Improve your game and become a better player!
Leaving the 3k trench is where many get stuck for a while. While players of all brackets are unique in their own individual ways, players in the 3k trench tend to get stuck on trying to do more than they should. The difference with a +5k player does not lie in the simple ability to “click buttons”, as most 3k players have successfully mastered that ability, but their general game knowledge and understanding. Knowing how, where, and with whom to play are all crucial skills of DOTA 2. Skills that usually take months if not years to learn through sheer experience.
This guide will hopefully shed some light on the many nuances of DOTA, help you understand proper decision making, as well as boost your MMR out of the “3k trench” as people often call it. This will be a 9 step process to transform you from an average player to someone with the potential to reach ancient, divine, maybe even immortal. But it all starts by getting out of the 3k trench, thus, here we go.
1st Learn your hero(es)
Most if not all DOTA guides will tell you to “play the meta”, abuse overpowered heroes before they are nerfed, and such. When it comes to getting out of the 3k trench this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, you can play heroes that are strong in the meta. But you should do so because you know how to play them and enjoy their playstyle. Don’t just blindly follow others around you, because that’s what everyone else is doing.
Select a handful of heroes that you genuinely enjoy playing. They can be the least popular heroes on dotabuff, but as long as you enjoy them, they will work. That is, once you have properly learned what makes them good, and how to abuse that.
Anyone playing DOTA 2 long enough has learned of hero spammers that have achieved some level of fame for their performance. Be it AdmiralBuldog with his famous 2 hero pool TI 3 run (Nature’s prophet, Lone Druid, Clockwerk) or Attacker’s Kunkka, Abed’s Meepo and Burning’s Anti-mage. Even though these players are individually very different, they all share a common trait. They are experts at playing a small pool of heroes. This is what you need to improve.
Pick 1 hero, and spam it until you know the ins and outs of that hero. Watch replays of better players. You can find plenty of those by checking out dota2protracker. First watch them at normal speed, later on, you can put the game at 4x speed or more. Learn that hero’s general playstyle, item timings, favorable matchups. Learn how the hero functions in your preferred role. Playing anti-mage as a pos1 is different from playing him as a pos2, and not to mention pos4 anti-mage. They can all be extremely successful when played right. Matchups are a big part of knowing your hero (which is why it deserves its own section later on). Learn what heroes are good against yours, and learn to play around them.
The best example of this would be Meepo vs Winter Wyvern. While everyone knows Wyvern can kill the Meepo with Winter’s curse, proficient Meepo players know to keep their main Meepo away and use E-blade to save their clone.
2nd Learn your role
Now that you know how to play your hero proficiently, it’s time to learn your individual role. If you are position 1 it’s crucial to know where you can farm, when to join fights, and how you can end the game. In most cases you will be the win condition for your team, so you better know how you are going to do it. Position 5 in comparison will require a completely different set of skills. Stack and pull times, typical ward locations and smoke timings will be of greater knowledge to this position. Of course, all skills are transferable between roles, but some roles focus more on creeps, and others on heroes.
Learning your role will of course be much easier once you have learned how to play your hero. Without the need to think “what items do I buy” or “which skill do I level now?” you will be able to focus on other stuff. Things like checking runes, applying pressure in the lane, rotating around the map, and such. Each role has its own individual playstyle, which is emphasized even further by your hero choice. Playing a hero, you aren’t comfortable with will hinder you. Thus, don’t play Tuskar because it’s a pos4 hero. But do play Tuskar as a core if you are a core player that enjoys Tuskar’s unique skill set.
Practice, practice, and more practice; also study professional players as well. Chances are, teams tend to pick the same heroes, for the same players, in the same role. Use this to your advantage.
Players on twitch you can learn a lot from by just watching, or even asking questions.
Pos1: Arteezy, Gorgc.
Pos2: Wagamama, Dendi, No(one), W33ha, Topson, Stormstormer, EternalEnvy
Pos3: Monkeys_forever, IceIceIce.
Pos4: 2b, Jubei, Bamboe
Pos5: Zai, PPD, NoTail, Purge
3rd Learn what items do
Itemization can either make or break a game. In DOTA 2 they are extremely important. If you come from a background of playing League of legends, this is something you must accept and learn. Buying eul, blink, force staff, BKB, or sange and yasha can have an immense effect on your game. Every one of them offers unique upgrades and changes to your playstyle. While going for unusual builds will get you flamed in the 3k trench, you only care about winning. Thus, following cookie-cutter guides is what you want to avoid!
For example, Spectre has one of the most straight forward itemization plans of all heroes. Buy radiance. That’s it. But what do you buy before radiance? Well, you have some choices.
- Power Treads, wand, blademail – Tanky build, good vs AOE magic.
- Phase boots, wand, drums – good for early fights as well as chasing after people.
- Power Treads, wand, Meteor hammer – good for farming, allows you to kill creep waves quickly as well as spam your spells.
These builds are all similar in cost, but all offer different pros and cons when it comes to actually playing her.
You can even forget about radiance and go for diffusal blade + manta. It’s higher single target dps, but lower AOE damage. Basher gives you some much-needed lockdown, but if you keep missing your hits, you need an MKB first. Maybe you just need to front line tank for your team and going for an early Heart of Tarasque is the right decision. Proper itemization requires you to also know what your place in the team is, which brings us to step 4. To leave the 3k trench, you must think like someone that has already left it.
4th Learn your job in the team
While your role describes your farm priority, your job is what you do with that farm. In the 3k trench, you can focus at doing 1 job at a time. Heroes such as Dark seer have it easy, their job is to:
- Push lanes with Ion Shell.
- Cast wall + vacuum during fights.
This game-plan will be true for most of your Dark seer games. But, playing a hero such as Faceless void is vastly different. Just consider his Chronosphere spell. It can be used in different ways:
- Solo kill a support. – gives your team a 4v5 engagement.
- Control troublesome heroes (Tidehunter, Magnus, Enigma) – while you may not solo kill them, just delaying their team-fight spells can be enough.
- Set up your ally’s spells. – A well placed Freezing field, Black hole, or just a Chain frost can do wonders.
- Secure Roshan – be it to stop enemies from stealing it, or to steal it from them instead.
- Use it on your allies – sacrifice them so you may live, perhaps even consider popping a salve on them.
By this example, it’s important to know what your job is, and then to fulfill it. Your job can vary from disabling key targets, to just making sure lanes are pushed out. The following rundown should give you a decent idea of what your job can be in any given game:
- Push lanes – secure farm, gives vision as well as map pressure.
- Defend towers – T1 mid protects your jungle. T2 protects Outpost. T3 protects barracks.
- Secure Roshan – Heroes than can solo (Ursa, Huskar, Templar Assassin) apply map pressure by simply playing near Rosh pit.
- Control key targets – using spells or items such as Eul’s (waste Ursa’s Enrage, Enigma’s Blackhole), Heaven’s Halberd.
- Protect your allies – Glimmer + force a Doomed target, Lotus orb to dispel silences, etc.
- Build Team auras – Mechanism, Pipe, Vladimir’s.
5th Play the map correctly
If you were to observe all games of DOTA 2 played, you’d notice a lot of similarities between them. Games of the 3k trench and 5k trench are similar in that regard. The heroes, lanes, and roles may change, but the general order of events doesn’t. Usually the safe lane T1 tower falls first, then the mid T1. Heroes invade both enemy jungles and place their wards there. Most successful team-fights happen in the enemy jungle. After a successful fight, the winner will kill Roshan, take the Aegis and proceed to push high-ground with varying success.
This is usually how most games play out, unless there are anomalies such as Meepo/Brood or external factors such as smurfs, abandons etc.
Thus, you want to know when to take towers, what do you need to take the tower/Roshan/high-ground, etc. The most important factors here are:
- Playing around the vision.
- Don’t play the dead lane.
If you don’t know where the enemy is, you can guess. Odds are the enemy is going to be farming your jungle. You don’t have wards there. There are creeps inside your jungle. There is a tower near your jungle which the enemy wants to take to get your outpost. It’s safe to say, the enemy is in your jungle. Thus, don’t play near there!
Your creeps are hitting the enemy towers, but nobody is defending them? They are probably smoke-ganking you right now! Walk up a high-ground, where you are safe, and just wait for the enemy to show on the map. Worst case scenario you break their smoke and walk away to safety.
6th Play with your teammates
DOTA 2 is a team game, with 5 players on every team. Odds are, one of your 4 allies wants to win. Try playing around them. If you are a support, look who wants to play active, and just follow them around. If you are a core, look who can help you secure kills. Sometimes all you need is 1 spell to go from 50% to 100% chance of success.
Heroes that want to be active all the time will usually be in the 2 and 3 roles. Batrider, Axe, Ember, and Void spirit want to run around killing all the time. Your pos1 Anti-mage doesn’t. He wants to be left alone with his creeps. Supports such as Lion, Shadow Shaman, and Vengeful spirit have no intent on killing creeps. All they want is Finger of Death stacks and tower kills. Kills are how they get most of their gold and experience.
If both teams consisted of 5 players farming creeps each, the game would quickly turn into a “pick the fastest farmer” sort of game. DOTA 2 is luckily a game full of risk and reward, chasing kills and getting punished for it. Make sure to play with your teammates, either to enable them or have them enable you.
Learn what heroes have good synergies with your hero, as well as try to make it work as you go. Legion commander + Skywrath mage is one the simplest combos, but you can also make it work as a Legion + Crystal Maiden or Underlord + Skywrath. It’s the same combo, although the heroes are different. Countering the combo requires decent map awareness which players in the 3k trench typically lack
An Ursa + Shadow Shaman lane plays generally the same way as a Juggernaut + Treant protector lane does. The Support has a strong right-click, as well as a way to enable his carry to deal damage. The carry has damage to finish off the opponent.
Try to see these simple combos and use them, as a 2v1 fight will almost always go in favor of the 2.
7th Play around timings and power spikes
One of the most important, but difficult concepts to understand. Every hero in any match will have a variety of power spikes. These power spikes vary from simply leveling up, to purchasing items or claiming Aegis. As the average MMR increase, players become more aware of power spikes. Thus, in the 3k trench, you may have more time to abuse your power spikes than you would in a competitive match.
Anti-mage counters Medusa past 25 min with Battlefury, Manta basher, but Medusa is a counter to Anti-mage before that. A 1200hp Anti-mage cannot trade with Medusa until he gets enough farm. Using timings such as these to initiate 5v5 team-fights (usually around objectives) is how you can snowball a small lead to victory. Don’t wait for the enemy Enigma to purchase blink dagger + BKB. When playing versus Faceless void, force fights when he doesn’t have Chronosphere. When playing with Faceless void, avoid fights for 3min after a bad Chronosphere.
If your carry is pinging “600gold for BKB”, it’s probably worth waiting for 30s for him to farm it up. 10s of magic immunity can completely turn fights into your favor. The opposite of this is also true. If you see the enemy Ember spirit carrying an ogre club, you will want to initiate fights before he can farm his BKB.
To improve as a player and raise in MMR, you need to at least try to be aware of everyone’s timings and play around them. Avoid fighting into the enemy’s power spikes, and try to play around your own.
8th Stop wasting time arguing.
You queue up for a nice game of DOTA 2. You find your team has people insulting each other, flaming and raging all around. Not only are people in the 3k trench arguing, but they have nothing to back them up. Don’t bother arguing with them. Every bit of effort you use in arguing is an effort not used to farm, pull, gank, etc. If people are being annoying, mute them, and move on. But don’t completely ignore communication. You still want to play and win the game after all. Make sure to communicate effectively. Try to use simple yet effective phrases such as:
- Coming bot to gank.
- Stun the carry, please.
- I’m teleporting, let’s fight.
- Come, Roshan.
Avoid asking questions such as “should we go Roshan?”. Just go! If you are playing support you can nudge your cores into that by placing wards nearby. Pinging Roshan and your smoke of deceit can help as well. Best case scenario they tell you not to use the smoke, thinking they are smart. But it is actually you who is outplaying your allies, making them do as you wish.
As you rank up, your games get harder and faster. Wasting 10s arguing about a mistake 20min ago can easily cost you a team fight and eventually the game. Don’t make more enemies than you already have.
9th Stay calm. It’s only a game after all.
While the other 8 steps were about approaching the game, knowing what you need to do, making the correct decision, this is a much broader one. DOTA is only a game, thus you shouldn’t take it too seriously. Play heroes that you believe are fun. Play to get better and Play to relax after work. It’s not a place to vent your frustration. It’s not your job to listen to other people’s problems.
If you had had a bad day, and just want to chill, then play something you truly enjoy. Invite some friends as well. Play Mirana and try to get as many 5s Sacred arrows. Or pick Techies and try to make your enemies question every move on the map. Experiment with different item builds and heroes you usually wouldn’t pick.
Odds are if you are reading this, you are going to put in hundreds if not thousands of hours more into the game. Climbing in MMR is a great goal to have, but it’s not worth losing your sanity over it. Players that manage to reach immortal and beyond usually have a deep appreciation for the game and won’t flame for every single mistake. Where would we be if we were still salty about something that happened dozens if not hundreds of games ago? Getting out of the 3k trench is commendable, but it takes more than just skill. Having a positive attitude will also make players more willing to play with you, thus making them more likely to play with you. You may not be able to solo every win, but you may do it as a team of 5.