Table of Contents
The 4th Position
The New 4th Position Meta
Why is it so strong?
Finding and picking your hero
What are the critera you're looking for?
Understanding the Early Game
How to get the ball rolling
Pivoting into mid game
Your three options
Tips and tricks
The small things that makes the difference
Follow the writer
So it’s already been a few months since the big 7.00 patch hit us all with the upsets to our precious luna and shadow demon meta, and now that the chaos ensuing has died down, one role has become much more flexible than before: If you couldn’t make it out from the title already, I’m talking about the position 4. Earlier the set of pure roaming heroes were pretty miniscule (Riki, Earth Spirit, Spirit Breaker etc.) and even then if the hero didn't snowball, they would have to pivot into a support role as they would not have picked up any decent amount of farm and experience during the laning stage and would most likely have ended far behind the enemy players. Having your 4th position roaming used to be a big risk, but now you can see it in almost any professional lineup and with a much wider variety of heroes, such as Clockwerk and Slardar stepping from their usual position 3 down into 4.
In this piece I am going to share my thoughts on what a successful position 4 should strive towards. Be warned that the kit of your hero is going to determine what you want to focus on in the early game and what your job will be in the late game as well, so this guide will not have all the answers but should guide you onto the right path. Also it is mainly focused around roaming, as I believe that is the strongest way to run your 4th position in most games.
I just mentioned that I believe the 4th position is strongest as a roamer, and an explanation should follow. Several changes that hit in 7.00 favor this style of play both directly and indirectly as a meta response.
The biggest factor is by far the bounty runes. First of all, they now spawn at a reliable place, whereas before they spawned at a random of two spots. Secondly, all 4 spots are further away from the midlane and safelane, which makes it inefficient for your position 1 and 2 to go for them, which means that in many cases it’s going to be better to allow your supports to pick them up. Having one of the supports being a dedicated roamer, allows them to plan their rotations so they will be at a bounty rune every other minute and benefit from them, without having to go out of their way to pick them up. In this fashion, bounty runes allow you to move around the map a lot, without falling behind if you do not get the kills you would have previously required to have an impact on the midgame.
The shrines are beneficial for roamers as well, as they are allowed to spend a higher percentage of their time on the map, instead of having to return to base after every rotation.
Often you will find yourself trying to get a kill on the enemy mid, and if you do not die and distribute the damage taken, you will be able to refill completely and be on your merry way to the next gankable lane. With a perfect shrine timing, you would theoretically save two trips back and forth to fountain every five minutes, which would have taken considerable time previously. That time might be the difference between a kill or a dead teammate, which in turn might snowball your team into a larger advantage. Last patch, you could suicide to neutrals, which gave most of the same benefits, but - now that it is nerfed - shrines are replacing that method.
Those are the two most direct changes, but they have not only changed the game for supports, but also the entire meta game. If you take a look at the most common heroes, nearly all of them have a high uptime, meaning that they either have short cooldowns or - in case of some carries - they still offer a lot even while having cooldown on their ultimates. Simply put: having heroes who are ready to fight all the time, at a moments notice, is in style right now. It just so happens that there’s a wealth of heroes that fit this description while also having good roaming potential and requiring a small amount of farm to be ready for the midgame. Examples are Pudge, Slardar, Clockwerk, Treant Protector, Tusk, Earth Spirit, Chaos Knight, Ogre Magi and so on.
Sometimes you also run into the situation where the enemy offlaner withdraws into his own jungle, nowhere to be seen. This - combined with the change that neutrals only spawn every other minute - means there is very little to do on the safelane in some games, as pulling and stacking both happen at half speed now. In these cases, it can feel very disempowering if you do not have any of your supports being strong roamers.
Junglers have also been hit hard by the 7.00 patch, as now the creeps spawn at half the intensity they used to, however there are more camps. While this may seem to balance out, it can hurt your team to go for a jungler: First of all because of the bounty runes, the enemy now has a reward for going into your jungle, which in turn means that you have to stay at high health during your jungling or you might throw away your lead to a greedy support who wanted an additional bounty rune. That reduces the speed you can jungle at as you often can’t risk to take an extra camp, since any support will be able to finish you off. Also because of the spawn rate’s reduction, if you have any mid or safe laner who has the ability to enter the jungle for additional farm, you are clearing the spots for the next 2 minutes, leaving them with an inferior gpm and xpm in contrast to the enemy cores.
Lastly a lot of the heroes that fit into the position 4 right now aren’t very item independent. Of the ones mentioned above only Slardar has a core item (Blink), the rest of them are free to pick up any item that would help out in each specific game, and as such are strong picks early in a draft as they have an easier time adapting. Of course items are never going to fix a bad lineup, but having one hero on your team who can go directly for Force Staffs or Lotus Orbs when needed can be very beneficial.
For these reasons I strongly believe that having a position 4 that is able to roam is the way to go for almost any lineup as the meta is right now.
Many heroes can be forced into the roaming position without taking too much of a hit to their impact, so what exactly defines a good roamer? There's different traits you would want to have on a roaming hero, and having any one of them can be enough if needed, but the more the hero has the better. In descending order in accordance to importance (in my opinion):
Gap ClosingIt is the most important trait on roamers by far, as - most of the time - you initiating on a laner is supposed to be a surprise for them, and you can’t simply walk down lane into range, as the opponent will realise quickly that something is up and retreat. Obviously, if you don’t get in range you can do nothing. There are ways to work around lackluster gap closing, mostly initiating from behind your enemy, so they have to either run into your laners or into you. Another option would be ganking on lanes with their own setup/stuns, e.g. OD with Astral.
Skills have a variance in strength according to gap closing, for example Slardar’s sprint gives a strong edge over most enemy laners in the first few minutes as they are unlikely to have boots already. However it’s not as strong as Earth Spirit’s Rolling Boulder, which gives the enemy no notice until it is already too late.
Strong LockdownAccompanied with the surprise of an additional hero in an unexpected lane, a stun is the easiest way to secure a kill. Most of the time, you will have an immediate advantage when ganking a lane until the enemy rotates, and you will almost surely get the kill if you can prevent your gankee from escaping. While slows and silences are strong, they will never prevent a tp out or other shenanigans. For this reason having a stun on the roamer ensures that he can gank a lane with any partner in it.
Item independenceI touched on this briefly before, but one of the more important factors in your roaming pick has to be item independence. You are going to get a lot less farm on the position 4 than any core role, and as such, there will be heroes who might seem good to you but fall off later if they are not able to get any strong items. A good example here is Nature’s Prophet: I tried him in a couple of games with emphasis on roaming/rotating with teleport instead of farming woods. While it worked wonders in the early game (being able to get an extra hero in every fight adds up), the hero is largely item dependant as none of his skills do well without items. And what does it matter to have an extra hero in fights in the midgame if he’s just a bag of gold for the enemy?
It is important to note that item independence means the hero can have a continuous impact on the game even without items, such a hero is still relevant in the lategame with a bare minimum of items.
High damage outputSometimes you don’t need to chain stun the enemy hero to be able to kill him. All of us have experienced how much damage a Gyrocopter or Juggernaut can do if they are allowed to get in range. I’m not saying specifically that those are good roamers, but I bet you can make heroes work just because they can show up in a lane and burst down a hero before the enemy has time to react. At this point on the list, we are approaching the area where these traits alone are not enough to make a strong roamer, but still should be considered when picking your hero.
Weak LockdownSlows, silences and roots are in this category. While they often are enough to secure a kill, they are simply inferior to a stun. They help but the enemy can still hit you back, tp out (roots cancel, but you can tp as soon as the root is applied), use escapes (in case of slow) and run away (in case of silence).
Hero SpecificAs an addition to these, there are also hero-specific abilities which might come in handy later in the game. For example. Slardar has Amplify Damage Corrosive Haze that increases physical damage, Earth Spirit has AoE silence and with Aghanim’s Scepter a great tool for saving. These can’t really be measured up against one another as they are of different usefulness depending on each specific game.
Picking your heroSo why did i go through all this to teach you what makes a good roamer? Because I strongly believe that understanding the reason why things are powerful is much better than just understanding what is powerful. For further elaboration let's take a look at some of the classic roamers (Earth Spirit and Slardar), and some experiments I’ve been trying (Clockwerk and Doom) in accordance to the trait list i made.
|Gap closing||Long distance, near instant gap closer. However is a skillshot so leaves a bit to be desired.|
|Strong Lockdown||Has a decent stun, hard to hit on distance, but Rolling Boulder solves it by gap closing. Does require you to hit level 2 to effectively use both, and no easy way of getting that level without downright leeching exp.|
|Item Independent||Earth Spirit has some items that are strong on him, but not a single core item that he needs to be effective in the midgame. Can go for pretty much anything and still work.|
|High Damage Output||Kinda lackluster, before level 6 he doesn’t have any strong damage spell, and even his ultimate deals damage slowly but over a long period of time, making it difficult for him to burst anyone on his own.|
|Weak Lockdown||Slow and Silence on the same hero can prove effective at dealing with almost any hero, and help deal with slippery heroes like weaver and puck.|
|Hero Specific||Magnetize has the ability to make the silence and slow AoE, which helps disrupting teamfights and soft-cc spellcasters without committing for it.|
|Gap closing||Sprint helps a lot in the early game to abuse that opponents most likely don't even have boots yet.|
|Strong Lockdown||Slardar’s stun is decently strong, but the combination of the slow effect after and sprint to get in position improves this a lot.|
|Item Independent||Semi independent, often times in the midgame this hero will have trouble having impact if the blink dagger is delayed. However there’s still somewhat utility in him with the stun and Corrosive Haze.|
|High Damage Output||Not at all, slardar doesn’t do damage. His ultimate will increase his miniscule amount to acceptable levels, but as a roamer you will likely get your ultimate past the point where you can manfight any core.|
|Weak Lockdown||A 20% slow after the stun wears off. Better than nothing, but not strong in any sense.|
|Hero Specific||Sprint allows him to move around the map even faster than other roamers. While his stun stays a good spell for the duration of the entire game, and Corrosive Haze gives him amplified damage on a target, as well as vision of them for the duration.|
|Gap closing||Before level 6 it is really weak, however Clockwerk is sticky, meaning that once he is onto you, Power Cogs and Battery Assault will make it hard for you to disengage.|
|Strong Lockdown||Semi, a series of ministuns will stop the enemy from casting spells if they have long cast points. It will stop any attempt to tp, and will also slow down the enemy as well. Also has the possibility of pushing the enemy out of position with power cogs.|
|Item Independent||He only needs experience to be able to initiate, as soon as he hits lvl 6 he can be almost as effective as any other initiator with a dagger, but on a longer cooldown.|
|High Damage Output||Pretty decent, however Battery Assault can be spread if the enemy groups up.|
|Hero Specific||Can help out the offlane by cogging the first wave a couple of times, which should allow the first wave to get almost to the tower, and make it a lot safer for the offlaner to farm the 2nd level. Also has a Magic-immunity piercing stun, which can come in handy against many lineups. Good at disrupting teamfights by dropping Cogs in the middle of everything.|
|Gap closing||Weak, only has the +14% movement speed from Scorched earth.|
|Strong Lockdown||A minibash on Infernal Blade|
|Item Independent||Needs a lot of items to make up for his weaknesses when doom is down, and long cooldown on scorched earth. At the same time his Infernal Blade is melee, so to have impact later he needs to be tanky enough to stay in fights.|
|High Damage Output||Pretty decent, scorched earth deals a good amount of damage, and infernal blade scales with the opponent's HP.|
|Weak Lockdown||Doom is the strongest Weak Lockdown in the game, however it's not gained until level 6, and has a stupidly long cooldown.|
|Hero Specific||Doom is very Unique, looking at this list he might seem like a poor choice to roam with, but one of the most successful of the ones i’ve tried (7 wins and 3 losses, since patch 7.02). The reason is he is HIGHLY adaptable, if you need to gap close you can go for the Kobold that gives movement speed, or the Troll with the Ensnare. If you need better lockdown that can be solved too. Need to get tanky? Take the ice ogre and armor yourself up. More damage? Take one of the creeps with nukes, you get the idea. Now in 7.02 he got the talent to get 80 gold extra per devour, which solves his item dependency problems.|
|Disclaimer: Doom as position 4 can be pretty difficult to master in my opinion. Most of his strengths come from his items in the midgame, and choosing the wrong item is kinda like skilling the wrong skill when leveling up, but with a much longer period before you can fix it.|
My point with this section is that there are a lot of fun heroes you can try out as position 4 right now. It is the spot for most of the-out of-meta heroes at the moment which you still enjoy playing. This can be the tool you need to identify if the hero fits before the game starts.
So now you know what makes a good roamer, but there’s much more to it than just picking the hero, so let’s get into it.
The starting itemsThere are several different options here, since you are roaming you will be able to get more shrines, and - more importantly - it’s not expected of you to stick to a lane. For that reason regen consumables are less important for you, and you can shell out your starting money on cheap utility items: Boots, Blightstone, Orb of Venom and Windlace. These all have their different utility, but in 90% of the games I would recommend you to start with Boots, Tangoes, Clarity and Smoke. The boots are the heart of matter here, with the rest of the items just being spending your leftover gold. Remember the category on top of the trait list? Gap closing is by far the most important, since as long as you are out of range, you are not actually doing anything, and in most cases it will be a good couple of minutes before your opponents can pick up their own set of boots. This gives you a large advantage in early game skirmishes, and also has the upside of increasing the speed at which you move around the map.
You can choose to downgrade your boots into Windlace if you need to buy sentries, dust, observers or courier in case the other support isn’t inclined to, and for heroes with excellent gap closing (Earth Spirit, Tuskar etc.), there’s a case to be made for Orb of Venom as a starting item.
The territoryNext thing you want to think about is where your territory will be, and this is defined by that lane’s kill potential. Some games all your laners picked early game murderers, and other games nobody on your team actually wants to fight. The important factor here is identifying which lane has the highest chance of paying out in kills, without overextending. If you are playing Slardar, you cannot expect to join an offlane Enigma or Tidehunter and kill everything, and to avoid wasting time on this, it only requires a bit of thought. Usually the midlane is a 1v1 and in that case nearly any mid can kill the other with just a slight nudge, and changing the situation from 1v1 to 2v1 is more than just a slight nudge. Keep in mind that this changes depending on the hero in the lane, while a Timber might have a very low kill potential at the first few levels, if you join up with him when he is 6 or 7, there’s a very high kill potential on the lane.
The howSo you got an idea about which of the three lanes are actually good investments for your time, and now it’s time to do something about it. You number one tool for this is * Drumroll * Fog of War. Without it roamers wouldn’t be a thing at all, this is the difference between good and bad roamers. First of all, it lets you gain movement advantage on your enemy: If you come from behind them, now they have to move through you or run away from the safety of their tower, and even in this case, many of the good roamers are already strong at chasing down their targets.
Secondly you should strive to stay in the fog as much as you can. If the enemy notices that you are missing, they have two choices:
- Play it risky in order to reach farm away from the safety of their towers, with a chance that they will get ganked when they move.
- Play it safe and stay near tower, but forego some of the riskier last hits. Since you don’t have a lane yourself anyway, you are not losing much compared to their core.
If you ever feel like a rotation did nothing because the enemy safely backed and waited for you to go back, this is the key point you should remember. If you are helping out the safelane for 90% of your time and roaming for the last 10%, it's easier for the enemy to chill at a tower for these brief moments. But if you are hidden 90% of the time, the enemy can’t possibly expect to keep up in farm if they play it safe for all 90% of the laning stage, and when they go for that last hit, that's when you hit them.
The moneyThere’s only one way to put this: You need to keep the bounty runes in mind, even though the prize might seem small, you are the most qualified to pick them up on your team anyway. Over the course of the entire early game these small rewards start to add up. If you catch just 5 runes in the first 10 minutes of the game, it’s already ~250 gold, and while it might seem a small amount, it often ends up making the difference if you get your item before a death and avoid postponing it further.
For this reason, it should also be a concern whether you are able to snatch the runes from your opponent's side of the map. If you are at the bounty position at the time of spawn, there’s a chance there will not even be any enemies to contest it, and most times they will need more than just a support to force you away from it, which in turn drags them away from their lanes and creates space in the meantime. Keep in mind who is missing from the map, you wouldn’t want to run into their jungling midlaner while a support is in the vicinity as well.
If you can manage to snag the bounty rune from your enemies, you are likely to get the rune on your side on the map aswell if you rotate for it. However if you are unscouted from this position (to the best of your knowledge, keeping in mind where their wards are located) you can get a solid gank on the enemy lanes, as you are engaging from behind in a pincer maneuver with your own laner. This trick is a bit risky, as you are overextending yourself if the enemy knows you are there and they will be able to rotate a support in anticipation and kill you.
The technicalitiesSometimes you just have lanes where you are not going to get kills unless you get godlike initiation, in these cases it’s most likely best to just pretend to be another support. Try and keep the carry farming, while picking up bounty runes and stacking/pulling. It is rare, but in those scenarios the last thing you want to do is feeding because you had your mind set on owning some noobs from the first minute of the game.
Other times you will find yourself playing a hero that needs level 2 before he actually becomes a good roamer. In those cases I would find it fair to leech it off of the safelane while zoning the offlaner, as this is not just mindless leeching, but an actual investment in getting a hero online as fast as possible. (A good example here is Pudge, you kind of want to get both rot and hook before roaming).
So you’ve played to the best of your abilities in the early game, and we are slowly reaching the point where the lanes dissolve and the games become more fluid. Up till this point most roamers play the same, but here it changes depending on your hero and more importantly what you lack on your team. You used to be a roamer, but now you have to pivot into a different role, luckily the item independency helps this transition, but it does require some planning ahead. As i see it you can roughly categorize the available spins into three archetypes: Core, Initiator and Support.
CoreThis archetype is definitely the most hero specific, there’s only a select few who can pull this off, since it requires your hero to scale into the lategame as a reliant damage dealer, while still being able to last long enough in fights to keep dealing damage. The current best example of a hero that fits here is Mirana. You can roam on her early game with arrow, while keeping up in farm as well. Her Aghanim’s allows her to deal considerable damage in midgame fights, and helps her farm at a very fast pace, which in turn gives her more of an advantage later compared to other roamers. Some roamers can also transition into core with a good start and some snowballing. Honorable mentions here are Rikimaru, Chaos Knight and Weaver.
The main concern with choosing this path as a position 4th is your other cores, mainly how farm-hungry they are. Are they already picking up almost every scrap of farm on the map? Extreme example given: You are playing Mirana on a team with a Tinker and an Anti Mage, somehow you made it fine out of the early game and you have Aghs, but Tinker has Travels and AM has BF. Even if you farm fast, are there going to be enough creeps to kill to afford the Ethereal Blade? In this case you should most likely align your build order as a Support instead.
SupportHere belong the roamers who have trouble staying alive in the midgame, but can still manage to have a strong impact by staying in the outskirts of the fight. This plays mostly as a regular 5th position in terms of teamfights. Stay on the edge of your range, so you can still throw out spells, while still maintaining a healthy distance from the guys who wants to murder you. This is also the most flexible archetype to stay in, need more crowd control? Go for the Eul’s Scepter and use it as a affordable stun, it might make their Lifestealer untargetable, but will give time to your allies to regain distance to him, or grant your team a timeframe to pick off his allies without feeling his wrath. Do you have no way to save people from the enemy? Go for that Force Staff or Glimmer Cape, and shower yourself with commends from your grateful allies (or this is how it should be at least). Need sustain to keep pushing? Grab that Urn. Need pushing power? Try for a Drum. I hope you get the point by now, you are the swiss army knife of your lineup.
So when you don’t have a hero who scales well enough to be a core, why don’t you always go for the support transition? Well you remember how you want to fight? On the edge of the fight and throwing stuff in, well sometimes the whole rest of your lineup will prefer this aswell, and you all end up standing around doing nothing and looking stupid doing it. In this case you wanna pull the last tool out of your army knife and transition into an Initiator instead.
InitiatorThese are the guys who die on a regular basis for the better of the team. There’s a few roamers who’d want to prefer this archetype however the number is little (Slardar, Clockwerk etc.), while most would prefer not to. Unless you are running some super disciplined high level strategy your team is going to need an initiator, and that player is often the offlaner (Centaur, Slardar, Axe, Enigma, Tidehunter, Batrider, Beastmaster and the list goes on). But once in awhile you will find yourself on a lineup where your offlaner picked a Bristleback or a Timbersaw, and these heroes just aren’t strong enough at initiating, however they only need a teammate to set up a chance for them to follow up to join the fight.
With this is mind these are the games where you want to be the initiator, even if it doesn't suit your hero, because it “unsuits” your hero the least. If you have any stun, your hero can be an initiator if you just pick up a Blink Dagger, and what if you don’t you may ask? Well try and get that Eul’s Scepter and now you have Blink and an instant cast item that sets up for a strong follow up. Remember when I said you are going to die the most? This is why, it’s gonna suck, but the way to play is to risk your life to set up the possibility for your team to win the fight, in other words trusting your teammates.
The most common pick up for initiators is Blink Dagger, but the most common item after that is Force Staff. It allows you to enter with Dagger and exit with the Staff, cutting down on your deaths and helping you survive the fights so you can pick up some extra gold from the kills.
Playing Initiator on a weak initiation hero is hard to balance, and you need to constantly keep in mind the position of your allies, since a moment of eagerness might result in a death on you when your allies aren’t in range to follow up on your initiation.
Remember when transitioning into the midgame, you are still earning a meager amount of money, and for that reason picking the wrong archetype and finishing the wrong item is a huge disadvantage for you and your team. Luckily the archetype can mostly be determined from only the lineup and less on how the early game went, so make it a habit to decide before the game starts and you should feel much more comfortable on your roamers.
Figuring out your job in the midgame role is the part that throws many players out of their comfort zone, as they misinterpret how they should play their hero from one game to another, and as a result your team is not taking full advantage of their resources.
- Smokes. Seriously. They cost 50 gold now, and they have a 12 minute cooldown. It's almost always worth it to pick it up from the very start just to start the cooldown timer for your 4th smoke right away. Dumbed down, a smoke just prevents you from being spotted by wards. When you want to get an edge in an initiation early, smokes are the best tool to get behind the enemy lines and pincher them.
- Start carrying TPs rather early, as your hero often can turn a dive around for your offlaner or carry, and participating in kills early is your gateway into a solid mid game.
- Stop using your TP’s to get back to lane, unless you are certain it makes the difference in your chance to kill an opponent. Missing an opportunity to save an ally and getting a return kill is not worth saving the seconds you save by tp’ing.
- Coordinate with your teammates when they use shrines. You don’t want to go out of your way to participate in them, but if you are low and a nearby teammate aswell it’s likely the time to spend that shrine.
- Use the Shrines in your base for regeneration. This one is bigger than people give it credits for. If you are coming from mid, you can shave off around 20+ seconds by regenning on the shrine instead of in fountain. What if you need items? Send the courier to meet you on your way back to base. What if you need items and the courier is busy? Still use the shrine, as they heal a set amount which is going to be larger than your fountain will for the larger amount of the game, and they walk back to your fountain and pick your items up. Shrines are just huge time savers.
- Keep in mind the night time, it reduces the vision of most heroes by 1000 down from 1800. That’s a 55% decrease in radius, which if my math is correct results in a 80.25% reduction in visible area around your hero (Given the hero had unobstructed vision). Combined with roamers’ love for Fog of War, it sounds pretty fucking strong if you ask me.
- A little follow up to to the previous tip. Be aware of which heroes have full nightvision (still 1800) as they can see you far before you even get a glimpse of them, and are therefore pretty hard to gank during nighttimes.
If you want notifications on when new guides are being published and when the stream goes online, follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/chillomaniac. You are also welcome to ask any questions on my Twitter if you want. Also any critique is well appreciated.
My previous guides can be found here:
A complete breakdown of playing a good support in the early game: https://www.reddit.com/r/DotA2/comments/5dykj1/guide_a_complete_breakdown_of_playing_a_good/
A complete breakdown of items for supports: https://www.reddit.com/r/DotA2/comments/5f5xnc/guide_a_complete_breakdown_of_items_for_supports/
Defining Jobs and Placing Wards:
The Support Toolbox: Tempo