Dota Underlords Beginner Guide
Artist: Valve
Date: 02/2020

The official game launch is upon us - a warm welcome to all new players! To get you up to a good start, here are the most important things you need to know about Dota Underlords:

What is Dota Underlords?

The basics of all Auto-Battler games, including Dota Underlords, are the following:

  1. You build a crew: you buy heroes from a shop which restocks each round to build your army. You put your active army on the board and you can have reserve units on the bench.
  2. You search for upgrades and synergies: heroes of the same kind combine into an upgraded version of the hero (there are three upgrades/star levels). Heroes belonging to the same Alliance give your army bonuses.
  3. Your army fights against the army of another player (automatically) each round. The winning army inflicts damage to the enemy player.
  4. The last player standing out of a free-for-all 8-player lobby wins the game!
The game is set in the crime-ridden city of White Spire (in the Dota universe) where different Underlords (crime lords) battle for turf control.

You Win Underlords

To make things a bit more interesting, all Auto-Battler games have hero and item systems that give them strategic depth:


Alliances: Each hero has unique skills and stats. More importantly, heroes belong to tribes which are called Alliances in Dota Underlords. Combining heroes from the same Alliances (Warriors, Mages, Hunters, etc.) gives bonuses to your army and makes it stronger. For example, having three Warriors gives them bonus armor, having six Warriors - the bonus increases. Each hero has two to three Alliances, enabling multiple possible army compositions.


Items: at certain rounds you are given item (you can pick one out of three), which you can distribute among your heroes to make them stronger. Items give stats or even new abilities.


Underlords: at round 10 (in standard mode) you can choose one out of four Underlords and add them to your army. They serve as the leader of your crew and have two powerful abilities.

Dota Underlords uses the heroes of Dota with abilities very similar to what they have in Dota 2. That said, even if you haven’t played Dota that’s not much of a disadvantage. The gameplay and strategy of Underlords is completely different from Dota. Learning the heroes and their abilities is quite easy to do in a couple of games.

Underlords User Interface:

Underlords user Interface

Underlords Game Modes:

  • Standard: the normal game mode. A match lasts approximately ~30 minutes if you reach a good placement. In this guide, we'll talk about the standard rules and mechanics.
  • Duos: the standard mode, but played in a party of two. You and your partner have shared HP and level, and you can share heroes. If you want to learn about this mode, you can check out our Dota Underlords Duos Guide.
  • Knockout: a "turbo" version of the game. You gain levels automatically, you find upgrades easier, and you can lose only 4 rounds before you get knocked-out. If you are interested in Knockout (a great first step into the game as it's quicker and simpler), you can go and check out our Dota Underlords Knockout Guide.

Economy Basics:

You buy heroes from a shop for a specific cost (stronger and rarer heroes cost more gold). To build a great army, you need good gold management. This means that to place high or win a game, you need a good sense of the macro strategy in Underlords, not just the hero combinations.

You can use your gold for three things:

  1. To buy heroes, which costs between 1 and 5 gold depending on the rarity of the hero.
  2. To re-roll the shop (refresh the heroes inside instantly), which costs 2 gold. This helps you find the exact heroes you need for your upgrades and synergies.
  3. To purchase experience. This helps you increase your level faster (you win a little XP every round for free).

Experience: Experience helps you increase your level, which allows you to include more heroes in your army. For example, in the UI screenshot above, 9/9 signifies that there are 9 heroes on the board. This is the maximum possible number for the current level of the player (level 9). Level 10 is the maximum level.

Your level also gives you a higher chance to find rarer heroes in the shop. For example, on lvl1 you can find only common (1-cost) heroes. You can find 5-cost heroes only once you reach lvl8, and the chance increases with higher levels.

Gold: You get gold from a couple of sources. First, you get a set amount of gold each round. Moreover, you get 1g if you win the round against your opponent, 0 if you lose it.

There are, however, other more strategically interesting income sources:

Underlords Income
Interest gold (1-3g):

If you save some of your gold, you’ll get 10% interest at the end of the round. For example, if you have 10 gold in the bank, you’ll get 1g as bonus interest at the beginning of the round. If you have 30 gold, you’ll get 3g as interest (the maximum amount).

If you want to maximize your interest income, you need to reach 30g in the bank as fast as possible and hold onto it for as long as possible.

You are not currently spending this amount to make your army stronger, but you have a higher income, which means in the late game you will have higher total gold to spend on your army. In general, the people who have the most total gold to spend on their army are the ones who place highest in the match.

Win or loss streak gold (1-4g):

Consecutive wins or consecutive losses give you bonus gold.

This is strategically important: loss streak gold gives you a chance to secure a good economy and win the game eventually even if your initial army is weak. The worst strategy (economically) is to alternate between wins or losses. Try to win every round if you’re strong, or accept that you are weak for a few rounds and play the economy game on the back of interest gold and your loss streak gold. Bear in mind that loss streaks give one free shop reroll each round, which makes it a bit easier to catch-up to the stronger (or luckier) players.

That said, your health is an important resource. It’s not possible to keep a losing streak for very long, you need to get a strong army eventually. As a rule of thumb, it’s ok to loss-streak until you reach 50 health. At that point, you should start thinking about focusing more on your army and winning rounds, but you can still allow yourself to keep a healthy bank. Once you reach 20-30 health, however, you are in dangerous territory and you need to get a strong army ASAP. You might want to spend all of your gold on more levels and upgrades. 

Army Build Basics:

The Board is where you keep your active army. How many heroes you can keep there depends on your level. Of course, more heroes means a stronger army not only because of a numbers advantage but because of the possibility for more/stronger synergies.

The Bench is where you keep your reserve heroes (units that you are keeping for upgrades or possibly to switch strategies). Bench space is a valuable resource, so you need to manage it. You usually want to fill it up, because having more units in total gives you more possibilities to find new combinations and upgrades. Later in the game, however, you will need to make a decision which units you need more and will have to sell-off others to free up bench space. Moreover, keeping a lot of expensive heroes on the bench means you're not taking advantage of the gold invested in them - they aren't making your army stronger and at the same time they don't bring interest gold income.

The Shop:
Underlords Shop

The shop is where you get your heroes from.

It has a stock of 5 heroes, and the higher your level, the higher the chance some of those will be rare and more expensive.

You can buy any of the five (if you have free space on the board or bench and enough money). You can also re-roll the shop, which will restock it with 5 new options at the cost of 2 gold. This is the main way to find the exact heroes you need, but it is also costly and if you over-do it in the early and mid game your economy will suffer.

So, the basics out of the way, there are three main strategic aspects to building a powerful army:


From the shop, you can buy only one-star units. However, buying the same hero multiple times allows you to upgrade it.

E.g. Three Dragon Knights combine into a two-star Dragon Knight. Three two-star Dragon Knights combine into a three-star Dragon Knight. The highest upgrade is three stars.

Upgrading a hero increases its stats (health, damage, ability damage, and CD, etc.). Usually, with each star level, the basic stats of the unit get doubled. If a hero has 750HP on one star, he’ll have 1500 on two stars and 3000 on three stars (relatively common values).

Upgrading your units is vital because it allows you to use your limited board space more efficiently and increases the overall strength of your army.

Upgrading, however, is difficult:

First, you have to find 9 copies of the same hero to reach three stars. This is costly in terms of gold (from 9g for a 1g cost hero, up to a whopping 45g for a 5g cost hero). Finding the hero 9 times, however, also usually requires a lot of shop rerolls, which is an even bigger gold sink. Last but not least, there is a hidden cost to searching for upgrades: if you are going for a three-star upgrade, you are likely to hold additional copies of the hero on the bench. Gold on the bench is gold that’s neither making your army stronger nor bringing interest income.

Second, going for upgrades requires bench space. You simply don’t have enough space on the bench and board to try to upgrade all your units to three stars at the same time. Usually, you need to make a decision and prioritize upgrading some units over others. Your first priority is to get all of your units to two stars since it’s much easier to do. Then, you want to choose which key units you want to try to get to three stars. Those are units which you intend to use in your final army composition (doesn’t make sense to try to three-star a hero you’re later going to sell). 

Army composition:

Generally speaking, you want to have an army which has a tanky frontline and a damage-dealing backline. You need to think of this not only in terms of units but also synergies. E.g. it’s a good idea to have 3 or 6 Warriors as your frontline because of the armor bonus of their Alliance. Warriors naturally combine well with a damage-dealing backline of e.g. Hunters or Mages.

Example Lineup:

Warriors + Hunters:
Units: Drow, Sniper, Medusa, Pudge, Slardar, Kunkka
Synergies: (3) Hunters, (3) Warriors, (2) Heartless, (2) Scaled, (2) Vigilant

One of the most straight-forward yet strongest strategies in the game is a Warriors frontline with a Hunters backline.

You have three Warriors to tank and three Hunters to deal damage. Moreover, since both Drow Ranger and Pudge are Heartless (Undead), you get the (2) Heartless Alliance armor reduction synergy, which helps with your damage output. Since Tide and Slardar are Scaled, you also have the (2) Scaled bonus, giving your whole army magic resistance. Mirana, Windranger, and Drow are Vigilant, which means they focus down targets after they cast their spells.

All kinds of lineups are possible, but as in every competitive game, there is a meta. You can check out our article talking about some of the strongest strats in Underlords right now, this Hunters lineup being one of them: Dota Underlords Strongest Builds


To keep the game fresh, heroes in Dota Underlords rotate in and out of the game with every new season - this results in a new meta with every change of the season.

Underlords Season One

The very basics:

  • You want to have your tanky units at the front, your squishy damage dealers at the back.
  • You also want to have units whose spell you want to trigger ASAP (e.g. important crow control) at the front so that they get mana from tanking damage.
  • You want to have units that benefit from proximity auras right next to each other.
  • You want to spread-out your army in the late game if you want to avoid strong AoE spells.

There are, however, many more details that you can take into consideration depending on your lineup and the lineups of your opponents. For example:

Mid Game Positioning Underlords

Warlock is the first unit that will take damage because we want him to be the first unit to die. This will buff our two-star Ogre Magi because of the (2) Blood-Bound synergy we have (after a Blood-Bound unit dies, all other Blood-Bound units get 100% increased damage) and he will be able to deal good damage.


Omni is the second unit on the frontline simply because he’s tanky and because if he casts his heal on himself he’ll deal good AoE damage and survive for long


Ogre is our third tanky unit, but he is positioned one square further back. This means he won’t get focused right away, which is important because we sacrifice Warlock to increase his damage output. The longer he stays alive, the more damage he’ll deal.


Shadow Fiend is in the middle for two reasons. First, he is a squishy damage-dealer – he needs to be surrounded by units that don’t allow enemy heroes to reach him. Second, his Requiem of Souls spell deals more damage to enemy heroes closer to him. This means the second row is perfect for him – if we put him further back, his AoE will likely deal less damage.


Luna is next to him: she is our physical damage dealer, so she needs some protection, but at the same time she has a short range, so the 2nd row fits her well. Moreover, she is a Knight, which means that when she is adjacent to Omni Knight (our other Knight), they will benefit from the (2) Knights damage reduction synergy bonus. This makes her a bit tankier than our other damage dealers, which means once enemies reach her (after Warlock dies), she’ll be able to survive at least for a while. (Luna is currently not in the game for this season, but the hero roster rotates with each new season, so it's very likely that she'll be back!)


Crystal Maiden and Razor are on the third row because they are our squishiest units (along with Shadow Fiend) and we want them to survive for as long as possible. Moreover, Razor deals more damage with his spell to enemy heroes further away from him (the opposite of Shadow Fiend), so on the third row, he might be able to deal slightly higher damage than on the second to the enemy frontline. At the same time, by putting him on the third row we risk that he doesn't reach the enemy backlines with this spell, so it's a tradeoff.

Strategy Basics:

So, how does a match of Dota Underlords progress normally and what do you need to do to maximize your chances of winning?

Early Game: lvl 1-5

What’s your opening strategy? You want to pick up the strongest unit combination and ideally upgrades in order to start the game on a win-streak.

  • If you manage to do so, you might want to level up faster and even reroll to stay ahead of your opponents and keep your win-streak going.
  • If your army isn’t strong enough, you might want to concentrate on economy for a few rounds (save up gold) and get a losing streak going.

By the end of the early game, you should have a basic idea of what strategy you’re going for (what Alliance combinations you’re trying to build). You’re still open to changes, but you also know what units to look for and to buy if they pop up.

Mid Game: lvl 6-8

This is a crucial stage because it’s the last few levels in which you can make major changes to your strategy.

By lvl7-8 you want to have a mature and strong lineup and to start winning rounds. Losing rounds at that point becomes more and more costly in terms of HP.

Economy is also crucial at that point. Ideally, you want to reach 30 gold and keep it in the bank for as long as possible, only spending gold above 30 to keep the 3g interest income. If you are not strong enough and you are losing rounds, however, you might want to spend more to find crucial upgrades or missing pieces for your synergy. You can e.g. maintain a 10 or 20g balance instead of 30 for a few rounds – it’s not optimal, but at the end of the day you need to survive.

Mid Game Positioning Underlords

In the example above we are going for a (2) Knights frontline with (3) Mages as backline damage dealers and (2) Warlocks for sustain. That’s why we’re also buying and keeping other Knights on the bench (trying to reach (4) Knights later on), while also searching for upgrades for our current units.

Late Game: lvl 8-10

If you reach these levels you are likely among the last few players left in the game – you are fighting for a top place in the match. If you are ahead, keep a strong economy going for as long as possible – this will give you the best chances for first place because you need a lot of gold to buy enough XP to reach lvl10 and to find three-star upgrades.

If you are struggling on low HP, however, now is the time to burn your whole bank to try to strengthen your army one last time and to out-last other struggling players.

Late Game Underlords Positioning

The example above is the continuation of the mid-game screenshot. As you can see, the final army still has mages as major damage dealers, however, we’ve abandoned the notion of going for more than the two Knights we already had (mainly because of shop rolls).


We’ve replaced our Warlock with Necro so that we gain the (2) Heartless armor reduction bonus from him and Lich.


To finish our frontline we’ve bought Kunkka and Tidehunter. They are tanky units with great crowd-control AoE spells which, together with the (3) Mages magic resistance reduction bonus, also deal good damage. Kunkka is a Human, and together with Omni, Crystal Maiden, and Keeper, he helps us reach the (4) Humans synergy.


Tide doesn’t provide synergies in this lineup, but he is a powerful two-star tier four tank and disabler, and with the item Refresher Orb, he is a brutally strong late-game hero on his own. He’s positioned further ahead together with Kunkka (currently out of the game in Season 1) to help them both cast their AoE disables ASAP and to buy time for our Mages to charge-up their mana and cast their damage spells.


In our humble, likely biased opinion, Underlords is a brilliant game. To give credit where it’s due, Valve are not the only people responsible for that. Most gameplay decisions and innovations came from the original creators of the Dota Auto Chess custom game, Drodo studio. That said, Valve are taking the game to a new level of polish and refinement.

If you are into strategy games, Dota Underlords is likely the best title you can play on your phone right now, and unlike all other mobile games we’ve ever played besides Hearthstone, it’s a good enough game to dedicate your time to it even on PC.

Underlords Pros:

Easy to play, extremely hard to master. The hero synergies and the items system are deep and the endless combinations will keep you playing for very, very long if you enjoy strategy games.

Monetization is not predatory like most mobile titles - it holds a PC-game standard. The game is not and never will be pay-to-win.

Visually well-polished and looks great even on mobile phones (even though we recommend playing on PC for the best possible experience). That’s subjective, but we sincerely think it’s the best-looking game in the Auto-Battler genre by far.

Underlords Cons:

The balance is not perfect – the meta is quite important, and very unconventional builds are unlikely to do great. Spamming a few top-tier strategies gives the best results. That said, with each season the roster changes and the devs introduce balance patches often, so this isn't a huge problem.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed the article, stay tuned for more Underlords content (you can give us a follow on our social media below!).

If you are a returning player, these resources will be more useful to you:


Kyril "MrNiceGuy" Kotashev

Esports and gaming enthusiast since forever and founder of Dotahaven.