One of the great features of Dota 2 is its granting you the ability to customize your favorite heroes in the game. Through items, every gamer has the chance to make every hero appear in their own image and liking. With unique guises that cause your heroes to stand out from the crowd, opponents that you beat down the road will remember you through your spectacular playing skills and your formidable heroes.
To give you a preview of what items can do for your heroes, this is what Slithice the Naga Siren looks like by default:
This is how she would appear if she dons the Designs of the Slithereen Nobility Set:
So how do you get these equipment and also other items such as HUD skins, taunts, announcers, and more? Dota 2 has an in-game store where you can browse for items of different quality. The cheapest is Common, which often comes with the most basic cosmetic change for your hero. On the other hand, items of Legendary bearing have unique aesthetics but are also likely priced with the heftiest amount. One may think that spending for items to change appearance is just too much. Luckily, there are other ways to get items in Dota 2 without any cost.
How to get Free Dota 2 Items
Playing on Rated Matches. If you finish every rated multiplayer game you entered all the way through the end, meaning an ancient is finally destroyed and the scoreboard with the final statistics has appeared, there’s a chance an item will drop for you. The same goes to other players who’ve played through and through. I’m not sure about this, but performing really well in the game might increase your likelihood of getting an item. Common quality items are the most likely to drop, but there’s still possibility—no matter how slim it is—for you to come across an Uncommon, a Rare, and even a Legendary.
Besides items, games also reward players with treasure boxes and player cards. These may appear useless and worthless to some people, but do not just throw them away. You can actually trade them for items! (More on that below, way below…)
Leveling Up. Your player level (aka Battle Level), as shown in your Dota 2 profile, may seem useless to you. However, that detail is used among other information to find similarly skilled players during matchmaking to become either your teammates or opponents. When it comes to getting free items, you can receive one whenever enough points have reached the level-up threshold (1000 points). This is a guaranteed or 100% item drop. Obviously, you must finish your games to gain experience points (aka Battle Points) in order to up one level.
If you want to earn XP more than the usual amount for every game you finish, there are purchasable items for such purpose. The International 2013 Interactive Compendium, for instance, not only includes a free Smeevil courier, but it also lets you gain Battle Bonus points for faster leveling.
Remember that this method, as well as the first one above, only applies to games whose stats will be recorded. Any matches with one or more players who leave during the hero selection and pre-game stages are not counted and therefore will not gift you any item.
Training. Like it or not, all new players are compelled to undergo Dota 2’s learn-to-play mode. I wrote a blog post about how veteran players can skip the tutorial and jump directly to the multiplayer games, but Valve has seemingly fixed all workarounds to it. On the plus side, once you complete the tutorial phases that involve Kardel Sharpeye, the Dwarven Sniper, you will acquire his Gunslinger item set. It seems the rifle is already given away by Valve for free and should be present in your inventory from the very start.
I haven’t tried the tutorial myself (Valve hasn’t imposed it on me and all players who got into the Dota 2 scene since its beta release), so I’m not really sure if what I wrote above is accurate. What I do know is there are indeed rewards to obtain in those tutorials. Since Valve really insists on new players to undergo training, I’m guessing there may be even more rewards in the future for those who play the tutorial. Getting compensated for doing forced hours of restricted play is encouraging, after all.
Trading. Given that Dota 2 is intrinsically social, one of the more popular games in the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre, and is now free to play, you’re bound to gain friends who you’ll be playing with every now and then. If you’re in luck, you’ll gain friends whom you can frequently trade items with. Perhaps they have extra items to give away. Maybe they have items they don’t want, and they are willing to swap them for yours. Or perhaps they’re not interested with collecting items at all (they don’t boost hero stats nor improve game skills anyway!), so maybe they’ll donate all their loots to you. Lucky!
Trading is not limited to just with people you know. There are several websites that primarily serves as the go-to destination for players looking to trade with others. Dota2Lounge.com (D2L) is so far the one that I can easily recommend with confidence. That website requires your Steam credentials and, once you’re logged in, lets you connect with its members. Trading there is quite easy: using the search bar, you can find what items other players are willing to trade away in exchange for items they want. The reverse is also true; you can search using your existing items and find out what other players will give for it. If you’re skilled and patient enough, you can let go of your trash items and gain more valuable ones. In fact, the set items I got (like Naga Siren’s and The Subtle Demon for Rikimaru, the Stealth Assassin) were completed through a combination of trades and bets.
Betting. Another significant feature of D2L is its betting system. If matches of notable Dota 2 tournaments are scheduled for the day, the website allows you to bet on one of the teams. If the team you choose wins, you get back your stakes and also the potential rewards. If you lose, you cannot claim your items back. Potential rewards for siding a team depends on the percentage of players that has voted for it. Naturally, the underdogs or less favored teams tend to have higher potential rewards. Dota2Lounge only allows up to 4 items as wagers, with Common, Uncommon, and Rare as the only acceptable item quality types. Also, your potential reward’s item quality is the same as your wagers. For instance, you can win Common items only if you’ve wagered a Common item as well.
If you’re up to it, selling for real cash is also available in D2L. However, they do not offer a secure means to transact between money and items. You might end up with a scammer who will just suddenly vanish once he receives cash, not giving you whatever item they offered. As such, trade at your own risk when money is involved.
Treasure Chests and Player Cards. Now that I’ve explained trading above, I can finally continue talking about chests and cards. The chests are quite useless to many people since they initially do not have the key to open them with. Each key usually costs $2.49 in the store, an amount that some may already find too expensive. Luckily you can search for keys in Dota2Lounge. As of this writing, the exchange rate is typically 1 key for 5-7 rares. You can even find desperate people who are willing to trade a key for only four Rare items. Some chests also happen to be valuable. For instance, the Treasure of Champions 2013 contains exceedingly special items and is therefore deemed worthy to be traded for at least one Rare item.
As for cards, these are usable only by those who have purchased the International Interactive Compendium item, which is only sold a few months before the International Dota 2 Championships. Those who cannot afford the compendium can just trade away their cards and at least receive some Common items for them. Some cards are even more valuable. Just do a bit of research and you’ll find out their true value soon enough.
If you’re looking for more online places to mingle and exchange items with players, try out Dota2Marketplace.com and Dota2Price.com. I haven’t checked them out myself, so please be careful and cautious against scams and frauds.
Valve’s Community Market. The last method in my list is not exactly free. On the other hand, the market offer items sold at the store at discounted prices. A $2.49 key, for example, can be bought in the market for as low as $2.00. If you’ve a key and don’t have the chest to open it with, you can buy a chest for only 3 cents! It’s not just about keys and chests there, there are also equipment, ingredients, and other exotic items obtained by the playing community.
Keep in mind that all items are purely for cosmetic purposes only. They do not affect the gameplay beyond physical changes in order to keep the game equally competitive and fair to everyone. Also, all heroes are always playable the moment they are introduced to the game through patch/update releases. You don’t have to worry about other players gaining an advantage on you just because they have bought items and have unlocked a hero through purchases. The latter problem is what League of Legends is guilty of, but not Dota 2.
While, through this post, I am advocating methods to obtain free items for your in-game heroes, do note that most purchasable items have been contributed by fellow Dota 2 players. If you buy their submissions through the game store, these hardworking artists receive a portion of the sale. You can even submit your own designs through the Dota Workshop and earn some money at the same time! If you lack the creative skills to submit your own creation, you can also at least help by choosing/voting which submissions gets approved and imported to the game.