How to survive and thrive playing Dota 2 solo ranked

All us casual Dota 2 players know it. The feeling of dread and uncertainty before you jump into a game of solo ranked. At times, it’s like Russian roulette. What am I going to be getting myself into this game? Am I going to be matched with the guy who screeches at me in a language I don’t understand for 60 minutes? Or maybe I’ll be teamed up with the dude who paid £50 for his account, and is way way worse than his visible MMR suggests. Or maybe I’ll be matched into a team full of lovely people who want to enjoy the game as much as I do.

I fully understand why many people stay as far away from Dota 2 as they physically can. The community can, at times, be absolutely disgusting. For some of us with groups of friends this isn’t as much of an issue. However, for those of you who want to improve your solo match making rating. Or if you’re thinking about getting into Dota, but its community is putting you off—these tips for getting more out of solo games are for you.  

The mute button

This tip is an extremely obvious one. The mute button is there for a reason. If someone in your team is being abusive towards you or anyone else, and it’s making you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to mute them. If someone is of the disposition to abuse other people over the internet, you’ll find there’s probably no point arguing with them. The Dota community can be garbage, but you’ll find even if someone is being horrible over voice or text they will still play to win (no one likes losing). So do the obvious thing, just press mute.

Play Custom Games between matches

This one is not so obvious. A year or so ago Valve introduced the Arcade to Dota 2—an addition that isn’t used nearly enough. Say you’ve just finished a game that has gone horribly, some asshole in your team just spent the entire game flaming you. Before queuing again spend 15 minutes in a game of overthrow. It’ll make you forget about the game you just had, and possibly help you remember that Dota 2 is a fun game sometimes. Overthrow is also a great way of practicing different heroes. A lot of professional players use the custom game before big matches, to get themselves warmed up on specific heroes. There are plenty of other custom games that can help you blow off steam as well. Dota Imba is a personal favourite of mine, especially the 10 vs 10 mode. 

Pick one hero and really learn it

Maybe you’ve always wanted to be an amazing Axe player, so pick that hero a few times in a row when you queue solo. Really get to grips with the hero. Some of the best games of Dota I’ve played have been when I’ve decided, ‘you know what, I’ve always wanted to learn to play Arc Warden/Meepo’ and just played them over and over in unranked games. The desire to get good on whatever specific hero you chose will motivate you through difficult solo games. This is also a fantastic way of getting something out of a game that you’ve probably lost. Learning a hero, even in a losing game (as long as it’s close-ish) usually feels like you’ve done something productive—as you learn stuff that’s good against that specific hero. 

Watch Dota

If you’re lacking motivation to play this can be one of the best ways to fall back in love with Dota 2. For me personally watching replays of pro games from an individual player’s perspective is a great motivator and makes me excited to play Dota. It’s like with any sport, watching people at the absolute top of their game is inspiring. As well as this pro players’ streams are especially great. It’s educational to see the ways in which professional players deal with the trials and tribulations of solo queue. Some handle it better than others. 

Be nice to people

In life if you’re nice to people they’re normally nice back. The same is true for Dota. Don’t be a dick. There are so many nice people that play Dota. It’s one of the few games that you can still make friends on. I occasionally chat to and play with people I met in games years ago. Also, it’s worthwhile remembering, even if someone is being a grade-A dick in chat, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad person. Dota is a bloody stressful game at the best of times, and can make people say and do things they usually wouldn’t. Try helping people who are having bad games, and even if you lose they’ll usually be grateful. For example, if you notice someone doing something wrong, give them tips on what they can do to improve. A better alternative to berating them for what they did wrong. If they don’t accept your help well, as I said earlier, the mute button is there for a reason.

Think out loud

If you don’t have the luxury of playing with a group of friends, sometimes saying your game plans and ideas out loud to yourself can be helpful. It can help you catch mistakes before you make them, or coax you out of bad habits. When you think about it, it’s pretty much what streamers do. This is something that works well for me personally. It’s a great in game stress relief to get all your thoughts out and in front of you. Just don’t be surprised when anyone that hears you doing this thinks you’re mad.

Don’t get hung up on MMR

You might be 1k MMR, you might be 7k MMR. Whatever. It’s not important to anyone other than yourself. If you play Dota for fun, then remember to have fun. I use my MMR as a personal gauge of how much I’ve improved over the 6 years or so that I’ve played Dota. And guess what, it’s not actually that much, but I don’t care. I play Dota because I love it and because there’s nothing else like it. Unless you’re a pro player, it’s just a game, not a job. 

Learn a lot of Heroes

Players with limited hero pools definitely have less fun in solo games. For example, if you only play carry or mid and those roles get called, you’ll have to play a hero you don’t understand. This won’t be fun for you or any of your team-mates. Either that or you’re going to end up having an argument with someone before the game even starts. Again, not a fun experience. Take time to learn heroes, if you feel comfortable on a large number of heroes in every role you will feel a lot more confident queuing solo. 

Take a Break

If you’re finding yourself getting more and more stressed with each passing game, maybe you’re on a losing streak or something. Just take a few days off Dota. Usually you’ll come back with a new-found desire to play. When solo queue gets a bit too much for me I’ll take two or three days off, usually sit back and play something a lot less stressful. Then when I’m ready to come back I’ve forgotten what put me off in the first place. 

Don’t be afraid to add people

If you have a really great experience playing with a particular stranger in a solo game make sure to add them afterwards. Chances are they probably really enjoyed playing with you as well. After the game finishes ask if they’d like to queue up with you again and play some more games. It’s always worth adding nice people, especially if you have no other friends that play Dota.