The 10 Best Dota Players of All Time

Enough serious and complex analytical articles! It’s time for some simple, good, old-fashioned fanboyism. Who do you think is the best Dota player of all time?

Below I’ve listed an opinion-based list of the top 10 Dota players in the west since the beginning of Dota 2.

Criteria

I’ve tried to use some objectivity when building it.

For example, I’ve taken into account the tournament earnings of the players. Yet, I haven’t simply copied the earnings list because the later TI’s skew this stat heavily – winning TI4 shouldn’t be that much less important than winning TI8.

So, the criteria are (in no particular order or weight):

  • Consistency throughout the years
  • LAN games
  • LAN win rate
  • Tournament Earnings
  • Peak form
  • Innovativeness, meta disruption

10. Dendi

Dendi Victory

Danil "Dendi" Ishutin

Earnings: $794,357.60

Position: Space-creating mid

Signature Heroes: Pudge, Magnus, Invoker, Rubick

LAN Games: 580 Games, 51.21% Win Rate

Innovations: Unconventional mid heroes like Rubick, AA, and Pudge. Highly-aggressive space-making playstyle (lots of rotations, ganks, even tower dives), which was a contrast to the turtling playstyle of e.g. the Chinese teams of the time.

Many people would put him at the top of this list simply because he’s at the top of our hearts.

And he should be. I have the absolute pleasure to know him personally (interview with him), and he is a super humble, nice, down-to-earth, friendly, and funny guy. He deserves all the love that he’s getting and definitely doesn’t deserve the hate going his way because of bad results lately.

Besides being a great guy and the face of Dota, he is also without a doubt one of the best to do it. He was the original young mechanical prodigy in the mid lane. Under the great captaining of Artstyle and Puppey, Na’Vi reached three TI finals for 3 consecutive TIs (a feat no other team has duplicated yet).

Dendi’s play in the mid lane as Rubick against Ferrari_430 at TI2 would never be forgotten by old-school fans –the rest of Na’Vi and him were the hope of the West, the only team that could stand against the Chinese juggernauts. His shenanigans with Pudge (and Puppey’s Chen) at TI3 (fountain-hooking) will also be something remembered for a long, long time.

Dendi was the mid laner from whom a lot of the current younger generation stars learned. The reason he is (subjectively) at the bottom of the list is simply because he hasn’t been able to stay at the top of Dota since the breakup of Na’Vi after TI4, and I believe the top positions need to go to people that have shown consistency.

Pudge
Magnus Portrait
Invoker
Rubick

9. Arteezy

Arteezy potatoes

Artour "Arteezy" Babaev

Earnings: $1,893,442.81

Position: Farming mid and carry

Signature Heroes: Shadow Fiend, Lycan, Razor, Naga

LAN Games: 791 Games, 60.43% Win Rate

Innovations: Farming in and outside of the game. Babyrage.

Probably the most controversial inclusion on this list, but it would have been strange not to include the most famous player in the west. Moreover, RTZ rose to fame not only because of his character and stream but because of his amazing gameplay. In fact, if he had TI on his belt, many people would be making the argument that he is one of the very best to ever do it.

RTZ’s real pro story become in his standing-in for Speed Gaming (later C9) and unexpectedly winning MLG Columbus. Since then, he was part of the rise of the dominant EG, one of the most dominant Secret rosters (and biggest disappointments in TI5), and since then has always been consistent in his high-level play.

RTZ was the first one to play pos. 1 and truly carry his team out of the mid lane. He had incredibly efficient farming patterns, amazing risk management (rarely died, high contrast to the high-risk cores like XBOCT & Envy). In a way, RTZ paved a way to a playstyle that is still relevant today, and in our modern understanding of the game the pos. 1 and 2 are much more interchangeable than they were in the Dendi Pudge/QoP + XBOCT Alchemist/Anti-Mage days, and this is mostly because of Artour.

Moreover, despite not having won TI, Arteezy has shown great consistency: heh as the 4th most LAN games with the impressive win rate of above 60%.

Shadow Fiend Portrait
Lycan
Razor
Naga siren

8. Solo

Solo

Alexei "Solo" Berezin

Earnings: $1,536,281.21

Position: Hard support, previously mid

Signature Heroes: Disruptor, Shadow Demon, Ancient Apparition, Doom

LAN Games: 505 Games, 58.02% Win Rate

Innovation: Successfully controlling the spirit of Davai in his young, hot-blooded CIS teammates.

VP have rarely failed to get to the top of major LANs, which is extremely hard to do now when the level of competition is mind-blowing. (Arguably, even T2 teams right now are better than the T1 teams of the past. If you doubt this, watch the grand finals of TI3 and TI8 and compare them for mechanical mistakes, strat diversity and the overall speed of the game.)

Arguably all of VP’s players could be on this list for the simple reason that VP has been the most consistently CIS team (arguably top 3 in the world) for years. For example, Ramzes and No[o]ne are the cores with the highest average KDA in LAN events out of all players with more than 100 games. But when in doubt – go with the captain. After all, Solo was the one that put together the current team and it’s a safe bet that he is behind most of their strategy and leadership in and out of the game.

I included Solo instead of the others for another reason, however – to poke a bit at the power of forgiveness. Because of the 322 drama, his career was on the line. If Valve was a bit harsher (which they have been to other more recent offenders), we might have never seen VP become the CIS powerhouse that it is and do feats like the “all hero challenge” in The Summit.

VP is still in their prime and a TI win in the near future would surely make a great case for Solo taking a top position in this list!

Disruptor Portrait
Shadow Demon Portrait
Ancient Apparition Portrait
Doom

7. Fear

Clinton Fear

Clinton "Fear" Loomis

Earnings: $2,507,104.99

Position: Hard carry, 2nd position carry, semi-support, captain

Signature Heroes: Lycan, Sven, DK, Gyro

LAN Games: 549 Games, 57.19% Win Rate

Innovations: 2nd position safe lane carry. Coaching young talent.

This list cannot be complete without the Godfather of NA Dota.

Pro Dota is full of great stories, and the story of Clinton Loomis is one of them. You cannot help but feel respect for a person that was there when everything we have right now wasn’t even imagined possible. Fear was a respected figure on the NA community even before making a career out of gaming was a thing and he is still famous for the support and advice he is giving to younger players in the NA community.

When Dota as an esport blew up at TI1, he didn’t place high enough and his winnings were enough for a new desk (hardly a motivating outcome after years of dedicating your life to the game). Yet, despite the hardships and numerous disappointments, old man Fear stuck through it all and finally found his way to the top with EG’s TI5 victory.

Even though Fear is no longer part of a T1 team, his legacy in Dota is already firmly secured.

Lycan
Sven
Dragon knight
Gyro

6. s4

s4

Gustav "s4" Magnusson

Earnings: $2,225,284.94

Position: Space-creating Mid

Signature Heroes: Magnus, Batrider, Puck, Night Stalker

LAN Games: 790 Games, 60.76% Win Rate

Innovations: Pos. 3 out of the mid lane. Perfecting Rat Dota together with Alliance.

Without a doubt, everyone on Alliance deserves to be on this list. They were so dominant and so innovative that Dota wouldn’t be the same without them. They reinvented and perfected Rat Dota, they often played with pos. 3 in the mid lane and pos. 2 in the offlane, which was unheard of before that. They were the first ones to have really greedy supports - it could be argued Puppey played greedily before them on Na’Vi, but Akke and EGM managed to utilize the resources in the jungle better than any other team before Alliance. They were also able to accommodate a player with a narrow hero pool and win in spite of it (or often – because of it!).

Yet, the Son of Magnus is probably the one who deserves to have his name on this list the most. Out of the original lineup, he was the only player who was able to find consistent success outside Alliance – with Secret, OG, and EG. Everybody remembers the million-dollar Dream Carl, but s4’s career has actually had many, many more impactful moments, and it looks like it’s far from over – EG are looking as strong as ever and are a serious contender in every major event.

Most of the people on this list are either great captains (usually playing hard support) or mechanical prodigies (usually playing a greedy pos. 1 or 2). S4, however, is neither. He has always played a space-creating core (pos. 2-3 out of the mid or offlane), which makes his consistent success unique in a way.

Magnus Portrait
Batrider
Puck Portrait
Night Stalker

5. PPD

peter

Peter "ppd" Dager

Earnings: $2,892,054.62

Position: Captain, Pos. 6 support

Signature Heroes: Crystal Maiden, Bane, Treant, Dazzle

LAN Games: 637 Games, 56.83% Win Rate

Innovations: Pos. 6 supporting, combined with an incredibly greedy pos. 4 and pos. 2 players. The isolation of Sodium (Na), atomic number 11, in 1807. Influencing Valve’s decision-making with Tweets.

One thing is certain: the people that shape the Dota esports scene the most are the successful team captains. The reality is that mechanically gifted players are not that uncommon. You can probably plug any top 20 players on the pub leaderboards into an already successful team, and the team will still do well. And most of those top 20 players are core players simply because it’s easiest to win games on the back of your mechanical skills when you’re playing pos. 1 or 2.

To be a great captain also requires you to be really good at the game, but it also requires much more. That’s why the top people on this list are people that can consistently build successful teams on the back of their leadership skills, social skills, strength of character, and strategic understanding of the game.

PPD deserves a place on this list as the greatest captain that has come out of NA.

Crystal Maiden
Bane Portrait
Treant Protector
Dazzle Portrait

4. Miracle

Miracle-

Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi

Earnings: $3,730,337.28

Position: Hard carry out of the mid and safe lane

Signature Heroes: Invoker, Shadow Fiend, Anti-Mage

LAN Games: 500 Games, 67.80% Win Rate

Innovations: Taking over the whole of YouTube with highlight videos. An incredibly wide hero pool, allowing Liquid to last-pick counter with Miracle’s hero in practically every important game they play.

According to many people, Miracle is simply the best Dota player in the world. And they have a good argument. His mechanical skill and game sense is inspiring and depressing to watch at the same time.

It’s strange to say a player started his career out of highlight videos. But Miracle sort of did – his highlight videos and his first place on the pub leaderboards got him picked up on a Tier 1 team. And it turns out his highlight video moments are not the exception - amazing plays are the standard for him.

He never left the very top of competitive Dota since he entered, including a few major victories and first place at TI7 together with Team Liquid. He is the player with the lowest number of LAN games on the list, yet he has one of the highest earnings and the highest win rate, which speaks for itself. In fact, he has the highest LAN win rate out of all Dota players with more than 50 games on LAN, which is astounding.

Invoker
Shadow Fiend Portrait
Anti mage

3. Puppey

Puppey

Clement "Puppey" Ivanov

Earnings: $2,143,175.77

Position: Captain, Hard-Support, Semi-Support

Signature Heroes: Chen, Enchantress, Enigma, Maiden, Axe

LAN Games: 916, 62.12% Win Rate

Innovation: Strong leadership. Countering the meta.

The whole of this list is debatable – this is unavoidable, many players deserve to be here and which player stands higher on the list than the other is mostly a matter of opinion. Yet, I think there would be very few people who would dispute the top 2 spots on the list.

Puppey is the player who is the embodiment of consistency. Besides TI4 Na’Vi and a brief period in team Secret with Universe, all of his teams have been on the top of competitive Dota. No matter which player he takes under his wings, Puppey’s teams perform. Reaching consistent success with one team is hard enough. Reaching consistent success with various lineups, however, simply showcases your extraordinarily high individual value as a player and most importantly – as a captain.

Clement is the second player on the list who I have the pleasure of knowing personally. And while what stands out about Dendi in person is his humble, nice, and funny personality, what stands out about Puppey is his strength of character and commanding presence. For lack of better words, he’s alpha as fuck.

Once he said in a conversation that while right now we’re playing video games and he’s leading people into virtual battles, if we lived 1000 years ago, he would probably still be leading people to battle in real wars. Imagining most pro players in hand to hand combat is quite comical. Yet, as you’re standing next to Clement when he’s saying that you immediately know that one – he means it, and two – he might be right. The cameras give us a good feel of a person, but they cannot fully express their presence. And with his ~ 2m (6.5ft) height and deep voice combined with his disagreeable character (meaning not afraid of confrontation, although he also has a light side), Puppey is hard not to take seriously.

I strongly believe many pro teams fall apart because of the clash of egos. Most pro players (understandably) have high self-esteem when it comes to their skill and knowledge of the game. This makes it hard to work together when things are not going well, especially when we’re talking about younger, less mature players. It’s easy to point fingers and blame and it’s hard to follow someone’s lead. When you’re playing with Puppey, however, this is not an option exactly because of his presence. Even if you are currently the biggest mechanical star on the scene and the whole of Reddit is on your hype train, it’s pretty clear whose rules you’re playing under.

If team captains are dads, Puppey is the traditional, patriarchal father whom you don’t question. This might cause friction in some circumstances, but in high-intensity team sports (or medieval battles) having such a figure is likely extremely beneficial.

Chen
Enchantress
Enigma Portrait
Crystal Maiden
Axe Portrait

2. Kuroky

kuroky 2

Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi

Earnings: $4,164,203.61               

Position: Captain, Hard-Support, Semi-Support, Pos. 1 and 2 Carry

Signature Heroes: Rubick

LAN Games: 831 Games, 64.26% Win Rate

Innovation: Although he’s not solely responsible for those, he was one of the first ones to perfect them:

  • The mechanically high-skill, active, play-making support (mainly with his Rubick)
  • Role and lane swapping within the team
  • Systematic drafting (in the case of Liquid, e.g. self-sufficient non-greedy core on Matu, last-pick greedy counter to the enemy lineup on Miracle, etc.)

There was a running joke between the coaches of Secret and Liquid (SunBhie and Heen) that they are working for Professor X and Magneto. From the description above it must be pretty clear who Magneto is. I don’t know Kuro personally to attest for him being the kind and caring father-figure, but from what we’ve seen and heard of him on camera it seems likely. Moreover, hair density problems make the analogy even funnier.

Dota fans are very spoiled in the sense that we’ve got a lot of exposure to the top-tier competitors. In the case of Kuro, we’ve had the pleasure to hear him talk for hours about Dota, but also about his philosophical view of life on numerous occasions. One of the most famous things he said is that sometimes “he wants to quit life and become a garbage man” – he said it looks like an honest and simple way to make a living. In my opinion, this makes the contrast between Kuro and Puppey even more interesting. On occasion, one imagines himself as a general in battle, while the other – as a simple garbage man. What a contrast, and yet both of them are on the very top of their competitive field for years. It seems there is a valuable lesson in this that we can probably apply to our own lives, but I’ll leave it open to interpretation.

Back to Dota: Kuro is the highest earning Dota 2 player of all time by a considerable margin. He is also the player with the 2nd most LAN games after Puppey and one of the highest win rates. He has played every single hero in Dota competitively (?!) and has gone through most roles in the game during his long career.

The facts pretty much speak for themselves. Kuro – the best.

1. N0tail

N0tail

Johan "N0tail" Sundstein

Earnings: $3,743,903.98

Position: Both semi and hard support, sacrificial carry

Signature Heroes: Io, Chen, Meepo, Naga, TB

LAN Games: 699 Games, 57.37% Win Rate

Innovations: Flower power. The power of friendship. The power of revenge. POOOOWEER!

Such drama. Much flower. WoW.                                                                                                

You can make an argument that Big Daddy N0tail has had a very consistent career. Since he started competing in Dota after his HoN days, he has always been present on the high-tier pro scene.

You can also make an argument that his journey has been a total roller-coaster ride: from a gatekeeper team in the old Fnatic, to Major winners in OG. From failing to qualify to LANs and splitting up with long-time friend and teammate Fly, to winning TI, to having an underwhelming season afterward, to winning TI for the second time with the same team - a firet in Dota 2's history. You cannot make this stuff up.

Out of all Valve events with prize pools above 3 million dollars, N0tail has won half. He delivers when it counts the most.

More importantly, however, N0tail is wholesome – people see that, it radiates from his character. It was even more obvious in the latest True Sight. The whole team atmosphere was wholesome mainly thanks to him and Ceb. That’s why N0tail is getting all of the love and the flower memes his way. That’s also what made his TI8 victory all the sweeter.

All of us felt that he truly deserves it and that there is some kind of justice in the universe. It probably also gave all of us hope: maybe despite the shit life throws our way, a big victory (or two!) might be just behind the corner if you simply don’t give up and trust in yourself and the people beside you.

IO Wisp
Chen
Meepo
Naga siren
Terrorblade
Nature's Prophet Portrait

Honorable Mentions

Finally, I must say that the most difficult part of writing this was cutting it to just 10 people. By following the scene for so long you can’t help but understand that circumstance plays a big part in the successes and failures of many pro players. Many other people deserve to be on that list just as much because they’ve had their moments of absolute brilliance, so I’ll include some below just to lessen my sense of guilt for not including them:

Universe: Probably the hardest name to cut out of the list because

  • Universe is one of the greatest offlaners of all time
  • I have a slight feeling that I am discriminating against pos. 3 and 4 players in this list.

Yet, I have three EG members already and I thought a fourth one would be excessive. You could argue that Universe should take the place of Arteezy, but I thought that the fact that Arteezy was able to be at the top of the game with a team different than EG (Secret) skews the scales in his favor.

Loda: Loda said it himself that he probably peaked too early. He was an absolute legend in Dota 1 (L-God) and he was part (and captain) of the original Alliance, so he is certainly one of the indisputable greats. Yet, he didn’t find success after the TI3 season, so I thought it’s more deserving to put s3 on the list.

Bulldog: Another Alliance member, and arguably the one that defined their Rat Dota playstyle. Like Loda, however, he didn’t find major competitive success after Alliance’s reign of dominance.

Fly: If history took a different turn at TI8 Fly would be on the list and N0tail in the honorable mentions. Yet, it didn’t.

Jerax: As I mentioned, I feel I’m discriminating a bit against pos. 4 supports and Jerax is the pos. 4 that likely deserves to be in the top 10 list the most (with Cr1t nipping at his heels and GH and Yapzor on a trajectory to possibly overtake them). If it was a top 11 list, Jerax would probably be on it.

Sumail: If Puppey is the arrogant, genius captain, then Sumail is the arrogant, genius core player. Some would argue that he deserves to be on the list instead of Arteezy (after all EG won TI with him, not with Artour), but I feel RTZ has had a bit more time to prove himself and that his playstyle was more innovative when he entered the scene. 

Ana: He hasn’t been on the scene for long enough to really build a legacy, but let’s be honest – he is probably one of the best carries Dota has ever seen. He's not on the list simply because of his short career and tendency not to play during the season.

Zai: another one of the players that make me feel I'm discriminating against pos. 3 and 4 - he is one of the best to ever do it in both roles. He also innovated the super greedy pos. 4 in the original S A D B O Y S (which became EG).

So, here it goes. Our top 10 list for the best Dota players of all time (in the west). The idea was to do this list quickly and without a lot of effort, just for fun. Yet, it’s probably the piece of content I’ve re-written the most. I hope it was worth it!

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