Dota 2’s 121 heroes draw inspiration from all sorts of established fantasy archetypes, but each one comes with its own unique twist.
The world of Dota 2 is extremely diverse. Valve has made an effort to create all sorts of unique characters to go alongside standard humans. While there are plenty of one-offs like Magnus, Puck, and Ursa, many heroes can be confidently codified as the same species. Some heroes might even be directly related. These are the many races of the Dota 2 world explained.
Sniper, Techies are among the Keen race
Keen are Dota 2’s equivalent to the dwarves of Warcraft. They’re small but highly skilled inventors with technology far beyond any other group. Keen heroes in Dota 2 include Sniper, Techies, Tinker, Gyrocopter, and Clockwerk. In addition to the standard Keen, there exists a subrace of even shorter people called Smallkeen. That group includes Timbersaw, Snapfire, and the top half of Alchemist.
Keen can be recognized by their short stature and disdain for magic. The Keen use guns, planes, missiles, electricity, lasers, and drones while other heroes are stuck with swords and bows. Keen culture often revolves around technology. Sniper’s country of Knollen passes ancestral firearms down through generations and equates marksmanship with authority. Kunkka is considered an honorary Keen and the leader of their Navy despite being a human.
The Oglodi’s ranks include Axe and Lifestealer
The Oglodi are Dota 2’s take on orcs. They look similar to humans with the exception of wide builds and bright red skin. While their most famous representative Axe would paint them as warlike, the Oglodi are actually diverse. Their civilization was devoted to magic and philosophy before being nearly destroyed by a demonic threat. Oglodi heroes in Dota 2 include Axe, Warlock, Lifestealer, and Disruptor.
Axe carved his reputation in the famed Red Mist army. He ascended the ranks by slaughtering everyone above him until he was the only one left. Warlock and Disruptor represent the old ways of Oglodi society as potent wizards of war. Lifestealer is a deathless Oglodi body whose mind was usurped by a mad wizard. More Oglodi characters, including a female Oglodi named Sorla Khan, were introduced in the defunct Dota 2 card game Artifact.
Troll Warlord isn’t the only Dota 2 troll
Trolls in Dota 2 refer to a diverse group of lanky, fanged humanoids. Most Trolls are known for their belligerent tempers. Huskar, Batrider, and Troll Warlord definitely fit that description. However, some Trolls like Shadow Shaman, Dazzle, and Witch Doctor buck the trend in favor of learning advanced magic.
Trolls are the least uniform fantasy race in Dota 2. They have varying numbers of fingers and toes and sport a variety of skin tones including green, red, and purple. It’s difficult to believe that Shadow Shaman and Huskar come from the same species, but that is in fact the case. There are also less-sentient Dota 2 Trolls that appear in jungle camps. None of the listed characters have any qualms about killing them, but it certainly raises some ethical questions.
Naga Siren, Slardar, and Slark are all Slithereen
Unlike the other groups on this list, Slithereen refers to a group of collective Dota 2 races that live under the sea. They can take many forms, as exhibited by the three playable Slithereen looking completely different. Naga Siren, Slark, and Slardar all hold different positions in Slithereen society.
Naga Siren and Slardar are both members of the Slithereen military. Slardar is the leader of an elite cadre dubbed the Deep Ones, who are charged with protecting undersea treasures. Naga Siren used to be a Deep One before losing a single treasured goblet and getting banished. Slark is on the opposite side of Slithereen society as a crook. He’s the sole escapee of Dark Reef, a prison guarded by the Deep Ones. Tidehunter is often mistaken as a Slithereen but he actually belongs to a different group called the Leviathans.
Skywrath Mage’s race is just ‘the Skywrath’
The term “Skywrath” refers to both a race of winged bird-people and their civilization as a whole. Shendelzare the Vengeful Spirit and Dragonus the Skywrath Mage are the only playable Skywraths in Dota 2. The Skywrath look similar to humans but have wings and taloned feet. The floating Ghastly Eyrie appears to be the capital of the Skywrath empire, where citizens worship the goddess Scree’auk.
The two Skywrath heroes have very interconnected lore. Vengeful Spirit was a princess but was deposed in a coup orchestrated by her sister. Skywrath Mage was her bodyguard and either her secret admirer or lover. Dragonus considers her “death” his greatest failure. Unbeknownst to him, Vengeful Spirit actually survived the coup but ripped off her own wings in the process. The Skywrath are portrayed as an extremely proud people, and the loss of her wings would sink the princess to the bottom of Skywrath society if she were to return to the floating Ghastly Eyrie.
Enigma, Io, Keeper of the Light, and Chaos Knight make up the Fundamentals
The Fundamentals aren’t exactly a race in Dota 2, but the four main members are the most powerful group of heroes in the lore. Each member of the Fundamental quartet represents a basic principle of physics that governs the universe. Enigma is the Fundamental of gravitational force, as demonstrated by his ultimate Black Hole. Io the Wisp shows his control over electromagnetism by sticking close to another hero at all times. Keeper of the Light represents the weak interaction between particles with his old age and transient Spirit Form. His eternal rival and older brother, Chaos Knight, is the Fundamental of strong interaction with an RNG-heavy kit.
In addition to those four, Weaver and Elder Titan are occasionally lumped in as honorary Fundamentals. Both are beings from a higher plane of existence banished to the mortal realm. Weaver’s Time Lapse and Geminate Attack both hint towards the beetle’s control over time. Elder Titan is closely associated with mathematics. His ultimate Earth Splitter used to have a delay of 3.14 to represent π. It’s since been buffed to Euler’s constant at 2.7182 seconds.
Are Nyx Assassin and Broodmother both Zealot Scarabs?
The Zealot Scarabs are a race of sentient bugs that communicate with each other via telepathy. Their mental communication is actually represented in Dota 2 with a raspy, reverberating voice. Most Scarabs have blunted appendages and little prowess on the battlefield, but Nyx Assassin is a notable exception. His maturation was guided by the Zealot Scarabs’ god Nyx from his time as a larva. He now serves as a blessed executioner in her name. Nyx Assassin is the only playable Zealot Scarab in Dota 2, but one other hero also has ties to the species.
Broodmother is often hinted to belong to a similar group of sentient insects. The two bugs share a very unfriendly rivalry. Nyx Assassin looks down on Broodmother for not worshipping the same goddess. Broodmother claims to feed Zealot Scarabs to her Spiderlings after killing Nyx Assassin in-game.
Dota 2’s demons include Queen of Pain, Doom
The demons of the Dota 2 world come from the Seven Hells, a plane of existence parallel to the one we see in-game. Playable demon heroes include Shadow Demon, Terrorblade, Queen of Pain, Doom, and Shadow Fiend. Legion Commander becomes possessed by a demon in her Blades of Voth Domosh arcana. Bloodseeker can also become possessed with the Eztzhok immortal cosmetic series. Lion replaced one of his own arms with one from a demon, which he traveled to the Seven Hells to claim. Lastly, Warlock can summon a demon to fight for him with his ultimate Chaotic Offering.
Dota 2 demons have their own society with laws and a caste system. Demons who break the law are sent to Foulfell, a mental prison for demons that only Terrorblade has ever escaped from. The demons also have their own language called Ozkavosh. When multiple demons are in the same match, they will occasionally speak to each other in their demonic tongue. A fan-led translation for the Ozkavosh language is still ongoing.
Ogre Magi and Alchemist are Dota 2’s only ogres
Ogres are probably the most stereotypical fantasy race in Dota 2. Their defining features are their large size, gargantuan strength, and extremely stunted intelligence. The majority of ogres are closer to animals than any civilized group. They even appear as a medium jungle camp, which features an ogre wizard that smacks heroes with its staff in lieu of casting spells. Ogre Magi and Alchemist are the only playable ogre heroes in Dota 2. There are also no female ogres anywhere in the game. In fact, ogres are prone to mistaking boulders and tree stumps as women of their species. This has led to a very low birth rate.
Ogre Magi is a very special case among his species. He was born with two heads, an occurrence that happens only once in a generation. Two brains allow him to form full sentences and cast a variety of offensive spells, though his skill as a wizard primarily comes from his ancestral dumb luck. Alchemist is a unique combination of an ogre commanded by a Keen. Considering that ogres often eat Keen, the Alchemists’ pairing is probably the only one of its kind.
Roshan and Clinkz might actually be the same race
The final inclusion in our list of Dota 2’s races are the Smeevils. These creatures are Dota 2’s interpretation of goblins or kobolds with some draconic flair thrown in. They’re vaguely humanoid but tend to walk on four legs and come in a variety of colors. Smeevils are most famous for their kleptomaniacal nature, which makes them useful as couriers. Weapons forged by Smeevil smiths are highly sought-after for their exceptional quality.
Only one playable Smeevil hero exists in Dota 2. Clinkz is a Smeevil archer who served a king named Sutherix. The monarch cast a spell ensuring eternal life to whoever vanquished an invading demon general. Clinkz accomplished the feat in the middle of burning to death, trapping him in a state of eternal immolation. Roshan is also theorized to be a Smeevil who was cursed by the gods for stealing the Aegis of the Immortal. His trademark curved horns are the biggest hint towards that backstory.