Dota 2 Captain’s Guide

Dota 2 Captain’s Guide by wabi

Over the past one or two weeks I’ve manage to increase my mmr by 500after being stuck around the same level for about a year. Why captain’s mode, you may ask? I could write a whole separate post on the topic, but briefly: on average better communication, a guarantee for a cohesive team composition, and the ability play your best heroes every single game. Scientists may not hate me for it, but this is my best attempt at a guide of how to be an effective captain and draft well in pubs.


  1. Order of picks and bans
  2. Step by step of picks and bans
  3. How to pick
  4. How to ban

Order of picks and bans

Let’s start with the order of picks and bans. Here’s a screenshot I took of the Dota 2 Wiki that is pretty self explanatory.
Don’t worry about memorizing this, you’ll get the hang of it once you start playing a little bit. Here is the important part to know. The team with 1st ban gets 1st pick, the team with 2nd ban gets 2 picks in a row. After that, every pick and ban alternate. An easy way to remember this is that no team ever has 2 picks in a row other than the team with 2nd ban in the first picking phase.

Step by step of picks and bans

Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of the order of picks and bans, let’s take a look at each phase of bans and picks specifically.

Ban 1: In this phase it’s most popular to just ban the strongest heroes in the game at the moment, often heroes that can win a game on their own. Examples at the moment are : Doom, Faceless Void, Lycanthrope, Death Prophet, Razor.

Pick 1: In my method of drafting, we’ll be drafting heroes roughly from roles 5 > 1 in farm priority in that order. I like to draft a support and an offlaner in phase 1 because I like to be able to respond to their picks in Pick 1 with a support.

Exceptions to this rule are:
When you are the team with 2nd pick and want to choose some cheesy strategy that requires two heroes being picked in a row (for fear of not being counterpicked by the enemy team.) For example, Drow and Visage, in the past Kotl and PL.
If a powerhouse hero was ignored in the Ban 1 phase and you feel that no matter how the enemy team tries to counter your pick, you will run away with the game because of the sheer power of the hero (Lycan walks into a bar, there was no counter.)

Ban 2: It depends too much on your opponent’s picks. Check the how to ban section of the guide for tips.

Pick 2: Here we pick up our 2nd support and usually our mid, but sometimes our hard carry. Out of our picks in this stage, the first one should be the support. After this, if the enemy has chosen their mid hero, it’s almost always correct to choose your mid now as well. If the enemy has not chosen their mid hero it’s up to you really and you can decide which hero to pick based on tips given in the how to pick section.

Ban 3: Now your opponent has picked 4 heroes and most of the time you should be able to identify what role the hero they are about to pick is going to play so just ban that hero. More in depth analysis in the ban section of the guide.

Pick 3: Pick the mid or hard carry hero that both fits your team composition the best and counters theirs the best.

How to pick

Did you pick up on that little bit of foreshadowing there at the end of the step by step analysis? If you didn’t, two main aspects you should be thinking of when you pick heroes are how well the hero fits your team composition, and how well it counters their team composition. There is however a third factor you should consider when choosing a hero, and that is simply how strong the hero is right now in the metagame.

For every single hero you pick you are compromising one factor for another. Sure picking bloodseeker will counter slark greatly, but ask yourself, is bloodseeker a good hero right now in the metagame, what does his kit have to offer? And is it the right decision choosing a bloodseeker when we already have our mid and hard carry hero picked. Another example would be choosing Lion as a support when you have a slardar and TA already. Maybe lion is a stronger hero in the metagame than vengeful spirit, but vengeful spirit will fit your team’s -armor composition better than lion would.

Hopefully you understand what I mean between a compromise between general strength, countering the enemy team, and working with your team. It boils down to: don’t focus too much on only one specific role that you have envisioned for a hero to play in a game, the hero will likely be playing 95% of the game not in a situation for which you’ve drafted them, and in that 95% of the game they have to perform well.
Now I’m going to tell you how I value these three attributes. I value strength in the metagame highest, how well the hero fits your team composition 2nd, and how well they counter the enemy team lowest. They’re all important, but in my games I would generally have a stereotypical strong team than a mishmash of weaker heroes that were specifically chosen to either have some sort of synergy together or to specifically counter the enemy team.

One final tip in this section is to try to choose versatile heroes. Heroes like Mirana can safelane support, offlane, mid and hard carry. Wraith king can support and carry, void can offlane and carry, nature’s prophet can offlane and jungle, nyx can offlane, mid and safelane support. The list goes on. The idea behind choosing versatile heroes is to firstly throw off your opponent’s bans towards your team, and secondly allow your lanes to be dynamic during the draft so that in the end you can have the best lanes possible.

How to ban

Banning uses a lot of the same principles as picking does, only in reverse. When we ban, we compromise between how well a hero works for their team, and how well a hero counters your team. I’m not going to write much about this, because I wrote quite a bit in the how to pick section. Basically ban heroes that really hard counter any of yours, and ban heroes that have a strong synergy with their team. Also, obviously try to ban heroes for the roles they have left to pick heroes for.

If your opponent is a good drafter though, you often don’t know what roles the heroes they’ve picked are playing, and in that case, it’s best to assume that your opponent will pick the best possible roles and lanes. If you’ve banned this way and your opponent was a good drafter, then your bans have been effective, and if they had a suboptimal lane or farm priority configuration in mind, then even though your ban may not have been effective you will still have an advantage due to this.

I was originally planning on writing more in this guide, however it’s gotten quite long already. If there’s interest I can give some more miscellaneous advice, as well as my thoughts on the metagame. I hope everyone enjoyed the guide and that it’s managed to help some people out.

Thanks for reading!

Edit: Some players are asking what MMR this works at, and I didn’t include it purposefully because I’m confident this should really work at all MMRs (obviously there will be some differences.) I’m 3.5k mmr atm (confident it will still rise,) but i have experience playing mid-low 4k mmr games
Also, some people are saying that there’s more to being a captain that just drafting and I totally agree. This guide got too long though, so I decided to cut it off at drafting!

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