A lot of people don’t give supports the credit they deserve and often times they can be the unsung heroes of games because they provide all the important pieces to the game besides getting all the kills. First the most important thing in a game like DotA 2 is map awareness and vision. Second, the other part to playing supports effectively is keeping their cores alive, and ensuring their carries get the proper farm they need so their carries can get the items they need early enough to come online and ensure the win.
During the laning stage of the game (usually the laning stage lasts around 10 minutes), the supports should focus on stacking and pulling, blocking enemy creep camps, harassing the enemy heroes out of the lane, as well as rotating when appropriate to help assist the other lanes. Knowing what support to pick is key, because if you get a support that can’t harass the enemy hero in the lane well enough, then it makes it really hard for your carry to get any farm. If you notice that the camp has been blocked by your tower in the safelane, make sure to deward it immediately, as you will want the enemy creeps pushing as close to your tower as possible.
Getting vision right outside (or around) the T1 towers of the enemy’s territory will help you not only gank more effectively, but it will also prevent your offlane teammates from getting ganked as often. Sometimes you have to be a little more clever with your ward placements when warding the enemy territory as they will be constantly trying to ward and deward that area (just like you will be doing for your team on your side of the map). A lot of times the team who wins is the team who’s most effective at gaining control of map vision.
Typically speaking, if you’re playing support the proper way, especially if you’re solo supporting with no help from your teammates, you shouldn’t get your first item until around the 30 minute mark. Most all your money should be going towards providing vision as well as keeping a healing salve and possibly a mango or two, to make sure your carry gets to keep as much of their gold as possible and you can heal their life and/or mana when they get low.
The two main items that supports should usually go for is either a Glimmer Cape, or a Force Staff. The itemization depends on if the enemy has a lot lockdown, or do they have heroes with good map control (heroes that can move around the map very fast), and do they have any natural detection heroes, like Slardar, or Bounty Hunter. If they have heroes with lockdown, then Force Staff is always a better choice, that way you can push your carry closer to your team when they’re stunned or trapped in a situation where they can’t escape. If they have heroes that have good map control, then Glimmer Cape is always a solid choice for saving your carries.
Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of how to play support. Remember that items like Hood of Defiance or Crimson Guard is typically a position 3 or 4 item, and is generally not built by the hard support. Make sure that you ward the map early and often, and rotate early if you expect an incoming gank. Once you have more experience playing the game you will be able to tell if the hero you chose will be able to save one of your teammates depending on what type of situation you’re reacting to.
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