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Dota Underlords strategy guide [October] - top strategies and beginner's tips

A guide for those who don't know what the hell is going on

Dota Underlords, I think we can all agree, is a real head-scratcher of a game. Simplified heroes and systems it may have compared with its perplexing, ponderous progenitor Dota 2, but then Dota 2 never had multiple 10v10 fights happening at once, did it? So we've put together this comprehensive Dota Underlords strategy guide, packed with beginner-friendly tips and explanations of everything that goes on in a match, from heroes, alliances and items to gold accrual, meta-dominating builds, and much more.

Dota Underlords strategy guide - tips and tricks

Dota Underlords strategy guide - tips and strategies [October]

Dota Underlords is, in part, to be thanked for the massive growth rate of the autobattler genre, quickly proving to be far more of a hit than the unfortunately floppy Artifact from last year. But the thing to realise is that autobattlers are invariably super-complex, so we've a fair amount to get through here.

We've done our best to break up the following Dota Underlords strategy guide into an easy-to-follow structure. But feel free to disregard this structure entirely, and use the links below to skip ahead.

How to play Dota Underlords - and how to win

Dota Underlords is an 8-player PvP strategy game played across 8 different boards (one for each player). You must build up a small army from a shared pool of Dota heroes, and use them both to attack other players' armies and to defend your own board from attackers.

You start at 100 health, but losing battles on your own board will cause you to lose health - and if your health is brought to 0, you are eliminated. The aim is to outlive the other 7 players and be the last player standing.

Games are divided into timed rounds. Each round, you'll have a period where you can buy, reposition, and equip items onto heroes to help them in battle. Then, the fighting begins. You are paired off with another player and must fight their army with your own. When there is an odd number of players, one of the players will fight a clone of a random other player's army.

You have no control at all over the battles themselves; your Heroes will simply attack who they want to attack, and cast their abilities when they can.

Dota Underlords strategy guide - heroes cheat sheet

Dota Underlords strategy guide - Heroes and Alliances

Your Heroes are the bread-and-butter of Dota Underlords, just as they are in Dota 2. There are 60 different heroes in Dota Underlords, all organised into 5 different tiers. When you buy a hero, they're placed in a "hotbar" of sorts - and from there you can drag them onto any tile on your half of the board.

Each hero has various basic stats such as health, damage, attack speed, armour, and so on - but there are lots of other things to take into account when creating your army out of these heroes:

  • Abilities - each hero has at least one ability (and occasionally more than one). Abilities can be passive (always in effect) or active (they'll be used whenever the hero reaches maximum mana by dealing/receiving damage). A well-timed, well-placed ability can change the tide of an entire match.
  • Hero Level - in Dota Underlords, you can combine three Level 1 heroes into one Level 2 hero, and three Level 2 heroes into one Level 3 hero. Each Level up doubles the health and damage of that hero (thereabouts), so it's essential to keep pace with your opponents in terms of Hero Levels.
  • Player Level - your own personal Player Level dictates the number of heroes you can have on the board. Level 1 means 1 hero, Level 2 means 2 heroes, and so on. You level up by earning (or buying) XP.
  • Alliances - Each hero belongs to 2 or 3 different Alliances, and if you get enough heroes of the same Alliance on the board at once, then you'll unlock strong passive benefits. For example, having 3 Warrior units means all your Warriors will gain +10 Armor. Pay close attention to the Alliances of your heroes so you can build strong synergies with your army.
  • Positioning - you can place heroes on any of the 32 tiles on your half of the board, while your enemy will spawn on the other side. It's very important to position your heroes correctly; put tanky melee heroes on the front lines, keep squishy spellcasters or heroes that need time to charge their abilities near the back, and so on.

To build up a game-winning army in Dota Underlords, you need to think about all these variables at once. None are more important than the rest, so try not to get bogged down with Alliances and neglect your Hero Levels, or focus too much on levelling up Heroes instead of picking them for their abilities.

But don't worry - we'll show you exactly how you can start drafting like a true Dota Underlords champion in our Dota Underlords heroes and Dota Underlords alliances guides, respectively.

Dota Underlords strategy guide - gold tips

Dota Underlords strategy guide - Gold and Shopping overview

To create a game-winning army in Dota Underlords, you'll need gold, and lots of it. You earn gold quite freely in this game, but there are various ways to really jump-start your economy so you can buy all the best toys from the Shop.

Gold is supplied to you at the beginning of every round. The amount of gold you're provided depends on several factors, such as winning or losing streaks, earning interest on your existing gold, and certain gold-giving items and alliances.

With a solid understanding of these gold accrual mechanics, you can apply all sorts of tactics to maximise your gold income - which is incredibly important not only for buying and upgrading your heroes, but also for buying XP to upgrade your Player Level. For now, you should visit our Dota Underlords gold guide for all those tips and tactics I just mentioned.

Dota Underlords strategy guide - Loot Rounds and Items

Some rounds of Dota Underlords, you don't fight other players' armies. Instead, every player fights the same neutral mobs in what is known as a "Loot Round". These fights don't affect your health if you lose, and they offer you an item after the fight to help you in future rounds.

Items, like heroes, are broken into different tiers of power, with the higher-tier Items only appearing later in the game. Items can either be Equippable (held by a certain hero) or Global (applying an army-wide benefit). As of the #245 update (which you can read all about in our Dota Underlords patch notes guide), you may also find certain items called Contraptions, which can be placed onto the board like a unit.

There are some exceptional items to be found both in the early game and in the late game, which can completely change both your playstyle and the outcome of the match. For full details and opinions on every single item in the game (including Contraptions), check out our Dota Underlords items guide.

Dota Underlords strategy guide - alliance tier list

Dota Underlords strategy guide - tips and strategies on how to win matches

Finally, we'll leave you with some beginner-friendly Dota Underlords tips and strategies that may help you in your first few (dozen) matches. Bear these in mind, and you'll soon find yourself understanding the game like you never thought you would.

  • 1) AI matches are your dearest friend if you're just starting out. Look, Dota Underlords is a tough game. You may not control any units directly, but you have to make an awful lot of decisions in a very short space of time each round. Do yourself a favour and play against the AI without any timers for the first 5 games at least.
  • 2) Learn when it's best to buy XP and level up. There are certain rounds where it's a better idea to buy XP than others, simply because of the way XP works. On round 5, for example, a single XP purchase will neatly upgrade your Player Level from 4 to 5. Learn when these moments present themselves throughout a match.
  • 3) Don't be afraid to buy heroes and sell them later. A big mistake most new players make is that they're too hesitant to buy new heroes each round unless they're absolutely sure that they'll fit perfectly in with the build they're working on. Experienced players know to buy a multitude of heroes to give them the freedom to head in several different directions with their build.
  • 4) Take advantage of the scoreboard view. The scoreboard view can be accessed by holding TAB (by default), or by clicking the button above the player icons on the left-hand side. It breaks down each player's roster of heroes, alliances, net worth of their board, and lots of other useful tidbits of info - all in one screen. Learn to read this screen quickly to find the information you need.
  • 5) Conserve gold during the shopping phase, shop during the battle phase. You can still buy from the shop while fights are going on - and you should, too. Your gold interest for the next round is calculated the moment the shopping phase ends, which means if you're sitting at 40 gold but you need to buy a certain hero, it's often best to wait until the fight starts so you get that +4 gold interest next round, and buy the hero during the fight. Check out our Dota Underlords gold guide for more info.
  • 6) Pay attention to the hero pool. All the heroes you see in the shop are taken from a pool shared with all other players. So if you're seeing and buying multiple Axes, that means you're lessening the chances of other players getting Axes in their shops/armies. Use this knowledge to work out the probability of you continuing to find certain heroes in the shop.
  • 7) Learn when to say "screw alliances" and buy a Tinker just because Tinker's amazing. When you're first starting out it feels like Alliances are the Big Thing to focus on if you want to win, but they're not more important than having a great selection of individual heroes and abilities. Whatever your build, certain heroes like Tinker, Kunkka, or Doom can always find a place, because their abilities are just that useful or because they have such damage potential.
  • 8) If you can't figure out what's going wrong, it may be your positioning. Sometimes all it takes to go from losing the previous round to winning the next one is shuffling about your heroes on your board. Pay attention to adjacency benefits, which of your heroes keep dying before they pop their abilities, etc.
  • 9) Check your DPS tab every round. The DPS tab is accessed on the right-hand side of your screen, and will break down various stats from the past few rounds. Click anywhere on the tab to switch which stat you want to check (Damage, DPS, Damage Taken, Healing, Kills).
  • 10) Make sure you're up to date with the latest changes. Dota Underlords is still in beta and is constantly evolving with large content updates released every week that completely shake up the meta (and give me a lot of work with updating all these guides). Check out our Dota Underlords patch notes analysis to catch up on everything you've missed since you last played.

Dota Underlords strategy guide page links

And that's pretty much all we have to offer on Dota Underlords - at least for this guide. Check out all our other Dota Underlords guide pages just below for more focused and in-depth overviews on various different aspects of this addictive autobattler.

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