DotA 2 Key Concepts: Lanes 101

Regardless of if you’re coming from a traditional MOBA like League of Legends or a team brawler like Heroes of the Storm, you will find everything you need to know about lane composition in DotA in this section. League of Legends adopts a very strict metagame involving a top, middle, and bottom lane with a roaming jungler. In DotA 2, the world is your oyster. If The International taught us anything, there is no metagame in DotA 2 currently. While the concept of jungling is viable on some heroes, it is not required. Even three hero lanes are not out of the ordinary.

Let’s look at the lane names in DotA 2. Remember that the top side of the map is called “Dire” and the bottom side of the map is called “Radiant”.

So we can see three different names for lanes: the Mid Lane, the Safe Lane, and the Off Lane. Let’s go over what typically happens in each of these lanes.


The Middle Lane

The Middle Lane is typically a one-on-one fight between two players. Heroes placed in the middle lane usually excel at moving around the map and supporting the two side lanes with ganks. The hero in the middle lane will receive the most experience in the early game because it is the shortest lane. This accelerates the Mid Laner to the earliest level 6 and ultimate ability. The Mid Laner will typically pick up a Bottle and begin to control the runes that spawn in river. We discuss this in depth in the Runes and Bottle section of DotA 2 Key Concepts.

Supports will typically roam and gank the middle lane, so stay aware when playing in the Middle Lane. Wards will help a lot.

Unlike other MOBAs, there is no standard convention to what type of hero plays in the middle lane (i.e. a mage). You want to pick a hero that can utilize the increased gold and experience provided in that lane. Heroes in this lane should scale well into the middle and late game and should be able to do something significant with the gold advantage.

The Safe Lane

The lane closest to your side’s jungle is considered the Safe Lane. This is the top lane if you are Dire and the bottom lane if you are Radiant. Having the jungle near the lane gives a safe way to escape enemy ganks. You can also pull the jungle creeps into lane to help push it back towards your tower. We will get more into pulling jungle in our Advanced Tactics section. Wards are typically placed around jungle entrances, so you can see the enemy team coming.

The Safe Lane is typically a duo lane with one core and one support. Cores are another way to saying “carry” in DotA 2. The support player will utilize the jungle to keep the lane in balance and keep tabs on the enemy team. The two heroes in the Safe Lane usually have some strong synergy and combo off each other. The Safe Lane core will be able to obtain a lot of farm and stay competitive with the Mid Lane. If carrying from this lane, you want to pick a hero will be able to scale well and utilize gold effectively.

On rare occasion, the Safe Lane will have three heroes two of which are supports. This is also called a kill lane or offensive tri-lane. Kills will compensate for experience being split between the three heroes. In an offensive tri-lane both supports need to have strong crowd-control. Hitting one stun into another stun is key to setting up kills.

The Off Lane

Last but not least, there is the Off Lane. Players in the Off Lane face off against the enemy team’s Safe Lane. With all the advantages of the Safe Lane, the Offlaner’s job is to simply survive. Offlane heroes tend to be very tanky or have a lot of sustain to be able to withstand all the harassment from the enemy Safe Lane.  There may not be many opportunities to farm in the Off Lane, but players must stay vigilant and take opportunities when they come.

Without a jungle to pull and manipulate, the Offlane support player can roam around and set up kills in other lanes. Due to the difficulty of the Off Lane, you will only have enough gold to complete a few items in most games. Due to this, heroes in this lane do well with less farm and have powerful abilities to set up team fights. This lane is very similar to role of Top Lane in League of Legends.

I hope you understand what happens in each of these lanes a bit better. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you promptly!


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