Dote Night: A Beginner’s Glossary For Dota 2


Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart.

I talk a lot about different MOBAs in this column and a lot of that necessitates a bit of insider vocabulary. I often have to assume a basic familiarity with the genre otherwise every article would use half the word count on explanations of niche terms.

This week I’m going to go into those terms with a glossary of sorts. It will focus on Dota but I’m considering doing the same thing for LoL and Smite. If there’s any terminology not covered here that you’ve heard and been confused by just add it in the comments and I’ll do my best to explain or to add it in to the list below!

A Beginner’s Glossary For Dota 2

These are the two large structures, one in each team’s base, which form the main objectives of the game. You must keep your one safe and obliterate the other one.
N.B. These are not the Ancients people mean when they say they are “doing the ancients”. Those Ancients are in the next entry.

These are a special type of neutral unit. There’s one camp of Ancients on the Radiant side of the map near the secret shop and one camp on the Dire side between their secret shop and Roshan’s pit. The Ancients are more powerful than normal neutral units – you’ll earn more experience and gold for killing them but you’ll also likely get duffed up in the process, especially early on in the game. When someone says they are going to “do the ancients” they mean killing these guys.

Bot Lane
Bot or bottom lane means the lane which leads to the bottom right corner of the map. Dire bot lane is the one which leads straight down from the Dire base. Radiant bot lane is the one which extends to the right along the bottom of the map.

Cooldown is the time it takes for a spell, ability or item to become usable again

These are little non-player characters. Batches of them spawn at your base and charge down the three lanes until they hit enemy creeps coming the other way. By being in the area when these creeps die you gain experience and by delivering the killing blow you earn gold. There are also neutral creeps which live in the woods between the lanes. These are also called the jungle creeps and they can be used as another source of experience and gold. They spawn in specific areas called camps at regular intervals. With a bit of practice you can manipulate how many are on the map if you time your interactions with them carefully OR you can use them to attract the attention of the lane creeps. (Find out about two special creeps – the Ancients and Roshan – elsewhere in this guide.)


CS or Creep Score is the number of last hits you have managed.

When your own creeps are on low health you can attack and kill them to deny experience and gold to the enemy team. It takes a while to get used to, especially if you’re from a League or Smite background but it’s a big part of making sure you’ve got the advantage over your enemies in Dota. When allied heroes are on really low health you can kill them too in order to perform that same function on a larger scale. It’s incredibly circumstantial though and I’m only including it here as a fun fact rather than something for you to worry about.

The Dire side is the one whose base in on the top right of the map.

This is the section of the match before the actual game where the teams select heroes. In some types of drafting they can also ban ones they don’t want to play against. In professional tournaments there are a lot of mind games in this section because you’re trying to work out the other team’s strategy without giving your own away. In modes like All Pick people are more prone to picking the heroes they want to play so team compositions can be a bit hit and miss.

The process of earning gold or experience by killing creeps.

Ganking refers to pickoff kills, usually with the element of surprise. A bunch of your heroes will attempt to co-ordinate a surprise attack on an enemy hero. If it goes well the result with be a kill that the enemy wasn’t expecting to sustain and can’t escape from.

Hard lane
(see offlane)

This means using the map, your items and your skills to escape a sticky situation. Trees interrupt line of sight so you can switch direction behind them, or you can take advantage of different levels of ground and how that interrupts vision, you can chop trees down with various items and so on.

This is the wooded area between the lanes. Some heroes are great at killing and using the camps of neutral minions which spawn in the jungle and they’re called junglers.

Lovely last hit gold

Last hits
Last hitting means striking the killing blow on a creep. This is the hit which earns you extra gold so it’s important that you know which heroes get priority when it comes to gold. If you’re a support, that means you don’t need much gold to be effective so you generally leave the last-hitting to other heroes as they need to buy items to start being properly effective.

Long Lane
In my experience this has *tended* to mean the offlane, but I’ve seen it used for either. Basically I’d say to ignore this one and stick with safe and offlane because they’re universally understood. If someone else is using this term in-game you can usually work out what they’re referring to, though, through context.

Map Control
This one’s a bit nebulous but it basically means which parts of the map are you able to walk around without much fear of getting killed. If you have good map control it might mean you’ve got wards in key points to give vision and spot enemy movements, it might include the fact you have more towers than they do and thus they need to be cautious when roaming near your lanes, it might mean you’re moving around a lot or hiding from sight making the enemy reluctant to venture out into an area.

Micro means micromanagement and generally refers to a player’s ability to control multiple units at the same time. In Dota that’s crucial for heroes like Meepo and Visage, as well as being needed for particular abilities – Brewmaster’s ultimate ability sees him split into three bears, each of which need controlling.

Mid lane
Mid lane is the one which runs diagonally across the map and in which the creeps meet in the middle of the river.

This is the bottom lane if you’re Dire and the top lane if you’re Radiant. The protection offered by towers doesn’t extend past the river, but the point at which your creeps naturally meet the enemy creeps does. That means you need to be extra-cautious about keeping an eye on where your enemy is and what they’re doing, otherwise they can sneak up on you and kill you, or simply deny you a lot of experience and gold. When thinking about the offlane, qualities like durability, escape and how gold-dependent the hero is are key. It might just be a case of surviving and trying to level up.

These can punch you really hard

Pulling means getting the attention of a unit so that it drags them off their pre-ordained path. You can use aggravated jungle creeps to pull them out of position and attract the attention of lane creeps. That means they fight each other instead of just going about their regular business. This is good for moving the point at which creeps meet closer to your tower and making it safe to hover in that area getting last hits.

The Radiant side is the one with its base on the bottom left of the map.

Respect Ban
This is a term you might hear in the draft phase of a professional game – it’s when a hero who isn’t generally considered a high priority for banning gets banned because someone on the other team plays them incredibly well.

Roshan is a huge neutral creep who lives in a pit on the Dire side of the map’s river. Killing him makes him drop the Aegis of the Immortal which lets the bearer come back to life once. It’s basically a hotly contested sentient 1up mushroom.

Rotations are where heroes move around the map to apply pressure in different areas. A support might rotate from the offlane to mid in order to help secure a kill, for example. That’s why it’s crucial to let teammates know if enemies go missing – they might be heading off to gank one of your friends.

Safe Lane
Safe lane means the top lane if you’re Dire or the bot lane if you’re Radiant. These are the lanes where the last of your protective towers is furthest from your base and therefore nearer to where the sets of enemy and friendly creeps (those waves of little minions) meet one another. The tower provides a bit of safety, as does the fact the area where you’ll be killing creeps is surrounded by your own jungle. Basically, you can earn gold and experience more safely as well as co-ordinating kills by making use of the surrounding jungle. It’s a good place to put characters who need gold and experience so they can earn that without getting easily killed.

Short Lane
In my experience this has *tended* to mean the safe lane, but I’ve seen it used for either so I avoid the term because safe and off are unambiguous whereas short and long introduce confusion.

Stacking is a way of manipulating the creeps in the jungle to ensure there are more of them on the map than there technically should be. How it works is you aggravate the creeps at certain times and then walk away from the camp. The aggravated creeps should follow you and – if timed correctly – when the game checks the camp spawn boxes they’ll look empty so another lot of jungle creeps will spawn. Doing this a few times means you can build up gold and experience reserves on the map which characters can then farm.

Responsible warding

Top Lane
Top lane is the lane which leads to the top left corner of the map. Dire top lane is the one which heads along the top of the map from the Dire base. Radiant top lane is the one which extends straight up from the Radiant base.

These are the structures which are placed along the lanes. They can do a lot of damage as well as granting vision of the surrounding area. Losing these is a bad thing as it means you have less vision, less protection, and the enemy has earned gold.

Wards are items you can place on the map in order to provide vision of an area. They let you keep an eye on runes, on key creeps like Roshan, and on how and when the enemy is moving around the map. Sentry wards are more expensive than observer wards but they let you see observer wards in order to destroy them. They only offer vision temporarily, though so you’ll usually need a mixture of the two to keep you safe.


  1. BooleanBob says:

    I know you must be dreading the nit-pickers, Pip (the nit-pippers?), but we can’t help it; we’re peddlers of pedantry, we find it moreish to be boreish. And so, inevitably…

    “When allied heroes are on really low health you can kill them too in order to perform that same function on a larger scale.”

    This is only true in a very small number of circumstances: when the hero in question is afflicted by Poison Nova, Doom or Shadow Strike. I’m sure you’re not wanting to overwhelm newcomers with extensively-qualified and caveated information, which a game like Dota tends to demand, but I think it’s going to cause more confusion for them to think ally denial is a generally applicable thing than not to know it can be done at all.

    • Premium User Badge

      Philippa Warr says:

      Cheers – I’d forgotten that. The other day a friend managed to deny me when Iw as in Phoenix egg form D:

    • Alto says:

      Nit-picking your nit-picks, Venomancer’s ultimate, Poison Nova, is non-fatal damage over time. Allied heroes affected by it cannot be denied.

      You are thinking of his first skill, Venomous Gale.

      Humourously, level 1 Venomous Gale does not do damage over time since it was nerfed a few patches ago, but you can still deny allied heroes under its effect. I remember this happening in a pro game shortly after the Venomous Gale nerf.

      Ahh, Dota.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Hoisted by my own nit-infested petard. It’s poetic, really.

        • heretic says:

          you guys are the best, literally loled at these comments :D

  2. Chaosed0 says:

    You may want to mention that the group of creeps named “ancients” has nothing to do with the ancients in “defense of the ancients”, and that the main objective is often called the “Throne”. How those terms came about still mystifies me.

  3. Thirdrail says:

    I just got into these lane games. I’ve been trying all the mobas I can find for the last couple of weeks. Dota2 made me feel like I needed a master’s degree in their item shop to even be a mediocre player, and I wasn’t too enamored with most of their alternate costume designs. When I spent my first game getting owned by (apparently) notorious noobkiller Riki, and asked for tips dealing with him, my teammates were… I don’t want to say “insanely toxic”, but that is the shoe that fits. I finally settled on LoL, because it’s so much more polished and both the players and the game itself have been so much more newbie friendly.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      You’re braver than me, even reading about lane games scares me off. I can tell that even if I spent all of my gaming time playing, I still wouldn’t even reach “mediocre”.
      Good luck!

    • draakisback says:

      I would be a little remiss if i didn’t say something about this “toxic” community especially in reference to League of Legends. As some one who plays on the higher tier of the MMR in dota 2, I don’t get much if any abuse these days. Even on my smurf account, which is a lower MMR bracket atm (to play with friends), its not nearly as bad as it was when I did play LoL.

      The reality behind dota’s community is very simple. once you break a certain MMR threshold you will see less and less of these people because more and more people understand what they are supposed to be doing where as with LoL you have tons of toxicity throughout the ranks due to the static meta game and entitlement that people seem to have. Even when I was playing in Diamond league, I had people throw fits when i “took their role” from them in ranked, it was extremely unpleasant.

      At the end of the day though i guess if you like LoL more then you like Dota 2 then go for it. Dota 2 has a harder learning curve and is a more complex game. As a consequence of this when you do master it or at least get semi-mediocre at it, the pay off is much better. With LoL, I never felt like i was progressing even when i was moving up the leagues. The game is mostly about mechanical skill rather then tactical skill and decision making due to how many skill shot style abilities that are in it. Anyways, id recommend you go back and try dota 2 again, maybe read a few guides before coming to an ultimate decision about it.

  4. Philopoemen says:

    Have to preface this by saying I’ve only watched a couple of DOTA games (the Invitational?) on youtube, so I might be missing something.

    Is there only one map? Or does this Roshan bloke move around.

    And is getting “duffed” a good or bad thing?

    • kalzekdor says:

      Can’t speak to your DotA related questions, but getting “duffed up” is a colloquial term for beaten up, damaged, hurt, etc. Generally not a good thing, at least for the recipient.

      • Colthor says:

        Not to be confused with “up the duff”, which means pregnant.

        • Philopoemen says:

          yes, thats the one I’m more used to, hence the confusion.

      • SuddenSight says:

        Side note: “duffed” is a colloquial British term. I don’t believe it is widely used by Dota players in the US.

    • Billzor says:

      Yes there is only one map and Roshan is always in the same place, although after he is killed he will respawn at a random time, from anywhere between 10-14 minutes (I think) from the time he was taken down. That’s why in ranked games you’ll see someone type in the game time that he died in team chat as an easy reference for keeping track of when he will probably be back up.

    • BlackestTea says:

      Actually, the Roshan dude DID move around a few months ago. There is only one map as people have pointed out, but the game is patched very regularly. Usually that affects mostly heroes and items, but there was a big patch last year which reworked whole areas of the map, including Roshan moving house.

    • draakisback says:

      Its funny, you’d think with one map the game would get old after so many years of play (personally, I’ve been playing since early early WC3 days back when riki had witch doctor totem and we had void demon and the gambler, good times…). Anyhow, there are so many nuances to the game that just having that one map is more than enough. With 110 heroes (112 in dota 1 which will eventually be in dota 2), mostly with their own play styles multiple different styles of approaching the game, many different team compositions and tactical decisions, it really never gets old. Not to mention that every so often when it does get patched they will change the map in a small way that will change play rather drastically. There’s also the huge learning curve that I still have yet to master, (~5k MMR still don’t see the ceiling) its quite literally the game that keeps on giving.

  5. eggy toast says:

    Juke and gank are just old US slang that was timely when DOTA was a mod and is now jargon I guess.

    • SuddenSight says:

      Juke is current US slang – it is commonly used for any situation where someone avoids pursuit by sharply changing directions. The precise etymology is unclear, but the use of the word in the sense of “deceiving pursuit” appears to only date to the 70s.

      Gank is also modern US slang (it only dates to the 1990’s, 80’s at the earliest). It is sometimes used for it’s original meaning (to steal) but is primarily used for its videogame associations these days (meaning to kill another player in a situation where it is easy – such as when you have superior numbers, higher level, with an element of surprise, and so on…).

  6. Billzor says:

    Pip, you may want to add that sentry wards see invisible heroes, too, not just other wards.

  7. Skusey says:

    Can’t believe it’s taken me three years to find out what CS means. Always thought Creeps Slaughtered was a bit strong.

  8. mOrs says:

    Could you please add “Dieback” to the list? It’s such a hilarious AND fitting term….

  9. wizzard_8 says:

    The most obvious missing ones I noticed are:
    and ofc ARAM :p

    • somnolentsurfer says:


      That confused me for quite a while when I first started. Assumed it would be something that was inscribed or socketed on an item somehow, rather than just basically a powerup. That can, even more mysteriously, be stashed in a bottle.