How to Become a Pro Dota 2 Player


I want to make it clear that this post isn’t about specific in-game tips that will increase specific in-game skills. I’m not going to be talking about how you can start getting better at mid or late game, Youtube has a plethora of content for topics like that. In this post, I discuss what competitive gamers can do primarily outside of Dota 2 in order to get better inside of it.

There are plenty of players who are good enough to become pro but never quite make it.

So, how do you become a pro Dota 2 player?

  1. Hire a coach
  2. Get the right gear
  3. Get better at learning
  4. Start training like an athlete
  5. Develop a personality and reputation
  6. Become a team player
  7. Attend local tournaments
  8. Network & build a following
  9. Consider varsity esports
  10. Learn from Biofrost

If you didn’t start playing Dota 2 right at the beginning then you are behind many other players. One of the most crucial skills in esports is learning. If you can cut down on the time it takes you to learn and improve you’ll be much better off at reaching a professional level or any sort of level that can offer you financial gain.

In a nutshell, becoming a pro Dota 2 player requires several years of experience, somewhere around 10kh on your main and at least 6-7k MMR. But accomplishing this and being a pro gamer requires so much more than just playing Dota 2 itself.

HIRE A COACH FOR DOTA 2

I’m still unsure why so many competitive gamers are hesitant to hire a coach. People hire coaches/instructors for literally anything, even things that offer no path for a professional career. Having an esports coach may be the best way for you to learn, or it may not be. But you won’t know until you’ve given it a fair chance. You’re not going to get worse by hiring a coach, but you could get significantly better in a significantly shorter amount of time.

Personally, I learn best when someone is walking me through it, especially after trying to learn it myself first. It helps me “put the pieces together”. Esports have a big learning curve. Like I discussed earlier, you have to spend unnecessary amounts of time practicing things you’re already good at in order to practice something you’re not good at.

Dota 2 is a great example of having to spend a lot of time doing things you’re already good at for small opportunities to practice something you’re not good at. That’s one of the issues with games like Dota 2, you are constantly performing actions that you’re already good at and are unable to repeatedly practice specific skills you aren’t good at. Imagine if basketball players could only practice layups by playing full on games.

The biggest benefit I see to hiring a coach is reducing the amount of time necessary for improvement. Hiring a coach/player that is better and more experienced than you is an almost guaranteed way to improve faster. An additional benefit is learning how to accept advice and critique, a skill that can be difficult for many to develop but is crucial if you are to become a pro gamer. In fact, being coachable is a skill in itself. If you make it onto a high-level team but struggle to work as a team and listen to the IGL it won’t matter how good you are as some players won’t put up with it.

Saving time might not seem like a big deal to you if you’re younger but you need to realize that there are many other things you could be improving in your life that would also help you improve in Dota 2. If you’re required to spend all of your time in-game these other areas are going to suffer. Do you really want to spend eight hours accomplishing something that could be accomplished in four hours?

Learning requires mistakes, and mistakes take time. A Dota 2 coach has already gone down the path you’re currently going down and can help keep you from wandering off of that path. If you’re serious about hiring a coach and increasing your likelihood of becoming a pro Dota 2 player, I recommend signing up for gamersensei.com.

There’s a great Udemy DOTA 2 Intermediate Guide to help you play like a pro, learn your roles & positions, improve your mechanics, and climb your ranks. You can click here to check it out, it’s often on saleicon

And don’t complain about having to pay for a coach. When I was 15 years old I got my first job dishwashing and I saved up for the latest Nvidia card (a laughable 128mb) just to ensure I had consistent and max fps in counter-strike 1.5. Besides, in the business world, it’s common for people to work at a company for free just to learn from those with more experience.

If you do hire a coach, milk that opportunity and ask as many questions as you can. In fact, write down all the questions you can think of before starting your work with them to get the most bang for your buck.

Coaches are also great for helping Dota 2 players break through plateaus. A coach may be able to better identify your weaknesses and what you need to work on. They may also be able to help you see things you haven’t seen in yourself, like bad habits you’ve developed over time.

If you’re just not in a place where you can afford to pay for a coach/mentor, check out your esports subreddit. You may be able to find free coaches/mentors on Reddit Dota 2 or its Discord channel. In fact, this is how a lot of the paid coaching services started and many gamers are happy to give a helping hand in their community. Often, teaching is the best way to learn.

GET THE RIGHT GEAR FOR DOTA 2

Using the right gear can have a drastic impact on in-game performance for Dota 2. For those that say getting proper gaming gear is just hype, I would argue that you’ll never see a pro using a mouse with a ball in it (if those even exist anymore) and you’ll never see a pro using a monitor made in the 90s. My point is that you’re going to eventually get high-end gaming gear, so if you can get it now, you’re training will be better off. It’s always best to train the way you’ll be competing.

If you want to check out some of my recommended esports gaming gear then head on over to ‘Gaming Gear’ section in the Recommended Gear section.

I will say, however, that once you get into the actual higher end gaming gear products, the differences between everything is pretty minuscule so there’s no need to complicate things. A lot of it comes down to preference with either the shape/feel or the brand itself.

 

Pro Player Setup – “Akke”

Here is what pro Dota 2 player “Akke” uses:

Mouse: SteelSeries Sensei

Keyboard: SteelSeries 6Gv2

Mousepad: SteelSeries QcK Gaming Surface

Monitor: BenQ ZOWIE XL2430 24 Inch 144Hz

Headset: Sennheiser GAME ZERO 

Just Remember

While you won’t see a pro Dota 2 player using a ten dollar mouse and a basic wireless keyboard, you also won’t see them testing out every single keyboard, mouse and monitor on the market. It’s pretty difficult to test out a lot of different gaming products. Gamers often stick with what was first comfortable or what was given to them by sponsors. As long as you’re shopping within the gaming products line, the differences between everything is pretty minimal and subjective.

GET BETTER AT LEARNING IN DOTA 2

Learning is perhaps the most critical skill in Dota 2. With updates happening on a monthly basis, it doesn’t matter how good your overall skill is, you need to be the best with every new update.

In order to do this, you need to be aware of when patches are being released and you need to start playing the new version immediately.

Here’s some information from the Dota 2 Wiki regarding patches:


A patch (otherwise known as a new client version) is a modification to the game files of Dota 2. Every patch will contain one or more of the following materials:

  • Patches are updates to the game client. They fix known bugs and exploits, and add features and elements to the game, including new Versions that bring changes to heroes, items, and mechanics.Most major patches come with an official changelog, but not all alterations are mentioned. These undocumented changes rely on the community to notice their existence and therefore report them to others. As such, the exact date of undocumented change implementation will be an estimate.

You can keep an eye on updates/patches by following Dota2’s main twitter account.

If you’re already on an amateur level team then your team will benefit from scheduling practices around patch releases to practice the skill of learning as a team with every patch.

With all the patches from Dota 2, it makes it very difficult to “master” the game in the traditional sense. Games like CS:GO undergo patches far less often, and while some change the meta game, most are relatively small and easy to adapt to.

This need to constantly adapt to patches makes Dota 2 a very demanding game. Traditional sports like basketball or football allow players to master fundamental skill sets. When these skills are mastered, less time can be spent on the game itself and the associated skills, and more time can be spent on building strength, addressing weaknesses, recovery, and other activities that lead to a more fulfilling life.

Dota 2 is one of those esports where you really do have to spend countless hours playing to learn the game inside out (not to mention the 115 heroes). This can detrimental to the health of players when compared to other esports. Until game developers work more closely with professional players and create specific training tools that can cut down on the required playtime, not much will change.

The unfortunate thing with some esports is the inability to practice particular skills. In Dota 2, you most likely have to play an entire match for a brief opportunity at practicing one particular skill.

Imagine if basketball players could only play entire games when trying to practice layups or three-pointers? I hope esports develops more tools for practice at the competitive level in the future, as there is a lot of wasted time and health risks associated with having to play long hours.

HOW TO GET BETTER AT LEARNING IN DOTA 2

You can’t just be the best at the current patch, you need to be the best at the next patch, and the one after that.

With every major patch that comes out, study it like it’s a college course and the exam is next week. Make predictions, think of strategies and test them out.

Give yourself less time to learn a new patch. This may sound counter-intuitive, but when people have less time to learn they often become more effective at learning.

Becoming more effective at learning is a lesser talked about skill in esports despite it being fundamental. Currently, in esports, there’s this old school view that “more is always better” and that a player who practices twenty hours a day will be better than a player who only practices twelve hours a day.

I would argue that the player who can practice for, say, eight hours but accomplish the same as one who practices sixteen is going to be far better off in terms of a longer and healthier career.

Back to the college example. There are single mom’s who work full time while raising their kids that are still able to get college degrees. How is that possible? They often become more effective with the limited time they do have for school.

This is where esport specific training can help out. I wrote a post on Meditation for Gamers and a post on the importance of Sleep for Gamers. These are just two examples of how training and improving healthy habits outside of your esports can improve performance inside of you esport.

Regarding learning, meditation and sleep can vastly improve your ability to learn and can also help you retain what you’ve learned.

If you’re scrambling around after each patch spending hours and hours trying to figure everything out but only sleeping for a few hours, you’re just wasting time and increasing your risks of injury.

So, before you go into matches or a practice session, have a plan in mind. When powerlifters go to the gym to train they have a very specific plan outlining every single movement they’re going to do and a reason behind why they’re going to do them. What are you trying to get out of this match? What is a weakness you have that you’re trying to improve?

*If you’re serious about wanting to learn how to, well, learn better, I recommend starting with The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin, which you can get on Amazon by clicking here (opens Amazon tab).

START TRAINING LIKE AN ATHLETE FOR DOTA 2

Most amateur athletes in traditional sports do not have the luxury of spending 16+ hours a day trying to get better at their sport. Heck, over here in Canada, where the government offers very little financial support for Olympic athletes, many of them hustle like entrepreneurs and can’t afford to only focus on their sport.

The benefits of having less time for training in a sport is that it forces an athlete to figure out how they can optimize their training. Many of you reading this have probably, at times, played Dota 2 in an almost sleep-like state, just joining match after match and never tracking progress or identifying weaknesses.

There are players who have found ways to optimize their practice and reach Immortal level on fewer games a day than someone struggling with Legend. Granted, there was a lot of work put into those two games, both before and after.

In order to do this, you need to be focused. I’ve personally found that I have better focus at different parts of the day. Find out for yourself when you are most focused.

EXAMPLE SCHEDULE FOR DOTA 2

As an athlete, you need to find out what works best for you. Sometimes you don’t have this comfort when you’re on a team as the environment doesn’t allow everyone to train in their own way, but I’m assuming you’re not quite there yet.

Athletes often have strict schedules, but also have a lot of motivation to stick to their schedule. If this is something lacking in your training then check out this example schedule for ideas on how you can implement some more structure into your training.

Click here or image for .pdf

Again, this may not be what is best for you, but it can at least help you start thinking about how you would develop your own schedule. If you want a blank version to fill out yourself you can use this example schedule.

MORNING PHYSICAL ROUTINE

I’ve personally found that doing physical training in the morning ensures that it gets done. Often, excuses or lack of motivation can keep people from exercising as the day goes on. Additionally, I’ve found the morning to be when I have the most energy, especially after I’ve warmed up. If I train too late in the evening it can interrupt my sleep.

If esports are real sports and if gamers are athletes then start training like one.

This is an area where I see many Dota 2 players go wrong. They still think “more is better” with regard to playing Dota 2 and often neglect all other areas of competitive training. If you disagree with my initial statement about sports and athletes, I suggest you check out my post Should Pro Gaming be Considered a Real Sport?

In that post, I discuss some of the findings from Professor Ingo Froböse who has been studying esports and esports athletes at the German Sports University of Cologne for over five years now. I think you may be surprised to find out how demanding competitive gaming really is, especially at the elite level. And you may be shocked to realize just how unprepared esports athletes are both physically and mentally for their esport.

Now, similar to my discussion on how to learn better, training like an athlete may require you to learn how an athlete trains. Regarding esports, psychology and the mental side of things is very important. Professional esports teams are starting to recognize the value of hiring sports psychologists.

I’m a registered social worker with a master’s in social work. I’ve practiced psychotherapy and have been amazed at the amount of baggage the average person walks around with day to day. For an athlete, this can be extremely detrimental to performance. It can sometimes be the explanation for why a top-level player chokes during finals.

There’s also the physical side of training like an athlete. Is physical training absolutely necessary for esports? Clearly no, as many pros neglect physical training but excel in their esport. But esports is still in its infancy stage and has a lot to learn with sport specific training.

ESPORTS INJURY Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun: “Because of the pains in my spine, sometimes my arm will go numb. My shoulders feel terrible. Sometimes, I can’t even pick up the mouse”

The truth is, esports careers can be short-lived. Some say the average pro career is less than 2 years for LoL. CS:GO and other FPS pros seem to last a little longer, but it’s still kind of rare to find someone approaching 30 years of age.

Could a lack of physical preparedness explain this? Possibly. For a more in-depth discussion on gaming injuries, check out my post Pro Gaming Injuries – What Gamers Need to Know.

ESPORTS INJURY Lee “Flash” Young Ho: “At the beginning, my arm was stiff and I was not able to hold my mouse. It even hurt me a little, but I am doing my hardest to recover”

Humans aren’t meant to use a computer for hours on end. If, after reading this, you still decide that exercising isn’t for you, at least try to move more often. Ten to fifteen minutes of walking around per every hour of sitting is a fantastic protocol, but you actually have to do it.

In case those esports injuries made you panic you can check out some esport specific training tips on the Athleitks section and the Cyber Athletiks Youtube channel.

 

TRAINING SESSION

Spend two to three hours in training. The point of this is to work towards ranking up and win at all costs. You need to be extremely focused and motivated during this time.

But remember, have intentions with this training. What are you trying to accomplish? What’s your weakness? What have you reflected on from previous matches that you are trying to change in how you approach various situations? Why have you lost before and what are you going to do differently?

BREAK

Have something to eat and then go for a walk. Walking won’t just help you refresh your mind, it also helps with digestion. So always plan your walks after eating. Don’t just take my word for it, here’s some proof regarding short walks after eating, and here are some additional benefits. Due to the sedentary nature of esports and competitive gaming, frequency trumps duration for exercising and it will boost performance, not just health.

Also, you don’t have to venture outside every time you walk. Over here in Canada, going for a walk in the winter requires way too much preparation to do it frequently throughout the day. I’ve often just done laps around my apartment while listening to a podcast (it gets less weird the more you do it).

In the Recommended Gear ‘Athletiks’ section, I discuss the benefits of using a weight vest as well for cardio, and this may be a tool you find helpful.

Don’t neglect breaks. What you’re doing is work. Esports require an immense amount of mental focus. Students that try and sit in a library studying for eight or more soon find out that they’re wasting time.

I want to point out that this doesn’t need to be the only time you get up and move around. Just walking to get some water after each match and reflecting on it will be beneficial.

STUDY

Upon returning, study your morning training. I would recommend plays.tv, it’s a great and easy way to watch replays. You can even do some of this while you’re eating.

Your progress needs to be tracked and you need to work on breaking through plateaus. Don’t be afraid to take notes on what works well and what doesn’t. Even if you never read these notes again (like me in University) the simple act of writing them down helps you retain the information and reflect on it more effectively.

TRAINING SESSION WITH GOALS

Another two to three hours. This should be your primary training session where you really go all in. Motivation and focus need to be on point, so experiment with how you can achieve this. Perhaps the simple food break with a walk revitalizes you, or maybe you need to throw in additional movements or meditation.

By this point, you’ve hopefully spent time reflecting on what you did in the morning. Were there mistakes you made that could have been avoided? Are there skills you feel have been mastered that don’t really need more practice?

Really think about what you want to accomplish in this training session and play to win.

BREAK

Eat, walk, review and reflect.

During the break continue reflecting on your games. Don’t just focus on what went wrong or the mistakes you made. Think about what went well and what you’ve been improving on.

LAID BACK TRAINING

The evening is when you can have a more laid back and fun type of training. As it’s getting later in the day, your mental capacities and ability to perform at a high level will be naturally declining.

Try running some drills with friends or playing other sides of a matchup.

This would be like a basketball player who’s playing some fun pick-up games.

This is a great time to try out risky plays and to try and push your limits. You don’t need to be as focused and you don’t need to have the pressure of winning. This also helps you keep the passion for the game and remind yourself why you enjoy competing in it. It’s a great opportunity to relax and unwind as well.

SLEEP HYGIENE

In my sleep post, I discuss the importance of a nightly routine which is often referred to as “sleep hygiene”.

If you’ve been incorporating more movement from this example routine, your body is going to be much more ready for sleep compared to just sitting all day.

I personally find that having a stretching routine before bed does wonders for recovery and for getting me relaxed and ready to fall asleep. Here’s a post on some of what I consider to be the best stretches for competitive gamers. Additionally, my post on top supplements for gamers discusses ZMA, a supplement that can help improve your quality of sleep.

EXPERIMENT WITH YOUR PRACTICE TIMES

Don’t always play matches at the same time. If you’re trying to rank up, there may be particular times during the day that make that easier for you. It might mean going to bed early and waking up early. It might mean going to bed late and waking up late, depending on your location.

By experimenting with different times of day or night in your region, you may be able to find a time that makes climbing the ladder a little easier.

 

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Stuart Cameron

I'm the owner of Cyber Athletiks. I live in Canada and began competitive gaming near the dawn of esports. I've loved watching the scene grow to where it's at today.

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