Dota Auto Chess has skyrocketed to popularity. Streamers, both Dota 2 and card game players, are all playing it and loving it. This guide is meant for those players who have the basics of the game in the bag but face a difficulty in winning a game or even making it to the top three. Let me preface this by saying I haven’t gained complete mastery of the game in any way. But I do have a decent idea of how to at least consistently make the top three using a few basic strategies. I’ve played about 20-25 games and have managed to win 4 of them. In most of the games in which I did well, I observed a common pattern, which might come in handy to those who know the basic rules of the game but are trying to rank up.
At the start, it is often enticing to pick the hero who is available in abundance. For example, if there are 3 Shadow Shaman’s present, the natural instinct is to pick one up, lock the picks (in case you did not know this, there is an option to lock the heroes) and pick up the other two for Round 2. Don’t do this! Although it can seem good at first, it usually tends to come back and haunt you. The best way to go early game is to get survivable heroes.
Goblin – Mechs
There’s quite a few early Goblin-Mechs in the game. Tinker, Clockwerk and Timbersaw constitute a sturdy early game lineup that doesn’t die. Clock and Tiber can tank while Tinker dishes out damage from behind. It’s also not bad to have Bounty in the midst of two Goblin-Mechs. Bounty Hunter is a Goblin-Assassin, so the two Mechs still get the extra HP regeneration while three Goblins make sure the Goblin buff is triggered.
Warriors and Orcs
Another way to go is Tusk-Axe-Beastmaster. Tusk and Axe are Warriors. To trigger the Warrior extra armor, another one is needed. I usually get Tiny, who is available early. Tiny isn’t the best going late into the game so he can be sold off, unless two other Tinys show up to make it a 2-star Tiny. That maybe is worth keeping. An early Beastmaster triggers the Orc buff (Axe is an Orc-Warrior) which gives them 250 extra HP. Early on in the game, that is a huge amount of HP! Juggernaut also combos well with this lineup. Jugg is the same as Axe, an Orc-Warrior so he triggers both, the Orcs extra HP buff and the Warrior extra armor buff. Tusk-Axe-Jugg can form a formidable early game trio.
There are of course, other ways to go about early game picks as well, like Druids or Knights. But I’m not too well versed with those and it probably takes a deeper understanding of the game to pull them off successfully.
Mid-Late Game Damage
The early game tank brigade can carry you for a few rounds, but eventually, the lack of damage is felt. For gaining damage, the best way to go is Assassins or Hunters. Both these provide ample damage and can hide behind the tank brigade to dish out some serious hurt to opponents.
If you have an early Bounty Hunter in your midst, it’s easier to go the Assassin way. Bounty is already an Assassin and the others can build on that. Queen of Pain is a two gold Assassin while the ones that come for three gold are Phantom Assassin, Slark, Sand King and Viper. Slark is probably the best of the lot because of his Shadow Dance. I’ve seen streamers put all their items in on the Slark and make him the main damage dealer and I’ve tried it myself. It works out quite well! Upgrading Slark to 2-star as quickly as possible is one of the best things you can do. Here’s a Goblins-Mechs-Assassins lineup I won with:
After a point, you’re only buying and buffing Assassins. The only Goblin worthy to go for late game is Alchemist. Alchemist’s skill, Acid Spray, is an AoE skill that reduces enemy armor and deals damage. He doesn’t really take the Goblin buff to the next level (that takes 6 Goblins), but nevertheless, is a worthy hero. Also if by that time, you haven;t found good upgrades for either Clockwerk or Timbersaw, you can sell them off and still have three Goblins in the battlefield.
Hunters are usually the way to go in case you have the early Beastmaster for the extra Orc HP. Beastmaster is an Orc-Hunter and provides a foray into the Hunter territory. Here’s a Warriors-Orcs-Hunters lineup I won with:
This looks like a varied group of heroes. Axe, Juggernaut and Tiny activate the Warrior buff. Beastmaster, Axe, Jugg and Disruptor are all Orcs and get the additional HP. My main damage dealers in this case were Drow Ranger and Windranger, who are Hunters. There is a chance of Assassins jumping on the backline and attacking the damage dealing ladies first, which is why it is good to keep them in the middle of the pack. The Necrophos was added in as just two undead heroes (Drow and Necro) activate the undead buff and give the reduce the enemy armor. Like is said, this was a lot more varied than the earlier group, but there are synergies all around. Multiple buffs kicking in make it work!
Level 5 heroes
Once you hit level 8 or so, you will begin to get level 5 heroes (ones that can be bought for 5 gold) more frequently. There are five of them:
These are good just for their abilities. All of them have abilities that have a massive potential to change the outcome of the battle. It worth it to have at least one of them in the late game lineup, synergy or not. Techies is probably the best, dealing a lot of damage with the Remote Mines. But the others aren’t too bad. However, too many of these aren’t very good. They aren’t easy to upgrade and excessive synergy loss can prove to be harmful.
It doesn’t always go smoothly. A lot of times, the picks that are needed never show up. In such times, it is necessary that you improvise and there in lies the beauty of Dota Auto Chess. See if a certain hero is fitting the puzzle and if not, just sell him/her off. It can seem difficult, especially selling of 2-star heroes, but it is for the greater good. There is not point trying to make a hero fit in a lineup where there is just no synergy.
Gold management is a HUGE part of Dota Auto Chess and it is difficult to get right. Gold has to be available to make purchases and at the right times, to level up. Here are how the level ups should ideally go:
- By Round six or seven, you should be level 5, i.e., have 5 heroes on the board. If you’re doing well with 4 heroes, maybe no need to spend any gold. In case the team looks a bit weak, 5 gold with propel you from level 4 to level 5.
- Moving to level 6 needs 8 experience, which is 10 gold. I usually prefer to wait four rounds on level 6 and then spend 5 gold to get to level 6 around round 10.
- Going on to level 7 depends a lot on how the game is going. Somewhere between round fourteen and round sixteen is a good target. If your team is dominating, then there is not hurry to spend the gold. Carry on for a good eight rounds after level 6 and then spend 10 gold to hit level 7. If however, there are troubles finding wins, an early investment isn’t a bad idea. Level 7, I have observed, is a major power spike and helps turn the tide around after a rough start. After this however, is the time to save money for the late game.
- Getting to level 8, 9 and 10 depends on your gold situation. Late into the game, every increase in level can be a huge turnaround in fortunes.
There are strategies based on getting losing streaks and racking up the gold, but I haven’t really mastered those. The best way, I believe is to set up a good squad of 7 heroes and then sit tight for the next few rounds. A lot of times, there is temptation to refresh the heroes to get that one piece that can level up a hero, but it is just not worth it. It is easy to get lost in the refreshing and keep losing 2 gold. Around round nineteen or twenty, the ideal economy should look a bit like this:
7 good heroes on the chess board and a nice bit of gold saved up. Am I also trying to show off my win streak in the process? You bet I am! But that’s besides the point. Gold needs to be saved up in this phase of Dota Auto Chess, or else you are heading for impending doom, and I don’t mean the hero. The extra gold lets you level up as required later and also gives you the option to search for those elusive heroes to make the upgrades to 2-star and 3-star heroes.
How important are 3-star heroes?
If 2-star heroes are better than 1-star heroes, 3-star heroes must be the best! Right? Not necessarily. I have seen players venturing in the search for a particular 3-star hero and losing track of what else is happening on the board. Experience says it is better to have all the main heroes up to 2-star first and only then should 3-star come into play. Of course, if a 1 gold hero like Bounty Hunter presents nine of himself to you early on in the game, take the opportunity. But on the whole, it isn’t the best idea to be obsessed with a 3-star hero in the early or mid game.
Dota Auto Chess is game that has more depth than meets the eye. There are a lot more strats possible and are perhaps, better than the ones I mentioned here. But as I said, for someone who is just out on their journey into this beautiful custom game, these strats should make it easy to stay in the game longer and possibly win the game. And while you do so, there is a good chance you might figure out some new strats by yourself!