Why are characters banned from DotA-likes in tournament play during selection? Are there characters that are actually imbalanced; why not just balance them?

If it's just for the sake of another level of meta-game strategy, then where did it come from?

  • Are those who run the tournaments the same who do the balancing?
    – badp
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 13:44
  • @badp The banning is built into the game client itself. Before picking heroes, generally, each side can ban heroes from the overall pool so that neither side can pick them. Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 13:45
  • @Strix Then it's part of the match format, not the tourney format. I was thinking something such as "You may not use more than 1 medic for the entirety of this tourney" for some TF2 competitive play thing.
    – badp
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 14:17
  • 2
    Unrelated: I think this is a question that should use a genre tag... a pity no one can agree on what to call the genre... Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 15:34
  • 1
    @Raven I thought 'MOBA' was an established genre term for Dota/HoN/LoL by now. Is that disputed in any way?
    – Cort
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 5:03

7 Answers 7


No, this isn't related to balance, and is actually strategy related.

The origins of banning heroes comes from a match type called -CM, or Captain's Mode in DoTA. In Captain's mode, teams take turns banning heroes they don't want the other team to use whilst picking their own heroes for the match. One person from each team (the person in the first slot) is the one who makes these decisions, so you usually only play CM with a group of people you're familiar with since it requires a lot of coordination.

In professional level play, this becomes extremely important as you want to prevent the other team from picking heroes that they are adept at, or countering the heroes you picked.

For example, say you wanted to go with an "all push" strategy that relies on pushing down lanes to end the game fast (with the drawback that if you don't end the game early, the other team will easily overpower you over time with their "late game" heroes). Your team will probably want to ban any heroes that can counter these pushes, or easily kill their heroes.

While balance/imbalance can certainly have a factor from patch to patch, professional level play sticks to a version of the game that is considered "stable" by the community.

  • 1
    You need to look at non-competitive play as well. Ranked matches that are solo/duo queue in LoL can still be done (not full team queued) this does bring into FUD where the average user thinks a character is over or underpowered Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 21:37
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    The OP asked about tournament play so I answered from a competitive perspective, not a casual one. I am not familiar with how LoL works nor your acronyms, but if these modes are tournament-style, then your point is valid.
    – Kotsu
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 23:22
  • This answer neglects to mention or address the fact that some heroes in Dota 2 are banned from Captains Mode entirely, even before the teams get to select their bans. Currently, this list includes Broodmother, Earth Spirit, Bloodseeker, Phoenix, Phantom Lancer, and Techies.
    – Ajedi32
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 17:21
  • As of 23/12/14, that list is just Earth Spirit, Phantom Lancer and Oracle.
    – mrr
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 0:28

I would see it a different way.

DOTA like aren't about personal skill, they are all about TEAM WORK. This meaning that champion selection is part of the game, you are already building your strategy.

Now, every strategy has its pros and cons, banning can be done in two ways :

  • Offensive : You ban champions would nicely fit the opponents strategy, trying to force them to take a "not so good" hero for them.
  • Defensive : You ban champions because you now the opponent plays them well, because you don't know how to handle them or because they would be good against your own team

It is true that some Heroes are unbalanced (that's why Rumble kept being banned in the first season LOL tournament), but it is more about strategy than getting out the OP champs.

Example : During LOL first season tournament finals, Fanatics banned the three heroes team AAA used most for jungling. It wasn't because they were OP, but it forced AAA to choose a "second hand" jungling hero that they didn't master as nicely as the three that had been banned.


Without disagreeing with everything that has been said here about how to ban and OP/UPness, you were originally asking for the 'why'. I'll interpret that as "why have the game designers introduced this mechanic?"

And I think the answer to that is quite simple: to raise the challenge for pre-arranged teams by adding a random component. Without banning, a team could just agree on one set of champions and a certain strategy before the game. With banning, they have to be more flexible: they need to practice more than just champion to perfection and they need to be able to communicate and adjust their strategy as they go.


I think you're right in assuming it's related to balance, but I think there are different balance issues to consider.

Actual OP/UP champions

As much as the game creators attempt to keep champions as balanced as possible, this is a nearly unreachable goal. With games the consistently add or redo champions, the amount of playtesting needed to ensure balance gets incredibly high. Champions that were at one time pretty well balanced may be thrown off by the abilities of new champions. This is why these games continually undergo tweaks, even when no champions are being added. True balance is a very hard problem to solve.

Perceived OP/UP champions

Everybody has champions that they don't do well against. Eventually the player almost starts psyching themselves out when matched up against a certain champion, and it becomes an almost self-fulfilling prophecy that they will continue to struggle against a certain champion. In their mind, the champion is overpowered, even though they may just not have "figured out" how to successfully counter the champion in question. Their strategy, therefore, is to ban champions that they perceive to be overpowered. It's more of a mental boost than an actual boost, as often these champions can be rather easy to take down once an effective counter strategy has been determined.


At lower levels the bans are usually against the characters that are perceived to be overpowered. (as far as "why not just balance all characters"...for one thing it is nice to have some relative easy-mode powerful characters to get new players into the game...also perfectly balancing a system with this many team combinations is nigh impossible unless you make the characters horribly bland)

At upper levels/tourney play a lot of times you will see players making bans based on what a hotshot on the other team likes to run, or a character that you know will be critical to the strategy they want to run.


For non-professional play it tends toward the percieved balance or imbalance of various characters, there's a reason that when single queue'ing in ranked matches in LoL that you almost always see characters x, y, z, and q banned, and if you don't ban x, y, z, or q then you're considered a noob and resoundly hated even if character a is actually a better ban based on other factors. This is also why Rammus and Malphite are routinely banned in ranked matches when it's solo queue even though they aren't nearly the threat that they used to be, it's based on Percieved threat. This is compounded by the fact that you usually won't know who you are playing with until character selection, so you don't know team comp or general level of skill until you're in character selection or in game.

For the rest of gameplay it's actually a part of meta, teams have characters that fit into their playstyle fantastically or terribly, both for their own and the opposing teams, usually "professional games" are best of 3, so if the other team rocked you with a certain comp, you might want to ban characters that you saw that they were good with in the last round, or herd them to picking that character, and then picking a proper hard counter for it. It takes a lot of coordination for this, and usually is only seen with team queue's for ranked games and in league play, because of the earlier paragraph's issues with non-league/solo queueing.


In some games, captains are able to ban characters from being used for the match. However, there are a number of characters globally banned from tournament use for being overpowered. For example, as of the current version of DotA 2, Centaur Warrunner, Drow Ranger, Slark, Timbersaw, Troll Warlord and Tusk are unavaliable in Captains Mode.

  • therefor they are OP they are banned at the start captains dont even get the chance to pick them Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 1:27
  • This is correct, but doesn't really answer the question.
    – Ajedi32
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 17:22

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