Dota 2

Some thoughts on team strategy

Hi! In this post I'd like to cover some topics related to team strategy, mostly from the perspective of teams or groups of players who play often together and have the luxury of planning team coordination.


I'll start by stirring up some controversy, namely, by questioning the 1-2-3-4-5 position principle, to get people interested. This is a fine general level strategy describing internal relations within the team, and giving a template for the players on how to position themselves relative to others , such as making decisions of importance – who should try and sacrifice themselves to save an ally, if it's worthwhile to trade like your position 5 player to opponents position 3 player and so on. It also sets up this farming hierarchy.

However a strong and strategy oriented team, there's no one forcing you to use this particular template. You can have a midlane play who also ends up getting most farmed in the game, and you can have a safelane player who doesn't farm that much but gets active early on. You could even have a position 4 that transitions to some kind of a carry. In theory anyway.

I think for a lot of people this idea seems like just the right and the natural way of playing DOTA, the strongest style of playing, or something like that, it's so obvious and widely accepted – especially because it allows random non-team players coordinate in random pubmatches and therefore eases teamwork – that a lot of people don't even question or think about alternatives. There's nothing in the game mechanics that says that one person in the team must be the most important player, and one person must the least important player, but there's definitely logic to it.

The main driving force behind this strategy is the lane mechanics, tower positioning, and that the amount of resources on the map are fairly limited. There's only a set number of gold creeps to farm, lane creeps to farm, and if you get to decide how to distribute this gold and experience within your team, you can optimize around a scheme, such as position 5 player adopting a strategy that goes well with having less experience and less gold than other team members, and thus chooses a hero that goes well with that plan, and they can be impactful for the team. If you would have a hero that requires items to perform well, and has abilities that enhance the effect of items, but ends up not getting any gold, it would not be very optimal. So this strategy works as a template to answer questions of this sort.

A team with a strong strategical sense in my opinion should be able to see this template as just one possible strategy, albeit a very efficient one. This could be compared to a chess opening. Like strong chess players stick to the certain openings, but sometimes deviate in order to create an unpredictable position that their opponent isn't prepared for. In other words they derive some value from doing something slightly unconventional to get the benefit of it being something their opponent hasn't considered in advance. For the very top players, so far as I understand, they have memorized lots of different openings and ways to play specific positions, and you don't want to end up playing an opening in which the opponent can memorize several variations and you don't know any of them – then you have to spend more time to figure out what to do, while your opponent can save their time by making some moves quickly, therefore gaining a time advantage as the game progresses.

But even as these great players make unconventional moves or deviate slightly from the most popular variations, that doesn't mean they make random moves, or would accept a bad move just for the sake of doing something different. They're still looking for ideas that can work, even if when crunched by ac computer, the advantage of a move could be slightly inferior compared to the most popular move.

DOTA doesn't have that much freedom regards to these high level team division strategies, that are on the level of this 1-2-3-4-5 principle. The laning mechanics sort of give you only narrow room to wiggle in. If your team is farming all the creeps in the jungle, and all the creeps on the lanes, then you're wasting any of those limited resources. Good strategies therefore seek to fulfil this restriction – to avoid wasting any of those resources. Of course early on it's very difficult to farm all the jungle creeps, and it mostly doesn't happen that every single creep gets farmed in the early game, but as you advance towards the middle game, it's not at all uncommon that all creeps get efficiently farmed during some periods of time when there's no team fight going on.

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So the lane mechanics relate then to the tower placements and the lane creep equilibriums, distance to outpost. Safelane is safe, because the lane equilibrium is closer to the tower of the side that considers it safe, and it's offlane to the other side, because the lane equilibrium is further away from their tower. In addition to that, the camps that can be pulled on the lane, sort of reside on the safelane side. Not exactly, since the medium camp is somewhat in between, but definitely the small camp with the weakest critters, is on the safe side. This means that the safelane player can basically get the last hits alone under the tower safely, and they don't have to spend so much gold on sustaining themselves and are less at a risk of getting ganked even if they try to get the maximum amount of gold. The safelane support, position 5 player then, gets a bit behind in experience as they're not always within reach to the lanecreeps, and spend time doing things like buying items for the carry, pulling the lanecreeps, and taking care of warding.. In addition to trying to harass the opposing side's players. Midlane equilbrium is very close to both side's towers, which makes the midlane rather safe, it's basically the safest place to farm.

You could theoretically start with 2 players on the midlane, and only 1 player on the safelane. If you wanted to. But this wouldn't benefit maximally from the protection offered by the tower, and if you would have only 1 player on the safelane, his or her opponents have the choice of pulling the creeps on the lane, and if they have to try and counter that from happening, while also farming the lanecreeps they would be in a pinch.

If you would play with 3 players on the offlane, for sake of comparison, they would get behind in terms of experience, and perhaps there would be a loss incurred on the safelane, if you would do that.

Anyway, this is just a brief attempt to summarize what are the reasons for the players having typically 2 players on safelane and offlane, and 1 player on the midlane. Sometimes also the 4th player, support for the offlane, farms the jungle creeps. So there's a tradeoff involved, you're losing less resources that spawn in your jungle, as someone is farming them early on, but on the other hand the offlane player has to play alone, which means they're probably getting less last hits and less gold therefore, while the safelane player for the opposing team, is probably having an easier game and will be more dangerous.

So let's get back to the basics, you as a team have decided to use this optimization scheme of distributing gained resources in a preset manner within the team. There's no one forcing you to do this. You can decide how you want to distribute the resources. You can decide that your position 5 player farms the jungle after minute 6 and gets big and fat, while the safelane carry stays on the lane. This might not work, and you can reason about it. If the safelane carry would have those resources instead and more over would be capable of farming the jungle efficiently due to items like battlefury, they might be able to put them into better use, because of their choice of hero, and so forth.

Well that's it for the controversy bit. It turns out that this analysis although I intended it to be brief, it turned worthy of it's own post. But now I'll move to the actual topics of this thread, for which this was just supposed to be a preface teaser.

Staging maneuvers

So when coordinating a team you can split a plan into stages like preparation step, initiation step and final step. For an example. What this means in practice though is let's imagine this following pattern:

You and your team have decided to define an attack strategy which you call plan one. For lack of better name. This plan is intended to be used after t1 towers are taken down, and it consists of these stages:

  1. Your supports are getting wards, and smoke, and dust of appearance into their inventories, and then each player teleports to the outpost of your side.

  2. The team uses smoke of deceit and intends to take over the high ground of the opposing side's bounty rune spawn. One person might advance a bit before the others to try and scout the area by placing wards or dewarding, and the rest then follow on the high ground.

  3. If there's fighting involved, there's some sketch of a tactic that's going to be used, like person A stuns and person B attacks the support or whatever. But point is you fight to gain control of the highground. Then you gain vision by warding the area properly, which is possible, because in the preparation step, you checked that you have required wards for this.

  4. After the high ground is taken, you attack the opposing side's offlane t2 tower while maintaing control of the high ground, to make it more difficult to defend, and so the people attacking the tower, don't get jumped from the high ground. Once the tower is down, the plan ends.

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So this basically describes one way of taking the offlane t2 tower from the opposing side in a way that there's these stages. So you can think about like positioning and requirements. So instead of just attacking the tower, which would be your pub match level strategy "push tower now!", you decide that it's better to first gain a positional advantage that allows you to accomplish your goal, which is in this case the high ground of the bounty spawn, and you have preparation step and like a rendezvous point, or the outpost, in which you check that you meet the requirements for this task, and each player is ready to start doing something.

Basically you can come up with any kind of strategy for your team, this is more like a very general template on how to break down what happens in this team tactic, by thinking about preparation and steps, and what positional advantage you're trying to get.

Preparing for your opponents' responses

So the most obvious think to ask yourself next, when you've come up with some strategy that you're going to try, is to ask, well how is our opponent going to respond? If you're trying to take over an area or wards something or attack a tower, what are they going to do? Are they going give up the tower, and instead attack your tower on the other side of the map? Are they going to try and contest the area you're claiming for yourself? How are they going to do that? Are teleporting in, are they just walking up the stairs onto the high ground, do they use smoke? Is there area control spells that help gain some ground, like aoe damage spells that are persistent? This is sort of straightforward, you expect opponents to respond to your moves and maneuvers in some way, and you can try and decide in advance how you're going to deal with these different cases.

Strategical synergy and drafting heroes

Some heroes have tactical synergy and they complete each other well because they have two techniques that work well together. Like Crystal Maiden casting Frost Bite, and Bloodseeker casting Blood Rite, and there's this synergy because the rooted person can't step out of the area. But this is on the tactical level, so in this section I'd like to rather discuss strategical synergy.

So strategy then is a bit broader and more general way for these heroes to complement each other, for an example if you have a lot of heroes in your team that seek to win the game early, it's probably not a great idea to pick a hero that's really bad in the early game but only gets after 40 minutes have passed. And so forth. You can think about their fighting styles and the type of advantage, which is almost getting in the area of tactics already, like for an example if you have void spirit and queen of pain, well they both have this mobility advantage and initiative advantage, as well as escape advantage, so it's not clear if the tactical similarity is a synergy or not, but it can be a strategical synergy, if your style of engagement, or strategy, is to like have very brief fights where you pick on a single hero and then retreat quickly.

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Other examples of this kind of synergy might be the ability to dominate lanes and push towers early on, so if you have heroes of this sort on each lane, then you could claim that there's some synergy with respect to pushing, like for an example let's say you have Viper, Death Prophet, Nature's Prophet, Lycan and Leshrac or something. I'm not sure if these are good examples, since the topic of lane domination was mentioned, but I think the readers know my point here. Death Prophet sort of makes defenders retreat during the duration of the exorcism, and it also damages towards, which makes it easier to gain ground and start attacking the tower. Viper can clear the lane creeps very fast early, and can also push your opponents into retreating by using the poison attack, Nature's prophet can show up anywhere next to a tower and summon cute little critters that start banging the tower down, Lycan has this shard and builds necronomicon, and buffs his minions, Leshrac has some building damaging spells. You could also try to split roles so that some heroes are good early and others later, if you see fit. Having heroes that are good in the end game might be a reasonable strategy, that also gives you a direction that you want to play to make the longer, so that means less risk taking, less commitment to highly consequential fights.

Assigning positional tasks to members

Having some kind of an idea that who stays back, and who goes in first, and who tries to provide vision or things like that, can be incorporated to planning. This is also a standard schematic that players use even in pubmatches, in that you have usually like an offlane hero who is tanky and front line, and then you have heroes like sniper or drow, who want to stay back and keep their distance, and heroes like Enigma who can have a big effect on a team fight by using blink dagger and casting blackhole, whether or not you should start a fight that way I guess depends on various factors, but basically this type of hero can be one that always wants to join the fight once it has already started, when the opponent is already committed to fighting.

To end with

Actually the introduction got too long, and I got tired and I don't feel like writing anymore, and I think this is already a lot for anyone to read, so I'll just put the period here. Let me know what you think, and if you have something to add. Also as a word of warning, I'm rated at only 400 MMR so this might not be such a reliable guide, although it's about team coordination rather than soloqueue anyway. I didn't mention the standard DOTA topics like split pushing and 5-man DOTA, although I was going to, but like I said I want to finish here now.

Also looking for people to play with

So I've been trying to look for people to play a lot recently, and still looking forward to find playmates, add me on friends list and invite me to party! The steamid is:


Twitch stream

I've also been learning to stream with twitch, but still not using microphone or camera, which makes it really dull to follow, but on the flipside I activated the full screen broadcast mode, so you can also see me write this thread here on reddit (except for the no camera part), you can also leave a comment in the chat if interested. Here's the url:


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