This past week, I’ve finally gotten around to putting some serious playtime into Valve’s Dota 2. Having played similar games in the past I had an idea what I was doing from the start, but it still managed to remind just how much of a barrier to entry that Dota 2 — and other games of its type — has. As a first-time player you will wonder what the hell is going on and how opponents are killing you so easily, you will suffer terrible beatings at the hands of your opponents, and your teammateswill let you know all about just how much you suck.

I’m not just going to sit here and tell you how much you suck, although you probably do. Instead, I’ve come up with five tips for Dota 2 beginners that should help your journey toward being a competent Dota 2 player. Here they are.

1. Learn the heroes.

When you first start playing, it’s extremely tempting to pick just one hero and play it over and over again in an effort to get better. While this could be good for your initial few games, I’d recommend you change it up from that point on. Learning a single hero can be nice, but in Dota 2 it’s pretty much just as important to know what the other heroes are capable of. If you’re in a lane against two heroes that can take turns to stun, silence and kill you, it’s handy to know about it.

The best way to learn all this is to play them all (I know it’ll take forever). Think about hitting that random button, it’ll also help the overwhelming indecisiveness of who to pick.

2. Don’t just kill all the creeps.

Jump in a game for the first time, run down a lane, and the natural thing to do is to just kill enemy creeps as quickly as humanly possible. In most other games this is naturally the thing to do, but in Dota it’s a little bit more complicated than that. ‘Last hitting’ is the skill of allowing your own creeps to kill the opponents’, while you hang around to just pick up the very last hit, grabbing the extra gold that’s awarded. The reason for doing this is that you want the gold, but you don’t want to push the position of your creeps close to the enemy tower — fighting close to a tower is a huge advantage for your opponents, and leaves you extremely vulnerable to another player jumping out from behind you (being ‘ganked’).

Make your presence known and just keep getting those last hits, this will keep the battle in a safer area of the lane. If your opponents come out being all ‘nooby’ and just killing your creeps as fast as possible, let them push the line toward your tower a little as this is only going to make life easier for you. The only time you should really be wildly attacking creeps in the early part of the game is when your team has decided it wants to push a lane and try to take out an enemy tower.

Note: As you progress and start to play at a higher level, there are times when you’ll intentionally allow your lane partner to get the last hits as it benefits their hero more to get their items fast. Don’t worry about this too much as a beginner, but it’s worth mentioning so you can bear it in mind as something you’ll want to consider when your game knowledge improves and you start to play more cooperatively.

3. Try not to die and stay in your lane.

The first part is obvious, as you never want to die in a game, but as a complete beginner it’s important to understand just why it’s so important to stay alive in Dota 2. Gaining a level or gold advantage in the early game is the single most helpful thing in terms of winning out later on. Similarly, allowing your opponents to get this advantage is the thing that’ll leave you weaker than them, and this is when they start to overrun and crush you like an overly crumbly cookie.

If you die, not only does the opponent get gold and XP for killing you, but while you’re waiting to respawn and travelling back up the lane they get even more of an advantage as you’re earning nothing during this period. It’s a snowball effect that can leave a game practically unwinnable. The same goes for running around the map aimlessly or returning to base, stay in lane as much as possible during the early game.

4. Spend your money.

Aside from gaining levels on your opponent, items are the other main way to gain an advantage over them. Sitting on your money and not spending it is effectively as bad as never earning it in the first place. Early in a game your main goal, as previously mentioned, is probably to stay in lane as long as possible. Buying things such as a Tango will allow you to restore your health and not have to return to base, while Iron Branches are a great starting item that give +1 to all attributes for a small amount of gold (it’s not uncommon to buy three of these right at the start of a game).

Make use of the side shops and a courier (somebody on your team should buy one every single game) in order to spend your money without having to leave the lane, and if you’re in doubt as to what you should buy just stick to the items which are recommended for your hero. That said, remember that spending your money on anything at all will pretty much always be better for you than having it sit in your wallet.

5. Change your inventory hotkeys.

This one might seem a bit of an odd one to include, but having mentioned how important items are in the game, you’re going to want to be able to use them as efficiently as possible. Clicking the icons in your inventory at the bottom-right of the screen is slow and clunky; you wouldn’t want to click every time you use one of your heroes abilities, and you don’t want to have to do it for items either. The default bindings to numbers on the number pad are so far from the rest of the game’s hotkeys that it’s just not convenient. Where you want to bind them to ultimately is down to preference, but consider using the top row of number keys, or other close buttons such as D and F, extra mouse buttons can be good if you have them, or perhaps even use spacebar for something you just cannot afford to miss.

This list of tips is obviously a very small chunk of Dota 2 knowledge, but keep these things fresh in your mind as a brand new player and you’ll start to improve immediately — you’ll also look a little more like you know what you’re doing to those grumpy teammates of yours, even if you struggle to actually do it. If I missed something that you think all new players should know (which is likely), feel free to leave a comment below