Guide to DotA Custom Hotkeys

Guide to DotA Custom Hotkeys

I. Reasons for using custom hotkeys
During my first year or so of playing Dota, I did not use any third-party programs while playing. I had learned all the regular hotkeys already, and saw little use for fixing what was not broken. As I learned more about the game and started playing with better players, I began to see some disadvantages of only using the regular keyboard and mouse keys. Here are some examples of problems I ran into:

1. Sandking blink + epicenter. Most players who’ve played sandkings quite a bit are familiar with this combo. It is performed by casting epicenter, and during the casting animation queuing (shift + clicking) a blink directly on top of your opponent(s), ensuring your spell is not interrupted during casting and that you do not waste any pulses of this powerful spell. The problem was, I had already gotten used to using the numpad (the default) keys for my inventory. And since I’m not shaq, my hand could not stretch across the keyboard and press “shift” and a “numpad key” at the same time, so I was forced to instead click on the blink dagger, then again on the ground. This allowed me less time and precision to make sure I blinked to the exact right spot after my ultimate was charging, but my problem could easily be solved if I had a hotkey to use my blink dagger on the left side of my keyboard.

2. Na dagon combo. Another familiar spell combo is using na’s vendetta + impale to open, followed quickly by mana burn and dagon to dispatch any lower hp opponent instantly. The first few parts of the combo functioned fine with just normal hotkeys, but I found that often times I was just slightly slow on using the dagon since I had to either click on it manually with my mouse or reach across the keyboard to hit my numpad for that last bit of damage. Against slower opponents this is no problem, but if you’re trying to dispatch of an opponent in the middle of a fight, you may have fractions of a second to act before you are stunned and forced to watch your victim run away with a sliver of health. Again, this was solved by having hotkeys for my inventory on the left side of my keyboard.

3. Tinker high-level play. This last example was the most convincing reason I had to switch from using only the default hotkeys to a customized program. After watching some very high-level players play tinker with 5 to 6 activated items, I realized it would be nearly impossible for me to play tinker in this way unless I was able to cast all the spells and use the items very quickly. This finally convinced me to try out some hotkey programs.

II. Different functions of hotkeys
a. Standardizing hotkeys
Standardizing hotkeys means making the hotkeys of various heroes and actions the same across the board. For example, one common set-up is to have keys Q, W, E, R correspond to the four spells most Dota heroes have, with Q, W, and E corresponding to the first 3 skills, and R to the ultimate. This type of hotkey setup is especially useful to beginners to DOTA, who have not yet memorized all the individual hotkey schemes for the various heroes but want to jump in and play without having to learn new hotkeys every time they pick up a new hero.
One program that standardizes hotkeys is DotaKeys.

b. Inventory hotkeys
Probably the most common use of 3rd party programs, Inventory hotkeys moves the numpad hotkeys that are standard in the Warcraft 3 engine for items closer to the left side of the keyboard, where your hand is likely to stay for most actions. The two most popular ways of doing this is by either using the less commonly used keys, such as 2, 3, 4, 5 for items, or having a key-combo (Alt + another key, for example) correspond to the various item slots. I prefer the latter over the former, partly due to my experience in Warcraft 3, having already gotten used to the basic control scheme and not wanting to change any hotkeys but rather augment my abilities with new ones.
Many custom programs for adding inventory hotkeys can be found in the Tools & AI Maps section of Playdota.com, the program I prefer for this is Autowarkeys (included with Warkeys), which I’ll expand on later.

c. Changing hotkeys
The Warcraft 3 engine allows users to define individual spells and item hotkeys with the customkeys.txt file, placed in the warcraft 3 folder. One example of what I had previously used changing hotkeys for is when the spell “Omnislash” used to be N, and I moved it closer to the left side of the keyboard for easier use. However, manually editing these keys can be very tedious unless you’re only changing one or two keys.
Thankfully, Warkeys makes the task of changing individual spells and items relatively easy, and they update fairly often with each new dota patch.

d. Adding additional hotkeys
Sometimes, there are items / hotkeys that don’t exist in Dota but would be helpful in certain cases. One example are the goblin sideshops. The only item with a hotkey by default there is the Scroll of Teleportation, with T. I’ve often wanted to sneak into the sideshop and come out with boots or even treads, but having to manually click the items can really slow you down, especially if there are enemies in the lane who are going to follow you in and trap you while you are shopping. Instructions on enabling these hotkeys (and more) are found on the following thread in Playdota.com: (Warning, this is a bit more advanced than the other stuff)

e. Macro functions
Lastly, there are macros, or a series of actions that can be bound to a hotkey. Here are some of the common uses of macros in Dota:
1. The most notorious use of macros are “Invoker macros”. Typically, instead of having to press the four key combinations to invoke a spell, the macro does this by allowing the user to press control (or another modifier key) and the hotkey of the spell to invoke that spell. For example, to invoke sunstrike, instead of pressing EEER, the user would simply press ctrl + T to invoke the spell. There are debates of the fairness of these macros, but they are common enough among invoker players to mention here.

2. Autocasting spells. There are many spells in dota that can be turned on/off of autocast mode by right clicking the spell. However, most top-tier Dota players rarely click their spells / items, but there’s no normal option to have a hotkey toggle autocast in Warcraft 3 without using another program.

3. On screen clicks. Two uses of this I’ve found is to have a hotkey corresponding to clicking on the scoreboard (opening and closing it), and another hotkey to share with all my allies (when I am courier buyer). A sketchier use of it is to program clicks on certain parts of the map, for example I used a macro to TP back to fountain quicker by 1 hotkey (this involved programming a click on the minimap corresponding to my fountain), but this has become somewhat obsolete with the implementation of double click TP’s.

4. Calling lanes. I usually play with ventrillo, so I don’t use this, but I know some players have buttons on their keyboard to quickly type a message to their teammates warning them of missing heroes. This is a very important part of Dota, and can be made slightly easier with macros.
My program of choice for macros and advanced functions is Autowarkeys.


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