Artist: Valve
Dota Underlords Strategies compared to Auto Chess

In this article, we will talk about some of the common strategies in Dota Underlords and compare them to familiar strategies in Auto Chess to get a basic grasp of the newly forming Underlords Meta.

If you want a general comparison, you can check it out here: Underlords vs Auto Chess. And if you are entirely new to the game or the genre, you can check out our Basics of Dota Underlords article.

Disclaimer: The game is new and balance patches are hitting regularly, so don’t take the information below as a “how to” guide, but as an opinion piece that you can compare with your own experience and knowledge of the game.

Big strategic differences:

Before we dive into some specific strategies, I’d like to discuss two factors which I believe are a major driving force in the difference between Dota Underlords and Auto Chess strategy principles.

Items:
Fall From Grace
Final Flash
Expanded Roster

Global items in Underlords make a big difference compared to Auto Chess, but they are quite intuitive to include in your strat so I won’t focus on them here (we’ll discuss them in-depth in another article).

Having only one item per hero, however, also makes a big difference but less obviously so.

In Auto Chess, some strategies have an easily identifiable “main carry”. This would be the Dragon Knight in the (6) Knights + (3) Dragons strat, or e.g. a three-star Phantom Assassin in (6) Assassin + (3) Elf strats, Terrorblade in Demon strats, etc.

These units are your main damage dealers, so you would often put most of your high-value items on them. Having Madness, Battlefury and ideally a survivability item like BKB on your Phantom Assassin is the dream (not easy to achieve, but still something you strive towards).

In Underlords, however, you can only put one item on a unit. Battle Fury is great on PA, but it gives only splash, no bonus damage. Putting it on her means you wouldn’t have space for a damage or attack speed item, etc.

Similarly, if Bloodseeker is your main damage dealer, you would have a choice to make. BKB is amazing on him, but so are DPS items – you have to make a choice.

All of this means that strategies that heavily focus on one unit (Terrorblade, Dragon Knight, etc.) are a bit weaker in Underlords compared to Auto Chess. Your builds are more efficient when you have a few tanks and a few damage dealers on which you can distribute a couple of high-value items.

Proximity Auras:

Proximity Auras and items (that take effect if the units are standing right next to each other) are relatively common in Dota Underlords. This gives an advantage to ranged lineups because they don’t move much during the round, while melee lineups can easily get dragged away from each other and lose the aura buff quite randomly.

Hunters

This is a major reason why e.g. Hunters were (and arguably still are) much better in Dota Underlords than they are in Auto Chess. Sniper and Medusa stay put right next to Drow, who gives them her aura and increases their DPS tremendously.

Knights Underlords Wide Icon

This is also a major reason why Knights are arguably a bit weaker in Underlords compared to Auto Chess – they need to stay next to each other to retain the buff. If they separate, they might lose it. Moreover, the last Knight standing is guaranteed not to have the buff.

This also has an effect on AoE spells and positioning:

In Auto Chess, in the late game, some lineups work best when you spread them out on the board so that it is less likely that multiple units get hit from the same AoE spell. This is also possible in Underlords, but often you want to keep heroes right next to each other because of the proximity auras, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to AoE spells.

Kunkka
Tidehunter Portrait
Disruptor Portrait
Enigma Portrait

Because of this, Kunkka, Tide, Medusa, Enigma, Disruptor (who are already S-tier in Auto Chess) are arguably even stronger in Dota Underlords, and BKB is probably one of the most important items in the game to put on a damage-dealer.

On top of that, Refresher is more common in Underlords, and all of the above units with Refresher (especially Kunkka for control and Enigma for damage) can single-handedly win you fights vs clumped-up enemies.


Dota Underlords Strategies:

Stronger than in Auto Chess:

Hunters + Warriors Strategy:

Hunters + Warriors were absolutely broken before the patch, but it is arguably still one of the top-tier strategies in Underlords. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Pudge is arguably the most cost-efficient tank in the game (great HP pool for the 2g cost). Moreover, he is Heartless (Undead), which means that Pudge + Drow is a super easy way to get the (2) Heartless armor reduction bonus.
  • Drow + two ranged Hunters (most important of which Medusa, followed by Sniper, followed by Windranger) deal tremendous damage because of Drow Ranger’s proximity aura. Moreover, Medusa has Split-Shot, which means that she not only provides crowd control as in Auto Chess (from her Stone Gaze) but also great DPS.
  • The Warrior bonus is more reliable than the Knights bonus because Warriors don’t lose their armor when they move away from each other. Moreover, Warriors’ global item (Unstoppable, which allows them to survive for an extra 2 seconds before dying) buys a lot of extra time for the backline damage dealers, which is what they need most. Last but not least, Kunkka and Doom are still some of the best utility units in the game.

Hunter-Warrior Comp:
Drow Ranger
1
Sniper
2
Medusa
3
Pudge
4
Kunkka
5
Doom
6
Units: Drow, Sniper, Medusa, Pudge, Kunkka, Doom
Synergies: (3) Hunters, (3) Warriors, (2) Heartless (Undead), (1) Demon

You start with Drow + Pudge as key units and two additional Hunters + two additional Warriors to get the Synergies ASAP. In the mid game, you can replace your weaker heroes with the more expensive units in the lineup above.

In the late game, you have a few possibilities:

  • The Fall from Grace global item (Humans count as Heartless) gives you the option to include just one Heartless Unit (most likely Necro) to reach the (4) Heartless armor reduction bonus because Kunkka is a Human. If you go this route, adding an additional Warlock will also give you lifesteal.

  • The other late-game option is to go for (6) Hunters (doable on lvl9). If you manage to get Tide + Medusa, you’ll also have the (2) Scaled (Naga) magic resistance bonus, which is great against Mages and magic damage in general.

  • (6) Warriors are also possible if you want a stronger frontline. Slardar with Medusa is an easy way to get the (2) Scaled bonus, while Troll Warlord positioned next to Drow will give you another strong damage dealer.

Primordial Assassins Strategy:

Primordials (Elementals) are stronger in Underlords compared to Auto Chess for the simple reason that you have four non-legendary Primordial heroes, which means you can build the (4) Primordial bonus much more reliably (Tiny, Morph, Razor, Arc Warden). Arc Warden himself, combined with a tankiness item like Vanguard/Heart/etc. and his Tempest Double is a beastly frontline tank, which is something that Assassins need.

Assassins are also arguably stronger compared to Auto Chess because:

  • You have more Assassins, which means it’s easier to find six.
  • They got buffed in the recent patch – critical hits cannot get dodged, which means they soft-counter evasion (the Elusive synergy).
  • The new Assassin, Bloodseeker, is one of the best damage-dealers in the game with items.
  • A high-level Slark is also an insane carry if he can survive fights for long enough and can be combined with one more Scaled (Naga) for the Magic Resistance bonus if you need it
  • It’s one of the few Alliances which is good against Hunters.

(6) Assassins (2) Primordials:
(4) Primordial (3) Assassins:
Tiny
1
Morph
2
Bloodseeker
3
Queen of pain
4
Slark Portrait
5
Phantom Assassin
6
Templar Assassin
7
Units: Tiny, Morph, Bloodseeker, Queen of Pain, Slark, Phantom Assassin, Templar Assassin
Synergies: (6) Assassin, (4) Primordial, (1) Demon

Going for Primordial + Assassins gives you two variations in the early-mid game. You can choose to go for (2) Primordial + (6) Assassins (as in this example), or for (4) Primordial with (3) Assassins as in the other tab.

This variation, obviously, is the offensive one.

Morph and Tiny serve as your tanks, all other units are damage-dealers. It’s still possible to reach the (4) Primordial synergy on lvl9 if you chose to do so. Alternatively, if you’re not playing against melee strategies, you can try to get Medusa or ideally – Tide. This will give you the (2) Scaled magic resistance bonus because of Slark + some control. An additional elf (Treant, Anti-Mage, etc.) is also possible to include to give Templar and Phantom Assassin evasion. (9) Assassins are also possible to reach, but quite harder to get and requires lvl10 if you want to save the (2) Primordial synergy while also being worse in terms of utility.

Tiny
1
Morph
2
Bloodseeker
3
Queen of pain
4
Arc warden
5
Razor
6
Units: Tiny, Morph, Bloodseeker, Queen of Pain, Arc Warden, Razor
Synergies: (4) Primordial, (3) Assassin, (1) Demon

If you’re playing against other melee drafts (Warriors, Knights, Elves, other Assassins), you can choose to get the (4) Primordial bonus first. This will make your whole army much tankier and will buy time for your Assassins to deal damage.

You can still go for (6) Assassins afterward to maximize your damage.

Disruptor is a very powerful late-game unit in this draft. Arc Warden is a Shaman, so Arc + Disruptor will give you the (2) Shaman bonus. The instant Hex is very powerful in the late game and against creep rounds.



Mages:

Example Comp:
Tiny
1
Lycan
2
Kunkka
3
Razor
4
Shadow Fiend Portrait
5
Crystal Maiden
6
Keeper of the Light
7
Units: Tiny, Lycan, Kunkka, Razor, Shadow Fiend, Crystal Maiden, Keeper of the Light
Synergies: (4) Humans, (3) Mages, (3) Warriors, (2) Primordial, (1) Demon

Warriors into Mages is a very solid draft. Warriors are the most consistent opening because you can transition into multiple strong strategies (Hunters, Mages, Savage, or even to just commit to Warriors).

Out of those transitions, Mages and Hunters are the easiest and most consistent to go for.

Mages are an amazing damage-dealing synergy. With (3) Mages you can include multiple other synergies (Humans, Warlocks, etc.) or units that just work well with the magic resistance reduction.

Usually, however, in the late game you want to go for (6) Mages: KotL + the (6) Mages huge magic resistance reduction pretty much instantly wipe the enemy board. The only thing you need to worry about are (4) Scaled, which are awkward to include in any strat besides Hunters (who need Tide to do so). Managing to get (6) Mages with all units on two-stars is almost a guarantee you'll nudge your way into top 3 or 4.

In general, you have a few variations of this strategy:

Humans Underlords Wide

Humans: one is to go for (4) Humans as in the example above. One additional Warlock will give you some lifesteal (e.g. Necro, later you'll get (2) Heartless from including Lich as well). You can also choose to go for the more standard (6) Mages in the late game. The Human mages are the best mage variation against other mages because the Silence is critical against frontline AoE control units.

brawny underlords icon wide

Brawny (Orcs): The (4) Brawny bonus + the (3) Warriors bonus is an easy way to build a tanky frontline, and the Browny global item (Forged in Battle) is a good way to make your frontline even better if you manage to get it early and collect the (4) Brawny units sooner rather than later. Disruptor is also great with Mages – his damage gets buffed, and the silence allows your Mages to cast their spells first.

Primordial Underlords Wide

Primordial: Keep Tiny + Razor and if you are facing melee drafts you can choose to go for (4) Primordials + (3) Mages. This is probably the variation which is stronger in Underlords than in Auto Chess because it doesn’t require Enigma. The (4) Primordials bonus is great against Assassins and Warriors, but it's not that good against Hunters and Mages.

Weaker than in Auto Chess:

Knights:

Knights + Dragons:
Knights + Trolls:
Chaos Knight
1
Abaddon Portrait
2
Omniknight portrait
3
Luna
4
Batrider
5
Dragon knight
6
Viper
7
Necro
8
Units: Chaos Knight, Abaddon, Omni Knight, Luna, Batrider, Dragon Knight, Viper, Necro
Synergies: (6) Knights, (2) Dragons, (2) Humans, (2) Undead, (1) Demon

Harder to build because you don’t have access to the additional Dragons like Winter Wyvern.

Knights bonus (especially the (6) Knights) is less reliable than in Auto Chess as mentioned because of the Knights proximity aura.

Harder to make DK into a super carry because you can put only one item on him. Moreover, when he instantly transforms he becomes a ranged unit. This means he doesn’t move forward and he easily loses the (6) Knights damage reduction buff when your melee Knights walk forward. A mild solution to this is to put Luna/Bat next to DK and to hope she doesn’t move away (she is also ranged, but her range is pretty short, so there’s no guarantee).

The strategy is becoming considerably stronger after the new Underlords balance patch.

The Dragon’s Hoard global item is strong if you’re already winning, but if you’re struggling to survive keeping a huge bank of gold is not an option (i.e. it’s a “win more” item).

Coordinate Assault (Trolls give a 25 Attack Speed proximity aura) could be good because of Batrider who is already in the comp, or because of Witch Doctor, whom you can use to get the (2) Warlocks bonus and position next to Dragon Knight to give him the bonus attack speed without moving away.

Chaos Knight
1
Abaddon Portrait
2
Luna
3
Batrider
4
Shadow Shaman
5
Witch Doctor
6
Troll Warlord
7
Necro
8
Units: Chaos Knight, Abaddon, Luna, Batrider, Shadow Shaman, Witch Doctor, Troll Warlord, Necrophos
Synergies: (4) Knights, (4) Trolls, (2) Heartless (Undead), (2) Warlocks, (1) Demon

The draft is pretty decent, but it has two major drawbacks compared to Auto Chess:

  • (4) Trolls are harder to find and not as strong because you don’t have access to Dazzle, who is arguably the most valuable Troll in Auto Chess. You rely on finding Troll Warlord fast enough, which isn’t guaranteed.
  • (4) Knights still have the problem of randomly losing their proximity aura because of moving away (even more so when there's only four of them)

That said, this is probably the better Knights Strategy out of the two (likely still behind Knights/Undead/Hunters). It’s easier to benefit from Coordinated Assault and the Warlocks bonus is easier to get as it requires only two units, while in Auto Chess it requires three.

You Win Underlords
Stronger in Underlords:

  • Hunters: Drow, Medusa
  • Mages: KotL, mages bonus
  • Warriors: Pudge, Global Item
  • Assassins: Bloodseeker, more units, buffed, good vs Hunters
  • Primordial (Elements): much easier to get (4)

Weaker in Underlords:

  • Knights: damage reduction aura unreliable
  • Dragons: harder to get, cannot put multiple items on DK
  • Trolls: harder to get, don't have Dazzle

Thank you for reading!

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