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The support role II

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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.

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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 :

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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.

Decision making:

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!

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Reaction vs action:
    Back to the support role, reacting is even better than acting. It is also way harder to put in place, because it is always a gamble. It is important to analyze the risk and the reward. High risk and low reward actions should be banned from your play, especially when there is a lot at stake. The mindset of your opponent is very important because it directly influences their decision making. When I mentioned the respect between the two teams, it’s the exact same situation.
For the next article I will analyze one of my games, and explain the decision-making for the first 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how interesting it can be for you readers. Later on we’ll get to the mid-late game phase.  Remember, this is nothing but the opinion of a professional DotA2 player. I hope you had a nice read, see you for the next article!
Cheers!
PS : you can follow me on twitter, @7ckngMadDOTA. Do not hesitate to share feedbacks and comments.

11 Comments

October 2, 2013 · 8:18 pm

The laning phase

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Hello everyone ! The International is already over, I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did. Once again ValvE proved the community that their awesomeness has no limit. I don’t want to write about the event today, obviously I will be publishing articles on that topic later on this month… All I can say is how much I was sorry about our performance for the wildcard match. It was a huge disappointment for us, but in a good way. As would Dendi say, it is about learning to stand up again after falling.
As this blog’s aim isn’t (yet?) to share my opinion about the team, the scene or the results, I’ll go back to more in-game related topics ! And the one I want to discuss today is the laning phase.
What is the decision-making process behind the laning phase of the top teams  ? What is the best lane set-up and why ? What is the real impact of the lanes setup in a competitive match ?
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Before I jump  into further details, I’ll just give a quick description of what we, competitive players, call the ‘laning’. Once the draft is over, the 5 versus 5 match-up is final, it is then up to both teams to decide where they want to place their 5 heroes. The importance of those decisions is crucial, as it can heavily one team or the other for the next phases of the game. Here is a quick example : The draft made it obvious for team A & B that they will be facing each other’s trilanes, and have on the midlane and one of the sidelanes a 1 versus 1 matchup. Team A has two solo laners, OD & QoP, Team B has Prophet & Razor. The standard match up would be for OD and Razor to be mid, and Prophet & Qop on the sidelane. That would obviously favor team B, as Razor does great against OD, and same goes for NP vs Qop. But if the laning mindgame allows Team A to have the OD to face Prophet, and the Qop against Razor, then the outcome is completely reversed..
For this article, I tried to classify the different laning styles amongst the top teams. I’ll just start by the first one :
The ALL-IN-LANES style : ( example old : Empire line-up : Goblak, Scandal, Blowyourbrain, Silent, Funn1k, or Liquid nowadays )
This style consists in wining in a very convincing fashion the laning stage. The drafter has almost nothing else in mind when he does the picking. The outcome of it doesn’t really matter, as long as they end up with favorable match-ups in all of the lanes. This kind of team often end up forcing a 3vs3 situation, as the most easy lane wins to predict are the 1vs1 situation. Their 5-man line-up usually do not make lots of sense, as they plan to capitalize on their early game gold & xp lead to extend it. They do not necessarily need to win the three lanes, two are way enough. They even accept to give away small disadvantage on one of those ( trading even on the trilane, or even giving away few kills to the enemy ), as long as their solo laners are doing great. Indeed, they understand that the heroes with the biggest experience on the map are having a perfect game, and their impact later on will most likely secure them the victory.
Strength : It doesn’t allow the opponent to stick to what they had in mind during the draft
Weakness : It relies a lot on early game execution, and requires a total control and prediction of the enemy’s moves in early game
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 Here is an example of this type of drafts : Razor safelane will dominate the offlane Furion, CW mid is great against a Magnus, and the offensive trilane is very solid. The synergy of the draft as a whole is yet to be determined, but Liquid will capitalize on their strong lane performance to win that best of one.
The RIGHT-BALANCE style : ( example : Alliance )
This style is the most common one, as it also is the safest. It consists in keeping the right balance between solid lanes that can’t get completely crushed and a 5-man line-up that actually allows the team to stick to a pre-defined gameplan. The drafts are then very standard, kind of predictable as well. Depending on how much ‘greedy’ the pick is, the pressure can be reported on the enemy. A kotl + pl pick might force them to try something new, for instance.
Strength : The risk of failing is very reduced, as nothing ‘crazy’ is tried. The pressure is usually on the opponent’s side.
Weakness : Easily readable, wether it is in early, or in mid game.
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 Very standard Alliance draft, their safelane is very scary : visage / kotl / lancer, not so easy to contest. Clockwerk mid is solid and pretty defensive, and furion is one of the best offlaner in the game. It is quite hard to find a weakness in their laning, and prevent them from farming early on. Nevertheless, the np + kotl + pl combo will allow them to apply constant map pressure and to split farm.
The LANES-DO-NOT-MATTER style : ( Example LGD.cn )
This style almost disappeared nowadays, it is very old school. The main explication for that is that the execution and innovation has highly increased over the past few years. Weak laning is now heavily punished, and the gold & xp disadvantage caused requires an insane level of teamfight execution in order to come back even into the game. The drafter in this case almost exclusively thinks of the 5-man line-up, wether it is to have insane teamfight abilities, or to be able to apply global pressure on the map, etc… The laning is then decided very standardly, farm will be given on the item-dependent hero, xp to the xp-dependent heroes, etc. Usually it ends up with the 1-1-3 laning.
Strength : Stronger mid-game in almost every case
Weakness : The outcome of the early game exclusively depends on the enemy’s moves.
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Again, very standard LGD.cn draft. They basically send two melee solos, without even considering the match up they will get. Which almost ensures them to lose two lanes already. Nevertheless, their teamfight and late game potential with the magnus / tidehunter / alchi combination is extremely scary, and will allow them to dominate all the teamfights, even though they play from behind. They will eventually end up wining the game.
It is now up to you to examinate which laning style is the most interesting, some counters each others, etc…
One thing though is common to all, they are predictable. I do miss the NaVi 2012, where no one could ever predict the lanes they would go for. That made them very very strong, and made it so hard for any team to draft against them. This time looks to be over, but maybe it is on its way back, who knows guys =D
I hope you had a nice read, cheers, and see you for the next one!

12 Comments

August 21, 2013 · 9:06 pm