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The increasing importance of supports in today's meta

Dota 2 Eugene “ehzx” Hong

In the ever changing meta of Dota 2, supports have been and will always be an integral part of the game. The importance of supports has increased tremendously over time and is currently peaking in today's meta.

Why are supports so important?

There are limited resources on the map which means not everyone has the luxury or the space to farm. This concept of having limited resources is the reason why supports are necessary and extremely important in Dota 2. With the least farm priority, supports have to make plays throughout the game, from minute 0 up until either throne falls. The increasing importance of supports can be seen in the competitive scene as well. In the recent MDL2017, the Grand Finals between LGD and LGD.Forever Young went the full distance, ending 3-2 in LGD's favor. In the five games played, 15/20 of the first phase picks and 12/20 of the first phase bans were committed to supports. This goes to show how important teams are valuing supports in today's meta.
 

What are the different types of supports?

There are many different ways to categorize supports but the easiest way known by most people is to split them into Position 4 and Position five. The Position four are the play-making, greedier supports while the Position five are the stable, least-farmed priority supports, reuqired to purchase all the Observer/Sentry Wards, Dusts of Appearance and Smokes of Deceit. Many times, the Position five is also the Captain and in-game shot-caller of the team. This might not apply to all teams but it is a general concept that has worked for many of the top teams in the competitive scene currently. Here are some examples of top teams with a stable Pos five Captain and a flashy, play-making Pos four support respectively:

Team OG – Tal 'Fly' Aizik + Jesse 'Jerax' Vainikka
Team Liquid – Kuro Salehi 'Kuroky' Takhasomi + Maroun 'GH' Merhej
Team Secret – Clement 'Puppey' Ivanov + Yazied 'Yapzor' Jaradat
Evil Geniuses – Andreas 'Cr1t-' Nielsen + Ludwig 'Zai' Wåhlberg
Virtus Pro – Alexey 'Solo' Berezin + llya 'Lil' llyuk
LGD.Forever Young – Leong 'ddc' Fat-Meng + Tue 'Ah Fu' Soon Chuan
TNC Pro Team – Theeban '1437' Siva + Timothy 'Tims' Randrup

However, this concept does not apply to every team as it depends hugely on the dynamics of the team.
 

What are good Pos four and Pos five heroes?

The answer to this differs from patch to patch. As a general rule of thumb, Pos five supports are heroes that are able to contribute despite having little to no farm or levels. They can be further broken down into defensive supports like Io, Dazzle, Oracle, Winter Wyvern or team-fighting supports like Phoenix, Disruptor, Ancient Apparition, Warlock, Witch Doctor, etc. These are the heroes that can do a lot in team-fights while having very little and relies heavily on positioning and timely spell usages to have an impact in the game. As for Pos four, they are heroes that can utilize farms and levels better and can sometimes transit into a semi-core (also known as Position three-and-a-half). Moreover, the Pos four is also hugely responsible for making plays in the early game, thus making heroes such as Night Stalker, Clockwerk, Earth Spirit, Sand King, Riki, Kunkka, Earthshaker, etc, extremely viable Pos 4 heroes. That being said, certain heroes do overlap and can be played in either roles.

 

What should a support be doing during the laning phase?

There are many things a support can do or should do in the laning phase. Typically, one of the supports (usually the Pos five) stays in the safelane to secure his carry's farm while the other (usually the Pos four) roams around. The Pos five focuses more on zoning out the offlaner, creep-pulling when necessary and also stacking neutral camps. The Pos four, on the other hand, creates pressure on other parts of the map by roaming, securing runes, creating gank attempts and possibly also stacking neutral camps amidst all those. Nonetheless, this is a general concept and the roles of each supports can and will differ from game to game.
 

Current Meta for Supports

After the release of 7.00, there has been a lot of emphasis placed in the early game, making supports even more important than it already is. With the changes to Bounty Runes (spawning four every two minutes in each of the jungle), the importance of having a roaming support (Pos four) has been escalated. Securing of the bounty runes are extremely important as it gives the supports the early farm and levels they need in the early game. Moreover, the addition of shrines allowed roaming supports to be even more efficient in their early game movements. Also, with the changes to Neutrals spawning every 2 minutes instead of 1, Jungling has become extremely inefficient. This bolsters the importance of securing the lanes in the early game and that lies heavily in the shoulders of the supports.  

Fast-forwarding a few months, another huge patch 7.06 was released. Here are some notable changes that caused the priorities of supports to shift:
 

  • Neutrals now spawn every minute instead of every 2 minutes.

  • Neutrals now give 20% less XP and Gold.

  • Neutrals XP and Gold now increased by 2% every 7.5 minutes.

  • Added an extra melee creep in mid lane for the first 15 minutes.

  • Creeps meet a bit closer to the offlane tower.
     

Firstly, although neutrals now spawn every minute (instead of two), the reduction of 20% XP and Gold removes the possibility of junglers returning. However, with these changes, supports now have to place more emphasis on stacking camps on top of the usual securing of lanes and runes. Secondly, with the mid-lane now having an extra melee creep in the first 15 minutes, more and more emphasis has been placed in securing a good lane for the mid player. This 'meta shift' for supports was evident when two competitive teams sent both their supports to help out the mid-lane at the start of the game, causing a 3 v 3 brawl at level one. Lastly, with creeps now meeting closer to the offlane tower, it is harder for supports to completely zone out the offlaner. Although it is still important to secure the farm of your carry, the emphasis has changed slightly.

Let us take a trip down memory lane. Back at The International 2013, the laning phase revolved heavily around the 'Safelane-Offlane' concept, with mostly defensive tri-lanes and occasional aggresive tri-lanes. Moving on to about TI5, the meta started to shift as we were having less tri-lanes and more dual-lanes. This continued to evolve over time and the support role has became more dynamic with constant movements around the map as compared to the static laning phase in the past. I feel that the current meta has evolved itself into 3 solo lanes and the role of the supports is to secure these lanes for their team. In an ideal world, one would hope to be able to secure all 3 lanes but that is extremely difficult to achieve. As such, the priority on which lanes to secure depends greatly on the draft and its intended game-plan.

An example of a close-to-perfect movements for a Position four in the early game would be GH in game three of the Epicenter Grand Finals between Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses. His Earthshaker single-handedly secured the early game for his team by sniping a courier, setting up four of the five kills for Liquid in multiple lanes and stacking both ancients all in the first ten minutes.
 

Conclusion

The early game is extremely crucial in today's meta and regardless of whatever the strategy or lineup is, teams would always want to get the most out of their laning phase and supports are the crux in achieving that. I cannot stress enough on the importance of supports and would even go as far as to say that among all the roles, the Position four support plays the most important role in the current meta.

QUICKPOLL

Do you agree that the Position 4 is the most important role in today's meta?

Yes
Thank you for voting!
No, other roles are as important / more important
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Discussion

  • jamic "escamunich" villa ,
    Who is the best position 4 today?
    • Eugene "ehzx" Hong ,
      That's a really tough question! I wouldn't be able to determine the best but I would say there are a lot of really good position 4 players out there currently. Jerax, GH, Kaka, Yapzor, Ah Fu and Zai are definitely up there in my list. Boboka was playing exceptionally well for IG during DAC but seems to have fallen off a little.
      • art "loveless_act_1" ART ,
        Ever since MK got nerf,he got nerf too.Tims and Aui_2000 are good pos 4.Tims is flashy especially with his ES and Aui is not flashy but gets the job done.
        • Tian Yi "v3luotianyi" Luo ,
          "Tims" - this is not a place to brag about ur local brand. thats why hate has grown towards peenoise due to spouting non-sense out of nowhere. ur race is a big stupidof an existence
          • Eugene "ehzx" Hong ,
            Hey man, everyone is entitled to their own views on a generic question like "Who is the best Position 4 today?". Tims is a beast on his signature hero - Earth Spirit. There's no need to attack a whole country or race just because of that. That was totally uncalled for.
            • Tian Yi "v3luotianyi" Luo ,
              "Hey man, everyone is entitled to their own views on a generic question like "Who is the best Position 4 today?"." - stating the name who and why he says so, and stating a fellow countryman just because he just want to brag are CLEARLY two different things. And bragging is an irritating thing. And dont mistake being proud for bragging just saying in advance. "Tims is a beast on his signature hero - Earth Spirit." - being a beast on a speficic hero doesnt necessarily mean your one of the best pos 4 or pos5 "There's no need to attack a whole country or race just because of that. That was totally uncalled for" - isnt it a specific country or race why SEA server is considered as cancerous? PLS!!! know the exact and accurate meaning of CANCEROUS before talking. im sick and tired of dumb heads like you
    • Jordan "Salari" Salari ,
      I'd say it's between Jerax, zai and Boboka, although I'm veering more towards Jerax. He can play so many different heroes and his impact throughout entire games is huge
    • Nowhere "douchiedude" Man ,
      Jerax and Zai for sure. Chinese 4s are quickly catching up but Jerax and Zai kind of innovated the position before the meta changes and so they have a head start. Also, they're two of the most smart, stable, and skilled players in all of Dota.
    • Bian "HighFlyingWings" Deng ,
      I'd say JerAx is on top of my list, with zai and Lil coming right after him. Something worth noticing is that cr1t transitioned from pos.4 with OG to pos.5 with EG, and after more than half a year there are still plenty of people (at least in China as far as I know) arguing that he didn't make a smooth transition and the "double-4-position" support duo would eventually hinder EG's chance at winning TI7. It's also interesting that most top-tier 4-position players have at least one "signature hero" (like Earth Spirit for JerAx, Rubick for fy, etc.), but if they got too reliant and keep staying in their comfort zone, their performance would very likely decline once IceFrog decided to nerf those specific heroes. In my opinion, that's what sets JerAx and Boboka (a self-proclaimed JerAx fan, even used "BorAx" as his ID for a while) apart.
    • EJ "FooD.Cross-Eyed" Delos Reyes ,
      For me, it's Kaka. He's not as flashy as JerAx, Zai, and Boboka but he's very consistent. His hero pool is large, too.

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