“Have you ever tried to support the team properly?”

Supporting has been the hardest role in Dota since the ancient times. If you’re not passionate and selfless, you can’t support – go pick baby Ursa and make rampages. When you become a true, “pure” support – you will start loving it. Supporting is marijuana.

Dota 2: How to Support Like a Professional - Guide

Yup. Behind every great carry, there’s a great support.

First, let me tell you that there are different meta in Dota 2. For each meta, supporting picks and techniques differ because hero drafts change. For example, you’ll never see Bane, Io, or Phoenix in low MMR brackets. Good Rubick and Oracle players make entry even later. Anyway, the art of supporting is the same nevertheless.

I’m a support player since a year. I started with support and continued my journey. So let me give you one tip: Supporting is tough. You will be badmouthed (especially if you play in the SEA 2k Hell — check my article about escaping 2k), you can’t kill as you please, you will need to sacrifice your own life, your gold goes into making items for your team’s enhancement, wards, and the initial courier.

But. If you support like a pro, you can make your team win. Your team won’t need to go to fountain after teamfights. Your team won’t be ganked. Your team will gank enemies like hell. Your carries will never run out of HP, mana, or motivation because they know you’re there to freaking give your own life to support them. As a support, the chance of getting commends is too damn high.

Know the heroes

There are many support heroes. Because they’re not primarily meant for fighting and they can die easily, most supports are ranged – so that they can attack from a distance. They have pretty good attack range too, and most of them are intelligence-based because of mana needs.

Here are some typical supports you see in battles: Lion, Dazzle, Earthshaker, Witch Doctor, Shadow Shaman, Jakiro, Omniknight, Crystal Maiden, Pugna, Lich, Ogre Magi, Treant Protector, Oracle, Rubick, Io, Phoenix, etc.

Dota 2: How to Support Like a Professional - Guide

Dazzle is one of the most played support heroes. At the same time, not everyone can play him well. A good Dazzle game is a sure commend.

Let’s get frank. Some support heroes are worse than others. For example, Vengeful Spirit can’t support better than Witch Doctor in any scenario. Venomancer is a crap support. Lina is better as a carry than she’s as a support. Shadow Demon players need to rethink the purpose of their lives. In contrary, Ogre Magi and Omniknight are better for easier gameplay.

Semi-supports:

Semi-supports aren’t purely for supporting. Getting kills is part of their job. They mostly depend on stuns, high damage, or tankiness/durability. Some best examples are Tidehunter (not classified as a support), Vengeful Spirit, Bane, Necrophos, etc. So why use them?

Semi-supports are generally good in roaming. They have stuns, disables, or they are durable (sometimes two of these). They can easily go to enemy jungle and ward. Just imagine that a CM goes to enemy jungle. 8/10 time she will die if there’s a jungler. If Bane goes enemy jungle, 5/10 chance he will return killing the jungler.

Dota 2: How to Support Like a Professional - Guide

Don’t mind if I overestimate Bane. He’s my favorite hero in all of Dota 2. Killing with him is so satisfying.

They can also help their teammates more with their abilities but they lack basic support skills like healing, buffing, and have a good enough damage to kill steal. You should only pick a semi if your team already has a pure.

Versus carries: Carries are more in numbers, and mostly strength and agility based.

Supporting for beginners

So you’re new and ready to support! Welcome to the team, brother. Without you that Sven will die 10 times. With you, just 5. Without you, he will kill 20. With you, 30. Ready to change the world?

I’d recommend these heroes for beginners:

  • Omniknight: doesn’t die easily. High kill and heal potential. Test out all his abilities in multiple scenarios before starting to play.
  • Ogre Magi: fabulous abilities, hard to kill, and funny.
  • Dazzle: the perfect support in my opinion. Easy to use, nice abilities, and his second skill can literally save anyone from death (except if your enemy is Axe).
  • Lion: needs a little practice, can die easily. However, overall Lion is a good support for building your confidence because you’ll be getting kills and farm easily.

In the beginning, you don’t have to support like a pro. If you’re a carry player, then the transition would be a bit hard. These are the steps, learn them one by one:

  1. Learn to avoid taking last hits on enemy creeps. Don’t kill enemy heroes if your carry can.
  2. Buy the courier at beginning. Upgrade it as soon as possible.
  3. Heal your carries as much as possible. Don’t run out of mana. Save some healing for teamfights or under-tower fights.
  4. Learn to deny your creeps. Learn about good ward points and always have at least 2 wards on map.
  5. Buy Sentry Wards and Dust of Appearance for enemy heroes. Sentries if your lane has a Riki, etc. It’s for early game true sight in a small area. Dust when your team is ganking, getting ganked, fighting together, pushing, etc.
  6. Learn to pull your creepwave using neutral camps. Learn to stack neutral camps.
  7. Set up kills for your carry. Use your disables – slow, stun, armor debuff, stop, poison, displacement, etc.
  8. Use Smoke of Deceit to gank. Always smoke at a remote place, so that enemies have no idea you’ve smoked.
  9. Have at least 3-4 wards in the map.
  10. Learn to deward. Place Sentries at choke points to deward.
  11. Optional: Carry a Gem of True Sight if necessary, or buy it for one of your teammates who’s dying the least.
  12. Use your gold to buy items for your team, not you.

Good support items:

Not all items fit well on all supports. For example, Crystal Maiden would never need Arcane Boots, she needs Tranquils much more. Still, here are a few pointers. Again, item builds change tremendously according to who you pick, the team drafts, gameplay, etc. This is just a primer for beginners.

  • Observer and Sentry Wards, Smoke of Deceit, Dust of Appearance, Courier, Flying Courier, Tangos and Clarities to share, etc. – these are a support’s friends.
  • Most heroes can heal their teammates using Mekansm.
  • Make Arcane Boots for mana problems. Not yours, your team’s.
  • Don’t make damage items on non-damage heroes. There was this classmate of mine. He made Desolator on Crystal Maiden. We’re no more friends. GG.
  • Make Magic Wand pretty soon.
  • Get Tranquils for squishy heroes as fast as possible.
  • Glimmer Cape is an awesome support item. It makes you or an ally invisible for 5 seconds (and 45% less immune to magic damage as well). This can be used to channel abilities without getting detected or to save a low-HP retreating ally.
  • Urn of Shadows is good for healing purposes, but only make it if you’re sure you’re going to collect charges without dying and there’s no one else with an Urn who’s going to fight as well. The nearest Urn takes the charge, so if your team’s Huskar, Pudge, Bounty Hunter, or someone else has one then there’s no point in your buying. He will be ahead of you and the heal charge (soul actually) will go to him. Good players would heal others with their Urn anyway.
  • Pipe of Insight, Crimson Guard, Guardian Greaves, Solar Crest, Boots of Travel, and finally Aghanim, Octarine Orb, etc. – think these as luxury items.
  • As a support, you need to survive on minimal resources, yet you have to stay alive. You can’t go into the battle front hand, so stay back until you have a nice item strategy (Crystal Maiden – Blink, Freezing Field, Ghost Scepter/Glimmer Cape until your team comes to wipe out any possible stunner).

Versus carries: Carries for beginners are plenty, and item choices are pretty different. Each carry focuses on increasing his own potential. Even if a carry buys Vladimir’s Offering (Lycan), Arcane Boots (Timbersaw), or Urn of Shadows (Pudge) – it’s for his own benefit.

Enemy abilities and prediction

Dota 2: How to Support Like a Professional - Guide

Learn to predict abilities — watch for cast animations, enemy playing style, etc.

A pro support knows the enemies better than the carries know. You need to be able to predict where that Jakiro will put his freezing Ice Path, you need to look out for cast animations – when that Ursa is going to launch into his Overpower frenzy, etc. If a Juggernaut is following your low-HP carry, you know he’s going to ultimate him out. Stay back and save yourself, you can’t save your carry anymore. If Legion Commander is on to you and catching up fast – stun her, go invisible, Shallow Grave yourself, do anything to avoid that deadly Duel because you are paper and you’ll give free damage to her. Not dying is your first lesson while playing pure supports.

That was mainly for you. As for team, know when the enemy can launch deadly ultimate spells, or how many silence or stun spells are in enemy’s arsenal. You can’t just let your team approach enemies when the enemy Witch Doctor is ready with his Death Ward. It’s your job to warn them. It’s your job to lure him. It’s your job to stun his Death Ward before it does any major damage.

Also, don’t launch your precious channeling abilities without thinking of enemy disables. Let them burn their stock of disables for a more peaceful channeling. Or use certain items like Glimmer Cape or Ghost Scepter.

Versus carries: Carries don’t need so much prediction. If they’re in full health without any debuffs, they’re even more careless. And why not, a Legion Commander won’t Duel a full-HP OD. That’s why carry life is easier: Just do your stuff. Kill, push, chase, repeat.

Having a map sense

As a support, map sense is your first weapon. You can’t afford to die: You will feed and you’re already short on gold unless your team is having lots of kills and push with your assistance. At the same time, you need to ward enemy junctions. You can’t be detected – I mean even a kid would suspect you warded their hill if you just went to the enemy jungle and they saw you while you made a u-turn.

Dota 2: How to Support Like a Professional

Pudge is a paper support’s worst nightmare. You need excellent map sense to avoid him. It’s pretty easy actually.

Then there’s Pudge. Map sense is really necessary to avoid Meat Hooks, Timber Chains, Duels, Sacred Arrows, etc.

You also need to know what paths can the enemy take. When can they be in Roshan’s pit? When are they planning a gank? For all this you need an excellent map sense.

So what is map sense? Let’s take an example. You give a recipe of a dish to a chef who’s been cooking for 20 years and a college going student doing Master’s in English Literature. Who would cook tastier and faster? The chef, yep. Why? Cooking sense.

Versus carry: So a carry and support both have the same map, the same vision with wards, the same enemy information. But you, my friend, you need to have a higher sense about everything – the geography, the enemy mindset, common pitfalls and strategies of Dota, enemy skills and how can they be used to defeat you – think like your enemy to kill your enemy. (Help kill your enemy, actually. No KS.)

Warding and Dewarding

Warding is your religion when playing Dota as a support. Everybody experiences troubles in the beginning, so I’ll outline my journey.

  • You buy wards in beginning and try to place them at both rune spots. Then you forget about the existence of wards.
  • You buy wards every once a while or when an ally curses you.
  • You buy wards more frequently and place them at those high hills.
  • You never let wards collect in the shop. You buy Observers the moment they’re off cooldown/in stock. You always have one or two Observer and Sentry Wards. You place them as your team pushes further. (At higher MMR levels, however, it’s recommended to not keep buying wards. It gives enemies information and they can track you back to know where you could’ve warded, just buy a ward when you need to place it.)
  • You ward their jungle, you ward their base, you deward your jungle, you deward rune spots, you place wards in tricky places based on enemy mindset.
  • You place your wards so intelligently that the enemies can’t deward you. You ward based on how the game is progressing. You ward around your next targets — a tower, the Rosh pit, the Dire jungle, etc.
  • The pinnacle of warding: You feel terrible because wards are out of stock, you feel like “God, I don’t need 10 kills, just give me 10 more wards and I’ll be the happiest person on Earth.” You feel like warding the whole freaking map. When you reach this point – you can have your cookies.

Ward spots:

I don’t believe in fixed spots. Rune spots are necessary, but you can ward rune spots in multiple ways, so just imagine how many options are available for jungle warding.

Basically if you’re winning, go deeper and deeper. If you’re retreating and defending, put wards around your base and jungle. As you play and ward more and more, you’d know which places are good for revealing information. Nothing comes without practice. Place your sentries in tricky locations. I learned that by watching warding tutorials on YouTube, there are plenty and you must try them.

Information is power. Just having information about enemy’s presence and absence can help you in ganks, Roshan killing, pushing, split pushing, defending, teleporting, etc., and finally winning.

Dota 2: How to Support Like a Professional - Guide

Still, read this DOTABUFF article for a rough idea about ward spots (just … avoid the comments section maybe). There are some images outlining ward spots on the internet, but after the 6.86 terrain upgrades, they’re most likely out of commission so avoid them.

Dewarding:

Dewarding means using Sentry Wards (or Gem) to remove enemy wards. Sometimes you’ll find your allies unnecessary ganked when they went to your own jungle. Sometimes your invisible heroes are still getting detected and hit. Whenever you cross the river from rune site for ganking the enemy Invoker, he retreats back and you come back fruitlessly. All these situations mean the enemy has eyes on you.

You need to use your experience and intuition to figure out where they could’ve placed their ward. Mostly, it’s one of those high grounds so it’s easy. That’s why you need to place wards in tricky places, so that the enemy can’t deward you easily.

Versus carries: Carries don’t ward. Sometimes they do, like it’s better to buy Pudge some wards to help him hook at mid. But YOU should buy wards, always. Even if you have 5 wards (well actually if you have 3 or more in your inventory stashed there just like that – you’re doing it wrong) you can still give one ward to an ally. Press Ctrl and click on the wards, then click on the ally. Only one ward will be transferred.

Feed your carry: good laning practices

The laning phase pretty much sets up the field of war. In the laning phase, you have to feed your carry like a baby. How?

Dota 2: How to Support Like a Professional - Guide

Set up easy kills for your carry. Use your disables and move beyond the disabled enemy in case he tries to escape. Physically block if need be.

  • Set up kills for your carry.
  • Let him last hit. You just deny your creeps to decrease enemy XP gain.
  • Stack camps for him.
  • Pull creeps into neutral camps to deny the enemies a lot of XP.
  • Ward paths that the enemies can use to roam and gank your carry.
  • Use Dust of Appearance or Sentry Wards for revealing invisible enemies. It’s your job, not the carry’s, to provide true sight in early to mid game.
  • Don’t block your carry.
  • Heal and buff him as much as possible.
  • Go out of lane to roam, ward, help someone else, etc. whenever your lane is safe. If there’s just your carry farming on the lane, the XP gained won’t be divided between you and him. In other words, he will level up faster if you’re not in lane.
  • Share Tangoes and Clarities.
  • Do anything possible to keep him in lane and not retreat to fountain.

Smoke, Couriers, stacking, placing ultimates

Smoking:

Smoke ganks are exceptionally powerful. If you’re beginning, don’t even think about prioritizing stuff like these until you’ve mastered the other lower level things. However, for the interested people, here’s it.

  • Smoke basically makes all allies in a 1200 AoE invisible – enemy creeps and Observer Wards won’t break the invisibility. However, enemy heroes and towers in 1025 range will break it.
  • You can move invisibly, 15% faster, for a total of 35 seconds by using one small Smoke ball.
  • It’s good for going past enemy Observer Wards, creeps, etc., and land a surprise attack.
  • Smoke can also be used for solo kill, but it’s mostly used for ganks.
  • Keep in mind that the enemies know about Smoke. Always Smoke in a way, time, and place so that enemies have no idea you all are Smoked.
  • You can trick them by going to Roshan’s pit, they might have a ward on the cliff there. There, you Smoke and leave the pit.
  • Always carry a Smoke when you anticipate a possible gank situation from your end.

Couriers:

Good support players buy the courier at the beginning. They also upgrade the courier to Flying Courier at the 3-minute mark.

Stacking:

Stacking means increasing the amount of neutral creeps in jungle camps so that your carries have more creeps to kill at those camps. You should hit a creep in a neutral camp at around 53 seconds of any minute. Neutral creeps spawn every minute.

As they follow you, take them out of their spawn box (it’ll take a bit of time to figure out the boxes – you can either click on an Observer Ward to reveal them or toggle “Alt shows neutral spawn boxes” option in settings, in key bindings). All camps have different boxes and the speed of creeps also varies. So, timing might change for some camps.

You need a lot of practice for successful stacking. You can also dual or triple stack – passing through camps one by one and getting their creeps out.

As long as the creeps are out of their spawn box, and the timer hits 00 seconds (like 23:00 or 45:00), new creeps will spawn there. Those following you will also go back after a fixed distance, thus the creeps in the camp stack up.

Dota 2: How to Support Like a Professional - Guide

Okay I admit this is a bit overoptimistic. Still, check the vide where it happened!

Placing ultimates:

Support ultimates are hugely effective. You should be extra cautious so that you help your team the most with your ultimate. For example, you never want to waste a Death Ward, Guardian Angel, or Freezing Field. On the other hand, don’t hesitate using Weave even if there’s only two allies with you (low cooldown, low mana). As for Lion, remember to use your Finger of Death at the appropriate time, and make sure you don’t KS as long as a carry can still kill the enemy.

You’ll learn the importance of placing good ultimates as you practice more and more with supports.

Carry supports: Why you should murder them

Finally – there are some players who pick supports and play like a carry. I have seen countless examples. In a recent match, an Omniknight went carry. We lost, obviously. I was supporting with Lion. If he would’ve picked a carry and then carried, we could’ve won. Supports don’t scale in carrying potential, so if you don’t support with a support hero, in the late game it’s a game of 4 vs 5. Some common examples: CM, Lion, WD, etc. making Agh first. No ward, no heal, just KS or solo kills.

A support with carry items in late game is dead weight.

Well, they are also human beings so don’t get mad at them. You can deal with these situations pretty easily:

  1. The first thing you should do when you see a support player making Aghanim as first item, or using their ultimate to get kills while not buying healing items, wards, etc. is to ask for their address.
  2. Once you get the address, ask for some money from me.
  3. I’ll pay you as much as it takes to buy a knife and bear the travel cost (money conversion rates will be as they are on 24/06/16 02:18AM GMT+5:30).
  4. You go to their home.
  5. You take out your knife.
  6. You slit their throat with your knife.
  7. You come back.
  8. Thank you.

In the end, here’s a little music video I’d like you to hear. It’s about wards, by Fwosh (a parody of Sugar by Maroon 5 actually). The voice is almost like that of Crystal Maiden.

So that was all I had to say for today’s short guide. (short? really?) What are your views on my guide on “How to Support Like a Professional”? Of course it wasn’t perfect, so what other things should I have added?

Keep in touch with Spiel Times for more gaming, technology and esports related information, news and stuff.

  • MandyBoy

    “Shadow Demon players need to rethink the purpose of their lives.”

    I lost my shit right there. You can not play a hero, does not mean the hero is shit. Period.

    Don’t get me wrong. But hey, this is a guide, right? Not some fluff material.

    Overall, a decent article.

    In tips section, you forgot to remind every support to carry a tp 2-3 minute onwards. A TP rotation while your offlaner is getting dived can save his/her life and can also turn the tide of the battle.

    Also, getting a ghost scepter is often times a lifesaver against high physical damage dealers.

    Ahh, another awesome support item – force staff. Essential against Rikis and Clockwerks. And nice to have against carries that can be kited around (Ursa, Lifestealer etc).

    And from my understanding of the game, position five support (or, pure supports, as you call them) is distinguished from semi-supports not by damage output, durability, or disables etc. It is solely dependable on the amount of farm a hero needs to become optimally effective at a certain part of the game.

    Just my two cents.

    • Abhimanyu

      Sorry I was out so I couldn’t reply to this here. First off, SD is a hero I love to play, and one of the first heroes I played without recommendation. This article compares supports relatively, so I was comparing. This is what I meant: “If I think what support hero should I pick to help my team,” a many other heroes cross my mind before SD. If I need to selflessly support and not harass/get kills, SD and Veno would never be appropriate and that’s what I meant. I should’ve included this, but that was meant to be good humor, not some kind of self-inexperience being reflected “I can’t play SD, so let’s call him names” — it was never my intention. I am really sorry.

      Carrying TPs and Force Staff is something I truly appreciate you reminding me of. I totally forgot, thanks, and will add them. I have talked plenty about the usefulness of the Ghost Scepter.

      And that’s your opinion about the real purpose of pure supports, while according to me a pure support is different from a semi in the way that it can get kills easily. Bane gets kills early game easily, especially when he actively rotates to mid regularly. Tide is more effective late game, Necrophos is not. So I am not sure how can you classify them all as semi if your criteria is their effectiveness time period.