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Beginners Guide: Learning DOTA 2

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If you're completely new to the DOTA genre (haven't played LoL), read this guide first!
  • I've just moved to Dota2 from LoL. What do I need to know?
While the two games share many similarities, there are also a number of differences which can take some getting used to. For example the Dota2 lane meta is much less set in stone, AP isn't a thing (meaning damage from abilities generally doesn't scale), and there's a donkey that can do your shopping for you.
This guide explains everything that you'll need to know, and it'll be well worth your time to give it a read. This will help you choose your first DOTA 2 heroes based on your preferred League of Legends champions.
  • Which heroes are most suitable for a new player?
Pretty much all of the heroes available in the Limited Heroes mode are suitable for new players. I personally recommend Wraith King as a carry, Lich as a support, and Death Prophet for mid. Not only are these heroes straightforward and relatively forgiving, but they're also very strong choices for pub play.
  • Is it best to start by learning just one hero, or all of them?
The size of the Dota2 hero pool can be quite overwhelming, and it's often a good idea to start off by learning a handful of fairly simple heroes while you're still picking up the basics.
Ultimately though, you'll need to understand every hero in the game in order to play against them effectively. Once you're comfortable with the basic mechanics of Dota2 it's generally sensible to start playing a wider variety of heroes, or even make your way through the entire pool by completing the All Hero Challenge available in your profile!
  • Which game modes should I play?
Limited Heroes mode is designed for new players, and uses a smaller hero pool using only heroes that are relatively newbie-friendly. There is no penalty for leaving a game in this mode (which can be either a blessing or a curse), and players who leave will be replaced by a bot.
All Pick lets everyone choose any hero they like, or be assigned a random hero for bonus gold. If you want to practice a specific hero, AP is the mode for you. Be warned though that since everyone has complete choice over their hero, AP is notorious for the same 'pub stomp' heroes appearing in nearly every game.
Single Draft lets each player choose between three random heroes. This is great for expanding your hero pool, since it will encourage you to try new heroes without forcing you to take that one hero who you really don't want to play. Since everyone is in the same position, you also don't have to worry about letting your team down by playing an unfamiliar hero.
Random Draft is a nice alternative to All Pick, letting players take turns choosing from a pool of 24 random heroes. The randomness of the pool means there tends to be more variety between games, which will help expose you to more of Dota2's roster. Since players pick in turns this is also a good introduction to drafting (the process of picking heroes in competitive matches), since you'll be able to see which heroes have already been picked and make your choice accordingly.
  • How do I know which items to build? Where can I find guides for my hero?
While Valve's recommended items are decent suggestions, you can also find player-written guides during a game by clicking the book icon in the top left. These tend to be more up to date and the higher rated guides are generally fairly reliable.
As well as updating the recommended item list, these guides will also help you by highlighting your abilities in the order that their writer recommends you take them. The better guides generally include hover-over text for both items and skills, which will explain when and how each should be used.
Remember that many items are situational. For example, Black King Bar is incredibly useful against magical damage and stuns but will not help you survive against regular attacks. As you get more experience in the game, you'll find you're able to start making decisions for yourself about which items are suitable when, and will no longer need the guides to help you.
  • I've played X hours against bots. How long should I wait before playing real matches?
It's quite common to feel a little anxiety before playing your first real game. While practicing against bots is a great way to start, don't be afraid to play against real people. There are some things that you simply can't learn against bots, and the game is generally fairly good at matching you up with other players around your own experience level.
  • People are constantly leaving my games / the quality of my games is terrible. Does it get better?
Thankfully, yes. Your first games will be with other players who're also just starting out, and those players often get overwhelmed and leave the game before it finishes (known as 'abandoning'). This is especially true in Limited Heroes mode, since there is no penalty for abandoning a Limited Heroes match. As you play more games, this will begin to happen less and less often.
It's also normal for there to be quite a wide range of ability in your first matches since the game hasn't yet got a good feel for your ability, and this can often lead to games being very one-sided. Again, this gets better the more you play and as your rating improves.
  • I've been playing for X hours and get matched with people 100 levels higher than me. What gives?
The level displayed in your profile doesn't really do anything other than determine which games modes and item drops you're eligible for early on. Instead, you're matched with people based on a hidden Matchmaking Rating (MMR) which the game uses to measure your ability. In ranked mode, your MMR is visible.
  • When can I start playing ranked?
Ranked mode is unlocked as soon as your account reaches level 50, assuming you've also played a certain minimum number of games. Once you start playing ranked, you will have a calibration period of 10 games before your MMR becomes visible.
  • Should I start playing ranked as soon as possible? When am I ready?
Don't worry too much about being 'ready' for ranked. While you might find that players in ranked have a slightly different attitude towards the game, on the whole it's not really all that different to unranked - you're still going to be matched with players of around your own ability. The main difference is just that you can see your MMR.
That said, be aware that once you start calibration your ranked MMR and your unranked MMR will be permanently separated - winning games in ranked will not increase your unranked MMR, and vice versa.
  • How is my MMR determined?
When you initially start playing Dota2, the game looks as various aspects of your play to determine how experienced you are. Be warned that it generally takes some time to determine an accurate rating, and it's not unusual for your first games to be quite hit-and-miss!
The 10 game calibration period for ranked works in a similar way. Calibration uses your hidden MMR from unranked as a starting point however, so while these 10 games are more important than usual they don't determine your new MMR completely.
Outside of the two periods mentioned above, your MMR is controlled entirely by whether you win or lose your games. If you win, your rating goes up. If you lose, it goes down. While it might not seem fair that you can lose MMR when you personally played well, it helps to think of MMR as a long term measure. There will always be some games which are out of your control, but if in the long run you're a better player than the other people are your MMR, you should win more often and your MMR will slowly go up.
Note that the game tracks a number of different MMRs for each player - not only do you have a separate MMR in ranked to unranked, but you also have a separate MMR when you're playing in a party to when you're playing solo. You can learn more about MMR here.

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