How to: Support on the lane.

19 Oct

I have stopped playing Heroes of Newerth. I stopped playing because of a combination of things; my friends stopped playing and decided to play DotA2 instead (even though it had “lame delay and turning” – people are funny), S2 Game released a skin (purchased only through currency bought with real money) that very closely resembled a World of Warcraft’s Sea Giant, and the general attitude of the playerbase on the forums.

As a result I now play DotA2 (after a long hiatus away from DotA-clones playing League of Legends).

I have decided to start talking about MOBAs again. Before it was HoN-specific, now it’s going to be general MOBA philosophy.

About Me

I have played MOBAs for a while. I am not in a team. I am not the best player in X category. I am a decent/average player. What I am is someone who enjoys reading forums. I like researching other people’s guides. I like observing and reflecting. As a result the knowledge I do have comes from careful consideration of everything that’s been told to me and my own personal experiences. I know my weaknesses and shortcomings, and I will be honest about them. I will not give false information. As a result, my first guide will be about something I am very comfortable with. How to Lane as a Support during The Early Game of a MOBA (DotA2/DotA/HoN). My guides will be based off DotA and HoN knowledge. I will be writing with consideration of random-public-matchmaking setups.

What hero to pick to support?

There is a common misconception that if a hero is an Intellect hero, they are instantly a support. That isn’t necessarily true. As the statement goes “Any hero can (potentially) carry”, same can be said for supporting. Just some heroes are more effective at supporting than others.

The best summary of a support hero is “The hero on the team that requires the least amount of farm to be effective”. A hero that has a lot of passives and very little “activated” damage (damage spells) is never really a support. As that hero needs +damage items to become more useful.

Lets do a list of attributes that make a hero less suitable to support. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support. Just the more of these your hero has, the less suitable you are to support. Some points have bigger weights than others

1) As stated above, a hero that is more auto-attack reliant compared to others. Often with passives or none/low damaging abilities Examples (Furion, Moonqueen, Phantom Assassin, Sandwraith etc. (Having an auto-attack effect doesn’t excuse you from supporting. Venomancer/Slither, Pyromancer, Jakiro etc…’s on-attack affect makes them excellent harassers on the lane)

2) Casted abilities with a low cooldown/channeled damage pulses. Heroes like Torturer, Queen of Pain/Wretched Hag, Soul Reaper/Necrolyte are examples. The longer they stay alive, the more damage they deal. The fact they deal damage frequently means that they’ll cast more times in a team fight than say a hero with a 12 second cooldown ability.

3) Good prime stat gain. Every time your hero levels up, their stats increase. Some heroes have a higher stat increase per level than others. Your prime stat (the stat type of your hero) will increase your auto attack damage. High auto-attack damage = Higher auto-attack carrying (auto attack damage scales much better than activated abilities).

4) Good “attack animation”. This basically makes it easier to last hit and get farm on the lane. The hero with the “best” animation has an advantage with last hitting for gold or for denying.

Now this is a list of factors that have little affect on if you’re suitable to support:

1) Being melee or ranged. The range of your auto attacks is balanced based off the range of your abilities or end-game auto attack strength. If you’re melee, either you have a lot of ranged abilities/a single powerful ranged ability (Abaddon/Accursed, Ogre Magi/Blacksmith, Behemoth/Earthshaker etc…) or have very high end-game carry presence (Sandwraith/Spectre, Antimage/Magebane etc…)

2) Having the ability to heal an amount. Healing is a supportive aspect to a hero. But so is slowing, stunning, buffing, debuffing etc… Look at the hero as a whole before putting them in a box. Compare Necrolyte/Soul Reaper with Demented Shaman/Dazzle. Both have AoE Heals which also damage. The difference is that Dazzle has an ability that snares a single target with an occasional stun, with an ability to prevent a death on an ally and an AoE Armour buff for allies and debuff for enemies. Necrolyte has a passive that gives him regen when he kills something, an AoE ticking damage aura, and an Ultimate that deals more damage the fewer hp the target has (a killing finisher). Dazzle is designed to be a pusher who is equally offensive and defensive with his supportive move set. Necrolyte is a pusher that is designed to kill and stay alive. Necrolyte’s healing aspect is more suited for healing his creep wave or to supply a bit of team-support in fights.

3) Hero stat type. Supports can be Strength, Agility or Intellect. The only thing that this affects is possibly the type of items built to support, skill set and playstyle. Int supports often are casting focused, Agility debuff/buff offensive focused, and strength is durability focused. Likewise you have Strength, Agility and Int supports, you have Strength, Agility and Int carries and gankers.

Starting Items

Courier, Mana Pot, Health Pot (for rapid healing) and Tangos/Runs of Blight. Fill the rest of your slots with Minor Totems/Twigs for the stats.

If you want to play a more auto-attacky harassment playstyle, focus more on stat items and less on consumables.

I prefer the first choice because it gives me better sustain on the lane. It lets me cast more and survive skirmishes (running out of sight/range and chugging a health pot is a life-saver). If you have healing spells, you don’t want to rely too much on them for sustain. Their effective healing is not good at low ranks. Also, they tend to be more effective mid-fight. They either have an offensive aspect to them, or they bait your enemy to be more reckless.

Which lane?

Supports often go in two lanes (rarely do they go on the mid lane. They can win mid, but you have to choose the right support hero to capitalise on the gold and exp advantage).

The two lanes are: Short and Long.

Long lane is your lane that goes along your jungle. It is the safest lane to be on due to access points.

Short lane is the lane on the otherside. It passes your ancients. It is a dangerous lane because it is very exposed to your enemy’s jungle, and the river.

Usually the long lane is the defensive farm lane. The Short lane is the aggressive ganking lane or much more defensive lane.

How to Short Lane

Keep a ward giving sight of the rune. If you can, get the ward to show more information by choosing a ledge carefully.

Use a ward to block the enemy’s “pull camp”. It’s the enemy jungle’s creep camp closest to their tower which can be aggroed onto the lane. The jungle creeps will kill off the enemy’s creepwave giving you less potential exp and gold. It also gives them the chance to attack a jungle camp without worrying about aggro. It also pulls the creepwave tug-of-war closer to their tower. Therefore it is important that you keep the camp from spawning with a ward. The camp first spawns at 0:30 and then at every x:00. If you miss the first spawning still ward it. It will prevent them from stacking (I will cover this later on the Long Lane). It’s best if you place that ward so it gives you more vision (vision of the enemy’s jungle entrance or of the enemy’s lane behind their tower).

Your aim on this lane is to kill the enemy or severely affect their ability to get farm. You will often be against the enemy’s carry. Do your best to ‘lock the carry down’. Also don’t die. Through out any MOBA avoid dying. Gives the enemy gold and exp and sends you out of action for a period of time. Time that could be spent helping allies, getting exp, getting gold, stuff etc.

Be aware of the enemy mid trying to gank you. They can come from the enemy jungle or river. Be aware of enemies from your long lane coming to gank you. If you annoy enemies enough on your short lane, you may cause enemy heroes to come as reinforcements. This is good as it means your team mates on the other lanes are now having an easier time/able to push.

How to Long Lane

Ward the rune spot, whilst giving your good defensive vision.

Before 0:30, check that they enemy aren’t themselves trying to ward-block your camp.

Now for talking about the pull camp. As mentioned for the Short Lane, pulling a jungle camp into your lane to aggro your creep is a good thing. It denies the enemy exp, gold and pull the lane towards your tower (where it’s more defensive and safer). For the best effect of this trick, you need to stack the camp at least once. Stacking is when you cause the camp to respawn whilst the original camp is still alive. This “doubles” the creeps in the camp. Double jungle creeps mean more effective creep-pulling. A double or triple stack camp can kill and entire wave.

So how do you stack?

Aggro the jungle camp at 0:55 and run away, kiting them. As long as nothing blocks the camp (a creep of any faction, corpse, device, ward), the camp will spawn again. Let the original aggrod mobs run back to the camp, and you now have a “double stack”. You can do this again in till you have a “triple stack”. Even if you don’t use this camp to pull, it’s still a good practise to do. If a carry has an ability to kill many targets at once, they’ll be able to generate a lot more gold and exp by killing a triple stack as opposed to a single stack in effectively the same time. Some heroes like Axe/Legionnaire benefit by being attack by more targets, so will clear a camp much faster.

So how do you pull?

This relies on judgement. When you creep wave is effectively diagonal from the camp, you aggro the jungle camp into your lane. Being ranged is more forgiving as you can aggro the camp at ranged (a melee must waddle up to it and then run. Any slight delay as a melee could mess it up). Your creep wave will start attacking the jungle creeps. The Jungle creeps will “reset their leash” and return back to their camp, taking your creep wave with you. Enjoy free last hits/denying.

There are draw backs. Your lane is now missing a creep wave. This does pull back the lane, to your favour. But this does risk the enemy creeps fighting too close to the tower [this happens when you creep pull with a single (not) stack.] The tower has undone your work and pushes the lane away from it. Or one has to take the enemy creeps back towards your base in till it meets your next creep wave. This potentially leaves the tower vulnerable from another enemy wave. The enemy could also respond to what’s happened and sneak round to attempt a gank behind your tower. This is possible if one of the enemy heroes has a stun ability. So use your judgement.

Judge when to pull (comes with practise. If you still don’t get it, try asking your team)

Judge if you should pull

Judge if you should pull with 2 stacked camp.

I generally pull if the lane’s creeps are fighting a distance away from the tower.

A hidden advantage of doing this is that you spend time off the lane. This is initially bad as it means you’ll fall behind on exp… but…

a) The enemy doesn’t truly know where you are (in less they’ve warded), so don’t know if you’re going to initiate an attack or if you’re roaming elsewhere on the map.

b) Your partner gets the exp you would have got. Effectively giving your partner a level advantage at the expense of your own. Supports are quite self-sacrificing for their carries (DON’T DIE THOUGH).

Now, that’s the differences between the two lanes done, lets discuss about what you need to do on either lane.

DON’T LAST HIT THE ENEMY CREEPS – Let your lane partner get them instead. Your job is to keep your lane partner alive and in a position to score last hits on enemy creep. Last hitting gives the player gold. You’re the least item dependant hero on your team, it’s counter intuitive to “steal” them. You can last hit if you’re the only one on your lane, or if you know your partner won’t be able to get it.

Deny your own creeps – By holding “a” on your keyboard and attacking an allied unit that is below 50%, you’ll start attacking it. Why is this good? Because by you denying-last-hitting it, you prevent the enemy from last hitting it themselves. Also, any enemy heroes nearby get a reduced exp gain from a deny [ranged heroes get a bigger reduction than melee (balance reasons)]. Also, you’re subtly pulling the lane back to your tower.

Keep your partner alive – Don’t give your enemy free exp/gold from a hero kill. If your partner is able to stay on the lane for longer, they’ll get more exp and potentially more gold. It also builds trust which is very important for pub-play. It’s comforting knowing that a player you’ve just met, has your back. It lets you play with more confidence.

Harass – There are two methods of harassing on a lane. Auto-attack or casting. Auto-attacking is harassment by right clicking the enemy hero and attacking them. Casting harassment is using spell casts to harass. Sometimes the two come together if one of your casts has a stun/snare/slow to it. Melee supports often are heavily reliant on casting to harass since they can be up against enemy ranged heroes. Walking up to a ranged hero to melee-harass them is risky as it leaves you vulnerable and allows the ranged heroes a chance to harass you back. Be careful when auto-attack harassing because you will aggro the enemy’s creeps. When you attack an enemy hero with auto-attacking you will cause any nearby enemy creeps to attack you instead. This can be used as an advantage. When you aggro enemy creeps, you can ‘pull them’ towards your tower, subtly pulling the lane back.

Cast-Harassing (in depth)

I’ve decided to talk about this in its own sub-heading because it’s a broad topic. It’s more than “I cast to harass”. There are many variables and factors to consider.

1) Rank 2 is often the rank most heroes start to cast-harass. This is when your spell becomes more mana-efficient. Leaving it till rank 3 means you’re level 5 and it’s going to be too late. Rank 1 and you won’t do as much damage. The other advantage of waiting till rank 2, is that you will also have another ability (to follow up with if needed) or +2 stats (for a few supports). If using a specific hero guide, refer to that about when to start harassing with casts. Some heroes can cast harass at level 1 (Zeus/Thunderbringer as an example. Though they are generally mid heroes. All heroes have to consider their harassment ability. It’s not just supports who can and should harass).

2) Some cast-harassment heroes have awful attack ranged, and expensive casts. Therefore these heroes (Andromeda/Vengeful Spirit, Earthshaker/Behemoth etc.) are either played in a tri-lane (I have little experience of this playstyle), play with an aggressive lane partner (where they can have an easy time scoring kills) or roam. I have no experience of roaming during the laning phase, but it’s basically you’re the lane partner for all three lanes. It’s your job to cause ganks to happen and to kill.

3) A hero like Abaddon/Accursed can cast a damage shield on an ally creep. The shield will detonate when it absorbs all its damage and cause AoE damage. Dark Seer’s Ion has the same idea.

4) Exploit enemies with bad positioning. If an enemy is too close to a tower, out of the way in a vulnerable place, or about to aggro your own creeps then take this chance to leap. If your partner joins you, you will certainly get a kill or wound the enemy severely. If the enemy is trying to tower dive you, disabling them near the tower would give you an advantage. Dazzle/Demented  can heal their creeps when the enemy is next to them. Dem/Daz’s chain heal does damage in a small aoe around the target that gets heal. Given the chain heals up to 5 targets, that’s a lot of damage. This can really hurt a player who made a mistake.

5) If using AoE spells, hit as many enemy heroes as possible. You’ll get more for your mana if you can hit all the enemy heroes on your lane. Failing that, hit your key target.

6) Try to not push the lane through cast harassing. If you have AoE spells, try to hit as fewer enemy creeps as possible. This will cause the lane to be pushed.

7) If you have to hit enemy creeps to cast harras, try to last hit. Harassment on the lane phase is about making your harassment worthwhile. If you’re going to have to spend mana and push the lane, at least getting gold for your cast makes it worth it.

8) Use the shadows as much as you can. Hide out of line of sight and cast from the shadows. Enemy players are more likely to react to skill-shot abilities being cast if they see you. By casting from the shadows they have less of a warning. You may catch them by surprise. Very useful for target-area AoEs. For target direction it is also useful, but you can also exploit the direction enemy players are running in. Use the shadows for auto-attack harassment. This helps reduce the likelihood the enemy will be able to ‘”return” your harassment. Make sure you don’t get blocked off from your lane. Also keep an eye out for being flanked.

If the enemy lane is too dangerous to harass then don’t try. Play super defensively. No use feeding the enemies on the lane. You’ll just make the lane harder. Request help from your team. Double stun combos are often painful.

And then…

You hopefully have a carry with a decent farm. The best thing you can do is ensure that your partner has the best start in the game.

What you do next is… for a different guide. Either a guide I have yet written or someone else’s. You keep warding (at the appropriate place at the appropriate time), you keep your team alive, you keep your carry farming effectively, you do things. I hope my guide is helpful. I didn’t expect it to be so long, but apparently there’s a lot to know when playing a support early game. To play a support well, you need to understand all the factors that causes a win or a lose. I’m starting to waffle. I’ll stop typing 😀


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