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How to Watch Dota

The Dota 2 International is almost here and we can barely contain our excitement! Let’s talk about watching competitive Dota: how to make sense of everything on the spectator interface, or how to fake it til you make it.

These guys are hyped!

This guy is hyped!

Dota 2 Arctis 5

We're so hyped we made a headset!

How Do I Watch This?

Typical Dota game


One of the things that turns most newcomers off to watching Dota is ... well, Dota itself. The casters are speaking in tongues, the map is confusing, and there’s so much crammed onto the screen.

So how do people understand what’s going on here?

Dota fans look for specific things to clue them in on what’s happening in a match. There’s just far too much activity on the screen, especially in teamfights, to have a full understanding of what’s going on. So what do we need to pay attention to?

Which Team is Which?

The easiest way to tell the two team’s apart is by color. Green for the Radiant team and red for the Dire team:

Radiant and Dire

All of a team’s heroes, creeps, and buildings will share the same colored health bar.

If you look at the top of the screen, you’ll see the hero portraits. The Radiant team will always have their heroes and team logo on the left, and the Dire team will always be on the right.

Radiant and Dire Colors

SG is Radiant team on the left; EG is Dire team on the right

When a hero is selected, their important info is displayed at the bottom of the screen:

Items and Abilities

Health, mana, level, attributes, abilities, status effects, and items are all displayed.

Who's Winning?

The little gold pips (circled in red) indicate how many matches in the series that the team has won so far (usually a best of 3 or best of 5). So the Radiant/left team is currently up 1-0 in the series.

On either side of the clock will be the current kill counts for each team. Usually, having a lot more kills means a team is ahead, but sometimes a team with fewer kills might actually be in the lead, so don’t rely on just the kill counter.

Dota clock

According to the in-game clock, this 2nd game has been going on for 35 minutes and 37 seconds, and the Radiant/left team has scored 16 kills over their opponent.

Hero indicators up top also show us who is alive and who is dead:

Dota respawn timer

In this example, the Disruptor (circled in red) has died and must wait 26 seconds to return to the battlefield.

If you’re ever confused about who’s winning a big teamfight, just look at the hero portraits up top. If one side has more heroes still alive, there’s a good chance they have the upper hand. If all heroes on a team are killed, it’s a big deal!

You'll occasionally see a net worth display, which is a live tracker that indicates a hero's current gold and value of their items:

Dota net worth

Net worth is one indicator of the strength of the hero.

Finally, the minimap in the bottom left corner of the screen shares a wealth of information, such as player positions and remaining buildings.

Dota minimap

Radiant players are the teardrops, and Dire players are the arrows.

Combining player kills, net worth, and remaining buildings gives us a clearer picture of who has the advantage in a match of Dota.

More Help

Those are the essentials for comprehending a match of Dota, but the game can get really complicated, especially at the highest levels of play. Thankfully, any major event includes talented panelists, interviewers, and casters to help break everything down for us.

Kevin ‘Purge’ Godec’s “weatherman segments” have become a hit with new and old fans alike.

It’s not just the excitement of the tournament that makes TI riveting. The rivalries, the memes, and the human stories are what keep us invested. Each player and team has faced their own struggles to make it to this tournament, and Valve does a terrific job showcasing that drama.

I’m not crying…. you’re crying.

Still lost? Fake harder.

When watching Dota 2 and all else fails, just listen to the crowd. Millions of Dota fans packed into Key Arena in Seattle, online, and at viewing events around the world will communicate the ebb and flow of every game. The fans in the arena are the barometer for every match.

It’s almost impossible not to be caught up in the excitement of TI when you hear the fervor of thousands of fans from around the world

Where to Watch

Valve will be broadcasting the main event of The International from August 7th to 12th. You can watch it on Twitch, YouTube, and in the Dota 2 game client. You can also see if there is a viewing event near you. These often take place at LAN centers, bars, and other relaxed venues.

Dota can be a lot to take in, but anyone can enjoy watching (or playing) Dota. What have you got to lose? You might end up liking what you find, and maybe we’ll see you in the crowd at the next International!

TI6 crowd

Image credit: Dota2ti Flickr