The config file, for Dota and video games alike, offered a level of customization for advanced players, and in some ways it gave marginal advantages that most of the playing public may not have been aware of. It was like a loose secret among more dedicated, higher skilled players. It was a finicky to create these config files, requiring a player to learn command lines and diving deep into Dota 2’s install directory (e.g. /steam/steamapps/common/dota 2 beta/dota 2/cfg/). There wasn’t a central resource to find out how to do this—the information was passed along via forum threads and word of mouth. People tinkered with their configs obsessively and talked about what was the best way to optimize them. How to right click deny, without having to A+click on your own creep. How to bind hotkeys to useful camera positions, such as rune spots, with a string of GPS-like coordinates. How to adjust a microsecond delay to prevent minimap misclicks. How to show the range of skills on hover.
If these sound familiar now, it’s because over the past several patches, and most significantly with the Spring Cleaning update, Valve has made UI improvements to bring this customizability to the surface, without having to tinker with a config file. You can readily access them in the client options. While this has removed one of the barriers with the config file, being able to make adjustments, the second one was finding out what you actually needed. With many of these options now easily accessible, new players may not know the advantages these changes offer.
This was a script that let you toggle through the rune spots and back to your hero with one key. It saved precious time from the clunkiness of having to approximate the spot on the minimap, clicking on it to check the rune, and then doing so for the next rune. What this also unlocked was the habit of checking the rune in the first place, by making it easier to do so.
The Spring Cleaning update added Camera Control group hotkeys that now lets you bind map locations to a keystroke. Tapping the key again will also return you to your hero. Mid players may be more familiar with this practice, but the camera hotkeys make it easier for other roles where rune checking is necessary, which goes beyond the early game. Support players, offlaners, and even carries who decide to make an early rotation can benefit from this practice.
These were lines you could use to improve the readability of the minimap, by changing the size of hero markers (usually larger) and simplifying the colors. You can find these options now under the Minimap column in the settings, along with another host of customizations, such as setting the minimap to the right, and pressing Alt to display hero icons. Changing the size of hero markers may seem like a trivial adjustment, but it can be the difference between noticing whether heroes are missing or not, especially if you set their baubles the size of the lane.
This is now a checkbox in the options, but before that, there were people who had the advantage of denying creeps without having to spam A+click. This is one of the most useful adjustments to early laning, and it's only something you took for granted until it was gone, when a patch would prompt the community to update their config files. One downside for right click deny is that you might click the ground and move your hero instead, where with A+click, you would just attack the next closest unit. The advantage though of using less clicks to deny is worth the risk. Now, there is also an option for a quick attack, removing the "click" from the A+click, attack move.
This showed the range of hero skills on hover, and it was especially useful for long-range spells, such as Clockwerk's hookshot. How far is 2500-3000 units of range, really? Sometimes you would overestimate the range, your hero would automatically relocate to move closer, and it would change the original line of sight. With the range indicator, you could be panning several screens away and calibrate your movements for the best hook line.
Range indicators are useful, especially in a game where unit distances are arbitrary. Experienced gamers will learn by feel, but the indicators allow new players learn the limits of skills, without repeated frustration. Range indicators are now also available for items, neutral spawn boxes, and towers.
Believe it or not, quick cast, or smart cast, was another config-only advantage before it was customizable in the client options. The option has been endorsed by many pros, limiting the number of clicks in their spell and item casting. It's especially useful for heroes that depend on near-instant reactions, such as Ember Spirit's using Remnant to escape. One of the disadvantages was that quick cast removed the ability to use range indicators, but now there's a quick cast "on release" of a keypress, such that you can still see the range of your spells.
Some of these options will require you to rewire how your brain works, especially if you've been ingrained to interact with Dota in one way. The good news is you don't have to change anything. Even if there are benefits in efficiency to using quick cast and right click deny, perhaps the effort to change isn't worth it. Even pros vary in their preferences. But it's clear the advantages these options provide, and for some people, getting better at Dota can be a simple matter of diving into their settings and clicking a check box.