Our Dota 2 support guide will focus on the often overwhelming yet underrated list of things that has a support has to do right to help his or her team win the game: laning, warding, roaming, counter-ganking, pulling, creeps, pushing waves, and so on.
Dota 2 Support Guide: When, How, and Why
Minute Zero: Ban or Pick
The majority of public ranked games use the All Pick mode. In this mode, you will have some time before the game start to pick the hero you want to play and ban the heroes you don’t want to play against. This is an extremely important phase, especially in higher levels of play because there are certain heroes in Dota 2 that are very good against others. One could even go as far as to say that it is possible to predict which of two teams will end up winning based on their draft.
As a support, you will pick first or second 99% of the time. Ideally, you’ll want your mid and carry players to pick 4th or 5th so they are not as easily countered by the enemy’s heroes. This is where picking the right hero to set up your team’s combination comes in; you need to understand the many intricacies in Dota 2, including how the heroes and skills interact with each other.
You’ll have to play a lot of games to experience and learn how and what to pick. However, you can keep these tips in mind when picking up your hero:
The babysitter usually plays as the position five. As a babysitter, your role for the first 10-15 minutes of the game is to stay in the lane and help your carry get good farm, as well as tank smoke ganks from the enemy team if necessary.
Skywrath Mage is an example of a good babysitter because Arcane Bolt (Q) is a massively underrated spell that can be spammed to zone out enemy offlaners. Other candidates include Dazzle, Witch Doctor, Treant Protector, Warlock.
These are the playmakers, the ones that make the space for the entire team from minute zero. Ideally, these heroes will have a long-range disable and some form of burst damage to set up kills on enemy heroes. A good example of this is Lion, Shadow Shaman, Crystal Maiden, and Rubick. Of course, roaming doesn’t mean that you’ll spend all of your time outside of the lane, especially now that picking up a Bounty Rune no longer gives EXP. Of course, there are exceptions to this. Heroes like Riki, Bounty Hunter, and Spirit Breaker don’t have long-range disables, but are excellent roamers and very rarely stay in lanes as they’re too busy setting up kills all over the map.
Dota 2 Support Guide Tip #1: If you’re playing into a lineup with invisible heroes like Riki or Bounty Hunter, it’s better to play passive and pick a hero who can help win the lanes hard.
These heroes focus on healing and protection abilities so carries can sustain themselves during the laning phase and can just focus on farming. These heroes are excellent counters to gank-heavy lineups. This includes Dazzle, Warlock, Oracle, Abaddon, and Omniknight, although the latter two heroes are very rarely played as a support and more as offlaners.
Dota 2 Support Guide Tip #2: Do pick up a healer if your team plans on playing heroes like Axe or Huskar.
The Team Fighter
While any hero can shine in a team fight, there are certain heroes that can make bigger impacts without as much farm. Heroes such as Earthshaker, Sand King, Venomancer, and Enigma are supports that often only need a Blink Dagger to teleport themselves into an effective position and make plays for his or her team.
Although shunned by most because of the recent set of nerfs to Jungling, there are still certain heroes that make for very effective junglers, like Chen, Enchantress, and Enigma.
The usual style of play of Chen and Enchantress is usually like that of roamers, with the only difference being that they roam around in the jungle and convert Neutral Creeps to help set up ganks for their team.
Remember, there is no rule that forces any support to just pigeonhole themselves in just one role. Be creative and find the best way to push your team’s advantage. A good support player always finds a way to mesh together all the above roles in a single game.
Minute – 10: The Laning Phase – The Prime Time of Supports
There’s a reason why this section is the longest of our Dota 2 support guide: the first ten minutes of every game IS YOUR TIME TO SHINE. While all the cores players are busy hitting creeps, you are in the right place to set the pace and determine how the game will go on forward.
After the ban/pick phase, you should already have a clear plan for how you are going to play the game and help win it for your team.
Generally, the basic blueprint is like this:
- Help your team get at least 2 bounty rune, but don’t die for it
- You and the other support player zone out enemy offlaner for 1–2 minutes. Don’t mess up creep equilibrium, only harass the offlaner out of creep aggro range so they won’t hit you. If the creeps equilibrium messed up, do a double pull to stabilize it.
- Go check and take bounty runes at 1:50 (so you arrive at 2:00), roam mid if you see the kill potential, then return to safe lane
- Stack neutral creep if you walk pass them near 0:55 mark, if you have to wait more than 15 sec to stack, don’t bother
- Use teleport scroll to come help when they try to kill your mid/offlane player near your tower
- Repeat the process at 3:50 (next runes spawn), 5:50, 7:50, 9:50
I will test your understanding of the game by listing a scenario here, let’s see if you can find out the best solution:
Enemy team: Mid Zeus, Offlane Timbersaw, Carry Spectre, Supports: Shadow Shaman and Spirit Breaker.
Your team: Mid Outworld Devourer, Carry Anti-mage, Offlane Pangolier, Skywrath Mage, and you are Crytal Maiden
So, how are you going to play her?
Got your answer already? Now, here is my analysis:
The opposing team has a strong global presence with Zeud, Spectre, and Spirit Breaker. Look to them to use that to their fullest advantage, especially once Spectre gets to level 6. Before that, Spirit Breaker and Shadow Shaman will try to look for pickoffs with Spirit Breaker’s Charge of Darkness (Q). Their main target will be Outworld Devourer and it is up to you to make sure that their plan does not come to fruition. Luckily, you have a Skywrath Mage with you, so Anti-mage will have enough space to farm with Timbersaw being zoned out in the offlane. Meanwhile, Pangolier can stand his own as he is fairly tanky and has an escape mechanism, so you’re free to focus on helping out mid.
If you don’t, Outworld Devourer is squishy enough early on to die to the constant roaming. You can start providing help by dedicating at least two Observer Wards around mid, one for the top rune and another for the bottom rune. This increases the likelihood that Outworld Devourer will see Spirit Breaker charging in.
Of course, this doesn’t always work. The item Smoke of Deceit can help Spirit Breaker charge in without being seen until it’s already too late, which is where a second player, like you, comes in.
So here is the actual plan:
– Put observer wards around mid lane.
– Together with Skywrath Mange, zone out the Timbersaw for the first two to three creep waves.
– Grab a few big Neutral Creeps using Frostbite (W) to get a quick Level 2 or 3.
– At the 1: 30-minute mark, leave the lane to go to mid, hide behind trees at 2:00 (tell Skywrath Mage to take the rune, if you wait for the rune, Outworld Devourer will be in trouble). Spirit Breaker will likely charge to mid lane at 2:00 after taking rune, and arrive at around 2:10.
– Interfere with enemy gank with your Frost Bite and Frost Nova, if you see they are going to dive tower, wait until they dive in your tower then interfere.
– Go back to lane after a successful counter-gank.
– Expect a gank to come at the 4-minute mark as the heroes vision get reduced because it’s night time and your teammates won’t be able to see an incoming gank early, so make sure that you respond accordingly.
Minute 10 to 20: The Early Game
At this time, heroes already have enough experience to level their respective ultimate skills, along with other necessary basic items to fight. Once the laning phase is over, look for teams to start taking objectives if they already haven’t yet. At this point, the only player on your team that still prioritize farming is the carry. You often find yourself together with 2 or 3 other teammates.
As a support, your job is to help team taking objectives:
- Get Tier 1 and Tier 2 towers
- Defend towers with your team
- Win team fight
- Help team kill Roshan to get the early advantage and Aegis of Immortality
- Accumulate gold to get items your team need in team fights
- Place wards whenever possible. If your team is ahead, ward aggressively and deep into the enemy jungle. If your team is behind, ward defensively and protect your team’s jungle instead.
Because you’ll constantly be on the move, try to position yourself at the far back so you don’t get focused instantly and have enough time to dish out all of your spells.
Minute 20 to 30: The Mid Game
At this time, most cores have farmed enough items to join battles, so battles will focus on:
- Team smoke gank
- Roshan fight
- Tier 3 /Barracks siege
Your job will be
- Similar to 10-20 min period
- Get defensive items like a Force Staff or a Glimmer Cape to live longer than enemies support. Remember, if you force enemy core heroes to spend a lot of time chasing you, it is actually a win even if you do end up dying eventually.
Past 30-minute mark: late game
As the game goes on longer and longer, your impact will start diminishing. Your role will go from primary playmaker to, more often than not, fodder for the enemy team as they will most likely target you first or your team might want to sacrifice you instead of one of the cores. That’s okay. That is your job. What’s important is that you do not die unnecessarily, so always make sure that your positioning is good — talk to your team if they want you in the far back or in front to tank ganks — and throw your spells and items at the right time.
Although you’re most likely going to be the first to die in clashes, you could still be the difference maker if you manage to throw your spells before going down, or throw a disable or two at the enemy’s cores.
What do you think of our Dota 2 support guide? What other things do you think supports should always keep in mind throughout the different phases of every game? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.