Lord Salforis from Heroes of Newerth
© Frostburn Studios

How Heroes of Newerth led OG to Dota 2

Fly, MoonMeander and N0tail mastered Dota – by playing another game first. Can you do the same?
Written by Ben Sillis and Jon Partridge
9 min readPublished on
While it’s not uncommon for an eSports athlete to switch games, seldom have we seen a training ground like Heroes of Newerth has proved for Valve’s Dota 2. S2 Games’ MOBA, now developed by Frostburn Studios, has been a talent pool for years – Fnatic’s entire HoN team switched to Dota 2 in 2012, while three former pro Newerth players featured in Alliance’s TI3 winning squad in 2013, s4, Loda and Akke.
It’s not a total surprise, of course. The games, if not exactly similar, follow the same MOBA set up – groups of players battling to rout each other and destroy the opposing team base, drawing from a wide pool of characters with vastly different abilities. They also trace their roots to the same Warcraft 3 mod, Defense of the Ancients.
Though competitive Heroes of Newerth does not offer prize pots anywhere close to the astronomical sums Valve’s game attracts, or pull in similar viewing figures, the game still makes an impact on one of the world’s biggest eSports, even today. Evil Geniuses captain ppd is another former HoN player who scooped millions at last summer’s TI5 – only to then fall in battle at the Frankfurt Major to eventual winners OG, with no fewer than three HoN players on the roster, Fly, MoonMeander and N0tail, two of whom formed part of that original Fnatic HoN squad.
As part of a series of articles focusing on OG, we caught up with the trio ahead of the Shanghai Major to find out how they got started in HoN, made the transition to Dota 2 and just what it taught them along the way.
When did you first start playing Heroes of Newerth? What got you hooked?
Fly: I started playing HoN around 2009, when I was 16 years old. I used to play World of Warcraft and I had never played a MOBA game before. A friend I'd been playing WoW with at the time told me to try HoN, and after a couple of games I couldn't stop playing – I'd play all night long.
Moon: I was 18 – it was a high school friend who introduced it to me. It was a lot of fun to play with IRL friends.
N0tail: I started playing Heroes of Newerth in 2009. Having played Dota for a couple of years prior, I was familiar with the MOBA genre and I was instantly in love with what this game offered in its beta form. The added hotkeys to shop, QWER binds as standard for spells – these were the things I was looking for in the Warcraft 3 custom map.
Fly and N0tail, you’ve been on competitive teams together for years now. What is it that makes you such a strong team?
Fly: I think what makes us a strong team is our understanding of one another. We have always been good friends, I feel like Johan is someone who I can talk to about anything. There's a lot of trust between us and I think that transfers into the game and makes us play better.
N0tail: I think our strongest side has shifted over the years: back when we started I think raw talent and a massive motivation to simply play the game was the biggest drive for the team. Over the years, I think experience plays a huge factor – knowing what a team needs and what is important to work on, things that you most likely won't realise are important as a new player.
Heroes of Newerth in action

Heroes of Newerth in action

© Frostburn Studios

Moon, you will have played against Fly and N0tail in Heroes of Newerth. How well did you know them and did you ever imagine you would end up playing with them?
Moon: I barely knew them, my debut tournament was playing against them and they left the scene after that tournament. I never imagined I would end up playing with them.
When did you start playing Dota 2? What was your initial reaction to the game?
Fly: I started playing Dota 2 around 2012. At first I did not like it very much – it felt very strange in comparison to HoN, and I have also never played Dota 1 so it was new to me. After around 100 games, I started to understand why this is a better game and really started enjoying it. I felt like there is so much to discover about this game - it's very complex.
Moon: I started playing around 2011, when it first came out. Initially I thought it was a terrible game with too many bugs, so I left it and continued playing HoN. It was not until 2014 when I started playing Dota 2. It was awesome since they tweaked it out very nicely, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
N0tail: I started playing Dota 2 together with my team just prior to TI2, so late spring 2012. We did our last tournament in HoN knowing it was going to be our last, and managed to end on a high note.
Did you see many similarities between the two games at first?
Fly: There are some similarities. The goals of the game remain the same, certain heroes are in Dota 2 and in HoN. The overall concept of the game was the same.
Moon: Hero concepts are the same, as are Roshan concepts: an amazing HoN player will transition easily.
N0tail: Dota2, like HoN, gave me the feeling that the WC3 custom game that I always loved was finally lifted to a level it deserved. The feeling of switching from HoN to Dota 2 was a very nostalgic one, as Dota 1 was the game that started it all, and the game I have always loved.
Team OG with the trophy at the Frankfurt Major

Team OG with the trophy at the Frankfurt Major

© ESL / Steffie Wunderl

What are the differences? Can you explain them to a Dota player who has never tried HoN?
Fly: Dota has a "slower" feeling to it: there are higher turn rates for heroes and certain abilities take longer to cast. In HoN things are very instant – making it feel "quicker" sometimes. In HoN you also have a concede option, meaning your team can vote to forfeit the game – something which Dota is very against.
Moon: The difference is in the balance of the game. HoN is horribly imbalanced compared to Dota 2. Smoke of Deceit made Dota 2 way better than HoN.
N0tail: HoN feels like a 'faster paced' game, this is due to turn-rate being much less on all heroes and a lot of spells not having a turn-requirement. That is the biggest difference, but you obviously had your different heroes, glyph was different and other small differences.
What is it about Heroes that you think has made it a great training ground for your Dota careers?
Fly: HoN was a good training ground because I got to play a lot of competitions, meet a lot of people and overall understand the concept of MOBA games better. While getting used to Dota took me some time, it felt a lot easier having played HoN before which is similar in some fundamental features.
Moon: I think HoN was a great training ground because it was so fast. Since Dota 2 is slower, a HoN player has more time to calculate and look at the game better.
N0tail: Having practiced in a scene that is not as big and scary definitely boosted my confidence, and removed a lot of my doubt of what I might have been incapable of doing back then. I believe playing any team game will also give you a lot of important aspects to carry into Dota.
N0tail signs autographs for fans

N0tail signs autographs for fans

© ESL / Steffie Wunderl

Both games are rooted in the classic Defense of the Ancients map, but surely, they’re not exactly alike?
Fly: The maps of the two games differ quite a lot, especially because the two games kept changing the maps. The Dota map felt bigger to me, and it took me some time to get used to it. Juking between tree's was different, there were different warding spots, the position Roshan/Kongor pit stood was also different.
N0tail: From HoN to Dota 2 the switch wasn't perfect, and I definitely struggled at first with the turn-rate, different mechanics and the shop not having keybinds.
The games are very similar: when HoN first came out in beta it was basically Dota but on a different engine. As time went on though, HoN changed a lot more, and in the opposite direction to where Dota was headed.
How many other players that you knew have switched from HoN?
Fly: I would say around 85 to 90 percent of the competitive players I knew in HoN have made the switch.
Moon: Pretty much everyone. The spotlight is on Khezu, who hit 7.2k MMR in a couple of months!
If you had to form a Dota team comprised exclusively of ex HoN players, what would it be? What about if there was an all-star HoN match in Dota? What would the teams be and who would win?
Fly: I would have N0tail, Moonmeander, S4 and Zai as my ex-HoN team. I think a team like compLexity – so Swindle, Zfreek, Chessie, Limmp and Handsken – would make for good competition in all-star ex-HoN match.
N0tail: Excluding my team, because that would be boring: S4, Scandal, zai, PPD and trixi.
Do you still play HoN at all? Do you think you could still compete at the highest level in it if you went back to it full time?
Fly: I don't play HoN. I think if I went back to it full time I'd be able to compete again after some time to readjust to it.
N0tail: I believe I played a single game since we switched to Dota 2 – I never really looked back or felt like I missed the game. I'm not sure if I could compete on a top level in HoN since I don't have the motivation to do it, but if I had I'm confident I could.
Do you ever see the meta of Dota and HoN mirroring each other?
Fly: I think as time passed, each game kind of went in its own direction more and more. However, when I used to compete in HoN I would look at some Dota matches and try to use similar strategies in HoN, which I did find success with.
N0tail: Back when we played HoN we used to mirror some of the eastern-style Dota, and it definitely worked out for us – so 'mirroring' would be an understatement.
Is there anything from HoN that you would love to see appear in Dota?
Fly: I do miss my favourite hero from HoN, Pandamonium. Besides that, I think Dota is great and I'm happy to be playing this game.
N0tail: Booooooooooombardier.
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