|2.||Why do we have Hard Supports?|
|3.||Choosing a Hero|
|5.||Winning your Lane|
|7.||Surviving and Dying|
|8.||Reading the Game|
|9.||Gold and Experience|
|14.||Cowardise, Survival and Sacrifice|
|16.||Survival and Utility Items|
|17.||Items vs Consumables|
Forumer Xyrus made an excellent suggestion for this guide, looking at how to both survive and prosper in one of the most difficult roles in the game: "hard support".
Hard Support is not a popular role among pubbers - you get hardly any farm, are usually underlevelled and are expected to be the sacrificial lamb. But you'll notice every single pro team has one. Why? Because they're a vital part of the team, and having a good one massively boosts your chances of winning.
The funny thing is that it's actually a very rewarding role to play. You've got to be able to survive and do your job when you're at a substantial disadvantage compared to almost every other player on the map. This takes smarts and skill. It's like completing a game on Hard when everyone else is playing it on Easy.
You get to play with your head up, very little time is spent last hitting or worrying about where to farm most effectively. You have the chance to consider how the game is working out and what your team needs to be doing from a strategic viewpoint. You're very dependent on team work to achieve anything, so will always be co-operating to get the best results.
Please note, this guide is currently in draft form. I'm not 100% happy with the content and layout yet. Please post up any suggestions or feedback in the comments section below so I know what to work on next - thanks.
For every fat carry, there needs to be an equally skinny support. There is so only so much farm to go around, so somebody on the team needs to be selfless and go without, so that another hero can maximise.
Any truly good carry player will tell you that their success is almost always due to not only their play, but their support player(s) too. Supports create the conditions for carries to prosper.
It follows that it makes sense for these less farmed heroes to buy the essential consumables and utility items that the team needs to be successful - Animal Courier, Observer Ward, Sentry Ward, etc. This again allows the other players to maximise.
With very little farm available for these selfless players, it makes sense to pick the least item dependent heroes for them so that they can still have an impact on the game. Thus the Hard Support was born.
Choosing a hero who is as item independent as possible is essential when playing hard support. Depending on how the game works out you might be working with very minimal resources, and relying on getting particular items within certain timescales is simply not possible.
Hard Supports are very reliant on "team gold" - enemy towers going down, assists and Roshan being some examples. Depending on the game situation, you might also have to buy a lot of Sentry Wards, which can eat a lot of your limited gold. If you've died a few times this can quickly empty your coffers too.
At times like this it's very nice to have abilities like Arcane Aura, Sacrifice and Mana Drain. Who needs Arcane Boots or a Soul Ring? Not you.
There are some other heroes who can also just about squeeze in as a hard support if they have to - Lina, Witch Doctor, Rubick, Vengeful Spirit, Nyx Assassin, Venomancer and Shadow Shaman amonst others. However, I think these heroes start to lose their effectiveness more than the ones at the top.
You'll notice that many of these heroes have beneficial utility spells which help their team mates, and/or a very good stun/setup ability which will help an ally get a kill or chain their own abilities off.
You are most responsible for ensuring your team has the essentials at the start of the game. This usually means you will be spending 150-350 of your starting gold on team items, depending on how many heroes you have and their contribution.
Your priorities are as follows:
- Ensure your team has an Animal Courier no matter what
- 90% of the time your next priority should be that your team has Observer Wards*
- If you strongly suspect your lane is against a difficult invisible hero or that they are going to block your pull camp, or another support hero has bought one of the other items, get Sentry Wards.
Unless you randomed your hero, there is no way you should attempt to get all 3 of these - it will leave you without any health regeneration and make laning very dangerous. Something has to give!
This will generally leave you with 300-450 gold to play with. So you must maximise the value for money you get from this - it could be a while before you can afford much else!
Iron Branches are great here, and those small increases to your stats really do help.
Get plenty of consumables too, as you never quite know what you're going to need in lane - and also what your partner might need. Being able to pass on a Tango or Healing Salve at a vital moment can help them enormously.
The first job of a hard support is to help their carry get as much as possible from the lane. This may be part of a dual or trilane, and will usually be in the safe lane.
"Winning" the lane is a very flexible concept. It might mean repeatedly killing multiple enemies heroes, getting free farm, or simply surviving relatively intact in a tough situation. The first thing to figure out is what you're aiming for.
At it's most basic level, you want your team to extract the most possible gold and experience from the lane, and to minimise the amount of gold and experience the opposition team gain from that lane. You want your carry to get as much of it as possible.
First of all you need to figure out the relative power balance of the lane - i.e. can they kill you? Can you kill them? (assuming both sides act reasonably sensibly). Will you be able to harass them away from farming the creep line? Harass them off the lane completely? Or would you be better off just trying to deny them last hits and keep the lane under control?
Example 1: Tri-lane versus Solo
You and another support are helping your carry to secure as much farm as possible. Against a single enemy hero you should have a considerable advantage, pretty much ensuring that your carry will get maximum farm. However, the amount of experience in the lane will be split 3 ways for your team, potentially leaving you all underlevelled unless you can get kills on that solo, some jungle stacks and maybe some ganks on mid.
You have to be acutely aware when playing Hard Support that you are one of the most vulnerable heroes on the map. This effect only increases as the game progresses and other heroes get an even bigger farm advantage over you. This will almost definitely mean they have more damage, but also they may have more mobility and utility from items too.
This doesn't make you useless, it just means you need to be smart and careful. You work as part of the team, not as a separate entity. This means:
- You stay near your allies, you don't need to split from your team to farm
- You don't take up potentially risky positions (e.g. farming a lane on the enemy side of the map) unless you're deliberately baiting or ganking with allies
- You ensure the team has good vision of enemy movements. You're slow and squishy so are most in need of early warning
- Think ahead, and make decisions early. You need time to safely retreat from dangerous positions, so work out what's likely to happen next and be ready for it (more on this later)
- Don't charge in. Setting up ganks and getting involved in team fights usually only requires you to cast your spells - taking much auto-attack damage is not your forte
This is probably the most important skill of a hard support. With limited mobility, survivability and a need to help your team mates, you have a tough job to do.
This job is made infinitely easier when you co-operate well with your team mates. Lets look at some examples:
You and your carry are laning against two enemy heroes. These "even" matchups can vary dramatically depending on the heroes each side are playing and you need to be very aware of what each side has to throw at the other. This will inform your positioning, how aggressive you are, etc. More game knowledge will help here:
- What are the ranges on their auto attacks?
- What are ranges on their respective abilities? How quickly does their damage scale up as they level?
- Have they got a particular synergy that could cause you problems? Are there any global powers their allies might call in?
- What is their ultimate like? Have they reached level 6 yet?
- What do you and your partner have?
Lets analyse one potential opponent as an example. Juggernaut is a dangerous early carry, with his Bladefury potentially fatal if he can land it on you with the help of a good stun or slow. It also makes him magic immune for it's duration, so can work as an escape too.
However, as an agility hero he has limited hitpoints early on, and a limited mana pool so he can't afford to use Bladefury except to gain or avoid a kill. He's a melee hero who needs to farm, so he's going to have to get close the creep line at times.
This means that you can actively harass him, to good effect, provided you keep a safe distance, and avoid the stun/slow range of his lane partner. Getting some Boots of Speed will help you here too.
Once he reaches level 6 he gains Omnislash and you need to be very careful to keep plenty of friendly creeps around you when within range of it.
Many people misunderstand what being a Hard Support or "5" really means. It doesn't mean that you never farm and it certainly doesn't mean that you don't need levels. It's all about priority - if a hero with a higher priority than you turns up (i.e. everybody), you let them farm. Simples.
You can still take some farm if nobody else is about, there's a creep they're going to miss last hitting etc. You might well Frostbite a large creep even as you're stacking a nearby camp for your carry. Part of the art of playing Hard Support well is to find appropriate moments to grab farm as you go about your other work.
Generally levels are much more important to you than gold - they help bulk out your stats and improve your abilities (ie. the important stuff) for 'free'. While you should certainly be prepared to fall behind on levels in order not to leach off your carry, there is a balance here that without out them you are completely useless. Getting to level 6 is often an important milestone.
So how do you get gold then?
- Periodic Gold (5 gold every 3 seconds)
- Tower kills (~200 gold if destroyed, ~100 if denied)
- Kill Assists (varies, see below)
1 Hero: 125+12(Dying Hero's Level)
2 Heroes: 40+10(Dying Hero's Level)
3 Heroes: 10+6(Dying Hero's Level)
4 or 5 Heroes: 6(Dying Hero's Level) (source: dota2wiki)
Another important point here is that your gold income is very limited, so it's vital not to lose what you do have. Getting killed will strip away some of your unreliable gold, so always try to keep your gold reserves as low as possible.
This means buying parts for items as soon as possible, and certainly before going into any dangerous situations. Always make sure your quickbuy bar is loaded with stuff and hit your quickbuy key if you're about to die.
This is another reason why supports tend to like equipment that come in cheap increments - saving up for big ticket items is difficult when you might get whacked at a team fight or save an ally at short notice.
Obviously, not dying helps even more ;)
Stacking is very important to your work as a support hero - it can make all the difference in a finely balanced contest. Stacking is deliberately increasing the number of jungle creeps - you attack them at 00:50-00:53 in the minute and before retreating to 'pull' the neutrals out of their camp so that new ones spawn.
Stacking is most common on the 'pull' camps in each team's safe lane. It allows you to keep better control of your lane - keeping it away from the enemy tower where your carry will find it harder to farm and is more vulnerable to ganks. It also boosts your own meagre gold and experience income.
The most important thing with stacking is to remember your timings, and slip away from the lane at the right moment to arrive just in time.
There is another important type of stacking that many supports forget about - if you have a free moment and are in the right area, try to stack up the other neutral camps, and especially the ancients. Later on your carry will be trying to farm as quickly as possible, and having lots of neutrals to kill will give them a considerable boost to their income.
This is especially important for heroes with AOE farming abilities - for example Gyrocopter, Dragon Knight and any hero with a Battle Fury.
This does depend on your hero and their abilities - a Lion or Bane do have more utility in this area than say Warlock, but all the supports listed have something to offer here.
Once your carry has reached the point when they can pretty much look after themself in lane, you're freed up to roam about and go where you're most needed. Early-mid game is actually when you're most potent as your ability damage is big compared to health pools, and it's rare for heroes to have magic immunity at this point.
The first thing to be aware of here is that you're not Pudge or Night Stalker and you're unlikely to get solo kills unless the opposition are doing something pretty dumb. You're also pretty squishy, have minimal items and no escape. The whole point of ganking is to gain an advantage - getting yourself killed by being too ambitious isn't going to help your team - we've already talked about avoiding dangerous positions.
This may seem contradictory - how do we leverage our early game power, but still say reasonably safe at the same time?
There's always a risk to getting involved in ganks - but there are three things you can do to minimise them:
- Gank in co-ordination with your team mates
This is the most important thing. You are unlikely to be able to solo kill heroes, and are at considerable risk of getting killed yourself. By working with allies you massively increase your chances of success, and reduce your risks. Generally they'll just need your stun/slow to set them up to get the kill.
- Pick fights that you can win
There are enough things that can go wrong as it is (enemies teleporting in, unseen ones popping up, etc) without getting your basic maths wrong.
2 v 4 are not particularly good odds when you're in the 2. You're not going to be able to gank Anti-Mage with a one second stun and a slow, and the last thing you want to do is feed that Eclipse packing Luna.
- Use your team's vision and map awareness to avoid getting caught out (you did place those, wards, right?)
The more of the enemy team you can see elsewhere on the map, the less risk there is of unpleasant surprises. Even then, getting a ward up to watch nearby towers for teleports, or likely routes through their jungle can be a good idea. Good vision of the area is a huge advantage.
Depending on your hero choice, you may or may not have a big role to play in team fights. A big ultimate like Chain Frost or Overgrowth is a bit different from throwing in a single target spell or two.
In some ways though it doesn't actually change that much how you act in a team fight. Generally you want to stay away from the front lines as much as possible as you'll get melted very quickly if focused by multiple enemies. However, you do need to stay close enough to get off vital abilities at the right time - for example Enfeeble or Shallow Grave.
Team fights are always something of a lottery for a Hard Support - simply put, if the enemy team decide to focus you, you'll almost certainly die quickly and there's not necessary a lot you can do about it. The main thing here is that you get off any vital abilities first, and that your team win the fight.
Sometimes your role might be to stay a fair distance back from your team - say if they have an Enigma looking to Blink in and Black Hole your allies. You stand off with your stun ready to break his channelling. This kind of counter-initiation (even as minor as a single stun) can be easily your most important contribution to a team fight.
Lets look at an example:
You're playing Warlock and you're level 14, so have nearly maxed your skills. You have pretty minimal equipment. Warlock is a powerful team fight hero, with most of his skills having good AOE and effectiveness.
If they didn't already, the opposition will certainly realise it after getting a few Gollums in the face, so you need to be careful, and at least stay alive long enough to get off your Fatal Bonds and Chaotic Offering. These are your main contributions to the fight and will continue to work even if you die. Ideally you'll stay alive and be able to further help with Shadow Word and Upheaval.
To do this may mean deliberately hanging back or hiding out of LOS until the fight starts, just make sure you're close enough to land them when needed.
Badly informed team mates can sometimes misinterprit your cautious playstyle as cowardise or being too passive. You have to walk a fine line between failing to be in time to deliver your abilities when needed, and over-staying your welcome in dangerous places.
My personal guide is always to weigh up what will be most useful to the team. If you die, but so does the enemy carry, that was a very worthwhile exchange for your team. On the other hand, dying for no advantage and losing that money you had saved up for Observer Wards can be quite damaging for your team.
You have to remain aware that you simply aren't built or equipped for tanking, your auto-attack is only going to get relatively worse as the game progresses. You can't afford to be at the front of every charge or miss the chance to land your powers effectively because you're dead already.
This kind of play can make your team nervous - some people are obsessed with KD ratios, some naturally wary of trusting team mates to deliver the goods. However, you are forced by circumstances to play smart if you want to have an impact - even if this may seem "cowardly". Choosing to be the "weakest" player on the team takes a lot more bravery overall.
Sacrifice is another aspect of Hard Support. You're the least farm dependent hero on your team - you're much less effected by dying than others, so it makes sense to take a hit for them where necessary.
This is another tricky call to make - the last thing you want to do is help the opposition to get two kills instead of one. Sometimes there is genuinely nothing you can do to help. Other times it's quite possible that you could help, maybe even turn things around.
My advice would be to give it a go if you think there's a good chance you can get them out, especially if they're your 1 and 2 role heroes, and especially in the late game. I become increasingly wary of people you constantly have to bail out though - anyone can make a mistake, but they shouldn't expect you to keep getting killed for their stupidity.
Be careful to not feed just to prove how selfless you are. A good sacrifice play is all about limiting the overall damage caused to your team - but you're still losing ground relative to the opposition.
Looking after your mana pool is vital skill for a hard support - even for heroes with mana regeneration abilities - but especially those without. You're never going to have tons of items, so careful use and more levels are required.
In lane this is especially important - you'll likely have 1-2 Clarity potions and whatever you with and your natural regen ability. Maybe you'll be lucky and lane with a hero who needs Ring of Basilius or Arcane Boots as part of their build, more likely you won't. This means you need to carefully choose when to use your abilities, and which ones.
There are different schools of thought on this - some respected support players like AngeloBangelo are keen on regularly emptying their mana pool to exert maximum pressure on enemy heroes to try and force them off the lane. Personally I never feel comfortable if I haven't got enough in the tank for an emergency cast.
Really the secret here is to weigh up the situation and make the right call - if the enemy player doesn't have sufficient item or passive regen to be able to stay in lane. This will force them to head back to base, play passively, or risk getting killed. If the opposition has enough regen or can easily avoid your damage, save your mana from when it's needed.
A few things to bear in mind about mana:
- Your mana pool is always slowly regen'ing, so you never want it to be completely full, or that mana is being wasted. For example, if you are regen'ing at 1 mp/sec, you can cast a 120 mana spell once every 2 minutes "for free".
- Almost all abilities are more mana efficient at higher levels, so it can be worth waiting before using them heavily. For example, Dragon Slave at level one does 1.11 damage per mana point, level two 1.62 dam/mp, 1.84 dam/mp at level three and 2.00 dam/mp at level four. So we want to get it to at least level 2 before using it much.
- Casters with no mana are near useless. As a 5 with little farm your auto-attacks are usually pretty poor, especially as the game goes later. Without mana you're basically a big creep. If you have an important combo or team fight power, always make sure you're well stocked if a battle is looming.
Here are some of the most useful survivability items, and you'll probably notice that almost all of them also have additional utility on top. This is a vital point of a Hard Support - just as you are unselfish in your gameplay, so should your item choices.
You should always have Winged Courier, Observer Wards, Dust of Appearance and Sentry Wards available for your team when required, and combined with a Town Portal Scroll and limited farm this doesn't leave you a lot of room for much else.
It also depends on the game situation - sometimes gold will be very tight as you might have to be buying a lot of detection equipment and getting minimal gold from towers and assists. You might literally be playing with Boots of Speed, a few branches and very little else for most of the game.
But hey, you're a hard support and this won't really effect your overall impact as long as you stay alive long enough to get your key abilities off.
In other games you might find that get reasonably comfortable and can afford to start grabbing some utility items, even if it's late and you're still massively outgunned. There's really no point getting damage at this point or trying to bulk out your stats too much - other heroes will probably still kill you very easily if given the chance.
Utility items are where it's really at in these situations - you can help your team mates and impede enemies far more effectively with a cheap Force Staff or Eul's Scepter of Divinity than a posh Heart of Tarrasque or Butterfly at this point.
There are some difficult early decisions to make with regards to consumables versus items. Consumables are very potent early on, and also much cheaper than full items - for example Smoke of Deceit is 90 per go, rather than 3000 for a Shadow Blade. However, the effects are slightly different and over time, repeated uses can make them uneconomical.
The other problem with consumables is that you can end up with a very bare inventory once you've used them, especially if they didn't pay off. 135 gold for a Town Portal Scroll is a lot if you don't manage to get an assist to pay for it.
My advice here is to get more consumables early on if you need them - additional Healing Salves or Clarity potions can make all the difference in lane, and items like Sentry Ward tend to be important when you need them.
At the same time, try to find a balance, grab small parts of your full items when you have spare gold. The most difficult one to buy initially tends to be your Boots of Speed as you 450 gold in one chunk to pay for them.
Remember to always prioritise the most important team items first ( Flying Courier and Observer Ward) before getting your own stuff.
Also be mindful of your team, if the enemy team is repeatedly tower diving you might want to get hold of a Town Portal Scroll to help out and potentially pay for it. Also don't get too down if your team is making unrealistic demands of you - some people expect pro level support when you've got 4 carries on your team. You can politely point out that there is only 1 support on the team, and that you're doing your best.
The battle of wills between both sets of supports to get a vision advantage for their side can be complicated and bloody...and it's pretty important too.
The difficulty here for a lot of pub players is that quite often you're the only support on the team. Your resources are already stretched thin by having to carry the load any pro team would use two heroes for.
However, this is still important and you may need to put some of your hard earned gold into it if you possibly can, and it's definitely an area where you can win an advantage for your team.
I know you've covered a lot to do with Supporting, but perhaps "A Guide to Surviving on Barely Anything as a Hard Support". I see plenty of Support Players running out of Mana or spending Gold on Items for their Hero rather than Wards. They can never seem to handle starting with just a set of Tangoes and a Clarity.
It could cover the following:-
- Pulling and Stacking: When and How (Lane and Ancients)
- Mana Management: Saving it for when you REALLY need it
- Harrassment vs Ganking vs Warding vs Stacking vs Farming: When you should be doing what?
- Reliable Gold and Buybacks (is this relavent?)
- Useful Items for the Team, not You:( Urn of Shadows vs Bracer, etc.)
DOTAFire is the place to find the perfect build guide to take your game to the next level. Learn how to play a new hero, or fine tune your favorite DotA hero’s build and strategy.
Copyright © 2019 DOTAFire | All Rights Reserved