Dota Underlords Knockout Mode Guide
Author:
MrNiceGuy
Date: 12/2019
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One of the biggest criticisms with Dota Underlords (since the inception of Dota Auto Chess) has been that games take too long for a casual/mobile title. This problem was further exacerbated by the Big Update and the increase in hero durability that came with it.

Knockout Mode is the feature supposed to solve this problem. It’s not without its problems, but personally, I haven’t played a regular Underlords game on my phone since Knockout came out. If you enjoy the mode like me and want to get better, in this article you’ll find some advice and tips on how to maximize your chances of winning.

KNOCKOUT PROS

  • Great for quickly testing unconventional builds. Forces you to think on your feet rather than default to the standard builds.
  • Shorter games mean a lot more variety in a single play session.

KNOCKOUT CONS

  • A lot more RNG-driven and volatile. The easy upgrades dictate the game, and even a great player can easily hit last place.
  • Reduced depth compared to standard mode.

Choosing Your Starting Crew:

Rules: 5 Starting heroes; two guaranteed Alliances at least on 1st level; two revealed and three random heroes;

This means that you cannot get e.g. (3) Assassins + (3) Warriors (6 heroes total), but you can get (2) Heartless + (3) Assassins, or any other combination of Alliances that has 5 or fewer heroes total.

In standard mode, your opening build is important, but by all means not game-breaking. You have plenty of opportunities to transition out of it and the HP you lose in the early rounds is minor (losing could even be beneficial in certain situations because of losing streak gold and free shop rolls).

In Knockout Mode, however, choosing a good starting crew makes a huge difference:

Every single loss is critical. You have only three rounds (three consecutive losses) to put together a good-enough strategy to beat your opponents. This means that starting with something that doesn’t work well right away is a huge problem and you don’t have time to easily fix it (to make things worse, you can’t sell your starting heroes for gold, which makes heavily modifying the starting build difficult).

Some tips for choosing the right Alliance:

  • Gravitate towards (3) + (2) Alliance combinations. This will make the full 5-man crew more predictable.
  • Choose synergistic Alliances: frontline tanks, a source of damage, complementary bonuses. E.g. (3) Warriors + (2) Warlocks is great and has obvious synergy, (3) Healers + (2) Deadeye much less so. Winning with the latter will be really hard.
  • Think about the secondary Alliances you know about: the two revealed heroes have secondary (and tertiary) Alliances – do they fit the build you are likely to go for?

Examples:
Knockout Starting Crew 1

For example, the options above are by no means equal.

The first one is the best: Inventors and Mages have synergy on two levels. First, Inventors (often Scrappy) serve as frontline tanks and the Mages – as backline damage-dealers. Second, the Inventor Alliance bonus deals magic damage and synergizes with the magic resistance reduction coming out of the (3) Mages bonus. Last but not least, (3) Mages + (2) Inventors is a 5 hero combination, so the full five-man crew wouldn’t be a big surprise and your build strategy is pretty clear (Scrappy/Inventor/Mages). The secondary Alliances of the revealed heroes are also useful – Maiden is a Human, and you want Humans in a Mages strategy. Clock is a Scrappy, and you want a Scrappy frontline for tankiness.

The second and third option are a lot worse: The second option guarantees (3) Elusive + (2) Bloodbound, and by chance, it has two Mages. Mages, however, are neither synergistic with Elusive nor with Bloodbound. The third option has two non-synergistic Alliances each with (2) heroes, which means that the final 5-man crew will be quite unpredictable.

Knockout Starting Crew 2

Another example: the third option, (3) Spirits + (2) Dragons, is quite decent. The Dragon you see is a Mage, and you know that one of the Spirits is a Mage as well (Storm), so you’ll easily get (3) Spirits + (3) Mages in a round or two, which is quite synergistic. The first option is OK but not great. It has two tow-hero tank Alliances, and even though they might be strong early on, the other three heroes might be a bit random and it will be hard to fit the two starting Alliances into a coherent late-game build. The second option is the worst – it simply lacks good synergy between the starting heroes/Alliances.


Knockout Build Strategy:

In standard mode, you usually go for one of the best builds in Dota Underlords. In the early/mid game you’ll have to adjust and improvise, but in the mid/late game, you simply go for the easiest-to-get high-tier build from your current position.

In Knockout, however, this is much, much more difficult to do for two reasons:

  • You don’t choose your first 5 heroes directly, which means they might be sub-optimal and it might be difficult to go for any of the standard best builds from there. E.g. if your staring five heroes don’t include Warriors and Hunters, it’s going to be impossible to force a Warrior/Hunter strategy successfully even if you believe it is by far the best in the game.
  • You have a lot less time (and shop rolls) to find the exact heroes you’re looking for and transition into your ideal build.

This doesn’t mean Alliance combos aren’t important. You still need to aim for a coherent build. You need to chase the normal qualities each good strategy has:

  • a source of durability (frontline)
  • a source of damage
  • some kind of additional utility

It simply means that most builds in a Knockout mode lobby are sub-optimal because people don’t have time to optimize them and need to improvise.

This, combined with the fact that upgrading heroes is much, much easier, shifts the main focus of your long-term strategy. Instead of chasing a specific ideal hero composition, you chase upgrades first and a good composition 2nd.

Underlords Knockout Results

As you can see above, none of the top 4 builds is absolutely standard, and you can even call the 2nd place build extremely random. There is even a three-tar Nyx in it and the build doesn’t benefit from any of his Alliances, yet the build performed really because of a lot of three-star upgrades.

Example:

You are running Hunters and relatively early into the game you find three copies of Luna in the shop at once. In standard mode, you’ll ignore this because Luna doesn’t fit the good Hunter builds and because three Lunas simply mean a two-star Luna (nothing too impressive).

In Knockout mode, however, three Lunas are just one-off a three-star Luna, which needless to say is quite powerful. So, you should start thinking about how you can include her in your current build. Hunters already have two Elusive heroes and the Drow aura buffs all ranged heroes (including Luna). This means that Luna could give you the (3) Elusive bonus and you can run some form of a Hunter/Elusive strategy in the long run, while a three-star Luna carries you in the early/mid stages of the game.

Economy:

In short, no interest gold shifts the focus from building a good economy to finding upgrades.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that saving gold is useless: you can keep some of your gold for later rounds so that you can roll more often when you have a better chance of finding higher tier heroes because of your higher level.

Remember that you start the game on level 5 and gain levels rapidly. Also, remember that three-star upgrades are easy to find. This means that the later you spend your gold, the higher chances you have of finding high-tier (3g, 4g, 5g) heroes. Needless to say, a three-star 4g hero is much more powerful than a three-star 1g hero.

Usually, however, you don’t have the luxury of saving all of your gold. If your opponents are rolling more than you and finding upgrades rapidly, you’ll lose rounds, and you can’t afford to do that more than three times. This means that in good games you’ll usually start spending most of your gold on lvl7 or lvl8 when you have higher chances to find 3g and 4g heroes, and in bad games, you’ll spend down to 0 gold every single round in an attempt to stay alive.

Tip: Avoid Locking the shop! Don’t roll at the end of the round if you don’t have enough leftover gold to purchase whatever new heroes you find. This way you will avoid locking, which is important because locking effectively costs you one free roll. In Knockout mode you have less gold for rolls and fewer rounds (automatic rolls) compared to standard, which means that every single refresh of the shop is very, very valuable and could make a difference in your final placement.


Thanks for reading! If you found this Dota Underlords guide enjoyable, you can check out our other content about the game in our Dota Underlords Library!

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