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.
- Ember Spirit
- Void Spirit
- Vengeful Spirit
- Queen of Pain
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.
Several heroes in the top tier scale well into the late game but are able to provide a significant contribution in teamfights and objectives. The game has slowed down considerably thanks to the 7.27 change that prevents Outposts from switching hands until a tier-two tower drops.
The state of the game has significantly changed the popularity of some hard agility carries like Terrorblade and Spectre. They were originally deemed too weak in lane and too slow to come online to be worth the heavy investment required in laning. But along with some buffs, they’ve seen an increase in popularity.
Surprisingly, Phoenix has become one of the top picks of the meta. The hero received a significant early-game nerf in its Fire Spirits cost, which was slightly compensated with an extra hit point on his level one Supernova. The hero was never the strongest laner anyway but has always provided one of the strongest teamfight presences in the game, even as a gold-starved support.
With laning becoming less important, the Fire Spirits nerf has been deemed inconsequential to the hero’s strength in early and mid-game teamfights. Sun Ray is both a potent heal and damaging ability, with its percentage scaling and level 20 talent that allows it to be used during Supernova making it relevant throughout all stages of the game.
Mirana has seen a resurgence as a meta pick, especially in China. Mostly played as a support, the hero is a great candidate as a catch-all inventory builder. She remains a potent ganker thanks to the long stun duration of Sacred Arrow, especially with the proper setup. It one-shots creeps as well, which can speed up her farm by killing big neutral creeps. Perhaps most importantly, it works on siege creeps and reduces her opponent’s pushing speed.
Her agility nature and Leap attack speed buff allow her to be a decent carry, making her a potential flex pick for teams like PSG.LGD, where mid lane superstar Somnus has been known to favor the hero. Since she rarely has to commit to a particular playstyle, Mirana can read the situation and adapt accordingly.
Xin the Ember Spirit has been a constant first-phase pick and ban for months. Ember’s kit makes him one of the best chasing and lockdown heroes in the game. Certainly, there are heroes that can offer even more ridiculous range, such as Storm Spirit, but none of them offer it with such item independence.
Related: Ember Spirit, Shadow Demon, and Death Prophet reign supreme at WePlay! Pushka League
All Ember needs to get going is levels, which is why he’s often seen in the mid lane to expedite his experience gain. Even from the safe lane, poking from Sleight of Fist and Searing Chains makes him a constant kill threat. If all else fails, the hero can retreat to the jungle or push out waves with his Flame Guard. He’s one of the best assassins in the game, able to punish enemies instantly with his long-range initiation. And his talent tree allows him to scale into the late game with both physical and magic damage builds.
With the summons strategy being the norm before the last major patch, Earthshaker was unsurprisingly salivating at his chance to slam into the spotlight. Yet, Raigor Stonehoof has remained a strong pick even after the recession of the zoo meta. The Earthshaker continues to offer a roaming and crowd control presence unmatched by most thanks to Fissure and Aftershock. The hero isn’t the best laner but less scrutiny on the laning stage means that the hero can aim to build up his inventory without worry. He also remains a reliable way to help his offlane with well-placed Fissure creep blocks.
Terrorblade has instantly shot to the top of the carry tier list thanks to a massive buff that completely removed his Metamorphosis’ movement speed reduction. It heavily increased his farming speed and teamfight ability. The efficiency of cheap farming items, like Drums of Endurance and Yasha, allows him to become a ridiculous physical damage menace even early on, able to shred enemy heroes and buildings like wet paper.
While Eye of Skadi remains potent on Terrorblade, there’s a reduced need for the item that slows enemies. It opens up item versatility on the hero, allowing him to instantly go for more damage in Butterfly or Monkey King Bar—or go for a more defensive item in Linken’s Sphere, which appears to be Arteezy’s newest muse.
Queen of Pain offers a lot of the carry potential Ember Spirit has. While she isn’t as good at recovery, her insane laning prowess due to her high range and Shadow Strike readily brings her opponents to their knees. A traditional mid hero, her trading capabilities have seen teams send her to the side lanes to punish a melee opponent or even put her in position four to focus all her efforts on making the opposing safe lane a living hell.
Her inherent intelligence nature means that she’s never going to be the hardiest of punching bags as a utility core. But that’s remedied by her fantastic level 25 talent, where Scream of Pain gains the ability to Fear enemies, which further turns her into a potent crowd controller. Otherwise, the traditional hit-and-run Queen of Pain hasn’t disappeared but more ways to play her have seen her pick rate surge tremendously. She’s not the versatile blight she was before the Patch 7.27 nerfs hit, but she’s still one of the strongest picks in the game.
- Queen of Pain
- Nature’s Prophet
- Ogre Magi
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.
With Necronomicon nerfed, Spectre’s revival as a priority carry pick brings with her an unexpected farming item—Meteor Hammer. The Meme Hammer’s change in buildup is almost perfect for the hero. Crown provides much-needed stats for tankability and using spells, especially when compared to the reduced numbers on Wraith Bands. Similarly, Ring of Health gives Spectre a much-needed source of health regeneration now that Soul Ring has been changed. And the upgrade to Perseverance helps the hero spam Spectral Dagger for farm.
All that’s left is a phenomenally efficient 250 gold recipe to turn the two items into Meteor Hammer, doubling the stats provided and slightly increasing your mana regeneration to boot. The item allows you to one-shot enemy creep waves at a 24-second cooldown and opens up jungle stacks and ancients. Her free pathing with Spectral Dagger could even allow Spectre to steal farm in dangerous areas and set up unexpected ganks with a little foresight.
A slower meta has helped bring Doom back into the fold. The hero’s one point increase in lane armor, while a classic meme, has actually helped improve his laning. Buffs to Devour gold has helped to rapidly increase his net worth accruing speed, allowing the hero to enter the mid game with an almost-guaranteed item advantage even if he loses the lane.
He’s even being played mid, a rather new role for the hero, in addition to his usual spots in the offlane as a core or support. Doom’s powerful ultimate has always been well-established as one of the most potent spells in Dota 2 and a buff to a few key pieces of his kit has turned him into a terror.
Nature’s Prophet has immense global presence. Coupled with his varied item choices, the hero has been picked across all five roles in Dota 2. Prophet’s above average stat growth in agility and intelligence makes him scale well into the late game. A well-played Prophet naturally gains farm due to his ability to literally Teleport into deserted areas and his creep-killing button, Wrath of Nature. Core Prophets generally end up an item or two ahead of enemy cores, while support Prophets can fill up their slots with utility to allow their allies to build more greedy items.
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.
For many teams, Kunkka is the second-best option when they can’t pick Ember Spirit. Kunkka is much less mobile but makes up for it with one of the best teamfight abilities in the game, Ghost Ship. He’s a capable mid laner and farms quickly because of Tidebringer—and X Marks the Spot means that he’s one of the few heroes who can quickly port back to the fountain for a refill.
Torrent and Ghost Ship both come with massive cast delays, which can make it difficult to land compared to Ember Spirit’s almost instantaneous Sleight-Chains combo. Plus, the hero’s damage output is less consistent since Tidebringer is a melee Cleave ability. He’s still a flexible pick that can be picked up in most situations and can deputize well as an offlaner with a tanky caster build like Spirit Vessel and Aghanim’s Scepter.
Many supports find their way into the list here. Rubick and Bane are exclusively played in the support positions in this meta and often find themselves in the first phase of the drafting stage. Rubick provides good, long-range wave clear and an unparalleled teamfight presence with Spell Steal. Bane is one of the best supports in lane and provides setup with Nightmare and Fiend’s Grip, ideal for a hero like Mirana to follow up with Sacred Arrow.
- Faceless Void
- Centaur Warrunner
- Winter Wyvern
- Treant Protector
- Crystal Maiden
- Shadow Demon
- Naga Siren
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.
Whenever Battlefury gets better, expect Anti-Mage to benefit. A cheaper cost helps the hero begin accelerating even earlier and the aforementioned Outpost changes further aid arguably the best splitpusher in the game. He’s still a great gotcha pick but remains rarely useful outside of that.
Likewise, Faceless Void provides one of the best teamfight ultimates a hard carry can offer. Interestingly, teams like OG have been experimenting with going Aghanim’s Scepter on the hero, providing an alternative crowd control spell tied to his Time Walk. With the spell’s cooldown increase talent moved to level 15 from 20, he could potentially become a fearsome initiator. The results have been mixed, however, and there’s still a lot of tinkering that needs to be done for the hero to reach the top echelons.
Winter Wyvern is probably a support hero to watch as the meta further develops. Her kit is designed around damage mitigation through Cold Embrace’s physical immunity and Winter’s Curse forcing enemies to attack their own allies, while Splinter Blast is decent wave clear. Low base damage hurts her laning, though, and her spells all require a bit of forethought to prevent them from turning into a double-edged sword.
Perhaps thanks to OG.Saksa’s exceptional performances on Windranger, more teams are trying out the hero as a greedy support. Or maybe the pros are getting ready to spam the hero when the promised Windranger Arcana eventually drops.
Shackleshot is unreliable, but a latched one is one of the longest stuns in the game—and Powershot just hurts so much. Windrun lets her trade well with most heroes, provided they don’t have a ton of magic damage. She’s a skillshot machine, though. Hit and she looks like a world-beater. Miss and she feels inconsequential.
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.