The Zen of Mind Games

By: blueseph

The Zen of Mind games

Mindgames are a very difficult subject to cover. I cannot teach you every single form of mindgames that there are, but with this guide I hope to "open your eyes" to them and allow you to practice and improvise your own. The majority of this guide assumes that you have enough experience to predict your enemies movements and to react accordingly. Even so, it may take you a few games to solidly grasp the concepts. If you aren't experienced enough to pull off these moves well, don't be put off. Time and practice.

Why zen? Playing in an incredibly focused fashion is not the best way to juke well. If you're relaxed and able to think calmly, you'll be able to play much, much better. A tetris trance, or a "zen-like state".

What are mindgames?
Mindgames are definited as an act or series of acts of calculated psychological manipulation, especially in order to confuse or intimidate. This is done primarily through using a disparity of information. Juking, for example, is a prime example of a mind games. You use the fact that you know where you're going and the fact that your opponent has to guess where you're going to shake him off your trail.

There are two "types" of mindgames. Defensive mindgames and offensive mindgames

The goal of defensive mindgames is to escape alive. You don't have the tools to seal the deal and you're just trying to buy yourself 3 seconds of free time to teleport out or wait on a defensive cooldown to hopefully get out of a bad situation.

Offensive mindgames do just the opposite of defensive. You use quick psychology and usually a multitude of tactics to overpower an opponent. The tools are various and the techniques varied but the end result is always the same: dead badguys.

Are mindgames useful?
Aside from ingame benefits, mindgames are incredibly demoralizing. The enemy turns a sure death around and lands a double kill on both of you. A carry with barely any HP sits out in the open and you slink in to snake the kill and get triple stunned to death. Your entire team is chasing a low HP int hero who seemingly disappears into the trees.

Frustrated (lmao nt)? Angry (umad?)? That's the entire point. Someone who's frustrated doesn't play nearly as well as a level headed player. Everyone gets frustrated. Not everyone seeks to exploit that.

Do I have to be 2k+ to use these?
No! Not in the slighest. Even at 1500 mindgames come in handy. Just realize that the players in the 1500 bracket think differently from the players in the 1800 bracket. In the 1800 bracket they EXPECT you to juke. In the 1500 bracket they may not know what juking is. An 1800 player expects you to abuse the fog. A 1500 may assume you just disappeared. Learn to differentiate between them and choose your tactics accordingly.

Use Homecoming Stones
You would never leave base without any items, right? It's suicide. You can easily get overpowered, and it's absolutely foolish! So why would you leave without a Homecoming Stone? It costs 135g and can save you a whole lot more. It denies your enemies a lot of gold, a sizable chunk of experience, and a good amount of time. There's no more devastating mindgame than being able to simply teleport away in front of a pair of gankers. You don't NEED to be hidden for the full 3 seconds. You just need to be hidden long enough to get away.

Being prepared includes knowing who can STOP you from doing something. Many heroes have stuns or ministuns that can stop a teleport dead in its tracks. Knowing when it's safe to teleport is as important as being able to teleport. If they've used up all their chain stuns and ministuns, teleport away!


Abusing Fog of War

Fog of War an essential part of mind games. If an enemy loses sight of you in the fog of war, they stop attacking/chasing. If an enemy tries to go through a path in the fog that's blocked, they go a different route, rather than the straightforward way. If at a certain point in your attack animation the enemy becomes "fogged", the attack cancels. Due to these limitations imposed by the fog we are easily able to abuse these to our advantage.

The easiest way to slink into the Fog of War is to hide behind a tree or go up a ramp. This very temporarily renders you invisible while your opponents regain vision on you. At this point you can continue to hide behind trees or move up z-levels to maintain the fog advantage.

The one thing you NEVER want to do is be predictable. Running a predictable manner allows your enemies to predict your movements and be one step ahead of you. If you have to and it's safe to do so, backtrack. If you run back towards their base instead of beelining it towards yours, they most likely won't predict this and you'll have shaken them. If you ALWAYS head for their base first they'll eventually wise up and catch you. Be variable and unpredictable in your juking.


Swiftblade is in some deep ****. Two disablers are on him, and if he gets stunned at all, he's dead. No doubt about it. He has nowhere to go and backs himself into a corner. Hammerstorm and Electrician aren't stupid; they know he's there. As they charge into him, Swiftblade spins, rendering them unable to disable him. He knows he won't be able to get to the tower before the spin is over, so he gets to a spot where he'll be able to juke a lot more. He downs a tree and slips into the neutral camp, waiting for his enemies to follow exactly where he went. They don't, however. He predicts that they went the opposite way and sits back for a second, picking up the minotaur and another level. As they go the long way around, they're spotted by his pulled creeps. Swiftblade stays hidden in a little cubby. After not seeing him, they think he went the other way. Both go on a wild goose hunt, and after that juke Hammerstorm loses interest. Electrician sticks with him, and after a quick juke from Swiftblade FINALLY gets his Static Grip off, but Hammerstorm is nowhere to be found. With no damage, Electrician gives up the chase and heads back to his lane.
You could have pulled off the greatest juke of the century. You know it was solid, clean, and you are definitely going to lose them. There's no way anyone can follow you after that move. But lo and behold, their entire team is waiting for you right as you come out. It's your best juke! It's worked three times before, there's no way it could have failed you!

A big part of playing mindgames and beating someone who plays them is to predict their thoughts. The best way to avoid being beaten is to be unpredictable. If you usually go one way, go the other. If you always blink a certain direction, blink another. If your first instinct is to go one way, go another, because your opponent's first thoughts would be "he's going to go here, so if I stun here i'll get him". The ability to stop tunnel-visioning and realizing you might be doing something predictable is the first step to being able to play mindgames well.

Turning around at unexpected moments also plays a big part. People are greedy. Normally, if you KNOW you have a good chance of killing someone, you're willing to take a tower hit or two. If they keep running, you back off. If they turn around, however, you might be inclined to chase again just because your chances improved. This cycle won't repeat forever, but the few tower hits really can be a large part in turning the fight around in your favor.


Baiting Intelligently
Baiting is simple. You sit out at low HP and die, so that your team has a chance to kill them. You trade yourself for a possible kill and maybe a double if you get really lucky. This is not favorable for you in the least.

Baiting intelligently is the exact opposite. The end result of intelligent baiting is always the same: you survive and either you net hero kills, your team nets hero kills, or the enemy runs with their tails between their legs back to the fountain pissed as all hell.

What's the difference? Preparation and risk management. If there's a Defiler who can kill you in a single nuke, you may not want to be bait. If you can survive a Defiler nuke and have sufficient HP to soak one auto attack, you're in prime position. If they can disable you from start to finish, it's not a good place to be. If you can avoid the chain disables by slinking into the fog as one disable comes at you, go for it.

Sometimes randomness does happen. Blacksmith gets a multicast and dominates you. Thunderbringer pops his ult from way across the map. Things happen, but the majority of the time it's worth baiting.


In this video, Armadon does lots of little things that really turn the fight around in his favor, going from being in incredible danger to scoring a triple kill. Taking a few hits from the tower brings his HP down to a bait-able proportion, enticing Thunderbringer to finally come out of hiding and focus on Hellbringer. After the melees have used their blinks, Armadon begins to spam quills, staying in line of sight of the enemies, taking a few hits to the back to load up Armordillo a little, but most importantly to bait a futile chase. After Hellbringer drops, all the enemies lock onto Armadon. Hook, line, and sinker. Armadon takes off, leading them into a good, open area where juking is near impossible and the quills will hit them all. As Magebane gets low, Armadon quills and quickly hits the stop button, just long enough for Predator to hit him and set off Armordillo. Repositioning for one last set of quills pockets all three kills, leveling Armadon twice, from five to seven, and giving him a 700g~ lead.
Illusions are a strong resource in your arsenal, but it's very difficult to use well. Using a bottled illusion rune to mitigate a Moon Queen's ult can save your life and turn the tide of a fight around. Using a single illusion to soak up the entire ult is going to have an even stronger effect on the Moon Queen. Any spell used on an illusion means one less spell used on you, so baiting with an illusion pushes you even close to a victory.

If you want to bait with an illusion you have to remember that illusions deal less damage and take more. If you deal any damage that isn't a last hit or you take any damage you've given up the goose. Playing a little defensive with the illusion and then suddenly "making a mistake" makes your opponent think he has a window of opportunity to pounce, and he's going to. When he makes his mistakes, jump in and capitalize.

In addition to baiting, you can pull off a risky maneuver to possibly throw people off your trail. If you're fighting someone and they pop an illusion rune, you're going expect one of them to run away and the others to stay and fight. They've obviously moved their real character and abandoned their illusions, right? What if they didn't? If they left the real one attacking as a decoy, you'd be wasting your time, mana, and cooldowns on a wild goose chase, putting more distance between you and the real one. He's gone and you've just been baited by an illusion.

If you're able to slink into the Fog, you can pop an illusion and run it a completely different way to throw someone off of your trail. You need to hide your hero and your other illusion for your mindgame to be effective. If you run your illusion in a semi-believable route, the enemy will chase you and buy you a bunch of time to escape.

Pay Attention
Moreso than any other item, any other technique, any other idea, the one single fundamental skill that's going to win you games is the ability to zoom out. Zoom out of just focusing on lasthits and denies and learning to incorporate everything in this guide into your gameplay. Learn to make a note of things. Does Defiler have enough mana to kill me? Can Pollywog Priest kill before I can kill Pestilence? Why did I just gain a Power Supply charge? Will anyone interfere negatively with my plan? The ability to have court vision and map awareness will impact your skill more than I could ever hope to teach. Force yourself to realize you're focusing way too much on last hitting and denying, and take a second to survey your surroundings. Take a quick enemy headcount. Check your positioning, mana and health on both sides, items, possible surprise ultimates. Being prepared will win you a fight much, much more than sheer luck will.

A big part of learning to be prepared and catching your opponent offguard is to make a move as you're about to level up. This affords you more mana, more HP, a stronger nuke/disable, and harder auto-attacks. Leveling up affords you one or two more attacks and a good charge of mana towards another nuke.

Within the first 30 seconds of laning with and against someone you have a decent ballpark estimate of how good they are. If your opponent suddenly gets overly aggressive when it's not a logical step, you know something's coming. Back up, run away, do whatever you can to be defensive. If your overly aggressive opponent gets very defensive, he might be afraid of a gank that's not coming. Be more aggressive at that point. Be aware of people who "fake" these things, however. If your opponent plays defensively to bait you into attacking recklessly, you can easily get caught in a 3v1 situation. Be aware, and be prepared.

Runes of the Blight/Logger's Hatchet

Target: Trees
Range: 100
Heals self for 115 Health over 16 seconds. Destroys target Tree.

Target: Trees
Range: 100
Cooldown: 15 seconds
Destroys target tree.

Both these items will knock down a single tree (multiple runes knock down multiple trees), allowing you to sneak through previously impassable routes. This is invaluable for juking, opening up dead ends and creating new juke points.

The runes give you the added benefit of increasing your regen, giving you 115 extra HP if the fight lasts 16 seconds, which is equivalent to one extra bracer's worth of HP. The hatchet, in addition to giving you enhanced farming capabilities, doesn't run out. The trade-off is that hatchet has a cooldown, while the runes have limited use and their regen override each other.

See Abusing Fog of War.

Power Supply

A charge is gained every time a nearby enemy casts a spell. When activated, all charges are removed while health and mana are restored.

Cooldown: 17 seconds
Restores 15 health and mana per charge. Maximum of 15 charges.

Powersupply is, without a doubt, the most overpowered item in the game. No other item instantly heals you, instead requiring time to cure your wounds. With this in mind, we can effectively add (charges*15) HP to your total. This does not protect you from large nukes, but it does give you the boost if something is whittling away at your HP in small, calculable chunks.

Powersupply should be used very defensively. If you save your powersupply until the very last hit, you bait your opponent to continue fighting. Ideally 225 damage HP should give you enough HP to turn around and finish your opponent off. The 225 mana should also give you enough for a nuke, and in combination really turn a low level fight around entirely. Even if your nuke is on cooldown, the HP provided should buy you a second or two of time.

This video is an example of good power supply usage. Hellbringer knows that Deadwood's team would be in no position to help, and though his team is injured they will be able to provide sufficient help. Hellbringer sits around mid, waiting for Deadwood to try his luck. As Deadwood log throws, Hellbringer turns around and begins to run, baiting Deadwood into a chase which puts him in a very bad of position. A good falconpunch would put Hellbringer down before any of his team really can help, so it's a sure bet for Deadwood. The root lands, and he winds up. Hellbringer pops his powersupply, giving him enough HP to survive his punch and enough mana to land a Life Void. The Void gives him enough buffer to survive one auto attack, and his team mops up Deadwood. A sure kill turns into a frustrating death.


Cooldown: 0.5 seconds
Restores 135 Health and 70 Mana on self over 3 seconds. Dispels upon taking damage.
Contains up to 3 charges.

Bottle is the most versatile item you can buy. You gain both mana and health in one swig, and at a relatively quick rate. The downside is that once you take damage the regen stops. Having three charges means three chances to regen, a very lenient item. The fact that it cancels due to damage can be exploited in multiple ways. If you have a DOT that does damage in set intervals, you can drink in between ticks to regen a bit. If you're juking through the forest, it's the perfect time to drink. You can come out of the forest with more HP and enough mana for a nuke or two to completely change the fight around. Even if you cut through the fog for a second, it's an advantageous time to take a swig. Any bit of HP/mana will help.

Powerful runes will win you a fight, but if used incorrectly could lose you a kill. Popping a double damage right as the fight starts will probably equal your opponent running in fear. Popping it as soon as you start to "lose" the fight almost guarantees the opponent will stay until the end, convinced that they can do more damage than you can. Little do they know that your DD rune will put you miles ahead. Save Illusions for being able to block your enemy from running or pumping out even more damage.

Portal Key

When activated, teleports user a short distance to a targeted location.
Range: 1200
Mana cost: 75
Cooldown: 14 seconds

A Portal Key allows you to instantly move to any position up to 1200 units away. This affords you perfect positioning and a disjoint, both of which are abusable. The positioning aspect allows you to land a difficult-to-hit stun easier, juke an area based (not unit based) stun, or slip ahead of the enemy to buy yourself some more auto attacks and even an extra spell. The disjoint can entirely avoid a nuke/disable provided it's missile based (such as Andromeda's Comet).

Portal Key juking requires immaculate timing. If you see Pestilence flying full steam right towards you, you know he's going to land a stun. If you blink too early, he's going to save his stun and get you regardless. If you activate it too late, nothing will happen; it deactivated. If you pull it off right, he's going to stun air, and you'll have a much easier time punishing him for his mistakes.

Portal Key is gotten a lot later in the game than the previous two items, but it scales a lot further late game. HP is quickly outpaced, but you can never replace prime positioning.


Storm Spirit

When activated, traps a targeted hero in a Cyclone for 2.5 seconds.
Radius: 600
Mana cost: 75
Cooldown: 30 seconds

Storm Spirit is generally used offensively, allowing you to place traps (Pollywog's Wards) or time hard-to-lane stuns (Pyromancer's stun). While a fine use of the item, it really shines when used defensively. A 2.5 second immunity to everything is invaluable to avoiding a really nasty combination, and if you have a Portal Key you only have to buy half a second of time to be able to blink to safety. 2.5 seconds also buys you a good amount of time for your cooldowns to come back up.


Geometer's Bane

Mana cost: 165
Cooldown: 50 seconds
Spawn 2 Illusions of self. The illusions take 3.5 times normal damage and deal 33% of your attack damage, and inherit properties from you. The Illusions have a 20 second life time.
Dispels all Buffs and Debuffs on use.

Geometer's gives you illusions on demand. This is generally used offensively to increase your damage by a large amount, but it doesn't have many mindgames options. It can be used defensively, however, for a variety of things.

First and foremost, it can be used all the ways stated above in the Illusions section. Using your Geometer's and running away with an illusion is particularly effective, as most people forget to control the illusions while fleeing for their life. Secondly, Geometer's Bane dispels all buffs and debuffs, including DoTs and dust of revelation. This item has a disjoint built in, meaning if timed right you can avoid a killer stun, but it can also be used to dispel a deadly DoT. It's also very good if you're a stealth hero (or have the ability to stealth), dispelling dust and allowing a clean getaway. Be wary of wards though, as geometer's does nothing against this.
The majority of the time, luck does not play into mindgames. Sometimes, yes, legionnaire gets one extra spin, or blacksmith gets a multicast, but most of the time its a skill vs skill game. Quick reflexes, mental math, and calm play are much more dominant in determining the decision of a fight.

You aren't going to start off as a pro. You are going to mess up a juke, going back and forth for a second or two, giving your opponent an easy kill. You think you're being unpredictable when you're being very easy to read. If you keep being killed when you try to play mindgames, it's not luck that's sided against you, it's your inexperience. Don't be discouraged. Every good player started off being laughed at and ridiculed. With time comes more experience and an increased confidence in what you do. Always remember: good player knows when to press his luck and when to run with his tail between his legs

Be aggressive, but controlled. Be confident. Let your opponents know that you'll fight tooth and nail at any amount of HP. You aren't going to be pushed over, because when push comes to shove you're going to outplay them.