Just what is Rat Dota? And why does it prompt so much hatred?
There are few more maligned ways of playing Dota 2 than Rat Dota. In some peoples’ eyes, Rat Dota is worse or equal to smurfing, AFKing, or other heinous Dota crimes. But what is Rat Dota? What makes playing Rat Dota, or Ratting, so hated? And how can you become a Rat yourself?
Simply put, Rat Dota is playing Dota 2 by ignoring your team and teamfights, pushing off-lanes, proxying towers with creeps, and attempting to 1v9 the game. You know, playing like an absolute rat. However, that’s a bit of an oversimplification.
What exactly is Rat Dota?
Rat Dota isn’t JUST proxying. Neither is it picking Nature's Prophet five-position and not helping your core. It’s an entire playstyle. To Rat is to not worry about things like your scoreline, your KDA, your gold, anything that most players usually care about within a game of Dota.
The only things a Rat cares about is lanes being pushed, and the opponent’s throne exploding. If you can push a wave and take a tower, but die after, that’s a good trade. If four opponents come to your lane to kill you, then that’s four enemies not ganking and killing your teammates. Your goal as a Rat is to be as annoying as possible for your opponent.
On the face of things, Rat Dota can seem like an anti-team style of play. But it’s actually one of the most team-focused ways of playing the game. You’re saying to your team “I trust you to go win this 4v5. Don’t worry. I’ll be here. In the off lane, pushing. If they gank me, they’re bad.”
Rat Dota is a mentality. It’s ignoring the basic tenets of ‘good’ Dota, and instead playing your style no matter what. To Rat is to be hated. And to Rat is to win at the cost of your teammate’s respect and your opponent’s enjoyment of the game of Dota 2.
Rat Dota Heroes
So who do you Rat with? Well to pull the reverse-ratatouille, you need a good hero. Rat Dota thrives when a hero has creeps in their kit. This doesn’t always have to be the case, but it makes things a lot easier. However, hard carries also make great Rat Dota heroes, because they can proxy and deal incredible damage to buildings. In this case, it’s usually beneficial for the carry to have some kind of mobility ability, or crowd control.
At various times, any hero with creeps, or a Necronomicon was able to proxy, and as a result, play Rat Dota. But with shifts in the meta, only a few heroes remain as perfect ratting heroes.
Nature's Prophet is the original Rat hero, and the best at the style. His entire kit seems made for this style, with his built in teleport and ability to convert trees into Treants and Greater Treants with the Sprout combo. Pick of choice for most Rat Dota players.
Lone Druid is effectively two heroes for the price of one. And both of them have a damage buff against buildings. Combine with annoying Entangling Claws for escapes and annoying enemy heroes, and you’ve got a proxy machine.
Same concept as Druid and NP, Lycan has strength in numbers and the opposing team will need more than one hero to deal with thanks to his Howl and Feral Impulse. A great hero for dragging opponents away from where they want to be.
One great Rat Dota hero is Morphling, due to the insane mobility offered by this hero. What’s worse than someone proxying your towers? Them escaping scot free, and you needing to send a core or two heroes to even have a chance at stopping them.
Terrrorblade is almost a hybrid of the carry and creep Rat Dota heroes. Illusion spam combined with Illusion Runes, and Manta Style can make you basically the most annoying thing in the world to try and stop.
This isn’t a complete list of good heroes to rat with. Heroes like Anti-Mage, Naga Siren, Ember Spirit, Broodmother, Beastmaster with Helm of the Dominator, Meepo, and dozens more we’re forgetting to list. The essence of the ratting requires you to have great pushing through any means. So either you have great mobility and damage, good synergy with illusions, or lots of creeps. In theory, it’s theory to
Great moments in Rat Dota history
In perhaps the most famous example at TI3, Alliance and AdmiralBulldog put on a clinic of what Rat Dota is all about.
In the group stage of TI6, Digital Chaos clutched out a crucial game in after Roman "Resolut1on" Fomynok proxied the enemy base with Morphling.
In a return to some classic Rat Dota, Nikita "Daxak" Kuzmin broke out the Nature’s Prophet to clutch out a crucial Game 2.
In defence of Rat Dota
Rat Dota is almost always spoken of with negative connotations. But there’s some merit to the play-style. For one, it definitely works. Especially in low MMR, players just won’t respond to ratting, so you can raise your rank with this cheesy gameplay.
But it's also worth remembering that ratting is an unique style of play and that’s something to be preserved and respected in its own right. One of the things that makes Dota especially great is the ability for insane emergent gameplay. Broken, unfair, seemingly busted things happening at all levels of gameplay. Unlimited Pudge Hook, Magnus at TI10, Old Techies, Necronomicon. Gameplay styles that change the entire way an opponent has to play Dota 2.
Unique play styles like this are usually patched out or removed. But Rat Dota has survived. Perhaps because it exists in parallel with the aims of Dota 2.
Valve could add measures to kill ratting. They could increase backdoor/proxy detection even more. They could add additional armor to towers, increase death counters even higher, and otherwise punish the playstyle. But as long as the game is fundamentally about pushing lanes and taking towers, there’ll be ways to play Rat Dota. So embrace the Rat, learn to love it.