This guide is written to help anyone who wants to get into competitive DotA or move towards the mid-upper tiers of players. As the leader of BVD for over a year now, I have seen my team move from losing to pub teams to one of the best in Australia and New Zealand. Many people ask to join my clan, some of which I accept and some of which I reject because of a number of reasons. This guide is aimed at those people looking to join or improve a team, especially their role in the team. I will go through a number of methods in which players can improve, not specific techniques as they have been discussed ad nauseam (I will link to some of the most important and helpful guides).
I know it has been said before, but success is not easy. You will not improve as much as others if you do not put effort in. This does not mean that DotA becomes a job, it simply means that when you play, you aim to have fun by playing your best and ultimately winning. Improvement does not come quickly nor easily, so it is vital that you remain patient and are happy with slow, steady improvement. As long as you can keep that in mind, you will become a good player in time. One thing to always remember is that you are not the best, and there is always room for improvement, no matter how good you think you are. You should listen to other players and take their opinions and advice into account, especially those better than you, but should always think and make decisions for yourself instead of mindlessly copying those better than you. Some ways to play better and win more games are explained in the next three chapters, but before we get into those, you must ensure that you and the people you play with want to improve. If they are not willing to put in the effort required, then you are better off staying a pub player or looking for a different team of players.
Joining a Team
To find or start a good team, you need to put yourself out there and play with a wide variety of people on different platforms, as well as searching forums as to find out which teams are recruiting. When joining a team, first and foremost you must like the people and enjoy playing with them, or else you will not fit in and play well. If you like the players, then ensure that their attitude is right and their skill level is somewhat close to yours. Most importantly, if you find a team that you enjoy playing with and share similar views with, commit to staying with them and do the most you can to improve as a team, and keep the team together.
Teamwork is most probably the hardest aspect in DotA to perfect. Not only do you have to start again every time you join a team, but need great communication and similar thought processes even when playing online. Ventrilo (UGT Ventrilo Servers) is an absolute must for every team, no matter the skill. You can improve teamwork by playing together, mainly in scrims (clan wars). By calling missing, communicating during ganks and teamfights, deciding early who is going for which item (eg who gets a diffusal against warlock), you can not only better your chances of winning that particular game, but improve long term teamwork. In the event that players do not have microphones, are capped etc and are unable to use Ventrilo, then you must call missing and for ganks, as well as communicating as to what you need to do to win while players are respawning or regenerating at base.
Lane control is the ability to gain an advantage early game in your lane to gain an experience and gold advantage on the enemy. This can be improved mainly through playing against better players or observing professional matches (download replays or GGTV). Improving your knowledge of which items are the best to use, as well as what the enemy can do to you are also key factors in gaining lane control.
DA Strategy Forum Read the guides here to improve your knowledge on heroes and items, not only which hero and item set is best for each situation, but how to counter heroes, items and strategies. To know how to handle each situation you face, you must be able to read what is happening and what may happen, and the only way to improve how you do this is through improving your knowledge, and then practicing with this information. Another way to improve your knowledge of how you play and are able to improve is by comparing replays of yourself against better players. With some observation, you should be able to see your own mistakes and how they punished you for those mistakes, and will be able to work on removing them from your game in the future.
From personal experiences, map awareness is one of the hardest skills in DotA to improve upon. Not only do you need to be able to keep an eye on the minimap while playing normally, but you also have to keep track of where missing heroes could be, and how you can react to that. As an example, a player with good map awareness will notice when one hero has gone missing from their lane, and will play more defensively until that hero has been accounted for. Making sure to watch the minimap, buying wards and paying attention are the best things you can do to improve your map awareness.
If you play a game where you are one of the worst players on your team, the way you will most likely contribute most is by playing support. It may be the carries that do tons of damage lategame, but it’s the heroes that let them get that farmed that really make the difference. You can improve your support by learning how to ward effectively and warding often, playing support heroes with items like mekansm and guinsoos, and focusing on letting your teammates farm.
Farming can be done by killing lane creeps, neutral creeps, heroes and Roshan. Since killing heroes is an inefficient way to farm in 6.54b and Roshan is very situational (Roshan article), the best way to farm is by killing creeps. Farming can be improved not only by timing last hits better through practice, but by improving your lane control and map awareness so you die less and make your lane easier to farm, along with shutting down enemy heroes.
Ganking is one of the easiest but most often neglected strategies. Knowledge and teamwork are needed to gank effectively, but lots of practice is needed here. After playing gank heroes (stunners, nukers etc) for a long time, you will most likely develop a sense that tells you to go in or get back. You need to think whether you can win the fight under the current circumstances, and take into account the unknown variables. For example, there may be a low hp sniper farming bottom lane. You can easily kill him, but there are two enemy heroes missing on the minimap. Using this information, you must decide whether it is worth going in for the kill or not, which depends on a lot of things, including the opponent’s tendencies to bait and team up together.
All good players and teams need practice to be successful. You do not need 50 hours a week to become a world class player. However, you should play at least 2-3 inhouse games a week (inhouse leagues or clan inhouses) to practice individual skills and learn to play with different people. You should also aim to play as many scrims (clan wars) as possible, preferably 15-20 per week, which I know quite a few teams around are able to achieve.
However, just playing the games and practicing good technique is not enough. You need to discuss what you have been doing well and what you could improve on. After every game, you should always have a short talk (2-3 minutes is enough) as to how you think individuals and the team played. If you played well then discuss what you did right that game that you often don't, and if you lose then figure out what you needed to do better. Every team and player needs goals that they can actively work towards, and doing this provides at least some clarity as to what those goals can be. Another thing to discuss after playing better teams would be to notice some of the ways in which they punished you, and then work on using those tricks against teams that are not as good as you.
As game theory would suggest, you want to be playing against teams that are better than you slightly over half of the time, and aiming to win each game while looking to learn where possible. It may not be much fun getting stomped by a much more experienced team, but is necessary to improve and eventually become better than the players who are currently owning you. On the other hand, when playing teams that are worse than your team, you should look to try new things and stay aggressive, while still keeping the focus on winning. The time to try out a number of new heroes or item builds would be against a team slightly worse than yours, as you can gauge how effective the strategy is against the opposing team's lineup and how/when it would work.
The aim is always to play lots with your team, which should normally be fun and exciting if your team is well mannered and light hearted. Just remember, in professional sports the coach always encourages their team to play, but gives a talk before and after the game, and DotA should be no different.
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide, and that it will help you improve at DotA, and hopefully allow you to have fun while steadily improving. In my opinion, there is no better way to play computer games than doing better than you ever have constantly, and having fun in the process. Good luck and I hope it helped.