Anomalina's Amicable Advice: The Position 4 Role
With the arrival of the new ranked season, pub players around the world will be clawing even harder at the core roles. However, there may be an alternative way to win calibration matches, with one of the most impactful yet uncontested roles in the game.
The problem with Dota's in-game tutorials
Picking a hero in Dota 2 can be quite nerve-wracking. Not only do you want to pick a hero that you have played and practiced to some extent, but you also want to pick one that fits the team composition well. And because the efficiency and time-management of most players in the lower brackets don't match that of high-ranked and professional players, matches usually extend to the late-game.
This makes most of us lean towards picking core roles, specifically carry or mid. Other times, we usually end up picking a comfort hero without identifying the gap left in the team. After all, in public matches where teamwork is scarce, simply being capable of out-farming the enemy cores can give you enough of an edge to win. It can be debated whether supports can match the game-impact provided by that of cores. However, it is no secret that it is much more efficient to climb the ranks with core heroes, mainly because of their ability to take objectives and end games.
I don't think many would disagree when I say that Valve's in-game tutorials have been abysmal, to begin with. The tutorials that arrived with Dota Reborn far excel those in the old iteration of the game. Sadly, they skip some major aspects that are considered prerequisites to work as a functioning member of the team. And for a game that emphasizes so heavily on teamplay and balanced drafts, that simply won't do.
If you wish to understand the basics behind farm priority of the five different roles in the game, you can refer to this short guide, thanks to the selfless members of the community on Reddit. If you wish to understand a bit more about team composition, what makes a good draft and how heroes must complement each other, you can refer to this guide on the basics of drafting written by me not long ago.
A lack of choice
Announcing your role in the drafting phase rarely allows you the luxury of picking that role. Although the introduction of Ranked Roles was an attempt to fix this issue, it wasn't nearly enough. It is also still only available to those who purchase a Battle Pass. Below, I will explain the different roles in a team and the benefits and problems associated with picking each of them.
- Position 1: The carry role, generally relegated to the safe lane, is quite an attractive one. This is largely due to the fact that the tutorials in the game focus on farming, especially with the introduction of the Last Hit Trainer. Excelling at farming in the laning stage allows you to get items early, which leads to getting kills and objectives, thus more resources and so on. This leads to multiple players picking heroes that fit this role, resulting in a greedy draft that is easily exploitable.
- Position 2: The mid role, generally relegated to the middle lane, is undoubtedly the most contested role in the game. Not only do players in this lane get more experience and farm than any other hero on their team, they can also single-handedly win the game. Unfortunately, it is also the reason for causing the most feuds in a team right from the start. This usually leaves a player to pick a mid-lane hero very early in the draft, often getting countered by the enemy's following picks.
- Position 3: The offlane role, generally relegated to the hard lane. An excellent role for players who want to have some farm and experience while still being active on the map instead of farming. Sadly, this spot is usually filled by a second carry by the player that was denied the safe lane. It often forces players to pick another sacrificial support that babysits them, without which the hero suffers tremendously due to the nature of the lane.
- Position 4: The greedy support, generally one that roams the map and ganks the enemy heroes. This role is, in my opinion, one of the easiest to have a high impact on without being too sacrificial. It is also one of the most under-contested roles in the game, simply due to people's unawareness of it. However, the heroes that fit this role generally lack the toolset to take objectives. You also rely on communicating with your teammates in order to perform optimally. Depending on how you look at it, that can either be a problem or an advantage.
- Position 5: The sacrificial support, generally one that babysits the safe lane carry. It is certainly admirable of those who consistently pick this role. However, it is arguably the hardest to learn and impact the game with. Having exceptional map-awareness, positioning, warding/de-warding skills and ability to win with a minimum number of items is challenging. While there is no doubt there are several players who climbed on top of the leaderboards playing the support role, it is an obviously inefficient way to do so.
As a position 4 support, you get to have a great impact on the most crucial part of the game, the laning stage. While you do lose practice with getting last hits and maintaining creep equilibrium, you are free to choose where you go.
- If the enemy offlane has a dual lane that can contest well with your team's safe lane, you can choose to go tri-lane against them and harass them out by simply outnumbering them.
- If the enemy mid lane has a hero that is fragile early on, you can choose to gank them and allow your mid-laner to get an advantage.
- If the enemy safe lane is capable of harassing and killing your offlaner easily, you can go dual lane with them to contest the enemy carry and prevent them from farming.
You must always be flexible and ready to change your course of action depending on the time of the game. The first night cycle that starts at the 4:00-minute mark is a great opportunity for you to make your moves. And if there is nothing else to do, you can always collect bounty runes, stack camps or farm the jungle. However, the latter should be the least of your priorities, and never take up more than 30 seconds.
Position 4 Heroes
Below is a list of heroes that fit the position 4 role and can generally have a good impact on the game. They have been sorted into categories to help you understand how to approach them. It can be hard to describe the full list of strengths, weaknesses, counters and synergizing heroes for every one of the heroes listed below. However, if you are confused, you can always start with the easy ones and move on to the tricker ones later.
|Bounty Hunter||Ogre Magi|
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These heroes are probably the easiest to pick up. Their abilities are pretty straightforward and they are also quite durable, making it usually favorable to trade hits with enemies.
Bounty Hunter is a menace in both pro and pub play. He scouts out enemy heroes, surprises them with his invisible ganks, kills couriers and makes life miserable for junglers. Even when the team is behind, he can help them recover with Track. Slardar is another hero that provides true sight on the enemies with his ultimate. It also allows him to synergize very well cores that deal physical damage. With the recent buff that allows him to sprint at 700 movement speed in the river, his presence across the map is formidable.
Ogre Magi and Spirit Breaker are even simpler to execute. You cannot really go wrong with the playstyle of the heroes. Their job is to run into the enemy and be the frontline. With the amount of HP and armor they have at the start of the game, they can also trade very well against most supports. Armed with an Orb of Venom, they are a nightmare for enemy melee heroes.
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These heroes are much harder to execute, simply because of the more complex skills they have, also what makes them very useful. The utility they provide is unparalleled, which is why they are so popular in the higher skill brackets. There are only a handful of heroes that can escape their wrath, and with a little bit of practice, you can use that to your advantage.
The main problem players in the lower skill bracket face with Kunkka and Earth Spirit is being unable to combo their skills properly. It is understandably hard, however, a little observation of players in professional tournaments will open your eyes to what they are capable of. The former's X Marks The Spot is incredibly hard to escape from, and the latter is the only hero that provides a stun, a slow and a silence with his non-ultimate abilities.
Tusk may seem like a straightforward hero, but his skill cap is, in fact, very high. Most amateurs make the mistake of building damage items on the hero, going for a one-shot trick with his ultimate. However, the crowd control he provides is remarkable when he is utilized to his full potential. There can never be enough said about Io, however. With a slew of buffs in the last two patches, it has entered the overpowered territory. Not only that, Spirits is now slightly easier to use. Regardless, it requires great teamwork, coordination, and positioning to make the hero work.
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|Night Stalker||Nyx Assassin||Sand King|
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The above heroes fit into the versatile category because they can either be played as roaming support in the 4 position or an offlaner in the 3 position. This makes them favorites of team captains who use their versatility to their advantage while drafting. You can also do the same, by picking the hero early and waiting for your team's picks before deciding what role you will play.
Earthshaker and Enchantress may not be very popular, especially in the offlane role, in the professional meta right now. However, their skills are very powerful in niche situations. They are also capable of transitioning into a core that deals significant amounts of damage.
Clockwerk and Nightstalker's abilities are incredible. They provide vision for your team (albeit in different ways), can initiate from unexpected angles and are quite tanky right from the start of the game. They also have great solo-killing potential, something that cannot be underestimated in a pub scenario.
Nyx Assassin and Sand King can be a bit harder to pull off. The former's stun is notoriously hard to land while the latter's ultimate is easy to blunder. However, it doesn't take long to notice what makes them so versatile and effective. Nyx's Aghanim's Scepter upgrade is also, possibly, the best in the game. If that isn't enough, they are also two excellent counter-initiators in the game.
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While I wouldn't hesitate trying out the heroes listed before, you should probably think before picking these. They generally provide very little in the laning phase and are seriously item-dependant and/or experience-hungry.
Visage was one of the strongest heroes after patch 7.00, almost to the point of being broken. Even though he has been nerfed, he still stands as one of the winningest heroes in high tiers. It is one of the reasons why he is often relegated to a core position. Building Aghanim's Scepter on the hero is a must, which is why he is so greedy. But once he gets it in his hands, few can stop him.
Riki and Rubick are in a similar position. They provide very little early on, even though they technically can roam. This is why in professional Dota, where the impact in the early-game is crucial, they are largely ignored. The former needs a Diffusal Blade and the latter either a Blink Dagger or Aghanim's Scepter. It is also the reason why both these heroes are notorious in pub games for stealing kills off of their cores.
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At first glance, it might confuse you to see the names of these heroes in an article about the 4 position. But I can assure you, their talent tree and specific abilities make them extremely strong in this role.
Alchemist has clearly fallen off as a core hero, with a string of nerfs, specifically to Greevil's Greed. However, you may have missed the number of buffs he got to Unstable Concoction. At level 20, the spell can deal up to 800 damage. And this does not even consider the fact that it can be amplified with Acid Spray and Medallion of Courage/Solar Crest, since it deals physical damage. The most powerful capability, however, lies with the fact that he can give allies on his team a free Aghanim's Scepter that does not take up an inventory slot.
Monkey King's presence has been on and off in the pro scene. He has shown his prowess both as a safe lane core and a roaming support. Although certain aspects of the latter were nerfed, the strengths to the same have returned in the form of some pretty nifty talents. He can now scout and roam around the map like no other, making him a very useful vision hero.
If you are unsure about the previous two mentions, have no doubt about support Zeus. He has been one of the winningest heroes for the longest time, especially in the lower brackets. The amount of burst damage he can deal is massive. With the recent buffs to Lightning Bolt that increase its cast range, he is even more formidable. Let us not forget the cast range talents combined with Aether Lens. Add the movement speed talent to that, and he can use all his spells from a distance while remaining elusive. All this sounds amazing, without even the mention of his global presence with his ultimate and Aghanim's Scepter upgrade. Combined with a strong laner in a dual offlane, he can make life hell for safe lane heroes.
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There is no denying that every hero can be made to look good in the hands of a proficient player, and with enough practice, can win games single-handedly. However, I have my reservations about these heroes.
Chen is one of Dota's most iconic heroes, seeing professional play since the very release of the game. He has fallen in and out of favor countless times since then but has only remained truly impactful in the very high skill bracket. Even with the simplification of his abilities back in patch 7.07, the hero needs very good micro skills to be able to play. Combine that with the fact that his creeps are easily lost to items like Helm of the Dominator or Hand of Midas, and you see the challenge of making the hero work in your favor instead of the enemy. To cap it off, he also falls off hard into the late game. So even if you're someone who has played the hero over 5000 times, you may find it hard to stay relevant.
Pudge may be the only hero responsible for making the 4 position have some recognition in the low skill brackets, but it doesn't mean he's made players any better at the role. It forces them to a stagnant playstyle that only relies on attempting to cast Meat Hook on a hero, only to be followed by a period of inactivity before the skill comes off cooldown if they fail. The multiple nerfs to the slow from Rot was the biggest hit to the early game impact of the hero. It means he can now no longer trade damage effectively with enemies, especially those who carry extra regeneration. And no, being able to hook Runes is not enough of a bonus.
Techies is the only hero that has an appalling 0% win-rate in professional Dota since his reintroduction to Captains Mode. That statistic alone should be enough for you to look elsewhere during the pick phase of a match. The hero is notorious for extending games beyond reason, which rarely ever changes the inevitable outcome of the game. Even the rework of Suicide Squad Attack into Blast Off was not enough to make the hero strong in mid-game team-fights. This usually leaves the team with a 4v5 scenario, something nobody wants to deal with. Picking a hero with flying vision that can hold a Gem of True Sight is enough to nullify Techies' impact.
Notable players to watch
It is common for new, amateur and rising players to follow the lead of professional players in their styles to be able to learn from and replicate their success. While simply copying skill and item builds will not help you do so, careful and critical analyses can get you very far, as these players represent the absolute best that has been seen from the role:
The misconception that core players steal the limelight from support players in the professional scene is still somehow believed by many. In fact, this past season of the Dota Pro Circuit has seen support players receive the most attention. This is largely due to the importance of the early game and the plays made by position 4 players that allow the team to snowball. Certain performances in the role have gone down in the annals of history as some of the greatest.
Ahfu's legendary Aegis steal on one of his signature heroes Earth Spirit
Rodjer's MVP of the tournament win at ESL Katowice 2018
Learning and transitioning to a new role can be challenging, especially when we train our minds in a certain role after hundreds, or even thousands of games. However, being versatile and able to adapt is crucial if one wants to climb the ranks, fit within a team and be a better player. Playing the role of a roaming support can improve multiple aspects that make you a good Dota player; map awareness, time management, teamwork, and communication. It will also make you understand the importance of the two things that new players are most afraid of; engaging the enemy early and initiating team-fights.
With that said, and with the calibration games for the new ranked season upon us, it is time to decide whether we will vie for the core roles that remain forever in-demand, or try something new.
Did I convince you to switch to the position 4 role?
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