Dota 2’s metagame is notorious for shifting and changing courses on a dime, given the flexible nature of hero roles and the huge impact items have on the game. These days especially, diverse tournament metas are to be expected with only a handful of heroes going unpicked.
At the highest levels of play, games can be won or lost even before the creeps spawn. Having a good hero composition can spell the difference between a struggle to breach high ground and a team with heroes that complement each other and form a well-oiled machine.
This tier list—based on the current competitive metagame—outlines which heroes are picked most often by professional teams and those that stand out in terms of win percentages. This list will not include every single hero, mainly because there are simply too many in Dota to count. Instead, we’ll break the list down to roughly 40 of the most popular and most effective heroes.
- Ember Spirit
- Queen of Pain
- Nature’s Prophet
- Dragon Knight
- Shadow Demon
Tier one belongs to heroes who make an appearance in almost every drafting stage, whether it’s for their role flexibility, the versatility to fit any draft, or a unique skill set that no other hero can quite replicate.
Several heroes in the top tier can push the pace of a game. With recent patches introducing more objectives to the game, such as Outposts, heroes that can force the tempo, have low cooldowns, and are able to fight constantly are paramount to a team’s success.
Xin the Ember Spirit has been a constant first-phase pick or ban hero for months. Ember’s kit makes him one of the best chasing and lockdown heroes in the game. Certainly, there are heroes that can offer even more ridiculous range, such as Storm Spirit, but none of them offer it with such item independence.
All Ember needs to get going is levels, which is why he’s often seen in the mid lane to expedite his experience gain. Even from the safe lane, poking from Sleight of Fist and Searing Chains makes him a constant kill threat. If all else fails, the hero can retreat to the jungle or push out waves with his Flame Guard. He’s one of the best assassins in the game, able to punish enemies instantly with his long-range initiation, and his talent tree allows him to scale into the late-game with both physical and magic damage builds.
Likewise, Queen of Pain offers a lot of the carry potential that Ember Spirit has. While she isn’t as good at recovery, her insane laning prowess due to her high range and Shadow Strike readily brings her opponents to their knees. A traditional mid hero, her trading capabilities have seen teams send her to the side lanes to punish a melee opponent or even put her in position four to focus all her efforts on making the opposing safe lane a living hell.
Her inherent intelligence nature means that she’s never going to be the hardiest of punching bags as a utility core, but it’s remedied by her fantastic level 25 talent where Scream of Pain gains the ability to Fear enemies, which further turns her into a potent crowd controller. Otherwise, the traditional hit-and-run Queen of Pain hasn’t disappeared, but more ways to play her have seen her pick rate surge tremendously.
If there’s a flaw in Ember Spirit and Queen of Pain’s game, it has to be their lackluster pushing prowess. Enter Nature’s Prophet, Beastmaster, Lycan, and Dragon Knight. All four heroes are able to summon otherworldly powers to their aid to crush opposing buildings. Nature’s Prophet and Beastmaster are known to dominate their lanes with insane base stats and powerful summons, while Lycan and Dragon Knight are more passive heroes that rarely lose lanes thanks to their high survivability.
Prophet’s global presence and varied item choices have seen the hero picked across all five roles in Dota 2. The hero’s above-average stat growth in agility and intelligence makes him scale well into the late game. A well-played Prophet naturally gains farm due to his ability to literally Teleport into deserted areas and his creep-killing button, Wrath of Nature. Core Prophets generally end up an item or two ahead of enemy cores, while support Prophets can fill up their slots with utility to allow his allies to build more greedy items.
With summons becoming the norm, it’s little wonder that Earthshaker is salivating at his chance to slam into the spotlight. Raigor Stonehoof’s Echo Slam is the perfect counter to a meta riddled with multiple units, whether it’s from a hero, Helm of the Dominator, or Necronomicon, while offering a roaming and crowd control presence unmatched by most thanks to Fissure and Aftershock. The hero isn’t the best laner, but that can be remedied by well-placed Fissure creep blocks to help his offlaner.
Enchantress is an alternative way to deal with summons. She can convert enemy creeps over to her side thanks to Enchant, which can quickly remove a powerful creep aura like an Alpha Wolf or Hellbear Smasher. Heroes who rely on their summons to win a lane, such as Beastmaster’s Boar, can quickly find themselves on the backfoot. Even if she can’t bring them over to her cause, Enchantress is also less susceptible to getting killed by the zoo strategy thanks to her Untouchable that reduces hostile units’ attack speed and healing from Nature’s Attendants.
- Death Prophet
- Void Spirit
- Monkey King
Tier two represents stable picks in the meta that don’t merit instant bans or anything as extreme. Some of the heroes in this tier are ones you can safely pick without giving away too much of your gameplan.
For many teams, Kunkka is the second-best option when they can’t pick Ember Spirit. Kunkka is much less mobile but makes up for it with one of the best teamfight abilities in the game, Ghost Ship. He’s a capable mid laner and farms quickly because of Tidebringer. X Marks the Spot means that he’s one of the few heroes who can quickly port back to the fountain for a refill.
Torrent and Ghost Ship both come with massive cast delays, which can make it difficult to land compared to Ember Spirit’s almost instantaneous Sleight-Chains combo. Plus, the hero’s damage output is less consistent since Tidebringer is a melee Cleave ability. He’s still a flexible pick that can be picked up in most situations and can deputize well as an offlaner with a tanky caster build like Spirit Vessel and Aghanim’s Scepter.
Many supports find their way into the list here. Rubick and Grimstroke are exclusively played in the support positions in this meta and often find themselves in the first phase of the drafting stage. Both heroes have good, long-range wave clear—Rubick’s Fade Bolt decreases attack damage, while Grimstroke’s Stroke of Fate is stronger when going through more units—which has become a priority due to the prevalence of summoned units.
Morphling is a great one-vs-one laner, especially in mid, and is an extremely hard carry that doesn’t care too much about physical damage—a plus against summons. He’s not good at clearing them out due to his single-target nature, and since Waveform is also his escape spell, using it aggressively can spell a quick death. The hero does require a team to commit to his early well-being, however, either by picking him into a good matchup or protecting his lane, since he can be severely punished during his first few levels and doesn’t actually farm well until he amasses a legion of Wraith Bands and Power Treads.
Luna has become a more popular carry choice as of late, somewhat like a Gyrocopter surrogate. She’s a rather poor laner due to her low attack range but is aided by one of the best farming abilities in the game with Moon Glaives. Pros have been picking up Helm of the Dominator on her to synergize with her Lunar Blessing aura, providing even more base damage, and picking up her insane level 10 cast range talent to boost her Lucent Beam. She’s in a weird spot against summons strats—while her Moon Glaives clears them quickly, her ultimate Eclipse is ineffective against too many units.
- Lone Druid
- Winter Wyvern
- Earth Spirit
- Nyx Assassin
- Vengeful Spirit
- Keeper of the Light
The heroes in tier three have proven to be effective over a limited number of games. They serve as good options for teams looking to diversify their drafts in an effort to become less predictable or as niche picks to counter certain popular heroes.
Lone Druid is a powerful mid-game tempo hero that provides a ridiculous amount of structural damage thanks to his Spirit Bear’s Demolish. Teams like Liquid and Secret have had great success with the Lone Druid, forgoing the traditional Radiance build in favor of a Mask of Madness and Desolator rush for a pushing train that’s hard to stop in its tracks. Since the Spirit Bear is susceptible to kiting and the new build means that the Lone Druid lacks any serious comeback threat, a failed push will quickly turn into a trainwreck for his allies.
Winter Wyvern is probably a support hero to watch as the meta further develops. Her kit is designed around damage mitigation through Cold Embrace’s physical immunity and Winter’s Curse forcing enemies to attack their own allies. Both are great against summon strategies and Splinter Blast is additionally a decent creep clearing spell. Low base damage hurts her laning, though, and her spells all require a bit of forethought to prevent them from turning into a double-edged sword.
Sniper is, surprisingly, a decent position four hero. He’s seen a lot of play in public matchmaking, but only a few teams have dared to experiment with him—Secret’s YapzOr has probably had the most success out of all of them. It’s hard to pinpoint if the hero’s powerful or if Secret are just a ridiculous team, but YapzOr has always loved his unconventional supports. A 3,000 range, 1.5 second duration stun will always have its use, but it does require a significant gold investment of Aghanim’s Scepter to come online.
Keeper of the Light deserves a special mention for his Chakra Magic. The skill’s cooldown reduction can amplify heroes like Ember Spirit and Bristleback, solving their mana issues and turning them into laning monsters. Ezalor’s kit is otherwise unreliable without hard saves or lockdown and his ultimate, Will-O-Wisp, can be rather hit or miss in terms of effectiveness due to its ward nature.
This isn’t an end-all list of heroes to pick. As mentioned, the flexibility of roles and laning in Dota 2 means that even the most unorthodox picks and strategies can work at times. And with the huge variety of heroes available to play, there’s almost always a way to fit that one hero into your composition.