You think you know how to ward?
I hate beating a dead horse. There are plenty of guides out there on warding, so to make sure there's a point in writing another one, I wanted to make sure it goes beyond what's already out there. And that led to this guide. Like I said in my first guide, there are no right or wrong ways to play DOTA, only dumb and smart ways.
I want to focus on answering the question "why?" . If you understand why things are done a certain way, you don't need a guide, and you don't need to memorize all 61 spots I discuss here. You can think of your own spots and innovate. After all, that's what separates great players from good players.
This guide will discuss even situational ward spots, with screenshots of the vision it provides, and how that vision complements what your team is trying to accomplish at that moment. I have extensively reviewed the warding guides already out there, and even optimized some of the most popular ward spots. I tried my best to consider almost every single good ward spots, but it is by no means an exhaustive list. I hope your creativity takes you beyond this guide.
But first, this can't be the ultimate guide without at least covering the basics. I'll try to keep it brief though.
Observer ward. It costs 200 gold, and you get 2 stacks with one purchase. The shop will start off with 2 in stock, and that is the max. If the shop has less than 2, it will take 6 minutes for it to gain another stock.
Why do you get wards?
-1600 range vision around it to see important areas
-Block neutral camps from spawning
Keep in mind important areas change depending on how your game plays out. Are you going for a pushing/ganking/turtling strategy? How far in to the game is it? Which towers are down?
The 1600 range vision might not mean much to newbies, so I can also phrase it like this: most heroes have 1800 range vision during daytime. Whatever the ward will see is slightly less than whatever your hero will see from that same spot. And yes, that means wards also can't look through trees or uphill.
The support hero should be getting the wards, but someone better get it if they're not. It can help you gank or prevent ganks, decide when to push and back out safely, and gain overall map control.
So where do you plant them?
Note: All images on this guide are clickable for full size.
Red - Rune wards
Yellow - Ubercliffs
Pink - Lane/aggressive/defensive/ wards
Green - Jungle wards
Blue - Push wards
White - Very situational
Purple lines - Blocks the pointed neutral camp from spawning
I will cover each spot in the order listed in the legend. In each section, they will be covered in top-to-bottom order on the minimap, and left-to-right if they are relatively the same height. (The only section that will disobey this rule is the push wards section.)
Each spot will have two screenshots accompanying it, with the 1st screenshot having a red circle to highlight the ward position.
These spots all provide vision of the rune, but many of them have multiple purposes.
1) Dire jungle rune
Good vision of the river and rune, as well as medium Dire neutral camp. This can be a powerful position for both teams, but more so for the Dire if they want to protect their jungler. It could be used aggressively by Radiant to gank the jungler, but it only shows one camp. Its main use for both team though, is during the early game to detect runes and protect top lane from ganks because of the river vision and jungle entrance vision.
Note the positioning. You need to place it in the upper left corner to get better vision of the neutral camp.
2) Radiant shop rune
Gives a ton of river vision and rune, but most of the river vision it gives is rather useless. 1) is a superior choice, but this one will be counter warded much less frequently.
3) Dire mid-top rune
A potent position for Radiant. Not only does it protect Radiant mid solo from ganks from top, it also gives vision of the rune and uphill the lane on the Dire's side. The latter can be useful for harassing and gaining an edge in last hits.
4) Radiant mid-top rune
Same as 3), except it's more for Dire to use. Favored over 5) in the early game (more on this next).
5) Radiant Ancient rune
Gives far more vision than 4), the Ancient camp on Radiant side as well as rune, but it is not useful until mid game. That's because no one farms the Ancient camp during the laning phase. 4) will give better vision of the river where you are expecting ganks from top lane. Once the Radiant is starting to stack and farm this creep, the Dire should look at warding this spot to gank him and steal their stack.
6) Dire river bot rune
Good vision of Radiant's jungle entrance to protect jungler but there are safer alternatives for Radiant. This spot is more popular for Dire as it protects the mid solo from any ganks from bottom lane or the Radiant Jungle. Radiant often ganks by going along this ramp and hiding behind the forest beside Dire's mid tier 1 tower.
Note the positioning. You can get away with placing it ~150 range away from the ramp. If you place it right on the ramp, it makes it much more vulnerable to counterwarding as there is a useful spot in the river here that can detect 3 popular ward spots: 7), 8), 10, and there are four, if you include this 6) that's done improperly.
7) Dire Roshan bot rune
Dire's side equivalent of 1). Gives vision of medium camp, as well as rune and entrance to jungle. This has the advantage over 1) for also having the vision of Roshan entrance, and hence, will be counterwarded often. Unlike 1), the Dire can use this ward aggressively against Radiant jungler because the distance from the lane this camp is not that far.
Note the positioning. If you place it too high, the trees will block vision of the neutral camp or to the right of it.
8) Radiant Roshan bot rune
Alternative to 7) for protecting Radiant's jungler. It gives better vision of the jungle entrance, slightly better vision of Roshan entrance, but doesn't show the medium camp, so Dire will probably favor 7) over this. Note that because 7) and 8) are both very popular and very close to each other, this spot is counterwarded often.
9) Radiant jungle bot rune
Another alternative to 8), and best for protecting Radiant's Jungler. It is the ultimate turtle ward, since it also gives vision towards the left where the path to the small neutral camp is. It also won't be counterwarded as often because it's far away enough from 7) and 8). For Dire, its disadvantage is less river vision. For Radiant, it's no Roshan vision, because Dire will liekly come down from the other ramp.
Tip: When in doubt where to plant it, nail the turtle! No really, there's a turtle there. Maybe it's Valve's idea of a metaphor.
10) Radiant M block Roshan bot rune
Another alternative to 7) for the Dire. This blocks the medium camp next to it, so it can hinder the Radiant jungler and double creep pulls. It also still gives enough vision of the river to protect your bot lane. Easily counterwarded as it's obvious when creeps aren't spawning. Since it still gives vision of Roshan, if you plant it down around 3~4 minute mark, you'll be able to shut down a jungling Ursa, not only by blocking this camp, but by ganking him when he tries to Rosh. Finally, a Radiant jungling Enigma often uses this camp to double the count of his minions. Blocking this makes ganking bot lane with 6 minions almost impossible for Enigma.
Edit: DOTA 2 neutral rectangles are different from original DotA and this spot no longer works.
11) Radiant M block jungle bot rune
Same purpose as 10), but also might let you catch a glimpse of Radiant jungler coming to gank bottom lane. No vision of Roshan however, and thus is slightly more defensive than 10).
Note: put it as high up as possible to get the best vision towards the northwest.
12) Radiant L block bot rune
Same purpose as 11) in that it still gives vision of bot rune and gank from jungle. However, it blocks the strong camp, and since it is far away from 7), much less prone to counterwarding. Prefererable if Radiant has a jungling Enchantress or Chen, because they love the large camps. Blocking this spot will make it impossible for Enchantress to get double large creeps for pushing.
Note: Even slightly more to the right, and this will not block the camp. Even slightly more to the left and it won't have as much vision towards the south. I use the magic bush as a guide and place it directly north to it.
13) Radiant antigank bot rune
An extremely powerful defensive ward, usually used by the Dire to protect the bottom solo. This will give vision of any sneaky set plays coming from behind the forest or through the river, as well as the bot rune. If you need this ward, it likely means your bot solo is going against an aggressive trilane. In that case, warding 61) along with this can completely shut down their trilane. Trilanes fall behind on level and gold, and by cutting off both the creep pull and ganks, you've essentially crippled their entire early game.
Note: A lot of people, including pros, place this one right up along the edge of the cliff. If you place it a bit further away like I did, it still gives vision of the rune, but also vision of the jungle towards the southwest and narrow vision to the south.
Aptly named, these two spots give full 360 degrees of 1600 range vision of extremely important strategic locations. They are popular as they are potent, and you can expect them to be warded and counterwarded often.
14) Dire uber ward
Gives vision of small and large camp as well as a huge area behind tier 2 tower. It can be used as an alternative to 47) as well, as a less powerful pushing ward.
Note: Place it towards the left of the white insignia Valve put on there to gain direct vision of the small camp, not directly on the insignia.
15) Radiant uber ward
Gives vision of large camp, and any plays being set from the Radiant while the Dire is pushing either the middle or bottom tier 2 tower.
Note: This spot used to block the large camp in the original DotA if the ward was placed at the top right corner of this area. However, this does not exist in DOTA 2, nor will you try this, because as soon as that large camp doesn't spawn, the Radiant will counterward it.
These spots don't give vision of any runes or neutral camps. However, they provide vision of paths with high hero traffic and will be frequently used when either of the team is going for a gank heavy strategy. The lane wards serve a similar purpose in a way that they provide vision of the tower to prevent TP ganks, but also give the laner an overall advantage during the early game.
16) Dire top solo
If the Dire solo is top against an aggressive lane, you can put this ward down to get small vision of the river, as well as behind the forest for any incoming ganks. Even more useful, it will prevent the Radiant from pulling the large camp as this blocks it from spawning.
17) Dire top against aggressive lane
A lane ward for the Dire that is useful against teleport/river ganks and aggressive trilanes.
Note: I've seen many pros and amateurs place this ward further towards the right for more river vision. That's likely because your support may die by going that far into the lane and showing up in tower vision when the whole point of this ward is to go up against an aggressive trilane. If you can though, placing it further towards the left like shown provides much better vision of the tower, giving few more seconds of notice of a teleport gank.
18) Dire antigank
One of the most popular spots during the midgame for an aggressive Radiant or defensive Dire. It gives vision of four very frequently used paths, as well as glimpses of anyone trying to jungle the large or medium camp.
Note: Trees block the vision in this area, so you can either cut them down or just be precise when you plant down your ward. It should give you vision to the south, east, and entrance of medium and large camp. I use the rocks in the second picture as a landmark, and place the ward just slightly north of the rocks.
19) Dire mid lane
Another lane ward. It gives clear vision of the Dire's side of the hill, giving an edge in last hitting and harassing for Radiant's mid solo. However, won't give as much of a notice of any incoming ganks from either top or bottom lane, nor will it give rune vision. Get it if your mid solo is a powerful ganker that will be ganking constantly once he's gained the gold and xp advantage. You'll still want one rune ward if you use this spot.
20) Dire anti-Roshan
A useful ward for both Radiant and Dire. If you see the entire Dire team running along this path, you can safely assume they are about to Roshan. You will not see them go in the pit, but it gives you a much faster notice to react in time. If Dire's tier 2 towers on bottom or mid lane is being pushed, vision of this area is crucial. This is often where initiators like Pudge or Sand King will be hiding to set up plays.
Note: I like to position it closer to the secret shop as shown because it gives you slightly better vision of the exit of that jukepath in the trees towards the northeast.
21) Radiant mid lane
Dire's counterpart to 19).
22) Dire mid-bot
Another alternative for Radiant to 19). This time it gives much more river vision towards the bottom, protecting your mid solo. Use it if you expect the Dire to be ganking from bottom lane.
Note: Place it right on the edge. Any closer to the tower and it can be seen.
23) Radiant mid-bot
Dire's counterpart to 22).
24) Radiant mid tier 2 anti-set plays
Similar to 20). This ward doesn't provide much vision so it can fit in one screen. The second picture is just there to show you what it would like for the Radiant without it. It may not give much vision, but if the Radiant's tier 2 mid tower is being pushed, this is where initiators will be setting up plays.
25) Radiant bot against aggressive lane
Radiant's version of 17). Again, use against aggressive Dire trilanes and TP/river ganks.
26) Radiant bot against aggressive lane alternative
Alternative to 25). It doesn't give vision of the tower so you'll have slower notice of any TP ganks. However, it gives better vision of the river, as well as behind the forest. I prefer this one over 25) against trilanes for that reason, but you will have to make the call: is their lanes set up for more TP ganks, or river and jungle ganks?
27) There is no 27. I only realized I skipped a number after finishing this guide. I make references back and forth between the locations, and changing it means a lot of number shuffling which is bound to cause errors. But everything's fine here. We're all fine, here, now. How are you?
These wards give clear vision of a neutral camp, or at least enough vision to know that the enemy went inside the camp to farm it. Naturally, their positions can be manipulated to block certain camps as well. Jungle wards tend to be implicitly aggressive, since you likely are trying to shut down a turtling strategy by controlling the enemy's jungle and cutting off a significant chunk of their income. However, most of these will be positioned in such a way that you get vision of popular gank routes, and hence serve a secondary defensive purpose.
28) Dire antipull
Radiant loves to plant this ward before the 00:30 second mark to prevent the camp from spawning, and preventing creep pulls from the Dire. The slight lane and jungle vision is a nice plus.
Note: The picture basically shows the limit of how far west it can be placed. If you want to play it safe, place it slightly more to the right. Placing it like I have will give slightly better vision of the jungle.
29) Dire large antipull
Unlike 28), this can be used by both Radiant and Dire, since both sides can pull this camp. If Dire has a solo top, this will not only prevent aggressive Radiant lane from pulling creeps, but also protect the solo from ganks through the forest. As a bonus, if you eat the tree right next to the ward, it gives even better vision. Likewise, Radiant wants to ward this spot if they're the ones being defensive in the top lane. This can also severely cripple Dire Enchantress because she won't be able to bring double large creeps to push. It will only delay a Chen.
30) Dire antipull jungle
Alternative to 28) that is harder to counterward, and gives clear vision of the jungle entrance, protecting your top lane. The large camp vision also may be useful if you're worried about a gank from Dire's Chen or Enchantress.
Note: Use the torch as a landmark and place it directly left of it. There is very little leeway for this ward position.
31) Dire antijungle
Useful for an aggressive Radiant that wants to gank Dire's jungler early on. It gives clear vision of the small and medium camp. If Dire's top tier 1 tower is down while mid tier 1 tower is up, it's a very powerful antigank ward for the Dire.
Note: Use the ramp as a landmark and place it right on the top of the stairs.
32) Dire ancient
A defensive ward for the Dire in the early game, an offensive ward for the Radiant mid-late game. For the Dire, you need this ward if the Radiant's gankers like Slardar are tower diving from the back. For the Radiant, you want this ward for a similar reason while pushing bottom tier 2 tower, as well as shutting down and stealing Ancient stacks.
Note: Use the ramp as a landmark and place it right on the top of the stairs.
33) Radiant antigank
Radiant's counterpart to 18). The river vision and three frequently used paths will be essential against Dire ganking between mid and bot lane.
Note: Place it as far east as possible so the vision to the north isn't blocked by those trees. Bonus points if you can somehow get rid of those trees. Placing it like I have also gives way better vision towards the southeast.
34) The magic bush 2.0
Many people know by now, this spot actually blocks two camps, the medium and large. It sounds very nice on paper to shut down a Radiant jungler, and it is, but due to its uniqueness, it is very easy to counterward. There's a small bush here called the "magic bush": stop warding on top of it. It's a useful eyemarker, but it's not the ideal spot. Place it around ~150 range directly above the bush to gain much better vision towards the southwest. That way, you can see the opening in the trees to the south where a Radiant ganker might go through if he's coming to gank from the fountain.
I included a picture of what would you'd get if you warded on the magic bush for comparison.
35) Radiant antijungle
A very useful spot for an aggressive Dire, especially if they have a gank-inclined line up. Instead of trying to shut down the Radiant jungler and getting counterwarded, you have the option of ganking him constantly and make him think twice. It gives clear vision of the large camp, and enough vision to know if anyone's in either of the two medium camps. It is slightly less useful for the Radiant as an antigank ward.
Note: Use the rock in the ground as a landmark. I place it slightly southeast of it.
36) Radiant antipull
Dire's counterpart to 28). It blocks the medium camp, hence shutting down any creep pull from the Radiant and also gives less than decent vision of the area behind the forest. Unlike 28), it gives no vision in to the lane, but here's where you can earn bonus points: by cutting down just one tree, highlighted by the blue square, it will give fairly decent vision behind the tower.
Note: Use the single tree as a landmark. If you place it slightly northwest of it, you should block the camp as well as get vision to the lane if you do decide to cut it down.
These wards are planted down when you expect to push soon. If your team pushes, the opposing team will defend - that's common sense. Ideally most pushes are hard, fast, and successful, but if the enemy has good enough reaction time, you'll be sitting at the tower's doorsteps with four enemies surrounding you before you know it. Luckily, towers don't heal HP, and there's bound to be another opportunity. Naturally, your plan B is to whittle down the tower, and back away safely before they have a chance to react and turn your aggression against you. These wards provide you the knowledge to do just that. Later on towards the late game when you are pushing tier 3 towers inside the enemy's base, these wards are mandatory. At this stage of the game, game changing initiators like Sand King, Enigma, and Tidehunter should have blink daggers, and will try to hide in a blindspot to catch your entire team off guard.
For this section, since every single location is along the lanes, I will follow a different format and discuss each spot by lanes in their respective teams, in this order:
Radiant: top, middle, bottom, base
Dire: top, middle, bottom, base
Note: These wards are important for any push, but self explantory in their purpose. If I didn't write anything, there's nothing to be said.
Radiant side push wards
37) Radiant top tier 1
This is the Radiant's shortlane: you will be seen by the towers if you plant this during daytime.
38) Radiant top tier 2
A slightly risky ward that requires you to enter the vision of the tower to drop down the ward. It probably won't be counterwarded because push wards rarely are, but it will make you slightly more vulnerable. It gives full vision of the tier 2 tower to detect any defenders teleporting in, and the slight vision into Radiant vision is also useful for when pushing the tier 3 later on.
Note how it gives full vision of the tier 2 tower.
39) Radiant top tier 2 alternative
A safer alternative for 38), but has slightly less utility. It doesn't require your support to walk in to the vision of the tower, but it leaves a small blindspot and less vision into the Radiant base.
This is how 38) has slight advantage over 39). There's a very small blind spot that Radiant defenders can exploit whilte the Dire waits for the next creep wave to arrive.
40) Radiant mid tier 1
Not a very popular ward as it provides no useful vision once the tower goes down. If you don't plan on pushing the tier 2 tower soon after, ward 15) and 24) over this.
41) Radiant mid tier 2
Note: the exact position for this ward is crucial. Any closer to the north or west and it will be detected by the towers.
42) Radiant bottom tier 1
43) Radiant bottom tier 2
Not very useful once the tower goes down. Only use as last resort if uber ward got counterwarded.
Note: The exact position of this ward is crucial. Any closer to the tower and it will be in its vision.
44) Radiant top-mid base
For pushing Radiant's top or mid lane. Extremely powerful against initiators that would otherwise be in your blindspot. It can be warded from where my Furion is, as shown.
45) Radiant bot-mid base
The vision it gets towards mid tower is far less than that of 44)'s. Use this one mainly for pushing bot, otherwise go for 44).
Dire side push wards
46) Dire top tier 1
Also shows the medium camp, and any Dire defenders coming around to backstab while you push.
47) Dire top tier 2
Not very useful once the tower goes down. Only use as last resort if uber ward got counterwarded.
Note: Don't put this ward any further towards the east. You won't get any vision inside the Dire base so it won't be much useful once the tier 2 goes down. By planting it where I have, the vision towards the south helps detect any sneaky Dire ganks coming from the forest while you're pushing.
48) Dire mid tier 1
Not a very popular ward as it provides no useful vision once the tower goes down. If you don't plan on pushing the tier 2 soon after this, ward combination of 18) and 22) over this.
49) Dire mid tier 2
50) Dire bot tier 1
Note: This is Dire's short lane: like 37), the towers will see you coming to plant this ward during the daytime.
51) Dire top base
Unlike Radiant base, Dire has 3 potential base ward spots. This one only provides vision of the top tier 3, but the vision it does give is amazing. It can be planted from where my Mirana is. Be careful: any closer to the tower and it will be detected!
52) Dire top-mid base
Provides vision of top and mid but the trees block most of the mid vision. It's more of an alternative to 51) because it gives neither ideal vision of top or mid. It can be planted from where my Outworld Destroyer is.
53) Dire bot-mid base
Very good vision of both mid and bot towers. Unfortunately I wasn't able to catch where you can ward it from because my Tinker was off screen. Needless to say, he's directly southwest of the ward.
This is as situational as it gets. These spots are either for the sole purpose of creep camp blocking, or I personally do not like them for particular reasons and I'll explain why not. There are a ton more of these. I only discuss ones I think are popular/useful enough to merit talking about.
54) Radiant against aggressive top lane
Same purpose as 17), except instead of the Radiant being aggressive, it's the Dire.
55) Dire uncounterable antipull
Both these spots work, and the one from the right can be safely warded from where my Furion is. Even if the enemy had detection, these cannot be seen due to the trees blocking vision of them. It is only counterable in three ways: a lot of trees cut down by a Quelling Blade, flying courier, or special hero ability like Venomancer's wards or Beastmaster's hawk. They can't throw a sentry ward and hope its 70 vision lands on it either, because then their own sentry ward will end up blocking the camp for another 3 minutes.
56) Dire antigank alternative
Towards the early game, if Radiant mid solo is expecting Dire's jungler to gank, it is a nice alternative to 19). Towards the mid game, if the Dire's tier 1 mid tower is down, then this might be useful to gain vision out towards the river, as well as to protect the Dire's jungler. In all other cases, I prefer 18).
57) Dire anti-Roshan alternative
Alternative to 20). This doesn't give vision further out to the right like 20), but it gives vision way down to the tier 2 tower. It will not be very useful for Dire because they will almost always prefer the vision from 20) for the purpose of seeing incoming initiators. One exception is if the tier 2 is already down and the Radiant is aggressively pushing to rotate into Roshan. For the Radiant, it serves a secondary purpose of pushing mid tier 2 tower, as well as detecting Roshan attempts like 20).
58) Dire post-bot tier 2 push
It's for after the Dire's bot tier 2 goes down, because if it is still up, this be detected. This is only for controlling lane traffic for bottom, and quite frankly, you probably already have plenty of control in this lane if you took down the tier 2. Your limited stock of wards are better planted elsewhere.
59) Dire night bot tier 2 push
Since Dire's bot tier 2 tower has absolutely no good spot for a ward behind it, this is a safe alternative. It will give glimpse of secret shop's south entrance, as well as both directions the Ancient camp can be pulled. Its vision may be useful for detecting any defenders teleporting in, if it's night time. During the daytime, you should be able to see them anyways. I wouldn't bother with it, however, if you have a ward at 50) and it hasn't expired yet.
60) Radiant mid tier 2 anti-set plays
Not a favorite of mine, but an alternative to 24). It does give vision around the corner, but to obtain rune control, Radiant should have a ward up anyways further out the map. Only use this spot as Radiant if your top tier 2 tower is still up.
61) Radiant uncounterable antipull
Same idea as 55). Extremely difficult to counter.
62) Dire against aggressive bot lane
Same idea as 54). You're against an aggressive Radiant lane.
The Warding Philosphy: Beyond This Guide
I'm sure you picked up a useful trick here and there, but I don't expect you to memorize all 61 spots here (taking account of the missing 27). If you read how I described each position, it should start to dawn on you, really every single one of these are situational to a degree. It's not purely about the amount of vision it gives you - even if it gives you 100 vision, it can be game changing if that's where key events are happening. Look at their hero drafts and lane set up: Which towers are down? Which lane is likely to get ganked? And will the gank come from the jungle, teleport or river? How can you shut down their jungler? How likely are they to counterward? When will they start attempting Roshan? Where do you want map control for the next 6 minutes of the game? All these questions and many more come in to play in deciding when and where you ward.
There's no right or wrong ways to play DOTA, and there is no right or wrong places to ward. Adapt, read your game, and play smart.
Well, it's really long so thanks for reading. I feel like the guide was complete as it can be. Where do we go from here? Personally, I think warders carrying around a Quelling Blade/tangoes can open up a whole new dimension of warding. I've discussed a few spots that can be improved significantly by cutting down trees, but I know for sure there's plenty more. Once you start considering hero abilities like Beastmaster's Wild Axe that can cut down a lot of trees, things might get interesting.
Special thanks to Aui_2000 from team Incl on discussing a few spots with me and pointing out new ones. Also thanks to all members of UBC DOTA who have been very helpful with their feedback and support. And of course, Team Dignitas for providing this outlet.
If you'd like to suggest changes or contact me about this guide for any reason, you can do it via steam.