eSport Battle – DotA 2 vs LoL

eSport Battle – DotA 2 vs LoL

DotA 2 vs LoL

In our first eSport Battle, we take you through two of ARTS/MOBA genre’s hottest contenders – Valve’s Defense of the Ancients 2 and Riot’s League of Legends.

In this face-off, we’ll score each title on the basis of certain parameters and award points to them accordingly. The title with the highest grand total will win the battle. So without any further ado, let’s dive right into the action and see which one emerges as the winner!

LAN Mode

Matchmaking is a great way of playing with a globally diverse player base and skill set. However, that’s also its bane when not implemented appropriately. Players who’re new to the game can get paired up with higher skill level players and end up causing a lot of frustration to those who expect their teammates to know the basic mechanics, survivability, item builds and ability usage. LAN helps players refine their game at their own pace. Before you decide to step into an actual pub or more challenging modes, you might want to practice with mates on populating your own server.

DotA 2 – As confirmed by Valve, DotA 2 is getting its much anticipated LAN mode this year. It’s highly unlikely though that it would be a standalone client. This is because unlike LoL, DotA 2 doesn’t have locked content. As per DotA 2’s content patch (23rd Jan update), you can now practice vs. bots with your entire party in a private match by launching a mode called “Practice with Bots.”

LoL – In LoL, to clearly segregate the locked champions, runes and the pay-to-unlock ecosystem from the tournament features, a standalone client is necessary. Not just that, but any non-Riot entity has to take express permission from Riot to use the tournament client for tournaments. This limits the flexibility/freedom the players could’ve had and dilutes the whole idea behind having a separate tournament client. The WE vs. CLG.EU Season 2 Quarter Final disconnection issue was a harsh reminder of how important LAN could be.

Remark: The absence of a LAN mode and LoL’s reliance on an external non-flexible tournament client gives DotA 2 the edge over LoL.

Score: (DotA 2) 1 – 0 (LoL)

Player Base

Player base has often been an important metric in judging a title’s reach and popularity. Here’s the player base breakdown for DotA 2 and LoL:


DotA 2 – 200,000 – 250,000 daily concurrent players, a little over 3 million unique players every month.


LoL – 3,000,000 daily concurrent players; 70 million registered players, 32 million players each month, 12,000,000 active players daily.


Remark: The LoL player base is huge with lots of casual players. Dota 2, still in beta has numbers that are understandably not close to League of Legends.

Score: (DotA 2) 0 – 1 (LoL)



The laning phase is the beginning stage of the game. Harassment is the key aspect during this phase as it has adverse effects on the farming and leveling up ability of enemy heroes/champions. Also, getting first blood is any team’s motive during this phase as it directly contributes to lane dominance.

DotA 2 – An inseparable element of the DotA 2 laning phase is denying the enemy hero gold and XP by not letting it last-hit a low health creep. This means you can attack your own creeps by right-clicking on them or by using an ability to kill them so that they don’t contribute to the enemy’s economy with their death. This makes laning phase in dota 2 very important and somewhat challenging. A player who’s good at last hitting can time the denies perfectly to dominate the lane. However, it can be countered with constant ganks coming from the enemy. All this makes DotA 2’s laning phase much more challenging and engaging as the player is mostly occupied getting gold, XP and cooking up plans for an early kill. You can also deny your towers once they’re below a set amount of hit-points. The laning phase in Dota 2 is much more punishing due to roamers/junglers often catching you or singling you out to disrupt your farming. You lose gold if you die and the enemy gains an upper hand in the lane. You have to make up for this deficit and let them free hit your towers and farm your creep wave until you respawn. When losing your lane, you cannot be sure if tower-hugging will be the safe approach as tower diving is prevalent in DotA 2.

LoL – There is no concept of denies in LoL. You can last-hit enemy minions but cannot attack your own units or deny your towers which are going to fall sooner or later if you get dominated in your lane. No loss of gold upon death is an important factor which can otherwise impact an early game to mid-game transition really hard. Eliminating these dynamic factors from gameplay makes the laning phase in LoL quite unchallenging and less immersive. However, the importance and understanding of last-hitting becomes more clear because you don’t have to worry about denies anymore. This also leaves the possibility of dishing out more focused harassment quite open. However, actual harassment is quite difficult in LoL due to the fact that towers are strong and even if you’re losing your lane, you can return to the safety of your tower and farm easily under it. Skills have lower cool-downs and mana costs which helps nukers spam their spells more frequently.

Remark: The laning phase in LoL is stale. Early ganks and tower diving are not prevalent. No deny mechanic makes it way too easy and the spectator has to put up with a very uneventful early game.

Score: (DotA 2) 1 – 0 (LoL)


Number of Professional Teams

While DotA 2 is still in beta, for our comparison’s sake, we have taken the number of teams currently playing both the games on a professional level. Here are the counts:

DotA 2 – 36+ Active Professional Teams

LoL – 95+ Active Professional Teams

Remark: LoL is the first eSport ever to have such a massive player appeal despite being based on DotA. Dota 2 is unreleased and the number of teams that eventually decide to compete professionally cannot be ascertained.

Score: (DotA 2) 0 – 1 (LoL)


Tournaments & Prize Money


Remark: LoL has been around since 2009 so the number of tournaments it has and the prize money Riot has given away overall is more than that of Dota. Dota 2 is catching up fast though and was the third highest paying eSport.

Score: (DotA 2) 0 – 1 (LoL)



Communities are of great importance to any eSport. DotA 2 and LoL are no different, albeit the avenues for them to express their opinions differ a lot.

LoL – The official League of Legends websites are without a doubt LoL’s biggest community hubs and since it’s their own backyard, things are much simpler from a communication point of view. This is where Riot gets to interact directly with the players via eSports and Community Managers making forum threads. The forums are always teeming with life with an entire section being dedicated to Community Feedback. Riot has also been actively involved in dropping the ban hammer on repeated offenders in order to safeguard the end-user experience based on complaints/reports filed by the community. The good thing is that even the pros are not let off easily and have been banned for behavioural problems irrespective of their ELO or celebrity status. However, this controlled environment has its flaws. Naming and shaming offenders in public is an overkill. While it does show Riot’s intent to be involved in keeping things clean and simple, handing out harsh judgments can backfire in the long run. Other thriving community sites apart from LoL’s official websites are the Team SoloMid website, MobaFire and Reddit of course! There are several LoL Statistics websites as well such as lolking, lolbase, lolmatches and lolstatistics.

DotA 2 – Big credit goes to Valve for making DotA 2 what it is today despite being in beta but an even bigger credit goes to its passionate community which has helped Valve rinse, repeat and optimize the TF2 business model. Pick up a mod, turn it into a standalone game, surround it with an ecosystem created by the community and share the profits. Valve knows it will soon run out of making and including all the DotA 1 heroes into DotA 2 which makes the community’s involvement even more important. joinDOTA, PurgeGamers, GosuGamers, TeamLiquid, DotaTalk, DotAFire along with Reddit are some of the favorite hangouts for all DotA players apart from the content analysis hub – Cyborgmatt’s Blog. However, the main problem with the community remains to be its behavior. While the game is still in beta, it cannot be an excuse for Valve not to implement a more stringent yet effective solution to the problem of players abandoning games mid-way or harassing players via text chat or voice mode. Public naming and shaming is definitely not the way to go but the number of instances with bitter end-user experience and rage are at an all-time high. While the community has shown its mature outlook in handling issues like the recent Dotabuff controversy, this same community is responsible for the unruly environment inside and outside of the game.

Remark: It’s sad that communities full of artistic talent, great skill pool and analytical abilities have such unfriendly demeanour. Riot wins points here for the tribunal bans which despite being harsh is an active effort in safeguarding the end-user experience.

Score: (DotA 2) 0 – 1 (LoL)



LoL – LoL World Finals became the most watched competitive video game event in gaming history. As quoted from the article itself:

More than 8,282,000 unique viewers tuned in for the World Finals via TV and stream worldwide (including 2,402,225 TV viewers in Korea and China). At peak, over 1,154,000 people were watching online alone (not counting any TV numbers) during the World Finals. Over the course of both the World Playoffs and Finals, people watched 24,230,688 hours of League of Legends.

On a regular day, has anywhere between 120-200+ channels streaming LoL. Riot Games Inc.’s official YouTube channel has over 2,917,548+ subscribers and 433,307,927+ video views in total.

DotA 2 – During the finals of The International 2, the online viewer count via Live Streams and the DotA 2 spectator client as confirmed by Valve had reached 567,000. The Benaroya Hall in Seattle was packed with viewers who cheered on during the iG vs. Na’Vi grand final best of 5:
Online tournaments like Raidcall DotA 2 League, The Defense, BeyondtheSummit’s and joinDOTA’s channels usually receive anywhere between 5k-30k viewers. On a regular day however, the viewership counts do go down. DotA 2 still has a lot of viewers on YouTube with several montages and team fight videos. Purge’s YouTube channel just recently crossed the 20 million views mark and is very popular due to his vast knowledge, involvement and detailed guides on PurgeGamers. joinDOTA’s YouTube channel gets a lot of hits as well, as it houses the VODs of matches casted by Toby.

Remark: LoL is way ahead in terms of the number of players who stream the game as well as watch it. Dota 2 attracts massive numbers but the number of streamers is pretty low. Initially, it had compatibility issues with several streaming platforms like XSplit but lately, has been quite stable.

Score: (DotA 2) 0 – 1 (LoL)


Players & Personalities

Every sport has iconic figures that make watching it all the more special. These personas encourage, inspire and lead by example. Apart from the players, there’s another layer of people who don’t just play the game but contribute much more by promoting the game, giving us in-depth analysis of playstyles, heroes/champions, items, builds and matches.

LoL – Pendragon, Guinsoo, Colby Cheeze, Thorin, Travis Gafford, MonteCristo, Joe miller, Deman, Phreak, Rivington and Jatt.

Players – Crumbzz, Xpeke, Misaya, nRated, Aphromoo, ocelote, Chauster, Azingy, Darien, Rekkles, TheOddOne, sOAZ, Alex Ich, CyanideFI, Shushei, SSong, SleazyWeazy, Bebeisadog, TheRainMan, Dyrus, Snoopeh, Shy, MaKNooN, Toyz, froggen, Voyboy, Doublelift, wickd and Elementz are some of the most famous players on the circuit.

DotA 2 – IceFrog, Purge, Cyborgmatt, Bruno, Sheever, Casperrr, v1lat, Purge, TobyWanKenobi, LD, Godz, Luminous, Winter, syndereN, ayesee, draskyl.

Players – Loda, Dendi, Ferrari430, xiao8, ChuaN, MiSerY, BurNIng, Maelk, Faith, Puppey, Bulba, Mushi, Yamateh, YYF, SyLaR, FeaR, Korok, Funn1k, iceiceice, Scandal, H4nn1,EternalEnvy, LightofHeaven, rOtk, s4, xiao8, Black, ZSMJ, Pajkatt, N0tail, and Fluffnstuff are some of the most famous players on the pro circuit.

Remark: Both the eSports have a great composition of people adding a whole lot of value in each aspect, including the designers and developers associated with the projects.

Score: (Dota 2) 1 – 1 (LoL)



LoL – The LoL metagame has been pretty standard throughout several tournaments with 1 ad top, 1 jungle, 1 ap mid, 1 adc bot with support. The only major variation has been in terms of heroes. This is due to nerfing of a lot of heroes to fit the meta rather than endorsing the concept of pushing heroes to their fullest to evolve the meta. Alex Ich’s unconventional picks are proof that professional players want to break the trend but somehow end up being forced to play what Riot wants them to play. Tri-lanes fail hard in LoL because it upsets the 1-Jungle-1-2 meta and eventually the tri-lane falls behind in gold and xp. The mechanics in LoL are barely changed and for the most part, there’s only so much you can do outside of the stringent meta when you and the opponents have negligible skill difference. This scripted gameplay makes LoL a very limited end-user experience with very few viable heroes even in a professional game. This MLG article from 2011 talks about the state of the LoL metagame which even in 2013 remains largely unchanged.

DotA 2 – The meta in DotA 2 can change with almost every tournament and every new patch. Heroes that were once considered the holy grail at major tournaments got nerfed and became less of a threat urging players to study new heroes and synergies. Puppey’s Chen, 430’s Templar Assassin, BurNIng’s Anti-Mage, Dendi’s Pudge warranting respect bans at tournaments are proof of the fact that these players picked up heroes and pushed them to their fullest potential which might not have been possible had the meta trends set in and governed their decisions. The Least played mode was created for this exact purpose i.e. for players to realize that Dota goes much deeper. For an untrained eye, it’s like re-inventing the wheel but for a player that understands the true depth of DotA, the meta never stops evolving. Tri-lanes, roamers, Roshan-faking, etc. are now an inherent part of DotA 2 but they’re still not cast in stone and can change at a team’s slightest whim with popular picks getting outweighed by the intended outcome behind a strategy.

Remark: Riot chooses to overnerf and overpower a lot of champions to fit the meta. Dota 2 has a much more dynamic metagame despite popular picks and Valve has actively participated in helping it make that way.

Score: (DotA 2) 1 – 0 (LoL)


Learning Curve

LoL – The game has 110 champions to choose from. Compared to DotA, the learning curve of League of Legends is not so steep which is the primary reason why it’s a hit with the casual players. The somewhat standard and static meta helps them focus more on the champions they wish to learn and master along with a comparatively easier laning phase due to the absence of the deny mechanic. The map structure being less complex also helps but unlike DotA’s single map, LoL has multiple maps for players to learn. Riot heavily nerfs most of the heroes to fit the metagame so teamwork becomes very important in LoL games where both the teams are evenly skilled as the overpowered heroes doesn’t last long. Compared to DotA 2, LoL is a much easier game to learn and master. That’s because the newer breed of players have a fresh slate in LoL unlike DotA 2 players who often have a lot of ground to catch to be as good as DotA 1 players. In the end at the highest level of play, your teamwork, wits and personal skill are all you have irrespective of which game it is.

DotA 2 – DotA 2 has a massive learning curve. Currently, 97 out of 110 heroes can be played in the game and if you wish to be any good, the first thing you’d want to learn is teamwork. Items, laning, strategy, survivability, jargons and much more will happen in their due course because a lot of players in DotA 2 belong to the DotA 1 playerbase. They’re familiar with the aforementioned synergies, strategies, heroes, items and almost every aspect of the game. This specific factor in itself makes new players vulnerable to a lot of rage that usually crops up from not performing well in a team game. For them, this simply means – “if you don’t know how to play, don’t get in the way.” If you’re good at video games or at least consider yourself to be good at video games, DotA 2 can be a harsh reality check. But if you do become good at it eventually, every little victory can be quite rewarding. The steep learning curve makes DotA 2 fit for competitive play and is another reason why it has fewer teams apart from being in beta.

Remark: Both are team games with a learning curve to them. DotA 2’s learning curve is much more steep and hence much more difficult for the casual player which makes it the perfect eSport. LoL has the numbers due to its easier mechanics and casual player base reach. Despite ESPN’s article on how LoL mimics tranditional sports, it conveniently ignores the level of difficulty (steep learning curve) involved in learning real life sports and being good at them.

Score: (DotA 2) 1 – 0 (LoL)


Game Modes

LoL – Currently, LoL has 5 main game modes. Tutorial, Co-Op vs. AI, Ranked, Custom, and Normal. The Co-Op vs. AI mode lets you practice in a match vs. bots. Ranked mode originally was meant for players of level 20 and higher, but was later changed to only be available to players of level 30. The player’s performance is calculated in Ranked games and the player is placed on the ladder according to the rating. Top teams in the ladder then get the chance to compete in the $100,000 Global Finals at the end of the season. Three 5v5 and one 3v3 map exist in the game as of now along with a new mode – Dominion which is a capture and hold style mode.

DotA 2 – Currently, DotA 2 has All Pick, All Random, Single Draft, Random Draft, Least Played and Captains Mode. The least played mode is the latest addition which let’s you play with your least played heroes. This is an innovative way to help you step out of your comfort zone and play outside the meta game. All Random mode forces everyone to play with a random hero, helping you discover new synergies and builds. Death Mode, Easy Mode and TagTeam modes are yet to be released.

Remark: LoL might have multiple maps but DotA 2 clearly has more intent. Every mode targets a different mindset and skill pool. The modes in DotA 2 point at breaking free of the meta and playing to learn than simply playing to win.

Score: (DotA 2) 1 – 0 (LoL)


Replay System

LoL – League of Legends has a separate replay client named LoLReplay. The fact that it is a third party client by the guys at LeagueReplays (meaning that it wasn’t made by Riot) implies that any technical support regarding the same is not Riot’s obligation. However, this leaves a lot to be desired from a game that has become the most played and watched game in the world! Phreak did mention it at some occasions on his stream that Riot’s working on a replay system but such a crucial feature should’ve been incorporated in the game from the get go, given how common it is for RTS/MOBA players to revisit their gameplay and analyze their mistakes. Just recently though, Riot announced that a new replay system is in the works and was available for testing on the Public Beta Environment (PBE). The system allows you to watch a replay after a match is over. The replay is stored on the servers for a limited time. You can browse through your replays and watch them with the look and feel of the spectator mode.The key difference is that the far right of the timeline is now the end of the recorded match rather than the latest point in a live game. A replay can also be shared by sending it as a file to a friend. For now, it seems to be months away from making it to the actual public client while Riot tests it out.

DotA 2 – Despite being in beta, the game already has a sturdy replay system in place. The replays can be downloaded and watched from within the game, liked/disliked for popularity stats’ sake or the player can simply watch the highlights, a feature that at the moment seems to be somewhat broken. While for RTS/MOBA player, it’s an “expected” feature, the fact that Valve thought in that direction and incorporated the same sets Riot back in this department.

Remark: DotA 2 has a well grounded replay system which has been instrumental in helping shoutcasters and spectators get a heatmap of the battlefield. Riot’s top process has been questionable in this regard as a built-in replay system should’ve been a part of a modern day RTS/MOBA.

Score: (DotA 2) 1 – 0 (LoL)


In-Game Statistics

LoL – Currently, LoL provides Current Gold, Total gold stats for each champion along with a Gold/Items on the HUD. Apart from that, each Champion’s Kills/Deaths/Assists are available as well along with Creep Kills. When compared to the stats that DotA 2 provides, from a spectator/shoutcaster point of view, the sidebars along with the limited stats do little to give you a bird’s eye view of the battlefield. Stats like graphs and grids are present though on the victory screen/final scoreboard at the end of a match.

DotA 2 – Currently, DotA 2 provides a range of gamestats like Gold per minute, XP per minute, Kills/Deaths/Assists, Last hits/Denies, Hero Level, Current Gold, Net Worth, Buy-Back Status, Difference in XP (Graph), Difference in Gold (Graph), Items, and Team Gold-XP Stats in real time. These can be assigned to hotkeys, even though they do have default ones assigned to them. They’re very helpful for spectators and shoutcasters alike as they paint the complete picture of the direction a game is heading into.

Remark: DotA 2 helps not only with detailed individual hero stats but team stats and XP/Gold difference graphs. These factors put it a league above LoL when it comes to in-game statistics.

Score: (DotA 2) 1 – 0 (LoL)


History & Developers

LoL – League of Legends was released on October 27, 2009. The game remained in closed beta from April 10 – October 22, 2009 after which it moved into open beta stage until its release.The game was inspired by the widely acclaimed WarCraft III: Frozen Throne mod/map called Defense of the Ancients (DotA). The term/genre MOBA was coined with LoL.

Pendragon – The administrator of DotA-AllStars who now works with Riot on League of Legends, Pendragon is a pretty well known figure among DotA fans. Him and Guinsoo (the main developer behind DotA before it moved over to Neichus and IceFrog) were roped in by Riot for League of Legends. While they were the original minds behind DotA, it was IceFrog who was largely responsible for its success. Interestingly, DotA-AllStars started losing traffic when IceFrog went solo with his site and was eventually shut down by Pendragon. In 2009, Pendragon announced that the website was going down for a database transfer, and it would take a week. He then replaced the entire website with a “Letter to the Community” and converted the site to a league of legends hub. Millions of words of written wisdom in the form of guides and forum posts were lost, the archive of which was posted 3 years later. It was widely believed by the community that the hero/ability/item suggestions related content of the D-A forums was used to create LoL champions. Both IceFrog and Pendragon had a falling out over IceFrog’s alleged “dealing behind the back” with S2 games for making HoN. For more on this, hit up Reddit.

DotA 2 – Dota 2 is the upcoming stand-alone sequel to the popular Defense of the ancients mod. Developed by Valve Corporation the game was officially announced on October 13, 2010 and continues to stay in beta stage with an uncertain release date. The game has most of the heroes and items ported over from the original DotA.

IceFrog – IceFrog worked on DotA back in 2005 and after Guinsoo as well as Neichus’ departure from active map making, he was the one taking care of the development process. For being someone so close to DotA, IceFrog was handpicked by Valve as the befitting lead designer for Dota 2. His meticulous work made DotA a huge success and Valve definitely roped in the more successful DotA developer for its project. The rivalry between both the developers has been a lingering topic but IceFrog definitely comes out on the top with his overall contribution and design decisions. Even to this day, IceFrog continues to support DotA via content updates.

Remark: IceFrog is definitely the more successful developer and him being with Valve is a clear victory for them.

Score: (DotA 2) 1 – 0 (LoL)

Roadmap, Sponsors & Salaries

LoL – Riot has been targeting the young demographic but they took it to a new level with their Collegiate Program which aims at encouraging formation of player clubs within universities. Riot’s co-founder and CEO, Brandon Beck stated:

I think our focus is more on making sure the players do really make a viable career out of being professional. We don’t want athletes that are going to have to hold a day job to pay their expenses; we want athletes that can dedicate all their time to practice and focusing on their game.

Riot’s gearing up big time for season 3 with TV studios and broadcast capabilities that rival national sports. They’re collaborating with production company Reality Check Systems, which works with NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA Basketball and Golf Channel on various sporting events. Beck said, that they were currently working a number of partners to help make “the broadcast be as awesome as it can be.” He further added, “We’ve specifically been collecting partners that have a bent towards high-end pro sports.” This means big sponsorships and coverage that currently only StarCraft 2 enjoys in South Korea. The prize pool is also bigger than that of Season 2 which was already a massive $5 million across the board. This cannot promise salaries for every competing team but consistent performers and winners of course could get a lot of consideration. The recent League-System patch preview helps get a better grasp of where Riot is heading in season 3. Riot also actively makes sales pitches to its playerbase. For example: “These bonuses should help you stock up on some new gear in preparation for the next chapter in competitive League of Legends.” (Source)

However, unlike The International 2 which had immaculate production, LoL’s S2WC was focused more on being big than being done right. Technical issues plagued the tournament and left a lot of spectators with a bad taste. Season 3 is again about being BIG but we hope Riot mends its mistakes.

DotA 2 – The game is still in beta with an incessant amount of keys floating around. However, having tasted several tournaments, it is ready for the red carpet already. The spectator mode and in-game stats give it a clear edge over LoL. However, the game needs to hit open beta first in order for it to get an even bigger player base. While TI1 and TI2 have been huge in terms of the game’s debut and the follow-up tournament with big prize money as well as excellent production, compared to LoL’s season 3 commitments and Riot investing a huge amount of money just like they did in season 2 ($2 million for World Finals alone, $5 million in total), DotA 2’s prize pool and popularity will largely depend on Valve’s TI3 and marketing/PR decisions in 2013. Both games have a 5-way split plus the team’s/organization’s cut in the equation but when either game’s prize money increases, everyone’s cut/earnings do as well. With the latest patch, Valve has started advertising cosmetic purchases while you search for a game. Their Japan and Korea launch can change a lot for the game and more developments are expected for the same in 2013. Neither Riot nor Valve have given out any concrete plans yet but unlike LoL, Dota 2 does not have to implement several basic features before it moves forward.

Remark: The people behind both the games have worked hard and each game has its share of shortcomings. While Riot’s vision is BIG to the extent that it might actually make it to National Television like StarCraft 2 did, Valve’s execution/implementation oozes experience which Riot lacks. At the same time, Valve’s dealing with a game that’s more technical and difficult to learn which happen to be factors that are not massive casual crowd pleasers. However, it’s great to see both Riot and Valve make conscious efforts to bridge the gaps wherever applicable. 2013 is a crucial year for both.

Score: (Dota 2) 1 – 1 (LoL)



Dota 2 – 11 Points

LoL – 7 Points


Winner Dota 2