How to snowball in a DotA2 competitive game?


Hello everyone ! So it has been a while since the last article, but from now on I will be publishing on a more regular basis. Indeed, and as you probably noticed, I had a lot of stuff to work on with the introduction of Sigma. It is actually still under development, and the announcement will soon be made. There also was ESWC, and the MLG Columbus invitation. Long story short : there is a lot to come for Sigma and everyone that supports the team in the upcoming weeks.


Nevertheless, today’s article will be in-game oriented, as I know this is the kind of content most of the readers are looking for. I decided to highlight a very interesting topic when it comes to DotA 2 strategies, I have actually been asked via tweets (@7ckngMadDOTA) many times to discuss that subject :

“How to ‘snowball’ in a competitive game?”

Before I get into the details of that question, I’ll just briefly give some context. The term snowballing is used in DotA when it comes to try to increase consistently and significantly your advantage, as a team, on the opponent. The snowballing obviously ends when you are able to end the game, either by destroying the enemy’s throne or by forcing their ‘FF’ call. The mechanism is quite simple, it is about outfarming and more generally outmoving the enemy thanks to the advantage you acquired during previous phases of the game.


Although this might seem quite easy and natural for newcomers, DotA players perfectly know that in actual fact, it really is not. The reason behind is the following : the more advantage you earn, the more map control you get, the more opportunities you get, and thus the more chances to do mistakes you have. Here is by the way a very good way to differenciate top teams from ‘unexperienced’ teams, as it is a double-edged sword kind of situation : top teams will be able to apply pressure everywhere on the map and to asphyxiate their opponents, whereas unexperienced players will just find in this situation a way to multiply mistakes and give away their advantage. I will seize this opportunity to finally say what I think about the famous ‘throw‘ trend… I know it’s been very funny and it helped to prettify many casts/games, but there is no such thing as ‘throwing’ a game. First of all is it a real lack of respect toward the opponent to say that a team threw away a game, indeed, playing from behind is probably one of the hardest thing to do. And secondly, this article will explain how difficult it actually is to snowball and to never, at any point, relieve the pressure you apply on your opponent.

“They had that game, but they just threw it”

To start off with this explanation, you should know that there are, amongst all the top teams, snowball specialists! Agressive teams by nature fit perfectly to that description. Watch Na`Vi play and you will quickly understand what ‘applying pressure’ means in DotA : ganks everywhere, towers falling one after the other, a completely black map for their enemy, etc. One thing that has to be mentioned, though, is that snowball always starts from an advantage you have on your opponent, whether it’s in terms of G&E (gold and experience), or just because you have a superior draft.


Map control :

So the first aspect and probably the most important one to ‘snowball’ properly is the map control. By map control I mean remove the enemy’s wards by getting a gem or by purchasing sentries. The idea is simple : your advantage allows you to buy more counter-wards then what the opponent can afford, therefore you should have a stronger map control. If you are leading in-game, that means that the enemy can not afford to take a 5vs5 upfront teamfight, so playing with a black map makes it extremely difficult for them, because whenever they get caught out of position, the others can’t really back-up as it would mean the risk to take a fight (indeed, they do not see your position on the map and do not know if it constitutes a bait or not). Gem should be the first reflex, and unlike what people usually think, the sooner the better.



Outpush lanes :

The second major aspect, in my opinion – and I want to take time to highlight it because it goes again what I usually see from teams – is to outpush lanes permanently. Indeed, there is absolutely no need to control lanes, even if you think it denies farm from your opponent (and it does!). The reasoning once again is simple : you have the advantage and consequently you probably pushed more towers than your opponent did. When you outpush your lanes fast, your creeps will walk toward their base until they find themselves in front of a tower. They will grant you vision, map control ( ability to tp with bot, etc), but more importantly they will force your enemy to defend their towers and outpush (their turn now) the lanes. This will, naturally force them back on the map and extend your positions. Additionally, during the time they waste farming under their towers, you have all the space in the world to think of what you want to do. It can be many things :

– Prepare a gank or a dive under a tower ( they are split since you outpushed all the lanes )

– Outfarm them by farming your jungle & their’s

– Do roshan

– Smoke yourselves and force a fight.

Permanently outpushing lanes is, I hope you understood it, the key to pressure your opponent and apply map control. It is also the best way to deal against split push, not even the best actually, but just the only one.



Force teamfights :

It brings me now to the third aspect that I mentioned, ‘forcing fights’. If you are able to pressure them on the map, it means that the enemy is dodging the 5vs5 clashes, because it is very unlikely they can win one. So of course, you will be looking to force fights. This is one of thoughest thing to do in DotA, and to be completely honest I am still trying to figure it out. It is hard because forcing a fight requires to be minimum 3-4, maybe even 5, in case they do decide to take it. The problem with it is that they can then split push you as much as they want since you are more or less visible and showing what you do. There is of course the smoke of deceit, it’s the best way to force fights, but it’s limited, so my reasoning exludes smokes. From my perspective, there are several ways to force fights. The best one is probably your pushing ability. The faster you push, the harder it is for them to avoid fights, as they will just lose their barracks if they do so. Another very clever way to force fights is to control the opponent’s jungle. The first step in order to secure the enemy’s jungle control is to take their t1 tower safelane. This is why you often see teams gathering for this tower, and most of the early game / mid game action is determined on that zone of the map, it’s usually the game-breaking clash. (To be completely honest it is also because it’s one of the hardest tower to defend). There are other ways to push in that direction, of course, but since it is not the main focus of the article, I’ll leave it here.



Respect between teams :

I want to add another aspect, as important in my mind. This one is less concrete though, and maybe harder to explain. I’ll try my best. First of all you have to understand that in a DotA game, the respect or by opposition the lack of respect between the two teams is crucial and will largely impact the game played. For instance, a random team against Alliance will probably think twice before they try anything, and have way more pressure on them than what their opponent actually apply. It is natural, but it will inevitably distort the match. The same is happening between top teams, for the one that are known for their agression, and the more passive ones. It’s also a very key factor of success in LAN events, the ability to force your opponent to respect you, to over-respect you if I can say so. How do you achieve that ? Well, you basically have to go for gamble moves. When HVOST wanders alone in the enemy jungle, and forces back his opponents because he made them think that there was more than only him, he is achieving an insane amount of map control. This is something you usually don’t see as viewers or spectators, but trust me, the opposing team feels it. So of course, he will get picked-off once in a while, and it might cost his team a lot ( a roshan, a tower etc), so at the end of the day the aim is to do it as smartly as possible, and to minimize the risks. But the reward is way higher than the loss of a hero, no matter how important he is to the game. Another type of gamble is the fake-dives, this is really important. Forcing tps will bring your opponents to lose map control, by definition. You know you can’t kill, but you act like so. It can even be a shadow demon support rushing on the opponent’s carry under his tower and instantly going back when he was able to force a tp. He can be on his own, as long as they do not see what’s behind him (in that case, nothing).



Outfarm the opponent :

As a conclusion I would like to remind you the most important thing : the aim of all this map control is to OUTFARM your opponent. Agressive teams are actually very greedy, they pressure their opponent in order to extent their positions and to outfarm them, until they are strong enough to break the base. This is why over-agression is always bad, and not even worth it. Snowballing requires a lot of control and thinking, even if it doesnt look like it. A logical article to follow that one would be ‘ How to break the base, to go high-ground ? ‘ Because that is also insanely tricky …But well, all this is what makes DotA so interesting, and us so passionate about it, right ? 



Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the reading. Thanks for all the support you show for the team and myself, it means a lot. Once again, more details will come on SIGMA and hopefully it will create a movement, that’s the aim. I’ll keep it unclear on purpose for now. Remember, these articles are nothing but the opinion of a professional player. You can follow me on twitter @7ckngMadDOTA. Cheers!


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7 responses to “How to snowball in a DotA2 competitive game?

  1. Brilliant as usual, you put a lot of scattered thoughts I have about the game into cohesive and elegant sentences. I agree teams don’t really throw games, but more they lose focus and in turn make mistakes against a team that is determined to find a way to get back into the match. Teams like Na’Vi and Alliance have a high degree of mental toughness (not necessarily the high level of mechanical skill) and this evident from the accolades that have earned.

  2. Twitch

    Great article, really in-depth about the underlying psychological aspects of Dota.

    I just have one problem when it comes to pushing the high ground and barracks; my team is usually ahead in levels and gold, but still not strong enough to break up the high ground. Typically this leaves the team sitting outside their t3 while we fall behind slowly due to creeps constantly at their door and little income for us.
    Any ideas or solutions? Possibly drafts to suit or are we just not putting enough pressure on?

    Appreciate the blogs and keep them coming!


      hello im not a pro but i play dota since 2006 i probably can help you find the answer . draft to suit is one of the answer i cant lie , many heroes can benefit your team in this kind of situation , like lone druid , chen or dazzle ult then go highground force enemy to initiate teamfight, another solution is having an aegis in one of your key hero . or you can push other lane and when 1-2 enemy heroes come defending you break highground in other lane .

    • phrame

      If they’re at their t3’s waiting, that means their jungle is at your disposal, clear their jungle, their ancients, and keep lanes pressured and you should be able to maintain/build on that lead. but like 7ckngmad said. do not over-aggression by diving and then throwing away your lead!

  3. C0ckerel

    Hey 7ckingmad, first of all thanks for your articles they are really great please keep them coming! I just had one query… You mention in the beginning of the articles how capitalising on an advantage is not as straight forward as you might think, but then go on to list all the options a team in an advantageous position has. What are the specific difficulties faced by a team with map control and a gold/xp advantage and how can a team playing from behind exploit these? (if they even exist??)

    • saurus

      Well I think he did mention it in the start, the more map controls you have, the more room for mistakes. At least there are more chances they are scattered. Catch 1-2 heroes that are out of position, transfer that temporary advantage into a Rosh or at least some gold. Heroes like Clockwerk, IO, NP are very good for this, I think.

      Or split push, like how Alliance split push 2 lanes of Navi’s raxes.

      My personal 2 cents!

  4. Angle

    great article, keep up the good work.
    Hope to see you and your team do well in the next events.


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