Dota 2

Theory: Contesting the Bounty Runes

In this thread I'd like to summarize the concept of contesting bounty runes (The first ones to spawn). This is something that is done wrong, even in relatively highly ranked matches. Theoretically there are 3 ways to contest the bounty runes, and then there are some subvariations for those. The problem is that one of these is wrong and it's the most popular way of doing it. So what are these ways exactly?

Different ways to divide the 5 people in your team between the two sides of the map.

So if you consider that there's 2 groups of bounty spawns, the Right hand side, and the Left hand side. Or East and West if you prefer that. Now you can decide how many people go on each side at the start of the game.

There are 3 options for the basic way to divide up the team:

3 – 2

4 – 1

5 – 0

The most commonly seen division is the first one, 3 go on one side, and 2 go on the other side. But this is the wrong option, the correct options are 4-1 and 5-0. It's a game of guessing which of these your opposing team is going to try, as well as guessing which side of the map they're going to do that on.

I've played like 1500 matches at the Herald level, and not once I have seen this done correctly at this level. I've discussed this also with like Legend and Archon level players, and for those too, the most popular way is the 3-2, which is the only incorrect version.

So what's the rationale?

You don't want to get less bounty runes than your opponent, and you don't want anyone to get ganked, and you want to gank opponents' heroes, thus you don't want to fight when your enemy outnumbers you, and you want to fight when you outnumber your enemy

So consider the following:

You go 5 heroes on the right hand side. Your opposing team does 3-2. Which side has the advantage? Obviously, it's your side. You're going to get the 2 bounty runes on the side you send 5 heroes on, unless you mess up, and the opposing team is going to get the other 2. However, there's potential for confrontation, in which the numbers are either 5 heroes of your team against 2 from theirs, or 3 from their team. You don't want to engage into a fight where you are outnumbered, this is fairly obvious. You do want to engage in a fight where you are outnumbering your opponent.

Let's then consider the other option, 4-1. And now your opponent does the 3-2 again. This one is a bit trickier, because now it depends on which side of the map you actually go to. This is because the so called midlane bounty, the rune that the midlaner often gets on their corresponding side, is easier to secure with just 1 hero, it's a bit deeper in your territory, and it's riskier to dive for that rune. But ignoring that for the moment, you're going to get into a situation where you send 1 person on one side, and 4 on the other side. The opposing team is again going to be outnumbered on that side where you have 4 people. That means either a 4 vs 2 fight, or a 4 vs 3 fight. Meanwhile your lone hero is at a disadvantage, because they're either getting a 1vs2 fight or a 1vs3 fight. If they're trying to secure the midlane bounty on your side, while you're sending the 4 people on the enemy midlane bounty spawn for the fight, you can still have advantage, but note that the advantage in this case is lesser than compared to the 5-0 version.

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Then the last option, which is, you go 4-1 and the opposing team goes 5-0. Now this makes things complicated, and basically this is the reason why the 4-1 is a valid strategy. If you didn't have the possibility of the match being 4-1 and 5-0, 4-1 wouldn't make sense, coz you would just always prefer 5-0 vs the 3-2. However, when you go 5 on each side, and you consider the correspondence of the sides. So let's say both teams go with 5 players on the right hand side. Well you have 5vs5 fight now, so can't say either side is at an advantage, but there's 2 bounties on the other side of the map.. That a single person could just grab with no contest. So at this point you're kind of considering, maybe we could handle this with like 4 people fighting the 5, and that lone person just picking the 2 runes? Maybe that's possible? But note that if you get 5 vs 1 and 4 vs 0, then basically the team with the 5 has a slight advantage. 4 vs 0 is going to result to 0 ganks, meanwhile, 5 vs 1 can result to 1 gank for the 5-0 team.

So how do you actually play the bounty rune contest?

So we've basically covered the 3 variations of dividing up your team, each version has 2 possibilities regarding which side of the map your bigger chunk goes to. Do you go on the enemy spawn, or your own span, so basically 6 basic alternatives. But what are you trying to do here?

First of all if your opposing team had also figured out how to play this bounty rune contest, things would be different, coz you would basically just see the 5-0 and 4-1 versions, and that's it. The 3-2 wouldn't exist between team which worked out logic. But because a lot of the time, especially in pub matches, everyone does 3-2 thing, there's something you can do to exploit this.

The primary concept to understand is exposure and commitment to engagement. So if you're too invested in the fight, you can't retreat, for an example you juts know you don't have enough health to run away if your opponents keep attacking you, so you're just going to finish the fight, especially if they have a slow and you don't have a blink. But if you're at full health, you can sometimes just decide to run away, depending on various factors. So this is one way you can be committed to the fight, by already being so low on health you're not going to make it out anyway. Another type of commitment is perhaps the most important one which is, positional commitment. If you're surround by enemies and far away from your tower and your allies, you know you're not going to make it out. You're in too deep.

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So this is what you want to achieve with your 5-0 strategy. You want to make the enemy commit to the fight before revealing that you have 5 people on the bounty spawns. E.g. you have 3 enemies show up, just pretend like you have 2 people on the spawn for a while, so that they keep fighting and commit, and then the other 3 join the fight and you collect the ganks and the runes for free.

You can create this positional commitment by encircling the enemy, for an example, you can have 2 people flank the opposing side and block their path of retreat, so when they run towards the bounty spawn, you have 2 of your heroes block the staircase that they want to use for retreating.

4-1 strategy

The 4-1 strategy is just the 5-0 strategy with a slight defect, if you end up having a 4vs5 fight, you're at a disadvantage. On the other hand, you can have 4 people attack the enemy spawn, and have 1 person secure the midlane spawn, or you can defend your spawn with 4 and have someone with like good escape abilities (NP with teleport for an example, AM with blink), try and capture their midlane rune or the other rune. But for the most part the 4-1 is kind of risky perhaps not advisable, since the most straightforward way is to play the 5-0, and it's tricky to manage this so that you can get the free 2 bounties in the 5-0 vs 4-1 situation.

But with this the primary thing is that the lone person is the right type of hero for the job, preferably a support, and preferably someone with a blink or survivability ability, so they can sneak the rune, and make their escape.

For the most part though, I recommend playing only the 5-0, coz there's a lot of people out there who do the only incorrect strategy, that is the 3-2, and the 5-0 always wins against that when played correctly. You're going for 2 runes + the potential to gank the enemy 3 heroes or the enemy 2 heroes. If they just retreat and don't commit into the fight, well you got 2 runes anyway, and the enemy team has no advantage.

The only downside to the 5-0

The only downside to doing this is that you have to use your scroll of teleport, most likely anyway. That means you have to spend a chunk of your mana, and a scroll. So if 2 people have to teleport, that's already a cost on it's own. You have to spend 180 gold as a team on 2 scrolls, and 150 mana as a team for the 2 teleports. The cost of that mana is is something like 50 to 100 gold. So you could say doing the 5-0 costs between 230 to 280 gold for your team. On the other hand, if you get 1 gank, it's just about the same amount of gold typically. And if you get 2, then there's obviously an advantage.

You could also explore the possibilities of how to position the heroes so that maybe they don't need to teleport every time. Like perhaps you go with 5 on the enemy bounties, and pretend that the offlaner and his support can just run back to the offlane. But missing out on the last hits and not being able to creep block.. Well that's probably worth something too.

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However I'd like to stress that if this is done correctly that means there's a good chance you get to have a 5vs2 or 5vs3 fight by baiting the enemy and making the commit, without actually giving them the bounty, and then you can secure 2 or 3 takedowns if you play correctly, and if you get the 2 takedowns, then they're definitely more valuable than the 2 teleport scrolls and teleports.

Smoke of deceit and wards

You can also improve your chances of successfully making the enemy commit to a losing fight by using wards correctly and getting smoke of deceit in the beginning.

So what do you think?

Please comment on what you think is the proper strategy to contesting the bounty runes and what do you think the best way to divide up the team for the task. I believe the only correct options are 5-0 and 4-1, and mostly prefer just 5-0, because that can't be wrong and a lot of teams do stuff which is easy to exploit with the 5-0.

I'm looking for people to play with

I'm rated between 0 and 500 MMR fairly consistently. I've tried looking for people, but never found a consistent bunch of people to play with despite posting on Reddit, and facebook and joined pretty much every DOTA2 themed discord I could find, and posted bunch of looking for players messages on them. Unfortunately there was just a handful of people who sent me an invite and I end up playing mostly soloqueue, but if you'd like to add me to friends list then please do, the Steamid is:


Then go ahead and invite me to party!

  • EU West and US East (Occasionally EU East, Russia, esp. when queue captain's mode)
  • +18 only
  • Herald, Guardian, Crusader, Archon
  • I enjoy all positions 1-5

Note: I receive harassment related to the Russian security services in DOTA! This started in real life long before started playing DOTA. I'm mentioning this to deter future trolling and to warn those who don't want to deal with anything of this sort.

Twitch stream

I have this twitch stream set up, although currently not using a microphone or a camera, but I have enabled the full screen record mode so you should be able to see me write this thread for an example. You can visit the stream from the url posted below. Unfortunately I don't know how to enable a notification for Twitch chat:


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