Help Support Our Growing Community

DOTAFire is a community that lives to help every Dota 2 player take their game to the next level by having open access to all our tools and resources. Please consider supporting us by whitelisting us in your ad blocker!

Want to support DOTAFire with an ad-free experience? You can support us ad-free for less than $1 a month!

Go Ad-Free
Smitefire logo

Join the leading DOTA 2 community.
Create and share Hero Guides and Builds.

Create an MFN Account


26 Votes

Picking the right support items

January 25, 2015 by Tikru8
Comments: 12    |    Views: 69707    |   


When playing support it can be slightly tricky to decide which items to pick for your team: As a support, usually your playstyle and item progression is more reactive than proactive. That means that you adjust to the decision of your allies and enemies more often than the other way around.

This guide aims at providing general rules-of-thumb for item progression decision-making assuming you are playing a support that gets at least some farm: In professional games at least 1 support is usually running around the whole game with just a Magic Wand, Boots of Speed, Town Portal Scroll and Observer Wards. Obviously, this guide is not meant for that kind of play. For this kind of support, see e.g. Sando's guide.

"Ask not what your team can do for you but what you can do for your team."

This is the general guideline that should dictate your entire game and the one and only question you should keep in mind. As a support, your build is usually not as fixed as for the carries thus you can cover up a deficit in your team to some degree with the right item choices.

The chapters with in starting / early game items is aimed at players who are unsure of what to buy in the first minutes of the game. If this is too familiar for you, feel free to jump straight to the "Mid-game support items" chapter.

This guide is a bit work-in-progress, constructive feedback is most appreciated.

Starting items

Executive summary:

/ (1-3)

As first items get either


If the enemy teams is likely to block your jungle camps with Observer Wards or they have invisible heroes, also get Sentry Wards. If your play is on the "next level", Smoke of Deceit is also a potential buy for some nice early ganks/Roschan.

With the rest of the money the standard combination is*:


or (1-3)

The decision between Ring of Protection or ironwood branches comes down to this: Are you making a Ring of Basilius as (one of) the first item(s)? If yes, then I recommend Ring of Protection for extra damage resistance, otherwise take the "gg branches" that will go into a Magic Stick or Mekansm.

Ring of Basilius gives you a total of +3 armor, + 6 damage and +0.65 mana regen. Your lanemate gets +2 armor and the mana regen from the aura as well. Note that this aura will not stack with the one of Ring of Aquila or Vladmir's Offering.

Here are the things counting for and against getting Ring of Basilius early:

+ You / lane mate needs more mana regen and/or survivability
+ Your priority in lane is harassing (you can trade hits better with +3 armor)
+ You have weak starting armor
+ Your spells are useful early on but you don't have enough mana to spam them

- Lanemate is building Ring of Aquila anyways ( Luna, Gyrocopter)
- Neither of you need extra mana early on

*If you are playing Omniknight, Enigma or necrolyte, rushing a Soul Ring is valid and you can even buy the recipe as a starting item instead of RoB / gg branches.

Early game

Executive summary:

The Animal Courier must be upgraded to Flying Courier ASAP if your mid is going for a Bottle. Period. 2. priority is buying a new set of Observer Wards at the ~5 min mark and getting them out to you on the Flying Courier: There has to be at least one rune spot warded as constantly as long as your mid hero is farming on the mid lane. Otherwise he will waste time guessing whether the rune spawned top or bottom at the 2:00/4:00/6:00/...18:00 minute mark or miss runes.

Beyond this, the priority is usually
1. (if making one)
4. (if you remember to use it in fights, otherwise skip this item)

If there are invisible enemies in your lane, you should get Sentry Wards or some other form of detection. You can find out more about how to counter the different invisible heroes in this guide by Sando.

Support core

Generic support core items:

This is the "if in doubt" generic build for a support: Arcane Boots to keep your/team mana up, Bracer for survivability (can be upgraded to Drum of Endurance later) and Mekansm for team heal which is crucial especially in the early stages of the team fights.

The order of purchase depends on the following factors:

Go early Headdress or Tranquil Boots if
+ You (and lane mate) are facing heavy harassment

Note that the Ring of Regen from the disassembled Tranquil Boots can be used for either Mekansm, Force Staff or Pipe of Insight, thus rarely going to waste.
No longer as of 6.79

Go early Arcane Boots if
+ You / lanemate need more mana to be effective
+ You all of the sudden have 1000 gold

Go early Bracer or Buckler if
+ Not facing heavy harassment in-lane but you are against heroes with massive burst damage potential coming up at level 6 ( Lion, Faceless Void)
+ You expect ganks coming your way soon

Mekansm (aka "mek") is the epitome of DOTA 2 support items: For 2306 gold you get +5 all stats, +5 armor, +4 HP aura regen and can heal nearby units for 250 HP every 45 seconds. What many players seem to forget how much survivability it gives to you: +5 STR = +95 HP, 5 armor = +30 % effective HP and +250 burst heal. That means that this item is preferable on ranged heroes over a Vanguard: Ranged heroes only get 20 damage block (vs +30 % EHP from mek), +250 HP (vs mek's 95 HP + 250 burst heal), 6 HP regen (vs mek's 4 aura regen)- while giving nothing to your team. Simply put: in most cases, mek gives more to you as well as your team if you are ranged. This is why in pro matches tanky ranged heroes such as Viper often get this as their 1. item. Mek should be looked at as your first major item especially if:

+ You have low armor
+ Teamfights and tower pushes are happening early
+ Enemy has lots of AOE damage ( Ravage, Chaotic Offering, Poison Nova, Illuminate, etc.)

Wheras it is less useful if:

- Team(s) is mostly turtling or ganking
- You can only get it late (when carries do +300 DPS mek obviously isn't that good anymore)
- Enemy lacks AOE but has lots of single-target burst
- Your ultimate is a channeling spell and enemy has many stuns: consider prioritizing BKB instead

Communicate with your team mates: Do not build 2 Mekansms on the same team: The auras won't stack and the heal won't affect units that have been mek'd in the past 25 seconds!

Mid-game support items

Executive summary:

Team / you needs

Movement (speed)

More sustainability/damage in fights

Push power



This is the main chapter of the guide, where different support items will be discussed.
Beyond the generic standard support items, there is a bunch of items to get as a support. The only true "must" for a team is Mekansm, Flying Courier and Observer Wards. Getting 1-2 items from the following list will help your team greatly:

Cheap early/mid-game support items

The following items are relatively cheap and as such you should consider them if someone else is already building a Mekansm or you don't have the money to get there:

Medallion of Courage gives you +50 % mana regen, +6 armor and can actively reduce one enemy hero's armor by -6. When using the active, you will also loose -6 armor so you are effectively getting +/- 0 armor from the item. The - armor is really useful especially on low-armor heroes or Roshan.

Particularly good on:

+ Roaming / ganking supports
+ Armor reduction heroes/teams ( Vengeful Spirit, teams with Alchemist, Templar Assassin, Shadow Fiend, etc.)
+ Teams going for early Roschan (lycanthrope, Ursa)
+ Mana-hungry supports with high int (=RoB useless) and low armor (e.g. Silencer)

Urn of Shadows is an item that I've really started to like: For a mere 875 gold you get +6 strength (= +114 HP), +50 % mana regen and can heal allies for 400 HP or damage enemies for 150 HP every 10 seconds (if you have charges). Usually this item is recommended for gankers but it is great on almost any support - if no-one else has it already.

Particularly good as/on:

+ Mekansm substitute / addition
+ Squishy supports
+ Roaming supports
+ Strength supports
+ When pushing towers (low HP situations common)

Crystal Maiden would fit the bill perfectly.

Not worth it if
- Your (mid) ganker is already getting it ( Pudge, Spirit Breaker)

Drum of Endurance is a great upgrade to Bracer, offering +9 to all stats and an aura of +5 % movement speed and +5 attack speed. Has 4 active charges that can be used to boost the movement speed to +15 % and attack speed to +15.

Points counting for and against getting this item are:

+ You & team need more mobility
+ You are (almost) dying every fight -> get extra HP
+ Enemy team has gankers that rely on burst-damage combos (e.g. Pudge) or chain stuns
+ You can't afford anything else

- Someone else is already getting it
- Your team needs more something else

The HP is escpecially needed to survive the initial combo of heroes such as Pudge or to (hopefully) live through multiple stuns. Much of Pudge's effectiveness relies on the enemy being so squishy that they die to the Meat Hook + Dismember combo.

Tip: As Drum of Endurance only has 4 charges, save it for when running after/away from an enemy and not during teamfights. The extra 5 + 10 % movement speed often really makes a difference between life and death.

Force Staff is a great item that gives +10 int, +3 HP regen and you can actively force any hero within 800 range to move instantly 600 units in the direction it is facing. It has many, many uses such as:
- Getting faster from fountain to front line
- Passing impassable terrain
- Getting yourself or allies away from the enemy
- Chasing
- "Hooking" enemies in to your team
- Disabeling enemy Linken's Sphere

Points counting for and against getting it are:

+ Enemy crowd control consists mainly of slows and
+ Enemy is not fast (e.g. Viper, Drow Ranger, Venomancer ;)
+ You & team needs more mobility
+ You have Bloodseeker or Keeper of the Light: You force movement while enemy is Ruptured or Mana Leaked if they stand still.

- Enemy team has very fast heroes (blink or movement speed) such as Queen of Pain, lycanthrope or Spirit Breaker: They most likely will still catch up to you

Mid-game mid-prize items:

Eul's Scepter of Divinity is also great: You get + 150 % mana regen, + 10 int and + 35 movement speed. The active cyclones you or enemy heroes (cannot cyclone allies) for 2.5 seconds, during which the unit is invulnerable.

+ Enemy has fast or invisible gankers such as Night Stalker, Bounty Hunter or Riki
+ Enemy likes to gank a lot
+ Enemy has a carry which relies (almost) only on right-clicking
+ You can get it quite early
+ You need some serios mana regen but don't really want arcane boots ( Silencer, windrunner)

- Your team needs movement speed more than a disable

This is the item to counter the support mass murderer also known as Spirit Breaker (before he gets Black King Bar): You can cyclone him in the middle of his charge to interrupt it. Then a) kill him, b) run away or c) run to the woods and teleport out.

Tip: This item is great for interrupting and even turning around ganks by taking one enemy ganker out for 2.5 seconds. In teamfights use this if you see an initator trying to walk up to your team or on the enemy carry with most DPS. Do not use on enemy casters unless you are deliberately messing up their spell combo timing: (Support) caster like being invulnerable during their spell cooldown. Also, do not use it on enemy heroes your team if focusing on.

You might want to cyclone yourself to dodge a nasty spell coming your way (e.g. Magic Missile), if you get initated on or if you are just about to die (assuming, of course that the team will come to your help in ~2 seconds).

Pipe of Insight is an often neglected item that is great for any team facing magic nukers such as Lich, Keeper of the Light, Zeus, etc. It gives you and all nearby units a 400 HP spell shield for 10 seconds. You get +11 HP regen and + 30 % magic resistance from the item as well.

+ You & team take a lot of magic (AOE) damage

- You lack HP to survive everything else

Tip: This item is especially useful when going for the enemy's tier 3 towers: you tend to get nuked a lot at this stage and you are grouped close together when going up the stairs to the base. Remember that the spell shield works on your creeps too!

Rod of Atos is a fantastic item on paper, giving you +25 int, +325 HP and an active 4 second slow of 60 % with a massive 1200 range! The stats are much more than the components themselves give and there is no money wasted on any recepie.

+ Enemies barely escape your ganks and team fights

- Enemy has a lot of hereos that don't care about slow
- Your team is the one running away from fights

Vladmir's Offering is a strange support item as most supports are ranged and thus will not benefit from the lifesteal. However, besides that this item gives you & team +5 armor and +15 damage (along with some minor mana and HP regen) which is never bad: In pro matches this item is sometimes picked up even on all-ranged teams!

+ You have a melee carry that won't go for early vlad's (i.e. not Ursa nor lycanthrope)
+ You are melee ( Abaddon would be a perfect vlad's carrier)
+ Your team already has some level (so they can leverage the +15 % damage) and is pushing (i.e. needs sustainability)
+ You already built Ring of Basilius and have an extra Ring of Regen

- Your team needs disables or movement speed more

The Necronomicon aka necrobook aka puzzlebox gives you +8/12/16 Strength
and +15/21/24 Intelligence for a total cost of 2700/3950/5200 for level 1/2/3 necrobook. The active allows you to summon a necro warrior and archer to fight for you whose HP and damage increase for each level. Both can burn the enemy's mana. The archer has a movement- and attack speed aura. The warrior deal 300/400/500 pure damage to its killer.

The necrobook is good for (split)pushing and invisibility detection: Level 3 warrior has true sight meaning you can skip buyin a gem.

+ Your team has many pushers (e.g. Pugna, Venomancer, Keeper of the Light, Enigma)
+ Your hero has a channeling spell (e.g. Warlock's Upheaval, Bane's Fiend's Grip, Shadow Shaman's Shackles): Summon your necroes and have them fight for you while you are busy channeling
+ You truly benefit from raw strength and intelligence
+ Enemy has invisible heroes
+ Enemy likes to ward a lot

- You can't micro units even if your life depended on it
- You won't be getting enough farm to finish the level 3 necrobook

Gem of True Sight is quite an important but often neglected item that people often don't want to buy as it costs 900 and will drop on death. It will pay itself off quite fast if the enemy is actively warding and/or has invisible heroes: Dust of Appearance costs 180 per pair, Sentry Wards 200 per pair and an enemy that got away because you had no detection is several hundred gold lost. A lost fight due to invisible enemies taking your team by surprise could even cost you the game.

+ At least one hero on your team isn't getting killed every 1-5 minutes (again, Abaddon)
+ Enemy has invisible heroes
+ Enemy uses Observer Wards a lot: This usually means your team gets ganked a lot

- There are more deaths in the game than in Stalingrad

Blink Dagger is an extremely useful item on disabler/AOE supports besides the obvious Earthshaker, Tidehunter and Sand King. Heroes such as Rubick, Lion, Bane, Venomancer and Shadow Shaman can position themselves properly in fights: Use the item to either initiate, follow up when your main initatior goes in or to coutner-initate. Counter-initaion here means staying back behind your teammates, waiting for the fight to start and then blinking in closer. This is particularly useful if the enemy has AOE disablers such as Tidehunter or Enigma so that you don't get caught and bursted in the initial stun and damage.

If you have fast enough reflexes, you can also use it for escaping: When you see / hear something coming your way, double-tap your hotkey to blink towards your fountain.

+ Your team lacks initiaton
+ You are getting caught in enemy AOE disables in teamfights
+ Enemy team has lots of Blink Dagger heroes - you can stay back and counter-initiate safely

- You can't position yourself properly before the fight begins
- Your hotkey micro & reaction time is messed up

Late-game support items

Executive summary:



Ulti boost

The following items are such that you will only be able to afford them if the game drags on and/or you have won many fights. Therefore, they are all considered luxury and as most support heroes you are not expected to get them in an average match. As such they are not part of your core items but can greatly help you and your team out.

Aghanim's Scepter boosts the ultimate of many heroes. It also gives a nice boost of +10 to all stats as well as extra mana (+330) and HP (+390). It is great on certain supports but costs a lot.

+ You want stats
+ You get an well-timed ultimate off consistently in teamfights
+ Upgrading your ultimate would make a difference in teamfights

- You get focused down / chains stunned / silenced in teamfights and therefore don't get to use your ulti consistently - consider Black King Bar instead
- Your ultimate upgrade doesn't really make a difference in this game

Refresher Orb resets the cooldown of your spells once every 160 seconds as well as gives you +40 damage, +6 int, +200 % mana and +5 HP regen.

+ Late-game your enemies don't care about you at all whenever your ultimate is on cooldown (e.g. Tidehunter)

Scythe of Vyse is the most obvious support luxury item: You get a 3.5 second hex that turns the enemy into a slow-moving pig (along with +10 stats and +100 % mana regen).

+ Enemy has hard right-clickers
+ Enemy has evasion heroes (hex disables evasion)
+ Enemy has slippery heroes with good escape mechanisms ( Anti-Mage, Weaver, Storm Spirit, Queen of Pain

- Enemy has a Black King Bar with long duration remaining on all heroes
- Your chances of getting the 2700 gold for the Mystic Staff are close to 0

Shiva's Guard gives you +30 int and +15 armor and reduces the attack speed of enemies within 900 AOE by -40. The active arctic blast is an 719 AOE nuke that deals 200 damage and slows enemies hit by 40 % for 4 seconds.

+ You have enough disables
+ Enemy relies on several right-clickers for damage
+ You have low armor

- Hex would be more beneficial

Ghost Scepter gives you +7 to all stats and can turn you into ethereal form for 4 seconds. You cannot be physically attacked but will take +40 % magical damage. A great item to survive late-game as a support against major physical burst-damage dealers such as a well-fed Ursa or Templar Assassin.

+ Enemy has burst physical damage that will insta-gib you
- Enemy also has major magic damage dealers ( Zeus, Lion, Lina)

Heaven's Halberd is a weird but valid choice for many supports, often seen in pro matches. The +20 strength (a.k.a. +380 HP) and 25 % evasion adds a whole lot to your survivability. Also it is a "support" item as the active allows you to disarm a hero for 4 seconds (stops them from attacking but not from casting spells).

+ Enemy team has a mix of hard physical damage dealers (as well as some magic nukers)
+ Enemy has one or more hard-hitting carry with no Black King Bar or its duration is 4 seconds
+ You are a strength hero (extra strength = extra damage)

- Enemy damage is mainly magical

If this is the case, consider Scythe of Vyse or Pipe of Insight + HP boost item instead. If you just need survivability against physical damage only, Ghost Scepter is much cheaper.

Quick Comment (12) View Comments

You need to log in before commenting.

Similar Guides
Featured Heroes

Quick Comment (12) View Comments

You need to log in before commenting.

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