Bob Ross’ The Joy of Dota

Treant Protector

Three Lane Highway

Every week, Chris documents his complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2 and wizards in general. To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

Pretending to be Axe for an entire game of solo ranked Dota 2 turned out better than I’d expected. I got my +25 MMR, I enjoyed a long, dramatic game, and I got to shout in all caps the entire time. I left it feeling that I’d finally found the One Simple Trick that could make playing like this fun.

If the big important take is that taking solo ranked less seriously is a good way to combat MMR anxiety, then the smaller and subtler take is that adopting a completely different personality makes it easier to deal with the people that matchmaking clumps you together with. People can't get personal when they're not really yelling at you.

With that in mind, I wanted to continue experimenting with personalities. Axe represents one end of the spectrum—big, brash, aggressive—but what lies on the other end? What would it mean to play an entire Dota game as somebody calm, supportive, and encouraging? Somebody who once said this, regarding his military career?

"The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it."

What would it mean to play an entire game of Dota 2 as the hero the internet did not know it needed, Bob Ross?

The pieces fell into place very quickly. Bob Ross was a positive, calm and instructive man. He left a demanding and sometimes hostile job in order to make a publically-broadcast show intended to spread a love of art. He did the show for free, making money instead from art supplies. Bob Ross might not actually be a Dota hero, but I knew immediately which Dota hero he would be if he was: Bob Ross is Treant Protector. He's a big, happy, supportive tree.

I change my Steam avatar to Ross' iconic headshot and my Steam name to 'Bob Ross'. I get in the queue. This is what happens next.

Bob Ross Dota Pregame 1

I lock Treant Protector straight away and introduce both myself and the game. It's important to open positive, to lead with the end result and explain how anybody—yes, even you!—can get there. In this case: you might feel like MMR gains are beyond you, but Bob Ross is here to prove that they are not.

Immediately after I type this, somebody starts typing a lot in Russian. They lock Legion Commander and call the jungle. I assume they're asking if that's alright. "It's your jungle, Legion Commander!" I reply. "Just follow your dreams." The response is in Russian.

Bob Ross Dota Pregame 2

One player locks Weaver offlane and somebody else takes Huskar mid. This irritates Legion Commander, who switches to English in order to demand that everybody report Weaver. While this is happening, I'm encouraging the remaining player to take Anti-Mage to the safelane with me: after all, who am I to judge? It's their game of Dota. Nonetheless, my attempts to calm Legion Commander down do not appear to be working.

We roll into the game with Treant Protector, Anti-Mage, Legion Commander, Huskar and Weaver. We're up against Medusa, Dazzle, Queen of Pain, Silencer, and Magnus. Nobody's drafts make very much sense, but now—there's nothing wrong with that, is there.

It's an extremely passive start. Anti-Mage and I are up against a solo offlane Queen of Pain, who we zone out effectively. I am using Living Armor to sustain Weaver on our own offlane, but not much is happening anywhere. Eventually, Huskar gets first blood on Magnus mid.

In response, Magnus rotates top and goes for a three-man gank on Anti-Mage with Queen of Pain and Dazzle. They wait until he blinks in on Queen of Pain, then blow Skewer and Reverse Polarity. I manage to buy him the time to blink back out with Living Armour and Leech Seed.

Bob Ross Dota 8 min

I know it's out of character to slip into a Bob Ross meme rather than an actual Bob Ross quote, but it felt appropriate. Anti-Mage laughs and says "yes, saved!" over in-game voice. He is farming well, and has made good progress towards his Battlefury. I declare my intent to place some happy little wards elsewhere, and leave the lane.

There's an engagement mid but it's inconclusive. The teams are even on kills, but only because our angry Legion Commander has failed two duels already. Everybody else is doing pretty well. I get us vision around Roshan as well as in their jungle and wander back to base to get my mana back.

Bob Ross Dota 11 min

As the laning phase breaks down we take one or two bad fights: they're grouping up heavily around Magnus, while we're still roaming in twos and threes. The game enters that uncertain phase where nobody is snowballing yet but somebody might be about to.

Weaver gets caught in their jungle but slips away, dragging the entire enemy team towards the Rosh pit. I think he'd survive without Living Armour, but applying it gets him back into fighting condition quickly. Myself, Legion Commander and Huskar charge in. LC dies almost immediately, ceding another burst of bonus damage to the Dazzle he decided to duel. There's some angry pinging and a little chat rage—but the fight isn't over yet.

I throw down Overgrowth, Leech Seed, and stick Living Armour on Huskar who goes on to pick up a triple kill while Anti-Mage split pushes top. It's a tipping point for the game.

Bob Ross Dota 17 min

By twenty minutes Anti-Mage has Battlefury and has almost finished his Manta Style. We sneak Roshan while Huskar harasses them elsewhere, and extend our lead. Legion Commander still hasn't killed anybody.

I'm enjoying being relentlessly positive about everything, and somehow this absurd act of roleplay is making me more supportive in other ways. I'm playing a hard position five Treant—Arcane Boots at twenty minutes feels like a luxury—and I'm enjoying it. When Anti-Mage drops his Poor Man's Shield to grab the Aegis of the Immortal I get the courier to come and get it. My only deaths occur during teamfights, when I throw myself into the melee to distract the enemy from my more-valuable teammates. I don't feel resentful about it all.

I don't think any of the people I'm playing with have actually heard of Bob Ross, and they don't necessarily find my positivity infectious. But—and I didn't see this coming—I think pretending to be Bob Ross has actually made me nicer.

Anti-Mage's Manta Style in hand, it's time to fight—and what follows is one of the most crushing single fights I've seen. They're grouped up where the Radiant tier one mid tower used to be. I sneak around behind them using Nature's Guise, and as Huskar jumps in I emerge and cast Overgrowth. I can't do much during the Global Silence, and Legion Commander dies, but I'm able to Leech Seed the Dazzle and Living Armor Anti-Mage as soon as it times out. Anti-Mage, Weaver and Huskar clean house while I cheer on from the sidelines.

Bob Ross Dota 22 min

They don't have buybacks, and we're able to take both barracks in mid and one in bottom lane before the first defenders appear. They wander in one by one, and we have sustain for days. We take bottom lane, and rotate top. I've not seen a solo ranked team successfully go for mega creeps at 23 minutes before, especially not off the back of a teamfight in the river—but this is our Dota game.

The enemy team are all alive by the time we hit their top barracks. They group up and move to push us off, leading with Medusa's Stone Gaze. My team backs away, but I decide that it's time to make a big dramatic choice. This scene needs a huge tree in the middle of it. I walk straight at Medusa and turn to stone halfway through the cast animation of Overgrowth.

Bob Ross Dota 24 min


Their entire team focuses fire on me, but my team gets the hint. Anti-Mage blinks, Huskar jumps, and Weaver weaves. Legion Commander wins a duel! They can't kill me before Stone Gaze wears off, but I'm incredibly low. I hammer R. The entire surviving enemy team is wrapped in thick, happy vegetation. I fall, but so do they. I watch as their top barracks are destroyed, then their tier four towers.


Bob Ross Dota 25 min

While I wait to respawn, my team backs off. Weaver buys a Divine Rapier, for some reason, which he will subsequently lose inside the enemy fountain to no great consequence. Legion Commander wins another duel, somewhere. When I spawn I pick up an Aghanim's Scepter, and while wandering to the final fight I use it to apply some dazzling highlights to a nearby tree.

Anti-Mage and I push into their base, pick up another couple of kills, and start on the Ancient. I use another Overgrowth to lock them in the fountain and start happily punching away. What a rare and exciting game this was: fast but only one-sided at the very end, greedy in the draft but ultimately successful and mutually complementary. 25 MMR for everybody! I step back, happy with the result.

Bob Ross Dota 26min

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Chris is the editor of PC Gamer Pro. After many years spent turning beautiful trees into magazines, he now oversees our online coverage of competitive gaming and esports.
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