Dota 2: A Beginner's Guide to Drafting



Wed 18th Jan 2012 - 3:31pm

What is drafting, what is captain's mode, and most importantly, why do we have to know how to strategise before going into a match? 

Drafting Architecture

Captain's mode (or -cm) is the mode of game commonly used in competitive and clan-war play in Dota and Dota 2. It is different to all-pick (or -ap) mode in the fact that in a 5v5 based match, there are bans and pick phases required by the captain, which is different from the direct picking from all 5 players in the match. 

Why is captain's mode used all so often? It is one of the fairest methods of stimulating competitive play, with a turn-based hero ban and pick phase, it is possible for teams to counter another team's lineup, and out-strategise each other in various methods. It is vital that before any captain's mode game, a team goes in with a viable strategy for the game. 

This guide will be for beginner Dota 2 players wishing to extend their knowledge on the different strategies of the game, and also to learn about captain's mode (maybe you could play a little bit with your friends). This guide is not intended for high-level play, but can be read out of pure interest or fun. 

The Basics of Captain's Mode in Dota 2

Let's start things off with the basics. The captains mode screen in Dota 2 looks a little bit like this: 

Captain's Mode Screen

As you can see, we start off with 2 bans each team, and its a 50/50 chance that you will be given the first ban. Then the opponent will ban out a hero, you will ban, they will ban, and that's the end of ban phase one. How simple was that? I will discuss more about the hero choices later on in this guide. 

So, we are up to the first picking stage of the draft. What strategy do you want to play? If you received the first hero ban, then you will get the first pick. First pick is critical in determining your style of play, and after you pick your first hero, the opponents will pick TWO heroes of their own, and you will pick another TWO of your own (making it three a-piece). 

As simple as this may sound, it is important that you observe what the opponents are trying to do, but that will be covered later (remember, if you pick second, you get two picks to counter your opponents first pick). Next phase, similar to the ban phase one, you get another ban phase (again, two heroes out). You have a clearer image of what your opponents wish to do, so go for it. 

The final stage are the final two picks done in a systemic and normal way (you go, I go, you go, I go.) If you have the last pick in the entire drafting stage, then you have to consider carefully how to out-pick your opponents with that final hero. This is the basics of the drafting stage, and to make things easier for you, Valve has put nice markers down the side of the centre of the screen, showing when to pick/ban, so look at that if you become stuck .

Anti-Mage, the example of a hard carry

The Definitions of Roles in the Team

Before I go into more details, I want you all to understand the definitions of words before we get down into the trickier bits. 

Hard Carry - The backbone of a traditional strategy: one hero which is heavily dependent on items and skills and damage into late game. Usually farms at the early to mid game stages, and is used to for pushing and killing towards late game (i.e. Anti-Mage, Weaver). 

Semi Carry - Less dependent on items, and has more of an impact early to mid game, but loses a bit of effectiveness into late game. Usually used for killing heroes, ganking them down and pushing to gain the early advantage. Can be pooled well with a hard carry for maximum potential through all stages of the game (i.e. Mirana). 

Initiator - These are heroes which need to be utilised effectively in order to win those team-fights. They usually start the team fights, catching the opposition off-guard and getting serious advantages in the battle (i.e. Earthshaker). 

Support - A broad range of heroes in which this category is in, they are used to babysitting, supporting and harassing enemies when possible. Often used as sacrifice in team-fights, or to protect carries (i.e. Vengeful Spirit). 

Ganker - Could sort of be called assassins in a way, they are specifically uesd to take down enemy heroes one by one to annoy the opponents, disrupt their farm and destroy their strategy, so pushers can do their job (i.e. Pudge). 

Pusher - Important to any push strategy (yeah, I know right?), they are heroes which have the ability to take down towers rapidly, and have the ability to push multiple lanes during later game to put the pressure back on the opposition (i.e. Chen). 

Definitions of Strategies (and their subsets) 

Turtle (or rice strategy) - A strategy which is extremely dependent on the hard carry to be fit and firing towards the later game. Other strategies similar to this include dual-carry. 

Gank - A strategy which focuses on destroying the opponents early game and keeping up the aggression by killing heroes fast and brutally. Usually, a hard carry is not preferred in thsi strategy. 

Pushing - One which involves taking early towers and slowly strangling the opponents to death by removing all the map control possible. 

Basically, there is this simple thing to remember. Turtle strategies counter ganking strategies, basically because carries are kept in cotton wool and are protected from the ambush squad. Pushing strategies defeat turtling strategies because hard carries who need farm are forced to defend towers and they will lose map control, effectively removing the ease of farming. Finally, ganking strategies are counter to pushing strategies, because push will be slowed if early kills are taken and ambushes are key to surprising the opponents from the back, as towers deal a bit of damage early game. 

We will know look into the more detailed aspects of the games, including hero choices and how to play them. Firstly, we will look at knowing your team, the banning phase, picking phases, and finally, cap off with a few scenarios. 

Knowing Your Team

Some team members are willing to play some heroes, and not all, so its important you make them happy - hard carry, support and what not. Know what their good at, know their weaknesses, and you will be a better team because of it. 

Lanes in Dota 2


What is laning? Laning is the heroes you assign to each lane in order to maximise your potential towards early, mid and late game. Importantly, there are so many different lanes you could utilise and any one can be used to counter your opponents. 

2-1-2: The traditional lane, with two on top lane, one solo-mid and 2 on the fina lane. This is used commonly with hard carry + semi-carry strategies, with the semi-carry going on top (if Radiant) and hard carry going bottom (if Radiant). This will ensure your carries are babysat throughout the entire game. 

1-1-3: The tri-lane approach, now diminishing in power, it is used commonly to ensure MORE farm for your hard carry, with a solo top (i.e. Windrunner, Mirana), a solo-mid and 3 on the bottom lane (if Radiant) to ensure maximum farm for your hard carry. 

2-2-1 (either way): Less common nowadays, but often used with any hero which is a carry, requires babysitting, but solo-mid is the best one for them (i.e. Pudge for ease of hooks). Very rarely used actually. 

1-1-1 (2 jungling): This is when two of your teammates are jungling in the woods, pulling, stacking etc. This allows all three laners to farm effectively, whilst the two junglers also get their adequate farming experience in the woods. 

1-1-2 (1 jungling): This is rather more common than the dual-jungle, and also effective. It just ensures that your hard-carry is still babysat in their lane so they don't get ganked off early game. 

0-1-4: One of the most obselete and unused lanes in existence. It ensure one of your team members gains maximum farm, and the opposition lane gets none. It also means early kills and towers, but its major disadvantages are the counter-push, and the opposition carry becoming out of control. 


So important in the game, and I'll tell you why right away. This is the phase where you get rid of the heroes you do not want to face up against. For example, most teams tend to ban out the over-powered heroes. Also, heroes which are too commonly picked are taken (i.e. AM, Broodmother) to ensure both teams don't use the hero. Also, it is important to try and crack your opponents strategy. See what they ban out and you will find yourself in a good situation if you ban out one of their critical heroes. 

For example, your opponent bans out the Chen and the Venomancer, meaning they do NOT want you pushing them down. This means they are searching around for a nice hard carry to complement their turtle line-up and what better bans can you have than to cut out all of their options. Remember this and remember the formula for winning each strategy I had posted earlier).  


Here is one of the tougher stages, you pick. Simple enough, isn't it? No. 

Your opponents are constantly changing their minds, giving alternatives, countering your strategies, so let me give you a brief update on how to counter. 

Spellcasters are one of the most picked heroes in the game, coming from the intelligence group. What is a hero perfect for destroying these spellcasters? Anti-Mage, Doom Bringer, Puck or any hero with silence. So by picking up one of these, you are ensuring a win in that lane. Prediction of lanes are important, as you can send out your perfect lane to your opponents to harass and ensure the maximum benefits are brought forward. 

Now let us say you've picked up a handful of casters, and they have picked up Doom Bringer. By doing our homework, we can see that Doom has a very low armour. Heroes like Weaver, Slardar, Vengeful Spirit all have armour reduction spells, which means massive pains for Doom Bringer early, mid and late game. 

The International Dota 2 Champsionships

Common Scenarios

Now, here comes the part where I will dissect a lineup. I will put in 1 example and I will break down to see how to counter this lineup. 

EHOME vs Na'Vi, Game 1 Grand Final @ The International. EHOME's lineup was Storm Spirit, Doom Bringer, Venomancer, Nature's Prophet and Vengeful Spirit. 

Storm Spirit and Doom here are the two carries, and Prophet will be the pusher late game. As I had said earlier, Doom is extremely vulnerable to armour reduction, so Slardar would have been an excellent pick. For Storm Spirit, a silencing hero would have done the job rather well, so Night Stalker or Puck would have been valid. Remember, its not about individual heroes for your pick phase,  but it is for team cohesion. An enigma with an ES together would be beneficial for a team fight, as the enigma would black hole, and earthshaker, with his ultimate, would deal maximum damage the more units there are. 

In that particular game, Na'Vi picked up a Pudge, a hero effectively for early game ganking as well as Viper. Little did they know that the game was going to be dragged beyond the 50 minute mark, and thus, Prophet out pressured and out pushed them into late game. This is something in which you must consider - the length of the game before going in to pick heroes. 

This guide was just a brief summary, but if you have any concerns, please comment below or PM me. Hope you enjoyed it non-Dota players! :)

Your Comments

  • Sun 3rd Jun 2012 - 9:02pm
    my team usually pick spectre for late game and venomancer to defend hard. can i ask what are the best hero to add to this lineup. and what are possible heroes to ban so they cant counter this lineup.. I also want to know what are the best way to counter the bottle crow strategie.

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