Artist: Valve
Dota Underlords vs Auto Chess

This article is useful for experienced Auto Chess players. If you are new the genre, you should check out our Basics of Dota Underlords article!

The new (Auto-Battler) genre of games that Dota Auto Chess spawned is in rapid development:

  • Auto Chess, by Drodo Studio and the Chinese mobile developer Dragonest is currently available on mobile and will soon release a PC version exclusively on the Epic Store.
  • Team Fight Tactics was recently announced to be in development by Riot (creators of LoL). It will be played inside the LoL client, which means LoL’s huge player base (a big part of which hasn’t played Auto Chess) will immediately be exposed to it.
  • Dota Underlords, as mentioned, just hit “closed” beta (in reality - paid early access).

It is very likely that one of these three titles will become the market leader in the genre and that the current Auto Chess players will have to find their favorite. Because of this, we’ll try to help in this decision by writing comparative content for all three titles at least in the near future.

For now, let’s dive into our first detailed Dota Underlords comparison to Auto Chess:     

AC vs DU: Biggest Differences

1. Visuals:

After first impressions a lot of people are criticizing the game for its visuals, but two things need to be taken into account before making up your mind.

  • First, the game is early in development. Alpha and early Beta footage of Dota 2 looked nothing like the modern version of Dota, so it should be expected that Valve will improve and polish the look of Underlords with time.
  • Second and more importantly, Valve seems to be developing Underlords under the “mobile first” principle. This means that people are in reality playing the “mobile version” on PC, and the final PC version will likely look different.

User Interface:

Underlords user Interface

The biggest criticism is the huge UI elements. Indeed, it feels very clunky and it’s quite obvious that the game is designed with touch interface and a small screen in mind rather than a keyboard + mouse and a big screen.

That said, the settings menu is a big giveaway that the UI is far from final. It’s directly ripped out of the Dota 2 client and it is 100% certain that the UI is far from finished and Valve will improve it tremendously before the game is officially out. It's quite likely that the mobile and PC versions will have different looking UI's, similarly to other cross-platform titles like Hearthstone.

Board and Heroes:

The general looks of the game (board and heroes), unlike the interface, feel top-quality.

The Auto Chess mobile version is getting a lot of criticism for looking like a generic Chinese mobile title. The same couldn’t be said for Underlords.

The hero models feel slightly less detailed than the original Dota 2 models (it’s likely they got a reduced poly-count to make the game a bit less hardware-intensive and adequate for mobile), but they inherit Dota 2’s great designs.

The board itself feels closer to the polish level of mobile titles like Hearthstone, and miles ahead of Chinese mobile games.

2. Items System:

One of the biggest criticisms of Auto Chess has always been the ridiculously RNG-based items system. Unsurprisingly, Dota Underlords introduces a total system overhaul with a few very interesting ideas:

Earning Items:

Earning Items:

After defeating creep rounds, you get to choose 1 item out of three (or four) as a reward. If you don’t manage to defeat the whole creep wave, some of the choices become unavailable.

This is an obvious and much-needed change: the addition of choice makes item strategy much deeper without removing the element of randomness entirely.


Each hero has only one item slot. This is a controversial change, but it has its benefits. You are forced to distribute all of your items among your whole army instead of making your highest start hero your main carry by giving it all top tier items.

You can also freely swap items between your heroes, which is great especially bearing in mind the one-item-slot change mentioned above.

No Combinations:

You cannot use recipes to build a high-tier item from a few low-tier components. High tier items simply drop from high-tier creep rounds. It’s arguable if this is better than the original, but with one item slot per hero, it’s probably necessary. The drawback is that low-tier items could become redundant if the game goes very late.

Global Items:

Underlords Global Items

Last but not least, you can get global items. They provide a buff to your whole army without the need to be equipped on a hero (they stay on your “courier”). There are plenty of buffs that introduce interesting mechanics and break-up the usual strategies.

A few examples:

Expanded Roster
Expanded Roster (5): “+1 Unit Cap”

An army of 11 units sounds pretty broken in the late game. More raw power, more synergies.

Final Flash

Final Flash (3): “Mages reset their cooldown and get full mana when below 30%.”
Your Razors blasting out an additional Plasma Field before they die sounds pretty strong. A lot of the global items are synergy (tribe) centered. This is very helpful to make your strategy stronger, but you should pick such buffs carefully at the beginning of the game because you might have to change strategies, which would make the valuable global item useless.

Fall From Grace

Fall from Grace (2): “Human Units count as Heartless when counting Alliances”
Getting your (4) or (6) hero Heartless (Undead) armor reduction bonus has never been easier!

AC vs DU: Biggest Similarities

1. The Heroes and abilities are the same as in Auto Chess:

This isn’t a big surprise – after all Valve holds the IP of the Dota heroes used in the original Auto Chess and it makes total sense to use them together with their familiar abilities.

Templar Assassin Underlords

Above: Templar Assassin retails the same skill, tribes, and stats. The only difference is that (according to the text above) Refraction gives her a percentage-based damage increase, while in Auto Chess and Dota it gives her raw damage.

Besides minor differences like the one in TA above, there are a few newly introduced heroes with interesting mechanics:

Bloodseeker: 1g, Human, Assassin

Bloodseeker loses 7% of his max health every second, which at the same time increases his attack speed gradually the lower his HP. If he kills a unit, he heals himself for 35% of his max HP. This means that Bloodseeker can deal extremely high amounts of damage if he doesn’t get focused and killed before he is able to kill an enemy. He is very strong early on, but falls off later due to enemies having more control and nuke damage. Giving him powerful survivability items like BKB is very useful.

Warlock: 1g, Blood-Bound (Ogre), Warlock

Warlock’s ability is to heal an ally or damage an enemy over time. More interesting, however, is his race, more info on which you can find further down.

Pudge: 2g, Heartless (Undead), Warrior

Tanky Warrior (1k HP on one star) with the Meat Hook ability, which allows Pudge to grab an enemy damage-dealer from the backlines and focus it down together with adjacent allies.

Arc warden

Arc Warden: 3g, Primordial (Element), Shaman
His skill is Tempest Double – makes a copy of himself which can use Arc Warden’s items and spells with separate cooldowns. Obviously, great with active items like Dagon or Bloodthorn. Another way to use him, however, is with tankiness items. If the Primordial (Element) synergy is active, putting him on the frontline is a great idea. He will tank damage and then summon another copy of himself before he dies with the tankiness item and Primordial synergy active.

Some units that have been removed from AC are also in the game, like e.g. Ogre Magi:


Lich: 5g, Heartless (Undead), Mage
The old legendary (5g) Lich from Auto Chess is back in the game with his old Chain Frost ultimate. Good end-game unit for Mage strategies.

Slark Portrait

Slark: 3g, Scaled (Naga), Assassin
Instead of Pounce (like in Auto Chess before he was removed), Slark has Essence Shift, which means with every hit he steals the damage and attack speed of the unit he is hitting. Very strong if he gets ignored by the enemy team for long enough.

Sand King

Sand King: 3g, Savage (Beast), Assassin
They reintroduced Sand King, with the difference that he applies Caustic Finale with his spell as well as attacks on enemy heroes. Caustic reduces the enemy’s attack speed and when a hero with the debuff dies, it explodes and deals AoE damage.

2. The tribes (races and classes) are also mostly the same:
Elusive Underlords

Above: Elusive in Underlords, AKA Elves in Auto Chess

It's a bit more surprising, however, that Valve decided to keep the same tribes as in Auto Chess.

This will make it very easy for people familiar with Dota and Auto Chess to transition into Underlords, but it is a bit disappointing in terms of originality and creativity. Personally, I expected Valve to copy the concept of Auto Chess, but to create their own specific mechanics and ideas in terms of army composition strategy. This, however, is not the case. Rather than a new original game in the genre, Dota Underlords is simply an upgraded version of Dota Auto Chess with mostly the same units, synergies, and as a consequence: strategies.

That said, they have changed the “useless” tribes of Ogre and Dwarf and tweaked others:

Blood-Bound Underlords Wide Icon

Blood-Bound replaces Ogres: Blood-Bound is the replacement for Ogre: “When a Blood-Bound unit dies, all other Blood-Bound units deal +100% Attack Damage for the rest of the battle.” The only Blood-Bound units are Ogre and Warlock for now. One way you can use this is to frontline your Warlock to make him die first and buff significantly your three-star Bloodlusted Ogre Magi. We assume they will introduce more Blood-Bound heroes, which would make this tribal a bit more interesting strategically.

Deadeye Underlords Wide Icon

Deadeye replaces Dwarfs: “Deadeye units focus their attacks on the lowest-health enemy.” This is a direct buff to Gyro and more importantly – Sniper, who is very likely the top-tier damage-dealer in Hunter strats in Underlords.

Druids Underlords Wide Icon

Druids also receive a significant change: you don’t use one less unit for upgrades. Your one or two lowest-star Druids simply receive a bonus star if you have all two or four Druids on the board. At first glance, this seems like a  nerf to Druids (you need a bit more bench space and gold to get all four Druids to three stars).


Hunters get a chance to proc an additional attack instead of a chance to proc additional damage that pierces evasion. This makes them a bit weaker against Elusive comps, but the additional attack is much stronger with proc-chance items like Daedalus, Mjollnir, etc.

Knights Underlords Wide Icon

Knights get a damage reduction aura when they stand next to each other instead of the shield proc in Dota Auto Chess. This means they are not as RNG-based, but they are a bit weaker especially when they get randomly pulled away from each other on the battlefield and lose their aura.


You win scree with Assassins

The fact that most of the heroes and synergies are the same means that you’ll be able to use most of your familiar Auto Chess strategies with minor tweaks.

In Auto Chess, (6) Assassins is usually played in two variants. The most common one uses Druids to get a three-star Treant and a three-star Lone Druid, who serve as frontline tanks for your six Assassins. Moreover, the Treant gives the (3) Elves evasion bonus to your Templar and Phantom Assassins, who are your main carries. The second, less common variant uses the (2) Element bonus with Morphling as frontline.

The above Dota Underlords lineup which finished 1st in the lobby uses the same principles: Anti-Mage gives Templar Assassin and Phantom Assassin the (3) Elusive (Elves) evasion bonus, while Arc Warden with Morph give the (2) Primordial (Elements) disable and turn Arc Warden into a good frontline tank. The strategy above is not refined in any way, but it shows how the familiar principles from the current Auto Chess meta are directly applicable to Dota Underlords.

3. Economic System:

The gold and XP system is practically the same, even quirks like 4 experience costing 5 gold remain. Interest rates and win and loss streaks are also in the game as well as selling one-star units for full price. This makes the general macro-strategy of playing Underlords the same as the one in Auto Chess.

The few minor differences:

  • In Underlords you don't get winstreak gold during creep rounds.
  • In Underlords you get interest gold at the start, rather than the end of the round. This means you cannot sell a hero at the last second when you know the outcome of a fight to compensate for the win gold if you need to hit an interest level treshold.

Underlords Shop

The shop with 5 random units of different rarity and two-gold rerolls is also the same.

Underlords vs Auto Chess - Final Verdict:

Valve took the task of making an “Auto Chess clone” very seriously and didn’t want to introduce any big changes where they didn’t see an overwhelming need to do so.

This has benefits and drawbacks:

  • On one hand, people who were expecting a totally new take on the Auto Chess genre will be disappointed. Nonetheless, we’ll have a chance to see that in Riot’s Teamfight Tactics soon enough and judge if they have more original ideas.
  • On the other, people that already love Auto Chess will transition very easily to Underlords. Arguably, they will even enjoy it more than the original mainly because of the big upgrade to the Items system that adds another level of depth and strategy to the game.

Auto Chess Pros:

First-mover advantage: maybe good for business especially in China, but arguably irrelevant if you’re choosing which game in the genre to put time into right now.

Later in development: ranked system, cosmetics, less clunky UI, units have voice lines (albeit in Chinese), etc.

Dota Underlords Pros:

Items System: A superior, less RNG-based, and strategically deeper items system.

Visual: More polished looks in terms of board and hero design.

Interestingly, the fact that Dota Underlords is using the Dota 2 hero names and designs makes it feel much closer to the original Dota Auto Chess than Drodo’s standalone mobile game.

Our expectations are that most people that prefer the original Dota 2 custom game (Dota Auto Chess) will transition to Underlords ASAP, especially when the PC version UI gets improved. At the same time, it’s quite possible that a big chunk of the Auto Chess mobile players will also like Underlords more when it comes out on IOS and Android because of the better looks and superior items system.

It’s hard to give a final verdict on two games still in active development, but our feeling is that the scales are tipping heavily towards Dota Underlords right now. It's quite likely that Underlords (or/and Teamfight Tactics, remains to be seen) will out-compete Auto Chess at least in the western market.

Thank you for reading, I hope you liked the article! If you’re interested in reading more about Dota Underlords, especially about interesting strategies and tactics, make sure to give us a follow on our social media (below) to get notified when we post new content!

For our other Underlords articles you can check out our Library. For example, we have a great Underlrods Tier List with info and tips for all heroes in the game.