The first thing you have to figure out is how greedy you will be allowed to be, and to do this you must be able to correctly predict who you will lane against. If you can do this properly, you can abuse their lack of offensive picks/lanes and get a 4-min midas without spending your starting gold and just getting pooled two tangos, or you can survive an aggressive trilane and trade kills/exp favorably. If you don’t predict properly, in the best possible scenario you will be less efficient and you risk the opposing carries outfarming you, or you can straight up feed against a dual lane or trilane.
So, assuming you didn’t get hard-countered, you will still lane against an offlaner that has a slight edge against you. Tide or DS if you’re a melee with bad sustain like Spectre, Mirana/WR/Timber if you or your supports lack enough lockdown, etc. The best you can do here is to get the right items:
When to get stout shield:
Almost always if you’re melee for a lot of reasons. It lets you last hit under tower without taking too much damage, it lets you tank a creep wave for a few seconds so that it doesn’t get under your tower’s range, it’s necessary against annoying ranged heroes like Mirana/WD, you will probably need if you’re going to jungle later on, it lets you creep cut with certain heroes like AM/Jugg/Pa/Naix. In the very unlikely case you won’t need a stout, you will probably need a ring of protection.
When to get ring:
- Whenever you plan to make a basilus, obviously, which is a really great item.
- When the enemies have heavy physical damage (Axe, Tide, BB) and you have low base armor.
By the way, sometimes you will want basilus not for the mana regen but for the armor aura against heroes that will push your lane hard, like DS, Veno, Jakiro and Brood, or if it’s you who wants to take a tower fast (not a great idea in the current meta).
When to get Quelling Blade:
- When you have terrible base damage AND your supports will be pulling a lot, so you will have to LH under tower. If they aren’t and you can’t lasthit with a PA/AM/Spectre just keep practicing.
- To push faster.
- When your peruvian rubick support wants to steal your last-hits.
Note: QB is still pretty much needed if you plan to jungle later, and it never hurts, but getting it with your starting items will delay your boot/RoH/bottle/midas.
Circlet/extra branches: If you lack HP against magic damage dealers, like Skywrath, Ogre, Zeus. You will want to get a magic stick quickly.
PMS: If you expect to solo a lane against a long range hero get PMS and get pooled some tangos. If you end up taking more damage than expected, don’t be afraid to buy an a full tango and have the courier deliver it (just try not to screw mid and his bottle).
Magic stick: If you expect an early first blood situation. For example, if you’re playing WK/Sven/Spectre/CK, normally you will only have mana for a single use of your important skill, but with only two magic stick charges you get enough mana for a second use. Two charges is the bare minimum you will get if it’s a 3 vs 3 lane.
Boot: If you expect to get dived soon, at level 2 or maybe even lvl 1. Consider it against Undying, Lion, Rubick, Ogre in trilanes.
This one is very tricky. When going against a solo offlaner just getting a tango is enough. If you’re dealing with dual or trilanes, tango + salve if you expect to get a kill soon at the cost of most of your HP or double tango if they can only kill you if they get you below a certain HP threshold by harrasing. Clarity is good mostly on low mana pool carries, particularly CK/Jugg/Weaver. Just keep in mind that if your first item is going to be a bottle or a ring of health you should spend as little as possible in starting regen items. Bottle is especially good in 3vs3 lanes for reasons I’ll explain in the next section.
A mistake I see often in both low skill pubs and competitive matches is understimating how much sustain you will need. It’s not only an issue when playing against an aggro trilane, certain offlaners are extremely good at keeping you and your supports below max HP, which makes makes you and your supports very easy to kill, potentially making you lose any economic advantage with a single rotation.
When dealing with a solo offlaner:
There are two types of offlaners, the type that just want to get any farm and experience they can get without dying, and the type that will try to punish your greedy picks and make you lose as much farm as possible and possibly even kill you if your supports aren’t around.
Centaur, Doom, Void and BH can’t even harrass you, they just want levels and whatever lasthit they can get when your supports get distracted. The same goes for Tide and Timber if you’re a ranged carry. The key here is to not depend on your supports to zone them out, play aggressively. Spend your mana and your tangos to make him afraid of getting in exp range. Get the most out of your starting regen.
As long as you have some spare regen, you should stand between him and his creep wave, don’t leave any room for him to even try to aggro your creeps. You can do this safely because you know there’s no way he can possibly kill you without level 6. If you have a basilus always spend your mana when it’s full, throw lucent beams, phantom lances, sukuchis, mystic snakes, etc, at them regulary.
This varies a lot, so I’ll explain case by case.
Clockwerk: if you’re melee, a good CW player can burn enough of your mana to make you a non-threat. And he will go in for some lasthits and shrug off your supports autoattacks. If they try to commit for a kill they’ll probably fail and will be left without mana too, he will refill his bottle and go back to lane to get a quick level 6. You can only do two things here: don’t get hit by cogs or get a bottle. Strongest again Sven, PA, WK, CK, Spectre. Weakest against N’aix, Slark, AM, Jugg.
If you’re ranged CW will spam rocket flare to keep your and your supports’ HP low, making you vulnerable to ganks. When he gets to level 5 he becomes a real issue since it’s very hard to deny him lasthits. If you’re playing Drow, Sniper and Luna you will probably want to get some early STR treads, finish your Aquila or Magic Wand or maybe even get lifesteal early. Most other ranged carries get either a RoH or a bottle so they don’t have this weakness.
LC/Magnus/WR/BM/Puck/Phoenix/ET: They work kinda like CW spamming Rocket Flare, except their skills are relatively easy to dodge, except for Overwhelming Odds, but even then you and your supports can reduce how much damage you take from it considerably. Again, they want to set up easy kills for when the rest of their team wants to rotate, so don’t be afraid to get an extra tango or salve if you’re getting low.
Tide/Timber/DS: Melees that excel against melees, sadly in this case your lane depends more on your supports than on yourself. Obviously you’re screwed if you’re forced to solo. Unless his positioning sucks, one way to win this is to bait, let him get you dangerously low on HP and trade hits. Get yourself in a 1v1 situation you can’t possibly win so that your supports can come in when his spells are on cooldown/he’s too close to your tower/he can’t get away. Take all of your supps salves if needed, be fully healed by the time he respawns to try again. This is much better than playing extremely safe and letting get him get free farm.
Bat/Axe/BB:These guys are especially dangerous because in order to kill you all they need is for you to be careless just once, it doesn’t matter if you were at full HP. Don’t let the stacks build up, and don’t get in a position where Axe can call you with 4+ units hitting him. Get a ring of protection against BB and Axe if you have low armor. No amount of regeneration can help you in those cases.
Mirana/WR/NP: they’re just annoying as long as you dont get arrowed/shackled. Make sure you trade hits with them so they can’t get fast phase boots or it can get ugly. Throwing in NP because he can only really be annoying by harrasing you and your supports at the same time, he shouldn’t be a problem if you have stout shield and won’t be one unless he has phase boots.
When dealing with a trilane or dual lane:
I’m not going to go into detail here because there are literally thousands of possible match-ups and because they can be lost by your supports if they get caught out of position a lot. I’m not considering unwinnable lanes here. What I will do is give some general guidelines and tips:
Don’t lower your guard after getting kills: Let’s say you traded 2 for 1 in a 3v3 lane, and you even got first blood on their carry. Don’t think you’ve won the lane yet, because most likely you and your supports will be low on HP regen and mana, and if they force another fight quickly it’s very likely it will go their way. This is especially true against heroes like Slark, WK, Viper and Mirana, who are still dangerous even with a level disadvantage. To secure the lead you need Urn (preferably on a support) or Bottle, ideally both. Bottle is especially important because if one of your support dies you can get it refilled when he TPs back from fountain by giving it to him for a couple seconds.
Magic stick and Magic wand: This is highly dependant on picks but usually magic stick pays itself off very quickly if there’s a lot of aggression going on in your lane, so there’s pretty much no reason to not get it, just keep in mind you may want boot or bottle first. Some carries are infamous for running out of slots very early, like AM, Naga and Ursa, so you probably shouldn’t upgrade to Magic Wand on them because you’ll have to sell it soon, regardless of picks.
It’s ok to die sometimes: Just make sure their carry has died already and that it’s something better than a 1 for 1 trade. Yes it will set you back a bit, but if your supports are competent they can do a lot with the extra exp and gold. This happens relatively often if your supports are very slow or don’t have any escape. Think Lion, Rhasta, Rubick and CM. They will just feed if you don’t get involved.
Other sustain-related tips:
Tread switching: This makes a big difference every game. It should be on AGI for lasthitting, STR for harrasing with autoattacks (or when you feel unsafe) and INT whenever you use any skill. If you have a RoH you can regen HP faster, same for mana if you have a basilus.
Buying and Selling Rings of Health: This is especially useful if you’re working on a Midas, Blink or Radiance. Just buy as many RoH as you can and sell them before the 10 seconds end. Just make sure you’re out of combat. Keep in mind this will convert any spent reliable gold into unreliable gold.