Hi, I’m “Jan G”, a long time dota player (going on nine years i think). I’m currently sitting at 5.8k (up from 4.4k) by only playing support (when it’s not already taken). I decided to start writing guides to help players improve their support play, as i think there’s a lack of “advanced” guides for supports. Im also streaming over at http://www.twitch.tv/chillomaniac, most days at from 20CET.
Introduction, and how to use this guide:
My preferred way of writing guides is to stay far away from specific situations. There’s no single way to win dota, and becoming a better player requires general knowledge of the game. This guide will try to explain and elaborate on a subject so you readers can use the guide as a tool to improve yourself. Also like last time i will try and answer all question you guys have. Also be warned, this guide is only about items, so there will be numbers thrown around.
Why it is critical for supports to know their items:
This guide is focusing on the items available to supports in game, there’s multiple reasons why this subject is important to master as a good support. First of all, many supports are being way too greedy in their itemization, rushing items such as arcanes, blink, aghs when there are better items available or god forbid wards in stock. Secondly the order you build your items on supports are much more important, as you gain gold significantly slower than your other teammates. A carry building manta first and hurricane pike second or vice versa means less as they quickly amass the gold to by the second ite, giving a much shorter timespan where they lack the advantages the second item would give them. Lastly the items you buy allows you to compliment your hero, but also counter your enemy, if your draft is lacking in an area, items are what’s going to save your ass and more importantly your game. It is perfectly fine to have a core build you are going, but at least once every game you should think if there’s any item to swap out or delay for a better item. Be experimental with your item builds, you might just learn something.
So let’s get into the nitty-gritty shall we?
First of all i would like to name 3 culprits in many support builds: Eul’s Scepter, Mekansm and Arcane boots. Now before you get your pitchforks out, give me a moment to explain.
Arcane boots are in many cases the best boot for your average support, the problem is the build order, way too many rush this item, i have even rarely seen supports buy the energy booster before boots after a sudden influx of cash. For what it brings to the table it’s a great item, but way too one-dimensional to sink all your networth in, let’s take a look at the numbers.
Arcane Boots: 1300 Gold
- 50 movement speed
- 250 mana
- 135 Mana in 900 AoE; Cooldown 55seconds
Boots, Magic Wand, Windlace, Infused Raindrop 1325 Gold.
- 65 movement speed
- 4 to all stats
- 0.85 Mana per second (from raindrop)
- Raindrop Block up to 120 damage, 5 charges
- Energy Charge Restore 15 hp and mana per charge, up to 17 charges. 255 hp/mana for a full wand.
Assuming you have brown boots already, upgrading to arcanes give you +5ms, 250 mana and Replenish. Replenish is effectively 2.45 Mana per second, in an AoE, which is pretty good. On the other hand you can buy Windlace, Magic Wand and an Infused Raindrop, these items will boost your overall survivability, allowing you survive and therefore have more impact in fights, and get gold from assists and kills. As the cherry on top the price of the individual items are so low, that even in an uphill battle you can secure these items pretty easily. Generally i will always recommend going with the wand build, but arcane boots aren’t always bad to rush, in some situations including but not limited to:
- Your carry have a high-damage nuke, and arcane boots will help zoning or killing the offlaner more often. (Luna, Wraith King, Morphling etc.)
- You have an early push lineup, and need the extra mana to sustain. Early push lineups almost always needs a set of arcanes to succeed.
- You are supporting in the offlane. If you are supporting a duo-offensive lane, having that extra mana for extra nukes and cc often helps win a lane.
If you are not in any of these situations you can still go for arcane boots, but in my opinion you should delay them until after getting the others. Even against lineups with no magic damage raindrop is strong as it gives you 0.85 mana per sec for 225 gold, being super cost effective, and it will not run out of charges.
Eul’s Scepter of Divinity: Like arcane boots this item is strong, but is it the right item, when you as support sink 2k+ gold into an item, it better have some impact. Why are you buying eul’s?
- Is it for the mana regen?
- Is it to stop channeling spells from a distance?
- Is it to counter enemy blinks?
- Set up a stun?
- Clear yourself of silence?
There’s tons of reasons to buy eul’s scepter, a few years ago this was the only reasonable item to get if you wanted to clear silence (Bkb aswell, but way more expensive), the frog blessed us supports with two additional ways, Lotus orb and Greaves. Not only do they purge you like eul’s but they do so instantly, as well as helping your team in one way or the other. Keep in mind i’m in no way saying that eul’s should never be bought, but as a support player, buying an item that stuns you for 2.5seconds to clear silence, and cannot purge silence from teammates is often a mistake. Assuming you have arcane boots already getting Lotus Orb costs 3100 versus 2400 for eul’s (if you have windlace). While lotus orb also gives some good armor to boot. Generally if silence is fucking you up, in most cases lotus orb is outright the better pick.
Mekansm and Greaves: The only item in dota that heals your team instantly, and now i’m going to tell you it’s a shit support item. Huh. As with above mekansm is still a good item, but contrary to the above mekansm is a bad support item in nearly every game. Restore (Mekansm active) heals for 250hp in an aoe gives +2 armor to everyone it hits. Where Mekansm really excels is in early push lineups, going from making a huge impact in the first 15minutes of a game, and gradually scaling to become almost insignificant after 30-40 minutes. This is why mekansm should only be build on cores, be it Midlane (Viper, Razor), offlane (Tidehunter, Underlord) or junglers (Enigma, Chen). If you are going to buy mekansm on a support, it will almost always miss the timing where mekansm is effective, and instead being a team wide Magic Wand. Mekansm and Greaves still have a place on supports, but i will only buy it on supports with built in synergy (Wisp and Oracle), and even then only in rare cases where i get more gold than usual. In the last 175 games of supporting (Filtered out all core games) i have bought mekansm/greaves only 7 times. My point is this item is almost never worth buying on supports, unless you are snowballing.
With that rant over here i will elaborate on most support items, why and when they are good, and when they are a waste to get. Go here after a game and if you felt something was lacking take a look through the list for inspiration for the next time you are in that predicament.
The value items
This is a quick summation of the items i want you to think more consciously of when making item decisions. Below this section i will have a more in depth description of what i believe is the pros and cons of almost all support items.
Urn of Shadows: If you are pushing early to midgame, somebody should really consider getting this item. Stat wise it works on pretty much all heroes as well.
Pipe of Insight: Insanely strong situational item, if the enemy has just 1 core based around magic damage this item is worth it. Also helps pushing against tinker, as you can drop it on your team and a creepwave, shielding them from the march.
Lotus Orb: Most likely your go-to purge item. This allows you to remove silence from you and or teammates (even stuff like hex is purged), all the while reflecting further spells casted on the target.
Drums of Endurance: If you look at your lineup and think “how the hell are we going to kill towers?” this item is for you. Every time you gather for a push, pop a charge and watch the towers melt. This is your own pocket-beastmaster aura.
Force Staff/Blink Dagger: Staying alive as a support is all about position. Unless you are snowballing hard, no matter what items you buy, nothing will help quite as much as being in a good position. For this reason force and blink dagger are stable pickups always.
The wall of support items: Here is an elaborate list of all items i believe are considered “good” support items, in no particular order. With a short description of why i believe you should consider these items.
The other boots
Because Arcanes aren’t the only choice.
Brown boots: Some games when playing hard 5th position you are going to be dirt poor for a long time. In some of these games you will start dying a lot midgame (E.g. Slark with shadowblade, Tiny with blink etc.). To avoid that you need to correctly identify when you should skip out on arcane boots and instead rush defensive items such as Ghost scepter, Force Staff or even Hood of Defiance. Predicting when to rush a defensive item can help you survive many fights and pickoffs, in turn giving you exp and gold as you survive fights.
Tranquil Boots: Usually the go to boot if you and/or your team doesn’t have mana issues (For example having CM on your team). Super underrated boot, as it gives you 85 movement speed, second only to Boots of Travel. Also if you have already upgraded you arcanes to Aether Lens/Lotus Orb, i definitely recommend upgrading your Brown boots to tranquils. The movement speed you get for 500 gold is absolutely insane cost-effective wise, and if you have already upgraded your arcanes, 500 gold is rarely an issue.
Boots of Travel: The map presence is nice, but since supports doesn’t tend to teleport around to farm more efficient, it’s rarely a good item to pick up compared to other choices. Still it is very strong when you have lost Barracks, as you can defend and tp to fights when your team pushes.
The cheap ones (Less than 1500 gold)
I’ve already pointed out how strong Windlace, Wand and Raindrops are. Get them every game.
Blightstone: not a common pickup on supports, pretty much only get it if you are going for a medallion. If you can spare the item slot this item is a strong pickup on ranged supports when playing with a drow on your team.
Orb of venom: Really strong on roaming melee supports, best used when looking for kills constantly. The gold is wasted if you are just pulling anyway.
Gem of truesight: Risky item to get early, but in the midgame this item sure does a ton of work. It completely wins you the vision game. This item is so OP that you drop it on death, just think about that for a second. Especially strong if your lineup needs pickoffs to win, as you are removing all your opponents wards. Oh yeah, also get this against mirana and other invis heroes.
Soul ring: I almost never get this item myself, but in some circumstances this item is great. Get this if you can effectively use the mana to make better trades, be it pushing, harassing etc. 800 gold into an item is still a lot, and often times it’s better getting arcanes and saving an item slot for wards/tps/smokes etc. Remember guys, raindrops solve early mana problems.
Ring of Basilius: Helps pushing, gives mana, but in almost all cases this is an item for cores. It could be a gimmick pickup if your team has no agility cores, but the gold is probably better spent elsewhere. Sidenote, gives less mana than a raindrop (hint hint)
Urn of shadows: Holy hell is this item strong in the right games. Stats are good, but the active is insane. Having only this item can make or break an early push lineup. This allows you to top off your team between fights, equating to less time spent walking back to fountain, and more time pushing objectives while your opponents are scrambling to get online. I wanna point out that it heals for 400 and damages for 150, which is a huge difference. Only use urn offensively to secure a kill or disable blink daggers (Soul release doesn’t tick when it hits, so heroes can still blink for a short period after getting urned).
Medallion of Courage: Strong only when either your team or the enemy is heavily dependent of physical damage, use accordingly. Not by any means a strong item, but you should keep it in your repertoire.
Because your position directly correlates with your amount of deaths.
Blink Dagger: This item is just good on nearly everyone, even though it cost above 2k gold and gives absolutely no stats. So when do you want to commit your money to this item? First of all if you have any kind of instant crowd control (Lion, Rhasta, Rubick, Scythe, Eul’s), then blink dagger is the item for you. Instantly stunning a carry before he can react and bkb/manta/blink can win you the game. It is also really good, but rarely bought, on defensive supports such as shadow demon, dazzle, winter wyvern and oracle, if the enemy is killing you first. Blink allows you to hide in the trees before a push, or far behind your team when getting pushed, and then blink in to save the day. Although sometimes you want to avoid getting blink daggers, on otherwise incredible blink dagger users (Earthshaker, lion, etc.). When that is the case, your focus should be on the force staff.
Force Staff: Force Staff is an acceptable substitute for blink when you just can’t amass the gold to get a blink dagger, but there’s so many cases where force is superior to blink. If it is vital keeping a carry alive (4 protect 1 lineups) force can help you position yourself, while on some occasions also save your win condition from feeding. Secondly if the enemy is countered by force staffs, usually melee (especially strength) carries have a hard time catching up to a disengaging enemy. Generally strength carries only have a blink for initiation, a subpar movement speed and sometimes a stun. If you can reliably force staff their target away from them after blink, you have done a tremendous job supporting your team. Lastly the reason to get force staff over blink dagger is when your enemy is countering blink dagger. This is heroes who can hit you globally before you get your blink off (zeus, spectre, sometimes furion) or heroes with very long DoTs (Qop, Venomancer, Aa with scepter), in these cases sometimes a force staff is going to be a much more reliable pickup, even if you are playing lion/rubick.
Because sometimes it’s just nice to tank through a shotgun morphs burst damage.
Glimmer cape: This item is almost always a strong support items. While being invisible the target gains a massive magic resistance boost (45%). This item might often be one of your strongest pickups if your team lacks defensive supports. It is also great for short range initiations, but don’t forget to tell your teammates when you use it on them, or they might often not notice it. With all this praise it should be said that it is often not worth getting if your team is already sporting more than 1 type of invisibility already. Sidenote: Use this item on people getting targeted by morphling/mirana shotgun and necrophos ulti, to negate a huge amount of magic damage.
Hood of defiance: This item is so goddamn cheap for what it brings to the table, first of all it got cheaper in the recent patches, and now it also gives you a self targeted pipe barrier. This item is worth picking up even if you don’t plan on going pipe right away. Will help you survive ganks and teamfights, allowing you to get more gold and experience in the long run. Always worth considering.
Lotus Orb: This is what you should use instead of eul’s to clear silences. It build from arcane boots, gives you armor and even mana regen after you lost your arcanes. It allows you to purge teammates of hex and the like, and in the late game this item is a monster. Use it on your carry so any abyssal blades and hexes will get reflected. Sidenote: use this against tinker so he cannot perma hex your carry, as he will get hexed himself.
Linken’s Sphere: Usually a worse item than lotus orb for supports, but sometimes you are against heroes with great single-targeted spells, that they don’t really mind getting reflected. Examples are Doom and Beastmaster, in these cases they will still do their job of disabling your carry, and if they get reflected its not a big problem. In these cases you should opt for a linkens instead of lotus, and keep the buff on your carry.
EDIT: Don’t be like me and forget about ghost scepter. Extremely strong item against physical damage, super cheap and comes with stats to boot. Remember though, like eul’s, it can be purged so it’s less strong against diffusal carriers and oracle. Get it when you are scared of feeding in 10 minutes against a slark or likewise.
When your team just need that extra umph.
Drums of Endurance: When you draft yourself into a corner, and realise you have no one on your team with the ability to hit towers hard and fast. Drums is a partial solution to this together with desolator and necronomicon. But drums are much easier to get on a support and the stats and movement speed will benefit you somewhat. Generally that is the only reason i get this item on supports. Fun Fact: unless you have above 400 movement speed, you actually drop in ms when upgrading your windlace to drums. Boring Fact: you can buy recipe to restock your charges on drums, which can come in handy as you are mostly buying this item for the active effect.
Vladmir’s Offering: Rarely will you need to pick this item up, but if you are going to run a deathball push and no one else is getting this, by all means get it. Great with drow strats, as the cores involved will rarely buy this themselves, and the bonus damage scales with base damage (The white number, increased only by stats)
Pipe of Insigt: Holy hell this item has become a godlike pickup in nearly every game. First of all the price of hood and therefore also pipe has been decreased by a lot, pipe dropping by 425 gold. Secondly the barrier buff can now be applied without any time penalty (Until recently pipe placed a buff on every hero it hit, that prevented them from getting barrier until the buff ran out, however you still won’t get full effect until the barrier has run out). Lastly it now gives a passive +10% magic resistance aura to your team. Of course this item is situational, but against magic damage lineups (Shotgun morph, Invokers, Zeus and what have you) this item is perfect for supports. Also the buildup is probably the cheapest for a 3k+ gold item. Try and consider quickly if this is a good pickup in every single game.
Necronomicon: Rare as it is, this is a good support item for the lategame if you have trouble taking towers fast. Some games you just have to rush desolator + Necro 3 on dazzle to win. (every single hero except me dealt magicdamage, notice the dagon on BS, in this game my team stomped the enemies, but my build allowed us to push towers fast, without treant healing them back up, and end the game before Anti Mage came online.)
The list of random useful items that won’t fit in other categories.
Aether Lens: Good pickup, builds from arcanes. But rarely should this item be core in your build. Don’t ever get this item for the bonus damage, as the 5% is negligible and a veil is almost always better in that case. There’s two reasons to get this: Firstly if you have some targeted AoE stun that actually gets an increased Area of Effect from this item (Nyx impale, Lion Earth Spike, Sand King Burrowstrike), as not only are you increasing the range, but the effective AoE you are stunning. Secondly in games where the extra range on a spell will make a huge difference, examples of this is playing Shadow Demon against Faceless void, this item makes the difference when you need to disrupt a hero on the far side of the chronosphere, changing the situation from him being completely dead to completely saved. There are multiple different instances like the second situation. You need to be the judge of when to pick up aether lens.
Hand of Midas: In the current meta this item is way too greedy to get on 5th position heroes, even ancient apparition. Unless you are a support that really needs experience, this is (in my opinion) always the wrong pickup. Off of the top of my head, the only support i can justify this on is phoenix and ancient apparition, and in this case only if you are not 5th position.
Solar Crest: Like medallion, solar is a situational pickup against or with heavy physical lineups. Not always worth to upgrade your medallion to a solar crest if you suspect your carry will get butterfly in the future, as the enemy will then likely build an mkb.
Aghanim’s Scepter: There might be 3 or 4 supports MAX where this item is worth rushing for. If you want to get Aghs stop yourself and think for a moment. “Is the effect i get from aghs nice or good”. One example of this is lion, is having AoE short cooldown finger nice or good. In many cases it’s only just nice, unless you are with a Dark Seer, Magnus or Enigma, this item is most likely a waste of your net worth. There’s literally millions of different lineups in dota, and almost a hundred different aghs upgrades. So i’m not attempting to point out every situation, but just think if it is “nice or good”.
Just because you didn’t go mid, don’t mean you can’t kill stuff.
Veil of Discord: Good active and good stats, but often a bit expensive for a support to get. Usually i will let my cores go for this item if it is relevant, as i believe the gold is better spent on other items.
Dagon: Consider this item only if you have a core Mirana or Morphling who will get an early ethereal blade (EG did it). Otherwise you can pretty much always get better items than Dagon.
Scythe of Vyse: If you can somehow get the gold for this item, it is one of the most valuable late game items you can get. Also super strong if you already bought a refresher.
Abyssal Blade: Super expensive, niche pickup, but maybe once in a hundred games you have the gold and need for this item. The only item to stun through BKB, and having multiple of these on your teams don’t hurt. This item is super rarely going to be a good pickup, but if you are sitting at 70 minutes+ game, think of this item a little.
I realise that a lot of the stuff in this guide might be common knowledge to some, but i wanted to write an item guide and this is my shot at it. I hope to enlighten people when they should (or more importantly shouldn’t) rush for specific items. Like the last guide the way you should use this to improve your play, is reflecting on the different items you could build. Go into a replay and watch yourself and think if you are doing the correct things in that game. Are you getting value out of this item, did we need the utility from that item? 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.