One of the biggest problems of leaving ranked play for a prolonged period of time is that returning to it can be problematic. Loss of your muscle memory, games sense, and knowledge of the meta can lead to a devastating losing streak. All your hard work gaining precious MMR can all be wasted in just a few games where you didn’t perform to the best of your ability.
But we all need a break from Dota once in a while. Sometimes you just get too tired from the constant pressure of ranked games. Sometimes your teammates get the best of you, and you need some rest from all the toxicity and negativity. Sometimes you just want to try something new, and this is where countless arcade modes can come into play.
Ability Draft shakes things up enough for the game to feel very fresh, but not so much that it doesn’t feel like Dota anymore. It allows you to retain your muscle memory, while also allowing you to discover new combinations you might want to try in a ranked game someday. It is stress-free, fast-paced, and undeniably enjoyable.
Pay close attention to what hero you randomed in the ability draft. Check their attribute gain, starting mana and health pools and, most importantly, their talent tree. Trying to make a caster out of Troll Warlord might be problematic, due to his 13 starting Intelligence and 1 gain per level, while a hero like Enchantress will still be squishy in the late game, even with the help of some defensive passive abilities.
Choosing abilities that you will actually be able to use is key. Soul Assumption might be one of the best nukes in the game, but if you are only able to cast it twice before you go out of mana, it is probably better suited for one of your teammates.
Talent Tree should also play a big role in what you should be interested in skill-wise. Looking at things like cooldown reductions, cast range increase, or GPM talents can allow you to make an otherwise mediocre skill work wonders, while opening some of the most interesting combinations in the game.
This rule originated in MTG draft format, and it is as applicable to Ability Draft as it is to most CCGs. Your first pick should always be something that will have a massive impact on the game and is generally a hero-defining skill. Chemical Rage defines Alchemist, while Hunter in the Night is what makes Nightstalker a massive threat. These types of skills have a massive impact on the regular game of Dota and can be absolutely terrifying in AD.
Opening with a game-defining skill like this will also allow you to have a general idea about the direction you want to take your hero in: if you get your hands on some strong passive that will allow you to dish out tremendous amounts of damage, you can go on building a carry. If you managed to take some powerful nuke or disable, you will be able to complement it with extra follow-up disables.
Some of the most powerful starting skills include AS or MS increasing passives, percentage-based damage amplifications, and mobility spells. There is nothing more satisfying than having a Slithereen Crush with Blink on a same hero from the very start of the game.
Also keep an eye on passives like Essence Shift or Fury Swipes, especially if you are a ranged hero. These abilities are strong on melee heroes, but they shine the brightest on heroes who have little trouble continuing their attacks on the enemy. They are an absolute nightmare to lane against and can win you the game outright.
Apart from them, there are a couple of passives that are really worth mentioning. They should be drafted almost immediately, if only to deny the enemy opportunity for a massive combo. Batrider’s Sticky Napalm and Earthshaker’s Aftershock can be absolutely devastating.
Sticky Napalm amplifies damage from your spells and attacks by a flat value and is incredibly powerful alongside some strong Damage over Time spells. Sticky Napalm + Shackles is probably the most broken thing in Ability Draft, since by level two it allows the hero to melt any of his opponents in a matter of seconds. Shackles deal damage in very small ticks, all of which get buffed by Sticky Napalm, effectively quintupling the damage for every stack even at level 1 of both abilities.
Aftershock in conjunction with low cooldown spells can basically prevent the enemy from playing Dota. As long as you have spells with less that 1.5 of downtime, you can almost guarantee a target stays stunned for as long as you have mana. It is especially powerful with spells that do not have cooldowns, such as Ball Lightning, but it can also be quite good with Nasal Goo or the aforementioned Sticky Napalm.
All of the good abilities are highly contested in Ability Draft, so don’t try to rely on a specific combination of three or more spells for the whole concept to work. You will rarely get a chance to have everything you want to have, so the overall plan should generally involve two abilities that work well together. And the more versatile and reliable one should be drafted first.
Getting Pangolier’s Swashbuckle with Luna’s Moon Glaives or Medusa’s Split Shot can be game-winning, but it is rare for two of these spells to be left in the pool for whole two rounds of drafting. Think of what should take priority and pick accordingly.
Honestly, just don’t. Power levels in Ability Draft are crazy and all over the place, and having three passives, no matter how strong they are, is rarely a good idea. If your hero can’t do anything useful in the first 10 minutes of the game, he will have hard time farming, getting items and will ultimately be a glorified creep. Complement your strong passive abilities with suitable actives: all disables are worth it, gap-closers can allow you to actually land your hits, while some utility spells can be beneficial to your lane and during teamfights. Do not disregard these abilities, no matter how boring they might be.
Disables are always strong: no matter how OP the enemy hero might be, he can’t do anything while he is stunned or hexed. Sticky Napalm + Shackles deal zero damage, if you can interrupt the spell or prevent the enemy from casting this nasty combination.
They are worth it on practically every hero. Carry with a hex? Why not? You prevent the enemy from reacting and even in regular ranked games we often see the likes of Clinkz or Ursa get Scythe of Vyse. Blink and Stun? Even better.
If you are seeing first three members of your team going for some hard-hitting passives, let Burrow Strike be your “Bomb”. It is an amazing skills that combines mobility and disable in one neat package and there are many more examples of disables that are worth picking.
Most games of Ability Draft are lighthearted with people just having fun and relaxing, but there is some toxicity every once in a while and there is absolutely no reason for it. Yes, sometimes the game can be frustrating with your teammates taking the skills you wanted so much and, yes, sometimes things can be very unfair, but it is not a reason for sadness or rage.
Most people play Ability Draft to have a good time, relax from the intensity of Dota, and have simple fun. It is not a particularly balanced game mode, neither is it competitive, so it shouldn’t be treated as such. Relax, do your best and, above all else, have a good time!