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How to Die Less in Dota 2

Patrick Bonifacio  | 
Dota 2

Dying is especially detrimental in Dota 2, compared to other games in the genre. (Photo courtesy Riot Games)

Dota 2 is notorious among MOBA titles due to how punishing it can be to simply die. Giving up the ghost means you don’t get to play until your respawn timer is up (or you buy back), which in turn means that you can’t farm or gain experience while you’re on the sidelines. Without the ability to progress in terms of items or levels, you can quickly fall behind and find yourself facing an unassailable disadvantage.

Worse still, IceFrog and the rest of the balance team over at Valve have seen it fit to make dying even more detrimental. In Patch 7.26b, reliable gold (gold that doesn’t disappear on death) is now only obtainable through passive gold gain—making it even more difficult to come back by taking objectives and scoring a few kills here and there.

Thus, it is now more important than ever to keep one’s deaths in Dota 2 to a minimum. In a metagame where fighting often and pushing lanes fast is common, this can be a daunting task—especially for newer players. Heck, even players that have been around since Dota Allstars in Warcraft III can forget what to do when the pressure’s on.

But that’s why we’re here, with tips on how to do just that. Read on to learn how to cheat death and enable yourself to have a bigger impact in your Dota 2 games!

Look at your minimap often

The Dota 2 minimap is one of the most powerful tools available to everyone. After all, Dota 2 is designed so that you can only have so much of the map visible on your screen at any given time, and the existence of the fog of war creates an environment where information is limited. Enemy heroes could be lurking nearby without you even knowing it—but this in itself is knowledge if you look at the minimap religiously.

Dota 2 Map

In this example, two Dire heroes are missing from the minimap, indicating possible lane rotations.

While moving around the map or farming a lane, getting into the habit of glancing at the minimap every now and then can save you from ganks. The trick is, of course, to count how many enemy heroes you can see at any given moment, and judging from there whether or not it’s safe to be showing yourself on the map.

If all five enemy heroes are visible on the map with an even distribution in the lanes, then you can assume that a gank attempt isn’t coming and that you can be in the lane farming or soaking up experience. But the opposite means that you might need to be more cautious and stick closer to your teammates or the nearest tower—as it is very likely that your opponents are hiding in the fog of war and are trying to ambush you.

Of course, these aren’t hard and fast rules, and should have context applied to them. All five heroes missing doesn’t immediately mean that they’re trying to gank you in particular, for example—and so keeping tabs on your opponents’ last known location is equally important.

After all, there’s no point in hiding in the trees in fear of a potential gank attempt if it isn’t likely that the missing heroes in question are even in your area. This is when communicating with your teammates comes into play; ask them which enemy heroes were in their respective lanes or if they’ve seen any in certain parts of the map in the last 10-20 seconds. Once you have that information, you can make the appropriate call.

We also recommend setting your minimap to always display hero icons. This way, you won’t have to hold down the Alt key just to see which heroes in particular are on your minimap, saving you some time and effort. You can find this setting in the Options menu, under the “Minimap” subsection.

Respect the ramps

Vision in Dota 2 works pretty much the same way as in any other real-time strategy game: the fog of war obscures vision of ramps, cliffs, and other areas with elevation assuming that you’re not on the same level. This is why putting Observer Wards on spires and cliffs is so effective, as doing so gives unobstructed vision of a large area.

The same can be said of heroes, who are subject to the same rules. For example, a hero standing in the middle of the river in the middle lane will not be able to see through the fog of war on the ramps there, because the ramps are considered to be on higher ground than the hero.

Walking up to areas covered by the fog without some sort of scouting ability (like the hawk from Beastmaster’s Call of the Wild or Vengeful Spirit’s Wave of Terror) or vision in advance (such as Observer Wards) can be very risky—because the opposing team can see and initiate on you before you can do the same to them.

Your opponents can use this to their advantage in other areas where there are ramps, such as the entrance to the Radiant jungle near the bottom rune spawn and the entrance to the Dire jungle near the top rune spawn. These places are notorious for being the site of many unnecessary deaths, especially in the lower brackets of ranked matchmaking where reaction speeds are generally slower.

Do not attempt to go up such ramps unless you are absolutely sure that you won’t just get stunned and killed on the way there. Instead, find an alternate route on the same elevation, if possible. We guarantee that you will see yourself die a lot less upon internalizing this concept. Respect the ramps, kids.

Always carry Town Portal Scrolls

You’ve probably heard enough about this already, but it always, always bears repeating: buy Town Portal Scrolls! It’s one of the best items in the game—bar none—because of its ability to bring you around the map in a hurry.

It also happens to be great at getting you out of sticky situations, especially against heroes that don’t have ways of interrupting your teleportation. In fact, it’s sometimes better to TP home rather than try to run away from certain heroes. Such heroes include Bloodseeker, Venomancer, Viper, and Bristleback—because none of them have built-in stuns or other hard disables.

Some heroes are also able to protect themselves during the channeling of the teleportation itself. Juggernaut comes to mind first and foremost, who can use Blade Fury to give himself magic immunity long enough to prevent others from cancelling his TP. Similarly, Storm Spirit can start channeling his TP any time during his Ball Lightning animation, which renders him totally invulnerable.

None of this will ever matter if you don’t make it a point to always carry TP scrolls in the first place, though. While they have gotten more expensive as a result of Patch 7.25, they are still extremely essential and you should basically never be without one. Buy two or more before leaving the base if you can; you’ll never know when you might need it in a pinch.

Don’t get greedy, pull back when needed

It’s easy to get tunnel vision during a teamfight, especially when the situation is more or less even or your team has a small advantage in numbers or resources. After all, each kill means more gold and experience for your team, neither of which most players would say no to if given the choice.

But sometimes discretion really is the better part of valor. There will be times when exercising restraint is better than going all-in for an extra kill, especially when attempting to do so means having to dive past a tier 2 tower or into the hands of two other enemy heroes waiting in the wings. One false move can lead to severe punishment for your team, essentially cancelling out what you gained from the teamfight in the first place.

This is one of the worst but easiest ways to throw a Dota 2 game, in other words. Know when you should stand your ground instead of getting overly-aggressive and giving your opponents an opportunity to turn the game around. Sometimes it’s the better call to simply play your advantage slowly, rather than try to overplay your hand and get caught out for it.

Find something else to do in the meantime, like farming your opponents’ jungle camps to choke them out or going for Roshan while one or two of their heroes are dead. These are relatively less risky compared to diving for kills, and can help your team extend the advantage further without sacrificing your lives.

Recognize your timings

This tip is mostly for carry players in particular. If you see your team getting into a fight without you, do not just instantly hit that TP scroll hotkey to join them. You have to stop and think first: do I really need to get into this engagement right now, or can I stay in my lane and farm for my core items first?

For certain heroes like Anti-Mage, Medusa, and Terrorblade, knowing your timing window is extremely important. These heroes are designed to be very weak and easy to deal with without certain items in tow, and would be better off resuming their farm while their team is making space for them around the map or drawing attention away from them otherwise.

If you aren’t ready to fight just yet (think Anti-Mage before Manta Style and/or Basher) and an engagement breaks out somewhere else on the map, you have a critical choice to make: join them and die alongside your team, possibly giving up all five lives in the process—or stay the course and get enough farm for an item that might help your team turn the game around?

In most cases, the latter is the right call. Use the space your team is giving you to farm until you are in actual fighting shape. Joining them and feeding away your life is like spitting on the space that they’re creating for you in the first place, which is a surefire way to get flamed by your teammates. And if they do the opposite and insist that you join them when you’re not at full strength, either let them know that you still need a bit more time or mute them to block out the negativity.

Lastly: stop trying to save everyone

This is, bar none, the most tilting and irritating thing that players in lower skill brackets do when it comes to giving up silly deaths. When you encounter one of your teammates getting ganked by two or three heroes, the usual response is to run towards them in an attempt to help them out.

This is perfectly fine under normal circumstances! In some cases, you might even be just what they need at that moment in order to get away scot-free. But in other cases, it’s better to just leave them for dead. No, seriously—if you know that your teammate is dead to rights and that there’s no way for them to get out of there alive, just walk away.

This is infinitely better than coming in late and feeding yourself to the enemy team, thus giving them even more gold and experience than they initially came for. More importantly, additional deaths on your side encourages your opponents to take objectives, which could have bigger ramifications in the long run. And of course, if you die as well, that’s time you could have spent farming a few creep waves for gold and experience. Instead, you’ll be missing out on opportunities to catch up to the enemy team in items or levels.

Once again, this is where the mute button comes in handy. You will get flamed for this in public matchmaking, unfortunately, as most pub players simply don’t understand the concept of cutting your losses where you can. Yes, dying is almost inevitable in Dota 2, where even the best teams have to concede deaths every now and then. It’s a natural part of the game.

But knowing how to reduce or mitigate the impact of deaths on your team is essential as well. Don’t throw your body at the enemy team in a futile attempt to save someone who is already as good as dead.

Oh, and by the same token, this applies to towers and barracks as well. If you’re the only one left alive on your team to defend a tier 3 tower or a set of barracks, it’s usually better to just give them up than feed your life away meaninglessly. They’re going to get the objective anyway; giving them your respawn timer as a bonus only serves to make things worse.


A lot of the tips in this guide are situational, just like almost anything in Dota 2. But generally speaking, these are things that you should either cast away as bad habits or concepts that you should internalize and put into practice so that you don’t simply become food for your opponents.

As always, exercise proper judgment and discretion. They won’t always be the right calls—but in situations where they do apply, you can help you and your team not dig yourselves into an inescapable hole.

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.