Three Lane Highway: several exciting ways for friends to lose games of Dota 2 together

Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes earnest, sometimes silly column about Dota 2.

I've been in a few teams in the two years I've been playing Dota. I say 'teams', but what I mean is 'groups of five people that agree to put up with each other's ceaseless theorycrafting'. I'm in a team right now, in fact. We're called the Hot Dukes and if you play on Europe West you've probably beaten us.

It's a lot of fun. One of the things I like most about playing with a dedicated stack is learning new and imaginative ways to throw matches. I mean, we're not terrible - our matchmaking ratings range from Questionable to Pretty Good - and we're all capable of big plays in the right conditions. But we're nonetheless capable of falling on our asses with a weight and precision that belies the fact that we'd rather not fall on our asses at all. We've developed a methodology for screwing up that approaches science, and it's this methodology that I'd like to share with you today. If your friends are looking for new ways to extend the range of your throwing arm, or are simply looking for an explanation for why you lost that game, I think I might be able to help.

METHOD #1: Fighting One At A Time Like Movie Ninjas

You can substitute 'Movie Ninjas' for 'Assassin's Creed Guards', if you prefer. Either way, this is a corruption of the Conservation of Ninjutsu principle: the notion that one ninja might be a deadly threat, but an army might as well be a disposable mass of mooks.

You'll usually experience Fighting One At A Time Like Movie Ninjas after your team has had a good start. One or two of you are full-on snowballing, and you feel like you can take on the world. You've become the Good Ninja and the entire enemy team is just a great big horde of Bad Ninjas waiting for your righteous sword. You could take them in their jungle, under their tier two towers, in the Roshan pit, in the river, anywhere. Teamfights can go to hell: it's time to fight like awesome movie ninjas.

The enemy team will usually experience this phenomenon as a very long, very strange teamfight in which a series of suicidal semi-carries gradually feed away their early advantage by throwing themselves one by one into unwinnable situations. As each one dies they'll be replaced by other, equally suicidal semi-carries, running to assist their predecessors. Then the supports will follow, and then the first guy will have respawned or bought back and TP'd in and the cycle will start over. Your team might get a few kills, in this scenario, but will end up losing much more than you gain. The only reliable way I've found to stop a ninja cascade is to suggest a smoke gank: this forces everybody to gather in one place, and ninjas love smoke bombs.

In the event that both teams run at each other one at a time, this is not an instance of Fighting Like Movie Ninjas. It is a dance-off.

METHOD #2: Going To Camelot

Humans are social. We evolved to respond to one another in ways that serve the goals of the collective; we are built to cooperate. If we could pull this off perfectly 100% of the time we'd be absolutely unstoppable. We'd almost certainly have much better spaceships, and we'd definitely be much better at Dota. But we can't, we don't, and we're not. As the entire history of human culture has shown, our special degree of social intelligence is also capable of turning large groups of people into total morons.

Sometimes, when the circumstances are right, a team's natural empathy for one another can backfire. One person's stupid decision is taken as license for everybody else to make stupid decisions. The fact that somebody has spent an entire teamfight going "woooooooooooo" into her microphone means that everybody else will end up doing it too. Valve would argue that the wisdom of crowds is the most powerful asset at their disposal; unfortunately, their game often offers staggering proof that crowds can be dumb as hell.

Going To Camelot is what you get when one competent but disconnected group of people runs into five friends who probably lost the match when they spent the entire draft phase performing a mouth-trumpet rendition of the Game of Thrones theme. It is this principle that means that a team of five strangers sometimes has an advantage against a connected stack, because they are much less likely to overexcite each other and take the game to a silly place .

If you've ever found yourself wandering around the enemy secret shop with no clue what you're trying to achieve as your support Sand King gets stuck on a cliff while trying to de-ward and Disruptor uses a Clarity on Axe because he's forgotten which big red man he is then you are Going To Camelot. It feels innocuous, even harmless, at first: but you have recalibrated your social intelligence. You are idiots now. In five minutes your midlaner is going to be stuck in the trees near the enemy fountain and you will have no idea how he got there. At that point, mouth-trumpets are probably all you have left.

METHOD #3: Forgot About Dre

Counting is one of the most important skills you can learn if you want to be good at Dota 2 or life, and one particular number is much more important than all of the other numbers. That number is five.

There are five people on your team. Go on - count them! Five. Now, count how many people on the enemy team that you've seen so far. Anti-Mage? That's one! Shadow Shaman? Two! Centaur Warrunner? Three! Ember Spirit? Wow, you've seen four!

Don't celebrate too soon, hero - don't you think you might be missing somebody?


Your team Forgot About Dre. And now you have lost the game.

METHOD #4: Roshan's Law

Roshan's Law is one of the best ways to know for sure that you belong about midway down the food chain. You are deep into the match, probably losing, and you're not doing anything in particular. There are no enemies on your minimap, so you wander off to mop up a couple of hard camps or push the offlane back out to the river. You're making yourself useful, but not that useful.

An idea starts to form in the back of your mind. You're sure you know what it means when the entire enemy team disappears—or at least, you think you used to. This silence means something. You're sure it does! The answer is right at the tip of your tongue.

"Guys! Guys, I think they're doing Rosh."

Roshan has fallen to the Dire!

At some point in your Dota 2 career you have picked up an extraordinary power: you are able to anticipate enemy Rosh attempts at the exact point when they finish killing Roshan . As you hone your ability, you buy yourself more and more time. Eventually, you're able to call it anywhere up to four seconds before the Aegis drops. Your supernatural ability to anticipate a game-changing mishap exactly when the information is least useful to your team is truly a marvel, a thought that provides a little solace as you pick listlessly through the rubble of your ranged rax five minutes later.

METHOD #5: BKB Hipsterism

The enemy has drafted literally all of Dota 2's most magical dickheads. Silencer! Outworld Devourer! Invoker! Luna, Lina, Lion! The game hasn't even started yet and you are already up to your ass in wizard nonsense. You are going to be taking some magic damage this game, let me tell you.

However, this isn't your first wizard rodeo. Would that it were; the first one's always wild. You and your friends know exactly what you're going to do. You're going to muscle through the midgame, build Black King Bars on every single god damn hero, and swagger through teamfights like a bunch of giant golden swirly winners. "Whatever, asshole" you'll say, as magical tears bounce off your perfect untargetable golden abs.

Then, for whatever reason, nobody does that. Despite having established very clearly that this was going to be a BKB game - or a Linken's Sphere game, for some - almost everybody simply doesn't buy one. You get a Drum and a Mek, and then your ancient explodes. Good job, team!

This is an example of the phenomena known as BKB Hipsterism. It's a useful and sometimes essential item, yes. But everyone buys them. They say nothing about you . Besides, is there anything more gauche than turning gold? God, no. I mean, look at that thing. It's a gothy golden skull on a stick. You might as well walk in wearing a treachcoat and a fedora calling yourself Mystery . BKB could stand for 'Burger King Breakfast' for all that it's likely to appeal to people who consider themselves to be tastemakers. And so you grow a beard and buy a Pipe instead. AND YOU LOSE THE GAME. AGAIN. GOD. GOD ALMIGHTY, GUYS.

Chris Thursten

Joining in 2011, Chris made his start with PC Gamer turning beautiful trees into magazines, first as a writer and later as deputy editor. Once PCG's reluctant MMO champion , his discovery of Dota 2 in 2012 led him to much darker, stranger places. In 2015, Chris became the editor of PC Gamer Pro, overseeing our online coverage of competitive gaming and esports. He left in 2017, and can be now found making games and recording the Crate & Crowbar podcast.