Virtus Pro's player, Yaroslav 'NS' Kuznetcov wrote a guide for beginners and even advanced players on how to play support heroes.
Okay, so let’s start. What’s a support hero?
Support is a hero role, which, as it comes for the word itself, implies various kinds of support for the team while dealing with the minimum amount of money, kills and experience. First of all, it’s really important to emphasize that ‘support’ is not a certain hero but a role. We’ll discuss the heroes that suit this role better a little bit later but in theory, every hero might be a support, even heroes such as Shadow Fiend and Bone Fletcher.
As we’ve discussed the definition, let’s proceed to the next question – why would we need a support at the first place? Many new players can’t even understand how it’s possible to play while not farming and killing heroes and why would anyone play a hero that is always short of money, whose level is almost every time the lowest in the game, which is often and easily ganked and that doesn’t really make any kills during the game. It’s ridiculously simple to explain – there’s a certain amount of money in Dota and basically it’s enough for 4 heroes (3 lanes + woods) but not for 5. Moreover, it’s more efficient to have 2-3 farmed heroes rather than 5 and that’s basically why the support role was formed in the world of Dota. A good support is crucial for a decent team and even if you never played competitively, you’ve probably noticed that a good support is extremely useful even in pubs as well-placed wards may make the game way easier to win.
Now let’s find out which heroes are the best supports and why. Let’s first highlight that the heroes that suit this role best don’t naturally require a lot of farm nor do they need high levels in order to be useful. Born support heroes are Warlock, Shadow Priest, Crystal Maiden, Venomancer, Lich and Witch Doctor. As we can see, all of these heroes are ranged ones and it is really significant as the main aim of a laning support is to harass the opponent as much as possible. Accordingly, melee heroes are not able to do that to the same extent.
The heroes described in the paragraph above are commonly used as baby-sitters. A baby-sitter usually goes on a lane with a late game hero (For instance, an extremely popular duo-lane is Lich + Anti-Mage/Faceless Void mid) and keeps him from getting ganked and harassed. The main aim of a baby-sitter is to deny creeps but not his partner’s farm in order to prevent enemy heroes from being productive as well as to keep allied creeps closer to the allied tower as it is really important due to the fact that it’s harder and riskier for the opponent to farm or take any kind of action in general near an enemy tower.
Now let’s analyze the abilities of other support heroes. The support role might as well be filled with Lina, Shadow Demon, Bane Elemental, Twin Head Dragon, Ancient Apparition, Leshrac and few other heroes, but it happens less often. These are more aggressive supports as each of them has a stun (the type of it may vary) and they’re usually picked not to baby sit a late game hero but to help a more aggressive hero on his lane. For instance, some common and popular lanes are Shadow Demon + Leshrac, SD + Lina, SD + Panda, Ancient Apparition + Sand King, Ancient Apparition + Chaos Knight, etc. In essence, it usually implies a lane duo whose main goal is not to just farm but to make kills as well if possible while the support’s role in particular basically remains the same however this kind of lane allows the support to farm a bit more.
In addition, there’re a few general advices and hints for newbies (or even for more advanced ones).
- Many players tend to associate supports with wards and it’s a common belief that if someone’s playing a support hero he/she should constantly ward. Of course there are certain grounds for that but an extent related to this process should be known. Logically thinking, it’s hard to realize how a baby-sitter would earn money for wards as he doesn’t farm at all. Of course, he might just save his money but in this case he may never get boots at all and who would need a hero that doesn’t even have boots at 15 minute mark? Thus, you might think that spending 200g on wards for a hero who’s just farming all the time is easy but at the same time you might get completely useless due to having no items whatsoever.
- You shouldn’t think that if you play a support you may die whenever and as much as you want. Obviously, it seems fair that it’s easier to die for a support rather any other kind of hero. However, supporting is an art and a true support player is useful both on the map (he wards, ganks, teleports to help, pressures the opponent at the early game phase) and in the battle (casts all the spells and uses all the items possible at least once during a fight and constantly hides and escapes from getting killed when the spells are on cooldown) and he has as little deaths as possible. I often see people in pubs who would end up with 0-10-0 score and brag about how awesome they play support heroes whereas 1.0 KDR, especially when your team is
leading is actually a bad result. A good ratio would 1.5 or 2.0.
- A support might not be the heart of the team but he should be the team’s brain hence you should watch the mini-map as much as you can. You have time to do that as you don’t have to focus on your micro and last hitting creeps. So watch the opponent team regrouping, check the runes and try to spot the enemy’s ward spots by stalking their support heroes. Wards are not unlimited in Dota, so you may cause some really serious problems for your opponent by taking down their wards at the proper time.
- Support should handle the jungle easily. The woods in the world of Dota contain loads of various features but the main thing a support must know in terms of that is to how properly pull creep camps then farm them. Doing it properly is very crucial and if you experience certain problems with that or can’t pull at all go on and practice in a game with bots.
- Manage your money wisely! A support has a very limited amount of money therefore the ability to spend all your money before you die so you lose as little gold as possible appears to be extremely significant. Have 200g up on your sleeve? Buy a Circlet (+2 to all attributes). Another 150g? Buy a Gauntlet (+3 to Strength) and you almost have a bracer. It’s very important to have a large health pool as a support as it often appears to be the main target to kill for the enemy team.
- Although a support doesn’t normally farm creeps, he must be able to do that as it is important to extract as much gold as possible from short periods of farming you’ll occasionally have. So practice your farming skills as well.
- Even though a support shouldn’t die too often, if you see that you can save your late game hero by taking the damage enemy team is dealing and therefore dying, do that and face the enemy lines as the Motherland won’t forget you!
- To summarize, don’t ever get upset! The lack of farm, levels, kills and a large amount of deaths sure do get frustrating and everyone wants to play as a forward, not a defender or a goalkeeper. Nevertheless, it may take forever to argue which role is the most important and hardest one while the main aim of the game is winning and it doesn’t matter at all how many kills you have and what items you have in your inventory but destroying the rax is important.
P.S. While writing this article I realized that it was really hard to describe certain aspects without attaching a video or lots of screenshots and it might probably be a little bit hard to get all of the points I made here. Therefore I didn’t overburden the article by trying to explain something exhaustively and decided to do it the other way. So do expect several video guides on supporting, woods farming, playing certain heroes and many more in the next month. See you!
Guide written by Yaroslav 'NS' Kuznetcov for Virtus Pro. Translated by It's Gosu's Stephen 'Watercurses' Nilov