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.
The qualifiers for The International 10 featured some heart-pumping and heartbreaking Dota 2. The cutthroat format meant that even before players and (potentially) fans gather in Bucharest, Romania, two-time winners OG have already begun their storyline, while others are staring at the end of their season.
Pro Dota continues to churn on in varying regions, but some of the heroes on this tier list should really, really be adjusted ahead of the largest event of the year. There’s no indication yet of a pre-TI patch, however.
- Nyx Assassin
- Templar Assassin
- Ancient Apparition
- Dragon Knight
- Winter Wyvern
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. Expect these heroes to be adjusted ahead of the biggest tournament of the year, The International 10, and its associated qualifiers.
Nyx Assassin trades some laning prowess to be an absolute nuisance once the laning stage breaks up, forcing enemies to always keep an eye out for Nyx.
Vendetta means that Sentry Wards have to be bought. And even though the item is cheaper than ever, it’s still an annoyance for the opposing support to deal with. Besides Impale, a good if unspectacular line stun, Mana Burn and Spiked Carapace provide additional utility and lockdown.
Though he’s often played as a straightforward roamer and scout, the hero’s Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade—quickly becoming the hero’s default first item—that allows him to Burrow and upgrade all his spells introduces a radical change in his playstyle. It lets him become an immovable deterrent, throwing out long-range Impales and Mana Burns to create an invisible sphere of influence that opponents have to account for.
Lanaya was the queen of the Major. Her accelerated growth with Ancient and neutral stacks were always well-known, but she exploded in popularity along with the Dragon Lance build-up.
It took a few patches, but Templar Assassin’s Psi Blades buff in 7.28, where the spill area now scales to the hero’s attack range instead of being a fixed value, was finally exploited to its fullest. Along with her level 10 Psi Blades range talent and Dragon Lance, the hero could hit units 1,750 range away—more than Blink Dagger’s 1,200 units.
This gave her such an immediate and effective power spike early on. But that’s not all she had to offer. Her level 25 talent, which gives her eight additional Refraction instances for a total of 14, meant that she was a monstrous late-game carry as well—a level she reaches with regularity thanks to her farming speed. Teams, most notably OG’s SumaiL, have even tried her as a safe laner, leveraging her high base stats and level one Meld to provide a threatening zoning presence.
Terrorblade’s illusion army and Metamorphosis proved to be an overwhelming physical damage force in many games, tearing down heroes and buildings from range with ease.
One of the few safe lane carries capable of taking down early Ancient stacks, Terrorblade is able to accelerate faster than most. Conjure Image’s high duration illusions also helps him to conduct risk-free split-pushing and wave cutting, taking farm even from the most dangerous areas of the map.
Refraction also remains an effective anti-carry spell. The slow and vision it gives provide an added dimension. A good Terrorblade player will also be able to use Sunder to its full capability, forcing enemies to play differently around the ultimate, such as using Black King Bar earlier than desired or purchasing Lotus Orbs.
The competitive debut of Dota 2’s newest hero saw her be an annoying split-pusher who constantly hides in the trees and demands several wild goose chases a game. She also proves to be a satisfactory teamfighter and ganker thanks to her well-rounded skill kit.
Hoodwink’s strongest ability is her stun, Bushwhack, but her most unique is likely Sharpshooter. It provides Break, a rare built-in mechanic that’s useful against several passives, including top-tier heroes like Dragon Knight, Mars, Timbersaw. The skill’s high damage also allows her to readily contribute to ganks from her leafy hiding spots.
Her new Aghanim’s Scepter, which gives her the skill Hunter’s Boomerang, is quite strong with the right lineup. It reduces the target’s movement speed and status resistance and amplifies the spell damage dealt to them. It synergizes with Hoodwink’s two magic abilities but also significantly improves her allies’ potential.
Known as the terror of pubs, Broodmother can be similarly horrifying against pro teams that fail to take precaution against her lane-winning and farming abilities. While she’s been weak in previous patches, Black Arachnia has become a terrifying infestation in the off lane.
Instead of buying the usual Diffusal Blade or Orchid Malevolence, position three Brood seems to focus on winning her lane and taking down a tower or two with Orb of Corrosion, then transitioning into a teamfight hero with pure aura items like Pipe of Insight and Guardian Greaves. Even then, her farm does not suffer thanks to her baby Spiders, infesting every nook and cranny of the opponent’s lane and jungle.
Even in games Broodmother lost, she destroyed her lane consistently. She can lose momentum, especially when her own team doesn’t fight around her. Her role is more of a bulky teamfighter rather than annoying split-pusher of yore and she’s a sure bet to get nerfed.
Timbersaw’s lane dominance in the offlane has been highly prized in the past month. With roaming position fours 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 splitpushing spellcaster with items like Bloodstone, Boots of Travel, and Sange and Kaya, an aura carrier like Pipe of Insight or Guardian Greaves, or a mix or both.
Ancient Apparition’s powerful laning presence even as a position five meant that he was a premier support pick, while ultimate Ice Blast remains an effective way to globally assist ganks from a safe distance. It also stops healing, a massive plus in a Holy Locket-dominant meta.
Kaldr’s above average 675 attack range allowed him to safely poke away during the lane, occasionally boosted by a mana-cheap but decently damaging Chilling Touch. Ice Vortexes can be laid down from afar, providing valuable scouting information while also slowing movement speed and debuffing magic resistance.
Cold Feet isn’t the most reliable stun, but the prevalence of lock down initiators like Dragon Knight and Mars makes the spell more than adequate for a hero with so many other benefits.
Davion the Dragon Knight might already be starring in his own Netflix show, but he was thrust into the spotlight again during the AniMajor and qualifiers.
While the mid lane used to be his battlefield of choice, the hero was taken to the off lane just as often. Dragon Blood’s additional health and armor meant he sustained easily in the harder lane and is a capable kill threat with his long duration Dragon Tail even at level one. Once he hits six, his Green Dragon form lets him become a mobile siege engine that’s difficult to take down.
Nigma’s MinD_ContRoL’s pioneered the max Dragon Tail build, focusing fully on initiating and getting a four-second stun and Blink Dagger as early as possible, which gave an alternative build to the relatively uncreative hero.
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, Major, and qualifiers.
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.
Even after receiving five straight patches of nerfs starting from 7.28b, the Faerie Dragon’s popularity has barely waned. The hero is an excellent laner with their high base damage and great attack animation, and transitions into a brilliant wave clearer with a side gig as a Houdini-tier escape artist.
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.
They can flex into the offlane and both support positions, though mid lane seems to be its home of choice for many pro teams. Witch Blade is a de facto choice on mid Puck, giving the spellcaster another dimension as a hybrid damage dealer. Pros have experimented with physical damage Puck, building the likes of Desolator and Daedalus, or going the risky magic build with Dagon—and both builds are incredibly impactful. Aghanim’s Scepter on this hero upgrades Dream Coil to pierce magic immunity, making him an even more capable controller later in the game.
Lion’s lockdown and burst capabilities with Earth Spike, Hex, and Finger of Death have always been there. But a few upgrades to the hero’s Mana Drain have seen the hero’s stock soar in both support positions.
Mana Drain is perhaps the most effective support spell in the whole game to deal with illusions due to its immensely low mana cost and cooldown. Its Shard upgrade causes it to target three enemies and even turns the hero spell immune while he’s channeling, a decidedly useful benefit for a fragile hero. Its prevalence stems from an uptick in illusion carries, in particular Terrorblade.
Lion can also restore mana now thanks to his new level 20 talent. But that’s a fringe benefit compared to the rest of the hero.
While Viper wasn’t picked much competitively, the hero’s innate Break mechanic in Nethertoxin and strong damage-over-time abilities led many teams to be wary of the Netherdrake, leading him to be the third-most banned hero in the TI10 qualifiers.
He was the ideal counter to several matchups. Break destroys the effectiveness of several in-vogue heroes: Mars’ Bulwark, Dragon Knight’s Dragon Blood, Timbersaw’s Reactive Armor, Spectre’s Dispersion and Desolate, Ursa’s Fury Swipes, and the list goes on. And his DOT spelled hell for Templar Assassin, a high-priority pick for many teams. Coupled with his flexibility as a core, having played all three lanes in the Major and qualifiers, the Viper was often banned and rarely saw the spotlight.
Auroth the Winter Wyvern heralded the ascension of Holy Locket as a key core item and Cold Embrace became the hero’s most important spell. With so many core heroes opting to tank up, the spell’s percentage-based healing saw allies regularly healing thousands of hit points on a 15-second cooldown that also makes them impervious to physical damage.
Healing is an important sustaining tool, but the ultimate Winter’s Curse is part of the all-around kit Auroth possessed. 7.29 added a premature ending to Winter’s Curse, but the many buffs to its cooldown, attack speed bonus, and duration more than made up for it.
Wyvern’s Shard, which reduces Cold Embrace’s cooldown by five seconds, would likely have been picked if it was all that was offered. An additional Splinter Blast that covered 1,200 range was a secondary benefit that was occasionally useful.
Tundra Esports’ Leon “Nine” Kirilin pulled out the niche Wyvern mid pick in the European qualifiers grand finals vs. OG and went 1-1, leveraging the hero’s Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade to become a fast, free-pathing sniper from the backlines. Public attention has mostly been placed on her healing capabilities, so this could become a pocket strategy if the pertinent stats are unchanged.
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 its 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 grabs his Aghanim’s Shard, allowing it to cast Sun Ray during his ultimate and adding one more deterrent to enemies hitting his egg. With a Holy Locket, Sun Ray’s healing potential is also magnified.
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 Phoenix trade in spite of its lackluster armor and attack, and can serve as nasty, easily landable magic damage if your lane partner can pin an enemy down.
Invoker’s popularity as a mid laner has spiked considerably in the professional world. While Carl isn’t the greatest laner, his Quas-Wex form is perhaps the best pure ganking mid in the game thanks to Cold Snap and Urn of Shadows. Ghost Walk helps Invoker get into position and the hero’s built-in regeneration means Urn charges can always be saved for offense.
The most popular build for Invoker sees him go into Spirit Vessel if there’s a need for healing reduction or Hand of Midas to keep up in farm. Once the chaotic mid game settles, players tend to focus on building Aghanim’s Scepter, adding Cataclysm’s pure damage to their team’s arsenal for teamfights.
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.
Luna’s stock as a carry has risen immensely through the qualifiers. One of the best pushers in the game with Moon Glaives, pros have veered toward more of a hybrid build to allow her to excel in teamfights as well.
Players rarely go for her physical talents any longer, preferring to instead take the Lucent Beam-related upgrades. It works for her Eclipse spell as well, giving her an extra dimension in teamfights and forcing enemies into suboptimal BKB usages and positioning.
The hero’s Shard upgrade is one of the best in the game, making Lucent Beam ground-targetable and sending out Glaives at the location. Pros are opting to build Daedalus, providing an immense power spike with the Shard and letting Luna safely poke away before fully engaging with her precious BKB duration.
If it wasn’t for the hero’s hard carry counterpart, Terrorblade, being so powerful right now, Luna would be at the very top of agility carries.
Spectre’s ascension into the top tier of hard carries comes with a unique item purchase: Echo Sabre.
While she’s still lacking her Arcana cosmetic, the hero doesn’t want new farming items. Radiance, Necronomicon, and Blademail were in vogue, but Echo Sabre is the hot novelty. Providing a hefty 15 strength, the item’s mana regeneration helps her spam Spectral Dagger, her primary farming spell. The double hit helps her farm faster and also procs Desolate, giving her the opportunity to assassinate lonely opposing supports if they step out of line.
Manta Style Axe.
That’s it. That’s the item that helped Mogul Khan surge back into the meta. It synergizes perfectly with his new Shard upgrade, which procs Counter Helix on attack, increases his attack speed, and increases the skill’s proc chance by five percent.
Formerly just an initiator with a possibly fancy dunk, Manta Style and Aghanim’s Shard turns Axe into a solo killing machine. Illusions’ attacks trigger Counter Helix and, unlike most other sources of damage, it deals full, pure damage—with a 25 percent proc chance and three Axes beating somebody up.
Of course, it’s incredibly greedy and kind of gimmicky for an off laner. Most notably, PSG.LGD elected throughout the Major to upgrade Axe to a hard carry, leading safe laner Ame to snag a few record-breaking performances en route to a tournament win.
- Faceless Void
- Phantom Lancer
- Death Prophet
- Dark Seer
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.
Faceless Void never quite goes away. Chronosphere is one of the strongest teamfight abilities a carry can have, allowing his teammates to pump in damage almost at will. Invoker’s popularity has seen Darkterror become a frequent partner for the Arsenal Magus, comboing for a near-uncounterable Chrono plus Cataclysm.
With Time Walk’s damage reversal mechanic and innate health, he’s still incredibly tanky for an agility carry. While Time Lock isn’t the menace it used to be, Void is no slouch in the damage department as well.
The hero’s Aghanim’s Shard, Reverse Time Walk, is also surprisingly decent. It allows him to jump around skirmishes with impunity, backtracking the moment any danger is felt. It’s not uncommon to see a Faceless Void jump onto high grounds and quickly back out, gaining valuable information for his allies.
Seeing nerfs in both the main 7.29 patch and b-subpatch, Phantom Lancer’s menacing illusion army has been toned down significantly. Theoretically good counters to Terrorblade (due to his ease in using Doppelganger to dispel Refraction) and Luna (using illusions to soak Moon Glaives and Eclipse beams), the top two hard carries in the meta, Azwraith hasn’t been able to pull out wins in practice with a middling win rate.
Still, if the hero goes under the radar while his high-profile competitors are nerfed, Phantom Lancer could easily rise in the ranks over the coming months.
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.