The support role

Hello Everyone !
 
     Many things happened since the last article, fortunately. The team’s results are very satisfying, as you may have noticed. The practice is going really well, the atmosphere is great, and we are all looking forward to what we can demonstrate in the upcoming weeks. The highlight of this week was of course the very controversial ending of our match versus Alliance in the StarSeries season VII. A few words on that topic…Do not blame the admins’ decision, as they made sure beforehand that both team were completely fine with it. One thing you have to know is that the SLTV staff is, if not the fairest, one of the fairest staff in the whole scene as they always make sure their decisions make sense when it comes to the in-game part. Their deep game understanding is a real guarantee in that matter.
 
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    The crash was of course very unfortunate. To be brutally honest I think we deserved to win that game, as everyone could see we controlled the game completely from the very beginning, putting huge amount of pressure on Alliance. But well, when you face the strongest team in the world, one slight mistake and suddenly what was a stomp in your favor turns into a very close game with them having the better late-game. This is what makes them so strong; even one mistake is too much. Moreover, the last fight was clearly in our favor, as they had no buybacks and our position and spell casting was about to give us a clear win. In the end it doesn’t really matter that the game is going to be replayed. Indeed, Alliance is clearly a way stronger team than what we are the moment, the comparison isn’t even relevant. But we were able to pressure them, and to maybe take a game from them, which isn’t a surprise at all for us. We know that the potential is here for us to compete with the very top on a regular basis. So we are already looking forward to the next game, and will try to repeat the performance, and not only once.
 
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     Now that this is sorted out, I can finally jump into today’s topic, which will be ‘The Support role’. As you probably guessed, this topic is immensely large, in particular for me. Nevertheless, I will try to structure it through different articles, but in that one I would just like to highlight or deny general facts about the support role in competitive DotA. I will not fall into the very standard trap that compares the different roles and rank them. Every role is brutally crucial in DotA, the support is as important as the carry, the individuals shouldn’t prevail on the team, etc etc.
 
     The difference between tier-1 teams comes mainly from their support players:
 
On that part, you can really trust my experience, and share your questions to any tier-1 player. We basically all played in different rosters, tried different players, build different teams, some were successful, some weren’t. And the conclusion is almost always the same: ‘the support duo’ didn’t work out, or the support players weren’t skilled enough, or even the team chemistry just wasn’t there. Do not get me wrong, I am not comparing support players with core players, all roles require the same amount of skill, game understanding and experience. This conclusion is actually very frustrating when you try to build a team, but it explains itself. I’ll give the main reasons :
 
          Let us assume that I want to break into competitive DotA. I’m skilled and have good in-game sense. In order for me to succeed, I need to find a way to shine and attract other players’ attention. I can choose between two type of roles, the ‘Cores’, they are given the farm and the experience, and they end up having more impact than the other heroes on the game. The second role is the support role, where the major part of the action is actually in the in-game calls, or little details like warding, positioning or spell execution, best case scenario being a low amount of death and decent assisting. (Please note that a good support is not necessarily a support that never dies, that is completely false. A good support is a support that dies only for good reasons). I will obviously choose the ‘Core’ option, and that is completely natural.              
We all experienced the painful match-making games where the team coordination just isn’t there, and playing support suddenly feels like a waste of time. Well, players naturally tend to play core. The consequence of that is that finding an excellent solo mid, carry or offlane is actually very easy at a pro level, because they simply outnumber the support players. But finding an excellent support player, whose game understanding & skill can compete with the top support players, is insanely hard.
 
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          The second main reason why supports are crucial factor in pro games is that they are responsible for the early game action in most cases. When two very strong teams face each others, the early game rotation is decisive. Indeed, the strongest teams are also the one to do the least amount of mistakes. So when they secure an advantage early on thanks to their support’s rotation, they usually rarely drop it. This can end up with a very one-sided game. A quick and quite standard example would be : Offlaners are woods, Mid-laners are both playing well on their lane, and carries are barely missing a creepkill. Team A’s supports decide to rotate mid and get the firstblood on the opponent’s laner, whereas Team B’s supports failed their rotation few mins ago. This can be decisive, and all came down to the supports and their decision-making.
 
     Those are two reasons I could easily think of, there are many others obviously. The cores basically reward the support players for their early game plays by carrying them through the mid-late game. The supports somehow ‘create’ the conditions of the core’s success and well-being during the game.
 
     The role is also very ungrateful; this doesn’t need to be explained. If a teamfight happens, and a team crushes the other one thanks to good warding/vision or to a clutch swap/nightmare (or anything else), what will be seen and remembered at the end of the day is the naix crushing the enemies and getting a rampage. The hero pool is wider for support players, and every game is completely different. One game requite passivity and intense stacking, the other requires early game rotation and aggressiveness. Sometimes the support has a 3k gold net worth in 5 mins, and sometimes he can afford boots at the 12’. Playing support is about being able to read, LIVE, what particular turn the game is taking, and being able to ADAPT to it. This is precisely why support players are, in 99% of the cases, also the in-game leaders.
 
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    If I happen, for instance, to watch an Alliance replay, I will 90% of the time follow Akke & EGM. And it should be useless to mention that I watch it as a team captain, and not as a support player. I’m not interested into the mechanics, but into Alliance’s decision making. And it doesn’t matter if it is actually made by the supports, what matters is that it is readable in their movement, and only there. They set the pace for the game. This is valid in early game, of course, but not only. But that would be too long to describe.
 
     In the next article I will describe in further details the support role, the positioning, the attitude required and some specifics to know in order to play an ‘efficient’ support. What should you aim for? How to achieve it? If, as a support player, ending up with a positive score do not necessarily mean that I did well (and vice versa of course), then how can I know whether I played a good game or not?
 
    I’ll try to answer those questions in the next writing, this one aimed to give you guys an idea of my opinion on the very large ‘support topic’. I hope you enjoyed your read.
Please always remember that this is nothing but the opinion of a professional DotA2 player! Feel free to drop your comments.
     You can follow me on twitter and show your support for those articles @7ckngMadDOTA. Cheers!
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12 Comments

Filed under General DotA 2 knowledge

12 responses to “The support role

  1. YuShin

    Nice article!
    Eager to read the following support stuff you plan to write.

    • Looking forward to the continuance of this article. I play the 4/5 role almost all the time and feel like supports are generally “forgotten” past the 15-20 min mark in the pubs.

      This is mainly because the solo killing power of the mid/ off lane start to shine more and the opponent starts to focus on them instead. I think it’s super important for a support to know when and where to ward/pull/babysit throughout the game.

      I think that the support player allows new players to climb the learning curve much faster because most of the game mechanics and the “mind games” happen more in the early to mid game where the support roles are usually the one’s in the driver’s seat.

  2. Avian

    It’s cool to see supports get the appreciation they deserve, but if you really want to maintain a good win ratio in pubs (above 55 percent or so) it’s pointless to play support there. I honestly love playing support since they require so much more knowledge about the game, but I love winning more -.-

    Could you give us some details about your opinions for the best supports and their roles? (example: for a dual vs dual lane supporting a carry, lich is pretty good; so on)

  3. Girlik

    Nice article as usual. After you’re done treating this subject, could you write on the RNG and PRNG, theirs role in the balance and the way pro players cope with them.

  4. Zuazua12

    while what u wrote is true it’s still sad that the support role requires very little actual skill in terms of mechanics

    watch EGM games of naga at TI3, when he is given farm in mid he misses lasthits left and right..he never splits his illusions to scout or stack with any of them etc etc. basically watch any support player and there’s gonna be a lot of ineffectiveness but what makes or breaks them is game sense, positioning and decision making. while those attributes are fine, they aren’t actually interesting..it is disheartening to watch them play ._.

  5. Great article.

    Being support in competitive match is really hard and also effective.It’s actually supports making the difference in early game with rotations and good map awareness.While core heroes focusing on farming , supports have to safe their farm and put pressure upon enemy.I play support in my team and we’ve been through a lot of tournaments.All I can say , no matter what your KDA is and you got maelk award for some reason (:P) , it does not matter unless you’re getting something out of it.If you ran into 5 enemy and die instantly , it puts your team in a dificult position.But instead , if you ran into 5 enemy and force enemy cores to use their bkbs and get out of there , that puts your team in advantage.

    These little things will make the difference ingame.GL HF everyone.

  6. Zuazua13

    Last comment was shit

  7. sarang

    I think, that all the decent support players don’t pub alone, they usually have a stack of 3 to 5 already. Generally, i think supports wouldn’t wanna solo que, there are ppl who just can’t carry the game for you most the time even if you’re a decent support. That’s my opinion anyways.

  8. Jigme Sonam

    Thank you so much! It’s my first time viewing your articles but know that I’ve been a fan a long time ago! It’s true support players have it hard but after hard work and dedication you’ll get what you deserve! After my 2 years as a support from my small country of Bhutan, people finally appreciate support players and gave even termed me as our country’s best since no one buys wards and courier willingly. Keep posting and I’ll keep reading! Thank you

  9. r9k

    I still miss the TI2 gold distribution that iG had, especially playing a Rhasta. You’d see Zhou go around moving with the team where ChuaN/Faith were left to flashfarm the lane with a level 3 Ether Shock at level 5.

    The current meta puts a lot of emphasis on the supports early but that emphasis generally fades out – depending on which supports you play. Some supports scale amazingly well into the later stages of the game, some still carry a lot of weight, but some are just done without item progression.

    That’s why you generally see s4 giving up farm to EGM (and occasionally Akke) instead of taking it himself – he knows that having sustenance and item progression on two, or possibly even three heroes, is larger than the one core having an additional item. The prolonged effect of this means that you keep the skill set of the supports available longer in teamfights if you enable a 4th position player to get a core Mek, an early Force Staff or even just a Bracer.

    The division of farm is an intricate line you as a team choose how to balance. Some teams are quite top heavy with, in the majority of cases, one core, where the two other core heroes are lagging behind as planned. You see Alliance picking three core heroes, but again, they only really put emphasis on the farm for Bulldog and Loda.

    As you (7ckingMad) said – the pace of the game is set by supports. However, if you take the (albeit old) LGD.int way of playing where they get Misery and 1437 off with Ench SD and just roam the entire earlygame – this is only to make your opponents feel like they were behind because the kills said otherwise.

    Perseverance (not the item, but the concept) is something a lot of teams lack. EG turned a game the other days against DTS2010 after dropping a Rapier (albeit because PotM got greedy). Against teams who showcase a dominant late game decision-making performance you often see teams snowball into making more mistakes when pressured. Quite noticably as well – and it’s far from always a forced mistake.

    However, if teams are confident enough in their ability to turn it around and have the right set of heroes to do just that – the support rotations do not always matter, it’s instead the general level of game sense in the team that has to overcome the mental pressure.

  10. Pingback: "The Support Role: Part 1 and 2" - 7ckngmad | dotakeys.us

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