Mexican actress Katy Jurado preparing to think about whether that’s a strong midlane choice

Hello friends, do you know someone who plays or cares about Dota? Are you panicking about the fact you’ve spent the last however long gaining an encyclopedic knowledge of motorsport and you have literally no room left in your brain for what the difference between the one that looks like an Ent and the one that looks like an Ent but ravey is?

Ok, that might be a bit specific. But the reality is: the World Cup is long gone but it’s still warm and there are tins available from corner shops near your house so, in lieu of other sporting events let me tell you about this hot new thing called The International, which is a big old Dota ding-dong that you can get bang into with the help of me, your pal who knows very little apart from that you must not be horny on or off lane.

This is not an article about Dota for anyone who knows anything about Dota. This is the smudged writing on the hand of someone who is desperate to make a semi-intelligent comment about this without having a spare 100,000 hours to spend on finding out the basics of whatever the heck this is.


In short it is a team-played, match-based battleground game where groups of ‘heroes’ compete for control of a territory. The territory is always the same — like a football ground, say* — which makes one single thing about this thing faintly almost simple.

Matches can be run as a straightforward one-game outing, where whoever wins wins, a ‘best of three’ or even a ‘best of five.’ I have never heard of a ‘best of seven’ on an internationally competitive level but I’m sure that’s the sort of thing someone will get into eventually.

Dota is free to play if you download it on Steam. I suggest you do not do this as a way of getting into it unless you are a prodigiously talented teenager as otherwise you will be getting yourself into a further world of confusion and hurt.


So, the basics of Dota is that it takes place in a generic fantasy setting where heroes fight as the avatars of some Ancients™️ who are having some generic fantasy beef as some of them are ~~~radiant~~~ and some of them are ~~~dire~~~ which basically is like saying are you a goth or a hippie, aesthetically. Ironically, most of the heroes themselves look like hippie goths but that’s by-the-by as all of them can play for either side, it’s just the toss of which end your goal is on the map and there’s no meaningful advantage to being either side.**

You can easily visually tell the ends apart as one is on the top right of the Dota screen and looks like Mordor


And the other is on the bottom left of the Dota screen and looks like Hobbiton


The idea is that the heroes from Hobbiton are trying to take over Mordor and visa-versa.

The way that one advances across the territory is through a traditional video gam technique of knocking down towers. Unfortunately many things may try to stop you, such as the defenses on the towers themselves, the opposite side’s heroes and Creeps.


You want to kill these for points, which makes you more able to kill heroes. If you have played the popular computer game Pokemon this is like trundling into the grass to deck a bunch of Caterpies before you try and whack a gym leader.

Alternatively, it is like bruising your way up the Milk League before you get utterly smashed in the face by Man Utd. They’re just little guys doing their best and they’re gonna try and do it whether you’re there or not so you might as well get the “farm”


Not the 90s band. This is what everything else calls grind except you kind of share it because Dota secretly espouses collectivism.


The first bit of a match of Dota is called ‘The Draft’ and that is when you (or, if you’re a pro player, your team’s captain) pick what hero you’re going to play as.

It’s a bit like PE lessons at school except the nerds have already been selected and it is all the jocks with special powers and big axes who get picked by THEM.*** Vengeance, at last.

They do not let me play pro matches for some reason so I had to steal this off the internet soz

Each team picks 5 heroes to fight the other team with — and can also ban five heroes to prevent themselves or their opponents playing them. Heroes can only be played once, by one team, so

There is no point attempting to learn all the hero names there are slightly fewer of them than Pokemon but it is much more entertaining to think up new titles such as Horse Boy and Indie Disco. (Neither to be confused with Disco Pony)

The good news is that this bit is actually quite easy to follow even if you don’t get the full intricacy of it but the bad news is it only lasts about ten minutes and then you’re onto whatever the hell it is that happens next.


There is absolutely no hope whatsoever that you are going to follow everything that’s going on in a Dota game. Professionals can barely follow everything that’s going on in a Dota game. The players themselves are only aware what they’re doing because they have some kind of supernatural hypersenses and are presumably related to the X-Men.

I don’t mean that hyperbolically, I mean it is literally impossible. People will howl excited about having a BKB, which is good but why is it good? You will not find out for months. (The short answer is: it makes things happen faster and gooder)

The method of fighting in Dota is fairly similar to many games, in that you try to take out small opponents (‘creeps’) until you have enough XP and gold to take out larger opponents (‘ancients that are not the Ancients you are defending but instead some things that look like large sheep that hang around on the map’ or ‘the opposing team’) and then you try to knock down the other team’s house. (or ‘Ancient’)

Obviously you also need to prevent the other team knocking down your house or killing you. You can assist yourself with this by trading gold for items and then receiving them from ‘The Courier,’ which is a sort of Hermes delivery simulator in that there’s a decent chance someone will intercept and gank your parcel before it ever even leaves you a ‘we tried to deliver but you were out so we dumped it in your neighbour’s bins’ card.

In reality, for the purposes of getting into Dota just pick a side and follow this sage advice:


That draft looks aggro, which fits to the current meta but is it too greedy to level up for team fights or will they just get systematically ganked?

TRANSLATION: My, those are some big gun boys they have picked there, which is often useful if you want to punch the other team all over their faces as the game is currently leaning towards making you do, however big gun boys need lots of XP and gold and there’s a limited amount of it on the map so unless they share nicely the other team can just knock them off one by one until they’re an incoherent, uncoordinated mess.

It’s all going to rest on whether they get to the late game

TRANSLATION: Games of Dota take up to a gruelling hour (or even more) — the ‘late game’ is considered anything over forty minutes or so. Some drafts only “come online” when they are “fat” with much gold, XP and subsequently items and then become unstoppable hyperbastards who roll all over the other team’s house like a boistrous rugby team turning up to your house party at 11pm after a pub crawl.

A classic one v one midlane but will picking that counter cost them a better pairing?

TRANSLATION: Two players are going to absolutely go at it like mad in the middle bit of the map, which is a common situation in Dota games. However, as this means the heroes chosen for those two players are usually designed to have an advantage over each other that can lead to teams out-drafting themselves by avoiding better inter-team pairings for the sake of a counter.

That’s a bad miss

This one is always useful.

*Actually a lot more similar than football grounds, which can be different sizes thus rendering their use as a metric unit of volume even less useful.

**Actually there is a very minor statistical advantage to being Radiant for a technical reason to do with the placing of the inter-Dota-territories river and I’m going to put it down to the fact that goths do more fucking.

***Except the really intimidatingly buff pro players of which there are an alarming number but try not to pay any attention to that.