HEY! This is going to be (mostly) jargon free, so people can enjoy it! Yeah! Also, possibly not factually accurate, as I am still ‘newer’ at the game! Deal with it!
Forty two hours. That is how long I have been playing DOTA. Despite the Steam summer sale, despite a growing backlog of games, and despite exercise and a social life (just kidding!) I have managed to cram so many hours into playing this game. There is a lot to love with it, and I think a lot of it stems from knowledge and learning. See, I finished learning things for school about 4 years ago, and finished learning new skill sets for work about 2 years ago, and I just clearly have a hankering to figure out how something ticks. To this end, I have been sinking hours into watching pros play DOTA, playing the game myself (6 for 8 in pub matches, yay!), reading up on the game, learning the mechanics, the whole ten yards.
In my research, one of the biggest things that I found that I love about the game, is that it doesn’t care at all about how complex it is. In my mind, I wind up drawing a parallel between DOTA and Magic the Gathering. In MtG, you only have so much space on a card to print rules. You have to make it so that each card is easily understood so that you can draw in new players, and generally the most confusing ones are either the very rare, or the very old (not mutually exclusive). So generally, the mechanics never get too complex, it is how you use the set of basic tools at your disposal. Then you look at DOTA and realize that they just don’t care. If something is crazy complex, it is just expected that players will either learn it, random it, or not play it. I wanted to write this up to try and explain 5 of the most balls to the wall insane characters that they included in DOTA 2.
Character 1: Io the Wisp But we've got the biggest/Balls of them all!
Hey, I have an idea. Instead of a character, lets create an item that a player controls. Not quite literally, but almost. Whereas most heroes signature abilities deal massive damage, summon fearsome monsters, and other such things, Io has a signature move where he...latches on to a friendly hero. Yeah. While tethered, any health or mana you regenerate is given to your ally as well, with a 50% boost. Nifty. Io can also increase attack speed and reduce damage taken at the cost of its own health, which again applies to any tethered allies. Third, Io is able to summon wisps that circle you in a radius of your choosing.
Now, where things get interesting is how this applied: Io is mostly there to follow a character who could use better health/mana/attack speed and just help them out. If an enemy comes by? The tether ability also has a stun if the enemy walks into it. This means that you usually have a floating frat boy - waits until you are passed out, then he and his buddy shove balls into your face. The rate of his buddy’s ball shoving is augmented, meaning that ganks are pretty fast paced with Io around. This generally is best if done on a single target, and you may be able to get 2 if your partner has a good stun in his repertoire. But you know what? You can almost always find someone alone. You know why?
Io’s ultimate lets him teleport himself and an ally anywhere on the map. Boop. There. You can show up anywhere, anytime, stun someone, then kill their ass. But its ok, because you can only stay there for 12 seconds before you and anyone tethered to you is sent back. Except that is 1. a perfect time frame for killing someone then running away, and 2. you can break your own tether. So not only can you drop in on someone and kill them, you can also leave your buddy there to cause further havoc, or just give them a free trip around the map to push a lane, defend a lane, get in a team fight....this ball can do it all.
Character 2: Invoker So apparently this list is just whoever has more balls. Next character has foooour balls. Oooooer.
Ok, so remember how each character has 4 abilities? Invoker has 12. Next hero.
Naturally, just kidding. What does Invoker do? More like what doesn’t he do? To go back to an analogy just to make this even more esoteric than it already it, my mind goes back to Magic: utility is almost always a good thing. To begin with, he has 3 spells that he can stack up to 3 times each. These provide the same bonus that the related stats would give (HP, mana, attack speed, etc), but the combination he has active at any time determines his 4th ability. At any point, he can invoke his current stacks to create a new spell, with up to 2 spell slots.
Using these skills, Invoker can: freeze enemies, turn invisible, summon a wall of ice, attack an enemy’s mana, summon a disabling tornado, buff an ally, fire a GLOBAL nuke, summon monsters, summon a meteor from the heavens, or stun and disarm all enemies within a radius.
The only question is what do you want to do with this guy? Do you need to push a creep wave forward? He can do that. Do you want to hide in the shadows and stalk your prey? He is more than ready. Do you need to help your team win fights? How? By disabling the team, preventing their escape, nuking the entire area, or just chasing down survivors. He can literally do it all, and all you as the player have to know is the exact combination of his skills give each ability, and how to properly read every moment of the game to determine which to level up, which spell to have on deck, and when to switch spells. Oh, and you have to worry about the map, creeps, ganks, and enemy heroes. Good luck with that.
Character Number 3: Tinker No cool semi official artwork for this guy? What gives, random DOTA wiki I sourced for images.
By now, I’m sure you get the general idea of how these are going to go, so I am sure you are on the edge of your seats as far as what the next hero is. Well, unfortunately, this guy is pretty boring: He can fire a lazor that blinds the enemy, shoot rockets, and summon a tidal wave of robots. Yawn. The rockets have crazy long range and are annoying as a pube in your toothbrush at six AM, but really, his skillset isn’t anything to write home about.
Except (agian) the ultimate. Unlike some characters who teleport across the map, or deal 1,000 damage, his ultimate is that...(wait for it)....all his abilities come off cool down. Oh. Well. Now he can shoot 4 rockets! Well butter my backside and call me a biscuit, four? GG guys, we are done here. Now this allows him to do a few obvious things: the first is rocket harassment, but now it is up to the level of ‘lone mosquito at night when you have insomnia’ levels of harassment. However, now his tidal wave of robots becomes an incredible tool for eliminating creep waves, and deterring enemies from attacking due to a very large AoE. But wait, there’s more! His ultimate doesn’t just take his skills off cooldown...it works on items as well.
First off, there is an item in the game called boots of travel. This lets you warp to any tower that you still have up on the map, your base, or any allied creep. This means at any point, you can get to any unprotected creep wave, and clear out the enemy creeps for gold, exp, and just to be a douche. Ordinarily, the boots have a 60 second cooldown (as do all teleports). However, with Tinker, they have a 0 second cooldown after your ultimate. This means you can teleport to one lane, push it out to the tower, then move to another lane and repeat. Well you could, if it wasn’t for the fact that it costs a large amount of mana to recharge all abilities. If only your base restored all of your mana super quickly....ohwaitittotallydoes. Booyah! So now you are all over the map, pushing out all the waves. You don’t even need a team.
Would you believe me if I said it gets better? I feel like I need Billy Mays here because there is totally more! There are two items in the game that disable an opponent (one by turning him into a pig/sheep/chicken) and one that sends them up in the air for a few seconds. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could chain those together with a large AoE robot army of death marching underneath your hapless foe? In theory you can lock an opponent down for as long as you have mana, which in this game shouldn’t ever have to be more than 10 seconds. All this time, 4 other players are apparently doing something, but who cares what else?
Character the 4th: Specter In a long tradition of 'the model looks very little like the artwork'
Allow me to set the scene for you: one of the most important meta aspects of DOTA is map awareness. If you know where each enemy hero is or isn’t you can plan around then moving to gank a hero, if you should be pushing a lane, or if you should be pushing with your teammates. Lets say you are in your lane, alone, but its cool because you pushed out the creep wave, and there are zero heroes mia (missing in action you filthy, uncooperative, scrub plebeian jerkwad). So you are safe, yeah? Nah.
Suddenly, every single one of your teammates is being attacked by Spectre. She just...showed up. It is clear that these are illusions, taking extra damage, dealing less than they should, but often they are buffed with Radiance, a 50 damage per second weapon, so they are burning your team alive. Then, suddenly, your illusion becomes real. The hero teleports in, slows you, the devours your face. And you thought you were safe.
Spectre’s ability is literally to attack everyone on the map with an illusion, revealing their position, doing damage, carrying auras, and yes, whenever Spectre wants to, she can teleport in to strike the target of her choosing. Holy. Crap. If you didn’t know that a hero could do that, how much would you just crap your pants? Even knowing that a hero can do that, how do you ever not stand in a group of five people, huddled together near your own towers, hoping that the nightmare just goes away?
So to talk about tactics, this is another global teleport move, and more than just that, one that gives perfect information about every member of the enemy team. You can pick off a hero of your choosing (Spectre is a carry, so she shouldn’t have problem outclassing a hero of her choice if they are alone) at any time you have your ultimate up. With some clever knowledge of the situation, you can dominate a team fight with a timely backstab, kill a lone hero defending a tower from a creep wave, or just get into any fight, anywhere, any time. Oh, and I guess the character has three other abilities. Whatever.
Character V: Meepo Winning the competition solely by being an enormous ponce
Out of all of the 100+ characters in the game, Meepo is the one that astounds me the most. Sure, Invoker may require technical skill, Io can bring an ally to any spot on the map, Spectre can frighten an entire team, and Tinker can dominate an entire map by himself. But Meepo? Meepo stands alone.
Each character listed above requires you to focus on your character’s position on the map, the enemies position, where the creep wave is, if you should be farming in the nuetral camps, how much health you have, what your mana consumption is like, all that good stuff. Meepo (potentially) forces you to make all of these calculations and observations five times over. How? Again, in the power of the ultimate: Meepo’s ultimate is that there are an increasing number of him, to a maximum of 5. Meaning that your character is now equal size to your team at the start of the game.
This means that at any point, you could be managing last hits in a lane, jungling nuetral creeps, setting up ganks, and attacking a tower...simultaneously. Two big deals: All Meepo’s share experience and gold, and if one dies, they all die. Huh. I, uh....I never want to randomly pick this guy, huh? Because while I am having an ADD nightmare, I am sure that at least one of me will die. Except that (yet again), every single Meepo can teleport to any other Meepo. This also does damage. Well that is a nice skill, what else can he do? Each Meepo can throw a net, stunning the enemy and completely disabling them. This lasts for 2 seconds. Per Meepo. 10 seconds, assuming perfect play, where the enemy can do absolutely nothing except get attacked by at least 4 heroes, and up to 8. Wut. I repeat: wut. Even if they do manage to escape the nets, he has a passive ability that slows enemies while dealing damage over time, so it quickly becomes a hazing ritual of five Meepos bashing your butt redder than an embarrassed ape.
Throwing out one more thing (which I believe to be true): Auras are stacked on all Meepo clones. The Assault Curiass gives an aura graning +5 armor (five times) and an Aura of -5 armor (five teams) to all enemies. Certifiable bananas.
Finally, for those who are curious (no one), no particular order I am finding I really enjoy Centaur Warrunner, Pudge, Vengeful Spirit, Earthshaker, and Lich. I also played my first game where we had 5 languages between 5 teammates - English, Russian, Spanish, French, and (what I assume to be) Chinese. Good times.
So, experts of DOTA, do you agree? Who would you include? Newbies, want to add anyone to the list? Participants who don’t care about DOTA, are you curious now, or just plain scared?
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