So, you watched The International and you now know how amazing Dota 2 is.
You made a Steam account, you downloaded the game and you’re ready to become the next star in the game. You boot up the client, queue for your first game, hit that big green “Accept” button and…wow, there are a whole lot of heroes to choose from, huh?
Just looking at the character select screen in Dota 2 is an intimidating thing and when you have to commit up to 90 minutes of your time playing one specific hero? With a bunch of teammates just begging for the opportunity to bash whichever one you choose? Well, that’s just too much to tackle on your own…
Luckily, we’re here to give you a hand! Here is our handy guide on which heroes to choose, and which heroes to avoid, as you begin playing Dota 2.
What Abilities Do Heroes Have?
Almost every ability in Dota 2 falls into one of two categories; active or passive.
Active abilities are those that you choose to use like throwing a fireball or casting a spell. Passive abilities are those that do not require a specific button stroke in order to be activated like additional effects to your attacks, granting nearby allies extra strength or exuding an aura that damages enemies.
There are a wide variety of skills in Dota 2 with wildly different execution requirements. Some require precise timing, exact positioning or lightning quick micro skills. Others just launch heat-seeking missiles at opponents!
Finding the best heroes for new players is about finding heroes with high-impact spells that have relatively low execution requirements.
What Roles Should Dota 2 Beginners Play?
In Dota 2, there are two general roles; core and support.
Generally speaking, new players should gain some familiarity with the game before attempting to play cores. Cores are typically low impact heroes before acquiring a significant amount of farm and are heavily relied upon to close out games. Getting to that point can be tricky and if you fall short, it can make for a long, ugly, un-fun game.
Supports, on the other hand, tend to be impactful at every phase of the game. Even if things are going sideways, support spells are potent and just generally fun to use. That isn’t to say that playing support is easy, per se, since that role goes hand-in-hand with being preyed upon by the opposing team. Still, the best way to learn the ropes while effectively contributing to a team is to play a high-impact, low-effort support hero.
But who, oh who fits that bill?
The Best Dota 2 Heroes for New Players
There are over 100 heroes in Dota 2 and each has its own unique set of skills to grapple with. That makes it tough to know who to play as in your first few games…but we have you covered! Here are the heroes that you should play at the start of your Dota 2 career.
Lich is, by far, the best hero for a new Dota 2 player. Second place isn’t even close.
The key to this is Lich’s E spell, Sacrifice. Sacrifice allows you to “eat” an allied creep, giving you both mana and experience. The extra mana allows Lich to spam his spells in the early game in a way that few other heroes are capable of emulating. The extra experience, meanwhile, allows Lich to level up faster than almost any other hero.
All of that synergizes perfectly with Lich’s other two main spells; Frost Blast and Ice Armor.
Frost Blast is one of the best, most reliable spells in the game. A straightforward single-target spell that bashes, slows and damages enemies, it can bully opposing heroes or be used to kill creeps. Ice Armor, meanwhile greatly increases the early- and mid-game defenses of heroes by increasing their armor stat and temporarily lowering the attack speed of anyone that attacks them.
Finally, Lich’s ultimate, Chain Frost, is just a generally amazing spell where the enemy is hit by a ball of ice, which bounces back and forth between enemy units for either a certain number of hits or until there is no longer a nearby target to bounce off. Though the ideal situation to use it is when two enemy heroes are right next to one another, it does so much damage with the initial contact that having it hit just once is enough to make a difference in most situations.
Though there is room for flexibility in terms of how to level up and itemize Lich, maxing out Sacrifice first is strongly encouraged and items like Force Staff and Mekansm are ideal for both helping teammates and keeping yourself alive.
As with Lich, Lion is one of the few heroes in Dota 2 that has tools for reliable early-game spell-spamming. Though Lich gains this through eating allied creeps, Lion does so at the expense of enemies.
Mana Drain is exactly what it sounds like; a long-range spell that siphons MP out of enemies and into Lion. This can be used on both enemy heroes and enemy creeps (only ranged creeps have mana, though). If leveled more than once, this can prove absolutely ruinous to an enemy hero in lane and allows Lion to easily, safely harass almost any opponent with his powerful lineup of spells.
The first and most versatile spell in his arsenal is Earth Spike. An AOE attack that sends a wave of stalagmites at an opponent, it does solid damage and leaves those hit stunned for up to 2.6 seconds. Hand-in-hand with Earth Spike is Hex, a powerful disable that turns an enemy hero into a frog, leaving them unable to attack or use any spells or items.
That pair of disables can do plenty of work on its own, but the cherry on top of all this is Finger of Death. A single-target nuke, it rounds out Lion’s arsenal by giving him massive damage potential and cementing as one of the most versatile, and most easy-to-use, casters in the game.
Ogre Magi is a fairly normal character at first glance.
His main spells are quite straightforward. His Q, Fireblast, is an easy-to-use spell that stuns enemies and deals magical damage. His W, Ignite, is a long-range slow that also applies damage over time. Bloodlust, his E spell, is an effective buff to allies that increases their movement and attack speeds.
All straightforward stuff, right? Well, not once he gets his ultimate spell at level 6!
Multicast is a passive ability that gives each of his spells the chance to be used up to four times in quick succession at no cost to the user. This can turn his ho-hum 240 damage, 1.5-second stun into a 960 damage, 3-second nuke and his solid single-target slow into a massive AOE lockdown.
The caveat here is that this is entirely luck based! The player has no control over when Multicast will trigger and at any given point, all the player can do is cast the spell and hope for the best.
That might sound scary, but Ogre’s cooldowns are low enough that he’s likely to have more than one chance to get a Multicast during a fight.
Complimenting all this is the fact that Ogre is one of the beefiest, tankiest supports in the game! Even if he can’t cast spells, he’s better equipped to just walk up and punch people in the face than most of his constituents.
Healing is always a good thing. There’s just no way to mess it up. And when that heal also happens to be a powerful nuke? Well, that certainly doesn’t hurt!
That’s Omniknight’s signature spell, Purification, in a nutshell. A single-target skill that heals an allied unit up to 300 HP, it also deals 300 damage to any nearby enemy. This makes it an incredibly versatile spell that can be used to strengthen allies, damage enemies or clear out creeps.
Purification is helped along by Degen Aura, a passive ability that lowers the attack speed and greatly lowers the movement speed of nearby enemy heroes. This allows Omniknight to easily run into position on an enemy and hit them for big damage.
His W, Repel, synergizes with both of these abilities. Used to block most magical spells, it can be used to help allies out of sticky situations or ensure you can cast your own spells.
All of this leads into his amazingly powerful ultimate; Guardian Angel. A spell that renders all nearby allied units immune to physical damage, it temporarily allows you to ignore any right-click attacks and, functionally, leaves those affected immune to many of Dota 2’s heroes.
The trouble with Omniknight is that his spells have long cooldowns and he is constantly hurting for mana. That can be partly mitigated, however, by acquiring early-game mana items like Soul Ring and Arcane Boots.
Heroes to Avoid as a New Dota 2 Player
While most of the heroes that this guide specifically recommends are hard-hitting caster-type supports, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look over to other characters that you see as interesting. For the most part, every hero in Dota 2 is straightforward and easy too.
There are, however, a few exceptions.
Some heroes have very intricate spell combinations that require extensive amounts of practice. Some require micromanagement skills that essentially make the game feel like playing StarCraft: Brood War. And some function in unique ways that just don’t fit into the traditional Dota 2 mold and require their own unique approach to the game.
In the early stages of your time playing Dota 2, it’s probably better to avoid them you have the fundamentals down. With that in mind, here are some of the characters to avoid, and why you should steer clear.
The Micro-Heavy Ones
A common mechanic for heroes in Dota 2 is summoning other units that are under their control, whether it is one big one or several small ones. Naturally, these heroes are at their best when the player can effectively use each individual unit. And naturally, that makes these heroes considerably harder to use.
Not all heroes that have summons should be avoided, per se, but many of them require attention to be constantly divided which makes for an often-unpleasant in-game experience.
Examples – Broodmother, Meepo, Visage, Chen, Arc Warden
Intensely Farm-dependent Carries
At some point, you’re going to be called upon to play a carry. Don’t worry! While we recommend sticking to high-impact supports early on, once you get the hang of last-hitting, you can transition into playing a number of different carries without any trouble.
That said, not all carries are created equal. While all carries need farm to some degree, many carries have strong team fighting tools or naturally have high stats which allow them to stand and trade with opponents at any stage of the game like Dragon Knight, Sven, Wraith King and Juggernaut.
Other carries, however, are generally useless without a big item or two. You’ll want to steer clear of these guys for the time being.
Examples – Medusa, Morphling, Alchemist, Spectre, Naga Siren, Ember Spirit
Heroes That Require Mid
I strongly advise you against playing mid in the early stages of your Dota 2 career. Let me reiterate: Do not play mid.
The side lane in pub Dota 2 is typically a two-on-two situation where there is often room for small victories, even if things go sideways. That isn’t the case in the middle lane where players are locked into an extended one-on-one that can make or break the entire game for a team.
Some heroes are specifically designed to thrive in that environment and are built around accelerating off the solo farm and experience that comes with it. Many struggle outside that environment and, as such, should be avoided when not being played in that situation.
Examples – Tinker, Storm Spirit, Invoker, Shadow Fiend, Puck, Templar Assassin, Zeus
This is going to be a hard temptation to resist, I know. The ability to just press a button and walk away from a dicey situation because new players don’t know how to play against invisible enemies sounds amazing and, at first, it is. The trouble is that while it’s easy to stay alive as heroes that have invisibility options, it’s not going to be as easy to actually do anything valuable while alive.
Invis heroes typically require strong game sense in order to make any kind of serious impact. That doesn’t come quick, either, and while you might feel like picking an invisibility-based hero just to have a solid kill-to-death ratio at game’s end, you’re going to end most of those games with a big, fat L if you draft with that mentality.
Examples – Bounty Hunter, Riki, Nyx Assassin, Slark