Dota Auto Chess Positioning Guide

In this article, I’ll try to lay out the basic principles of positioning your army on the chess grid in order to gain an advantage.

Early Game Formations

Positioning in the early game is quite simple.       

You have two basic options depending on your unit composition.

Straight Line Formation:

If you have plenty of melee units, put them as close to the enemy as possible (so that they will engage fast). 

Having melee units on the second/third role doesn’t make sense because they would take more time to engage and would have a lower impact. Because of this, a single row (a straight line, centered and evenly spread-out) is the usual choice.

Auto Chess Positioning Straight Line

In this example, the high-lvl Lone Druid is in front of the other units in order to summon his Bear ASAP. Source - Savjz

This strategy is also useful for Assassins, but instead of putting them on the first, you need to put them on the last row – this way they would jump right away to the enemy backlines:

Dota Auto Chess Assassins
Tight Corner Formation:

If you have ranged damage dealers (SF, Hunters, Mages, etc.) that you want to protect, do the opposite. You want to draw the enemy army to you, so put your units as far away from danger as possible.

Imagine your army as an Onion. Tanky units go in the outer layer, damage dealers go on the inside so that they are the last units focused. Putting squishy damage dealers on the backline but on the outside layer is a mistake because it could get them killed by an assassin. 

Put your tankiest unit on the outer corner closest to your opponent.

Auto Chess Corner Formation

In this case, the Shadow Fiends are in the safe spot, while the Kunkka is the main tank because you want to allow him to cast his ultimate ASAP. Source - Savjz

Mid-Late Game Formations

In the mid-late game it’s not just important to think about tanks and damage dealers, but also about units using their AoE spells efficiently.

Avoiding AoE:

It’s not great if your whole army gets hit by a Kunkka ultimate. The “Tight Corner Formation” is exceptionally vulnerable to this, so you should start thinking about splitting your army up a bit. There are different viable ways to do this.

  • Keep your main army in one corner, but separate one or two units that can tank for a while so that they draw the attention of enemy units. If you are lucky, the separated units will also eat a spell or two.

Auto Chess Split Formation

In this example, the Clock and Timber are the “Baits”, while the rest of the army is positioned in the middle.  Source

  • Separate your army into two distinct groups. To do this you need at least two good damage dealers and two good tanks to put one in each group. If one group is much weaker than the other, this would create a problem. You want the group that doesn’t get hit by the AoE to be able to deal damage and win the fight for you.

Auto Chess Double Split
Casting your spells first:

Getting important AoE abilities before your opponent could win you rounds by itself. Tidehunter, Disruptor, Kunkka, and Enigma are the usual suspects but the same applies to other units like e.g. Lone Druid and Lycan, whose summons you want to get online ASAP.

The key point here is that you want your unit to get the spell off as fast as possible, but you need to avoid getting it killed before it gets the spell off.

This means that you should consider how tanky the unit is. Generally speaking, very tanky units (two or three-star units with some tankiness items) can easily go in front of everybody else. It would be very hard for the enemy to kill them before they do their job.

LVL1 units, however, are a different matter. You have two options:

  • Keep them on the 2nd row, but close enough to your tanks so that they would take at least some ranged and AoE damage.
  • Keep them on the 1st row, but shoulder to shoulder with other tanks. This way they will take some of the focus fire, but not all of it. This is the better, but a bit more risky option.

Positioning in 1v1 for 1st Place

Positioning is important in the early and mid game but not as much as your army composition and economy. When you’re fighting for the 1st spot, however, positioning often becomes the deciding factor.

At the same time, positioning at this phase is very situational and it’s hard to generalize what you need to do.

Dota Auto Chess Late Game Positioning

In this example, Savjz has does the following:

  • First of all, the formation is relatively spread-out on the board. This makes it less likely that all units will get hit by the same AoE spell.
  • Medusa, Disruptor, and Techies on the first row. He wants to guarantee that they will get off their ultimates ASAP and he doesn't care too much that they will die after they cast their spell.
  • On the second row behind them sit Doom, Kunkka, and Tide. Those are tanky units with additional important ultimates and he wants them to follow-up the disables of Medusa and Disruptor. Notice that the second-row units have some open space in front of them. These are melee units, so this makes it easier for them to reach enemies and guarantees that they will start tanking at least some damage right away.
  • Batrider is behind them. He doesn't have important spells to cast, but he is high level - deals decent damage and can tank for a while once the front rows die.
  • On the back row, he put Witch Doctor, Troll, and Shadow Shaman. Those are squishy units he wants to keep alive for as long as possible. Troll is his main auto-attack damage dealer, so the more time he can buy for him - the better. 
  • Notice that Troll and SS are on the right edge of the formation. This makes it more likely for them to avoid AoE control spells if the enemy formation is grouped on the left side of the board. Witch Doctor, however, is on the left edge. This decreases the chance that all three units will get hit by the same spell. At the same time, if the enemy formation is on the left side of the board, this increases the chance that Witch Doctor will start taking damage before the Troll, which will allow him to cast his stun and buy more time for Troll to auto-attack.


Counter-positioning means looking at your opponent’s board and moving around your pieces to improve your chances of victory.

Run away from the enemy Tidehunter, Techies, Disruptor. See where your opponent has positioned them and put your main damage dealers as far away as possible.

Leaving a few units as “bait” close to the enemy AoE is the best practice. Getting 1/3 of your army hit by a powerful AoE instead of your whole army is game-changing.

This applies the other way around as well – see where your opponent is keeping his main army and make sure your important AoE heroes are close to it on the opposite side of the map.

Corner Case: Assassins (and round 15 - Wolves!!!)

If your opponent is running an Assassin lineup, don’t simply keep your regular positioning of tanks in front and squishy damage dealers in the back. Assassins will jump to the backline – you need some tanks protecting your damage dealers in place.

That being said, don’t leave your frontline entirely empty. Keep one or two tanks there to occupy the enemy frontline. 

The same applies for the Wolves neutral round. Before round 15, make sure that you have a couple of tanks in the back. 

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