Love Ability Draft? Get five times the fun when you control a full team.
Dota 2 talents Shannon “SUNSfan” Scotten and Andrew “Jenkins” Jenkins’ latest ambitious project is a custom game mashing auto battler and Ability Draft. It’s in the vein of Dota Auto Chess and Teamfight Tactics — but one of its bigger inspirations seems to be from Atomic War.
It’s not the same game, however. Ability Arena is stripped down to focus entirely on, well, abilities. You don’t need to worry about getting items or increasing hero levels. Instead, these abilities are taken from Dota 2’s heroes, generally retain the same synergy, and are given massive upgrades called Super and Gaben tiers.
The process is familiar — pick a god to represent your player, place units on the board, and buy abilities to make them stronger. Here are five tips and tricks to help you win your next round of Ability Arena.
Gods are powerful — but they can be fickle
Don’t let your god choice entirely dictate your strategy. It can be easy to obsess over building a full summons strategy with Kanna, but sometimes, the correct abilities simply don’t appear. Focus on building a well-rounded team with some meatshields, some casters, and maybe more than one auto-attacker, if you are lucky enough to get all the right spells.
More advanced players can check the spell deck at the top of the screen when the game starts, to see if they have a good chance of getting the abilities they want. Some spells are automatically banned at the start of each match, so seeing Summon Wolves and Summon Treants being banned might discourage you from Kanna.
Spell-focused gods like Ogre Magi and Selemene seem to be more reliable, if only because you’ll likely have more heroes casting rather than auto-attacking. It can be hard to build a reliable carry in Ability Arena, since powerful right-click spells are usually snapped up like hotcakes.
Remember, your starting god can be important, but the most powerful things in the game are still abilities — especially Gaben-tier ones. But it can be a tough road to get there.
Spell levels are not made equal
Abilities in the Arena are upgraded to Super-tier at level six, and Gaben-tier at level nine. For the first three levels, you can see that most spells double in effectiveness for each upgrade, making the first three points of most spells incredibly valuable.
But wait. What about levels four, five, seven, and eight? They provide absolutely no benefit to you, except to bring you one step closer to a milestone.
That’s right. All abilities cost three gold, but the value you get from your purchase can wildly vary. Evaluate if you should leave a spell at level three if there’s little chance you want to improve on it.
Mousing over an ability shows you how much of it is left in a pool. It’s probably best to leave highly-contested spells at level three, instead of gunning for them, and focus on the core strategies that will really boost your heroes.
It’s OK to leave slots empty
You don’t need to feel pressured to completely deck out every hero with spells. Sometimes, your starter Zeus is only good for casting Chain Frost before dying, and that’s fine. It’s far more important that characters you’ve already heavily invested in keep their lives, so they can get their spells out.
There are some long-range or global spells in the game suitable for backline heroes, like Mortimer’s Kisses, Life Drain, and Chaotic Offering. Any other spell they cast is a bonus — but as long as the big one goes out, they’ve done their jobs well.
Every ability in this game mode only has 20 limited copies. To get a skill to level nine, you’ll need almost half of the entire pool — not to mention the many rerolls you’ll need to invest in. Sometimes, it’s better to sell a contested ability for another one, especially when you get a good hand of abilities that you can easily double or even triple up on.
Hero tiers don’t matter as much as you think
In Ability Arena, you get a new hero every three rounds. Your starting hero is a D, and each subsequent new hero gets a tier upgrade all the way up to S. You can also reroll a hero that gives you three new options, one from each stat.
And while it’s tempting to think of an S-tier hero as miles better than their lower-tier counterparts, it’s more important for the unit to fit the role. You wouldn’t want an S-tier Invoker as a frontliner, or a D-tier Ursa to be your main spellcaster.
Even within their own attributes, S-tier heroes tend to hyper-specialize in one attribute. Primal Beast has four strength gain, and Terrorblade has four agility gain — but they also have lower growth in secondary stats. This can be desirable if you are trying to make a hyper tank or carry, but more well-rounded, lower-tier heroes can do just as good of a job in certain circumstances.
In most cases, it’s more worth it to try and look for better abilities, rather than fixating on getting a hero to a higher tier.
Health is a resource in the early game
Losing health in the early game doesn’t feel good, but there’s no need to panic.
Unlike games like Auto Chess and TFT, there’s no interest or streaks. Winning or losing doesn’t impact your income. Therefore, spend as much as you can each round preparing for the future.
It’s more important to gun for late-game strength, especially early on when damage is minuscule, rather than try to immediately make your starter hero work. Who cares if your Lifestealer has Cold Embrace and Berserker’s Blood as his first two skills, and you lose single-digit health? Pick up strong spells or combos early on, instead of scrambling to fix your team composition later on.
All that matters is you have some health left to win the whole thing.
In the end, auto battlers are auto battlers. They are prone to RNG, and there will be games where you simply can’t put together a functional team. What matters is how consistent you are, if you are trying to get good. And if you aren’t — just have fun with it.
If you fancy your skill at Ability Arena, you can even sign up for a community tournament and test your skill against other players.
READ MORE: The Dota 2 hero tier list (September 2022)