DotA – A noobs guide

DOTA GUIDES: How not to die if you’re a noob

DotA is probably one of the most addictive online games around and has brought with it a whole new lingo and even has it’s own music video.

If you are new to the game (i.e. a ‘n00b’) it is useful to know a few things if you wish to last more than 5 minutes in the game. I’ve compiled the following hints, tips and useful information (regarding experience, items, game modes, dotA lingo, and maps) with the help of some dotA diehards.

Download the latest dotA map here



Besides making your virtual fortune (gold) by killing creeps the main objective is to kill. However, to be an effective killing-machine, experience is crucial.

You gain experience by being near (within a 1000 radius) to an enemy unit (i.e. enemy heroes, enemy creeps and neutral creeps) when they die. Standing by, or just behind your ranged creeps when they attack is about right. If there are two or more players in a lane, you share the experience.

The map is divided into three main lanes – top, middle (mid) and bottom (bot). Note that if a comrade types something like “top solo” it means that they want to be in that lane alone. The benefit of this is that the player gains experience and levels up quicker, yet there is a greater chance of dying without support. In other words, do not solo if you’re a noob!


To improve your gameplay you need to know what items suit the different heroes. You also have to look at what heroes you’re playing against if you want to try and counter them.

Like anything else, nothing comes for free. Items cost gold. Killing (or “farming”) creeps gets you gold, but you get more for destroying buildings and pawning the enemies head for a quick buck.

A general guide for you to work with is that you must get items that will compliment your hero’s abilities. For example, if your hero has a high agility you should focus on getting agility items (such as the Butterfly or a Lothar’s edge, (or at a simpler level , the boots of speed or elven skin boots). These will greatly increase your movement and attack speed.

Items that increase your hero’s attack speed are generally good to go for (something like the gloves of haste at the simplest level). Items that compliment these are ones like a buriza (which has a % chance to critical strike). These are best for heroes with very fast attack speeds (generally agility), because they’ll have a greater chance of getting in more crits.

You may often see the pros wielding items such as Battle Furys and vladimir’s. However, these are designed for melee heroes, so don’t get them for a ranged hero. If you’re a noob I would recommend that you choose a ranged hero as this will allow you to fight from a distance and escape death faster.

At first, try and focus on items from the level 1 shop (the little peasant at the base). It’s also probably a good idea to focus on items that provide you with a few extra hp (hit points) to ensure that you live a little longer. However, don’t be fooled by items such as the heart (that pink item); rather get a couple of bracers. These are cheap and effective (available at a level one shop by combining a gauntlet of strength with a mantel of intelligence).

The essential item that you should carry with you at all times is the town portal spell. Pros know the best order in which to cast their spells and will annihilate you in a second if you get to close. If you are alone, far from your base, and you can’t see any of the enemy heroes on the mini-map, then run/fly/creep home or use a town portal because they’re probably coming for you.


You’ll often see people type ‘mia’ during a game. This is an army term which stands for “missing in action”. It means you don’t know where the enemy hero is, so basically you are warning your teamies to be careful (“care”).

If you are in a lane against someone and they move away so you cant see them on the minimap, tell your team “bot mia” (or whichever lane you’re in), because the enemy hero might try to gank (surprise attack) one of your teammates, and they will be bleak with you if you didn’t warn them.

Pros love to say ‘imba’ a lot, which stands for “imbalanced”. This means that someone or their team is extremely good and therefore the contest is unfair or imbalanced. E.g. people type “im imba” instead of e.g. “I’m f’ing invincible”.

‘b’ stands for “back”, it means “get the hell back or else they are gonna pawn yo ass!”

Other acronyms include:

  • gl (good luck)
  • hf (have fun)
  • gg (good game)
  • wp (well played)
  • wd (well done)
  • np (no problem)
  • ty (thank you)
  • ffs (for F***’s sake)
  • omg (oh my God)
  • nvm (nevermind)

If you type “-di” you will be shown your creep stats in the top right corner of the screen (how many kills and denies you have). If one of your own creeps or towers are very low on health, you can actually kill (deny) them to prevent the enemy heroes from killing them and getting gold. They will be the ones who get the experience though.


If you are hosting a game (which you probably shouldn’t do unless you have a 512kbps ADSL line or faster) as soon as the game starts you have to set the mode by typing one of the following commands:

  1. -ap (allpick): you can pick a hero from any of the buildings (even from the buildings on the opposing team).
  2. -ar (all random): you are given a random hero.
  3. -sd (single draft): you are given three random heroes to choose from (one with high agility, one with high strength, or one with a high intelligence).

These are the 3 main modes, which are useful to know before diving in and joining a game. You’ll also often see a number next to a game, e.g: [3]apem. This indicates the level of the game. No one lower than lvl3 (in this case) can join the game.

Other modes can be used in conjunction with the above modes:
-em (easy mode): you get more gold and buildings are weaker. This is usually typed in conjunction with another mode eg. –apem (allpick, easy mode).

Try to avoid em games though as they will make you a worse player. However, they are usually shorter than normal games so if you have limited time to play they’re rather useful.

There are other, less common modes which are explained in the ‘map info’ menu when you are in a game. One’s you might see are:

  • -sp (shuffle players): shuffles the sentinel and scourge teams before the game starts
    -dm (death match): when you die you are given a different hero
    -mm (mirror mode)
    -sc (super creeps)
    -wtf (what the fuck): spells do not have cooldowns and do not cost any mana. (These are rather hectic and best left to the pros)

You can even string a whole lot of modes together e.g. –aremdm (all random, easy-mode, deathmatch).

How cool do you think you are?

To find out what your character’s level is and how much experience you have, type the following commands when you’re in any channel:
/level (tells you what your current level is)
/exp (tells you how much experience you have and how much you need to level up. Usually about 5 min after finishing a game it tells you that you have gained exp from it)
/pm shows you how many times you or any other players have been punished
/p reveals your ping and that of other players. Players with a ping of more than 200 or so are likely to cause the game to lag.
Type /help for a list of other commands

It is useful to type /level before a game starts which will provide you with the levels of all the players you’re about to go up against. (Just because a game says “for noobs” this is often not the case but rather a trap to lure you in). If the levels of the other players far exceed your own join another game).


You can get started by downloading the latest dotA map from New maps are released quite often so keep checking the site for updates. You’ll be kicked from games if you don’t have the latest map.

New maps usually have bug fixes and balances (i.e. if it is felt that a specific hero is too good he/she/it will be made slightly weaker or vice versa). Sometimes new heroes are added as well.

NB: if you see a ping count (ie. an increasing number next to your username) when you join a game then you do not have the latest map. Go download it (takes 5 mins) else, if you aren’t kicked, you will slow the entire game down.

Every now and then someone will write AI for one of the dotA maps (where you can play against bots for practice), but it doesn’t happen too often so best to play custom games in War3 by selecting the dota map. You can also modify these in the war3editor.


When you hit Enter to chat only your allies are able to read your message. To quickly chat to “All” hold down shift when you press Enter.

When your towers are under attack they are automatically pinged (that red circle that makes a noise is a ping). To do a ping yourself hold down Alt and click anywhere on the map. It’s a quick way of communicating with your team mates, but don’t go overboard and become ping happy.

One last word of advice: try not to die. The less you die the more you own! Good luck, have fun, pawn passionately! :D

If anyone has anything to contribute to this beginners’ guide please add it as a comment below.


Galen (name), meaning: "Curious One". A lover of language, human ingenuity and the forces of the universe. Hugely drawn towards the mysterious and unknown. Regular laughter and escapism essential.

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6 Responses

  1. Just for fun says:

    What dotA has taught me about life…

    As we traverse the familiar IceFrog plains of life the only way to move up in levels and in the world is to gain experience. The older we get and the longer we play the more we level up as individuals and the more experience we gain. Gold helps us to achieve the items we want that we believe will make us better players, yet ultimately it all boils down to skill.

    We are all given unique abilities to achieve this, and everyone has a unique or ultimate ability or talent. We must also accept and appreciate the skills and abilities of others in the same game of life and work with them to achieve greater ownage.

    There are several of these other players – some that will help us achieve our goals, and others that will stand in our way and gank us when we are vulnerable. Some of these players will pawn us and bring us down, yet we always respawn and get given another chance – a chance to defeat our enemies and conquer our fears.

    Sometimes we will find ourselves alone – far from home and the base the makes us feel safe and secure. Yet these are times where we can grow and gain experience on our own. It is a chance to farm and reap the seeds that we sow, which is often very rewarding.

    There are also several neutral creeps in life who will simply let us be. It is up to us to decide whether or not to seek them out and reap the rewards of doing so. There are also people (shops) that we can seek out to get advise from and who will give us a helping hand towards our goals.

    In exchange for all the support we get from teammates and admins, we must endeavour to defend what is most sacred to us. This can be seen as the Tree of Life, which we have been offered and allows us to continue our game and reach our goals on the other side.

    In life as in dotA :D

  2. Hey dude nice guide to Dota visit my dota website

  3. Galen says:


  4. Lily says:

    lol thats really deep, but so true if you think about it

  5. Galen Schultz says:

    @Lily: Do we have a female dota player in our midst? I’ve always been interested to know: how many girls play dota?

  6. Ultimate World Of Warcraft Guide says:

    thanks for the tips ..

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