Monday, April 21, 2014

Climbing the Ladder - Chapter 1: Farming


This post is the first of a relatively long series that will hopefully cover as many of DotA's large strategical elements as possible. Before starting with anything, I just want to remind you that DotA is a game of reaction, and no advice should ever be followed blindly. What I describe may work in most situations, but could be a bad option in some particular games. Therefore, look to learn as much as possible from this but remember to not treat it as a step by step plan.

These are the elements of farming I will be discussing.
  • When to farm where
  • Jungling (creep priority)
  • Midas - when to buy and how to use
  • Maelstrom - when to buy and how to use
  • Battlefury - when to buy and how to use
  • Radiance - when to buy and how to use
  • Stacking the jungle
  • Pushing the lane
  • Maintaining creep equilibrium
  • Teleportation Scrolls

When to farm where

(the first section is a lot longer than the rest, so don't be discouraged!) 
There are three lanes, two jungles and two ancient camps. How do you know when you should be farming which? As a general rule, farming the lane is more efficient (gold/time) than farming the jungle. However, lasthits on the lane are not guaranteed - an enemy may be disrupting your farm by denying, off-hitting, drawing creep aggro, pulling, pushing the wave into your tower, etc. On the plus side, however, you do not take as much damage from the creeps as you would in the jungle. Few heroes can sustain themselves farming the jungle with no items, and fewer still can farm it quickly starting from level one (enigma, bat, axe, chen, ench) - notice how none of those are carries.

So generally, for your first few levels you want to stay on the lane and get as much as you can there. If your support pulls, don't go killing neutrals because the enemy lane creeps will die to your tower. Take your lane creeps and let your support get something out of the jungle. You want to keep the lane static close to your tower (how to do this described under 'maintaining creep equilibrium'). There comes a certain point, however, when you have a certain farming item, some more levels, some crucial skills or simply more damage - this is the moment when you can, and should start utilising the jungle. 

Do not forget the ancients as a source of income. Generally even fewer heroes can farm them efficiently and early enough, so if you are a hero that can you should do so as much as possible instead of regular jungling, because it frees up the jungle for the rest of your team. Of course, if you are the 1 position and have some form of aoe right click damage, it is most efficient to stack the ancients while farming the lanes and jungle, and go to kill 4-5 ancient stacks all at once.

Let's go to a situation later in the game, let's say mid-game around 25 minutes. The more the game is in your favour, the more aggressively you should be farming, meaning closer to the enemy base and including their jungle and ancients. This prevents them from farming it, while your jungle is even less accessible.
The further behind you are, the safer you want to farm. This however does not mean you cannot leave your base. Yes, if the heroes on the enemy team that are missing right now can kill you, you should generally be farming safely close to your towers and allies. 

Which heroes should you be afraid of when they are missing? This is knowledge you can only learn through experience. Let's say the only hero on the enemy team missing is an Axe, and you are a Luna with a max HP of 800 wanting to farm the Radiant safelane with your tier 1 tower down. Does he have a blink dagger? If yes, it's likely that he can blink in, call and solo kill you. If no, does that mean you can farm anywhere? Still not the case, if you stand close to the trees he can simply walk up to you and call you before you see him. So, you position yourself on the side of the lane opposite to where you expect him to come from. Your movement speed is very high so even if he runs up to you and hungers you, you will be able to run away. But what if he comes out of the trees between your tier 2 and you? There is no tier 1 to run to or that allies can TP to, so your only option is to run into the trees and TP out - you will need to be able to judge if he is far away enough so that he cannot reach you in time, taking any possible items into account (checking his inventory). Any other options (running, juking) involve giving time to both your team and his team to arrive, and once again you will need to judge how the potential fight will go down, something that becomes more and more difficult the more heroes enter the equation. 
And this is the case with an blink-daggerless Axe on the enemy team. Imagine a Batrider with blink+force+BoT. His initiation range is massive, you cannot juke him, you cannot tp away due to ~1.5k range flamebreak, his firefly allows him to come from anywhere and drag you anywhere, and he can drag you out of position into an enemy that just tp'd in. You should be able to understand more clearly now why he is and has been a top pick and ban for a very long time.

However, this does not mean that every time you are behind you should be hugging your towers. You see a fight or gank breaking out, or the enemy team pushing the tower, etc., any situation in which 5 enemy heroes are visible on the minimap and far away from a certain lane, you can farm and push that lane. By pushing it you force a reaction, you force them to move there to defend it and that in turn creates space for you to farm the jungle for example, or another lane.
It doesn't matter if you are in their base or in their jungle, as long as you see where every enemy is and are quick enough on your TP, you will be able to escape. That's why there are no global stuns in dota. Also remember, TP'ing to escape doesn't always mean you should TP to base. If you have the health and mana, you can just TP to another lane and farm there.

Jungling - Creep Priority
Your goal is always to farm as quickly as possible, which means killing creeps as quickly as possible. This means being conscious about what order you focus creeps in, in the jungle. In the early game, with junglers especially, you want to kill creeps in such an order that you take as little damage as possible. However, later on when you are flashfarming with lifesteal or high regen, your priorities change. 
In the bird camp, you wanna kill the one giving the armor aura first, making the others weaker. 
For satyrs, you kill the one giving regen first (it's only 3 hp per second, but if it makes the difference between a total of 16 hits instead of 17, it's worth it). 
Troll priest, kill healer first. 
Ghost camp, kill ghost reducing your attack speed first. 
Big troll camp, kill the small one first, then hit the big one to make him summon skeletons - they have a very nice hp/gold ratio. 

There's no clear cut answer to when you should and shouldn't buy this - generally, if you are planning to take the game past ~30-35 minutes, you should get it, because it obviously becomes more and more efficient the more you use it. The attackspeed is nice on some heroes and not that great on others, but over-all shouldn't come into the equation when you're deciding if you want to get it. As nice as it sounds as it is, 2000 gold for 30 AS is absolutely terrible and if you're constantly fighting after you buy it you will really wish you bought something else. Also, try not to get more than 1-2 on your team in pubs, because you usually won't have the coordination to play passively and not fight, which means you're likely to feed and lose because you essentially dug yourselves in a 4k, 6k or 8k gold disadvantage (2, 3 or 4 midases).

In pretty much all cases, unless you really need gold more than exp (~lvl 16+, never for invoker), you want to use Midas on the big creep, because it amplifies the experience gain by 2.5, and over-all leaves the camp dead quicker. Naturally it should be on cooldown as often as possible, so you wanna head into the jungle as it's about to come off cooldown. Sometimes there is a lot of farm on the lane or someone else has cleared the jungle, and in those cases it's better to just use it on a lanecreep instead of wasting time. Remember however to use it on the melee creep, since it is level 3 and gives more experience than the level 2 ranged creep!

Maelstrom (& Mjollnir) & Radiance
You wanna leave creeps once they drop below a certain amount of HP, and move on to the next one so that the lightning / radiance kills them off and you don't waste unnecessary hits on them.

These are more dependent on the heroes unlike midas. Radiance is good on heroes with illusions because they carry the aura and that allows you to splitpush - it's pretty bad on most other heroes. As a general rule, Radiance gives the enemies reason to focus you, so you better make sure you can deal with that focus even after spending 5k gold on an item that gives you 0 survivability. Bristle and Wraith/Skeleton King are the somewhat only non-illusion heroes that fit this category.

You should always be looking at how much damage your cleave deals, and thereby switching targets so that ideally one hit finishes all the creeps. Of course, this is not the case in the aforementioned situations under 'creep priority'.

The only heroes this item can be considered core on are Anti-Mage and Ember, and that's because AM's blink allowing him to flashfarm if he has a Battlefury, and Ember's sleight of fist takes great advantage of the cleave. The few other heroes it can situationally work on are Phantom Assassin, Void and Jugger, but in most cases there are better choices.

Stacking the Jungle
You hit the creeps to draw their aggro at around the 53rd to 55th second of every minute and run away, pulling them out of the camp-block area and allowing a new camp to spawn. Ideally you would have supports do this for you, but this does not mean you cannot do it yourself as a carry when you can or have to leave the lane, when you are walking back to base, if you have a summon / illusions / long range nuke to aggro them with, etc.

Since the ancients are slightly further away, many carries pick up an early HotD to stack them with a dominated creep. You can even share unit control to let your allies use your creep to stack for you.

Note that stacking does not always mean getting 3-4 stacks and then killing them - even if you are simply farming a camp and you notice that you won't be able to kill it before the xx:00 minute mark, it is worth it to stack it and finish off the camp-and-a-half or leave it for later.

Heroes that can farm stacks are those with any single or combination of the following: a multi-unit hitting attack (cleave (battlefury/magnus/sven), splash (DK), splitshot (medusa, gyro), bounces (luna), and spill (lanaya)), any AoE nuke (not for ancients), any lifesteal or high regeneration. If your carry has none of these (CK, Slardar, Night Stalker, Spirit Breaker) then you better fight early before you get outfarmed.

Lastly, keep in mind that when jungling you can sacrifice some speed for sustainability by drawing the creeps away from the camp, running, and then hitting them on their way back.

Pushing the lane
You want to kill the enemy creeps as fast as possible while making your own creeps not take too much damage you can tank the wave if you have enough sustain, and you want to focus the ranged creeps first because they die the quickest but deal the most damage. Keep in mind that unlike the jungle you can lose lasthits on lane, so make sure you focus down creeps one by one.

If you have strong aoe damage and a gigantic enemy creepwave is coming but it's very drawn out, run against it before your creeps arrive, and pull all the enemy creeps together so you can kill them all together. Note that this means you lose some HP and may be dangerous if you get ganked and disabled while tanking 4 creepwaves.

Maintaining Creep Equilibrium
To achieve this you need to essentially make sure both sides of creeps take equal damage - first off this means they need to be equal in number, and this can be achieved either by tanking enemy creeps and killing them quickly or only hitting enemy creeps once when they're very low but starting to deny yours as soon as they're below 50%.
Once you've got them equal in numbers, you need to make you're not tanking anything and making sure that for every last-hit you hit your own creeps once (does not always have to be a deny)

Teleportation Scrolls
Don't TP to a lane unless there is a big wave incoming that you're gonna miss out on. Try to see where big waves are going to gather and get there in time, saving your TP. When you do TP to a lane to farm make sure there is no fight going to break out soon that you can't get to because you just used your TP. Also make sure you don't find yourself in a situation where you need to TP out but can't because it's on cooldown.


These are some of the topics I will be discussing in the following chapter. If you want me to write about a certain one next, or have an idea for a topic that is not listed, feel free to message me.

  • Positioning
  • Teamfighting
  • Ganking
  • Skillbuilds
  • Itembuilds
  • Drafting
  • Fight participation
  • (Support) rotations
  • Timing
  • Laning
  • Enemy manipulation

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Everything about MMR - support vs core, skill representation, match quality / balance, abuse, win / loss streaks and attitude


It's been 4 months since the introduction of ranked matchmaking, and many opinions have been voiced on it. Has Valve done a good job or did they put out a trash system to just satisfy the masses? In this post I will discuss the different opinions on the various intricacies of the matchmaking system, that have become apparent over these months.

First of all, a little personal background about me - this can give you an idea of the perspective I'm writing this with. If you are not interested, feel free to skip this part. My nick is SlashStrike, I'm sitting between 5500 and 6000 Solo MMR with 50-100 solo games played, and I'm on the EU leaderboard. I also play DotA competitively with my team, and my goal is to get into the professional competitive scene. The role I play on my team is mid, and while it is probably what I play most often in my solo ranked matches, I have played plenty of games in every role. 

When playing solo ranked I focus on improving myself rather than gaining as many points as possible (the difference between these is mostly evident in picks). Additionally, I'm also trying to get known as a streamer, so if you wish to support me or enjoy a high quality but fairly unknown stream (~900 followers), head on over to

There are several topics I would like to discuss, as you could infer from the title: 

  • Support vs core
  • Skill representation
  • Match quality / balance
  • Abuse
  • Win / loss streaks
  • Attitude

Support versus Core

People often complain about supporting their allies well in solo ranked matches, only to end up losing because their cores were not competent enough to do their job despite being well supported. There are generally two stances on this: 

1. If you want to climb you have to play a core, and in the higher end of the bracket where skill disparity is large, you should support if your MMR is lower than your teams average, and still play a core if it is higher.
2. It doesn't matter what you're playing - you will climb if you're a good player and if you don't it's because you're not good enough, regardless of your role.

Of course, there is some truth to both statements, but I feel like most of the misunderstanding stems from the fact that there are many different playstyles that could all fall under 'supporting'. Those that complain about not having any impact on the game as a support may simply be playing the wrong type of support. This would include heroes that require a lot of coordination to reach their fullest potential, something that you cannot count on pubs to have. I am talking about heroes such as Shadow Demon, Abaddon, Lina, Ezalor, etc. They do not have reliable hard disables starting at level 1, and are not the best candidates for ganking.

On the other hand, heroes like Skywrath, Disruptor, Rhasta, Bane, etc. can make many things happen even on their own, thus having great chances of getting a kill when ganking and being 2v1.

When playing support you don't need to sit behind your carry all game when you should be constantly missing and roaming the map, ganking whenever you see an opportunity and making the enemies play reserved in the meantime because they are afraid of overextending. Solo kill someone with Skywrath, get easy pickoffs or wreck teamfights with Disruptor, push a tower with Rhasta, more pickoffs with Bane, etc.

Compare this to an Ezalor who can only react to enemy movement and not force it.
To summarize, supporting does not entail only one playstyle, and it is definitely possible to impact the game as a support, arguably even more so than a core in the early game.

Skill Representation

Today I read this on /r/DotA2 - How come Dendi has 5900 solo rating whereas Wagamama has 6700? Does this mean Waga is much better than Dendi? I'm sure many of you are rolling their eyes and wondering why this needs explanation at all, but I'm also sure that many people legitimately believe that higher rating = higher skill.

The thing is, that is true in a general sense. Most 3k players are better than most 2k players. Most 4k > 3k players, 5k > 4k. However, here's where it gets tricky. After a certain threshold, around 5400-5600, MMR hardly matters. There are still skill disparities, that's for sure, but you can no longer tell a certain player is going to be better judging by their MMR. Many pro players are a perfect example of this, and so are those that pick Terrorblade every game, which were the same people that picked Earth Spirit every game pre-nerf. Are the dudes in the top 10 of the leaderboard better than everyone else? No, they are simply good at winning solo ranked pubs, either through picks or play-style.

However, this is a vastly different set of skills and gamesense than those required in competitive - I can guarantee that if you put the top 5 in EU on a team, they would be a low tier 2 / high tier 3 team at best, even if you gave them time to practice together. This is because in a team setting there are many more qualities required (you can check out my previous blog post "To my Fellow Aspiring Stars" where I discuss these in detail), and the chances of these guys' ego's getting in the way (especially when they are top 5 on the leaderboards) are huge. And of course the fact that some specialize in heroes that aren't even in Captain's Mode. 

So, does a higher MMR mean you're a better player? Yes, up to a certain point. After that it is less about being good and more about playing much and picking the right heroes.
After all, the game is balanced around competitive team versus team -CM, not all pick with 5 randoms. Therefore skill should be measured according to the former and not the latter.

Match Quality / Balance

This is a much discussed topic, as I am sure everyone has at least once blamed their loss on the fact that the match was not balanced. However, when you think about all the factors that contribute to the balance of a match, it is fairly obvious that the chance of 10 people having a truly close and fun game is extremely small. Just think about yourself, you:
  • get frustrated after more than 2 losses in a row, often rage re-queuing because you don't want to end the night with a loss
  • You generally assume your team is incompetent in order to not be disappointed
  • You have good days and you have bad days
  • You have good heroes and bad heroes
  • Sometimes you try hard, sometimes you want to try something new
These apply to pretty much everyone. There are right about a million things that can affect how well you play, each to different degrees, be it the lighting in your room, the neighbours dog barking, how much you slept last night or simply whether you're feeling happy or not. Now, apply all this to 10 individuals, and the roll of dice becomes more apparent. Still not convinced?

Think about professional games, where stomps are fairly common. This is due to the massive importance of the draft and simply the nature of the game. So, if someone that works on this game as a full time job can still get outdrafted to the extent of getting stomped, then imagine what can happen in an -AP pub. 

In essence, any given solo ranked game is the roll of a million dice that decide the outcome. The only thing you can do is make sure as many of yours as possible roll like you want them to, and then try to affect some of your team's too (e.g. their attitude).


This involves the use of bots, stacking in solo queue through preference settings, sandboxing and playing against yourself, etc. As a general rule for a game played by this many - anything that can be abused, will be abused. I see people being surprised by the demand for high-rated accounts and the amount of people willing to supply them as close-mindedness, because with 7.5 million active players there are bound to be all kinds of people and communities, and that should come as a surprise to no one.

Of course I also think this is horrible for the game, and Valve should enforce harder punishments to those that take part in this abuse of the system, especially if it involves third-party programs such as sandboxie.

Win / Loss Streaks

I encourage you to look up an article on probability and statistics, because there is an extremely wide-spread misconception that a win-streak increases your likelihood of losing, and a loss-streak increases your likelihood of winning, but that is just false. Everyone has experienced 1 win 1 loss 1 win 1 loss sequences, and everyone has gone through 4-5 or more wins or losses in a row. The only thing streaks affect is your attitude about the game, which, coincidentally, is extremely important. If you go into a game disappointed with a loss streak and expecting a win handed to you because 'it's logical', you will probably not play your best and likely lose again. This is closely related to the following and final section.


I'm sure this is something everyone has dealt with - I also struggle with it often. For example, I went on holiday and played on a shitty laptop with the lowest possible settings and went from 5675 to 5875 in about 4-5 days. Then I came back home and played on my usual set-up, and lost 2 party games followed by 5 solo games in a row. This affects my mood more than I would like it to. It's easy to think about all the things that could be the reason for your win or loss, be it in-game (team, picks, luck) or even more stupid, outside of the game (humidity of the room, what you ate, the volume of your speakers). At the end of the day none of these things matter - the only thing that matters is how focused you are and how you approach the game, mentality-wise.

Something I notice in myself is that often after getting really mad over a loss that was supposedly my team's fault, as I calm down later I realize I didn't play nearly as well as I could have, and that is what causes my anger, while blaming my team is just an attempt to draw my attention away from that fact. Winning games such as those is often not even that satisfying. Carrying over this mentality into the next game can easily lead to a loss streak.

Likewise, I've had games where I know I played very well and made little to no mistakes, but still lost due to a plethora of different reasons. Those games don't make me mad in the slightest, because I'm satisfied with how I played. And winning a game like that, well, that's an even greater sense of accomplishment. Carrying over this mentality into the next game can easily lead to a win streak.

Lastly, it is this attachment of a sense of accomplishment to your number that is the reason to feeling sad after a loss and happy after a victory. Losing a game means losing points, i.e. not only have you not gained anything out of the time you spent playing, you even 'lost' the time it took you to gain those points in your previous win. Winning, on the other hand lets you feel like you have accomplished something with your time, i.e. gaining points.

I hope you can realize how stupid this sounds, because it is. At the end of the day, you play for 2 reasons - either to have fun, or to improve and aim for going pro. If you're not having fun, you need to change your approach or switch things up with either a different mode, different people or even a different game.

If your main aim is to improve, then all you need to do is forget about your points and winning or losing and simply focus on how you are playing and anything and everything you can do to play better. If you truly do that and manage to learn and improve after every match, you will forget about wins and losses fairly quickly, and ironically start winning more often as you are actually getting better as a player.