Kieeeeeeeeeeeeeev ! So we made it to the Starladder VII Lan finals yesterday with different standins. It feels good after the disappointment of Minsk (although the event & the people there were wonderful). FATA- will hopefully be ready to play again soon, and then we can finally continue building this team. Playing with standins, even with top-class players, is always different. The motivation just isn’t the same, and the coordination is in almost all the cases very poor.
The Support Role:
So the article today, as mentioned in the previous one, will highlight once again the Support Role in competitive DotA2 games. I will try to go deeper in the analysis this time around, but it should be obvious to everyone that it is impossible to cover everything, it has to be step by step, article after article as the subject is immensely large. The first thing to emphasize is that there are different ways to play support. It’s not about finding a hierarchy between them; they all have their advantages and all highly depend on the playstyle of the team the support player plays in. A very quick example of that would be supports like EGM or Akke that prioritize their team mates situation and shutting down the opponent. Whereas other support players, undoubtedly as skilled and talented, like ARS-ART or Goblak will rather focus on getting early levels and farm, in order to have more impact in the mid-late game.
So as you probably understood, in this article I will share my vision of supporting, which I of course believe to be the right one, else I wouldn’t play the way I play…
The importance of early game:
First of all, the most important, the absolutely crucial phase of the game for support players is the early game. It has to be clear in everybody’s mind, really. Early game defines the pace of the game, at least that is true in the current meta-game. I can’t think of a team that emphasizes more on mid-game line-ups than on laning stage & early movement, 95% of the game are decided in the beginning of the match. My explanation is that the Gold & Experience vision helped DotA to change. This is a topic that has been discussed in previous articles by the way.
Playing support is about being able to adapt your positioning and decision-making fast and live. Therefore, everyone will easily understand that the best asset of a support player is his experience playing support, but not only. A support player has also to understand, at least equally, the other roles. A very basic example is the following: a rotation to gank the opponent’s mid-laner will never be successful if you have no idea of the runes / lane push timings.
The search for gold & experience :
Well, this has to be an important point of focus. If we follow the logic, in order to have the strongest early-game impact, the faster you get levels & start gold on supports: the better. But this is true to a certain extent. Indeed, the main enemy for support players is the clock. Every second is important. Try to stay passive 1-2 minute as a support and you’ll quickly understand that unless you pull out big plays, you are out of the game. The art of supporting is being able to, with minimal means, have a huge impact. But let’s go back to what I started to explain about using your time correctly. Concretely: getting level 3-4 with jungle pools is kind of fast, it will take more or less 2 minute of your time, maximum. Getting level 6 is actually way harder, simply because of the way experience scales in DotA. My personal advice would be to never keep on pulling and stacking after level 4, it’s really a waste of time, and it is only justified in few cases.
As a support player, you will be, or should be, setting the rhythm of the game. The main aim is to force your opponent to play your game. Then you will probably ask, how do I know what is the right move, the right strategy? Well, it’s obviously a hard question. You have to keep on analyzing what path the game is taking at a specific moment. You should also have beforehand analyzed both draft, and draw conclusions on those.
Let’s suppose that the opponent is running a 4 protect 1 strategy. You then understand, as well as your enemy, that if you manage to pressure their 1, you will push them out of their comfort zone, and force them to react to your in-game decisions. You will then have to make the plays, as a support, and it requires no farm/experience what so ever. I will prove it, because this is something support players need to integrate, the desperate search for xp & gold is a waste of time in 95% of the cases, and as I pointed out earlier, time is your main opponent. So I am a support, very low level, and I want to pressure the opponent’s carry who already got solid farm, and is additionally protected by his two support players. What can I do? One reaction could be to keep on stacking, try to get level 6, or blink dagger/w-e. Well, one way, but that is just one amongst others, would be to single pull, stack two waves and then pressure the opponent’s offlane towers. This will force their supports to rotate, defend, and will weaken their safelane. This required nothing but an analysis and a decision following it, it is doable with boots, without boots, with ultimate or without.
The point I am trying to make is actually simple, supporting is about macro-vision, not micro. Once you understood that, be aware that you are on the right way, and your support play will improve. There is nothing wrong with making bad decisions, you learn from your failures. What is, though, really problematic for a support player, is the incapacity to take decisions.
In-game sense and anticipation:
Another aspect of support play I want to highlight in this article is the following : the capacity to anticipate your opponent’s movement is probably the strongest asset for a support player. Indeed, attacking succesfully your opponent is always good : take a tower, gank and kill a solo-laner, force a teamfight and win it, etc… But what’s even more impactful on a game is to react properly and punish agressive movements. You basically achieve two things at the same time, not only you proceed to win a fight, or kill heroes, but you also force them to waste all the efforts they put into what they attempted. I could also add to that the fact that proving to your enemy that you can easily read his decisions is also huge. It will most likely dissuade him from trying risky moves, which is always good. The respect that exists between the two teams is a huge factor in DotA, whether you fear, underate or just dont know much about your opponent changes your gameplay completely, and some players (the most experienced ones usually) know really well how to use that to their advantage. But that will have to be the topic of an upcoming article!