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Dote Night: First Impressions, First Heroes

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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 spent the last few Dote Nights talking about tutorials in three MOBAs – what they did well and what they did poorly. I realise I didn’t make any suggestions of my own for where to start in terms of characters, though. This post is about which heroes I learned to play Dota 2 [official site] on:

The prevailing wisdom – or at least the most common scenario – is to introduce you to the game via a ranged damage dealer. In League the first champion you get your hands on is Ashe. Ashe is an archer who can fire arrows to slow targets, scout out areas using her hawk spirit and has a big old skillshot stun which also deals damage. Smite hands you Neith. Neith’s an archer who can backflip out of (or into) trouble and has a big old skillshot stun which also deals damage. Currently Dota has Sniper. Sniper is a gunner who specialises in hitting enemies from a safe distance – he slow enemies as well as dealing high damage per second. He also has a huge range on his ultimate – a shot which deals massive damage and gives a mini-stun.

The implication in all of this is that ranged damage dealers are the ones to give people at first. I think it’s a fair assessment. With MOBAs you want people to learn where to stand and how to avoid taking damage. If you give them a ranged character you can just tell them to stand behind the creep wave (the group of friendly minions which run forward and attack the opposing minions). This means the friendly creeps absorb the majority of the opposing creeps’ attack power leaving your hero pretty healthy and able to chip away at enemy heroes or kill enemy creeps from a safe distance.

Melee characters are harder to get the hang of because they involve being nearer the fight. You have to learn how to divert enemy unit attention and you have to get a feel for how much harassing you can withstand without leaving yourself vulnerable. (With Smite, playing melee also affects what you can see of the field of play and can mean you’re caught off guard by attacks.)

Sniper

I did learn Sniper as my first ever hero in Dota 2. I remember sitting in a friend’s study as he prepared to move to a different country and wandering around on the bottom lane trying to kill things. Everyone else was low level too (I *think* it was real people not a bot match) so I managed a few pickoffs despite behaving in a way that would get me reported for feeding nowadays.

The thing I like most about Sniper for newcomers is that I think he teaches you a lot about positioning. You’re fine when you’re shooting from afar but he doesn’t have any built in escape methods so if you’re caught out you become aware of exactly how squishy he is. The lesson is that you were caught out and need to adapt so you play a bit differently next time (hopefully). I remember finding that attack speed was great on Sniper so I went through a phase of building four hyperstones on the character until I realised exactly how inefficient it was. It was still pretty though.

Another thing about Sniper is that you can use his Assassinate ability to clean up kills (that’s the big single target damage thing I was talking about). It has huge range so that means instead of diving far too deep into enemy territory to get a kill you can hang back and use Assassinate. You might not actually finish your foe off but hopefully you won’t die in the process either. For me that meant matches were a more pleasant experience because I wasn’t getting flamed or beating myself up about that stuff. Obviously the ideal would be understanding teammates who don’t flame for that stuff, but it was a curious little point that helped me feel better in the early games.

Drow Ranger

Drow is an archer. She’s actually pretty similar to Ashe from League of Legends. She can use her frost arrows to slow enemies, her gust to silence them and her precision aura to help knock over towers or turn teamfights. Her ultimate also gives a little boost to her damage and attack speed when there aren’t any foes nearby. What all of this means is that she’s another good candidate for keeping safe behind a creep wave but she’s also good at chasing down kills or heading off to try to take little objectives by yourself. For example you can see an unguarded tower so you get your creep wave to push up against it, then flick on your precision aura and you and the creeps start hammering the building. You can probably do a fair chunk of damage before people start teleporting in. Alternatively you might be out of position on the other side of the map and without any way of getting to a fight but you can still activate your precision aura to give teammates a boost from afar. Drow’s ultimate ability (the one that gives extra agility – so extra damage and attack speed and a bit of armour) has the bonus of being a passive ability so you can level it up and then concentrate on getting the other three abilities right instead of all four.

Chaos Knight

I tried to learn better melee tactics using Chaos Knight. It went so badly that my boyfriend told me that I was the natural counterpick to Chaos Knight. I am still bad at judging how much harass I can take from creeps and from enemy heroes and frequently get into arguments where someone points out that I’m being too cautious so I get more in-their-face and then die. It’s like when you learn to drive and the instructor gets you to feel the biting point by raising the clutch until you feel the engine and the wheels start to make contact with one another. The only problem is that this is a conceptual biting point rather than one you can feel in your foot and so I am far better at driving than I am at controlling a horseback ancient being.

I actually stopped playing melee characters altogether for months after encountering Chaos Knight.

Sven

Sven was the character I had my first ever hero moment on. He’s a melee hero with a whack-you-in-the-face stun, a limited time strength boost, an ally movement speed boost and the ability to deal splash damage to nearby characters when he hits something. I didn’t acquit myself remarkably in that particular game but I remember running to the top lane as my teammates were retreating. “GET BACK” I was ordered. Usually I just do what I’m told when a teammate is shouting at me because I simply don’t care to have the fight that ensues. This time however I jogged along, waiting until I was in range of the fleeing group and activating my ally speed and armour boost. “Actually,” I said, “I think this is a better idea.” We all lived and I was a genius because I had been paying attention to my skills and positioning.

I didn’t learn as much on Sven because I stopped playing melee and he fell out of favour with the metagame gods but I think that having those moments is a fantastic mood boost that keeps you playing and makes it feel like you have actually learned a new thing after all. Sven’s ally boost, his stun and his ability to turn into a big strong Santa Claus version of himself and deal a whole buttload of damage meant I found it easier to find those hero moments on him than I did on other melee characters.

Which heroes did you learn on and why did you like them?

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Philippa Warr

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