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How to (Awesomely) Support

May 15, 2013 by yolk25
Comments: 0    |    Views: 2917    |   

How to (Awesomely) Support

May 15, 2013


"Wait," you may say, "I already know how to support! I just have to buy wards, let my carry last hit the creeps, and let the carry get the kills!" If you're super good, you may even say "AND I will pull creeps for the lane!" Does this resemble what you think supporting is? WELL YOU'RE WRONG!

Well not completely, these are very important aspects of playing support in Dota 2. However, there is a big difference between a bad support, a decent support, and a really (awesomely) good support. There is much more to supporting than the previously mentioned things, and it makes a huge difference to the turnout of the game.

In this guide, I will show you how to become the best support your team has ever played with.

Any additional information that may not be necessary for your understanding (but you should definitely read if you are newer to the game) will be italicized.

Side note: Why am I writing this guide? Sure, it will take me several hours (probably several days) to write this and I won't be compensated (I'll probably even get trolled at some point), but I would really like to see more people picking support roles not because they already have 4 carries, but because they enjoy it. And for people who are new to Dota 2, I would like to provide an easy way to get into the game.

Picking a Support

"But Andrew," (You can call me Andrew) you may say, "What exactly is a support hero? What's a good choice for this game?"

That's a very good question and it's often one that is largely ignored when choosing a hero. Now I know that much of how well a person performs in a game is due to their individual skill, but choosing the right hero can make a very big difference as well. For example, if you really want to play Storm Spirit but someone on the opposing team picked Silencer, don't freaking pick Storm Spirit, regardless of how good you are with him. Making the correct hero choice can (and will often) make or break a game.

Types of Supports

Many people say that carries are the most important heroes in the game, because they are the ones who decide (for the most part) how fights turn out after all. But these people fail to consider how carries get to be so influential in battles in the first place. It is really due to how the supports perform in the first 20 to 30 minuets of the game.

BEFORE YOU READ ON: You may want to get a chair because I'm about to say something that will blow your mind. If you are not near a chair I suggest skipping the next couple lines.

Different supports specialize in different things.

Yeah, believe it or not, it's true. Let me give you some examples of different roles. Keep in mind that I do not list all heroes that fit in each category, but I list (what I think are) the most important ones. Also note that some of these heroes do not necessarily need to play a support role, but they can play a support role which is why I include them here.

Nukers (Hi, you're dead):
  • Lina
  • Lion
  • Shadow Demon

Single-target Control (Single-target stunners/disablers):
  • Shadow Shaman
  • Lion
  • Bane
  • Ogre Magi

AOE Control (AOE stunning/disabling ultimates):
  • Tidehunter
  • Earthshaker
  • Elder Titan
  • Magnus
  • Enigma
  • Warlock
  • Treant Protector

AOE Damage (Oops, everything's dead):
  • Earthshaker
  • Sand King
  • Crystal Maiden
  • Jakiro
  • Queen of Pain

Pushers (Let's try to win in under 25 minutes!):
  • Chen
  • Enchantress
  • Keeper of the Light
  • Shadow Shaman
  • Enigma
  • Leshrac

High Mobility (They're everywhere!):
  • Io (Wisp)
  • Keeper of the Light
  • Dark Seer

Black King Bar - Penetrating ('re not invincible):
I want to make a special note of this section because these heroes have abilities that can penetrate (at least the disable/stun part) Black King Bars, Lifestealer's Rage, Juggernaut's Blade Fury, and other sources of "Magic Immunity"). Note that I did not list all heroes whose ultimates go through magic immunity, but these are some of the important ultimates that have disables that go through magic immunity.
  • Beastmaster
  • Bane
  • Magnus
  • Enigma
  • Batrider

"Jesus Christ," you may say, "There are so many categories, Andrew! How could I ever decide which kind of support we need?" Well this depends on what your team needs, but more importantly what the other team has.

Let's say for example that the enemy team has picked Phantom Lancer, a very popular pick both in pubs and professional games. You think to yourself, "Ok, well Phantom Lancer can create many illusions, making it difficult to see which one is the real one, we could benefit from some AOE nukers," so you might choose someone like Queen of Pain or Earthshaker or Keeper of the Light. Of course, there is more than one hero you can choose. Another thing you could think to yourself is, "Man, I really don't want to deal with a late-game Phantom Lancer and our hardest carry is just a Huskar, I'm going to pick a pusher and try to end the game quickly," so you might choose Leshrac, Shadow Shaman, or (if you're good at microing) Chen.

Another scenario: Let's say for example that the enemy team has picked Anti-Mage, another very popular pick in both pubs and professional games. You think to yourself, "Ok, well Anti-Mage can blink and that makes him very difficult to kill. To counter that, I will pick someone with great single-target control such as Bane or Lion or Shadow Shaman."

These are some of the most basic, but common scenarios you may face and I have simplified it a lot. When you are more experienced, you will begin to understand which kinds of heroes are strong against which other heroes.

Another important thing that I should mention is whether a hero is melee or ranged. While this may seem trivial, it is extremely important in the early stages of the game. If you're dual laning (which should rarely happen, but I will get to that in the next section), then often the dominant side of the lane will be the one with more ranged heroes. This, of course, is because ranged heroes can attack from further away and it is difficult for melee heroes to get close to either harass or last-hit creeps. As a result, YOU SHOULD ALMOST ALWAYS CHOOSE A RANGED SUPPORT HERO. There are many extremely powerful melee support heroes, but they often require good teamwork to be effectively played in the laning phase of the game.

Laning Strategies

"LOL Andrew," you may say, "I already know how to lane, this section is stupid." Well, I'm sure you know how to lane, but can you do it effectively?

Before I talk in detail about the lanes, let me just list a couple definitions because I don't know the level of experience you have in Dota 2.

Safe Lane: Also known as the "Long Lane." For the Radiant, this is bottom lane. For the Dire, this is top lane. It is called the safe lane because the tower for the respective team is closer to the center of the lane. It is also called the safe lane because the jungle for the respective team is adjacent to the lane. A benefit for having the jungle next to the lane is that you can pull creeps to control the flow of the lane and deny creeps to the opponents in your lane.

Off Lane: Also known as the "Short Lane." For the Radiant, this is top lane. For the Dire, this is bottom lane. It is called the Off Lane because this is generally accepted to be the more dangerous lane and the hardest carry on each team usually does not go to the Off Lane. The reasons that it is regarded as more dangerous is 1) The creeps meet further away from the tower than in the safe lane. 2) You will almost always be past the River which, of course, is a popular route for ganking because that is where the rune spawns. 3) You (for the most part) can't control the lane by pulling creeps.

Now that we've cleared that out of the way, let's continue.


Most pubs have the following lane format: 2 top, 1 mid, 2 bot. While this is not necessarily a "bad" laning format, it certainly isn't the best (or even a terribly good one). The reason I say this is that most of your success in the lane will depend on the lane's hero composition. For example, you could be playing Ursa and your buddy could be playing Dazzle and you could be getting some great Poison Touch + Ursa right-clicking combos and wrecking a lane composed of a Storm Spirit and Lich. But try playing the same way against a lane composed of Clockwerk and Silencer: two of the strongest harassing heroes in the game. You probably won't fare as well (and by that I mean you will get destroyed if they are competent). After playing against such a composition, you may decide "Oh man, Dazzle and Ursa don't syngerize very well" when in fact they are very strong when laning together. This is where trilaning comes in.

There is a very good reason why virtually every professional Dota 2 game involves trilaning. Trilaning (for those of you who are not familiar) is when the lane format is as follows: 3 in the safe lane, 1 mid, and 1 in the off lane. Another less common variation is 1 in the safe lane, 1 mid, and 3 in the off lane. This is known as the "Aggressive trilane" but I won't talk about it here. The heroes in a trilane are usually (and should be) one hard carry and two supports. There are pros and cons to such a lane composition and I will list them here.

  • You will have a dominant lane if you are facing a solo lane or a dual lane.
  • If you have a dominant lane, your carry will be able to get all the farm he or she needs.
  • You may be able to quickly push down a tower if that is your goal in a dominant lane and get a lot of gold for the supports (as well as everyone else on the team).
  • It is much easier to kill the opponents in your lane if you have more people than they do.
  • Since your offlaner is now in a solo lane, he or she will get more experience.

  • The experience in one lane must be split among 3 players so each player gets less than if they were to dual lane.
  • Although your offlaner will be getting more experience, he or she will most likely get less farm because the offlaner is now (most likely) an a less dominant lane.

I will argue that the pros of using a trilane outweigh the cons of using a trilane because the cons of having a trilane can be dealt with by adjusting accordingly.

I said in the previous section that many people say that carries are the most important heroes in the game. This is actually largely true, but only if they have the chance to farm. We've all played games where someone instantly picks Sniper or Phantom Assassin, gets first-blooded, and then spends the rest of the game feeding until they end up with a KDR of 1-11. This usually happens because they are in an inferior lane and are unable to get the last hits that they need in order to carry the team. This situation can be avoided by putting the carry in a trilane. With the opponents too afraid to be aggressive and harass the carry, the carry can farm freely while the supports in the lane keep the opponents away from the carry. This is the biggest advantage of having a trilane.

Dealing with the cons of a trilane is actually fairly easy and extremely manageable. First of all, the offlaner needs to pick someone who is capable of soloing against 2 or 3 heroes. Usually the offlaner is someone who is difficult to kill, can benefit from quick levels, and are not overly farm-dependent (or at least less so than the hard carry on the team). Common offlane soloers are Batrider, Dark Seer, Queen of Pain, Lone Druid, and Windrunner. These heroes either have a good escape mechanism (Firefly, Surge, Blink, Windrun) or have some other way to get farm safely (stand back and use the spirit bear to pull and last hit creeps). Now going back to the safe lane, there is a very easy way to deal with the experience deficit from having three players in a lane. This is where creep pulling and stacking come in.

For those who are not familiar with creep pulling and creep stacking, I will define them here.
Creep pulling: Aggroing the jungle creeps and forcing them to chase you into a lane as the friendly lane creeps run by. This causes the lane creeps to attack the jungle creeps. This accomplishes two things: 1) You will be able to attempt to last hit the jungle creeps thus getting extra gold and experience from outside the lane. 2) Your lane creeps may (and should) die to the jungle creeps. If the opponents in the lane are not near by, this is experience and gold that they are not getting. I want to emphasize a point here about creep pulling. You should ALWAYS either pull a camp that is stacked or you should double (and maybe even triple) pull your lane creeps. This ensures that most (if not all) of your creeps die to the neutrals, and of course you get more gold and experience by killing more neutral creeps. If you do not do this, the lane becomes pushed, meaning that the creeps will get closer to the enemy tower because the creeps that didn't die in the jungle will return to the lane and your creeps will now outnumber the enemy creeps in the lane.

Here is a YouTube video by DotaCinema that does a terrific job of explaining what creep pulling and stacking are as well as how to do it. Note that what I called double pulling, he called creep piling.

How to Lane

"Um, well you just try to deny creeps, pull creeps, harass the enemies when you can, and let your carry get the last hits right?"

Well partially, that is what you should actively be doing while in the lane, but what about before?

Before the Laning Phase

The way you prepare to lane is very important because this is when you prepare for possible hindrances. Let's make a quick list of the possible things that could go wrong.
  • The enemy blocks your pull camp with wards.
  • The enemy solo mid could dominate the lane and constantly gank the side lanes.
  • You could be against an enemy trilane.

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