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    Dota 2 – Dota Concepts For The Casual Viewer

    Even though watching Dota is by far easier than playing it, there is still a steep learning curve to grasp what is actually happening on the screen. Players who have devoted hundreds of hours to the game can still learn more about it’s nuances. There are rules on top of rules, exceptions in between, and they can all change as a new patch churns out a new meta.

    Broadcasters can be riffing off terms and concepts that may be foreign to new viewers, when the luxury of a newcomer stream is only available during TI. What did the broadcaster mean by space creation, what happened during that team fight, and why are these items popping up on the side of the screen? As more people tune in to this season of Dota, there are a few basic concepts that can help them understand what exactly is happening on the screen.

    Global Purchases

    Much like how hero levels, items purchased can hint at important points in the game. An early Blink Dagger purchase will most likely lead into a gank attempt soon. The same can be said for other core items, like Shadowblade and Orchid Malevolence. For certain carries, pickups of Radiance or Battlefury signal a tense period for the opposing team, who now has to step up the pressure or else fall behind.

    Crowd Control Lasts A Long Time

    The Combat summary showing crowd control times in Na’Vi vs. Col at Starladder

    Despite some initial protests from Dota’s seasoned gamers, the Crowd Control duration overlay was a much needed one for most players. There are quite a few spells that will prevent a hero from doing something. They can be silenced, rooted, stunned, slowed, broken, taunted, disarmed, blinded, and made ethereal. While it requires some studying to understand the effects of each, it’s enough to just know that there are mechanics in Dota that will limit a hero’s abilities. While it seems like common sense for most Dota players, for newcomers it can be quite disruptive to both the viewing and playing experience when a hero doesn’t do what you expect it to do. This is just to say, that’s ok, and there’s more to come.

    Vision & Fog Of War

    Spectators watching a stream are seeing it from the point of view of an omniscient observer—they can see the point of view of both teams. Occasionally the perspective will switch to only what one team will see, but for the most part spectators will have a god’s eye view on the battlefield.

    Because of this, vision can often be an underrated concept for new viewers. Warding and vision is a central tactic to gaining an advantage over the opponent, and throughout the course of the game both teams are constantly vying for vision over the map. And even with strategic wards on the map, teams can’t see everything. Dota is also a mind-game of anticipating the enemy movements and knowing when to play aggressively or defensively.


    Highground is another pesky mechanic in Dota that often surprises new players. Heroes can’t see uphill unless something from the highground hits them first. That’s one part of the highground advantage. The other is that attacking from low ground to high ground has a 25% chance to miss the target. Understanding this dynamic of highground vs lowground can help dissect what teams are strong and weak in certain positions, and why it can be so difficult to breakthrough a base.

    Teamfight Chaos

    Our Clips feature is also a good way to recap pivotal teamfights

    One reason why there’s usually two people casting a game is that one person is riffing off what is happening in the chaos of a team fight, and the other person talks about why everything happens the way it did. It takes two brains to parse a team fight. A lot happens during a team fight, but it’s also about the events leading up to it, and the consequences afterward. As a new viewer, let the casters do the analysis and recap, and instead of trying to comprehend everything happening at once, try to focus on one part of the field, or one hero’s perspective.

    Phases Of The Game

    Like chess, Dota has three overall phases: early, mid and late. The early stage is the opening act of the game. Heroes wake up, buy their items, and mobilize into their lanes. Players will spar for last hits, rotate for early kills, and stack the jungle. Though it’s just the start of the game, mistakes in this phase can compound into the later stages of the game.

    The mid game starts when heroes begin turning level 6 and start searching for openings to use their new ultimates. Ganks occur in the early game as well, but this is when teams will be more focused on transitioning kills to objectives—taking towers, killing Roshan.

    The last phase of the game is when teams are trying to destroy the opposing barracks and eventually seal the game. One concept to grasp here is that some heroes peak during the mid game and some heroes peak in the late game. So a hero like Anti-Mage, a mid to late-game carry, can accrue enough gold and items to turn a game around.

    Split Push and Deathball

    Both split push and deathball represent opposite strategies of taking towers. Deathball is the easiest one to identify: all heroes of one team are trying to mow through a lane. While split push surrounds trying to outmaneuver the opponent to extract minor advantages. One simple example is a 4-1 split, where one player, such as Nature’s Prophet or Lone Druid, is the lone player trying to sneak in tower damage while the rest of the team keeps the enemy occupied.

    As seen on Dotabuff

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