Getting into any new sport or fandom is a pretty daunting experience when they’ve already been established for a number of years, and esports are no different. Alongside getting to grips with the game itself, you also have to wade through years of rivalry, teams and transfers, and the complicated tournament system that changes with every esport.
Following esports gives you a gateway into a world full of thrilling games, passionate fans, and talented players – making it a worthwhile and engaging hobby for anyone. Dota 2 is one of the older esports, and as such has a well-established competitive scene and a number of highly gifted players that make watching each match a captivating experience. It’s also famous for being a dense and complex game, but don’t let that put you off – we’re here to help.
We’ve broken down some of the key things to bear in mind when starting on your Dota 2 journey, including where to watch, how it works, and the best ways to learn the game yourself. We’ve even added some info on how Overwolf apps can enhance the experience for veterans and new players alike. Read on for a beginner’s guide to watching Dota 2 competitive tournaments.
Making yourself at home on the map
If you’ve ever played League of Legends, the Dota 2 map isn’t miles apart. The map is split into two halves, Radiant and Dire, one side a verdant and bountiful land, and one side a grim burned-out valley. Across this split are the three lanes, top, middle, and bottom, and the jungle is anywhere in between. The map is dotted with towers, of which each team has three, which automatically target and attack enemies within a certain radius.
Runes will spawn at various times, giving specific bounties depending on when they popped up. Bounty Runes spawn at the start of the game and give players a gold bonus, Water Runes spawn two-to-four minutes in and restore health and mana, and Power-up Runes do what they say on the tin and can spawn at any time from six minutes in. You’ll also see players’ visibility shrink during the “nighttime”, as the game will pass through day and night cycles.
Creeps roam the map – NPCs who will attack players but are a great source of gold and EXP to the player who delivers a killing blow. Sometimes you’ll see players hitting their own creeps, which is called ‘denying’, as it prevents the enemy from getting the final kill and all its benefits. The biggest and baddest of all the creeps is Roshan, who has his own special hideout in the middle of the river. He’s a pain to take down, but rewards players who do so with the Aegis of the Immortal which grants a second life if they die.
Roles and rules
Each team has five heros, each with a different role. The carry hero farms powerful items, the mid hero starts in the midlane by themselves and stock up on EXP, the offlaner initiates fights and goes on the offensive, and the two supports look after their team’s safe lane and back up the other players.
The match will naturally split itself into three distinct phases. The early game is called the laning phase, which lets everyone take their positions and farm or deny creeps. Kills are not the primary focus at this stage, but are taken as a bonus.
The second phase sees the heroes from each team start to move around, hopefully with a few towers destroyed and a few items in their arsenal. Different teams have different playstyles during this phase, and it may help you decide which team you want to support in future games. Some go on the offensive and tank their way through enemy lines, while some prioritise items and defend – slowly herding the enemy back.
The late game is when the chaos really breaks out. Teamfights will be occurring all over the map, and players will be focusing on the big objectives like taking down Roshan or capturing the last remaining buildings. Things can get messy in this final phase, but pro teams somehow make it look easy.
Tournaments and events
When you hear someone talking about a big Dota 2 event, they’re probably referring to The International. If you’re looking to get into watching Dota 2 competitively, this is undoubtedly the place to start, as you’ll see the best teams from all over the world battling it out for the ultimate title.
The Group Stages take place first, as two groups of nine teams take part in a round robin, best-of-two competition. The four teams from each group who come out with the best record during the Group Stage will go on to the Upper Bracket of the Main Event, while the bottom team of each group will be eliminated. The remaining four teams from each group enter the Lower Bracket – in which all matches are elimination-based.
The Main Event takes the Upper Bracket teams and makes them battle it out through a double-elimination format, where losers of matches will be sent down to the Lower Bracket. As mentioned, these Lower Bracket matches are tense, as the loser is eliminated entirely from the competition. Most of the games at the Main Event are best-of-three (unless someone wins two in a row).
The Grand Finals takes the winners of the Upper and Lower Brackets and puts them in a best-of-five showdown.
Starting with The International is advisable as it allows you to see the teams at their best, evaluate their performances, and occasionally see an underdog rise up.
Adding depth to your experience
As with any esport, the best way to appreciate and enjoy Dota 2 without having to constantly consult guides and commentary is by playing the game itself. Dota 2 can be intimidating, not least because of the sheer complexity behind just choosing a character or using an item, but Overwolf’s app library has you covered. Make sure you’ve got DotaPlus installed on your PC before you wade into your first full game, as it will allow you to gather data and see suggestions as if you’re being coached in real-time.
The app launches automatically once installed and can guide you through picking the best hero, gathering the best items, reflecting on your performance, and understanding the performances of your favourite esports players. It’s an invaluable guide when starting on your Dota 2 journey.