This guide has been updated to reflect the changed made in the game update from September 14th, 2019.
Hello, Dear Reader. You are probably here because you would like to know more about this new autobattler game that has come out in June 2019 called Dota Underlords. You might have already played this game or watched other people play this game. Even if you did, it might still be confusing, especially given the fact that not all information is in plain sight and you might be wondering about some details about the game. You are in luck! Just … keep reading on!
General information and comparisons
Dota Underlords is a game made by Valve that is a re-spawn of Autochess, an autobattler mod for their game Defense of the Ancients 2, which in turn was at first a mod of Warcraft 3, which was the sequel for Warcrafts 1 and 2 and… Wow, this lineage needs GameAncestry.com it seems.
What is an autobattler you might ask? It is a new type of a game, with the name coined because of the fact that the team of heroes that you assemble during the game fights of its own. You can only build, position and equip your team, and cheer them from the sidelines while scouting your opponents’ team compositions, but all the fighting is being done automatically. After a series of rounds (usually around 30 to 40) a winner is crowned and good times had been had by all.
Given that this genre is less than a year old one might want to approach explaining this game by comparing it to other games they have played, or other types of games they have played. In its heart Dota Underlords is a strategy management game that is akin to a few other categories of games:
- If you come from CCGs you might think about this as a dynamic draft game mode, where you pick the heroes (cards) you are putting on the board (playing), but you have the option to draft additional heroes between miniature rounds of play as your team composition (deck) evolves over time. You also have limited gold (money) to spend on your heroes (cards) and that mimics real life building of your card collection … that resets at the start of each game.
- If you come from MOBAs (especially Dota) you might think about this in terms of that type of game, with the heroes and their abilities here being copied straight out of Dota. That might also make your journey through getting to know the game much easier, as the learning curve has a lot of material to go through. If you have not set foot on a MOBA battlefield, do not worry, that is not a prerequisite to successfully play Dota Underlords, just take me as an example.
- If you come from board games you might think about this as a deckbuilder game with a bit of a programming game involved here as well. In all deckbuilders going back to Dominion you get to buy new cards for your decks and use them later on to get even better cards and – in the end – to just win the game. The closest comparison, though, is to the more aggressive, dueling deckbuilders like Star Realms. The metagame approach to deckbuilding before a tournament round is also something you might have seen in Millennium Blades, with the pre-tournament rounds being equal to your gold and team management in Dota Underlords and the tournament phases to the positioning of your heroes.
How to play Dota Underlords
That is all fine and dandy, but this game is a beast of its own, so let me tell you how it works. First, you have to install it on your PC or mobile device, and it is a good thing that this is a free-to-play game. There are plans for purchasing something called Battle Passes in the future, but these will probably just be cosmetic changes to the battlefield or some in-game visuals. As of writing this guide the game is in open beta and everyone is welcome to join in.
The in-game UI is quite simple, although it does not provide you with all the information you might need. To play the game simply press the huge PLAY button and you will be on your way to get paired with seven other random people and duke it out with them. There is obviously a tutorial mode for the game that you might wish to go through and you can play vs bots – something I would encourage you to do before looking for real fights. The game itself is very fast paced and the amount of time you have for each decision is quite limited, especially if you are just accustoming yourself with all the new heroes, alliances, items, abilities etc. It is a good thing, then, that if you are playing against just AI opponents there is an option called Play at your own pace – something I would recommend for the first couple of games, at least.
In the Season Info tabs you have a lot of data you might want to get through in your spare time. There you can find all the Heroes, Alliances and Items that are available in the current season of the game. A lot of information for sure and I will try and help you digest them – just keep reading on.
What does a match look like
A match of Dota Underlords consists of a number of rounds played by eight players, with each starting at the same level, with no gold and their Underlord at 100 health. There are some rounds where you will be paired with neutral waves of Creeps, in which you can gain some items, but most of the game is battling other players, round by round. Each player is fighting another player. If there is an odd number of players, one will fight a clone of an actual player. If you win, you get additional gold at the start of next round. If you lose, you lose some health – and if that gets knocked down to zero, you are out of the game. Simple, right?
Example of a round of play
At the start of each round you gain gold according to the results of your last round. You will then be able to buy from a shop array of five heroes and re-position your team. You can also reroll the shop and have a new offering of five random Heroes and can do it as long as you want to, but it costs you two gold to do so each time, with one free re-roll available to you if you lost a previous round versus another player. You can also level up your experience to field more heroes, but that costs even more.
After a short while you will be paired against an invader and your heroes will have to do everything on their own now, as they are all big boys and girls and know how to fight on their own. You can use this time to watch other battles and/or other player team compositions, continue shopping and/or rerolling the shop etc. If you are successful to repel the invaders, you are good to go. If not, your Underlord will lose health equal to the sum of the stars the opposing heroes had left on the battlefield (some summoned units count for it, some do not) and – starting in round 11 – one additional health for each ten rounds that have started (i.e. two additional health during rounds 11 – 19, three additional health during rounds 21 – 29 and so on). Rinse, repeat until seven people get their overlord’s health blown down to zero and the game can crown a winner.
In Dota Underlords you are managing a team of heroes that you buy from the shop. All heroes are divided into five tiers, with heroes from the first tier costing 1 gold, from the second tier 2 gold and up to heroes from the highest tier costing 5 gold. Everybody is being bought from a common pool of heroes that consists of 45 copies of each tier 1 hero, 30 copies of each tier 2 hero, 25 copies of each tier 3 hero, 20 copies of each tier 4 hero and 10 copies of each Ace (previously known as tier 5) hero. If you manage to buy three copies of the same hero, they level up from a one-star hero to a two-star hero, with better statistics. If you are exceptionally lucky or persistent you can also level up three two-star heroes into the ultimate three-star version of said hero.
Each hero has their own set of statistics, abilities and alliances that can be viewed in the game client before or during a match – but you will probably not have enough time to do it while managing your team and spectating ongoing battles.
As for the statistics they should be pretty self-explanatory, but let me go through them all anyway:
- Health is the amount of damage a hero can take before they are eliminated from the battle.
- Mana is the magical power that enables heroes to use their special abilities; heroes gain mana during the battle both when they attack and when they receive damage.
- DPS or Damage Per Second is the multiplication of the following two statistics and is the main comparative statistic that is used to determine which heroes deal more damage.
- Damage is the range of damage the hero inflicts on a hit.
- Attack Rate is the number of attacks per second that the hero makes.
- Move Speed is a value that is comparable among most heroes, which makes it really not matter much.
- Attack Range determines whether the hero is a melee unit (when it is equal to 1) or a ranged unit (when it is greater than one) and their range, counted in board spaces. The highest attack range of seven means that a hero can shoot from one corner of the board to the other.
- Magic Resist is a percentage of damage reduction from opposing hero special attacks that are marked as Magical (which is most of them).
- Armor is a value that determines resistance to physical damage (regular damage and a couple of the special attacks).
- Health Regeneration is the amount of health the hero heals each second.
- Cooldown is the number of seconds the hero needs to wait between activating their special abilities, even if their mana bar is full.
- Mana cost is equal to the max mana of a hero and is the cost of using the hero’s special ability. It is usually equal to 100, with one hero having a higher cost (and needing more time to charge their mana bar) and a couple having a lower cost (and needing less time to charge their mana).
You can field a number of heroes equal to your Underlord level, plus one if you have the Expanded Roster tier 5 item. You also have eight spaces on the bench, where you can keep heroes for future team compositions, have some heroes that you have bought speculatively or just additional copies of heroes you want to combine into two-star or three-star versions.
Alliances are essentially a set collection mechanic, with each of your heroes being part of two or three different alliances, out of twenty three available ones. If you have two or three differently named heroes from the same alliance on your team, either those heroes or all of your heroes get a certain type of bonus. For example, having at least two different Dragons unlocks some special abilities for heroes from that particular alliance. Having two Scaled heroes gives all your heroes +30% Magic Resist, while having four of them ramps that Magic Resist to +50%. Some alliances are smaller, having just two heroes (like Blood-Bound and Demon Hunter), while some are huge and have eleven heroes available (Warriors).
Some of these alliances are easier to assemble in the early game, as they are represented by a lot of tier 1 and tier 2 heroes (e.g. Warriors or Primordials), while others are essentially mid- or late-game builds you want to be gunning for over time (e.g. Deadeyes or Mages).
Not all alliances are on the same level when it comes to the value of their abilities. Some are better than others. You have to keep in mind two things, though. You need to keep looking at other players’ teams to see which heroes and alliances are being taken – as all heroes come from a common pool of units. Also, even if you would like to force a particular alliance, the sheer randomness of what you get in the shop might not go your way.
This is probably one of the most important aspects of Dota Underlords – managing your wealth. The gold you accumulate before each round starts is going to get spent on heroes and level ups. Let me start with explaining how you get your money.
At the start of each round you gain gold equal to the sum of:
- 1 gold for each round that has started, up to 5,
- 1 gold of interest for each full 10 gold you had left when the previous round started,
- 1 gold if you were victorious on your defense in the previous round,
- 1 gold if you are on a 3-4 win streak,
- 2 gold if you are on a 5-6 win streak,
- 3 gold if you are on a 7 win streak,
- 4 gold if you are on an 8 win streak,
- 1 gold if you are on a 3-4 lose streak,
- 2 gold if you are on a 5+ lose streak,
- 1 gold if you have an active Silver Lining Item and have lost the previous round,
- 30% probability for 1 gold for each unit killed by one of your heroes wielding a Poaching Knife.
A win streak resets after 8 wins, while a losing streak can continue indefinitely, or rather until your Underlord’s health reaches zero.
IMPORTANT! Calculating interest is very … interesting. The game does not account for your spending gold on heroes and level ups or gaining gold from selling heroes after the fighting in a round starts, but it does account for the one gold you can get from being victorious in the round. An example of this is this: At the start of a round you have 39 gold. You then buy two Kunkkas, each costing 4 gold, and go down to 31. You are later victorious in this round. The interest is calculated from the 39 you had at the start and 1 you get from victory, but does not account for the fact that you bought heroes after the fighting started. That means you have 31 gold in pocket, but get an interest bonus of 4.
Most of these points are exclusive. As you can see, you can at most get 15 gold out of a round (plus whatever you get from Poaching Knifes), with 5 base gold, 5 gold from interest, 1 gold from victory and 4 gold from an 8 win streak. Also, in the so-called Neutral Rounds (i.e. rounds 1, 2, 3, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 25, 40, 45, 50) you only get base and interest income. These Neutral Rounds also do not count into win or lose streaks.
The implications of this whole economy system are numerous. First of all, you should try to maximize your economy by going on streaks – either win or lose ones are fine – especially that early in the game gaining a lot of gold is usually more important than your Underlord’s health total, as their health total gets hit for a couple of points in the early rounds, while a bad defeat can cost you a dozen or more damage in the later stages of the game.
Second of all, you should edge your gold around 10, 20, 30, 40 and preferably 50, with some exceptions where you have one less, you think you will win the next round and you either do not want to sell heroes from your bench or you need to buy something specifically for the round. This game is a long haul and maximizing your interest is often key to winning the whole thing. If there are heroes you would like to buy from the shop, but you do not need them immediately, refrain yourself for a couple of seconds and buy them after the round starts.
The last point also leads to a strategy of buying everything from the shop – if you have enough gold and spaces on the bench, that is – but you have to know the game well enough and be able to calculate all purchases and sales in seconds. This is due to the fact that you can sell one-star heroes for the same price you bought them. Your bench acts as additional resources you have and you should not be afraid to sell even some of the better heroes, just to get in the higher echelon of interest for a round.
After each Neutral Round you have a choice of getting one of three item, or four if you have previously picked up Embarrassment of Riches. The items are divided into five tiers, with the higher tier ones being available in later Neutral Rounds. If you lose in a Neutral Round you still get to choose from three items, but those will be of a lower tier.
The main type of item that you can get are the ones you can give to your heroes. There are three main categories – offensive items, defensive items and support items – with the category names being very self-explanatory. The higher the tier of an item, the better it is. For example, the tier 1 offensive item Claymore gives one of your heroes +30 attack damage, while the tier 4 offensive item Daedalus gives one of your heroes +70 attack damage and a 30% chance to critical hit for 200% damage.
Another type of item is the global one. These provide you with some overall benefits, e.g. Summoning Stone gives bonus health and attack speed to all summoned allies, while Dawning of Ristul lowers healing for both crews by 50%.
The last type of item that was introduced in the August 30th patch are the Contraptions. These little devices are described as placeable items – they kind of acts as your creeps on the battlefield, while not counting against your unit cap. You can block some areas of the board with Barricades, heal adjacent units with Healing Ward or do other crazy shenanigans!
Over the course of the game your Underlord will gain experience. The more experience they have, the higher level they are at. They gain 1 XP after each round and you can buy additional XP in the rate of 4 XP for 5 gold in the shop. Over the first three turns the progress is natural, but afterwards the level up costs get steeper and steeper. Your overlord level is very important, because the higher it gets, the more heroes you can put on the board and the higher chance you have of getting higher tiers of heroes in the shop. You can field one hero for each level your Underlord has, plus one if you were lucky enough to pick up the Expanded Roster tier 5 global unit later in the game.
As for the probabilities of getting certain tiers of heroes in the shop, let me pull up the math for you:
As for the leveling up itself, the costs for doing it are shown below:
- Up to level 2 – 1 XP
- Up to level 3 – 1 XP
- Up to level 4 – 2 XP
- Up to level 5 – 4 XP
- Up to level 6 – 8 XP
- Up to level 7 – 16 XP
- Up to level 8 – 24 XP
- Up to level 9 – 32 XP
- Up to level 10 – 40 XP
As you can see, the costs get much steeper as the game progresses. What is the best moment to level up, though?
Leveling up and gold management
Now that you know more about the mechanics of the game, let me crunch some decisions when it comes to the gold management part of the game. There are three ways for you to use your gold:
- to get higher interest between rounds, i.e. to get even more gold,
- to buy heroes,
- to reroll the shop,
- to level your Underlord up.
You need a lot of gold to win the game, but you also have to spend it wisely! Sometimes it just means not spending it at all, because the more of it you have saved up, the more you will get at the beginning of each round. As a reminder – the interest rate is 1 gold for each 10 gold you had saved up, up to a max of 5 gold. This also means that once you are above 50 gold, you can spend it at your pleasure and do not have to save up above that level.
You have also to take into account the fact that there are better and worse moments to level up. Given your natural XP progression and the fact that starting at leveling up from 4 to 5, each XP cost is divisible by 4, which is also the amount of XP you get for 5 gold. That means that it is best to level up in rounds where your leftover natural XP is also divisible by 4. To give a more practical example – at the start of round 5 you have just leveled up to 4 and have 0/4 XP to level up to 5. You can either do nothing and try to accrue some more gold with future interest in mind, or you can spend 5 gold and level up to 5 on the spot.
I have usually found that the best moments to level up are rounds 9 or 13 when you want to level up to 6, round 13 or 17 when you want to level up to 7, round 21 to level up to 8, round 25 to level up to 9 (or rather 26, as the 25th is a Neutral Round, where you do not need another unit on the board, but usually do need additional interest). As for leveling up to 10 – that usually depends on if your economy through the game was managed well enough and whether the game lasts this long.
As for purchasing heroes, there is a dance between buying and benching a lot of units and being prepared for the shop offerings to come, and keeping more gold for interest in the future rounds. In my opinion the best strategy is usually a mix of these two, with a preference for keeping my interest rate higher and my bench empty. Given the fact that your gold is locked up for interest when the fighting starts in a round, when your troops battle it is usually the best choice to buy as much from the shop as possible, with a thought in mind that you will sell most of them when you see the next offering. That strategy is viable due to the fact that you can sell heroes for the same amount of gold you bought them. That applies for all one-star heroes and tier 1 two-star heroes, but changes for higher tiered two-star and three-star heroes, where you get less gold for selling the unit than you used to assemble it.
Rerolling the shop is also a factor in the gold management game. On the one hand rerolling early might get you the material to make a couple of two-star heroes that you need to push you through the early game, but then again it will make your interest earnings lesser in the future rounds. After the early August 2019 update you also get a free reroll if you have lost the previous round to a human opponent. This should in theory help you catch up if your shop offerings were lacking.
As a rule I usually tend to wait with paid rerolling until I am at level 7 or so and have accumulated 50 gold to keep my interest at its peak. As the game lasts a lot of rounds and you lose more health from losses in latter rounds, I tend to not panic if I am on a losing streak. When I get to around 30 health or so, though, I usually try and reroll a bit more than usual, as I need to assemble a better team to try and survive and not be the next one that is eliminated from the match.
Stages of a match
There are three main stages of a Dota Underlords match – the early game, the mid game and the late game. Although the names are pretty self-explanatory, let me explain the differences between them.
The first three rounds are pretty easy and you cannot lose them if you just field all units that you can – it does not matter which ones you buy. You need to start looking for some early synergies, though, and by that I mean there are some alliances, which have more units in the lower tiers than others. A couple of examples are Warriors, Brawnies and Primordials. You should try and go for a two-star hero if you are presented the option and build your team around them. Do not stay attached to your tier 1 units, though, and try to pick up a good tier 3 or tier 4 unit if you are presented it early. As for the Neutral Rounds, you might want to go for some alliance items if you have an idea on how to play said alliance, but if by any chance you are presented a second item for the same alliance – just go for it and try to make it work. If you have enough time, check on the match scoreboard (the icon in the upper left corner of the screen or press TAB on your keyboard) which global / alliance items other players have picked up and if they are going for the same strategies as you are.
At one point, sometime between rounds 10 and 15, you might see that your team is suddenly doing a lot worse. That is because the midgame has started and you need to think whether your team should go in a different path. Try and transition to some alliances that are using the tier 2 – tier 4 units you were able to purchase, with an emphasis on two-star ones. You should also try and start envisioning what your late game might look like, team composition-wise, and start grabbing the heroes you will need for that, even if they are just one-star at this point. You can also start selling off the heroes you know will be outside your alliances and end builds if you are not fielding them at the moment. Do not be afraid to sell two-star tier 1 units if they have no place in your final build and if you are not on track to turning them into three-star ones.
When you are at level 8 or 9 and people are starting to get eliminated from the match, this is the signal of end game commencing. You need to evaluate your position on the match scoreboard and determine if you can shoot for the first place, or is it just a matter of surviving. One does not exclude the other. Try and estimate if you will be able to go for level 10 before you are eliminated, as that will determine your probable unit cap. Whether it is eight, nine or ten, try and envision the team you could assemble and just focus on getting two-star versions of all those units. If it turns out you have a spare slot, just go for a tier 4 or Ace unit (even just one-star), because they are usually just great at what they do.
You should also start paying very close attention to what the other players are doing and what teams they are assembling. As the number of players drop, you will be paired against the same people over and over again, which means it might be time to think about some counter-strategies. As an example – if you are going for Mages and see that your opponents are playing with the Scaled alliance bonuses (plus Magic Resist for all their units), you might either want to change the Mages into another alliance, or try and go for broke for all six Mages to counter their resistance even more.
When the match comes down to two or three players, counter-positioning will also start playing a much bigger role than just regular positioning. As an example – if your opponent is playing Assassins, try and put a melee guard or two in the back row. If your opponent has a lot of area damage, spread your group to two or three places. Use the round time to spectate and see if your strategies are holding, but also to come up with plans on how to defeat the opposing formations.
Positioning of heroes
Ah yes, once you have your team assembled you have to know how to position everybody, to use the heroes to their fullest effects. The general rule is quite easy and obvious – place the melee heroes up front, to protect the ranged heroes in the back. Simple, right? Yes, but these are just the basics and there are a lot of other things you need to consider.
Remember there are some placement bonuses from some of your units, alliances and items. A couple of examples:
- You need all your other units to clump around (and protect) Drow Ranger, as it gives bonus attack speed for all adjacent heroes.
- You need your Knights close to each other, because their alliance bonus is even better when they fight near one another.
- Contraptions do not count against your unit cap, but can ward some places of the battlefield off – use them to your advantage!
There are some other considerations, too. Given that the units have automated rules guiding them, the easiest rule to deduct is that units move forward until they find an enemy and start fighting with it. An early game example on how to benefit from this interaction – say that you have a couple of melee units and a couple of ranged units. One of them is Axe. You should then put him in front, the other melee unit in the second row on his side and all the shooters in the third line. That way Axe will take all the hits and gather mana faster to use his ability to silence all enemies around him and gain bonus armor, while if it were the other way around, his ability could be delayed because the enemies could also be attacking the other front line hero.
Another consideration with positioning is that heroes receive mana for both dealing and receiving damage. This means that if you have a very good ability on a hero – it does not matter if it is melee or ranged – you might want to put them up front, because the ultimate spell it casts will do a lot more damage than just their regular attacks. A good example of it is Techies – if they power up very fast and place their explosives in the middle of the board, probably more of the opposing heroes will be caught in the blast radius.
The last thing I wanted to add is something I have touched upon in the previous section and that is counter-positioning. When the match is down to four players you should take a longer look at how the other players are positioning their units and try to change your (auto)battle plans accordingly. If they have area damage, spread out. If they have a particularly nasty spellcaster, place a Human next to it and try to silence it before it goes off. There are a number of examples I could give here, but this is something that requires a lot of consideration and finesse … and still might not work as the heroes sometimes just have a mind of their own.
Tips for beginners
If you have not been playing this game for long, there are some small things that you might still not know about the game, or just some considerations you might not be aware of. Let me share you some tips with you:
- There is an option of locking up the store using the padlock icon in the store or a keyboard shortcut. This means the shop will not be rerolled for the next round and you will have the option of buying the heroes you did not have the funds to in the previous round. The main use of this mechanic is in the early rounds when you want to be sure to get some early synergies going. For example, if you are extremely lucky and your first shop offering has three copies of the same hero, but you start the game with just one gold and you can just buy one of those. If you lock the store up, though, you can buy the remaining two in the next round.
- Do not get too attached to two-star tier 1 units, as they are usually worse (or not much better) than one-star tier 4 and tier 5 units. You might want to keep them for their alliance bonuses or if you are close to making them into three-star versions of themselves, but otherwise remember that you can and sometimes even should sell them when transitioning to the midgame or the lategame stage of the match.
- If you are not sure what is the attack range of your hero, just place him on the board and click on him – the highlighted spaces are all within their range and if it is more than just the adjacent ones, that hero is a ranged unit.
- I know that pushing your luck is fun in games – there are a lot of board and card games that use this mechanic to the fullest – but try and limit yourself from rerolling the shop early in the game. There are two main reasons for it – first of all, you need that two or four gold to reach the higher level of interest, which in turn will make your late game economy much better. Second of all – if you reroll later in the game, the unit offering will be much better on average, as it is tied to your overlord’s level (which makes it also kind of tied to the stage of the match). If your overlord’s health plummets to the red zone, though (around 30 or below), do not be afraid to reroll for all your wealth, because if you get eliminated, you will not be needing it anyway – and getting that two-star hero might let you survive a couple more rounds.
- Try and work with your benched heroes to accrue as much interest as possible. Even if you get a tier 3 unit early, you might consider selling it in the next round if it would mean you getting an additional gold from interest. Just try and keep you gold levels at 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 and not at 27 or 38. I know, this is the most difficult part of the economy, but the more you play this game, the easier this will get.
- Last, but not least – given that you usually do not have enough time to do everything in this game, learning and using keyboard shortcuts helps a lot! Study and change all the hotkeys to your liking and remember to use them, as it is much faster than clicking and clicking and clicking some more. You can buy units, sell highlighted units, bench units and do much more, just with single keystrokes! Do be careful, though, and do not worry if you sell something you do not want, though – this is just a game and you are in the process of learning. Another word of warning, too – hotkeys are active even if your shop is not opened. If you press the wrong key you might spend 2 gold to reroll your units and not even know about it.
Depth of strategy in Dota Underlords
On the surface Dota Underlords is an easy to understand game with a lot of simple mechanics such as set collection and gold management, with your team fighting on its own, and a lot of RNG involved – the shop offers you random heroes, you get random items in the Neutral Rounds, your opponents are chosen at random each round etc. On the other hand when you are spectating the game, there is so much going on that you are baffled and do not know what is going on.
Despite all the RNG, there is a lot of strategy on different levels involved in this game for sure. The easiest one to spot is gold management – keeping your bank full while fielding a team that keeps winning is not that easy. Picking the ideal spot to level up might be mathed out easily, but on the other hand which hero are you going to field in the additional spot and will it make a lot of difference? Or is it better to keep accruing gold and wait for your level up a bit longer? Is it better to bench a couple of tier 3 units and see which one of them is going to get the two-star treatment in future shop offerings, or are you better off selling them and getting an additional gold of interest?
There is a lot of finesse in creating your team as far as alliances go. Even if some people say that you should just bunch some tier 4 and tier 5 units together – you still need to get to the late game, with a good economy, to do so. Alliance bonuses can be highly beneficial for the whole team and it is good to know which ones work well together – especially that all heroes are a part of two or three of those. Some heroes have an alliance combination that holds two of them together, like the tier 1 Batrider for the Knights and Trolls alliances combo. Sometimes it is better to go in deep into an alliance, e.g. with six Mages, while at other times the first level of an alliance bonus is all you need, e.g. with two Scaled heroes.
You always have to look for more new synergies and strategies, and if you would like to take your game play to a higher level, I would advise you to take some time to just go through all the data available for this game – unit statistics, alliance bonuses, items, combos etc. – and try to build some perfect scenarios you might want to go for as a late game strategy. Building up fantasy teams with a full ten line-up is something you might think about as well. Use your time outside of a match to learn and think about the game, as during the match your mind should be occupied by other things, those demanding your immediate attention.
The more you play the game and the more you know about the game, the better and faster your actions are. You need much less time to think whether to buy any heroes from the shop, as opposed to reading their whole statistics and their CVs during the match. Now, the key is to spend all this time you have managed to shave off the administrative duties and apply it to scouting and counter-strategizing. If you take a moment to look at the match scoreboard you can see which alliances and thus heroes are being cut (i.e. the opponents are picking them up and there are fewer of those heroes in the shared pool), which alliance items everybody has picked up (and thus are semi-inclined to go for those alliances) etc. All this information might help you make better and more informed decisions throughout the match.
Last, but not least, late game. Yes, the whole late game is a separate point worth to be mentioned here. If there are two players left in the match and one is just sitting around, while the other is plotting, strategizing and counteracting, the second one will be the winner more often than not. You are presented with a lot of options when you know exactly what team you will be facing. You can switch heroes, alliances, more items around, counter-position versus area attacks or specific units. The list goes on and on and the finesse you show in the final two will determine if you are worthy of becoming the winner.
I would like to congratulate you, Dear Reader, for getting this far. I hope it did not take you more than two coffees to get through this wall of text and that now you understand Dota Underlords a bit better. Remember that this is a game full of information, but also randomness and even your best efforts might be thwarted because the opponent has managed to roll a two-star Techies with a Blink Dagger before round 20. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your battles and if you have any further questions, please leave them in the comments.
If you would like to see how this game plays, I have a video series also called Underlords Post-Mortem on Team Rankstar’s YouTube Channel that is a series of detailed talk-throughs of some matches I have played. Always look for the newest videos, as the frequent patches and updates usually shake up the metagame a lot!
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