Less Elementary Dota 2: The Courier and Shopping

For the first post in this series, see Elementary Dota 2.

I’m wearing this right now. Source.

The courier, the donkey, the crow, chicken. The ever inscrutable, ever occupied courier. It comes in many forms (pictured above: badger), but the default in Dota 2 is a donkey (pictured below).

The courier consults the shop in the fountain.
The courier consults the shop.

Dota 2 is a shopping game, and the courier delivers the goods. It costs 150 gold and is invaluable to the team, yet nobody wants to buy it, so if you spend your Dota 2 career playing with pub scrubs, then you may never actually see one of these.

If you are lucky enough to have semi-competent teammates (or be semi-competent yourself), you need to know how to use the courier.

Shopping basics.

There are three shops on each side of the map. One in the fountain (that’s where you spawn), one in the easy lane (“side shop”), and another one called the “secret shop”. Either team can use any shop, but trying to purchase one’s items from the enemy fountain is not usually advisable.

The side shops

Here’s the deal with items: you can open the shop tab at any time and buy items (unless they are secret shop items – see below). If you happen to be adjacent to the appropriate shop at the time of purchase, the item goes into your inventory and you can begin using it – hurray! If you are not adjacent, the item goes into your stash.

"Oh no! My items are in the stash!"

Think of the stash as a locker you have back at the fountain, where your wayward purchases end up. To get items out of the stash, you have to return to the fountain. This is a major pain/waste of time, so you should use THE COURIER to do it for you. Grabbing stuff from the stash and bringing it to you is basically the point of the courier.

Note: you can also use teammates to courier items for you, although they will probably just steal them and mock you in a foreign language. Teammates can’t take items from your stash, but you can “drop from stash” (right click on the item in the stash to see this option), which causes the item to appear on the floor in the fountain. A teammate/courier can then pick this up and bring it to you. Only consumable items (potions, wards, dust, smoke, etc.) which weren’t purchased by a teammate can actually be used by them, so they have no reason to steal your Manta Style/whatever beyond malice and spite (you will never see your precious Manta Style again). This also means rich teammates can’t buy items for the poor ones – there will be no redistribution of wealth in Dota 2!

Using the courier.

A: Go to fountain, B: Take items from stash, C: Bring me items, D: Speed boost

I have highlighted the main courier skills (there are a total of six. Learning the courier should not be challenging.)

  • A: “Go to the fountain.” Courier will walk (or fly, if it has been upgraded into a flying courier) back to the fountain. Note: the ability after this (W in my keybinds) sends the courier to the secret shop.
  • B: “Get items from stash.” This transfers items from your stash into the courier’s inventory, if it is at the fountain. Unfortunately the courier cannot use (most) items, so its inventory is purely for storage. Note: the courier can actually use healing potions/clarities on heroes, and Smoke Of Deceit more generally.
  • C: “Give me my goddamn items.” The courier will fly to you and automatically give you any items in its inventory which belong to you, and then fly back to the fountain. If it’s not carrying anything of yours, it will still fly to you (and back), so be warned. I always hit “get items from stash” before using this command, to prevent accidental empty-couriering. If you don’t have space for all/any of the items it wants to give you, it will give as many as it can before returning to the fountain. I don’t know how it decides which item to give, but experience suggests it is “whichever item is least useful right now”. Be warned.
  • D: “Fly fast, little one.” This ability is only available if the courier has been upgraded into its flying form. It causes the courier to move at maximum speed for 20 seconds, and has a 40-second cool-down.

And so, I use the courier by ensuring it’s at the fountain, then mashing D,F,R*, and continuing on my merry way.

*If you share my key-binds, you should make sure you have the courier selected before you do this. Many’s the accidental ult has been triggered (usually bound to R) by careless courier-use. Just hope nobody witnesses your shame.

You can also buy items directly using the courier, if you send it to a shop and buy your items while it is selected.

A final note about the courier: see its hitpoints? It can die. It dies very easily (although it is magic immune). If it dies, it gives the enemy team 175 gold each. It won’t drop/lose its precious items, but they will be inaccessible until it respawns three minutes later. If you/your team are soon to engage in a fight, or otherwise go into a dangerous area, be careful about using the courier! Getting the courier killed can be even more shameful than wasting your ult.

The secret shop.

What is this mysterious secret shop, I hear you cry? Well, some items are awkward and require a specialist merchant. You can tell an item can only be purchased from the secret shop by hovering over it in the shop tab (or noticing the red mark on its icon):


As I mentioned, secret shop items cannot be remotely purchased and placed into the stash. (The stash is located at the fountain, and the secret shop is in a jungle somewhere! What merchant would risk transporting valuable stock through the dangerous jungles? The side shops are okay, because the goods can be transported via the darkness outside beyond the map, clearly.) Either you or the courier have to go there in person to shop. Sorry! On the upside, items from the secret shop tend to be a little bit exotic, so you shouldn’t need to buy from there too frequently.


More shopping: building items and quick-buy.

Many items are made of more basic items. In order to build one of these composite items, you simply have to have all the required ingredients in your(/the courier’s) inventory. If you left-click on an item in the shop, it will tell you what (if any) other items are required to build it. Note: the “piece of paper” item depicted here is a recipe. Recipes can only be purchased from the fountain, and are useless beyond their role in building items.


Also highlighted in this screenshot is quick-buy area. Dragging an item from the shop tab into this region will place all of its ingredients here, ready to be purchased with a simple right-click. If you have enough gold to purchase any of these parts, they get a golden border (in my incredibly illustrative example, I have enough money to buy all of them). They don’t get automatically purchased for you. Quick-buy is useful if you fear sudden and unexpected death, as it allows you to frantically spend your money before you die (and lose some of it). I play Dota 2 a bit like StarCraft 2, so I buy items as soon as I can, and try to spread creep(s) evenly across the map.

Apologies for wildly varying image size and quality in this post. Since starting it, I changed operating system and lost my Adobe software. I struggle on with GIMP.


Juking, hiding and neutral camp map for Dota 2

Warning: large image (5120×5120)

Critwhale posted this map in the Dota 2 group on g+ (whoever knew g+ would turn out to be useful!). I haven’t tested it so I can’t vouch for its accuracy, but if nothing else it’s a really great high-res game map.

For the uninitiated:

  • “to juke” refers to the act of evading an enemy who is pursuing you by taking an unexpected route. Or in practice, “dodging around a tree”. I imagine the jungles of Dota 2 to be filled with incredibly dense foliage, because hiding behind a single tree can sometimes completely shield you from vision.
  • A spawn box is the regions in which a creep camp can be blocked from spawning. The neutral camps respawn on the minute every minute (with the exception of their initial spawn, which is at 30s on the game clock), if the spawn box is empty. That includes heroes, creeps, and wards. You can use this offensively to impede the enemy team (if a camp doesn’t spawn, it can’t be farmed!), but accidentally blocking a friendly camp is also a danger. I usually give creep camps a wide berth around the minute mark, but knowing exactly where the box is is clearly the superior option.

I have some more guides in the pipeline (notably “how to shop” and “how to ward”), but I cannot promise graphics as beautiful as this.

Learning Hangul(한글)

Hang-Cool 1

The Korean alphabet (Hangul) is – so far – my favourite writing system. It is logical and efficient. It pleases my sense of style. Since starting this post over a month ago I took up learning Mandarin so my feelings towards Hanzi are liable to threaten Hangul’s dominance in the future, but for now I side with space-robot alphabet. Because that’s what Hangul is.

See? Space robots.
See? Space robots.

At first glance one may assume that Hangul consists of logograms – characters representing words rather than phonemes, but this is not the case. The alphabet is very much phonetic. Each “block” is a single syllable, so for example Hangul(한글) is Han(한)+gul(글).

Since syllables are made of phonemes, it is not surprising that the blocks consist of sub-components representing these phonemes. (It was surprising the first time I learned of this, because such an elegant solution to written language had not occurred to me – though upon further reflection, the trick is just “writing words more compactly” so it’s not as novel as it is aesthetically pleasing.) Some insane person wrote a Wikipedia page documenting every possible syllabic block in Korean, so all you need to do is memorise all ten thousand of these (give or take a few thousand) and reading Korean will become trivial. End of post. If this idea is appealing to you, I might suggest going to Cambridge to do Part III of the Mathematical Tripos.

The more elegant solution is to learn the alphabet. Each letter is called a “jamo”, but they only occur inside blocks, sort of like quarks. Unlike quarks, we can still look at them individually. I’ll include the IPA in [], and a ‘translation’ of IPA into my accent (mileage may vary). For pronunciation purposes, text is no replacement for audio, so I would suggest finding some videos, like this one, for example.

Simple vowels: Simple vowels are made of horizontal or vertical lines and short strokes.

ㅣ [i] (“ee” in “tree”)
ㅏ [a] (“a” in “mad”)
ㅓ [ʌ] (“u” in “mud”)

ㅡ [ɯ] (somewhere between the “oo” in “cool” and the “eu” in “eugh” – I have a really hard time differentiating this from ㅜ)
ㅗ [o] (“o” in “bowl”)
ㅜ [u] (“oo” in “too”)

Complex vowels: Combinations of simple vowels (including diphthongs). I’m not going to include all combinations because many of them are self-evident given the simple vowels.

These ones are less obvious:
ㅐ [ɛ] (“e” in “bed”)
ㅔ [e] (“e” in “grey”)

Generally, ㅗ or ㅜ combined with another vowel gives a “w-” sound, so for example ㅘ is “wah”, ㅙ is “weh”, and ㅟ is “wee”.

There’s no letter for “y” in Korean, so if you want to “y” up a vowel, double up on short strokes (I believe this process is called ‘iotation’. You can do something similar in Slavic languages with ь – Cyrillic comes a close second in the space-robot race.) This produces
ㅑ [ja] (“yah”)
ㅕ [] (“yuh”)
ㅛ [jo] (“yoh”)
ㅠ [ju] (“yoo”)

We can extend this to the complex vowels, to get ㅒ for “yeh” and ㅖ for a slightly different “yeh”.


Syllables are usually a consonant-vowel sandwich, so consonants can be “initial”, “medial”, or “final” (I’ll write [i/m/f]), and the placement makes a (small) difference to the pronunciation of the letter.

ㄱ [k/g/k̚] (“k” as in “Kant”, “g” as in “gravity”, “k̚” as in “quark”)
ㄴ [n/n/n] (“n” as in “neutron”)
ㄷ [t/d/t̚] (“t” as in “tachyon”, “d” as in “down”, “t̚” as in “cat”)
ㅅ [s/s/t̚] (“s” as in “strange”)
ㅁ [m/m/m] (“m” as in “mass”)
ㅂ [p/b/p̚] (“p” as in “point”, “b” as in “baryon”, “p̚” as in “top”)
ㅇ [-/ŋ/ŋ] (This is just a silent placeholder in the initial position. In all others it’s “ng”, as in “ping”)
ㄹ [ɾ/ɾ/l] (“ɾ” as in “alveolar tap”, a sound which is neither “r” nor “l”)

Some consonants are obtained from others by aspiration. Aspiration is basically just adding air to the sound – so imagine trying to sneak a “h-” sound in after the consonant. In Hangul, the addition of a horizontal line seems to denote this aspiration, or a general ‘softening’ or alteration of the sound (in the case of the letter I like to think of as “j”). This produces:
ㄱ > ㅋ [kʰ/kʰ/k̚] (“kʰ” is an aspirated “k”, oddly enough)
ㄷ > ㅌ [tʰ/tʰ/t̚]
ㅅ > ㅈ [tɕ/dʑ/t̚] (“tɕ” as in “charm”, “dʑ” as in “jam”)
ㅈ > ㅊ [tɕʰ/tɕʰ/t̚] (“tɕʰ” as in “oh god send help”)
ㅂ > ㅍ [pʰ/pʰ/p̚] (“pʰ” as in *strangling noises*)
ㅇ > ㅎ [h/ɦ/-] (“h” as in “hello”, “ɦ” as in “cool whip”)

There are also “double letters”: ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, ㅉ which are “tense”, so they’re pronounced a bit like you’re after spending the last hour reading articles about phonetics and just realised it’s too late to watch Breaking Bad. “Damn it!” ~ “땀읻!”

I should stress that this entire post has very little to do with the Korean language. I don’t know any Korean, but transliteration can be fun, and this article was largely about IPA. Trying to cram English into a foreign language really makes you appreciate phonetic differences.


피탤퍼이팰챜앧아퍀어퍀랟페펤… (curse you lack of “ɘ”!)