It seems almost foolish to have to dedicate an entire post to the shop differences between LoL and DotA but trust me, it’s necessary. Again, this is one of those things I thought League did really well, and for the most part I still prefer League’s shop, if only for its organization. The DotA system does have some perks, though, which I’ll cover a bit later.
It’s impossible to talk about the DotA shop system without first discussing the differences in gold, which is where the shop differences really originate. In LoL, your gold is your gold unless you spend it. In DotA, gold can be lost on death, depending on a few different factors. Gold is divided into reliable and unreliable gold. Unreliable gold, as you probably guessed, is the gold that gets lost when you die. Reliable gold is yours no matter what. As you save more and more gold for more expensive items, more of your gold becomes unreliable. However, when you buy items you buy with your unreliable gold first, which is why shopping frequently is important.
In DotA, players can use the main shop anytime, anywhere. Yes, you can shop from your lane. Items that are purchased remotely go to each player’s individual stash. Those items can then be retrieved by either visiting base or sending a courier to retrieve them. In most games, each team will purchase a courier for the purposes of hauling items to remote locations. It’s a nice system, and it can keep you in lane for a very long time.
DotA also has a “secret shop” hidden in the same place in each team’s jungle. The secret shop contains different items from the main shop and can only be accessed by standing next to it or sending a courier to do the same. Each side lane also has a “side shop,” which contains a mix of items from both the main and secret shops. This can all be a bit confusing, but that’s the DotA way. At the very least, Valve has tried to make the experience a little less frustrating by placing a small “S” symbol on the icon of any item that is only purchasable via the secret shop. If a player tries to buy an item from the secret shop while out of range, Valve implemented a “shop not in range” error that also pings the map so the player knows where to go to buy the items.
The only other significant difference in my mind is the presence of actual recipe items. When a player buys Madred’s Bloodrazor in League of Legends, there is no 775g item that combines the components into the actual item. It is simply a combine cost that automatically happens. With DotA, there are actual recipe items. This is important because it allows the player to spend unreliable gold on a recipe though they might not be able to afford another component. It’s also important because it is possible to accidentally buy duplicate recipes, which is just no good. As in LoL, where I occasionally buy double boots, I sometimes find myself with double Yasha recipes in DotA. Be aware of this.
As with any MOBA, your best bet for understand the shop is to simply look through it. Play a bot game or find a functioning web tool that works like the shop so you can learn which items are purchased at which shop. For me, I always learned best by playing a couple characters that I really enjoyed, trying a few different builds and stumbling across items that way. Once I’ve seen them in shop a few times it gets much easier to remember how to find them.