Supporting in DotA 2 can be one of the most thankless tasks in the game. Even when you’re doing everything right, you’ve bought wards as soon as they’re available, you’ve dewarded across the map, you’ve stolen no kills and your income is pitiful due to the <10 last hits you’ve taken, you will be raged at. Despite the fact wards are sold out and there is 7 on the map, there’ll be someone who’ll spam the macro for “We need Wards”. You will receive hate and blame the entire game, most of the time. Nothing you do or say will change this, it’s all in the luck of the draw on who you’re matched with. In this post I’ll be trying to detail some of the things you can do right when you’re Supporting, and despite all of the rage, by the end of the match feeling good about the A-game you brought to the table.
Firstly, buy courier and upgrade it. At the minute 3 you’re able to upgrade the courier into a flying courier, if it’s not upgraded by the 5 minute mark, you’re failing. In the early game, the items being delivered can have a huge impact over how the game works out. Your middle might be waiting for a bottle that will let them move back into the fight. Your top lane might be being pushed under the tower and so have no access to the side-shop. If all 3 lanes need an item at once, it’s an excruciating wait for the courier to slog it to two different lanes before it heads your way. So, upgrade that courier. If you’re the only support it is your job to do so.
Equally, buy a ward at the beginning. At least one. Sometimes two. This doesn’t necessarily mean you place it straight away, if you move straight up and place the ward down before the match has even begun, your ward will be gone before the 6 minute mark. It’s safe to say there is more chance of ganks post 4 minutes. The smarter thing to do, I feel, is to wait until just before 2 minutes, move around to go and get the bounty runes, place the ward and get back to lane. If you feel safe doing so (for example, all heroes are still in lane) then get the oppositions bounty rune for your lane also. If you can get both runes, you’ll have got more XP than you would have in lane, your carry in the lane will have earned more XP from playing solo for that short while, and you’ll have an influx of gold to make up for the fact you’re not last hitting anything.
While you’re in lane, forget that the enemy creeps are even there, they’re not for you unless you’re sure your carry isn’t going to be able to get the last hit, or it looks like the enemy heroes are going to deny. Your task during the laning phase is to deny, harass, deny and harass. Start going for the last hits on your own creeps, equally start attacking your own creeps as soon as they go below 50% health. This will counter-push the lane and ensure you don’t end up fighting under their tower before you’re ready and any denies that you pull off will prevent the opposition from getting gold from the last hit and lowering the experience received to 70%. Equally, you will gain the other 30% of that units experience. A win-win by all accounts.
With harassing, avoid using your spells too much. You wont do much damage but your right click consistantly hitting the enemy will whittle down their health over time. This is best done as a ranged hero, just keep in mind that if you’re too close to enemy creeps, they will switch targets and chase after you. Keep your distance, harass every time they come in for a last hit. If you’re going to use your spells, avoid Area of Effect (AoE) spells that will damage the creeps if you can, as this will just push the lane and undo any denying you’ve achieved. When you’ve right click harassed the enemy heroes enough, they’ll begin to stay behind their creep line hoping to just gain experience, this is the opportunity to run forward and throw a spell before retreating behind your line. Do this right, and your Carry will be able to farm with impunity. This isn’t to say it will always work out, your Carry may not be brave enough, their Support might be following the same tactic or their Carry may have skills or passives that negate the damage you do. If this happens, focus on denying and keeping your Carry safe.
When you’re moving around to get bounty runes you will often be around the site of the river runes, there are five runes you can pick up; Regeneration, Double Damage, Invisibility, Haste and Arcane Runes. Generally, you should try and leave the runes for your team mates, but early in the game it may make more sense to take it yourself. If you’re able to use that rune to position yourself and pull off a gank in a different lane, do it. In the early game your skills will usually be very useful should you get in at the right time. If you’ve picked up an invisibility rune and the enemy middle is pushing the tower, get in there, get behind him, and let your middle harass him, once he’s low HP you can unleash hell. You’ll either get the kill, or force him back to base to allow your middle to get back into farming and regain the lost advantage. In the same method, if your Carry is handling the lane okay, and you see an opportunity in another lane, take it. Just make sure the team knows you’re moving lanes and what you’re planning. Get the gank done, then move back to your lane or gank another lane. It may seem like it makes sense to sit around as a trio in a lane for a while, but through your gank you will have either killed them, or failed and they’re still there. If they’re dead, this is the opportunity for your teams other lane to gain XP and Gold advantage. If they’re alive, you’re giving the enemy team the XP advantage as you’re now splitting any experience received 3 ways, handicapping your team mates.
As the game moves on, keep buying wards and keep prioritising your Carries. When I support I always have the mantra of “Supports die before Carries”. If you’re able to go in and save your Carry, but there’s a high risk of you dying. Do it. Your death is likely to give them less gold, and you’re going to lose out less from being dead. Your Carry will be able to use that time to gain more gold and bulk up further. This doesn’t mean you just always run head-first into fights that you can’t help. Judge the situation, if it’s 1v4, your Carry is almost dead and they have a lot of stuns. You’re not going to save anyone. If it’s 1v2, your Carry is taking a beating and you’ve got a decent AoE stun or a useful skill to pin, slow or distract them, get in there while screaming at the Carry to run. When judging this situation, also judge the worth of your Carry. While the basic idea is that a Carry is worth more than a Support in the long-run, this doesn’t account for bad players. If your Carry is terrible and you think you are a more viable addition to the team, save yourself (put your ego aside here!). Don’t reinforce failure. There’s few things as bad (or as satisfying) as watching a team die one by one because a stupid Carry has pushed too far and been ganked, then the entire team running in one-by-one to try and ‘help’ and just being picked off separately. DotA is a team game, you’re better together, but unless you can organise your team to plow in at the same time (or you’ve got a good ult such as Tidehunter’s/Treant’s to buy time), you’re not going to save the day alone.
Now for the tricky part, there’s two supports. Your team line-up is a good set of two carries, a mid nuker/carry, a durable support and a disabling support. Depending on the other Support, it might mean you have an opportunity to skip buying wards. For the start, decide between you, one of you buys the courier and a ward, the other buys a ward. The person who didn’t buy the courier, upgrades it. Past this point, you’ll need to judge which hero is a better addition to the team. Which hero will help to control the game with an early Aghanim’s Sceptre or Refresher Orb, which hero can survive with the basic items. If the other Support will make good use of an early item, buy wards until they’ve got it, then swap so that you can pick up some advanced items and vice versa. If it really doesn’t matter, spread the cost. Buy wards for a while, then ask them to pick it up while you get that next item, once you’ve got it, pick up wards again. Spend some extra gold de-warding, every Observer ward that you destroy will refund the cost of a Sentry ward and so if you know it’s there, deal with it.
With warding, try to be clever. There are observer points on the map at very specific places which, when warded, grant good vision of key travel areas. This doesn’t mean you should use them. The enemy support’s job is to ward and de-ward, and the first place they’ll place their sentry ward is on that observer spot. Think outside the box, you’re given an idea of what the ward will show up before you place it, so move it around and go for somewhere different. At the very least it might mean that the enemy support has to buy more sentry wards to figure out where you’re placing it.
The blue dots denote the ‘regular’ observer points that most players will throw an observer ward onto. The red dots are some very basic, but under-used positions to place your ward to help control vision of the river and lower the risk of having your observer ward destroyed. If you do place a ward on an observer point, and it is swiftly destroyed, keep in mind that there is a high chance they’ve left a ward of their own in it’s place. Grab a sentry and get it destroyed. Just please, please, please for the love of all that is good with DotA, be smart. If you’ve got no vision of any enemy heroes, get a bodyguard or wait until you know where they are. So many people run around warding and die because their team mate keeps screaming ‘We need Wards’. You can guarantee, as soon as you die it’ll be ‘Stop feeding!’ swiftly followed by ‘Where are the wards?!?!’. Staying alive takes priority over warding.
And so there you have it, a basic run-through of supporting in Defense of the Ancients 2. Does anyone else have some basic tips? Any pitfalls to avoid? Let me know! And just remember, like the header picture suggests, that Carry who you’ve babysat at the beginning should be running the show later. It pays off to help them. If you enjoy winning anyways!