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. Note that 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 effective heroes.
With the major Mistwoods update introducing a new mechanic, Aghanim’s Shard, plus reworking and changing several heroes, the meta is in an understandable state of flux. Patch 7.28c’s nerfs in mid-February knocked previous meta breakers like Batrider, Lycan, and Outworld Destroyer down a large peg, but some heroes like Puck and Void Spirit have managed to persist as perennial picks in the pro scene.
- Void Spirit
- Death Prophet
- Earth Spirit
- Monkey King
- Wraith King
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 replicate.
Puck received a long list of buffs in 7.28, even receiving a turn rate increase to make an already-slippery hero even harder to punish. The hero is an excellent laner with its high base damage and great attack animation, and transitions into a brilliant wave clearer with a side gig as a Houdini-tier escape artist. Despite numerous smaller patches nerfing its numbers since the Mistwoods update, the Faerie Dragon’s popularity has barely waned.
Puck’s low cooldowns make it a dream crowd controller in teamfights and skirmishes. Waning Rift’s Silence is always useful, and ultimate Dream Coil’s annoying Leash mechanic makes it a remarkable lockdown tool. The hero’s new Shard upgrade, which causes Waning Rift to deal more damage and knock back enemies, adds further utility to Puck’s Swiss army knife kit by allowing him to break Dream Coiled targets by itself.
The Faerie Dragon is a premier mid laner, and can flex into the offlane and both support positions. New item Witch Blade is a popular choice on mid Puck, giving the spellcaster another dimension as a hybrid damage dealer. Aghanim’s Scepter on this hero upgrades Dream Coil to pierce magic immunity, making him an even more capable controller later in the game.
Void Spirit is a monster in lane, thanks to his numerous AOE nukes that make pushing waves and punishing opponents a cinch. When played mid, he often rushes Aghanim’s Scepter, which provides two charges of Resonant Pulse for additional burst damage and crowd control. Another popular build has seen him being built more as an annoying initiator and space creator playing from the offlane.
The hero’s two escape spells make him ultra slippery and good magic damage on all of his skills makes him a potent killing core in a sidelane duo. His Aether Remnant is seeing expanded usage as a temporary ward and chokepoint holder, rather than just as a stun and nuke.
Death Prophet’s overall laning ability has improved with little buffs over the past patches. It’s important for her main role as a mid laner, but Krobelus has been periodically flexed into the off lane and both support roles, helped by the buffs to her mobility that let her zoom around the map.
The hero’s reduced cast point on her main nuke makes her wind-up far less obvious and thus more difficult for opponents to avoid. Death Prophet’s Spirit Siphon charges let her stay in lane with impunity and also becomes an important component of her longevity in later skirmishes.
Her base movement speed, now the highest in the game at 335, has made her exceedingly mobile and allows her to rotate from lane to lane. It’s backed up by her fearsome ultimate, Exorcism, equally a potent teamfight and pushing tool even when she’s underleveled compared to the rest of the cast. A long duration AoE Silence is the cherry on top for the teamfight titan. She’s a powerful foe no matter her role or battlefield.
When it comes to offlaners, Mars is the current king. Among the top echelon of heroes, he’s probably received the fewest buffs in the Mistwoods update, and was arguably nerfed in some aspects. Still, the god of war persists, and is one of the most picked heroes through the DPC qualifiers across each region.
Mars’ ultimate Arena of Blood is one of the best teamfight skills in the game, made better by its low cooldown. It can even act as a defensive zone in dire situations, since it blocks ranged attacks from heroes outside the ring.
Plus, the hero manages to deal so much damage even from the offlane position. His natural tankiness, especially against physical damage, lets him get away with greedier items such as Desolator. Coupled with his new level 15 talent that reduces God’s Rebuke cooldown to six, the god of war lives up to his name as a terrifying scourge on the battlefield.
While the hero did receive a reworked Scepter upgrade and Shard, they’ve not seen much competitive play as of yet. Mars’ Scepter is a surprisingly efficient farming and fighting tool in pubs and even triggers on-hit effects like lifesteal and Desolator’s Corruption. Should the upgrade continue to fly under the radar, a mid or carry Mars could become the next big thing and push the hero into a flexible drafting role.
With the meta trending toward tanky offlaners like Beastmaster, Mars, and Tidehunter that can practically stay in their lanes forever, that’s opened up the four position for Dota 2’s premier early-game roamer to take the reins.
Earth Spirit is the strongest initiator during the early part of the game and his natural bulk ensures that he can trade hits with anybody he Rolling Boulders onto. As the game drags on, he brings an immense amount of control and teamfight as long as he has Stone Remnants in his pocket.
His Aghanim’s shard is theoretically superb, giving his four extra charges on Stone Remnant and allowing them to grant vision and double as minute-long wards. In practice, few pros have prioritized the item, with most preferring to go for Black King Bar to ensure that the hero is an unignorable nuisance on the battlefield.
The hero is almost exclusively played as a soft support, but Liquid’s Taiga and OG’s Topson have taken Earth Spirit to the mid lane with great success in past patches.
Monkey King went from a hero picked to specifically counter certain laning matchups in the mid lane, or whenever Topson feels like playing it, to one of the strongest carries in the current meta. Battlefury into Aghanim’s Scepter has become the standard build for Wukong, allowing him to litter the ground with cleaving stone soldiers. It’s a powerful flash farm mechanic that allows him to stay out of sight, since the hero can jump into creep waves or camps for a split-second before his soldier finishes the rest.
The hero’s new Shard upgrade is also one of the best in the game. It looks like a small change, but the improved cast point and cooldown allows Monkey King to become a crossmap split-pushing threat that rivals specialized heroes like Tinker.
Wraith King’s guaranteed crit on Mortal Strike has surprisingly catapulted the hero’s potential. It’s improved his teamfight ability by virtue of having a telegraphed, painful attack and the hero’s frequent Blink Dagger purchases support his transition from a never-back-down frontline presence into a capable all-around carry.
The addition and buffs to Swift Blink has also made Blink Dagger less of a dead-end item than before, letting the strength carry keep up with his usually better-scaling agility brethren. Otherwise, the hero’s item focus on raw damage like Phase Boots and Radiance instead of attack speed, aside from Assault Cuirass, means that Mortal Strike’s cooldown doesn’t affect Wraith King’s DPS as much as initially thought.
While Wraith King’s skeletons technically can’t be controlled, pros are great at releasing his minions at opportune moments to exert pressure through pushing a dangerous lane or speeding up farm in the jungle. The hero’s Reincarnation also makes it good against long-cooldown abilities like Ravage and Black Hole, giving him a second chance at rampaging across his enemies.
Timbersaw’s lane dominance in the offlane has been highly prized in the past month. With roaming position fours like Nyx Assassin and Earth Spirit in favor, there are few heroes that can so capably solo the lane and still draw even, or even crush the opposing carry.
The hero still retains its weakness to magic damage, but Hood of Defiance tends to alleviate those problems. Otherwise, the hero is versatile and utilitarian, able to build into a split-pushing spellcaster with items like Bloodstone and Boots of Travel, an aura carrier like Pipe of Insight or Guardian Greaves, or a mix or both.
- Keeper of the Light
- Troll Warlord
- Phantom Assassin
- Nyx Assassin
- Shadow Shaman
- Nature’s Prophet
Tier two represents stable picks in the meta that don’t merit instant bans or anything so extreme. Some of the heroes in this tier are ones you can safely pick without giving away too much of your gameplan.
Despite repeated nerfs to Phoenix’s kit, the hero remains one of the best teamfight supports in the game. Since off lane heroes tend to revolve around bulky, wide area initiators like Mars and Tidehunter, Phoenix is the perfect complement despite his comparative lack of hard disables compared to other supports.
The hero’s spellcasting damage output is one of the highest, bolstered by his Sun Ray and Supernova. It’s especially potent when Phoenix reaches level 20, allowing him to cast Sun Ray during his ultimate and adding one more deterrent to enemies hitting his egg.
Fire Spirits has been hit the hardest out of Phoenix’s skills, but it remains an obnoxious spell to face in the lane. It helps him trade in spite of his lackluster armor and attack, and can serve as nasty, easily landable magic damage if your lane partner can pin an enemy down.
Enigma’s most prominent spell is undoubtedly Black Hole and it’s assuredly one of Dota 2’s consistently powerful ultimates. It’s the rest of his kit that makes him such a priority pickup for many teams, however, with some squads like OG even opting to play him as a hard support.
Demonic Conversion’s ability to deny ranged creeps can be an automatic lane winner in the right circumstances. Malefice is a decent single-target stun, especially against heroes without Black King Bar or dispel. Midnight Pulse can prove to be a dastardly obstacle even without Black Hole, sapping away percentage health against usually tanky frontliners.
Keeper of the Light
While he lost his obnoxious laning ability Blinding Light and teamfighting ultimate Will-O-Wisp, Keeper of the Light’s latest iteration has become the foremost hard support in the game with his innate wave clearing capabilities and enabling his cores to always be on the map.
While several of his abilities have changed over the years, Illuminate remains his staple nuke. It can be an instant killer in lane, especially if your laning partner possesses crowd control, and serves as a great pushing and defensive tool later on.
The hero’s innate high movement speed and long-range Illuminate lets him stack multiple creep camps easily. Additionally, Chakra Magic’s cooldown reduction and mana restoration revitalizes heroes like Ember Spirit and Bristleback, allowing them to spam spells and clear neutrals with wanton pleasure.
Spirit Form’s Recall is perhaps his ultimate’s best sub-ability, allowing normally immobile heroes to move around the map with ease. Like Io’s Relocate, this can allow your split-pushing or newly respawned ally to join the fight immediately, gaining a numbers advantage.
Now that Sven’s time in the sun is gone, Troll Warlord’s new Aghanim’s Scepter might have helped cement him as one of the most annoying carry heroes in the game. The upgrade causes melee Whirling Axes to dispel himself, and the ranged version to dispel enemies, also reducing both skills’ manacost and cooldown to four seconds.
Ranged Whirling Axes lets him counter pesky common defensive items like Glimmer Cape, Eul’s Scepter, or Ghost Scepter. The melee version renders illusion heroes like Phantom Lancer near useless due to the low-cooldown Blind, and can additionally remove slows and statuses used to kite him.
Unlike Sven’s potential to one-shot heroes, Troll Warlord is a lot more slow and steady, taking time to build up his Fervor stacks. But the hero can outlast almost anybody in a manfight, and is also less reliant on his transformation ultimate. Pros are generally opting to first pick up Battlefury before incorporating Agh’s as a third or fourth item, but the Scepter’s farming potential shouldn’t be underestimated.
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. 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.
The hero is often drafted with an obscene support to add an extra dimension to the agility carry’s late-game potential, with popular combos including Earthshaker, Earth Spirit, Spirit Breaker, and Dark Willow. Morphling’s Scepter inherently becomes more valuable through the mobility of an upgraded Enchant Totem or Charge of Darkness, or having an untargetable right-click cannon with Shadow Realm, for example.
A proponent of the zoo strategy, Beastmaster has benefited greatly from Necronomicon’s buff. Many safelane carries find it tough to deal with Beastmaster’s outsized laning presence, backed up by his slowing Boars. It’s a catch-22 situation, however, since leaving the lane will only allow the hero to kick down your towers in the safe lane, ceding the jungle and its valuable neutral creeps to the enemy.
Beastmaster’s new Aghanim’s Shard upgrade looks gimmicky, but it’s a surprisingly powerful addition to his arsenal. It allows his Wild Hawk to be fully controlled, which enhances the beast’s scouting tool, and Dive Bomb itself is a simple point-and-click stun that can lengthen the hero’s lockdown potential.
Shadow Shaman’s Mass Serpent Wards grants him superb pushing ability from the support position and his high base damage and lockdown makes him a great partner for a kill-focused core. The hero’s new Aghanim’s Shard upgrade is an easy damage increase for a Shackled target and can also be used to boost a split-push’s effectiveness.
Shadow Shaman doesn’t play well from behind, however. When equipped with Aether Lens and high experience to activate his cast range talent, the hero can position himself easily. Without them, he’s easily caught out in vulnerable situations with his low cast range and Serpent Wards can quickly become additional farm for enemies.
- Storm Spirit
- Dragon Knight
- Phantom Lancer
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.
The old Alchemist carry gambit is still alive and well. The hero’s all-eggs-in-one-basket playstyle is better protected now thanks to Swift Blink’s added mobility and DPS that lets him scale even better later into the game.
But the reason why Alchemist saw a spate of first phase picks and drafts through the recently concluded Dota Pro Circuit (except for China, which will end in mid-March) was because of an even riskier gamble: off lane Alchemist, whose sole job is to quickly farm an Aghanim’s Scepter and feed it to a core for an instant injection of cash.
Since Scepter can now be eaten by all heroes by purchasing a Blessing, Razzil Darkbrew is unique in that his shared Scepters also provide the base stats of the item, instead of dissipating into thin air. The unique strategy can be achieved by 15 minutes, provided Alchemist has a decent lane and, preferably, stacks of neutral creeps to clear with Acid Spray and Greevil’s Greed.
It’s usually paired with carries that have a farming steroid built into their Scepter upgrades, such as Monkey King, Troll Warlord, and Gyrocopter. It’s not limited to a specific subset, however. Alliance, for example, tried it with a Phantom Assassin and OG tried it with a Gyrocopter and Riki.
Still, there’s a lot of nuance to the strat. Take it one step too far and teams are left with a practically useless hero mired at the bottom of the net worth charts. If it can happen to OG, it can happen to any of us.
Io’s unique toolkit makes it a valuable pocket pick for many teams. Though usually played as a support, key buffs to the hero’s laning abilities have allowed him to flourish in a carry role.
The hero’s high-profile appearance as a position one by OG’s ana during the team’s successful The International 2019 defense drew several pairs of eyes to Io’s obscene Spirit damage output and regeneration amplification in the mid game.
Io doesn’t quite reach the same heights in 2021, but 7.28’s buffs to the Wisp’s base attack damage and attack point makes it a respectable safe laner. OG had to contend with the hero’s poor laning in 2019 for a major mid-game peak, but Io is more balanced across the board now. Adding flex pick potential to Io is like adding a fine broadsword to its Swiss Army knife potential, but few players rarely exploit the hero to its full potential even in the pro scene.
OG’s Topson experimentation with the hero as a mid laner has bled into the pro scene. His team tried it vs. Alliance in a DPC match on Jan. 30 in a one-sided loss, but there were glimpses of the hero’s potential as a core.
Grimstroke’s strength as a core lies mainly around Ethereal Blade. Sending your target into an ethereal state slows them, letting your hero or an ally get close with Ink Swell and also prevents them from attacking the Phantom’s Embrace, which silences the target, making counterplay near impossible without a dispel. By sending the hero mid, the window to exploit this combo is theoretically larger. The hero also has decent farming and wave clear with Stroke of Fate.
The usual support’s new role is yet to be proven on the biggest stage, but it’s definitely frustrating to play against. Expect to see Topson and OG trial the hero again.
This is not 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.