Running into heroes that do particularly well in the lower brackets of Dota 2’s ranked matchmaking ladder is as inevitable as breathing. There really are just picks in this game that are designed to be easy to play and with the ability to snowball out of control.
New and inexperienced players generally don’t know how to deal with these heroes in particular, causing them to get overwhelmed before they even figure out what hit them in the first place. And even those with thousands of hours of Dota under their belts find these heroes frustrating to play against, even though they have the knowledge required to counter them.
If you’re new to Dota 2 and have encountered the heroes in this guide, we’re here to clue you in on what to do against specific picks. No longer will you have to suffer under the hands of cheesy heroes or strategies!
Slark’s Dark Pact (Q) and Shadow Dance (R) are his best assets in low MMR Dota pub games. Dark Pact applies a strong dispel separated into 10 (!) instances throughout its duration, which means Slark can even purge off stuns and hard disables like hex and root. This allows him to be extremely slippery, elusive, and difficult to pin down whether he is going in or trying to escape.
Shadow Dance, on the other hand, turns Slark completely invisible — and not just in the usual way. Slark cannot be revealed during this time, no matter how hard you try. Sentry Wards, Gem of True Sight, Dust of Appearance; it doesn’t matter what you throw at him, he will be unseen throughout the whole duration.
This allows Slark to go after his prey almost undisturbed, especially when their methods of retaliation require them to have vision of him. Oh, and it also has a passive component that gives him a ridiculous amount of health regeneration if he is out of the enemy team’s vision — meaning that he can come out of Shadow Dance’s invisibility smelling like a rose and ready to rumble for a second round.
Fortunately, there are some things that even Slark can’t get away from. Much like Anti-Mage, he is vulnerable to non-dispellable silences, so picking Disruptor or Night Stalker against him is a good idea. Grimstroke’s Phantom Embrace (W) works wonders too, as Slark has to kill the phantom itself in order to stop the silence.
Shadow Dance can be dealt with by purchasing Ghost Scepter, as it prevents Slark from attacking whoever is in ethereal status. By extension, Ethereal Blade serves the same purpose, and can even be used to cut into Slark’s low health pool. Also, area-of-effect spells will still affect Slark during Shadow Dance, so heroes like Leshrac, Lina, and Dark Willow can stop him in his tracks.
Ancient Apparition gets a special mention. Ice Blast is very good at discouraging Slark from engaging, as it prevents all health regeneration and restoration from things like lifesteal and healing spells. Since Slark’s stat growth is abysmal, his low health pool means that Ancient Apparition’s Ice Blast (R) can kill him if he isn’t careful. Dark Pact also hurts Slark in the process for 50 percent of the damage dealt, which can easily bring him past Ice Blast’s instant kill threshold.
Meepo is perhaps the cheesiest Dota hero in the entire game, and is capable of taking over matches all on his own if left to his own devices. Having the ability to farm in multiple places on the map at once and gain experience points at a breakneck pace in the process means that he can snowball right out of the enemy team’s reach in a hurry.
But he has one critical weakness: when he or one of his clones is killed, the rest die at the same time. This makes him vulnerable to damage in a widespread area, as injured Meepo clones will have to either run away from the fight or risk taking the whole army down with them.
Earthshaker is perhaps the most commonly-picked Meepo counter, and it’s easy to see why. His entire kit can lock Meepo down for extended periods of time, allowing his teammates to come in and burst the clones down quickly. If his ultimate ability Echo Slam (R) is off cooldown, he can even do this on his own provided that Meepo doesn’t have a million stat-boosting items in his inventory yet. It also helps that Meepo isn’t a viable BKB carrier, which means that Earthshaker’s spells will always be effective.
Elder Titan serves much the same role, though he is much more difficult to play than Earthshaker. Having long cast animations and a small micromanagement aspect can turn newbies away from him. Those that are comfortable with the hero will find that Echo Stomp and Earth Splitter both tear Meepo apart, especially the latter considering that it does percentage-based damage rather than a fixed amount. This factor is especially important given Meepo’s penchant for buying things like Heart of Tarrasque and Eye of Skadi, which give huge boosts to his health pool.
Lastly, there’s Winter Wyvern, who can destroy Meepo with one spell: Winter’s Curse (R). Landing the spell on one of Meepo’s clones can spell doom for him and his team, since it forces his entire army and his teammates to attack the targeted clone. Neither Linken’s Sphere nor Lotus Orb are effective deterrents to this tactic either, as Winter Wyvern can simply choose to target one of the clones without the item or buff rather than Meepo himself.
Morphling can be a huge menace in the right hands. As a hero with an astronomically high skill cap, he can take over Dota games if left alone and is very slippery to boot. His scaling is crazy thanks to the nature of Adaptive Strike (W), which can blow supports up if paired with an Ethereal Blade.
His most irritating ability has to be Attribute Shift (E), though. With it, he can freely transfer his base agility to his base strength and vice versa. Since strength determines a hero’s maximum health, he can cheat death in situations that would normally kill lesser beings. Seriously, the speed at which he can gain additional health is nothing to laugh about, and in the hands of a skilled player can mean the difference between life and death for Morphling.
Good thing there’s two very solid counters to these stat-changing shenanigans. Ancient Apparition is one, of course, since Ice Blast instantly kills heroes whose current health goes below a certain percentage. Given that Attribute Shift causes Morphling’s health pool to grow, this increases the required health value at which he will shatter to Ice Blast. And should he choose to shift back to agility, well… pop goes the water elemental.
If Ancient Apparition is banned or on the other team, worry not — Spirit Vessel will do just fine. Although it isn’t in the item’s tooltip or description, Spirit Vessel’s Release ability actually reduces the amount of current health gained per point of strength. Morphling thus gets less value from shifting points to strength, making him easier to bring down with burst damage.
Huskar is the very definition of a Dota lane dominator. With the stacking damage of his Burning Spear (W), he can harass his lane opponent in the mid lane to no end, as it doesn’t cost any mana at all. Instead, it costs four percent of his current health — which Huskar absolutely does not mind given that he gets plenty of health regeneration from Berserker’s Blood (E).
Melee heroes, in particular, get stomped by Huskar in lane. Every time they step towards the creep wave to score last hits, his Burning Spears threaten to keep them at bay. With enough stacks applied, they simply cannot approach the creep wave at all. Picks like Ember Spirit and Dragon Knight (yes, even with the regen from Dragon Blood) will quickly find themselves basically unable to play Dota at all this way.
Countering Huskar in the lane starts with his very low base armor. He actually does not trade well with other ranged heroes until he hits level 3 or so, which heroes like Clinkz and Sniper can take advantage of. You should get aggressive in the early goings of the laning phase with these heroes — but careful, calculated aggression is required. Otherwise, you may end up giving away more health than necessary.
As for melee heroes, some picks like Bristleback and Ember Spirit can actually buy Boots of Speed first and cut the creep wave in the middle lane, thus forcing Huskar to either deal with them or focus on scoring last hits. If Huskar decides on the former, his tier 1 tower is put in a precarious position after several waves. If he does the latter, his opponent is likely to break even in the lane at the very least, which is definitely bad for a snowball-dependent hero like him.
Other counters include Ancient Apparition, Bloodseeker, and Necrophos. These heroes all benefit from Huskar’s on-the-edge playstyle, taking advantage of his often low current health in order to kill him instantly or cripple him severely. Bloodseeker is actually a hilariously good hero against him, since Rupture damages Huskar during the Life Break animation.
And finally, we have the bane of every new Dota player’s existence: Riki. Blessed with an Ultimate that provides him with permanent invisibility assuming he isn’t attacking something, Riki can baffle complete newbies with the way he can sneak up on unsuspecting heroes and prevent them from doing anything with Smoke Screen (Q).
His other two spells Blink Strike (W) and Tricks of the Trade (E) help him dish out tons of physical DPS, as well as escape danger and dodge abilities that would otherwise hinder or kill him outright. Together, his kit makes him hard to pin down when his back is to the wall, and lethal when on the offensive.
Naturally, detection counters Riki, as he relies heavily on stealth and subterfuge to engage and disengage. Bring Sentry Wards and plant them in areas where he is likely to be, allowing you and your team to see him coming in. And since Sentry Wards are invisible, he isn’t likely to know that you can even see him — which you can take advantage of by jumping him as he is unaware of the danger he’s in. Dust of Appearance is a more offensive alternative, and unlike Sentry Wards the true sight follows Riki rather than being dependent on sight range.
Heroes with natural true sight abilities are fantastic picks too. Slardar and Bounty Hunter come to mind first, as both of their Ultimates provide vision on Riki for as long as they’re applied. This allows your team to keep track of Riki and even kill him off if you play your cards right.
Things that root Riki to the ground are likewise very effective countermeasures — as he cannot cast Blink Strike or Tricks of the Trade while rooted. Rod of Atos is a general option since it’s an item that any support can buy, but the problem is that Riki can dodge the incoming projectile with a well-timed Tricks of the Trade. You won’t see this very often in pubs though, since players in lower ranked games don’t usually have that kind of reaction time.
Nevertheless, there are more reliable options like Crystal Maiden’s Frostbite, Treant Protector’s Overgrowth, and Underlord’s Pit of Malice. That last one in particular pairs really well with Rod of Atos, and when staggered properly Underlord can keep Riki from moving for a long time.
Now that you’ve read this Dota guide, you no longer have to be deathly afraid of newbie-unfriendly heroes when they get picked by the opposing team. Keep these tips in mind and apply them in your ranked games so that you stop losing to cheesy picks like these.
Get out there and brave the previously unknown and show these annoying little buggers what’s what!