Welcome! As you may have seen on twitter I’m Chris, Chrislamb92 on discord and Draftkings. I’m excited to let you know that I’ll be writing for The Esports Department about CS:GO dfs and Dota gambling. If you’re familiar with me you know I love CS:GO, but what you probably don’t know is that my first and truest Esports love was and continues to be Dota.
You’re probably wondering: what the hell is Dota? Well, allow me to explain. Dota (Defense of the Ancient) is the parent/sister game of League of Legends. Dota was originally a mini-game within Warcraft III, first created all the way back in 2003. One of the developers, Steve Feak aka Guinsoo, was hired by Riot Games and proceeded to help create League of Legends. Another developer, Icefrog, was hired by Valve who then launched Dota 2. The original Dota is now essentially defunct, so when I or anyone else says Dota we really mean Dota 2.
Now, on to the similarities and differences between Dota and LoL. Some of the differences are just names, and coming from a Dota background I will typically use the Dota terminology. Since most of you are probably familiar with LoL, I’ve decided to put this glossary at the start of the article so you can refer to it as needed.
The map the players play on is very similar between the two games. Both have 3 lanes that creeps spawn in and mindlessly run down until they encounter a foe, with 3 towers per lane, two T4 towers, and the Nexus/Ancient (often referred to as “Throne” by casters in Dota). Behind each T3 tower in LoL is a single inhibitor, while in Dota there are two barracks. One barracks is the “ranged” barracks, and one is the “melee” barracks when you kill a barracks the corresponding creeps in that lane are buffed into super creeps that if left unchecked will constantly push the lane, creating pressure on the enemy team. Unlike the inhibitors in LoL barracks do not respawn, though the melee barracks does slowly heal if it is damaged without being destroyed. This means once you kill a barracks you have super creeps for the rest of the game. If you destroy all 6 enemy barracks, you get “Mega creeps” in all 3 lanes, which are even stronger than super creeps, and can be difficult for many heroes to deal with.
It is worth noting that the Dota map is set up a little bit differently than the LoL map, the Bot Lane is longer for Radiant, and the Top Lane is longer for Dire. The first wave of creeps therefore meets closer to the radiant tower in the bottom lane, and the dire tower in the top lane. This makes it safer for the Radiant carry to farm in the bottom lane, and the Dire carry to farm in the top lane. Typically you end up with the Pos 1 and 5 players for both teams matched up against the other teams Pos 3 and 4 players.
There are no dragons in Dota, nor is there a rift herald equivalent. For “smaller” objectives in/near the river there are Bounty Runes, 4 of which spawn every 5 minutes and give the whole team a relatively small amount of gold, and Power Runes, one of which spawns every 2 minutes and give the player who picks it up a temporary buff. While important, you won’t typically see a full 5v5 team fight around either type of rune like you often do over dragons in LoL. Instead of the Baron there is “Roshan” (aka Rosh). Rosh holds an “Aegis of the Immortal” which he drops when killed and can be picked up by anyone, whether their team killed Rosh or not. The Aegis is effectively a second life. Whoever picks up the Aegis will have it until it times out, 5 minutes after pickup, or until they die. If the player holding the Aegis dies, they respawn after a couple seconds in the same location with full health and mana (the Aegis is consumed in this process, you only get one extra life per Aegis). After Rosh is killed, he respawns randomly between 8 and 11 minutes after he was killed. Each time Rosh respawns he has an extra item, until his 4th life when he is holding all of his possible items. I’ll talk about the other items at another point, I don’t want to bog you down with too many details in this intro.
The biggest difference from a viewing perspective between Dota and LoL is the amount of fighting. Picture the bloodiest LPL or G2 game you’ve seen in the last few months, that game is an average to below average pro Dota game. In Dota individual teams will often have over 1 kill per minute, whereas in LoL if the teams combine for 1 kpm it’s a high kill game. There are a number of reasons for this, and I’ll touch on what I see as the biggest ones here.
Mobility or lack thereof: In LoL teleports have a minimum (without cooldown reduction items) of a 240 second cooldown, even longer early in the game, up to 420 seconds at level 1. In Dota, the teleport cooldown is 80 seconds, and they are one of the cheapest items in the game to buy (<100 gold). In LoL pros have to be judicious with their teleports, using a teleport at the wrong time can be extremely costly for the next 4+ minutes. In Dota, pros use their teleports early and often. Supports, will teleport to help defend or initiate a gank attempt from minute 1 of the laning stage, and in the mid and late game teleports are used constantly, to get to fights, split push, get out of danger before the enemy can get to you, or just to get to a better place to farm on the map. The one drawback of Dota teleports is that you can only teleport to allied structures (towers, barracks, etc.) unless you buy an upgraded item which will also allow you to teleport more aggressively to friendly creeps.
Additionally, there is a mid priced item in Dota known as a “Blink Dagger”, costing just over 2,000 gold. For reference, “big” items in Dota typically cost over 5,000 gold. A blink dagger allows its owner to essentially “flash” every ~20 seconds. There is no innate flash, or summoner’s spells equivalents at all in Dota. Taking damage from an enemy hero causes the blink dagger to go on cooldown for 3 seconds (if the cooldown timer is above 3 seconds, aka the blink dagger was recently used, it is not lowered to 3 seconds). This means that, effectively, you can’t use the blink dagger defensively. Almost every pro team has at least one hero that will buy a blink dagger, often more than one, which means there are always heroes running around with a ~20 second cooldown flash that they basically have to use offensively.
Some heroes have movement abilities that allow them to escape tough situations, but since there is no built in flash, most heroes don’t have an escape mechanism for much of the game, until they can buy items that help with survival. This, combined with the next point, makes it easier to kill heroes.
Crowd Control: In Dota there are numerous heroes that have stuns (completely incapacitate a hero), silences (prevent a hero from using abilities), or hexes (prevent a hero from doing anything except moving, with reduced movement speed) that; last several seconds, can hit multiple heroes at once (aoe), and/or are on very short cooldowns. It’s much easier to “lock down” a hero in dota and kill them from 100% hp to 0 in a short amount of time because of these stuns. In dota supports have stuns, offlaners have stuns, mid-laners, although a bit more rare, have stuns, and even a lot of carries have stuns. Several heroes even have multiple crowd control abilities. Getting stunned is frequently a death sentence in Dota, and most team comps have at least 2-3 heroes with a stun. There is no cleanse or stopwatch to get yourself out of a sticky situation either, once you are stunned there is absolutely nothing you can do until the stun ends.
Deaths are less punishing: Outside of first blood, supports dying in the early game is really not that big of a deal. In the laning stage, for a support that is low on mana, health, or just needs to get items from base, it can often be worth it to trade your life for preventing the enemy carry from getting a wave or two of farm.
In mid to late-game LoL, any death or bad fight can be incredibly costly. Once you are dead, that’s it there’s nothing you can do until your respawn timer counts down to 0. Because of this, teams up by thousands of gold will play cautiously, not wanting to take a bad fight that costs them the game. In Dota, there is a mechanic known as Buyback. When you die, you can use gold (you have to have enough, the amount you need is displayed on screen though so it is easy to know if you have enough or not) to Buyback into the game and come back to life immediately. Buyback has an 8 minute cooldown, but when it’s available it allows Dota teams and players to play much more aggressively than their LoL counterparts, as one mistake doesn’t mean the game is instantly over. In fact, teams often take fights they know they might lose because they have buyback, and the opposing team will effectively have to beat them twice in a row in one continuous fight, without healing or waiting for spells/items to come off cooldown.
Laning Stage: There is a big difference in the early game of Dota from LoL, and that is the ability to deny creeps. What that means is that in Dota, once your team’s creeps get below 50% HP you can kill them. That’s right, you can kill your own creeps. If you get the last hit on your own creep, you get a “deny”. When a creep is denied, not only does your opponent not get any gold for the last hit, you share the experience for killing the creep. Thus, if you are able to deny a lot of creeps during lane, not only do you get a gold advantage, you also get a level advantage. Since you can kill your own creeps, a good Dota player will be able to “freeze” the wave forever. In Dota you’ll almost never see a player push the wave into his opponent in the early game like you see in LoL, it’s better to keep the wave under your own tower to deny as many creeps as possible. This means that players on both teams have to take more risks to secure last hits, leading to more deaths.
Earlier I mentioned how the map setup leads to the Pos 1 and 5 players vs 3 and 4 in lane. Well a lot of the time it’s more important that the Pos 3 and 4 players stop the other team’s Pos 1 from farming than it is to secure farm themselves. Therefore they will prioritize going for kills over farming, leading to bloodier games as they often end up trading deaths in lane.
All of this is to say, if you love watching LPL and G2 games, you should love watching Dota.
There are a ton of other in-game differences between Dota and LoL, but I wanted to keep this to an article instead of a book, so I won’t mention them here. If you have any questions feel free to hit me up on discord or twitter.
One last in-game difference that I want to point out because it can be relevant to betting, is that you can forfeit in pro Dota games. Ironically Dota is backwards from LoL. You can’t forfeit in Dota pub games but can in pro while the opposite is true for LoL. By typing “gg” in all chat you are conceding victory, and your Ancient will explode 10 seconds after it is typed (it is able to be canceled if typed by accident, fake gg’s are a big no-no though and I cannot personally recall seeing one in a pro game). Probably 95% of the time or higher the game is about to end anyways, but you may miss out on a kill or two if you are betting the total. Occasionally, a team will forfeit when they know they are beat, but well before the game would actually end. They are usually tilted, and/or don’t want to drag the game out for 10 extra minutes when all the players know they are going to lose. Virtus Pro are well known for “gg’ing out” before the opponent has even taken a single T3, although that was mostly with an old version of their roster. This will of course have a big impact on the final kill tally and time of the game, but while tilting it’s not really something you can use to influence the bets you are making.
Lastly, I want to talk a little bit about the pro scene in Dota. Until the worldwide shutdown for Covid-19, Dota had always been tournament based instead of league based. There were plans to institute regional leagues starting in 2021, but that has been somewhat accelerated now because of the shutdown. The goal of every Dota team each year is to qualify for and win The International (TI). The entirety of the Top 5 for largest prize pools in Esports history consists of The International. Last year’s winners, OG (different org than the EU LoL team, the same one as the EU CS:GO team) took home $15 million as a team and the total prize pool was over $34 million. OG are actually the 2 time defending champs, and the only team to have won twice, having had an amazing Cinderella run in 2018 followed by a dominating performance in 2019. Every year Dota puts out a video called “True Sight” from the TI finals, which is essentially an all access look at the teams during the finals. The videos are long, but they are worth watching if you want to get into the scene. Here are the 2018 and 2019 videos from the OG wins I just mentioned.
You get to TI by qualifying for, and doing well at, majors and minors throughout the season. All of these tournaments are global, so only a few teams from each region can qualify. Sadly, this means that only a handful of teams, between 3 and 5 in most regions, get picked up by reputable orgs. Outside of those top few teams, there is incredibly high turnover in the “Pro” Dota scene, and new teams with old player names pop up all the time. This creates even more randomness in outcomes, as teams often have much less experience playing with one another than you will see for LoL teams,. We should be able to use this to our advantage when it comes to betting. China is the notable exception to this, as they have numerous well financed organizations and teams, plus they run Chinese regional leagues year round, and have for a long time.
Additionally, since you really only need to physically be in the region your team is based in for qualifiers, there are teams that fly some of their players in for quals and then fly them back home until they meet for boot camp several weeks before the tournament starts. EG, typically the powerhouse of NA, are one of the teams that do this. They have a Russian player and a Southeast-Asian player who have both been in their respective home countries all during Covid. EG has recently been playing with stand-ins that are NA-located, so that is something that must be factored in when betting on them and other teams in the same situation, granted by now it’s already factored into the Vegas lines too.
That does it for this intro, again I’m available on discord if you have any questions. Be on the lookout for my first actual betting content which is coming soon. I’ll leave you with this, the Top 10 Moments from TI history, up thru 2017 at least. Thanks for reading!