4 years, 275 million (2017): Dota Builds Project Year in Review

This is a continuation of last year’s article, “3 years, 170 million“, 2015’s “2 years, 100 million” and 2014’s article: “1 Year, 40 million: Dota Builds Project Overview

**some images may appear smaller than intended, click the images to see their full resolution/detail

It’s now been 4 years (and a half) since I started the Standard Hero Builds Project. Actually, by the time I get around to finishing this, it’ll be 5 years come February (2013-2018). Last year is considered to be our most prominent year as the project became even more integrated to the client and as it offered me a lot of opportunities and recognition that outshadows everything that happened in 2016.

2017 is another step forward in the project, but in turn, it’s also brought on more publicity and public scrutiny than it’s ever faced before.

For those new to Dota 2, Hero Builds are an in-game guide system for users to learn on how to play a hero. These guides suggest in what order a hero’s ability should be leveled, which items and in what order should be bought and guides can include tool-tips to give contextual value on how best to use a hero’s set of items or abilities throughout the game. This 2013 integrated feature has been useful for many new players along with other Valve-released tools including the ‘coaching’ feature and a robust tutorial system. This project was created to establish and maintain a ‘standard’ way of playing each and every hero in nearly all roles or forms.

Today we celebrate reaching over 275 million (275,124,726) subscriptions across 157 guides. This article will take a look at the relevant statistics of our growth, discuss the project’s accomplishments and thoughts on the future as well as lessons learned.

170 Million to 275 Million – A Year of Statistics

In summary, this project has gained approximately 105 million new subscriptions since last year. Since the release of patch 7.00/7.01 which launched the new hero build UI (and will then expand the Hero Build Creator system to an in-game version). Growth has jumped from 5 million a month to 7 million a month.

In October 2013, we started with less than a total of 5 million. 4 years later, the project has attained 275 million with the likelihood of reaching approx. 370 million very likely by next year (2018). Depending on how the game remains revitalized and innovated, growth can range between 70 to 100 million in the span of a year. 2017 ushered in massive changes that highlighted how outdated some guides were and promoted newer, more accurate, guides.


Last year, we were proud to have hit 2 million unique subscribers for the first time in a specific hero build. This year, growth for individual guides have been remarkably higher than in 2016. What took two years for the Sven hero build to go from one million unique subscribers to two million, it only took that same build one year to reach three million. Furthermore, since Dec. 2016, three more guides hit three million unique subscribers.

Lifestealer (Jungle) was the original guide to first hit one million and two million subscribers. However, its growth rate has slowed in comparison to the new top three guides that currently dominate the chart: Sven, Phantom Assassin and Juggernaut. Typically builds about Core heroes (Carry) have more subscribers than support builds. Currently, the most popular support build is Crystal Maiden (2.39 million subscribers)

Every single Hero in the game (114) has a build with 1 million subscribers (except the newly-released Dark Willow & Pangolier). The average subscribers for a hero build has jumped from 1.16 million to 1.75 million. Competitors also show similar growth from 64,000 to 2.02 million (EDJE), 134,000 to 459,000 (greyshark).

The old pillars of abandoned competitors (Greyshark, Purge, eXplosion) have been overtaken by more prominent and faithfully-consistent guide makers such as EDJE and Ez MMR.

Lastly, with the release of a new statistic by Valve, we can now see how many games a guide is used across 40 days. For example, for Slark hero builds (2):

  • 453,246 games are played using a Slark hero guide on a daily basis (top 10 guides used)
  • Of that total, 85% (386,000) of those games are played using the Slark builds from this project

In the future, I would like to learn how many Slark games are played daily and compare that to how many of those games use a guide. This would highlight how influential (or not) the guides are to the game.

In my findings, about 73% of all games that use a hero builds, use the project’s Standard version (including Jungle) with heroes like Lone Druid, Tiny, Silencer, Lifestealer and Troll Warlord boasting a claimed percentage of 88%.

However, I am a bit skeptical as I’ve been told that 800k to 2 million games are played daily, yet total # of daily Invoker games using hero builds are 811,848 (32,473,920 total).

Achievements and Challenges

 I consider this year to be the most fruitful in terms of progression for the hero builds. From applying talent additions from Patch 7.00, building the new Hero Build Creator system with Valve and retiring some outdated builds that no longer reflect the meta, the expansion and transition of the Hero Builds to three different systems has made this year incredibly challenging.

  • Expanded the Hero Builds catalog from 150 to 157 Hero Builds
  • Repurposed 11 hero builds (skills and items)
  • Begun live-streaming testing and build update sessions to demonstrate process
  • Stream-lined or removed outdated tool-tip descriptions
    • Items that were no longer part of the guide still retained their description in-game, I’ve hunted and removed them all
    • Additionally, I’ve reduced my workload of writing item/ability descriptions by repeating applicable tooltips for items that share similar utility on multiple hero builds
  • Worked together with Valve on creating the new Hero Build Creator in-client system
  • Opened a public Discord server to further receive feedback and discussion

A lot of the implementations made in 2016 are still maintained today: patch changes are still accounted for, the hero builds title system has kept its new title system (now includes “roamer” as a title class) and /r/HeroBuilds is still a source for archives and serves as a feedback hub.

Working with Valve directly on a new guide system took a few months of discussion, planning, feedback and Q&A testing. It was a wonderful process that reinvigorated my love for the game and hero builds. Visiting their office and meeting some of the team members was a fun and exciting experience.


With the new Hero Builds creator system, we were able to make changes that helped promote new guide creators and up-to-date guides while de-emphasizing the popular but outdated versions. Other features were also implemented to make the build-creating process easier for the end-user versus what the web version previously offered. Thus far, there has been an increase in guides being implemented but the number is still in the lower digits: 3-5 maximum (including my own). Nevertheless, the direct communication with Valve on bug issues and fixes has been stupendous and extremely appreciated.

In terms of challenges, the amount of feedback versus the amount of changes needed to be made is widening. Usually, I will receive feedback about 4-5 suggestions every 15 to 30 days whereas changes being made are about 20 to 100 every two weeks. For 5 years, the project has been open to constructive criticism and feedback but over time it has become mostly reliant on my own (limited) understanding, which needs extra effort and time to form. Not being particularly above-average in playing Dota 2, it can be very difficult for me to grow accustom to playing and learning some heroes, especially when each patch completely changes how a hero is played, built or the meta shifts in a different direction that I need to learn and understand.

In 2016, 4,371 changes were made. 2017 almost doubled with over 8,228 changes – but the amount of support in terms of feedback has steadily declined.


Future and Motivations

As always, I remain motivated by the kind and generous words of the people who reach out to me on a daily basis. Any time I start to feel bitter, skeptical or frustrated at the efforts needed to update the builds, I go back and read the hundreds of comments, posts and messages I’ve received by people who express their thanks. Just to know that I’ve impacted them in a way that they felt compelled to thank me is incredibly flattering. Making a positive contribution to a beloved game of my life is an incredibly rewarding experience.

I spend a lot of time reading comments and opinions about the Hero Builds, it serves a reminder of who are using these guides instead of an arbitrary number. A lot of good feedback discussed among peers, so I often spend time reading or interacting with the community via Twitch chat, Reddit, Discord servers and Steam Community. Even if someone’s suggestion doesn’t make sense, it may spur on an idea that could totally work. With that in mind, I try to gather as much info as I can.


Having said that, finding the time to test hero builds and update them has been increasingly challenging. Mixed with my career, I find myself  generally working 11 hours a day, on top of monthly business-travels and weekend work when necessary. In view of these circumstances, starting 2018, I will no longer be testing the hero builds on a regular basis. Unintentionally for 9 months (2016-2017), I was in the middle of relocating and did not have a computer available to me. No guides were tested during that period and the amount of criticism neither rose nor diminished. I found that in general, the player-base mostly accepts what is presented without much vocal criticism (either they adjust it to their liking or simply use a different guide).

To summarize:

  • Growing responsibilities in full-time job and desire to have a personal life has lead to less available time to frequently update and test the hero builds.
  • Increased # of patches, meta-shifts and # of guides (from 110 to 158) demands more time investment on my side.
    • Reduction in recurring public feedback causes me to have to do more research, playing and testing to better understand heroes I am not familiar with.
  • Paid incentives to long-time contributors did not keep current contributors nor invite new ones to stay for extended months.
    • Previous long-time contributors from LiquidDota mostly refused any amount I wanted to paypal them. They are still free to claim their percentage of the Patron support but as of 2018, the project was terminated due to lack of continued long-time contributors.
    • Patron funds are still tracked and not privately used (there is no need to).
  • Exit plan of either transferring ownership to another guide creator or a dedicated team shows no optimistic route for long-term longevity in consistent quality, updating and information reporting.

The issues with the Hero Builds is a very recognized thing as even Purge makes comment about the difficulty in monetizing this sort of content versus the amount of time it takes to keep them updated (both the preparation and the practice). For the future, there is no set determined path or roadmap in regards to the project. Its continuance is still determined by my interest in the game and my ability to maintain it. Having more feedback or support reduces the amount of day-to-day focus on it. Many people have asked if I considered bringing on someone to take over the project full-time. Sadly, there have been no outstanding candidates that have come forward as the position would require years of significant dedication and the willingness to do it for free. I considered using the paid incentives system of long-time contributors to find a hopeful candidate, but they’ve mostly stopped from making suggestions on a regular basis.

Recently, we’ve been getting contacted by many organizations seeking to acquire the subscriber-base (without understanding that they’re in-game) or looking to sponsor, brand or advertise their product in-game via the Hero Builds (which can be done via the Overview function which permits HTML/Imaging). I’ve been hesitant on this front because of the reputation of these companies and the amount of impressions/views these brands would get (in-game, if valuable at all).


Recognition and Thank-yous

Last year (2016), I wrote about this newfound recognition and how it has served a lesson to me to be more mindful of my presence:

If I was overly-critical towards someone in-game, it would persist past the game and try to demonize me as some two-faced person (rather than a person who does get mad when we lose and excited when we win). If a new patch hits and I did not update the guides by their expectations, the amount of spam and private messages received would range from begging to rude demands and threats. There is a lot of expectation for me to be a public model citizen and I suppose that comes with this newly-found recognition. I do not make a living off my personality, project or appearances – yet I have this new responsibility I was not prepared for and maybe selfishly felt I do not owe towards others. I don’t think it’s something I can rebel against, but I will be taking active measures to improve my public conduct.

This year, this recognition grew an even larger role in my life. For starters, I got to attend and be a part of The International 7 broadcast team. You can read about my experience here: Working at The Dota 2 International 7 event. Working in the US has also allowed me to make contributions to my retirement (I currently work in Europe), which is a major step towards stability in my life.

Working TI7 has been a dream come true and connected me with people I would have probably never had the chance to meet before or ever. I made so many friends and connections that and really helped built my confidence.

But before that, I had the opportunity to meet SirActionSlacks and appear on a broadcasted segment at the Kiev Major. As you can probably tell, I am more of a behind-the-scenes kind of person. But after this segment, I had a lot of inquiries about when was the next time I was going to be on a broadcast. Evidently, I did not appear in any more segments or panels because I am naturally not a personality. I firmly believe that all credit people attribute to me (as someone notable or interesting) should actually be going to Jake (Slacks) who is able to contextualize people (in an entertaining way) even when they’re the least comfortable. On-camera and off, he compensates for your shortcomings and either shares or takes the spotlight depending on the person’s comfort level. I dedicated a guide to Jake because I found his personality, both on-camera and off authentic and memorable. You can test the SirActionSlacks’ Omniknight build here: it will remain updated and in his name until the end of the project

People often say to me “I loved you in that Slacks segment, which was hilarious”. However, I’ve yet to watch any of my few moments on broadcast. I prefer the memory of being in that moment than the end-result, whether better/worse than experienced. I also think that phrase shows just how important Slacks is in making context entertaining, regardless of how integrated the guests are (or not).


Additionally, the amount of press interviews reached an all-time high, ranging from Polygon’s Flying Courier to GosuGamers to Monster Gaming! I’ve never received such awareness of my brand and work in years and it’s been very surreal to be interviewing about myself and the project. I am hoping to do more in the future and appreciate those who took an interest in me.


DopaTwo gave me a small cameo in his Terrorblade video!  


As for the result of this recognition, it has not changed much in my work or who I am. I believe people care more about my project than who I am as a person, which is both great and unfortunate. It means that doing more than this project is very difficult to draw exposure/interest through my social media channels but it also means I can still focus on what I want to do and the project can remain a passion project rather than a forced full-time career at the cost of appreciated friends/fans.


This completes the Year-in-Review for this year. One thing I do want to mention is the generous Patrons of 2017. Sometimes I am slow or late with rewards or follow-up on discussion when in my Discord channel and they have never complained or mentioned any doubts in their support to this project.

The amount of people who continue to support me has been amazing. There have been people who have been supporting me since the project’s Patreon launch in December, 2015 and I try to credit them every time I make a post about the Hero Builds, try to show the world how amazing this group of people are. Now with my livestream and Discord server, I can talk to them daily about Dota 2, life, games and more. I always wanted to have a small community of my own and now I have it, surrounded by great and supportive people. It’s been great and there’s nothing I would ever trade this for.


Michael ‘Torte de Lini’ Cohen

Twitter: @TorteDeLini



Dota 2 Hero Builds Hub

Discord: Spaghetti, Meet Balls

Working at The Dota 2 International 7 event


I was going to write about my experience at The International 7 then thought against it. Not because I have nothing to say, on the contrary, I could not shut up about it given the opportunity, but because it goes without saying how appreciative I am for such an opportunity, just like any other person. To me, The International 7 is like my favourite soup – it fills me up with a warmth and satisfaction that cannot be measurably described, yet the feeling is straight-forward enough for anyone to comprehend. Nevertheless, as I sit on this flight back to Berlin, my mind could not quite let go of wanting to at least attempt to write about this event or at least how it brought to me a self-confidence I pretended I had during my teenage fucked-up years.

I was first working on The International three weeks prior to the start of the event. At the time, the work was mostly behind-the-scenes involving writing helpful strings for the newcomer stream. Purge, Valve and myself wrote about 1,400 strings combined. Skrff and Weppas did the ability movies and Valve wrote the broadcaster UI that tied it all together in an easy-to-use platform. You can see our two separate excel sheets of strings in the game files under the scripts folder: one is KG for Kevin (Purge) and the other is mine: TDL (Torte de Lini). It was a great collaborative project that is available and accessible to any tournament organizer (or user for that matter, just use the console commands to access it). I hope I get the opportunity to improve and expand on it as it is a good foundation to do more. It wasn’t until later that I received a message from Bruno about coming to the event itself. After getting ESforce’s permission to attend, I was flown out a day before the group-stages.

The city of Seattle is beautiful, a relatively modern-looking city surrounded by so much green, life and nature. Down the road is the river, followed by mountains wrapped beautifully in green and sunshine. Within the bustling streets are leaning skyscrapers, peering over as you find something new around each corner: restaurants, nightlife, winking luminous streetlights and laughter and fun ringing throughout the evening. I could see why living here was so expensive when life is so balanced with the youth of the city mixed with the remote natural privacy to escape from our daily worries.

From Berlin to Seattle, I finally arrived jet lagged and tired. The jetlag didn’t subside until my last days at the event. Overall, I would say the process to arriving and getting settled was pretty smooth – they had a hospitality desk that was around until the evening that answered all your questions (they were so lovely to talk to) and the catering was varied, mixed and usually delicious (I’m a picky eater, so don’t mind me). Everything was taken care of:

  • WiFi? They gave you a portable hotspot that connected you to the internet no matter where you were.
  • Stipend for food during off-days
  • Laundry service every so often so you don’t have to wear any dirty clothes.

My work at The International 7 consisted of managing the Newcomer Stream with Gabe/Lyrical. If you’ve never met Lyrical, he’s an incredibly sweet and all-around great guy. He’s someone you’d have a beer with even if you don’t like beer (like me). I would define his work ethic as upstanding. During the group stages, my workload was small compared to the casters: it was merely practice for the newcomer stream where I got to know the broadcaster UI more intimately as well as Valve’s expectations and work. With testing, we set up common practices, protocols, fixed bugs and improved the UI so it made sense for the user. Working with Valve was as smooth as it can be. I was already working with a very talented person at Valve for awhile for some in-client stuff but working with new people in-person was a different beast. Naturally they were unsure of me, I was an unknown and I didn’t exactly advertise my event organization work (I worked as an event organizer and commentator during my years in StarCraft II). So they warned me A LOT about being discrete and to avoid XYZ common pitfalls – better safe than sorry. Since they saw me as being very active in the community, they were acting especially careful as they could not know my ability to be discrete. I’m not sure what they thought of my work during the event but I hope it met expectations though my return also depends on their decision regarding the newbie stream.

This was essentially my station. You can see the UI on the right, two TVs in the center to display what the stream looks like with and without the newcomer toasts integration and my Surface Book for everything else I needed. In the middle are Rice Krispies because we don’t have those in Europe and they’re addicting to eat. I also ate a shitton of Airheads – pure sugar. 

On a day-to-day basis, hanging out with the commentators was a lot of fun. Day [9] is exactly like when I met him 5 years ago (NASL Season 3 Finals), it’s incredible. He was charming, hilarious, relaxed and loose. He made everyone around him so at-ease and it’s almost too painful that we can’t be closer as friends. Machine is similar, incredibly charismatic and smooth like Jazz. I’ve run into him already 4-5 times at different events due to my work in CS:GO and every time, he’s just an awesome guy. This paragraph is going to turn into how I met and loved everyone so I’ll just say that it was a huge enjoyment to be around everyone. Even meeting Bruno for the first time was fantastic (though next time I’ll try not to fuck up playing a very simple board game…). Another strange moment was playing the game, Love Letter (?), with Pajkatt and Matumbaman a day AFTER TeamLiquid had won The International 7. Chill guy, he didn’t seem like he changed at all. It’s fascinating that no matter how much money these players win, they seem all the same – maybe a bit more confident or at-ease but all-around the same. I connected with Ioannis (Fogged) and his girlfriend, Ben (Merlini) and his girlfriend (Grace), Ted (PyrionFlax), Tobi (who enjoys some classic songs that I like), Owen and Sheever, Synderen (thanks for showing me Gwent) and Austin (Cap) and his girlfriend (Ellie) and so many more people. I got to meet most of the Moonduck guys and even GrandGrant briefly. I even met some fellow Quebecois and got to practice my franglais which is a rare treat. I think people already know of my adoration for Jake/Slacks. To me, he represents everything fun not just in Dota 2 – but playing with fellow gaming buddies. He’s genuine, authentic but for all his passion in Dota, there is an untold amount of effort that goes into not only making himself seem shamelessly comedic, but also in the stuff he produces which is chock-full of inside jokes, knowledge and fanaticism for the game we all love. He represents everything we love about Dota 2 but expressed in a way that we can all smile and enjoy.

I had already seen the stage previously, but it was a different feeling being so close to the players, the audience and the action.

I used The International 7 to try and create a better dimension of myself. I tried to be a bit more outward, self-confident and comfortable taking pictures. It’s the reason why I took so many selfies with fellow community members, as practice, smiling and showing my face in public. In turn, I learned a lot about myself during this event, I learned to reduce the self-depreciating jokes as it was an obvious social signal to determine if someone tolerated me (as it often had averse effects), I learned to do my own thing instead of trying to be a tag-along to friendships that were already established and I focused on doing a good job – in whatever capacity that was. Being invited and attending The International 7 was a revelation to me. It made the praise I received online into a reality as people stopped to tell me how much they enjoyed my work. No one knows who I am or what I do for work or what kind of person I am and yet they already liked me for what I did. What more could I ask for? I didn’t have to risk showing my awkward personality (a projection of my insecurity) to get the approval from my peers. When I first started getting mentions for my Hero Builds, I told myself unhappily that no one cares who I am, just what I do. That sentiment remains, but my outlook is more positive – that what I do reaches enough people without having to put myself out there. As I read some of the criticism talent received before and throughout the event, I realized that I had it easy – the worst I would get is always in view of my guides, never about how I am as a person, just the quality of my project (which can always be improved). When it went public that I was invited to The International 7 – I got so much inquiries about what I did to ‘deserve’ an invite. Those kinds of questions put a person in an awkward situation. It’s not their place to answer and it’s not your place to ask them. Not because it’s not within your right to question decision-making, it’s just directed at someone who didn’t make the decision in the first place. For me, it’s not “why” I got an invite but rather “how” can I redeem their decision, with all its risks and rewards. Hopefully I answered that question and if there are future iterations of a newbie stream (or otherwise), that I can still provide help, in whatever form that is.

Loved the idea of being able to watch the event even if you didn’t have a ticket. So many people came out on this beautiful sunny day and got to check out Dota 2. As a kid, this would have been a dream come true and if I ever have this kind of throw-away money in a lifetime, I would 100% do this for an event.

During the main event, I had a lot of free time to walk around and meet people. Valve ensured that our workload was not too strenuous as I often alternated with Lyrical between each set. The challenge in the Newcomer stream was that it was not coordinated with the main stream in that you had to focus heavily on everything in the game, commentators AND broadcast. If the broadcast showed a player’s came at the top-right corner, we had to dismiss whatever toast we were showing. The only issue is that we had no idea what the broadcast was doing so we had to ‘sense’ when/if it would come. If the commentators spoke about an item, you had to search and execute the prompt in-time so it made sense, otherwise it would be a missed timing. Lastly, we had to heavily interpret each moment in a match to determine which item or ability would best suit the questions new viewers may have. It was draining as you were constantly thinking back to which item/ability would be best for the moment and which text out of 1,400 strings would be worded exactly as you wanted (and sometimes it wasn’t, so you had to make do with what you had).

Meeting so many people who loved my work was such a joy and will always be a reminder for who I am doing these guides for (besides to improve my own playstyle).

To me, there’s two chapters of my life: life as a fuck-up and life in esports. The first chapter was filled with misery, manipulation, casual racism, suppressed expression and projected self-hate. From having a forced catch-phase be “Ta yeule, negre!” to “thank you for your work” is a massive step that took a decade+ to reach. People think I do the hero builds as a charity but in actuality I’ve always been dependent on the guides as a reminding bedrock that as long as I remain disciplined and consistent, I’ll find some form of personal quiet success. The guides are among my first step in this current chapter of my life. It meant a lot to me when several Valve employees literally stopped me to say how much they enjoyed my work and how they even recommended it to their family and friends to get them into Dota 2. The very makers of this event and of this game, were trusting me to help them further enjoy the game. One time, I was at their office and I saw some play-testing Dota 2 on one screen – with my guide opened on the second montior. That was too wild for me!

In the coming months, I’m going to try and stream, purely for practice, to be more expressive and articulate rather than shy and insecure. I’m pretty average at Dota 2 so that goal to be more expressive will be even more emphasized. My friends at Twitch (thanks Raphael and Conrad) is getting me set up with whatever’s necessary to do this (https://www.twitch.tv/tortedelini) and after 11 months without a proper PC, I’m finally buying a beast of a machine (thanks Pimpmuckl). I still have no goals for the Hero Builds Project, it’ll always be a passion-project of mine but the recent influx of publicity has lead me to thinking more ambitiously for the future. For now, I’m working/trying to figure out how to use a Discord channel (https://discord.gg/UMGHSXQ) to be able to coordinate times where I can play with people as well as a dedicated website for Dota 2 Hero Builds and Artifact as well. In the coming months, I’ll be traveling a fair bit: Paris for the LCS EU Finals (Sep.), Moscow for work (Sep.) then Montreal (Sep.) then October events like ESL One: Hamburg but I’m hoping to have a semblance of a schedule to do everything I want to do.

End of the final day – I smile for the camera but saddened I may not get to experience this again. Here’s hoping future experiences come close to shadowing this one.

All in all, great event, unforgettable experience. Glad I got to meet so many fellow community members at the event and I hope to meet even more of you throughout.

3 years, 170 million: Dota Builds Project Year in Review

This is a continuation of last year’s article, “2 years, 100 million: Dota Builds Project Overview” and 2014’s article: “1 Year, 40 million: Dota Builds Project Overview

**some images may appear smaller than intended, click the images to see their full resolution/detail**

It’s now been three and a half year since this project started in February, 2013. I do this ‘year in review’ article once a year in October as that is when I started collecting statistics for these hero builds. In 2015, we achieved a remarkable feat: 100 million total subscriptions. I persevered in updating the hero builds despite the system being completely system. Begun implementing a better hero builds tooltip system and established a proper policy in what direction and emphasis I want the hero builds to go towards.

2016 was challenging in and outside the project and the public recognition for it has been the highest it’s ever been – with all of its appreciation and harsh criticism of character.



For those new to Dota 2, Hero Builds are an in-game guide system for users to learn on how to play a hero. These guides suggest in what order a hero’s ability should be leveled, which items and in what order should be bought and guides can include tooltips to give contextual value on how best to use a hero’s set of items or abilities throughout the game. This 2013 integral feature has been useful for many new players along with other Valve-released tools including the ‘coaching’ feature and robust tutorial system. This project was created to establish and maintain a ‘standard’ way of playing each and every hero in nearly all roles or forms.

Today we celebrate reaching over 170 million subscriptions across 150 guides (177,425,506 as of November 17, 2016). This article will take a look at the relevant statistics of our growth, discuss the continuing motivation to maintain these guides and the future goals and challenges for 2017.


100 Million to 170 Million – A Year of Statistics

In summary, this project has gained 70 million new subscriptions since last year. In fact, approximately 5 million a month since late-May 2014 (30 months consecutively). Hero builds have risen from 145 builds to 150 hero builds thanks to the release of the final DotA-Allstars hero: Arc Warden & Underlord.


In October 2013, we started with less than 5 million. Since 2014, our growth has been consistent of 4 to 6 million a month. In 2015, 37 guides have reached 1 million unique subscribers individually. That number has almost tripled with now 100 guides with their own 1 million unique subs.


Forecasts project that the project will achieve 200 million by February, 2017 and 234 million by October, 2017. Last year, we missed our prediction by a good margin and it might be safe to assume the same here. That said, we’ve achieved new milestones today with individual guides now breaking into the 2 million unique subscribers mark. Lifestealer, Sven, Juggernaut, Phantom Assassin, Phantom Lancer and Faceless Void have all recently hit their two million milestones and there are many other guides nearing it.


Observed is the incredible growth the Sven Hero Build achieved to reach and surpass Lifestealer Build’s subscribers. Lifestealer achieved 1 million by August 2014 whereas Sven achieved similar by April 2015. By June 2016, both guides achieved two million simultaneously.

Though it isn’t definitive, I firmly believe that because Sven has been more relevant in more patches and professional competitions than Lifestealer, its growth rate followed suit. This growth is not unique to a couple of builds. The average has grown from 716,000 to 1.16 million. The majority of hero builds have 1 million or more in unique subscribers. The distribution of subscribers is also much more ranged than before where guides can have as little as 150,000 subs. to as much as 2.4 million.



Achievements and Challenges

 This year was the most revolutionary year for this project yet. Not only did the project see a complete overhaul in title classification, but it was also the first time the Valve Dota 2 Development team acknowledged, communicated and fixed some of the longest standing issues that plagued the system and caused many users to outright quit making builds. Here is the list of achievements this year:

  • Expanding the Hero Builds Catalog from 145 to 150 hero builds
  • Streamlined Patch Changes Accountability and Changelog for future reference
  • Finished overhauling the entire hero builds item and ability texts to better denote contextual value for each.
  • Released a Patreon campaign after years of users asking for a way to support the project
  • Transitioned the hero builds title system (Lane/Middle/Jungle) to less antiquated system (Core/Offlane/Jungle/Support) with sub-title specifications (Roaming, Safe Lane, Middle, etc.).
  • Released /r/HeroBuilds & PlayDota.com to better curate user feedback from more community hubs.
  • Released an All-Subscribe Tool, a long-awaited feature asked by users (thanks LemonWarlord)
  • Established a direct line of communication with the Valve Dota 2 Team
    • After years of problems, Valve took the initiative to fix some of the most glaring issues that outright halted the ability to make and publish hero builds. Even more so, they have been very responsive in any new critical bugs reported to them.


Before Valve, a user named Parnakra literally saved this project. I was on the brink of giving up before he helped not only fix the Dota 2 Hero Builds Cloud Server, but improve it in many ways.
Thank you Parnakra.


Now with a direct line of communication with Valve and their promptness in fixing any new critical bugs, I hope to see more hero builds created and updated regularly without anything preventing users in doing so.

In terms of challenges, there are very few from the outside. There is still no real competition in terms of valuable hero builds currently in the database as the ones that are newly-created and maintained cannot break past some of the outdated versions from 2013 who continue to be rated up, regardless of accuracy or attention to relevance of the current patch (e.g.: heroes that get completely remade). Heroes such as Faceless Void don’t have any updated hero builds in the year 2016 except for my own. In terms of competition, the top guide creators are still the same as last year with some emerging players such as EDJE and EZ MMR.


Across the board, we can see growth in all hero build collections from the most popular catalogs of hero builds. This can be indicative that there are just more or rotating new users subscribing to hero builds as a whole.

Future Goals and Motivations

In December 2015, after much hesitation, I released a Patreon campaign for users who asked how else they can support the project. Generally, feedback was always preferred, but with the support of these great people, I can start to think about expansion into other medias to help players of all kind.


Alfred Vogl, Pearson Mewbourne, Leonardo Lambertini, Scott MacDonald, Sutas, Nicholas Chlumecky, Dice, Bartlomiej Jan Pasek, Graham Bullard, Daxdiv, Mikey Kaminski, Ryan Goss, Startracker, Freeze ray, Nate Hubbard, The WLD Crew, Benjamin Miller, Kistaro Windrider, Elliot Cuite, Daniel Thackray, Jose Cacho, Matthew Nami, tale, Joel Absolom, Tyler Reid, Hursha, Aaron Bell, Jason Davis, Cooper Johnson, Samuel Enocsson, JimmaDaRustla, slashershot, Igor Dolgiy, Ramona Brown, Duncan, Alishams Hassam, Leon Traill, Josh Laseter, Genc Musliu, Joshua Rodman, Moe Foster, Steve, Oliver, Vinzent Steinberg, Cabanur

Thank you so much to the many people here for their generosity, support and care. They saw something that was made entirely for free and still wanted to provide support with the money they’ve earned. It’s a great honor to receive this kind of support.

With the amount earned, I will be giving a portion to long-time feedbackers (though many have opted out or did not respond to request for their owed amount) and the rest will be going towards hiring a proper website designed to brand a website for the Hero Build Project and all the tools available. It will serve as a valuable hub to redirect users in being aware of all the hero builds available, tools, and statistics relevant to its growth and achievement. As always, no amount will be used for purposes other than to continue building this project.

In terms of future goals, the website hub is the first immediate one. Other cloud-level dreams would be expanding to content creation, meeting with the Valve Dota 2 team to suggest a variety of quality-of-life expansion to new player initiatives and/or newbie casting (this one’s iffy – haven’t casted since 2011 in StarCraft II).

In terms of motivations, 2016 turned out to be the year I receive the most recognition, appreciation, condescension and character criticism. Most of all, this year has been the most emotionally taxing where the hours of work remained consistently the same as last year’s: 2-3 hours a day, 28 to 35 hours a week and 9 to 24 hours within two days when a new patch releases. This is nothing new and I’ve made my concerns about it in the past as I juggle work, a personal life and this project. Somewhere along the way, I’ve also noticed my anonymity was lost, where I would be recognized in-game and my words, actions (or inaction) would paint how people speak to me or about me.


My favourite flattery/criticism in recent times. Some others have been less than comedic and more personal.


If I was overly-critical towards someone in-game, it would persist past the game and try to demonize me as some two-faced person (rather than a person who does get mad when we lose and excited when we win). If a new patch hits and I did not update the guides by their expectations, the amount of spam and private messages received would range from begging to rude demands and threats (non-lethal versions). There is a lot of expectation for me to be a public model citizen and I suppose that comes with this newly-found recognition. I do not make a living off my personality, project or appearances – yet I have this new responsibility I was not prepared for and maybe selfishly feel I do not owe towards others. I don’t think it’s something I can rebel against, but I will be taking active measures to either not talk in-game or start using an alternate account for all my day-to-day test games. Come December, I may also slow down the amount of updates and testing, as I’ve recently found myself prioritizing the project over, say, enjoying an overdue vacation with significant partners (at one point, I was updating guides while on the bus to The Grand Canyon due to increased public pressure) or ruining my sleep schedule to keep up with the latest patch. In 2017, I will also be starting something very new in my career, which may cause an impasse on continuing the project at its current level of dedication or something less attentive.

Depsite this rant, I always go back and read previous topics, smile at the appreciation I receive and know there are people thankful. The numbers say it all and the words of the many drown out the negative few.

Thank Yous

Without the help from the community at PlayDota.com, LiquidDota.com and /r/HeroBuilds, this project would not be able to be even remotely as close to its goal as it is now. I would never have the knowledge, expertise or understanding of the game that some of these people have provided throughout the years and for that, I thank them for completing this project in so many ways and keeping me on top of the most glaring inconsistencies with this collection of hero builds.


Recently, I’ve noticed more and more iconic people using my guides. People I’ve admired or see as incredibly talented. Moonmeander, Arteezy, Totalbiscuit, Day [9], Dimitri (GodBlessMali – MarsTV) and Hector Rosario (HelixFrosT – Founder of Flipside Tactics)


This project has been my pride and passion for the many years I’ve changed jobs, countries and lives. It kept me feeling personally successful no matter what low point I’ve hit. That kind of support is immeasurable and I sincerely thank you.
See you next year,

Michael ‘Torte de Lini’ Cohen

Twitter: @TorteDeLini



Dota 2 Hero Builds Hub


PS: thank you James Hu, Tam Vu and Foad Ghafor for the help with the website, graphs and this article.