The introduction of comeback gold mechanics in the aftermath of TI4 have put turtling strategies back into the meta. For a period of time, the early game advantage was less of a game-deciding factor, with hard carries have reigning supreme. Despite being substantially smaller in scale, the comeback gold is still a part of Dota and turtling is a viable option. Identifying and dealing with it is a very necessary skill in the current metagame.
Turtling is a gameplay strategy which relies on heavy defense and late-game potential. It is usually associated with heroes that excel with massive Net Worth, despite a general Net Worth and map control disadvantage. Turtling drafts generally work by minimizing the risk of getting ganked, while taking only favorable, high-ground fights.
Dying in a game of Dota has always been severely punishing. Currently, with extra bonus gold, which depends on the Net Worth difference of the killer and the victim, it can result in sizable swings in overall economy of the teams, making the next attempt to breach the enemy base even riskier. The Turtling strategy’s main win condition is getting to a point where an overfarmed late-game carry will be able to win the game in one fell swoop, after several successful defenses.
Drafts that rely on turtling the game from the start generally have very defensive heroes to back up their late-game cores. As such, the laning stage of such drafts tends to be weaker in comparison to most other lineups. They might lack damage, lockdown, push potential and a variety of other things. An average pub draft should easily take advantage of at least one of these aspects during the early stages of the game.
During this stage it is not always necessary to kill the opponents, but rather try to gain tempo and take map control. Being reckless against defensive heroes has a high chance of failure. Instead, concentrating on the objectives by forcing the opponents out of the lane, rather than killing them, can be the better course of action.
When taking early objectives it is also necessary to always keep an eye on the potential teleport rotations of the enemy and their levels. Luckily, information regarding the latter is readily available in the scoreboard. Heroes like Nyx Assassin, Tidehunter and many other are the prime candidates for constant checking—their threat levels increase dramatically once they get their ultimates.
Being too passive in the early stages can be a huge mistake; however, farming efficiency also has a very high priority. It is generally best to leave the cores static, allowing them to farm efficiently, while aggressively rotating the supports. The highest priority target during this stage is usually not the main carry of the enemy team, but rather their playmaker/initiator and a potential split-pusher, if they have one. Once again, getting a kill on these heroes is optional—delaying their item and level progression is the key. The reward for an early-game kill does not always justify the potential risks.
Many cores heroes come online very fast and generally have a huge power spike associated with their ultimate. Early game rotations are not exclusive to supports, and sometimes it might be a better idea to let one support farm, while the core roams and applies pressure on the enemy (e.g. letting your Lion get an early game-changing Blink Dagger in lane, while Gyrocopter applies pressure).
This will ensure that supports have money for both vision and utility consumables as well as a mobility, survivability or teamfight item. Come mid game this will ensure their usefulness and will make them harder to kill. Given the probable difference in Net Worth, all deaths on your team have a high impact and are best avoided. Ganks and rotations by stronger core heroes also have higher chances of being successful and are more easily translated into objectives.
The mid game against stronger late-game opponent is best as a team of at least four heroes. Getting map control and applying pressure are, once again, extremely important as are the objectives.
If the early game went well, it will be usually easy to take out the outer towers and, with the help of several aggressive wards, take control of the map. By efficiently farming 70% of the map’s resources for a brief period of time in the mid game and promptly getting to your big core items, it is possible to start sieging high ground early.
On the other hand, if the opponent is already capable of fighting, it is best to use hit-and-run tactics. Aggressive wards around the objectives and smartly used Smokes can net a kill on a priority target, which should translate into an objective. Attempting to take objectives against a full turtle-based enemy lineup can be met with a strong retaliation and potentially gift the enemy a chance to get to the late-game.
Regardless of how the early game went, passive farming is borderline suicidal against a team which has a late-game win condition. Even if one or two push attempts have been repelled, it is still possible and advisable to try and find an opening. Passive Dota is one of the main reasons 5-carry lineups even have a chance in the lower skill brackets.
When at least two lanes of outer towers of the enemy team have been destroyed, it is possible to start sieging the high-ground.
The biggest mistake inexperienced players make when sieging the enemy base is overcommitting. Usually only a hero or two in a team are capable of dealing significant damage to the structures—there isn’t really much even a farmed support can contribute in this sense.
Turtling strategies thrive on punishing mistakes like this. By having several heroes in a small chokepoint, you provide an opening for a massive AoE initiation and risk having several of your heroes wiped before they even contribute anything to a potential fight.
When taking high-ground from practically any team, but especially the one relying on turtling, it is best to only have one hero at a time beating on the structures, with everyone else in relatively close proximity ready to save the teammate or even run away safely.
Worst case scenario, the enemy will have to commit some longer cooldowns on dealing with the single pushers, allowing you to come back later and finish the job. Best case scenario—your team will deal some chip damage, retreat once the creeps have died, regroup and once again send a single pusher to deal some chip damage. This process is undoubtedly tedious, but it ensures safety and massively decreases the probability of enemy winning the game.
If a lane of barracks is taken successfully, fall back, regroup and repeat the process on the next lane.
It is also a very good idea to have your lanes pushing in close to the enemy base. It will provide some breathing room against potential split-push and can also show opening for a low-risk high-reward calculated aggression.
If and only if the enemy main DPS is on the other side of the enemy base taking out creeps, it can be a good idea to aggressively jump the enemy and potentially burst down a target or two. Once again, however, be mindful of buybacks—even if you managed to kill off the enemy Tidehunter or Enigma, you are still probably inside the enemy base and can be forced to take a very unfavorable teamfight.
It is best to not get to this stage against a superior late-game lineup, but it can undoubtedly happen.
Maybe a smoke wrap-around caught you off-guard while you were safely sieging or you miscalculated the gold and thus the Power Level the enemy initiator has and have been caught in a massive buyback-ultimate, but it is the enemy who now has the upper hand and has gained enough momentum. First of all—Do Not Panic!
Depending on the situation and the state of the game the enemy can either farm some more or, if the game has been going on long enough, will try to push for the victory.
If the enemy has opted to farm, smoke-ganking should once again become the top priority. Winning a teamfight might be problematic, but with a numbers advantage it can be possible to take down a priority target.
Otherwise, prepare for the Last Fight.
It is always advised to have buybacks in the late game, but be extremely careful when using them. A bad buyback will leave a dent in your economy and will solidify the enemy position even further.
Use as few buybacks as possible. The first priority is usually not the main core of your team, but rather a hero who is best at outpushing the lanes. If this hero can stall the enemy push long enough it might not be even necessary to use buybacks.
Second priority is your lockdown/initiator hero. This hero should usually buyback only if not buying back will mean losing the game or two lanes of barracks. His job is to help stalling the enemy push, but also to set up for a turn-around.
Wait for the enemy to get overconfident and fully commit to a push. Using too many buybacks early can deter the enemy from pushing at all and in a scenario when the enemy has the tempo and is stronger it is not what is usually best for your team. They will farm some more, while your team will remain frightened and will come knocking on your door in the most inopportune moment.
Good team coordination at this stage is crucial, everything should coincide perfectly. Buyback on your cores and start tp-ing them to the lane immediately (or, if they are mobile enough just use mobility spells). Once the enemy is distracted and/or starts falling back, begin your initiation. This way it is usually possible to disable several heroes at once relatively safely and immediately start dealing damage from the cores which have just rotated.
This fight will usually be game deciding and focusing down heroes who cannot return to it is the best course of action. The enemy core who recently won a fight in her base and has done some pushing on the way will probably have enough money for a buyback and BoTs, so unless you can deal with the hero twice, it is best to quickly wipe other squishier targets and then focus on the main course.
Winning this fight will usually win the game outright or at the very least allow your team to return to the mid game state, where the rules discussed previously will once again apply.