Supporting in DotA is a tough, sometimes thankless job. We’ll all been there and there are many articles about it. This is a short rundown of what you contribute to your team as a support and how you can build on your contributions. At the end of the article there is a variety of sources that provide information and guides on supporting along with brief descriptions of their contents and my opinion on them. Consider this your cheat sheet on how to support most effectively and your reservoir of knowledge and optimism should you ever fall into a state of despair after a particularly awful game.
Supporting in a few short points.
You exist to facilitate the success of your team.
- If your core (hero with strong mid game potential) or carry (hero who is strong in the late game) does well then you’ve done well.
- This does not mean you should just die meaninglessly but if you sacrifice yourself in order to protect your carry and secure a kill for him then you are playing your role correctly.
- The overall success of your team is what is important. Many deaths does not mean you’ve done a bad job.
- Many professional support players go through entire games while only taking one or two kills to their name. Sometimes even none!
You must make use of the limited resources at your disposal in as efficient a way as possible.
- Buy items as soon as you can
- This reduces the amount of money you lose when you die.
- Place wards carefully
- Wards cost you 75 gold each (150 per two) and are limited in available quantity. Misplaced or obviously placed wards leave your team with less vision and a disadvantage in positioning and decision-making.
- Carry things like dust pre-emptively
- This does not mean that you should just purchase dust every game but if you are on your way to help out in a lane with an invisible hero bring dust if you can afford it. That way you can secure a kill that you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten if the opportunity arises.
- Smoke when opportunities arise
- You may sometimes feel like you are left to twiddle your thumbs at certain points in the game. If there is a lull in the action or you see an opportunity arise (e.g. 3 heroes in a lane, other two missing likely in jungle or at Roshan) get a smoke and orchestrate a gank or favourable teamfight engagement. By making plays like this you can have a huge impact on the outcome of the game even with limited resources (Smoke of Deceit only costs 100 gold).
- Do not sacrifice the well-being of your team to obtain an item
- Though it may be tempting to neglect purchasing wards for the next eight minutes as you struggle to afford your upgrade to Arcane Boots or get that elusive Blink Dagger, you need to continue taking care of your support duties regardless of your itemization aspirations. If you really need an item, see if you can get some help from another person on your team who is also less in need of gold. They can take over your support duties until you get your key item at which point you can resume being the one responsible for those duties.
- Coordinate with your fellow supports to ease the burden of your role.
- If you’re fortunate enough to be playing a game where you aren’t the only support on your team then you can coordinate (if suitable) for one person to get the next set of wards while the other upgrades the flying courier (for example).
- Let your teammates know which items you are getting.
- Thus preventing the purchase of two Mekansms for example.
So you’re probably feeling pretty good about your supporting at this point. You know you serve a noble purpose and you’re aware that you’ve got to try and do it as efficiently as possible but you’re probably wondering. What about later on? What do I do? Or, how about the mid game? I feel like I just wander about for the most part. Well! You’re in luck, this part is all about that and will answer most of your questions!
You are relevant at all stages of the game. Adjust your play to match the role you should be playing at any given point.
- You are powerful in the early game. Use this to ensure lane advantage. Roam to help mid and other lanes. Teleport to towers to save a hero that is being attacked in lane.
- By the nature of your role you will (or should) be playing a hero that is strong early on. This allows you to perform the functions of a support while minimizing the effect of these responsibilities on your performance. Take advantage of that early game strength. Muscle your way around in lane. Go to other lanes and set a kill up on the opposing team’s mid hero.
- Keep up sight and deward when possible.
- Though it may not seem obvious at first (I played almost all of my DotA 1 games with little to no ward coverage), wards are incredibly important. Being able to have constant vision on an area of the map allows you to coordinate and make much better decisions than if you were operating in the dark. So, as a support, it will be your task to keep those beacons of light (wards) burning bright. Conversely, an additional goal for you is to try your best to bring deep, dangerous darkness to the enemy team by hunting down their purposefully placed wards and extinguishing them (with sentries).
- Play defensively and act to slow down the other team’s powerful heroes.
- Later on you will likely be less effective in teamfights than you were before (unless you are playing a hero with a stun or silence or similarly consistently powerful ability) so you will need to adjust your approach from just smashing everyone to working to disable, damage and slow down key targets. For example, if you are able to silence or hex an opposing support before they can cast their ultimate then you’ve managed to still make a significant contribution even at the late phase in the game where you autoattacks do nothing but tickle the enemy carry.
- Check for Roshan.
- This is a simple but effective way to contribute to your team. By keeping tabs on Roshan (when it is safe to do so) you are making sure that the other team isn’t killing him unnoticed and your team is aware if he has respawned and can begin to organize trying to kill him and get the aegis (should they wish to do so).
- Distract/draw attention to yourself.
- If you are playing a hero who really tails off quite badly by the time you’ve reached the late game (say CM who doesn’t have much to offer unless she is able to get off an ultimate in the middle of the fight) then one of the best things you can is distract the enemy team from targeting more valuable heroes on your team. Though you may perish in a quick and painful fashion you can have made an important contribution by a giving your team leeway to smash through the three other players on the enemy team that weren’t tricked into running off and chasing you.
- Try and get spells off before dying.
- Another tip for the late game. If you are liable to get killed in one or two hits then try and play defensively and use your spells before you inevitably fall. For example, if you are playing as Lich, armor up all your teammates before the fight begins and then use your ultimate as soon as it is suitable. Given the probability of you falling quickly it is better to use your ultimate and have it be slightly less than optimal rather than not using it at all.
- Stacking/pulling creeps.
- Early on you can get quite a lot of gold and experience for yourself and control your lane better by stacking (drawing their attention and making sure they are outside of certain boundaries surrounding their area at the minute mark) and pulling (drawing their attention and bringing them towards the lane when your units are moving along it so that they attack and get the attention of your units) the jungle camps that are within reach of your lane. Later on in the game you can give your allies a big gold and experience boost by stacking Jungle and Ancient camps for them to kill in one fell swoop once they’ve grown powerful enough to do so. This is an activity that you can do throughout the game and will help your team gain a gold and experience advantage. The only caveat is that you need to bear in mind that those stacked camps can also be taken by the enemy team so also creates a bit of a liability in your team is not in a position to take them within a reasonable period of time.
Now the last set of tips. You now know a great deal about the mechanics of supporting and what your role can and should be. You know how to maximize your effectiveness without being dependent on gold. What else could there be there to learn? Well, take a peek down below and see!
You can take advantage of your overarching view of the game as a whole to facilitate coordination.
- Keep note of item progression on enemy team. Also keep an eye on inventory for wards, gems, smoke, etc.
- Due to the nature of your role, you are more aware of events occurring throughout the map and have a little bit more time to gather intelligence on the going-on’s of your opponents. By keeping tabs on how close the steadily fattening Anti-Mage is to getting his Battlefury you can help your team plan and strategize accordingly. Additionally, keeping track of whether the enemy team has wards that they would like to place (e.g. wards in inventory, none the next, must be placed nearby), the ability to detect invisible units (your Bounty Hunters, Nyx Assassins and Rikimarus will be grateful to be informed of such things, or are carrying a smoke (the whole team was grouped up a moment ago and are now gone, perhaps your team should be wary of an incoming gank) will help your team to better predict the other team’s actions. The more information you can collect the better. Information is the tool with which you make decisions and, ultimately, it is the quality of your decisions that determine much of the outcome of a game of DotA.
- Keep Roshan timer in mind.
- Roshan becomes a vital strategic objective later on in the game where an instant respawn of a powerful hero in the middle of a teamfight can very well swing it in the favour of the team in possession of such a magnificent artifact. By marking down the time at which Roshan has fallen and diligently checking to see if he has returned (at either the 8, 9, 10 or 11 minute mark) you are ensuring that your team will be well prepared for when he returns.
- Mark fortification timers.
- Your enemy’s being invulnerable for 5 seconds can be a real downer and can make the difference between you being able to take down their last remaining tower and one of their barracks or not. However, once they’ve used it is on a cooldown for 5 minutes. This information is useful in being able to anticipate whether your push will be rudely interrupted by a 5 second pause or not.
- Warn allies if in danger of being killed.
- If you are glancing at the mini map and notice that most of the enemy team is missing and your ally is farming deep in a lane with little or no vision covering the various approaches to his location then you potentially save his life by warning him of impeding danger. Though he may not be the intended victim of an incoming gank your warning will serve to draw his attention to the potential of such a thing occurring and allow him to be better prepared for such an eventuality.
- Suggest strategies.
- As you move about the map and assist your allies while completing various objectives you continue to build on your comprehension of how the game is developing. Unlike the carry set in his lane and utterly focused on continuously accelerating the rate at which he is earning gold or the offlaner desperately dodging and seeking to stay alive or your mid-laner dead set on crushing his inferior opponent you are acutely aware of how the game is progressing. You see that your carry is farming well (or not), you notice that your mid-laner is dominating his lane and keeping control over the runes (or not) or you know that your offlaner has managed to turn the tables and grab a few kills while avoiding his own untimely demise.
- On top of all of that, you are also mindful of how your opponents are doing. With these things in mind, you are well positioned to advise your team on how they should proceed. Perhaps the offlaner should simply abandon his lane and set his focus on ganking the other lanes, or your team should form up and push out the middle tower while your enemies are distracted, or you should grab Roshan now that your team fight ultimates are online and the others’ are not.You see all. And because of this you are likely able to make the most well-informed calls out of anyone on your team. This is why many professional teams have a captain who is a support. Though it may not be the most glamorous role a good support is always vigilant and surveying the events that are unfolding before them Because they don’t have to be as single-minded and focused on a particular task they are able to see past the minutia of moment to moment happenings and see the bigger picture.
I hope you find these short tips handy. Feel free to comment and suggest additional resources for me to add in. Now that you’ve read them you’ll see that your role extends beyond just buying wards and the courier. You have so much at your disposal and can do so much to improve your team’s chances of winning. Isn’t it exciting?
Keep fighting the good fight. Without players like you, your teams will be much less successful and as you gradually improve you’ll find that more skilled players are much more grateful for the contributions that their supports make.
That’s all for now! Have a pezant day.
Some additional sources that I have vetted and you may find useful.
XVRogue’s videos on various topics
XVRogue provides a thorough explanation of various facets of DotA 2. I’ve always found his videos to be well-made, succint and to the point and knowledgeable. Of particular interest to us is his guide on playing as a support. If you don’t feel like reading a bunch of text, this is probably the best option for you!
Axosh’s beautiful breakdown of what it means to support on Reddit (thanks for the reply Axosh!)
Here, Axosh goes over in very succinct fashion what the most important elements of supporting are. Consider this the ideal crash course if you know nothing about supporting and are about to go through a whole entire game attempting to keep your team’s metaphorical ship upright. He covers off the basics of what you should be keeping in mind a few details on Laning, Timing and Positioning and Vision.
With warding being one of the most important roles of a support, these articles provide additional information on where exactly to place your wards and sentry wards to block camps, rune and Roshan pit vision, using wards to get additional information while in lane, placement around towers, where to place wards based on your current situation (T1, T2, T3), as well as a variety of situational wards that you may find useful. In his article on making Money as a Support, Tsunami gives a few helpful tips to maximize your usefulness as a support, make the best use of the limited funds available to you and take advantage of the select few opportunities you do have to generate income.
r/learndota2 for constant learning with regards to DotA 2
Have a random question you’d like answered? Like, which spells pull the ancients for example? Want to be part of a community that is focused on learning about and getting better at the game they love? Well, this is the place for you! Here you can find wonderful people like Axosh who will take the time out of their day to answer your vexing questions and leave you more knowledgeable and less confused than before. Also contained on r/learndota2’s sidebar are some additional resources for new players seeking to improve.
Sando’s guide on supporting
Sando goes into more detail on the theory behind hard supports and the reason to pick them (and is a great deal more articulate). He also provides specific examples of lane compositions and potential situations (and the strategies to match them). He then goes into application of game knowledge and capitalizing on situations that present themselves. He gives a useful snapshot of the support mindset with regards to gold and experience, team fights, when to fight or run, managing your mana and dewarding. I would recommend this guide for anyone new to the role or who feels like they could do with a refresher with regards to some of the facets of such a complicated role.
BurningSera’s guide on how to play supports.
BurningSera provides an in-depth look at playing the role of support with a breakdown between basic, intermediate and advanced points. He has some points that I don’t quite agree with (like buying a Divine to intentionally suicide and attempt to ensure it’s transfer to your carry and playing with near-reckless abandon in a lane that you feel you will likely lose) and it’s not written in the most articulate fashion but it has many useful points and images to illustrate said points.
Parliament’s guide to Competitive Positions
Parliament briefly covers the concept of the 1-5 role system and gives examples of heroes that fit those roles and professional players who play them. With each role he briefly covers what is to expected of them and their goals in the game. This guide is less friendly to new players as it uses a lot of jargon but it is an effective breakdown of what is to be expected from each role. His description of the #5 role (the hard support) is pretty on point and would provide a new player with a good understanding of what they should be doing.
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