Chapter III: Support Concepts
Chapter IV: Supports Enter the Battlefield
Chapter III: Support Concepts
The previous chapter gave an overview of which types of supports exist, the objectives behind certain lanes, tactical concepts and what can happen when people start to rotate. Now we take a closer look at how certain supports function with each other, point out strengths and weaknesses and go deeper into actual support scenarios.
3.1. Possible Support Duos
In a standard draft, two heroes are committed to the support role. One will play the semi-support (position 4), and the other one will play the hard support (position 5). In rare cases, there will be only one support hero (referring to competitive Dota as this obviously does not apply to public games).
There are several forms of support duos. In Chapter II we learned that there are basically three different kind of support heroes. Let us take a look at all the possible combinations and their benefits as well as their weaknesses. Let’s take a look at all the possible combinations.
- Three different types: Defensive, Aggressive and Greedy
- Two Support slots
3.2 Support Duo Breakdowns
Earlier we talked about possible laning scenarios. Now since we have covered all the possible combinations of support styles, we take a look atwhich laning scenarios they are strong in and why they are weak in others. I will also point out general benefits and weakness regarding the overall tactical concepts.
3.2.1 Defensive, Defensive
This is by far the safest way to play your safe lane and a good approach when you face gank heavy lineups. It is also able to handle aggressive trilanes very well . This combination is often chosen for a four-protect-one lineup. One of the two can always camp behind the farming hero to make sure he does not die.
Example: Dazzle / Treant
On the other hand this setup is usually bad when you want to play an aggressive trilane or want to play aggressively in general. However, there are several aggressive Tri-Lanes which work wonders with two defensive supports.
Example: Shadow Demon / Dazzle / Centaur
3.2.2 Defensive, Greedy
Against a single player on the offlane, this scenario works pretty well. The defensive support zones, the greedy support gets his farm and/or his experience. A big problem will be aggressive trilanes since they will contest the greedy support. The gank potential in the early stages is also very limited because the greedy support usually spends time farming.
Example: Rhasta / Treant
If you want to run an aggressive trilane yourself, this is the wrong approach. This combination is often run in push heavy and two-core lineups. The greedy support benefits from the tower gold and the defensive support makes pushing safer.
3.2.3 Defensive, Aggressive
A very solid combination. You can handle aggressive trilanes very well, zone any offlaner and have huge gank potential because you are not forced to get levels and farm.
Example: Shadow Demon / Enchantress
A huge benefit is also the possibility to run an aggressive Tri-Lane if you want to.
Example: Razor / Rubick / Ancient Apparition
This combination is often run in Two-Core/Tri-Core lineups. The aggressive support often makes kills possible with certain core heroes and the defensive support makes sure that your cores have an easier time.
3.2.4 Aggressive, Greedy
This combination works well on your safe lane against a single offlaner. The aggressive support can zone and the greedy one can farm and get his levels. Gank potential is also huge when they roam together.
Example: Skywrath / Lion
However, opposing aggressive trilanes are still dangerous since they can shut down the greedy support and playing an aggressive trilane with this setup is also the wrong approach since the greedy support will not get his levels and farm.
Greedy and aggressive supports in combination can be used in any tactical concept.
3.2.5 Aggressive, Aggressive
The badass combo. Your safe-lane cannot be contested in any way, not by a trilane and not by any offlaner. You have huge gank potential during the early game. Heavy gank lineups run this type of support combination. The problem is that they can fall of pretty easily if crucial kills are not made during the early game. Another problem is the late game where they can also fall off due to a lack of late game scaling.
Example: Enchantress / Venge
Aggressive Tri-Lanes can also be run effectively with this setup.
Example: Venge / Ancient Apparition / Drow
3.2.6 Greedy, Greedy
Many people have asked me how to counter greed. My answer: Be more greedy! This is the ultimate farming combo with the highest late game potential of all the support combos. The downside is obvious: heavy 5 man push, hyper aggressive and tricore lineups counter this combination and can lead to a quick loss.
Examples: Enigma / Rhasta
Aggressive trilanes with this combination should be avoided at all costs. No farm and no experience will result in no fun and a quick game.
3.3 Role Determination
Sometimes it can be hard to say who is the hard support and who is the semi support. Greedy supports automatically move to position four. When there are two greedy supports in one game, you need to communicate who takes most of the farm and experience.
When there is no greedy support, you need to take a look at your lineup and determine who can use the farm and experience to have the highest possible game impact.
Example: Two aggressive supports are on the same team. Ideally, the one who gets more kills/assists in the early stages will transition into position 4, and the other one will be position 5.
3.4 Position 5: Hard Support
Also known as the ward bitch.
The hard support has certain tasks, which seem kind of easy, but are often forgotten or ignored:
Your job is to get all the needed support items. Also, an early teleport scroll is nice to have since you can leave a lane without losing much. Another important fact you need to understand is the experience trade:
The Position 5 player basically always trades his progression against that of the opposing offlaner. The reason for that lies in the position model. An offlaner wants farm and experience since he is the 3 position. A position 5 player’s priority is to get his support items going and that's it. That means that a position 5 player can deny enemies experience and farm without drawback.
A safelane trilane is considered won when the opposing offlane is the same or lower level then your position 5.
Usually you will be poor compared to all the other positions. That means cheap but efficient items are the way to go. You should not build, for example, a Mekansm or other important core items. The reason lies in the timing. In a normal scenario, you will be behind certain timings for early pushes/early fights. That is the reason why other positions should go for core items like Mekansm.
There are two cheap and highly efficient items which you should aim for when you have an average early game:
- Urn of Shadow
- Medallion of Courage
The timing of these two items does not matter. They are always good. If no one of your team has one of these try to get at least one of these as early as possible. Sometimes they open up pushes or Roshan. But there are exceptions. Some heroes seriously benefit from an Aghanim's Scepter. These can slowly but steadily build into it.
Examples: Ancient Apparition / Visage
3.5 Position 4: Semi-Support
The farming support
Semi-supports follow the principles of greed.
The main goal of the position 4 player is to get core items up in time to achieve certain objectives like pushing, 5-maning or roshing. That means you usually do not zone offlaners or rotate to other lanes to support them. Maximizing farm is the key but never forget that your main position is still support.
That means no leeching experience or farm from the three remaining positions. Do not forget to communicate with your position 5 player for ganks and to make sure that he is capable of buying all the mandatory support items like wards/sentries/dusts.
It is really hard to say which items you should buy on this position because it will differ heavily from hero to hero. In general you will buy whatever is needed to make your hero work. If you do not need anything to play your hero at its full potential, then you usually aim for items like an early Mekansm or Arcane Boots if none of your cores get one of them.
Usual Position 4 Items:
- Arcane Boots (one pair per team at least)
- Blink Dagger (if you are relied upon for initiation)
- Hand of Midas (to secure the late game on greedy supports)
- Force Staff (very good versus certain heroes)
- Mekansm (if no cores will get it)
Examples: Enchantress farms an early Force-Staff to counter a Clockwerk. Enigma gets a Mekansm because his cores are not aiming for it.
Choose your items wisely. They can make a huge difference. Do not always stick to the same item over and over again simply because you are used to it.
Chapter IV: Supports Enter the Battlefield
Now we move to the actual game. This chapter is all about the game start, possible movements and lanes in general.
4.1 General Advice
There are several things you should keep in mind.
- Trade your life for a kill only if you can get experience or a streak. Do not trade yourself for a carry if other supports are near when you are over leveled or on a streak.
- Stay out of vision as much as possible so your opponents have to guess where you are located. This makes them play more passively and will give your team more space.
- Do not teleport to lanes to get farm or experience. If you do, you will not be able to defend versus pushes or dives. It also costs 135 gold and you will be exposed to ganks.
- Save as much mana as possible in the early stages to make sure you can support other lanes after you rotate there.
- Position yourself properly. Remember, you are squishy.
- Watch the in-game clock.
- Check peoples inventories constantly.
4.2 Courier and Wards, Sentries and Smoke
The support duo has to make sure these two items are bought:
Now there are two more items that are nice to have but not always necessary:
Skipping the second ones will allow you to go for another item on one support, such as boots. Do not forget that getting sentries early allows you to block two more neutral camps in your opponents forest and allows instant dewarding.
4.2.1 When to Skip Sentries?
You can skip sentries when your opponents have a weak level 1 lineup and you can freely run into your own forest to deny enemies warding.
Another possible situation would be running an aggressive trilane. You will only buy sentries if you need them for invisibility detection. Otherwise feel free to buy more regeneration items.
4.2.2 When to Skip Smoke?
When you run two greedy supports or you expect an opposing aggressive trilane, an early smoke will not be effective since you will not have time to use it due to other objectives. Feel free to skip it and buy one when you are ready for ganks.
4.3 A New Battle Begins
Before the game started you should have already taken a look at your lineup and your opponent’s line-up. You need to understand what kind of lineup you are playing and also how your opponents line-up works.
Certain things should be considered before leaving the base:
- Do they have a strong level 1 five man? They might move into your forest to place wards safely.
- Will they run an aggressive trilane? They might move into your forest to place wards safely.
- Can they kill Roshan at level 1?
- Do you need to and can you safely ward enemy jungle?
4.4 Defensive Trilane Pattern
The image above applies to the support duo. After you have made sure that your neutral creeps are not blocked, one support should move to the rune while the other one stays to make sure the neutral spawns are still not blocked.
While the supports do their job, your carry has to make sure the spawning creep wave is blocked properly. This is needed to make sure the distance between where the creeps actually meet and the opponents tower is as large as possible.
Why is this so important?
- Space to zone opponents.
- Space to chase opponents.
When this is not done properly and the lane pushes for any reason, the offlaner has basically won his lane already. He will get experience and/or farm and may also be able to deny the farm of your carry.
Sometimes there will be off-lane heroes that have the ability to control your creep wave’s movement like Lone Druid or Nature’s Prophet. When they pull your creep wave and take it for a walk, you have to do the same with your opponents creep wave until another wave of your’s arrives. This will make sure your creep wave stays where it belongs.
4.4.1 Safe-Lane: Movement Paths and Zone-Corridor
Image 9 reflects how the previous information looks like when executed in an actual game.
Timing is key. Do not be late on your way out because this can throw everything off. You will need about 30 seconds for the first blue path and another 10-15 seconds for the second path.
Being late can cause several problems:
- Possibly getting killed if multiple enemies move into your forest.
- Opposing offlaner / aggressive trilanes placing their desired wards.
- Losing the rune to your enemies.
When you have a flexible draft that is capable of laning in several ways, it is often smart to hide your laning intentions until the last second. In this scenario you will stay at your T2 tower hidden so as to not get scouted. This will save you from lane swaps before the game starts.
What each support does during the laning phase can be found in Chapter III.
4.5 Aggressive Trilane Pattern
Let us have a look at the aggressive trilane. This time the whole trilane moves together to be safer while approaching the enemy jungle. At your tower you make a quick stop to make sure the support player with a disable moves in first. This is crucial if you run into your opponents in their own jungle. At their neutral pull camp you usually stop and lie in wait for a while for anyone who might show up. Then place the wards you desire. The support duo should now move to the rune to contest it while the carry walks back to your base to get an optimal creep block off.
If you do not want to commit the duo to the rune because it is too dangerous, one should scout the rune spawn, while the other one moves back with the carry to help get a better block.
Why is blocking as an aggressive trilane important? This will lower your space and makes your opponents space bigger.
The following effects will occur:
- Lesser distance to your tower, greater distance to the opponent’s tower.
- More room to take engagements.
- Less room for the opponents to take engagements.
- After a successful deward supports have a longer way to try to support their carry from while pulling neutrals.
When you face their trilane, try to contest as many last hits as possible, as well as their pulls. That means that you take at least some of their pull experience. Take opportunities while they pull.
Keep in mind that an aggressive trilane is not always decided by kills. If you win the farm and experience war you have basically won your lane.
4.5.1 Offlane: Movement Paths and Zone Corridor
The safelane rules also apply to the offlane. You will need around 30 seconds for the first path and another 15-20 seconds to the rune so watch the clock.
Do not be late or some of these things can happen:
- Safelane ward is placed without your knowledge.
- Enemies are in position to deny your warding.
- Enemies are in position to engage you.
- Rune gets taken before you scouted which rune actually spawned.
Sometimes you want to hide your aggressive trilane to avoid a lane swap since you want to face a certain lane. In that case you should scout the top rune without being seen by your opponents.
This opens up the possibility of getting first blood in the mid lane. After that you move to your lane.
4.6 Dual Lane Mid
The safelane and offlane patterns are also applied to dual lanes. But one special part is still missing - the dual mid. In this certain case I will use the Radiant side as example. Everything can also be applied if you are on the Dire side. There are two approaches, either the supports try to work as a duo as much as possible, or both work on their own.
4.7 Dual Lane Mid Pattern
When you play a dual lane in mid, your job is to make space for your farming mid hero. It will sometimes be wise to let your mid hero get full experience until he hits level two since this might open up kill and or zoning potential. The main objective is to shut down your opponents middle hero as hard as possible.
4.7.1 Supports as a Duo
This approach makes a lot of sense when you have a duo with kill potential at level 1. In this scenario you have the possibility to get an early lead and keep that lead by winning two out of three lanes due to early support rotations.
Example: Lich and Skywrath have huge kill potential early on. After Lich got a quick level two in mid lane he can rotate efficiently together with Skywrath.
4.7.2 Supports on Their Own
Supports should interact on their own when there is no kill potential at level 1. This means just go to your lanes and stay there. No fancy rotations.
Example: Wisp (Io) wants to get as much experience as possible to reach his level six. He will stay in his lane and avoid movement as much as possible.
4.7.3 Middle Lane: Movement Paths and Zone Corridor
This shows the previous information shown on an actual map.
The Bottom blue path shows the movement as a duo, the top blue path shows the solo movement.
As in the previous movement examples, timings are crucial. Everything that was said before also applies for this example. The timings are kind of the same.
Now that we have gone over the early game and how to approach lanes and team makeup, join us for our next installment when we go over the mind of a support. We'll cover the essentials like how to approach rotations, lane decisions, rune control, and stacking.
Editors: sn0_man, Heyoka
Art: Nixer, shirousagi