Master of the UI - Part 1

There are several ways of gaining an advantage over your opponent. You can know more than he does - theoretical knowledge certainly helps. You can be faster than him, issuing commands with light-speed reaction. And you can be more efficient...

Unfortunately, we can't make you more agile - that comes with training and experience. But we try our best to help new and veteran players alike to understand their mistakes on a macro level, providing a lot of interesting statistics at-a-glance.

Recently we have also started writing some guidelines on the things that are not directly linked to a game, but have more to do with the human nature: communication and positive reinforcements to increase the chances of winning as well as the mindset required to be more consistent in-game.

This Blog post will be dedicated to the human-machine interaction and how the User Interface can (and should) be used to your advantage. It will also feature some general tips on certain aspects of the game.

Shall we begin?

Mad Skills

Even at my relatively high solo MMR of 4.3k, I still see a lot of people making the same mistake over and over again. For example, they skill an ability before they see the opponent for the first time.

I agree that in certain cases it does not really matter. However, there will be level 1 situations you face that will make you think: "If only I had Q, not E..."

My example on this would be one of the first games where I was playing Visage Visage competitively. We were a rather well-coordinated team and would often try to secure a kill before the game began, invading the enemy forest in Smoke of Deceit Smoke of Deceit in an attempt to catch an enemy warding support off-guard.

I would always skill Soul Assumption Soul Assumption, as it requires some damage to be collected around Visage to be effective and I didn't want to waste any of it. In most cases it worked out just fine. But there were a couple of situations, where we would initiate on a support with some form of disable, deal some damage through autoattacks, throw a semi-charged Soul Assumption Soul Assumption and still miss the chance for a First Blood.

And in each of these cases, I know for sure, had I skilled Grave Chill Grave Chill, we would be able to do it.

So here comes my main point - even if you have a plan in mind, you know the abilities of your teammates/adversaries and you are well-coordinated, DO NOT skill your Level 1 ability, until you are positive it is what you need at this exact situation. Sometimes I won't skill any points at all during the first few minutes of laning.

A hero at Level 1 with an ability skilled is exactly the same, as hero at Level 1 with one unspent skill point, only less versatile.

What I suggest is having a dedicated key to the Ability Learn command somewhere handy. In my case, I use T. So, if I need to level a skill, I do not use my mouse to roll all over the screen back and forth, trying to press two buttons, while completely disregarding what is happening on the battlefield. I just go T->Q/W/E/R, depending on what I need.

One benefit is that if you happen to level during a team-fight, you will be able to utilize the higher level of skill or even your ultimate with ease - you will not get distracted from the important things.


Have you ever seen the message: "Lol, I was shopping", right after someone died? I bet you did. And I am almost sure that the person sending the message was not referring to making a purchase on Amazon.

There is very little time for idling in a game of Dota 2. And a hero standing in the middle of the field, gazing into the fog of war while contemplating his life choices is a sad scene.

Absolutely, under every circumstance use the hotkeys for courier management and shops. And always use the Quick Buy option. Not only will it make the shopping faster, but it will also allow you to use your gold before you die.

I remember having a pub game with a friend against an enemy Nature's Prophet Nature's Prophet - the hero known for his courier killing potential. Since I played supports almost exclusively, I had the courier upgrade in my QuickBuy list.

At around 3:00 minute mark my mid teammate was having his items delivered by a land courier, when he noticed Furion using his teleport to snipe it out. He pinged on the minimap and seeing an Enemy hero Icon and courier Icon, I immediately understood what was happening and tapped my "Purchase QuickBuy" button, to see Furion being killed by my teammate and rotating offlaner some seconds later (we were playing Radiant).

The words of praise from my friend were unbelievably heart-warming, especially considering he is usually a "Rager" type of a player (a very good one though - 5k+). I had managed to upgrade the courier while the second projectile that would kill it was mid-air, effectively saving courier and getting Furion killed in the process.

All that was done with me pressing a single button, while actively harassing enemy heroes on my lane to create some space for our carry to farm. If that doesn't convince you to use QuickBuy, I don't know what will.

There are times when there is little to no input required, such as when you are farming the jungle, walking back to the lane or to base. Use this time to create a shopping list, rather than trying to do it in the middle of a battle, with the Shop overlay covering half of your screen.

I also recommend re-writing the Guides for some heroes, including Lifestealer, Tiny etc., that have somewhat outdated item progressions. And try to include as many situational items, as you see fit - the item builds should be extremely versatile. This way you will have quick access to virtually any item you may need and won't have to go through a lot of menus to get what you want.

The Thumb Almighty

It is said that the opposable thumb is what allowed humankind to reach what it has reached. Why don't we use it in Dota 2 then?

In line with what I have said previously about creating shopping lists and using hotkeys to shop I introduce to you - the most underused finger in Dota!

Bind some hotkeys to the area above the space bar. After some practice it will be very convenient to use them. In my case - I have C for camera grip, V for voice chat, B for opening/closing shop, N for purchasing Quiickbuy and J for Glyph of Fortification. This way I don't have to move my fingers from the "Action" area of Spells to do other things. And it certainly helps.

And since we have mentioned the Glyph - a lot of players should really learn to use it at an appropriate time. It might look cool, activating Glyph when the Tower has 1 HP, but unless you are going to do something about the enemy push - don't waste it. It is there to be used to react to the enemy threat, not to troll the enemy team for 5 seconds, consequently trolling yourself for 5 minutes of Glyph cooldown.

Additionally, I would like to point out that the space-bar can be used to do so much more that just inserting spaces between the words of rage you have towards your teammates in the all-chat. It is "Show Recent Event" by default, and I've kept it this way.

Reason: if you or your allies ping on a map/minimap it registers as the Recent Event. So, you can quickly check what is happening on the other side of the Map without having to scroll around (really bad and ineffective) or moving the mouse to the minimap area (not too bad, but still rather inefficient). And the second tap will return you to the initial camera position.

There is also a neat trick explained to me by my the same Mid player teammate I mentioned earlier - ping on minimap in the rune area where you have vision and double tap the space-bar. This split second is usually more than enough to see whether there is rune and what kind of rune it is (your brain will likely only register the color, but all runes have different colors, so it is ok).

The Thumb Almighty #2

I understand not everyone has the money or needs a mouse with a lot of buttons on the side. But there have to be at least two on yours - use them. I have bound the inventory slots for both of mine and I know for sure I don't need to scoop all over the keyboard to hex that enemy carry in the split-second I have before he uses his BkB.

All my other inventory slots are bound to Alt+Q/W/A/S HoN-style, and while it does not allow me to turn on/off auto-cast abilities, I am just way too used to this layout. And I usually use auto-cast abilities as abilities anyway.

Closing Comments

Today's Blog is already rather long, so I decided to break the UI tips into two posts. While the ones I have already mentioned are rather basic and are used by the majority of players, the ones to follow are going to be a bit more advanced and will deal with the actual gameplay.

Next time I will be discussing Shift-Queuing abilities and the time advantage it can provide!

As for now:

Thank you for Reading!

More from The Dotabuff Blog

    I like the thumb almighty, I am used to MMORPG's (like WoW) so i use WASD to pan, so i have my thimb in charge of an item, voice chat, attack move, an another item. I also have a mouse with a few buttons on the side and have my other thumb incharge of leveling up a skill and an item.


      Love this so much! Thanks for teaching me what the fucking space bar does, I plan to actually use it now!!


        Thank u for this, though most of the stuff im already using, its nice to see such a great effort on ur side. Hope to see more!

        Sup m8

          I also use WASD to move around the screen and QERF for abilities. I'm wierd

          Sheriff Rango

            "Today's Blog is already rather long..." I thought it was a bit too short :) good read


              nice nice

              KGB| Vịt

                Nice ty. And actually turn on the auto-transmit voice chat is much more convenient, I think :D


                  great post. Some ideas I will work on in the near future. Since you are talking about UI, I have a little tip myself for ui usage. I use a convenient hotkey (mouse thumb 2) for scoreboard. Its very useful to know your enemy's levels. How often do you think: Is (insert hero name) lvl 6 already?. Good thing about having a hotkey for it is it closes as soon as u release the hotkey, which is more efficient than double clicking top left.


                    I use the Ctrl+Ability key to level my abilities. It's even faster than having a hotkey.


                      poebae is right.

                      Spitzl1: I actually tried to make hotkeys for screen movement but I couldn't do it. :(


                        @dp.general_tao - Agreed! I should have added it to the blog post. I have mine on ` and my console is on "End", since I hate it when it suddenly appears over the screen (gaming on laptop for the last several years).

                        @poebae - I agree that ctrl+key can be faster on a full-size keyboard. And/or for people with long pinkies) After all, it is a matter of preference and I am not claiming that my way is the most efficient one. But it is definitely more efficient than having your mouse go over the screen back and forth.)

                        @soprof - I really want to have Razer Orbweaver for the single reason of having a 8-side pad under your thumb - moving map with a thumb could be very beneficial. Currently I had to stick with "Camera Grip" on "C", since it allows to focus on what's happening in the fight, rather than moving the mouse to the edge and back.


                          Дружище, интересно пишешь, но хотелось бы иметь возможность почитать на русском=)

                          Ser Ragealot

                            Just a few hints from me: I can just recommend F-keys. They are rly close, all you need is to staighten your fingers (for me its F1 for shop, F2 for miss, F3 taunt, F4 for curier deliver, F5 chatwheel). Another good thing is to not forget the ";" key, in WoW it was panic button for me (you just cant miss it), now its #1 control group.

                            btw. i dont use any macroes so F4 for curier deliver, 5 for curier select a R for speed is all in one lane!


                              Could you share your config.cfg file if possible?


                                I use one of my mouse buttons for deny and the other one for my most important item in team fights, it's been really useful. Especially on heroes like Nyx, where being quick with your dagon combo assures a gank will be succesful.


                                  I don't feel wasting a button on denying is worth it, just enable right click makes small but noticable difference.


                                    I physically removed two keys from my keyboard: the windows key and the key to the left of "1" (console key-at least it was). I was considering removing the spacebar cause it shifts the camera to the last ping. Alt-tab can also be pressed instead of alt-q. These unreasonable keyboard shortcuts messes me up for them anything the shop ui could.

                                    I'm currently playing Meepo and I also have problems with the "unified control command" enabling randomly sometimes. It orders the command to ALL units regardless of what you are currently controlling (including the red hp guy I was painstakingly trying to micro-away). The "auto-select illusions" messes up the first skill of PL. The "quick cast" option does more harm than good (too many laguna blades on creeps, etc). Spacebar-clicking an ultimate instead of alt-clicking it will cause it to trigger. The default "Y" for chatwheel messes your left hand position (cause the right hand is on the mouse).

                                    These things are more important (for experienced players) than the screen UI. Shopaholic will only get you killed once or twice (unless you never learn)... but bad keyboard layout will limit your gaming capabilities FOREVER. In fact, DK.Mushi can't play invoker or any micro-hero because of his keyboard layout.


                                      @ Legendhunter64

                                      You can make the key disabled through the UI or through windows instead of popping the key off. Then you won't have an ugly looking keyboard.

                                      @ Havoc Badger. Dang didn't know there was a right click denly button instead of me A clicking creeps or heros that are below the health threshold..... I will have to turn this on ty.

                                      Good read. I made a thread about the quickbuy and after reading this through I found I was hot keying a wrong button instead of doing quick buy. Helped my gameplay a ton last night using my thumb button for quickbuy for queued items I had stored. Finally worked after... IDK 2k games I've played? So many times I've screwed around in the shop when I wanted to quick buy items....

                                      Another good point is the LVL 1 stats and shopping. Good read on that too. I find myself doing the lvl 1 skill build change on my centaur warrunner when laning. In a solo queue, I am troubled with "am i solo offlaning or tri laning or dual laning with him? What enemies are going to be in my lane?

                                      I used to do a standard Q W W E W R W Q Q Q R E E E U R skill build with him but no longer. Heavy damage units for potential nuke down I now skill Q E E W E R E W W W R Q Q Q U R to give more feedback on my centaur since I can't get in close and do a double edge.

                                      Same goes for my dazzle. Last night I stopped doing Shadow wave right away and went poison touch lvl 1 when I found I was going to be in a tri-lane situation. There I don't need to constantly heal my carry and harass is needed more on the solo offlaner to keep them out of deny, last hit and xp range. So instead of E W E Q E R E Q Q Q R W W W U R I went Q E Q Q Q R Q E E E R W W W U R. Big difference in the tri lane experience, and skilling differently at LVL 1 ended up winning the game:

                             Wraith King was able to catch the Timbersaw with his Q stun more with my Q slow poison touch as seen with his 3/9 KD ratio.

                                      Keep these coming Kawaii socks helped me out a ton and this is why I tune in to this page every day.


                                        I like to use my spacebar for the healing items like a wand early or a mek later. It's a big, hard to miss button so it makes sense for me to have it attached to something like that.

                                        And thanks for another great article.

                                        This comment was edited

                                          @OA | Havoc u cant deny a tower without the button for deny
                                          Today im playing so bad with my new bottons, i hope it help me in the future, but today....


                                            ^ QIAN

                                            You can hit A+CLICK towers to deny. You don't have to have the deny button enabled.


                                              I use the button to the left of 1 (| for me, norwegian keyboard) as the chat button. easy to click and is used enough to make worth it instead of some other button. I'm still terrible about purchase quick buy, although I do use the Quick buy for queuing up my next item. Great read though, useful although I knew most of it already :)


                                                finally, a comrade who get used to HoN style hotkeys. And here I thought I'm the only one XD



                                                  Agreed. HoN Alt+qweasd for items is very intuitive imo.

                                                  Judge Justified

                                                    Thanks for the tips! I haven't been playing for that long and I now understand the efficacy of e.g. having the courier upgrade on quick buy! Moreover, the thumb almighty was well written! I use a naga hex with six buttons on the side, I can recommend the mouse if you are looking for an easy way to utilize your inventory slots.


                                                      Am I the only full legacy keys player here?

                                                      The last time i did try qwer, ended screwing myself.


                                                        qwer is superior to legacy in every way

                                                        This comment was edited

                                                          I use space bar for my ultimate lol. It is just something I have got used to over the time I have been playing. I use mouse 4 for attack move and and mouse 5 for turning orbs on and off.


                                                            I finally changed my quick buy button to my 2nd thumb mouse button. Big improvement since reading this (and understanding I was binding the wrong key for quick buy....) Big help thanks a lot! :)


                                                              I wish I had known about those spacebar tricks earlier. It's bound to my invoker spells and I have too bad of a habit to change it :/


                                                                I actually use 1 2 3 4 for my skills... r t y f g h for my items. A bit strange perhaps, and wasd for moving the camera ofcourse :)

                                                                Gonna try the space bar thing, and perhaps move the inventory to Alt+ aqwsed or 2of 'm to my mouse buttons but I don't have this mouse everywhere. I also use F1 for my own hero, F2 for courier

                                                                This comment was edited
                                                                for the difficult

                                                                  Spacebar for dagger. Best thing ever. Quickcast enabled ofc.


                                                                    How Can people us wasd to move the camera? i use qwerf for abilitys, a is deny, S is Stop and d is... well d. I use my mouse buttons for micro-ing. F2 is courier select, F3 for Deliver, F4 is open shop and F5 is quickbuy. Tab is select all units and the `~ is the scoreboard. My items are space,z,x,c,v, i use the cursor to scroll the screen

                                                                    This comment was edited