Friday Night Dota - Ability Draft Tips.


I have decided to make a weekly theme for the Friday Blog posts - something that will not necessarily be as useful in terms of actual hardcore gameplay, but will be fun to read. Ability Draft mode fits perfectly in this category (even though I occasionaly try-hard in it).

Some of you have probably played the mode back in the Dota 1 days - and it is a lot of fun.

While I try to keep myself in shape and play proper games once in a while, I couldn't resist trying out the mode in Dota 2. Especially after a somewhat busy week of writing blogs for you guys. It is hard to relax in something you are writing about and analysing so much.

So, without further ado - tips for the Ability Draft mode!

State of Mind

I can never stop stressing how much a correct attitude is crucial to winning at Dota. Yes, I might come to AD to have some fun, but what is more fun than winning?

I had a very interesting conversation today with a player from the enemy team. I had a Viper Viper hero model and managed to take three of his spells - Poison Attack Poison Attack, Nethertoxin Nethertoxin and Viper Strike Viper Strike during the draft. I topped that with Grave Chill Grave Chill.

Viper is an excellent mid hero and I had no problem winning the lane from a poorly drafted Lycan Lycan. I went on with an aggressive build constantly ganking and killing a lot of opponents.

And that is when enemy Visage Visage started blaming me for being unoriginal, picking skills from the hero I was given and even told me that I "don't get [the mode]"

That made me question myself - was I really doing something wrong? And the answer is No.

I believe the whole idea behind the Ability Draft mode is creating a hero that is ridiculously overpowered. And the more overpowered he is - the better. People can complain as much as they want about "cheesy" tactics or skill combinations, but considering that they had the chance to draft the same skills and be overpowered themselves, there is no way to justify these complaints.

So, let's start with the tips!


The first thing you need to look at is the hero model you were given. Try your hardest not to be a Melee hero.

If you happen to be melee, you could always draft some ranged orb effects like Searing Arrows Searing Arrows and enjoy the ranged properties - it is very important for laning, since supports in this mode are not easily defined and you can face a lot of harass in lane.

Though, if you are sure there will be someone to help you secure some farm (if you are going to try to carry the game), then by all means pick something more useful.

You need to make decisions based on what Body you were given - some skill combinations might seem really good on paper, but you will not necessarily have mana to use them. Or using them would force you to get a lot of mana/intelligence items that might not necessarily synergize with the model you were given.

Another important thing to consider is the cast animation. While Ball Lightning Ball Lightning makes sense on Leshrac Leshrac in terms of mana requirements, it certainly doesn't if you consider the Leshrac's horrible cast animation. So, if you are expecting some combination of skills to work, you should also consider whether it can be pulled of an a hero with long cast animation. You can refer to this list to see what heroes have the worst/best skill animations and make appropriate conclusions.

And to top all that - some of the heroes have particular properties that are specific to their body. That comes in handy when considering an Aghanim's Scepter Upgrade. I had a game with a friend where he randomed Night Stalker Night Stalker, but couldn't get his ultimate. He still went for the Aghanim's Scepter, since he had the Nether Strike Nether Strike and was unexpectedly pleased to get the "flying" vision as well. His other skill was Lunar Blessing Lunar Blessing and 2800 "flying" vision at night was amazing!

Other honourable mention in the section would be Silencer Silencer. Since one of the last updates transferred the permanent Intelligence gain from Glaives of Wisdom Glaives of Wisdom to the body itself, some scaling abilities could really work wonders on the hero!

...and Magic

Now let's get to the interesting part - picking your skills.

Synergy! That is the most crucial part of whatever you want to pick. You could think of it in terms of item choices - Blink Dagger Blink Dagger is very good on Earthshaker Earthshaker because of his Echo Slam Echo Slam ability. You could possibly get Anti-Mage Blink Blink or Queen of Pain Blink Blink to complement it, having a devastating initiation at level 6!

Another interesting thing, is that there are skills with relatively low cooldowns, that can not be utilised by the original hero as much due to the mana limitation, but could be very good on an intelligence hero. I had a Tinker Tinker with a Spirit Lance Spirit Lance. Even though it is not necessarily a combo, it worked extremely well, since Tinker has no issues spamming low-cost nukes.

Checking the heroes of both teams is extremely important. While the "bodies" themselves are merely vessels for the magic of their choice, it could save you a lot of time when looking for a nice combination. For example, if you see Jakiro Jakiro in one team and Dark Seer Dark Seer in the other, you can be sure, that somewhere in the mess of a skill pool there is an amazing Vacuum Vacuum + Ice Path Ice Path combo. And it only took you several seconds to deduce that.

The time constraint is annoying, and without thinking ahead or taking short-cuts you can be easily outdrafted.

Also - if you have a very strong combo in mind, but it includes 3 or 4 spells, most of the time it is not going to be worth it, since the ability can be taken before you have the chance to finish the combo and you will be left with 2 possibly suboptimal spells. So from here and on, the combinations discussed will be limited to 2 skills.

My favourites

I wouldn't go over your usual "perfectionist" Dota drafts ample in our own forums. Instead, I will go over some combinations that I have drafted myself and found extremely good.

Most of them involve the "on-cast" aspect I find extremely strong when there are low cooldown, low manacost spells in the pool.

  • Quill Spray Quill Spray + Static Field Static Field - simply hilarious. While one of the spells requires time to kick in effectively, the other one is excellent for initial damage. I have managed to draft the Reactive Armor Reactive Armor on top of that and you can imagine the consequences. I was just running around pressing Q and laughing maniacally.

There is a Passive combo I have seen against myself that I've found very similar and extremely good:

  • Nethertoxin Nethertoxin + Feast Feast - it was on a ranged hero, and I guess you can imagine the outcome.

  • Sticky Napalm Sticky Napalm + any DoT - very strong. Get several charges of sticky napalm on the enemy, throw some Damage-over-Time (Dual Breath Dual Breath is the best, since it deals damage every 0.5 seconds, activating the Sticky Napalm accordingly) and just watch your enemy cry. I didn't manage to get Dual Breath + Sticky Napalm yet, but the combo works wonders with Warlock's Shadow Word Shadow Word. And one can imagine the awesomeness of the combo with almost double the damage!

  • Aftershock Aftershock + Viscous Nasal Goo Viscous Nasal Goo - another somewhat effective and extremely rage-inducing combo. Have you figured it out? With 1.5 stun from Aftershock and 1.5 cooldown on Goo, you can create an annoying "Circle of Doom" in a 300 AoE around yourself. Something like Enigma's Black Hole Black Hole, only infinite. With a 30 manacost on Goo you can keep the enemy occupied for a while.

  • Enchant Totem Enchant Totem + Walrus PUNCH! Walrus PUNCH! - ~1500 damage at level 7. Enough said. Possibly one of the strongest combos in game. Didn't have a chance to try myself, but I don't think it can get better than that. Also, Enchant Totem is a skill you really don't want to miss. It is very strong.

  • Greater Bash Greater Bash + Ranged Hero - a very strong late-game combination that is even better if you have Attack Speed buffs (had it with Focus Fire Focus Fire, would prefer something like Battle Trance Battle Trance more). Enemy simply can't reach you. In fact, any "bash" ability is great on a ranged hero - keep an eye on them.

  • Ranged Hero + Strong Passive - you can have Fury Swipes Fury Swipes or Mana Break Mana Break or any other good passive - it will simply work. And if you are Ranged and Agility keep an eye on the Essence Shift Essence Shift.

I couldn't possibly list every combination, but the ones I have provided should give you the basic idea of what can work well in the chaos of AD.

Another tip I would give is to never go full passive!

I have tried it a couple of times with extremely good passives and it simply doesn't work if you are melee and will require a lot of levelling and farm to work if you are ranged. Always have at least one "utility" spell - something like Windrun Windrun could be a lot better than an extra Buff to DpS.

Closing Comments

To finish the post, I would like to give some tips from the "miscellaneous" section.

Some extra tips would include counter-picking - you see a very powerful combo on the table, with one of the components taken away by the enemy - pick the second piece just to prevent someone from being too overpowered.

Another thing to mention is "specialisation". If you are doing something - do it like no other hero can. Don't try to support if you have a late-game skill set. Don't try to turtle if you have a push composition. Do what you can do the best.

Moreover, while the mode is mostly "for fun" it doesn't mean that you shouldn't upgrade the courier or buy wards. For some reason a lot of people disregard this.

I truly hope that you are now a little bit more prepared for the Ability Draft mode. And, as always:

Thank you for reading! Do not hesitate to leave comments in the comment section below!

More from The Dotabuff Blog
6 god SMURF

    Impetus + Take aim + Psi Blades = LOL


      sticky napalm works best with ion shell


        Mana Shield + Static Field = Bullshit

        Æsir Badger

          Lina's passive with napalm is insane as well.

          Steph 7.07

            played against a centuar with PA blink + his hoof stomp + rot + dismember = bullshit

            such a combo...


              The best one is ion shell and napalm or rot + napalm. deals like 400 damage on level 1


                Lina's Fiery Soul with Venomancer Plague Wards (or any spammable spell) + skull basher = permastun

                Precise Pangolin

                  The two most broken skill IMO
                  Permanent Invisibility: Pick this with 3 nuke, you can pretty much go invis all game because casting spell/item doesn't break the invis. Unstable Concoction works really well with this skill.
                  Rearm: You already know how annoying Tinker is in normal matchmaking. Now imagine Rearm with pushing spell such as Force of Nature, Nether Blast, and Demonic Conversion.


                    The BEST GAME I've ever had on Ability Draft is this combo...
                    Hero: Viper 16/4/15
                    Q: Natures Guise (Treant)
                    W: March Of The Machines (Tinker)
                    E: Tombstone (Undying)
                    R: Rearm (Tinker)

                    When Natures Guise is casted on oneself you can be invisable while casting spells. So it was like a riki ultimate, but not an ultimate. So I just spammed Tombstones and March of the Machines while being invisible in teamfights. I tell ya, having 4-6 Tombstones up at the same time in a teamfight is unbeatable. There were so many zombies on the enemy heroes that they were completely surrounded and could not run.


                      biggest tip I could give for new people is to pick teamfight ultimates as soon as possible!
                      About 90% of AD games I played were won because of teamfight ultimates.


                        the one hit kill ON RANGE HERO
                        Lion - 44/6/13

                        Q - enchant totem
                        w- chilling touch
                        e - fissure
                        R - Grow(Tiny ult)

                        /\/ /\ T

                          Played a game a while ago with clinkz invis, Lina ult, brain sap from bane, and all that was left was ursa stomp. Sap, slow, ult, invis again. No one on the enemy team was horribly tanky so that combo with one or two right clicks did the job. Beyond godlike.


                            enchant totem + flack cannon + moon glaive + sven's ulti


                              Terrible terrible damage


                                enchant totem + flack cannon + moon glaive + sven's ulti

                                I am telling you this is really TERRIBLE DAMAGE


                                  Multishot + lina's passive, or any other toggling ability. Stacks will add every time you switch you multishot on\off.


                                    Had the Enchant Totem + Flack Cannon - it is really good indeed. Especially, if you are not lazy to go back and forth, waiting for ET to go off CD.

                                    Though, I still think ET + Walrus Punch is going to be the strongest 2-combo thing in the game.


                                      I managed to get:

                                      Fiery Soul > Essence Aura > Impetus > Mana Shield.

                                      Pretty funny and it annoys the hell out of everyone (including your teammates :D.)
                                      Spam Dusa Shield for free Lina stacks and Mana, then Impetus over and over.


                                        WD heal toggle procs fiery soul and essence aura, havn't tried if it procs overload, aftershock and/or zeus passive.. it should. That'd be insane. Because it's instant, and you could just spam your aftershock with it if you have essence aura as well or just a lot of mana in general.

                                        Edit: Mirana arrow with rearm was fun as well. I could lock down anyone 1v1 and kill them with only arrows without them moving at all.

                                        This comment was edited

                                          Enchant Totem + Jinada = one shotting all of the everything.


                                            Mana Shield or Split Shot (both medusa's toggle abilities) + Lina's passive or aftershock or static field= complete wreckage

                                            old MickeyMouse

                                              will this work?
                                              ESSENCE AURA
                                              STATIC FIELD


                                                Fury swipes + focus fire


                                                  was against a tusk with, quill, nasal goo, fiery soul and warpath...the attack speed, movement speed and damage he received was insane


                                                    Luna's glaves and godstrength... just demolishes people late game :D

                                                    Fearsome Doomguard

                                                      Tidebringer+ Any of enchant totem/jinada/grow/walrus punch/etc and grow is an easy rampage.

                                                      Boost Almighty

                                                        Netherward + rearm is pretty ridiculous. As if one or two were bad enough


                                                          "That made me question myself - was I really doing something wrong?" And the answer is YES.
                                                          How can you be such a boring guy to take 3 skills of the hero you got in this mode? Some combos you are listing are fun but the viper are really making this mode not fun for others if you're picking like that. Normal mode is about maximizing effectiveness and synergies and playing competitvely. AD is imho about having fun with ridiculous combos and laughing your ass off, not taking a hero and changing only one of his skills to maximize the synergy between them....

                                                          Seriously, if you just wanna win, go play a serious mode like CM. If you wanna have fun and let others have fun, go AD and pick some fun combinations...


                                                            @ Zapek

                                                            His point is that the art of AD is making overpowered combos. In the end, overpowered combos (what you call "ridiculous combos") are all about maximizing effectiveness and synergy. A combo overpowered precisely because of they are too effective together. Sometimes you get that by mixing unexpected skills, but in this case the most overpowered combo he was presented with was taking Viper's toolkit and putting in Grave Chill.


                                                              I don't agree with that. Of course everyone tries to make a ridiculously powerful hero but this is a purely for-fun mode and if you're sacrificing fun by making an uber-boring hero then you're clearly not doing anything 'artsy' here, you're just making it less fun for everyone else in the match.

                                                              Just look at the comments above. Do you see any of those people theorycrafting and excited about taking three original skills of a hero and one cherry skill on top? This is not what people have in mind when they play this mode...


                                                                Aftershock + Od´s orb + Essence aura. It´s even worse then goo + Aftershock.


                                                                  I once drafted static field, essence aura, arc lightning and chakram. Was pretty fun...


                                                                    I don't know if this works in Ability Draft, but Enchant Totem + Jinada + Tidebringer + Grow was a terrible Combo (until D2Ware fixed it).


                                                                      mystic flare+ranged stun on high int hero


                                                                        Don't know if anybody is still reading this, but if you happen to have the misfortune of being melee, but you see Timbersaw, Viper and Centaur Warchief in the must absolutely get Reacive Armor and one of the other on-hit passives. Ulti can be whatever and the other spell a stun or an orbwalking skill.

                                                                        I had great succes with an Sven with Corrosive Skin + Reactive Armor and a Lycan with Reactive Armor + Return.


                                                                          I got bs with thirst rupture static link and kraken shell.It was best. U run away from me u get damaged also I earn damage.U stay close to me I steal your damage.


                                                                            Silencer with Lycan's passive and ult, plus glaives and qop's Q. Utter ownage

                                                                            Fall Together

                                                                              fury swipes,backtrack,time lock,croup de grace...get farm


                                                                                I had lina with enchant totem and her fiery soul passive, also toss and reapers scythe which were fine but not that useful. so great a free 225 attack speed and a lot of move speed with one free high damage hit (since lina has good int gain that also worked well with totem) some time with farm I was dealing just under 1k damage. anyway, the real game changer was that you don't lose the bonus damage until one of your attacks hit! so if I got my bonus AS up to max and the enchanted totem, walked over unleashed four attacks each dealing about 700 damage the if I needed to enchant again and repeat for an easy 4k hp removed, worked on towers too near the end I did like 1/4 of their ancient per attacking spree, still a close game, they has a windrunner with grow and jugger crit so game was hard.


                                                                                  once my friend got lifestealer with kraken shell, huskar passive (resist/AS), brood ult and one shity skill....... guess swhat..... he got catchget with 5 heroes in enemy jungle with stuns etc...... rampage.... :D gg


                                                                                    lifedrain + Aghanims + Aftershock ( Extra: Essence Aura )= perma stun without cd
                                                                                    Ball Lightning + aftershock ( Extra: Essence Aura ) = perma stun without cd
                                                                                    Enchant totem + Tidebringer + Jinada+ Grow = GG Rampage hit. ( your dmg +150 x500% base dmg x2.25// Buying 30 of your main attribut gives 337 extra dmg.
                                                                                    Meepo Ult + Stuns/Spamspells /long range nukes

                                                                                    This comment was edited

                                                                                      This guide is wrong for casting animations. In AD mode, Each casting animation is linked to the actual spell, not the hero.

                                                                                      For example, Leshrac casting Burrowstrike is instant.

                                                                                      Dire Wolf

                                                                                        If you're an int hero with strong int gain going all active nukes can be more devastating than op passive combos. While fury strikes + ranged is a killer, I once had dragon knight fire, tiny's avalanche, tide's gush and lion's ult and the mana pool to cast them all. Two strong disables and 4 nukes I could 1v1 anyone.


                                                                                          Kunkka - Tidebringer
                                                                                          Tusk - Walrus PUNCH!
                                                                                          On an OD.
                                                                                          1 shot team wipes :D much fun was had.


                                                                                            Pick Meepo ulti, win games.
                                                                                            my friend had Silencer with Meepo ulti, Slardar's Sprint, Batrider's Firefly and Flamebreak. In mid-late he had 4-5 Silencers which were spamming flamebombs, which were all flying at 522 with Sprint, and firefly damage was stacking... And for the dessert... Each Silencer was stealing INT, enemy heroes had 100-200 mp.


                                                                                              i once got meepo ult with nether blast, purification, and rocket flare


                                                                                                Got drafted with Lycan and got Storm Hammer, meepo net and cant remember my other skill, but i kinda fed in the early game then spammed stun mid to late game to help silencer carry XD

                                                                                                  This comment was deleted

                                                                                                    I once had riki ultimate and scream of pain. I bought dagon and wrecked while being invis :)


                                                                                                      I had

                                                                                                      Q: Enchant Totem
                                                                                                      W: Stifling Dagger
                                                                                                      E: Sprint
                                                                                                      R: Coup de Grace

                                                                                                      I got a 4.2K crit at the end of the game, and 900 crit at lvl 6.

                                                                                                      Way too broken it was hilarious. Too bad I was meelee.