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Every Saturday, we ll highlight a Dota 2 custom game that is fun, playable, and relatively bug-free. To find a custom game, go to the Custom Games tab in Dota 2 and enter the name as we ve provided it in the search box in the top right—in this case, Hardcore Ninja.
I m a lone juggernaut, my fingers poised over the keyboard as I blink around the map. Death could come from around any corner, and it ll come quickly. Fortunately, my two remaining opponents are in exactly the same position; the eyes of their dead team members fixed on them just as mine are on me.
Hardcore Ninja bills itself as a PvP Battle of pure reflex , but it s more than that. A round lasts between 30 seconds and a minute, five players on each team controlling juggernauts equipped with four abilities and a quelling blade. My first ability, Deflect , makes me invulnerable for 0.7 seconds. My three other spells are slightly reworked versions of Blink, Magnus s Shockwave and PA s Dagger. The latter two, of course, are instakills. First team to 15 rounds wins. That s it, apart from a final flourish: scoring a kill resets all cooldowns.
One of the enemy juggernauts blinks on top of me, startling us both. I blink away to the other side of some trees, earning us both a brief respite—but now we each know where the other is. A blown shockwave skims past me, giving me the confidence to poke my head around the corner and fire off my own. He deflects, but by this point my blink s off cooldown and I teleport behind him with an auto attack queued up. He falls just as his friends dagger is about to bury itself in my chest. I blink again, attempting the same trick as before. He deflects, forcing me to do the same as our attacks bounce off each other. Luckily for me I ve still got a dagger in the bank, which I throw at point blank range before he manages to get his shockwave off, winning my team the round. The whole fight probably took about three seconds.
A game of Hardcore Ninja captures the best bits of Nidhogg and Samurai Gunn, using the threat of instant death to imbue every moment with tension. This fits perfectly with the round based structure from Counter-Strike, generating those gleeful stories of one person managing to overcome an entire team on their own. It s fun being that guy, sure, but rooting for your own last surviving team member from the side-lines is almost as good. Even when the roles are flipped, watching a skillful player pick apart a team is rewarding in and of itself. It s fundamentally a game about looking cool in front of people, which ticks all kinds of boxes for me as a mid player.
Sure, it doesn t have the complex teamfight interactions you see in Dota proper or some of the more expansive custom games, but it doesn t need them. One of the problems I ve found with other custom games is that the fun is behind a learning curve akin to actual Dota. Introducing new systems, new abilities and new items may create depth, but it also results in the need to learn a whole new language in order to compete. Ninja s simplicity does away with that: someone who s been playing for 10 seconds will be as clued up as a player who s invested several hours. There s still plenty of depth to be found with the few ingredients it gives you. For every death that comes randomly from a stray shockwave, there s an intricate duel where anticipation, trickery and finesse are key.
At the moment there are just two maps, and one of them is far superior to the other. It s a small arena with clumps of trees that leave players obscured from each other most of the time, weaving in and out of the copses into clearings where an encounter is more likely. Playing around with sightlines adds a whole new element to the game, where one juggernaut can leap at another only to melt back into the shadows as their attack gets dodged or absorbed. The second consists of a grid of pillars and next to no fog of war, which robs matches of the tension that provides.
For the most part, the game s streamlined in such a way that suggesting potential improvements is tricky. Working in the disjoint from Manta Style, which needs impeccable timing, would allow for even more impressive plays and raise the skill ceiling yet higher. However, that would mean either adding a whole new ability or replacing an existing one, which are nicely balanced as they are. A timer to end the occasional frustrating match where one player just hides would be a welcome addition—or better yet, a shrinking arena. Ninja does suffer from the unavoidable problem of early leavers that affects every custom game. Here, at least, that s somewhat mitigated by how short each match is. Besides, some of the best moments emerge from being outnumbered.
At its best, Hardcore Ninja is a purification of some of the elements that most appeal to me from Dota proper. It s a 15 minute battle of pure mind games, juking, dodging spells and landing skill shots. For players who focus on heroes which rely heavily on such techniques, it s excellent practice for the main game. It s also a good way for players to try out a high damage, low health playstyle without the pressure and responsibility that comes with an actual game of Dota.
On its own terms, Hardcore Ninja nails the feeling of being both deadly and fragile, just as a Ninja should be. Go check it out.
PC Gamer Pro is a new channel dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!
Every week, Chris documents his complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2 and wizards in general. To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.
Last week I wrote about the attitudes that can hold people back from improving their Dota 2 game. This week I want to return to the topic of communication from a different angle. When you're playing solo, trying to build a rapport with your team is one of the most difficult things to do but also the most important. It's hard, in part, because it's easy to ignore: to believe that if you just keep your head down, stay quiet and play then nothing bad can happen. This is an understandable approach, but not the ideal one. Team chat is there for a reason.
This is the first step, and something I have to keep reminding myself. Taking the first step and being active in team chat makes it easier for other reasonable players to step forward. Everybody's been burned in Dota at one point or another, and everybody considers staying silent just to avoid the flames. In my experience, you're far more likely to be matchmade with other reticent chatters than you are with genuine assholes. As soon as you establish that you're not a dick, you'll find out that lots of the people on your team aren't dicks either.
Something simple like "which lane do you want?" during hero selection makes it clear that (a) you're willing to cooperate and (b) you're invested enough in the game to start strategising. This promotes good behaviour in other people, and—if at least a few of your teammates feel like you've got their back—shields you against rage from the minority later on.
I find that the positive impact of being vocal increases if you're willing to use in-game voice, but it's completely reasonable to avoid it. If you worry that you'll have a bad experience if other players hear your voice, use text: it's still a huge benefit, and there's no reason to make yourself uncomfortable.
'Well played!' is one of the most useful commands you can place on your chat wheel. If somebody does well, say so. If somebody does really well, call them out specifically—"gj tusk". This makes people feel respected and, as a consequence, they're more likely to regard you positively. A few players are arrogant enough to respond to "wp" with "yep", but they're in the minority. If you manage to achieve a reciprocal "wp"—where they compliment you as you compliment them—congratulations! You've made a friend and, if things get rough later on, your team is less likely to tilt and throw.
As somebody who plays a lot of position five in ranked, my favourite approach is to congratulate our midlaner every time a mid gank goes well. It doesn't matter if they played particularly well or not: if the kill happened, it's an opportunity to form a bond. That bond will be extremely helpful later on, as blame tends to fall on either the midlaner or support when things go south. If you're willing to back each other up, it can hold the team together.
I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to respond to insults. Anybody who says 'noob' without irony isn't worth responding to: it can be fun to simply send a '<3' their way, but this tends to make them angrier. Most of the time, you can completely ignore name-calling.
It gets more complicated if a player is actively accusing you of doing something you didn't do. For example: in my last solo ranked game, a rough midgame left me underlevelled. As a position five Rubick against Silencer, I was struggling to survive the opening moments of each teamfight and as a result I wasn't picking up enough XP. This is definitely my error and something that fell to me to fix.
As the enemy was knocking on our tier three towers, however, our carry decided to blame me—claiming that I'd ruined his game by hanging around in lane soaking XP and become underleveled as a result. This was flat-out untrue, but our offlaner decided to agree with him anyway. Rather than get personal about it, I pointed out that I'd ganked mid twice, stacked our jungle, and pulled—that time in-lane accounted for a very small part of my early game. Because I'd established a decent relationship with our midlaner (see above), he backed me up. The carry didn't press the point any further, I got a handle on my dying-too-much problem, we turned the game around and won.
It's a very good idea to frame everything you say as a suggestion. "We need wards" is bad; "I'm going to ward" is good, as is "come with me so you can place wards safely." Similarly, "Lina invis" is okay: "Lina invis bot, get back" is better. If you express yourself in a way that is both detailed and clearly communicates the action that needs to happen, that action is more likely to happen. As a bonus, it becomes harder for bad-attitude teammates to complain that they weren't give enough warning about an incoming gank, too.
The exact opposite of this approach is context-free pinging. Pinging is, a lot of the time, meaningless—or it's exactly as meaningful as Lassie barking. You might figure out that little Timmy has fallen down the well eventually, but Timmy would probably be better of if Lassie could, you know, talk. Much as "Timmy down well help" is more quickly understood than "WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF", "Tusk shadow blade DD rune mid" is better than PING PING PING PING PING PING PING.
Suggesting action is also a good way to start turning a game around when the team has started to tilt. Staying calm and useful means saying "defend together" rather than "just back pls"; "lets go deward rosh" beats pinging the Roshan pit helplessly.
When other people suggest action, and those actions are a good idea, don't just silently comply: if you let people know that you're on your way, or that your teleport scroll is on cooldown for another 10 seconds, you create better understanding and a stronger sense of cooperation. This, again, makes people feel like their suggestions are being respected. It's respect, at the end of the day, that holds teams together and wins matches.
PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!
Given that Dota 2's entire character roster is available to everybody, all of the time, learning new heroes presents a daunting challenge to new players. Talking to people who are just starting out on the long road to being halfway-competent-maybe at Dota, a question I've heard a lot is 'how do I choose who to play next?'
In this series, then, I'm going to shine a light on heroes that new players may miss. In particular, I'm looking for heroes that have a higher-than-average win-rate (calcuated using DotaBuff) but who wouldn't otherwise be considered a major part of the current metagame. Champions of pub Dota, in other words, heroes you might not see very often in the hands of top players but who you might get a kick out of as you take your first steps into ranked.
We re going to alternate this series with our Dota 2 Q&A, Game Is Hard , on a bi-weekly basis. This gives us more time to set up interviews and gives time for new hero trends to emerge.
Let s get to business.
Omniknight is a strength melee hero most commonly played as a support. His abilities emphasise protection: even his most powerful damage spell is deployed defensively.
Purification is a powerful single-target heal that, in addition to restoring health, does a large amount of damage in an area immediately around the target. This is pure damage, which broadly speaking means that it ignores armour, magic resistance, and spell immunity. Omniknight can cast it on himself, allied heroes, or creeps. In ideal scenario, you ll always be getting maximum use out of both of its components: using it to prop up a beleaguered ally while also doing significant damage to their assailants. You ll put your skill points into this first.
Repel grants spell immunity and 100% magic damage resistance to a single target. This is exactly the same as the defensive item Black King Bar, which most carries won t have built until the midgame. Repel is great for ensuring that your carry doesn t get stunned into oblivion during a teamfight, or for shielding yourself while you use a teleport scroll to escape. It can also be cast on enemies to prevent them from receiving beneficial effects, but bear in mind that spell immunity is more often a help than a hindrance: if in doubt, Repel an ally. You ll put skill points into Repel second.
Degen Aura slows the movement and attack speed of enemies within a radius of Omniknight. This gives him a little bit of scaling potential in the late game, as attack speed becomes more important, but you wouldn t want to put skill points into it too early. Generally speaking, it s more important for Omniknight to survive long enough to use his other abilities and items than it is to be close enough to the enemy for Degen Aura to be useful. In certain one-on-one situations, however, the movement speed debuff can be used to get Omniknight slightly ahead of the enemy in order to line up a self-cast Purification.
Guardian Angel is Omniknight s ultimate. For a fixed duration, allied units in an area around Omniknight gain immunity to physical damage—i.e, auto-attacks and certain spells. If upgraded using an Aghanim s Scepter, Guardian Angel gains global cast range and also affects buildings—effectively acting as a second Glyph of Fortification. Guardian Angel has a massive impact on teamfights, effectively nullifying the impact of auto-attack happy enemy carries. In pub games, particularly at the beginner level, players tend to be pretty bad at playing around ults like this one. If you re tired of being rolled over by Sniper, Guardian Angel renders him entirely useless for its duration.
Dota 2 tends to shy from traditional fantasy stereotypes—or at least they re rarely presented without a twist of some kind. Omniknight looks like a paladin, sounds like a paladin and—for the most part—plays like a paladin. The twist here is a relatively subtle one: despite the crusader knight imagery, angelic guardians and god-rays, Omniknight actually worships a cave-dwelling Elder Thing that may or may not have created the world by chance while trying to hide from space monsters. As you do.
He s been sat in the middle of the popularity charts for a long time, now, despite a consistently high win-rate—greater than 60%. Let s break down some of the reasons why this might be.
This contributes to both his winrate and his unpopularity. As a wise man once said: nobody wants to play support, but everybody wants to win. As a defense-oriented character, Omniknight doesn t offer the multi-kill potential that most players chase. On the other hand, picking him communicates a rare desire to cooperate with your team—and it s this, most of the time, that wins games.
Omniknight is powerful in pub matches because he punishes players that don t think twice before committing to an attack. This accounts for a lot of players. When somebody is diving in pursuit of an easy kill, a well-timed heal, burst of magic immunity, or team-wide protection from regular attacks can all turn fights on their head. In a game that is often about snowballing momentum, Omniknight acts as a human stop sign: and he doesn't need much by way of items or levels to do it. A well-timed Guardian Angel can keep a losing team in the game for a long time.
The inverse is also true: when your own allies are too aggressive, Omniknight is good at making sure that they don t pay too much for it. Repel acts as a free Black King Bar, granting on-the-fly magic immunity to carries who are dead-set against building defensive items for themselves. This doesn t mean they shouldn t build defensively, of course, but it s hardly unusual for pub players to go for more damage over more survivability: Omniknight patches up that gap, whether they like it or not. The key here is that Omniknight himself has to play carefully, even if his allies aren't: make sure you're where you need to be to deliver that clutch Purification, but don't die for it.
To put all of this another way: Omniknight is great in pubs because he acts as a moderating influence on what tends to be an immoderate form of Dota. Your job is to stand on the sidelines, dampening enemy aggression and preventing your teammates from hurting themselves too badly. If you can keep a cool head, he s relatively easy to play: an effective Omniknight is one who reliably gets the most out of a single Purification, a single Repel, a single Guardian Angel. That means walking the tightrope between waiting for the right moment and becoming too hesitant, which is something you ll only improve with experience. But you d be surprised at how many games can be won by a single player acting responsibly, defensively, and putting their team first: Omniknight s 60% winrate isn t an accident. He isn't flashy, but if you enjoy winning games from a position of control on the sidelines, you'll get a kick out of him.
As a support, you re going to spend a lot of time buying Observer and Sentry Wards as well as the Courier and its flying upgrade. Mana and mobility are both important to Omniknight, so Arcane Boots are a priority. His abilities mesh well with a Soul Ring, and Force Staff lets him reposition within a fight and escape more reliably (something he otherwise lacks.) He s a natural Mekansm carrier, which transitions naturally into Guardian Greaves, and his Aghanim s Scepter upgrade can be game-winning. You might also consider picking up helpful aura items on him, like Vladimir s Offering and Drums of Endurance. If things are going extremely well, consider a Refresher Orb, Shiva s Guard, or Scythe of Vyse. Essentially: this is a team-focused hero. Build with your team in mind.
PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!