • Getting Kills
  • Destroying Towers
  • Killing Roshan
  • Using Hand of Midas
When you die, Reliable Gold is used first when buying back. When you make an item purchase, Unreliable Gold is used first.

The basic idea of this type of currency is that you are rewarded for doing things that progress the game or make it exciting. And by having reliable gold, you're at a lower risk when you attempt a risky play. Because you don't lose Reliable Gold on death, it's an incredibly important resource to have and manage.

Unreliable Gold

Though Unreliable Gold is less useful than Reliable Gold, it's still important. When you make item purchases, it's much better to use up Unreliable Gold and try to leave your Reliable Gold available for buy backs or very important item purchases. This is often why you see players with Hand of Midas building up a large pile of Gold in the bank before making a purchase.

Unreliable Gold is the easiest gold to come by, for the most part. You get it from:

  • Creep Kills
  • Neutral Creep  & Ancient Kills
As of the 6.79 patch, there is another huge change that impacts Unreliable Gold and that's the new Buy Back mechanic. If you Buy Back, you can only gain Reliable Gold, so that means you have to make your Buy Backs count (i.e. kills, tower pushes, etc.).

This is very important and exploitable. If the other team can bait you into a Buy Back, then you not only lose the gold you spent, but you also lose some of your time while up because you can't even start farming back your loss.


You have 6 inventory slots that are incredibly valuable. These can be manipulated by certain heroes or item pick ups. For instance, if a Shadow Blade is picked up, now the enemy supports need to be carrying around additional Sentry Wards, Dust, or purchase a Gem. Likewise, a pickup such as Butterfly may warrant making a Monkey King Bar in response.

While this resource isn't something you always want to manipulate, it's something to look out for. If a support is forced to buy extra detection and sacrifice 1+ item slots to carry it around, that could mean something beneficial to them is sitting in their stash or it could set back other item purchases.

Linked Resources

There also exists what I'd consider a "Linked Resource" in that it relates to one or more resource listed above, but also can be counted as a resource on its own.


In a lot of ways, time is an obvious resource. But it's also something you see many players mismanage.

Time filters into a number of other resources:
  • Experience - the longer you're out of lane and away from battle, the less experience opportunity you have
  • Gold - similarly, the more time you're doing other tasks, the less time you're spending on getting gold
  • Intelligence - even if you're spending time gaining Intel, you're also giving enemy the intel that you're missing from lane. On Supports, who often are missing early game to do pulls (at least in pre-6.79) may go unnoticed, but core heroes missing will give the opposing team intel that your team is making a play. This is why it's important for plays like ganks to be done quickly.

Time is also part of the reason why kills are important. Not only are you gaining a power advantage, you're setting a player back quite a bit in terms of time to gain gold and XP.


Structures relate to a huge amount of resources, whether they be your own or belonging to your opponents.

  • Time - with structures like Towers down, your team cannot react or move as fast to certain situations or plays. You are denied a teleport location which slows your team down significantly.
  • Gold - your team gets Reliable Gold for taking down a number of structures. This can lead to critical gaps in net worth for your team to exploit. Similarly, losing Towers will put you in a bad situation economically.
  • Intelligence -  Towers not only give you vision, but they keep the wave pushed back. The vision you gain from your own creeps can tell you a lot about what's going on over the river.
  • Win Condition - the most obvious thing you get out of structures is they move you towards the win condition of the game, taking the opposing Ancient (i.e. Throne/Tree of Life).


Final Remarks

DotA is a deep, complex, and often convoluted game. Just managing Gold and XP will help you get better, but there are a lot of other very important resources that often go overlooked.

If you take a look at any traditional RTS, you'll see players constantly poking and prodding at their opponent, just to get some hint of what their plans are. Many DotA players seem to parody this without understanding the full depth of how to gain intelligence on their opponent. Most players get that Warding is important, but may not see it as a vital resource akin to Gold or XP. Intel makes you, the player, more dangerous while Gold & XP aid your hero in game.

Likewise, Time and Structures need to be managed because they are direct feeds into other resources. Most players get that they shouldn't waste time and that you need to take towers while defending your own. However, sometimes Gold and XP can blind you, like running back to lane instead of teleporting there. or going for kills instead of pushing a tower.

The important thing here is to understand all the different resources and how to manage them, not to tunnel vision onto Gold and XP.


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