Who am i?
Hi, I’m “Jan G”, a long time dota player (going on nine years i think). I calibrated back in the day at around 4.2k and played near to no solo-queue. Causing my solo-mmr to stay at that level while i slowly increased my party mmr. This summer I chose to spend more time improving dota, with the goal of playing tournaments and see where that gets me, i’ve always loved the support role, and decided i would try to win playing exclusively pos 4 and 5 (and 6, heh). In a little under two months i rose from 4.4k to 5.7k, with a few games as offlane when the supports were taken (rare as it is). I decided to write this guide because I think that most players view the role of supports in the laningstage incorrectly, and this is my best advice on how to play support properly in the first 10-15 minutes. This is my first guide, so formatting and stuff might be shit.
This guide assumes the reader has a decent understanding of support mechanics, e.g. Pulling, ganking etc. The guide will try to elaborate on when to do what and why. In a standard game of dota you split the players up into positions 1-5. When you are playing a core position (Carry, Mid, Jungler, Offlaner) your goal in the laningstage is generally “easy to understand and hard to execute”. The carry must farm, thats easy to understand, but maximizing the amount of gpm you can get is usually a feat that requires tons of practice to do consistently. The same with mid, you ultimately just want more lasthits and denies than your opponent, with kills when you get the opportunity.
That is easy to understand but much harder to execute, and likewise for jungler and offlaner. This is where i believe most supports do it wrong, as a support theres loads of tasks you could do, be it stacking, pulling, zoning, ganking, invading jungler, warding and the list goes on. Most of these tasks are actually pretty easy to execute, but choosing what to do and when is much harder and makes the difference between good and bad supports. This makes the supportrole the only position which is “hard to understand, easy to execute”. Each of those tasks are going to have a different influence on the game e.g. Secure farm for the carry, Giving vision for incomming ganks, and so forth. This guide is meant as a resource to help improving by reflecting on the things below while or after a game. Is there anything you could have done instead or in the meantime.
Managing your time:
As a support the resource that you have, which the rest of your team doesn’t, is time. Have you ever had the need for your carry to use that neat quelling blade to chop a tree so you can pull better, but the carry can’t leave the lane for those few seconds without missing a lasthit? That is what im talking about. As a support you are the only player on the team with time abundant on your hands, and what separates good and bad supports is how that time is spent. Learning to choose the right task can increase your influence on the game by a wide margin, so here im going to list and the elaborate on the “standard” stuff you can spend your time on. In parantheses is the expected value of doing that task.
The list of Do’s
- Zoning the offlaner. (Denying exp and gold from the offlaner, while securing farm for the carry)
- Pulling camps (Denying exp and gold, while getting both yourself)
- Warding and Dewarding (Winning the vision game)
- Ganking (Get advantage on a lane)
- Switching lane (Help winning a lane or soaking exp)
- Harassing jungler (Delaying core items)
- Stacking camps (Increase GPM of a core)
Zoning the offlaner
This is usually the most important task, which means a lot of supports does this well already. But for that reason it’s also the task most supports does too much, meaning you get less value out of your hero than you could. Zoning is always going to be a trade with the offlaner, you are sacrificing some of your time to stop their offlaner from doing anything, for that reason it is important that you have an understanding of what you are trading and against what hero.
In most cases if you are a solo support it’s going to be hard to deny both exp and gold, on the other hand you are not earning any gold yourself and you are most likely sharing exp with your core if you are standing on the lane. If the offlaner is fine just getting exp (example is nyx assassin or any other hero who comes online after a few levels) you might be making a bad trade. Also if you are a support whos weak for the first couple levels, you might also be making a bad trade (example is Rubick, Elder Titan and other supports really reliant on getting exp). In that case it’s most likely going to be more beneficial for you to pull camps instead, more info on pulling later.
Also sometimes your carry can win the lane without you, freeing you up to spend your time elsewhere, meaning in that case you should almost never be zoning. If you are in the unlikely case of having two supports on the same team, the most efficient is often having the weaker or more exp dependent support pull while the other zones.
Now if you are just a little like me, this should be your favorite laningstage task. This gives you gold, exp and denies experience from your opponents. However it’s important to keep in mind that your farm is less important than your core, so you should only do this to regain lane control (if the wave is too close to the enemy tower), or when your team can win the lane without you there.
A good idea is to learn how to connect pulls from camps (pulling the small camp, kill it and then pull another camp to catch the creeps), these pulls are usually better cause you clear a lot of creeps for exp and gold, and after connecting the pull the creeps will be further from the lane, making it harder for an offlaner to contest and lasthit your pull. Most players know how to pull the hardcamp and stack it at the same time, this is a double edged sword however. Firstly you end up with a stack that obliterates your wave, without you having enough damage to kill any creeps, giving you less exp and gold. Secondly sometimes the offlaner has good tools to clear the camp (sandking, ds, etc.) giving him a large sum of gold. Thirdly it’s a camp thats easy for your offlaner to pull himself, giving him more lane control and denying a wave from your carry.
However if you have a core whos great at taking stacks early (Sven, Alchemist, etc.) this can accelerate his farm by a huge amount. In any case if you decide to pull like this, it actually becomes an objective to play around. Giving a stack like that to an enemy tinker after he just ganked your lane sucks. Pulling should be done as much as you can get away with without sacking your lanes, getting exp on supports are crucial.
Warding and dewarding
If you make the mistake of listening to your midlaner he will quickly tell you that “we need wards”. Most coreplayers think this is the most important thing a support does, and they are not wrong they are just often assholes about it. This is because warding increases your potential for pickoffs, and allows farming in more dangerous places without getting pickedoff yourself. Wards also helps a ton when taking objectives.
Usually you should start the game with 2 observers and 2 sentries, leaving you with 1 set of tangoes and a clarity or tp scroll after buying the courier. Trust me when i say the sentries are mandatory, if you can deward the camp so you can pull during the earlygame you will make way more than the sentries cost you. The first 2 wards can have a huge impact on the rest of the game, so it is important where you place them.
First consider what lanes needs it the most. Generally your offlaner needs a ward to block a camp or get vision in their jungle to determine when the supports leave the lane to harass mid/stack/etc. In rare cases the offlaner won’t need the ward, this is mostly when the offlane has outpicked their safelane (rare), an example could be sand king vs. 2 melee. The sandking will keep the lane pushed, which will in turn let him know where the supports are easily.
The other case is pretty much only darkseer if hes not against oracle or omni, for the same reason. Rarely do i ever give a dark seer an observer ward, as it can do more in another part of the map. Sometimes the midlaner needs a ward, theres usually two reasons to ward the middle.
The first is to see incomming rotations on mid, against heroes like pudge, mirana, spiritbreaker etc. Where you put the ward exactly you have to determine from their lanes. Is pudge/spiritbreaker offlane or support, will they come from top or bot in most cases? This also applies if your offlane is lost or in jungle instead, in this case many supports will start ganking your midplayer, and the extra vision will often determine if he dies or not, or atleast allow you to tp earlier in order to save him.
The other case where a midlane needs a ward is to help win the lane, if your midlaner is a zeus/tinker/medusa who has incredible lane harass(chain lightning/missiles/mystic snake) as long as they have vision of the enemy, the uphill vision can make or break the early game for your midlaner.
Lastly the safelane ward. Usually this is placed on the lane to the side of the nearby hardcamp, this ward will tell you a lot about the offlaner, is he going back to jungle? is he trying to pull your hardcamp? is he going to the sideshop area to leech exp without getting harassed? is he going for the toprune and ganking your mid? The amount of information this ward gives on your opponents offlaner is super helpfull, while it also increases the chance of spotting an incomming gank from your enemies.
Generally the first 2 wards are the most important in the early game but the next set of wards can be helpfull too. Generally you want a ward in the middle pretty early as that area of the map usually heats up when supports and offlaners get their levels. Find the time when you are not doing anything to set the ward up, you can also send their courier to mid with a ward and have the midplayer put it, but its more likely to get dewarded this way, since your opponents is keeping their eyes on the midlaner. If the enemy lineup includes heavy ganking supports such as pudge or earthspirit, getting a deep ward in the enemy jungle will spot out most of their rotations unless they smoke. These wards are usually on the cliff in dire jungle between easy and the 2 medium camps, and on radiant below the right medium camp.
Ganking a lane
The first thing i want to point out is are you sure your hero is a good ganker? I see a lot of supports leaving a won safelane to gank mid with heroes who are abosulte shit at it, if your hero doesnt have a reliable stun, hex or VERY strong slow you probably shouldnt gank, unless your midlaner has one or more of these and needs help killing the enemy. If you chose to play a “defensive” support such as dazzle, warlock, abaddon etc. you will benefit so much more from just pulling galore and pleading your carry to push the lane as much as he can manage, some supports just needs exp to become relevant.
Take rubick for example, you could choose to gank with him, since he has an instant cast stun which also puts the target in a position he chooses, aswell as a good strong nuke. But rubick also really needs to get level 6, since his powerlevel explodes when he gets spellsteal, furthermore his manacost on the spells are huge meaning you might not have enough mana to tp and save a core in the next minute or two, and you don’t want to go back to base unless it is absolutely necessary, since it is a waste of time.
With that said, there are many situations where you want to gank the midlaner, some midlaners are a lot easier to shutdown early rather than later such as invoker (delay his midas timing, and his invoke has a huge cooldown early) and tinker (delay his BoT timing, furhter delaying his farm on the map. A small tip, if the tinker is going for SoulRing before travels, he will often have huge stacks in the woods you should try and contest). Im not going to elaborate on how to gank, this guide is only for when to do stuff.
In my oppinion ganking mid is only important in 3 cases. You are playing “full gank support” (es, pudge, mirana), the enemy midlaner is an easy kill (and i mean very easy, a gank on a mid who doesn’t die is a lot of time/smoke wasted and might often pull supports in from the other lanes, who will use their time after tp’ing to bully your midlaner), the enemy midlaner becomes much harder to deal with later in the game. Sometimes you might want to stay permanently in a lane which i will cover in the next section.
This is one of the maneuvers you start to see less the lower the mmr of the game is. But sometimes you want to switch what lane you stay in. Theres several reasons to do this so lets go through them. First sometimes you end up on a lane where your oppenents has a much stronger lane, and at the same time they push the lane so hard that it is impossible for you to pull, as your carry is already under tower trying to lasthig.
If your carry can solo the lane it is sometimes prefferable to leave him alone, heroes such as AM and PA who can escape danger and still try to get lasthits are needed for this. Remember if it is a solo game to explain to your carry that you are leaving because “you cannot help him win the lane, and it is much better for him to get solo exp”, putting it this way usually keeps him from tilting. Theres also something to be said for carries who get a powerspike at level 6, such as slark. If you let him have solo exp he will be able to farm jungle/lane earlier without worrying about dying. Only do this if the lane is completely lost, and you cannot fight the opponents.
Another reason to leave the lane is if it is completely won, and while you may benefit from pulling creeps sometimes your team benefits more from you switching to another lane to help there. If your offlaner is already winning a lane, putting a support there beside him might steamroll the enemy carry completely (remember to pull the enemy hardcamp to increase exp advantage). If your midplayer is getting ganked relentlessly, having a support at his back can prevent him from feeding too much in the early game (remember to stack camps while in mid, for an increase in exp and gold).
Sometimes you might even want to start on a different lane. Lets say your lineup is 1. Juggernaut, 4. Shadow Shaman, 5. Ogre magi against a solo slardar, this lane should be easily winnable with only juggernaut and shadow shaman, some supports like ogre and undying are incredible at bullying out a midlaner. You skip past the creeps and throw your spells on their midlane and just start pounding away, in most cases you should trade favorably while your own midplayer is getting lasthits and denies. If the enemy backs off into their tower, you stand between them and the creepwave, preventing them from ever getting a lasthit (remember to back away each time a new wave arrives). If you cannot prevent the midlaner from getting lasthits you should consider moving away as you are leeching exp from your own midplayer. This maneuver usually has to be used from level 1, where you are on equal level as your opponent, as it becomes harder to do as their heroes becomes farmed.
Sometimes your offlaner goes to the jungle because he cannot farm on the offlane. If you are not needed on the safelane you may go to the offlane to soak up the exp and farm thats left over. This is usually pretty easy since the enemies gets a disfavorable trade if they dedicate too much time to prevent a pos 4/5 from getting exp while you have pos 1/2/3 all farming, and thus their supports leave to do other stuff than zoning as soon as they see that the offlaner is gone. Remember this is a luxury to do, and should only be done if the other lanes are already handled.
When your enemy has a jungler in their lineup it should equate to them having weaker lanes, as they are missing a person on one lane. Sometimes this leave you as a support with time to harass the enemy jungle. Doing this will let you leech their exp, and hinder them freefarming. This is definately easiest with invis level 1 such as bh and riki, but can be done with any support.
It should be noted that since iron talon came to be, most junglers will stay at nearly full hp after level 4-5 and thus be a lot harder to harass, since they might turn and kill you. Also you are in a very dangerous position and you deffinately need to have an idea of where their support currently is. Usually you should only do this against junglers that farms blinkdagger and snowballs from there (axe, legion) since delaying this item from them, delays how early they can start snowballing. This is a rare task to do but you should keep it in your repitoire atleast.
Stacking a creepcamp should almost always be on a supports mind, sometimes you happen to pass by a camp right around a time you could stack it. This helps your carries getting even further ahead of your enemy. Most times stacking camps are a minor advantage you use whenever possible but with some lineups you can get a core online much earlier than your opponents anticipate. Any core who can clear camps easily and have large powerspikes with certain items (alchemist radiance, tinker BoTs, sandking blinkdagger etc.) it might be the best course of action to stack hardcamps to 4-5 stacks and have them take it.
Remember doing this often sacrifice a lot of your experience, so try and stay near the camp and leech exp off of it when your core finally takes it. Usually the time to do heavy stacking is when you already have another support pulling the safelane and helping out on the lane, and your hero doesnt help much on the offlane, also supports with a longrange damage spell (shadow demon, vengeful etc.) who can stack multiple camps help a lot. Do remember that the gold from your camp is only yours after you’ve taken it, so if you are going up against a lineup with potential to steal your camps, you need to be careful and use wards to secure that they don’t steal it.
The way you should use this guide to improve your play, is reflecting on these different tasks you can do. Go into a replay and watch yourself and think if you are doing the correct things in that game. Are you wasting time at any point, is there another task you could have done in the meanwhile? Go into the next game thinking about these things while you play and try to improve upon it. Once you have practiced these things enough you will do them automatically.