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.


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