Pub Draft

There are three major game modes available in Ranked Matchmaking and each of them has its own appeal.

The professionals play Captains Mode for a reason. The outcome of the game is not decided purely by the heroes you have, but it has a major influence on what one can expect from the team and opponent. Knowing what to pick and draft is also increasingly important in higher levels of play.

A recent addition to the competitive scene is the Captains Draft mode. It limits the hero pool and has a very strict time limit, making for some very interesting and unexpected games.

And then there is an all-time pub favorite -- All Pick.

Today I will discuss some of the basic things each player should know when picking their hero and picking the heroes for their team.

I will start off by giving some general advice that are applicable to all game modes, following it with a more detailed explanation on each mode separately.

Shall we begin?

Know the Meta

I have said it before and I will say it again--at higher levels of play, many picks are determined by the professional scene Meta-game. And for a reason.

Players who dedicate themselves to the life of Dota probably know a lot more about the game than the average player. They constantly discover and rediscover heroes that fit best in the current "rules" of the game. On top of that, they are involved in some form k-level thinking (thinking about what your opponent is thinking you are thinking and so on) and expect what is expected from them.

This results in them creating strategies and picking heroes that would not necessarily be the most optimal, but are good against heroes that could be subjectively defined as "stronger" due to the recent changes in the last patch.

Another important factor is the flexibility of a hero. Invoker Invoker may not be the most powerful hero in the game since he has a decent amount of drawback in each build, but the possibility of him being two-three completely different heroes in the first 20-25 minutes of the game, depending on what is needed from a team, makes him the most banned/picked hero at the moment.

What can we learn from it?

It can give us the basic idea of what to pick and what to ban at the first stages of the Draft in Captains Mode/Draft and what to expect to go against us in All Pick.

This information can be used to anticipate our opponent's pick, as well as give us an idea of what to pick ourselves. Counter-picking is the essential part of Dota and making informed decisions in this stage can benefit the chances of winning by a significant margin.

The information required to make this decision can come from a variety of sources, including common sense, coupled with game knowledge, or the "Hero Matchups" page on DotaBuff - something I personally use a lot to develop some good picking habits.

Know your teammates

Have you ever had a game where your team randomed three carries in the very beginning and you thought: "Screw you guys, I am the best carry here and I will pick an extra one!"? Stop with this mindset, especially if you want to win.

Creating conflict within a team before the game has even started is not going to help you and your teammates. Ask for a swap, if you feel like you can play a hero better (surprisingly, a lot of people are actually willing to swap heroes). If they refuse, pick a support. It is as easy as that.

Teams with no early game presence tend to be punished a lot even in the public play. If your team has no strong nukes, decent disables and are all-around incapable of dealing this non-scaling damage, you might want to rethink your drafting strategy next time.

Start communicating about the picks before the game has started.

In All Pick it will save you from having a really suboptimal lineup and a terribly one-sided match.

In Draft Modes it will allow you to pick heroes that your teammates actually know how to play. Something a lot of people do not realize is that every player has his own habits and playstyle, as well as a hero pool he feels confident playing. Use this to your advantage, rather than having a "perfect strategy" in mind.

And please use the minimap provided during the picking phase in AP. That has no language barrier and first come-first served rule should be applicable, if not negotiated otherwise.

Know your enemy

It doesn't take long to check the player profile before the beginning of the match to see what heroes he plays best. And it certainly turns the table in your favor - disallowing your enemy to play heroes he might be exceptional at is never a disadvantage.

You can see professionals doing it - the Chen Chen/Enchantress Enchantress ban against [A]kke was not uncommon at some point. There is nothing preventing you from doing the same thing except for laziness (and sometimes the privacy options).

Right Time and Right Place

Your pick defines what your team is. Know the power level of your and enemy team.

If you know that you can win late game try to turtle and play defensively - the power will come to you and it is your opponent that is on the clock. Try to defend the towers if you think you can do it - try not to give away too much gold/positioning advantage. But do not overcommit to it - sacrificing your whole team on a fools errand is not a smart move.

side note: the Tier 1 bot/mid towers for Radiant and Tier 1-2 bot/mid towers for Dire can be called "Roshan-Response" Towers, since they provide a fast way to get to the pit - a lot of fights happen near or in the Roshan Pit and these towers have a very strategic meaning. The reason you sometimes see professional teams on Radiant side ignoring the top towers, but fighting tooth and nail for mid/bot ones can be attributed to this "macro" significance of them.

If you have an early-game lineup, finalize on it.

I see many players just going back to farming after a successful teamfight, instead of pushing/taking Roshan/breaching high ground. You are not building an economy, you are here to win Dota. Gold Advantage certainly helps, but 5k gold advantage 10 minutes into the game is not the same as the 5k gold advantage at a 40 minute mark. Just like in the real world, money can and will inflate.

However, never get too overconfident. If you just blew off all of your long-cooldown spells like Ravage and won a fight, it does not mean you will do the same without them.

side note: timestamp the "big" enemy spells with long-cooldowns. It only takes a second to do and can give you a pretty good idea of when you can have a good fight

Look out for the "Big Items". Something that can be very game-changing, such as Mekansm Mekansm or Blink Dagger Blink Dagger. You can see professionals "hiding" recently acquired Blink Daggers in almost every game. And I am still expecting the "next-level" Dota with the item purchased/delivered, but hidden in the jungle before the skirmish.

Take these items into account when you want to have an engagement - forgetting about them can cost you and your teammates their lives.

The last advice I will give you in this section is: "Never Give Up!" Even if you have completely lost the early game with your early game lineup, there are still a chance to win, especially in public matchmaking, where people tend to make a lot of mistakes. Catching an enemy carry off-guard with no Buy Back money can win a game that would otherwise seem unwinnable.

side note: sometimes it makes sense just going for the Ancient, rather than getting Barracks. Barracks is the momentum/economy factor and it also inflates. 50 minutes into the game it can make a lot more sense to all-in on the Ancient, rather that trying to get an economic/momentum advantage back after a successful gank/teamfight. As always - you are not building an economy, you are trying to win Dota.

With the basics covered we can look at the modes in more detail:

All Pick

There isn't really much to talk about here considering this mode has already been mentioned several times. I will just repeat myself by saying that you should always communicate before the beginning of the match and you should absolutely have at least one support on your team that can be useful without any items.

Captains Mode

The one and only King of the professional play. This mode requires a lot of understanding of the game to be worth it and it is not uncommon for a professional team to lose because they were outdrafted. It is even less uncommon in Pubs and I will try my best to give you at least the basic idea of what you should concentrate on while drafting.

First Pick and Side

In professional dota this is decided with a coin toss. One team gets to decide who is going to pick first, the second one decides what side they are going to play on. In Pubs it is completely random.

Do you want this Invoker Invoker badly? If you are going to pick second, chances are you are not going to get him. Do not assume that you know more than your opponent and don't let him get his hands on the "OP" hero.

Do you want to offlane Beastmaster Beastmaster and get some Ancient Camp stacking/clearing in the meantime? If you are playing Radiant - you can't. There is a whole article that can be written on the assymetry between the sides in Dota 2 and I won't go into much detail into it. Just be aware that both of them have their advantages and disadvantages.

side note: Radiant tends to perform better early, while in the later stages of the game the Dire and their Rosh pit advantage tends to kick in

It is not a huge advice, but I have faced too many Quas-Wex Invoker Invokers against myself lately when I did not manage to get the Captain's Slot and I am not a big fan of it.

Power Level

That is something that I have mentioned briefly earlier - when does your team performs best? Is it in the 10-20 minute window, with the powerful nukes and disables, or is it after 45+ minutes into the game where your Medusa Medusa can A-click on the enemy base while having a nice cup of tea?

If you have played some form of a CCG like Magic: the Gathering you should be aware of the Short-Midrange-Late deck lingo. Long story short, early game decks tend to beat late-game ones, the midrange beats early aggro and lategame beats midrange. Easy as that.

The same logic is applicable to Dota 2. You want your lineup to be just a little bit slower than of your opponent. This way your opponents will not dominate you with their early game presence (you might have a bit of a hard time in this period) and they will not win the very late game, since your "deck" is a bit more powerful.

Dota 2 is a very complex game, and it is not always easy to define what can be considered early/midrange and late. But going for a lineup of rightclickers against Chen Chen is objectively unwise.

side note: Though not related too the topic, I would also like to point out that your Skillbuild/Item Choices should also be very dependent on the enemy you are facing. I am personally tired of Alchemist Alchemists with Hand of Midas Hand of Midas and maxed Greevil's Greed Greevil's Greed at level 7 against Death Prophet Death Prophet. Try to contribute to the team presence as much as you can!

Of course there are some really powerful tactics that are "skewed" towards one of the ends - push lineups and super-late, but there are two reasons I urge you to refrain from either:

  • You may fail to execute something effectively.

This is especially bad with Rush lineups. If you fail to get high ground early and get this momentum/economic advantage, chances are - you have lost. It does not mean you should just give up, but the game will be hard from 20 minutes on. And it is really hard to execute a successful push with a team of random players without proper coordination.

With late-game lineups it can be hard to defend this carry for the whole game and at later stages you will be too dependent on him, since other members of your team will more likely be underfarmed/crippled by continuous pressure from the enemy team.

I am not saying that it is the one and only truth, but it is at least something to consider while picking.

  • The meta is midrange-friendly.

As I have said, there is a reason behind each pick in the professional scene. With the gold income increased, it is easier to defend against push-lineups and you don't end up in huge economic disadvantage with one or two towers lost (you can be at a strategic disadvantage though).

Similarly, late-game lineups will have harder time, since their opponents will get to their game-breaking items faster and it will be easier for them to finalize.

"Perfectionist's Dota"

I have seen people try this way too many times while drafting to go unnoticed.

I love big combinations. I love how Na'Vi executed Vacuum Vacuum-Ice Path Ice Path-Unstable Concoction Unstable Concoction-Requiem of Souls Requiem of Souls combo:

And I know for sure that complete strangers, communicating over Dota client and having no idea about each other, have very little chance of doing something as epic.

Hence, picking heroes just for the big setups to make a huge play may not be that wise overall.

My personal opinion - a multitude of small, reliable synergies will be better than an epic Combo-Wombo, especially in a pub setup. Then again - it is my personal opinion and you are completely free to ignore it.


We have this tab in DotaBuff for a reason. While some of them can be derived logically, there are still things that can go unnoticed under your radar.

I am not going to go into much detail on this, but if you don't know what to pick and have enough time to alt-tab into DotaBuff, do so. I have managed to surprise my opponents with quite a lot of good picks based on the "Best/Worst versus" statistics that might not have been conventional, but made a lot of sense.

side note: Actually drafted Riki Riki against the Storm Spirit Storm Spirit + Lifestealer Lifestealer combo about a month ago. I don't fully understand why, but it worked out excellently. And I am known for my hate towards invisibility based heros in general and Rikimaru in particular. My personal opinion - the teammate playing him was excellent and he evaded pretty much every gank after 12 minutes into the game un-dusting himself with Diffusal Blade Diffusal Blade. Storm+Naix were wasting too much time trying to shut him down, without getting levels/gold that ultimately led us to a siginificant economic advantage


Always keep in mind where you are going to lane your heroes and where your opponent is going to lane his.

Winning or at least not losing at least 2 out of 3 lanes has never been more important. 6.80 is one of the most excellent patches that allows for interesting early, mid and lategame which will not be terribly one-sided, but there is a definite stress on the early-mid game with all the reworks to gold gain and Roshan timings. Losing momentum this early can cost games.

Pick versatile heroes that can start off in different lanes. You will not only make counter-picking you harder, but will also allow for extra flexibility. Nyx Assassin Nyx Assassin is probably one of the best heroes in this sense, since you can play him Support/Offlane/Mid - in order of my subjectively perceived viability.


This is something that public matchmaking drafting lacks. There is some mindset about certain heroes, that prevents people of trying them in a different role.

An example of this can be a game where enemy team has picked an early Ember Spirit Ember Spirit and Death Prophet Death Prophet and banned out Dazzle Dazzle, making it hard to survive the amount of physical damage. My reaction was a last-pick Sven Sven to fit into a support role.

Telling my skype-buddy to max out Warcry Warcry early on (even before Storm Hammer Storm Hammer) pretty much won us the game, since we were really tanky and could take fights in Death Prophet's Exorcism Exorcism without melting in a matter of seconds.

What it says about Dota, is that while there are heroes that only fit into a single role, there are a lot more heroes that can be played very differently. Think before you pick and be as open-minded as possible. There is no such thing as a "bad" hero.

With the Captains Mode covered, we can now discuss the Captains Draft - a mode very similar, but with some extra rules that require some extra tips.

Captains Draft

Pick your supports first!

It is not necessarily true for the Captains Mode, but it is absolutely crucial in Captains Draft (I think Synderen pointed it out first).

With most of supports being in the Intelligence category and in a draft with only 15 intelligence heroes picking two supports that are viable and Top Tier can be very complicated.

It is very possible to end up with some really sub-optimal heroes for the situation. And unlike other roles, you generally need 2 supports (unless you absolutely know what you are doing).

That being said, the rules of Second Pick - ban imba still holds.

Think Quick, Act Quicker

You have a very limited amount of time. Running out of time and randoming the last hero or two has already happened during the XMG Captains Draft Invitational and you absolutely don't want this happening to you.

Try to remember the most notable heroes in the pool at the start and act accordingly. Also, being able to navigate around the pool quickly is never unwelcome.

With this said, I think it is time to conclude today's Blog Post.

I hope you have found it useful and interesting and wish you the best of victories!

As always,

Thank you for Reading!

More from The Dotabuff Blog

    Well, bloody hell, first comment.
    I enjoyed the MTG refrence, since the strategies are rather similar


      wow so much word many type! much read later ;P


        good blog post! very indepth


          nice post, thanks


            I hadn't really considered the matchups page an actually useful one because you don't see what you'd expect. But I may give it a shot just for those unexpected factors.


              Nice post!

              TRUST THE PROCESS

                They should seriously make everyone read this who wants to play rank


                  Well done


                    When u try it: Vacuum- Ice Path- Unstable Concoction- Requiem of Souls, and if its succesful, u feel like a god.
                    Maybe sometimes u want have fun and stop your winstreak, and pick heros like Io-Magnus or Pudge-Chen, or cm-ds-magnus-sven-earthshaker.

                    Dota is for fun, you are not winning money on dota, so RELAX! and play 5 carrys.

                    Jʌy Δshʙoʁnɘ

                      It's simple. Ban the Dp.


                        A good post, I agree and its close to what I think about it. Sadly, it doesn't always pan out.

                        Unfortunately, pubs don't go as well for me. Let me elaborate;

                        I am a pretty good strategist and somewhat above average with some heroes. When I play with my team, I usually take either 4/5 role, where I am the macro game manager, telling people when to give up a fight, how to splitpush, where to ward, when to go for roshan and so on, OR I am the 1 position carry, looking out on the map and farming my ass of and coordinating my team so that they can create space (and draft accordingly).

                        When we play pubs, I often outdraft them badly, and we CAN still lose. I am not sure why this happens, but often it's a matter of how bad players are. For example, the classic bans include either shredder or bristleback. I understand this, and usually, if you have a FP, you want either shredder, or BB and band out shredder. It just pans out well, it gives a really huge damage sustain and great pushing power (bristleback that is). If you take shredder, you prevent them from taking an alchemist and/or bristleback. They will often go for a naix, since its standard and not TOO bad against shredder. To counter naix, I most of the time go either Siren (really, REALLY good) OR lately, I've been drafting jakiro (liquid fire works on enraged naix). And these are just the starting picks. But what bothers me is that people are just not good enough to play it, or at least it seems so.

                        Anyway, I forgot what point I wanted to make... well basically, my solo games are horrible, but when I play with friends, its a stomp most of the time (even though some of the players are not as good), simply due to the fact they listen. I wish pubs sometimes listened and didn't go for that f*** cis dota, suiciding all the time. Most player stay in that medium bracket just because they are not strategists, but rather just decent players and fail on macro level. That is why we win games with my team, even though we don't play much and are not as technically skilled.

                        And this post is somewhat more about macro then micro :) I hope this at all made some sense...


                          Why didn't storm and lifesteal buy sentry if he uses diffusal for debuffing dust?... only once should they have wasted time ganking riki like tat...
                          I suggest everyone to buy sentry than buying dust.. tat riki fails to even smoke by getting stunned and nuked out, rather than killing a support lion in smoke, where lion pops the dust and dies. Even if u don't have dust to chase riki, its better not to give out kills and levels to him.. because riki is a slow farmer and dies in 3 seconds with a good stun...
                          And yes! im totally against riki....


                            Nice post. A lot of my thoughts that I've posted on the forum are in here but more organized and in a complete post. Well done Kawaii I like the way you think.

                            I've been having great success against DP lately with a mid blood seeker though. Been using Waga's blood seeker build with power treads/sange/blademail first has been very helpful. I have had to ban death prophet not as much now due to it being insta-picked typically if other team does not ban, and gives me another ban like mirana in the mix up now.

                            Nice post! :)


                              Damn, they got me for a second until i read article :D Love it guys.


                                Stop writing all these guides. They are useless.

                                Just tell us how to deal with teammates who refuse to communicate, or only talk in God-knows-which language even when your preferences say "English".

                                Just tell us how to deal with game spoilers who consistently farm or feed for almost the entire game (until we are forced to turtle), then start to blame everyone else for the lost. Some of them are decent enough to blame the "lag" instead though.

                                The outcome of the game is pretty much decided when Valve gave you who to play which, even before the drafting takes place.


                                  These guides are great. ^ Thats why your dpbr is -2k



                                    i hope you will realize soon that dbpr is just random baseless number generated by db for april's fools..


                                      @ December

                                      Cool your jets. Theres no guide in the world that bends other people to your will. Just mute them all and put on some music you like and enjoy the game the best you can. I think Kawaii had a lot of valid points on pickings, lineups etc.

                                      No one needs to give you an explanation of whats going wrong, you're not the boss, and BTW this was written more for people that play captains mode or draft. Not All pick which you solely play which is complete garbage. Let me guess, your 48% win rate and you pick natures prophet most of the time and thats all you play. Then you're AFK in the jungle for 20 min then bust out with your hand of midas and brown boots and a necro book. Wow. Garbage.

                                      I just noticed I was right


                                      Brown boots/necrobook and a HOM confirmed. Gross.

                                      I Can |3ean You

                                        Even over Nyx, Mirana is an amazingly flexible hero - she can fit literally any role other than straight jungle. Safe lane farmer? Offlaner? Mid? Safe lane support? Roamer? She can do nearly anything. Works great in the early/mid-game as well, and can eventually scale with a high level of farm (takes awhile - there's a point 35-45 minutes where you just don't do as much as enemy carries). Mirana is definitely my go-to hero when my pub team isn't putting their positions on the map (about 90% of the time >:| ). Also, I like to copy SingSing. Shoot arrow, hit arrow. :)


                                          awesome text... mirana with orchid rox