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Dota 2 Key Terms

Patrick Bonifacio

Dota 2 is one of the oldest competitive titles in gaming, with a reputation for its steep learning curve and huge list of key terms. As it is a sequel to DotA Allstars, the original custom map for Blizzard’s Warcraft 3, its jargon dates all the way back to the mid-2000s. Players new to the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre in particular can find its anachronistic nature alienating.

Dota 2 Key Terms art

As one of the oldest surviving titles in esports, Dota 2 has a large list of frequently used terms. Image by Valve

But that’s where we at Hotspawn come in. We’ve got you covered as you learn and discover what your teammates mean when they say things to you in-game.

Dota 2 Key Terms

Aggro: Gaining the attention of an enemy unit or the focus of a specific enemy, forcing them to attack you. Also known as hate in MMOs.

Ancient: Massive structures found in each side’s base. There exists only one of each for both the Radiant and the Dire. Destroying the Ancient is the objective in Dota 2, and the first team to do so wins the game.

AoE: AKA Area of Effect. AoE abilities deal damage over an area of the playing field, rather than just to a single unit.

B: Short for “back” or “get back”. A command or suggestion to retreat from an engagement.

Backdoor: Attacking enemy structures such as towers without the assistance of creeps in the lane, thus “skipping” the natural process of hitting buildings. Largely prevented by backdoor protection. Also known as “BD” for short.

Barracks: A building that — once destroyed — upgrades the creeps of the team that destroyed it with more health and attack damage in that lane. On the other hand, destroying all six of a team’s barracks grants the team that did so Mega Creeps, which are strong enough to kill heroes with sufficient numbers. AKA “Rax” for short.

Blocking: Can mean either the act of physically blocking a creep wave with one’s hero to impede their movement (thus forcing the wave to meet opposing creeps later), or blocking neutral creep camps by placing a ward or unit inside the spawn box.

Bot: Computer-controlled opponent. Although not very representative of real players’ movement and skill, new players can play against bots to learn the basics. Bots are available to play against in custom games and co-op matches.

Buff: A beneficial effect that strengthens friendly units in some way. Opposite of debuff.

Burst Damage: A large amount of damage dealt in a short amount of time. A prime example is Lion’s ultimate ability Finger of Death (R), which deals up to 850 damage in an instant.

Buyback: Spending money to respawn instantly. Dead heroes have access to buyback, which costs gold to activate. Once activated, buyback goes on cooldown for 480 seconds. The cost of buying back also scales as the game goes on.

Carry: One of the roles in Dota 2. Carries are heroes that are typically weak in the early game, but can decide games almost entirely on their own in the late game.

Dota 2 Key Terms Carry

Anti-Mage is one of the most iconic carries in Dota 2. (Image by Valve)

Cooldown: Refers to a period of time when an ability or item cannot be used until the cooldown itself ends. Expressed in seconds.

Core: A classification used to refer to heroes that have high farm priority. Carries, mid laners, and offlaners are typically considered to all be cores.

Courier: A unit that ferries items from the shops to heroes on the map. Each player is assigned their own courier for free.

CS/Creep Score: The number of last hits and denies a hero has. More typically used to refer to the former.

Creeps: The basic units in Dota 2. Anything that isn’t a courier, building, ward, or hero is considered a creep.

Creep Equilibrium: A concept that refers to the positioning of creeps in the lane relative to each side’s closest tower. Good creep equilibrium involves keeping the creep wave close to your team’s tower without putting creeps in that tower’s attack range.

Debuff: A detrimental effect that hobbles or cripples enemy units in some way. Opposite of buff.

Deny: Intentionally killing a friendly unit or destroying a friendly building. Denying is done to deprive the enemy team of experience and gold. Unique to Dota 2 when it comes to MOBAs in general.

Dire: A faction in Dota 2. The Dire side is located on the top right half of the map, bisected by the river. Known as the “Scourge” in DotA Allstars.

Disable: A spell, effect, or ability that prevents a hero from moving, attacking, or using their own abilities/items. Similar to stun.

Dive: The act of pursuing an enemy hero despite entering tower attack range while doing so.

Farming: The act of killing (or “last hitting”) creeps to earn gold and experience.

Flash Farming: Farming at a fast pace. Heroes that can flash farm typically have access to spells that can easily kill creeps.

Fountain: A building located at the very end of each team’s base. Friendly units within range of their side’s fountain receive greatly increased health and mana regeneration. The fountain meanwhile attacks enemy units that get too close with powerful rapid fire blasts.

Gank: The act of attempting to kill an enemy hero by taking them by surprise. Typically done with two or more teammates simultaneously.

Hard Lane: A lane in which the creeps meet closer to the tower of the enemy team. Usually, this is the top lane for Radiant and the bottom lane for Dire.

Harassment: The act of attacking enemy heroes in the lane in order to gain a health advantage over them. Harassment is typically done using either regular attacks or spells. Proper harassment can force core heroes, in particular, to retreat from the lane, thus missing out on valuable gold and experience.

Illusion: A weaker copy of a hero, created by abilities or items. Illusions typically deal a fraction of a hero’s attack damage, and take more incoming damage as well. They also cannot use abilities.

Initiation: The act of starting an engagement on your team’s terms, typically by way of catching the enemy team off guard. Heroes that are good at this are called initiators.

Jungling: The act of killing neutral creeps in the jungle.

Kiting: The act of keeping an enemy unit (usually a melee hero) at arm’s length while attacking them at the same time. Ranged heroes are particularly good at this, as they can shoot enemy melee heroes while running away from them. Spells that apply slow effect

Mid: The middle lane. Also refers to Solo Mid, one of the three core roles in Dota 2. Solo mid heroes are those that typically require plenty of experience in the early game, and are self-sufficient enough to play the middle lane without assistance from other heroes.

Miss/Missing/MIA: Used to refer to enemy heroes that have gone missing from their lanes, indicating that they may be setting up for a gank. It is extremely important to use these to warn your teammates of a possible gank attempt.

Neutral Creeps: Neutral creeps are creeps that aren’t aligned with either side in Dota 2. They reside in each team’s jungle area, which is located off to the side of the safe lane and the offlane.

Neutral Items: Items that neutral creeps drop at random upon death, that cannot be sold or purchased in shops. Full details and mechanics here.

Offlane: One of the three core roles in Dota 2. Offlane heroes are responsible for keeping the opposing carry in check and for creating space on the map for their own carry.

Pulling: The act of attacking neutral creep camps and dragging them into the lane in order to force friendly creeps to switch aggro to them. Vital to maintaining creep equilibrium in lane.

Pushing: The act of pushing lanes by rapidly killing creep waves and destroying any structures that might be present. Destroying lane towers, for example, is pushing.

Radiant: A faction in Dota 2. The Radiant side is located on the bottom left half of the map, bisected by the river. Known as the “Sentinel” in DotA Allstars.

Ratting: A strategy that involves avoiding full-scale teamfights and focusing on pushing lanes instead. Comes from the fact that rats run away at the first sign of danger.

Roshan/Rosh/RS: Roshan is the strongest creep on the map. Killing Roshan causes him to drop the Aegis of the Immortal, a token that revives the holder upon death with full health and mana.

Runes: Power-ups that spawn in specific spots on the map at specific intervals of in-game time. There are three types of runes: power runes, bounty runes, and water runes. Bounty runes instantly grant gold to the team that picks them up. Power runes meanwhile grant buffs to heroes that picks them up. Finally, water runes instantly restore a small amount of health and mana to heroes that pick them up.

Safe Lane: A lane in which the creeps meet closer to the tower of your team. Usually, this is the bottom lane for Radiant and the top lane for Dire.

Skillshot: An ability that requires aim and timing to land. Pudge’s signature ability Meat Hook (Q) is perhaps the most iconic example of a skillshot.

Snowballing: A situation where a hero or an entire team gains so much momentum in a game that it would take a huge mistake for them to lose their lead. Comes from the idea of a snowball growing larger and larger as it rolls down a snow-covered slope.

Stacking: The act of purposefully aggroing a neutral creep camp at a specific time (typically every 55th second of in-game time) in order to allow the next set of neutral creeps to spawn on top of the existing one. Stacking makes farming neutral creeps way more efficient, and is vital for cores that have ways of killing neutral creep camps quickly.

Support: One of the roles in Dota 2, as well a class of hero. Supports are tasked with helping their teammates with a variety of positive effects, such as heals and buffs (among others). Some support heroes however have more offensive skillsets, which serve to hinder the enemy team with debuffs and disables.

Tank: Tanks are heroes that can take large amounts of damage before dying. Strength heroes usually fall under this category, but agility and intelligence heroes can also be designed to be tanks. Note that tank is not a role, and should never be treated as one of the five positions in Dota 2. It is merely a descriptor.

Teamfight: A large-scale engagement between opposing heroes. Typically used in reference to five-on-five fights.

Dota 2 Key Terms teamfight

A teamfight depicted in official game art. (Image by Valve)

Ward: Wards are items that can be placed on the map to provide vision of the immediate area for a duration of time. These are called Observer Wards. Observer Wards are invisible, and can only be revealed with detection. Sentry Wards, on the other hand, provide very little vision by themselves, but reveal invisible units (including wards) in their effective radius. Wards are crucial to victory in Dota 2, and teams should always endeavor to use them.

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick has been playing Dota since the dawn of time, having started with the original custom game for WarCraft III. He primarily plays safe lane and solo mid, preferring to leave the glorious task of playing support to others.

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