Some time ago we touched on how important supporting is in Dota. The ideas presented in the post still hold true to this day, perhaps even more so. Over the last year Dota has received various changes, and many of them have made the lives of support easier, further empowering them in the earlier stages of the game.
When Valve introduced talents, coupled with the aforementioned improvements for the early game, they affected the scalability of support heroes. Thinking of them only as bait “volunteers” and ward machines have always been a mistake, and in the current meta, supports in the late-game are still a force to be reckoned with, not necessarily providing the damage, but bringing a lot of utility. However, to be fully effective, they do require some items and levels, and managing the support economy is a very deep and complicated topic.
The most common mistake supports do in the early game is not micro-related. It is their persistent inability to get out of their comfort zone and start doing something on the map, when the ability presents itself.
Zoning the enemy offlaner is an important aspect of the early game — it leaves them vulnerable for potential ganks, heavily restricts their level progression, and tips the scales in favor of your core hero, if the game will require your core to 1v1 them. The latter is incredibly important, as you want to get to the point where your core is independent as early as possible, to free the supports up.
If you see that your core is capable of holding his ground in a 1v1 scenario, do not attempt to “win more”, as this activity does come with diminishing returns. Moreover, if you have managed to successfully drive away the enemy hero, there is absolutely no reason for you to stay in the lane.
Spend this time picking up bounty runes or harassing the enemy out of their jungle. Use it to stack camps or pull creep waves, or attempt a gank on a different lane — do not idly sit in your lane, leaching experience. All this time investment not only pays off for your team, but also bolsters your own ability to stay relevant.
In fact, in many scenarios being off the map from the very beginning can be the most appropriate course of action. There are certain offlane heroes who are perfectly capable of holding their ground in 1v2 and even 1v3 scenarios and shrug off the harassment. Trying to zone them out, therefore, will only result in both you and your core losing the experience race — something that can be extremely dangerous and can lose the game outright. Focusing on your own experience and gold progression, with the help of pulls and bounty runes, will more likely provide an opening for a successful gank or better zoning, as it will potentially give your hero an extra ability to work with and maybe even boots.
Always carry a TP, don’t always use it
Teleport scrolls are the bread and butter of the game — you must always have one in your inventory, regardless of the stage of the game. Having an option, however, does not always mean that you have to use it.
There are many reasons for a support hero to want to go back to base: you might need to regenerate mana and health, you might have been killed or you want to pick up items without using the courier. When returning to lane, carefully consider whether your presence there is required at this exact moment — otherwise you risk spending unnecessary gold and putting your only means of helping other lanes on cooldown.
It is absolutely worth it to TP to a lane when your ally is ganked, as worst case scenario is that you get to leach some solo experience. Therefore it is even more important to have a scroll at the ready. And there is nothing wrong with walking back, especially as a support hero, as you can still be useful on your way, by stacking camps and picking up runes.
Cherish your life
The sacrificial mentality of support players is something many of us have to unlearn and is perhaps the biggest change from the early days of Dota. You have to survive to get the needed experience and you need to be careful with your life, as you can and must stay relevant throughout the game.
For most supports hit-and-run tactics is always the best course of action — go in, use your spells, get out. There is rarely a reason for you to hit with your measly attack speed and damage, if it puts you in any danger. A guaranteed second usage of your spells is almost always preferable.
Saving your teammates is still often a priority and sometimes you will have to pay with your life, but always make sure that the sacrifice is guaranteed to have an impact, and won’t simply feed the opponent.
Use your gold wisely
The whole point basically boils down to “stop using reliable gold on wards”. Yes, you have to purchase wards and yes, the costs of it add up, but with gold talents, bounty runes and general ability to kill a jungle creep, there is rarely a reason for you to spend reliable gold on consumables, wards and smaller items. Save it for when you need a Staff of Wizardry for your Force Staff, or Talisman of Evasion for your Solar Crest.
You will die in a typical game of Dota as a support. Unless it is a complete stomp against incompetent enemies, you will probably die multiple times. Dying is already a massive hit to your economy and level progression, don’t make it worse by losing extra gold.
Ask your teammates for space
There is a reason you were stacking camps and allowed your core hero to have uninterrupted farm in the early game, while you were running around collecting bounty runes and ganking — at some point you will need them to give you some personal space and get experience and gold.
The gold cores get from a stacked jungle with a decently farming core hero won’t always be as high, as what they would get from the lane, but it will almost always be beneficial for the team as a whole. Jungle is another source of income, but it must be cleared once in a while, for it to have any effect on the game. Leaving supports in lane will often allow them to hit the necessary level, be it their ultimate or an early gold/xp talent. When playing support, ask for this space and do your best to get the maximum from it.
To think that the support became important only recently would be wrong — they were always an important part of your team, regardless of the patch and state of the game. In the recent years, however, they were empowered to a point, where if you don’t utilise them to their fullest, it will be excruciatingly hard for your cores to carry the game, especially if the enemy support knows what he’s doing.
Be proactive, cherish your life and you will stay relevant throughout the game and win it. Or adhere to the status quo, put all the responsibility on the shoulders of your carries and complain how you can’t rank up because of bad teammates, despite you “warding all game”. The choice is yours.